I recently got to sit down and talk triathlon with Kevin Fayad, one of TCSD’s Swiss Army Knife guys who seems to do a little bit of everything. It takes great people like Kevin to keep TCSD running like a well oiled machine. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Kevin.
Craig: What was your athletic background from your school age days?
Kevin: Born in Passaic, New Jersey, a rough inner city. The only sport was walking to school and back home, about a mile each way. I enjoyed going to the Mets games with my friend Billy and his dad. Yes, we brought our baseball gloves to try and snag a ball! The hood was getting too rough and one day Mom took a stand for a better family life “Honey I’m taking the kids and we’re leaving this place, are you coming or not?!” We moved South to the Jersey Shore where a new life began for our family. From inner city to a small coastal community on the fringes of the pine barrens. The locals were called Piney’s. We started in a 100-year-old, farmhouse with a fruit market next door that my father turned into his real estate office. Across the street was a dilapidated Dairy Queen they later purchased and rebuilt it as our family restaurant, The Chimney, where we all pitched in and worked. We even had a promotion with Heather Locklear, I couldn’t believe she was there, so beautiful. I had my Farrah Faucet crush poster at that time too. While getting the real estate office started and raising 4 kids, my parents purchased an abandoned lot two miles down the street. It was basically a large hole in the ground located on the water and used by locals to dump waste. My parents cleaned it up, filled it in and built our family home on the Metedeconk River which my sister lives in today. As a kid, growing up on the water was special with so many things to do! My first real sport was pee wee ice hockey, where my gear bag was bigger than me. Thanks Mom, I couldn’t have done it without you! She drove me to a lot of practices over the years. Ice hockey was soon replaced by other activities like fishing, swimming, sailing, riding dirt bikes in the woods. My passion was always sailing and swimming, two disciplines that have been a big part of my life.
Craig: I’ve heard you were a pretty good sailor. What was the highest level you achieved with sailing?
Kevin: Sailing for me started with humble beginnings and became a passion and escape from the house and into a world of adventure. My parents bought us a small Sunfish sailboat. It was a cold winter day with windblown white caps. Too excited to notice or care, my brother Mike and I got on board our little craft and held on for dear life as we skimmed across the river, holding on with white knuckles until we got beached on the other side, freezing and elated, I was hooked! Our family joined Metedeconk Yacht Club just 2 miles down the river where I started taking sailing lessons and racing boats on the weekends. At the same time, I also started swimming and going to club swim meets. I was nine, living on water and spending a lot of time in the water – it was my playground. Wake up, sail to the Yacht club for swim practice, then sailing lessons and sail back home. My parents knew how to keep me busy and out of trouble! The first season racing boats was exciting! I finished dead-last in every race and quickly learned what not to do. Winters were spent reading and studying everything I could find on tactics, boat handling, sail trim, weather/wind. I was determined to do better next season. My father came into my room one evening and paged through a sail trim book I was reading then looked at me and said, “do you understand this?” As a triathlete you know we have our own language… VO2 Max, FTP, Watts etc. and so does yacht racing. I stayed with it and started winning races, race series, went to nationals and worlds sailing events. During high school I also ran one season of spring track which killed my calves and one winter track in the snow – neither lasted. Each year swimming, I qualified for the All-Star team and competed against other clubs. And sailing progressed into larger boats requiring crew and teamwork.
It was after graduating HS, summer break, life was great! I felt unstoppable – bullet proof! I was accepted to the College of Charleston and had a letter from the Sailing coach, George Woods. I was also into riding dirt bikes around the pine barrens with my brother and friends. My beast was the Maco Magnum 400 a powerful bike and a blast to ride. Going over the handlebars was common but breaking my femur put an end to my summer fun. Being in the hospital the summer before college was not the plan. Winning yacht races and sailing regattas was my vision. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right! Off to the College with a broken leg I hobbled on crutches for the first semester. During that time I swam a mile every morning and rehabbed my leg with the basketball teams PT. I started sailing the following semester and quickly remembered that one design sailing is a very physical sport. Sailing practice was comprised of riding my bike to the docks, rigging the boat, practice for 2+ hours, unrig, wash and stow equipment, shower, eat and then go study. Later add a job and fraternity on top of studies – my schedule was packed. Sounds like a triathlete’s lifestyle! We were a low budget team ranked 14th in the nation. Traveling to regattas on the weekends by van if at all possible and by plane when necessary. I enjoyed the dingy nations hosted annually by Tulane University during Mardi Gras! One season I was racing at the Lighting North American Championship on the Puget Sound in Washington and then back out there the following year for the Collegiate Sloop National Championship sailed on J24’s. That event was made up of the top 7 teams in the US. College of Charleston was now a top ranked team!
Craig: What led to your first triathlon and what was your first triathlon like?
Kevin: What led to my first tri was swimming with the Toms River YMCA master’s group. When I returned home from college, I was looking for a job and swimming to keep busy, fit and sane. At practice my lane partner said “hey, we’re going to ride our bikes after practice, you want to join?” Of course, I loved riding my bike. I rode in college after studying to burn off some energy and stress many times at midnight. On weekends, my roommate and Kappa Sigma Brother, Vern and I would ride over the Cooper River bridge hitting 50+ mph on the backside on our way to Sullivan’s Island. We played beach volleyball all day. With every win we would advance court by court until the center court behind the beach bar. When we lost center court, we would grab a Gatorade and ride home, round trip, about 50 miles. This is where I first learned about bonking and how a few figs will get me another five miles and home. It’s also where I got hit twice by cars and suffered 2 broken collar bones! So here I am back in Jersey, riding on icy roads, thinking “gees, this isn’t too safe and these 50-degree ocean swims -burr! I started reading magazine articles about triathlons and the year-round training available in San Diego. Hmmm, interesting, enticing. Doing odd jobs – not my career path, parents still bickering after their divorce, heck, I dove for a West coast adventure! Yep, packed up my VW Golf with “all” my possessions (clothes, stereo and misc. stuff) shipped the car out as I boarded a plane with my bike, naturally. It was a good thing I had my bike because the car transport broke down in Texas for 30 days. So, in August 1988 with my trusty 2 wheels, I explored San Diego while getting my resume out. The next summer I participated in the 1989 Bud Lite Triathlon Series Olympic distance race in Solana Beach. I don’t remember much other then suffering on the run, my nemesis. Remember, I come from East coast flat country. Let’s say I was Not hooked on this tri-suffer-fest thing. Needing to eat and pay rent I dove into my career after joining Century 21 Cross Properties in Del Mar, a place I fell in love with while exploring on my bike.
Craig: Your 2nd triathlon was not until 2007, but you were not just laying around. What kinds of sports activities were you doing after 1989?
Kevin: Living in San Diego I was like a kid in a candy store, jacked up on sugar and spinning with so many options… I did anything and everything! Bouldering in Santee, snow skiing, swimming in the cove. Loved roller blading the PB boards with my Sony Walkman jamming, jump in ocean body surf, blade back to car, shower and back to work. Roller hockey at USD and YMCA Mission Valley, where the pool is now. After 3 dislocated shoulders I gave that up and started thinking about safer sports. Riding quads in the Glamis sand dunes with extreme sports friend Joe Stutzman. Mountain biking with my friend Bill Burns. Wake boarding with Shari and Branden Wednesday mornings at sunrise. Golfing all over San Diego. Climbing and camping to include Mt. Whitney, Mt Shasta, Mt. San Jacinto, Mt. Baldy. TCSD’s camping at Mt Baldy when Tour De California came through. My girlfriend at the time and I did the MS charity 100-mile bike ride and we also won the Hawaiian shirt contest. We walked into the dinner party held in Carlsbad and everyone thought we were the entertainment! The organizer came over to us and said, “no contest, hands down you’re the winners!” My brother’s girlfriend was in a Polynesian dance group and hooked us up!
Craig: You joined TCSD in 2008. What are your favorite benefits of your TCSD membership?
Kevin: By far the members and friendships we share. We can always find someone to train with or group events. It’s an awesome community of like-minded people, out there to make a difference. We get a lot of perks for a very small membership fee. Race and gear discounts, give-a-ways and swag and of course lots of club races to hone your skills. I have a broker’s license to practice real estate but when I put on the TCSD kit, I have a license to play! It brings out that authentic free spirit, like a kid playing with his friends and having a blast, with spit and snot coming out at the same time!
Craig: What are some of the funniest things you have seen in triathlon?
Kevin: My first IM Oceanside bike dismount. A flying dismount right at the line, my leg caught the water bottles on the seat causing me to crash into the dismount catcher. She earned her keep and my gratitude that day and I earned teeth marks from the front sprocket biting into my now bloody shin. Here’s a good one, I accidentally, used Chamois cream as sunblock and another time using sunscreen as toothpaste… hey, it was dark at the time! Honolulu Olympic Triathlon I missed a section of the run course. Just enough to wow me that I had such a good run, but it was a little too good. Replaying it back with Thomas Johnson we found the section I missed. When I contacted the race director to DQ myself he said, “you didn’t finish well enough to alter the results, thanks for your honesty”. I’ve also been rear-ended and splattered on the asphalt at a dismount line by a guy who didn’t know you were supposed to stop.
Craig: What athletic accomplishments are you most proud of?
Kevin: There are several athletic accomplishments and in no particular order: I am very proud of being a very accomplished sailor, racing and cruising all over the world. From the beauty and serenity of being on the water to surviving storms and squalls, I have endless stories of adventure. Climbing Mt Shasta and Mt Whitney. Completing IM Santa Rosa! It really does take a village to accomplish these large undertakings.
Craig: What have been some of your favorite destinations for racing or adventure?
Kevin: IM Santa Rosa my first full distance triathlon. I hit my goals almost to the minute except for the run, finishing in 12 hours. It was a very long day and emotional finish for me.
IM Cairns 70.3 in Australia with Marc Heise. After the race we stayed on a dive boat for 3 days, completing 9 dives on the Great Barrier Reef – gorgeous! Then drove 1600 miles of coastline to Sydney and visited my cousin Michel Zeidan.
Escape from Alcatraz, Mom and husband Mike flew in for the race and we rented a car and drove the gorgeous coastline back to San Diego stopping at the Hearst Castle on the way.
Lake Havasu, 3rd place, staying with TCSD friends, we all pitched in to help the race director, because they really needed volunteers, it felt like we were vested in the race being a success.
Skippering large catamaran’s with friends is always an adventure! Here’s a few trips: Sailing from Martinque crossing open ocean to St Lucia at night in heavy winds with the windward engine compartment flooded – that was exciting! While the engine was being repaired, we hiked out and toured a volcano. The Belize trip started in a lightning storm. Local news reported a dive boat skipper was killed by a lightning strike. We adjusted our float plan to not go to the Blue hole but instead island-hopped South to Honduras. On our last night storms started brewing out of the South. We had a lightning strike the water 4 feet off the starboard beam that scared our beautiful golden tans to pale white. The next morning, an early call for all hands-on deck to outrun the storm back to Belize. Surprisingly, the electronic navigation was dead. The lightning we thought missed us actually hit the mast. We sailed by compass all the way back to Belize. My body was wrecked from steering a hard helm all day. I did enjoy blasting Kid Rock, Cowboy while sailing up and over the backs of a mountainous sea. Palma Majorca, best trip ever! A month-long adventure spending a week in each location: Barcelona Spain, loved the whole lifestyle, vibe, language, food, wine, piaya, Gotti Church and Picasso museum. Sailing Palma Majorica. Chilling on the beaches of Ibiza, known for the best sunsets in the world – agree! And finishing with a week in London/Amsterdam, touring the Rijks museum and Heineken factory.
Craig: What does triathlon mean to you?
Kevin: My decision to do triathlon was prompted first by the real estate recession in 2007. A conscious decision to pick a sport that is healthy, from diet to training. Safer, with less chance of injuries. It involves two sports I really enjoy and the opportunity of becoming a better runner. What I didn’t expect, and a huge bonus is meeting so many terrific people and make quality friendships along the way. It’s become my social outlet. I can now train and race almost anywhere and bump into someone I know -that’s community, and I love it!
It can become all consuming. Three disciplines requires time. Especially full Ironman distance. I often catch myself saying, “before triathlon I did… fill-in anything here” Now I focus on the incremental improvements. Can I win the transitions? Or have a sub 1:25/100 average pace swim or an average 20+ MPH bike or can I run? This year I will mainly stay and support our local races. Olympic distance mainly as it favors the swimmer more. I am studying Spanish with the carrot of doing IM Cartagena in Colombia this December. One race-cation a year with friends is always fun!
Craig: What volunteer tasks have you done for TCSD?
Kevin: Craig, I’m glad you asked because I’ve always believed in giving back to that which enriches your life and this club is top of my list. A) Sponsorship with Marc Sosnowski who is the man responsible for all our quality gear and products. I feel more like a side kick and glad to add some input and be involved. B) Swim Coach twice a month, this May will be 5 years with Head Coach, Chris Costales. Teaching technique is most rewarding and inspiring for me. To see someone come to the pool and transform their swim with one hour of coaching is exciting! Over the years I’ve had a lot of coaches and learned the little tweaks that make you faster with less effort. This is one way I can give back. I’ve always volunteered in all areas of my life. It makes me feel I’m a part of a larger community. Other ways I volunteer for TCSD that are less structured and probably come from how I was raised is simply “just pitching in” where it is needed – loading/unloading the van, setting up or breaking down a club race, cleaning out the club’s storage, etc. It’s easy to come early and help with set up or if you race, stick around and carry a cooler to the van or toss out some trash. It’s the little things that make a difference and keep this club running. It’s also an easy way to get involved, to feel proud about our club and to meet some awesome people who care and have fun together.
Craig: Who have been the most influential people and/or institutions to shape you into the man you are today?
Kevin: Without question, Mom and Dad top the list! They gave me a solid work ethic. We always had multiple businesses and the kids had to pitch in. There were times I wanted to call child services because it felt like slave labor. Seriously, we were a working family. Looking back, what doesn’t kill you… makes you stronger and who I am today. School and education were always a priority that my parents instilled in me. So, after school, studying and dinner, my brother and I would load up the car with tools and my father would take us to fix-up a house he and Mom just purchased. Many nights until 1 AM. Thanks Dad, I can fix just about anything. Sometimes on the way home we’d stop by the baker (my dad knew because he sold him the business) who was pulling fresh bread out of the ovens – yum! They would chat while we warmed up by the ovens. Mornings were early, on my way to school I would open and prep the restaurant before the AM crew arrived.
Next on my list is Landmark Education. They provide courses in communication, personal development, leadership training etc. I’ve seen a lot of life coaches come out of their programs. I enjoyed and got the most benefit from the team management and leadership training. It’s a year long program that teaches you how to be a leader and get large projects done. After graduating in 2006 I went from secretary to Commodore of the Santa Clara Racing Association here in San Diego, which has merged with Mission Bay Yacht Club. That year, 2006, I opened a property management company that thrives today. We put together a 27-member team to climb Mount Shasta. It was composed of smaller teams responsible for food, camp site, doctors, spiritual guide, masseuses, and the summit team of 11 people. Now, that’s the way to climb a mountain!
Craig: What are your future triathlon goals?
Kevin: Pace goals: 1:25/100 swim pace, 22 average MPH bike, and 7:30 minute average mile run pace. Races: March 15th San Diego ½ Marathon, April 4th IM Oceanside 70.3, May 3rd Spring Sprint International, August 8/11th CVC 70.3, Sept. 12th SD Tri Classic Olympic, Sept. 29th Mission Bay Olympic, Dec. 6th IM Cartagena 70.3, April 23rd New Orleans Jazz Festival to see my childhood friend Gene Rogers. And as many club races I can fit in! It would be nice to win a podium spot this year. Also, on the list is Kite surfing and spear fishing. Gees, two more water sports!
Craig: Kevin, you have an awesome story! I’m glad you survived Passaic and all the sailing adventures you have had. Good luck this year and beyond. Thanks for all you do for TCSD!
Craig Zelent is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. Craig can be reached at 760-214-0055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.