TCSD Conversation by Craig Zelent
I had the opportunity recently to talk triathlon with the TCSD's new Ironman Coach, Liam Thier. Please join me as we get to know this well travelled triathlete and down to earth great guy.
Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?
Liam: I started participating in sports in high school, wrestling was my first venture and would be my main focus through high school. I took a hiatus from organized sports during college. Upon moving to San Diego I decided to try my hand at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and soon found myself training in boxing and Muay Thai as well. It seemed the natural progression was to give Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) a go, it's simply an efficient way of training in all 3 sports.
Craig: You are originally from the Finger Lakes Region of New York. What brought you out west?
Liam: I came to California in 1994 to attend the University of Southern California to study physics and computer science. After 5 years in Los Angeles, I needed a break from all the congestion and people. I spent a year in Stockton, just outside the San Francisco Bay Area, and late in 2000 I found my way to San Diego for work.
Craig: What led you to take up triathlon?
Liam: After several injuries which prevented me from competing in MMA, I stumbled across the Oceanside Half in 2005 and figured I'd give it a go. So began the rabbit hole which is triathlon.
Craig: What Ironman distance races have you done and how did you do? (tell us the name of the race, the location, the year and your time.)
Liam: I've done:
Silverman Triathlon just outside of Las Vegas: 2005 (~ 15 hours), 2006 (~14 hours), and 2007 (~ 12 hours)
Norseman which is a point to point race traversing a good portion of central Norway, from Eidfjord to Gustatoppen: 2006 (~ 15 1/2 hours)
IM Lake Placid: 2005 (~11 1/2 hours)
IM Arizona: 2008 (~ 10 hours)
IM Canada: 2009 (~ 12 hours)
IM Wisconsin: 2009 (~ 11 hours)
Challenge Wanaka in Wanaka, New Zealand: 2010 (~ 12 hours)
Craig: Which Ironman experience was your favorite and why?
Liam: I'd have to say the Norseman was my favorite experience, as it's unlike any other full distance race I've done. The race has 2 aid stations, both on the run, the first of which is at km 25, and the second at km 37, the logistics of nutrition and aid stations is up to you and your support crew. The nice part is you choose where your aid stations are. I was nervous and had been particularly stoic. Thursday night, I was outside looking over the swim course wondering why I was being such an ass to everyone. A gentleman came up and asked what was troubling me. We spoke for a bit, and he advised me it's just another day, have fun, and be nice to your crew, they will be taking care of you come Saturday. Friday at the pre-race meeting, the gentleman I spoke to got up and began welcoming everybody. He was the race director. At the end of his speech, he reminded all the athletes, be kind to your crew, they will be taking care of you tomorrow. I spent much of the race with these words echoing in my head. Before the day was done, I'd a new found appreciation for the grandeur of Norway, and the importance of genuinely enjoying races. I'm not showing up for a paycheck, and I'm not going to win, so I better be enjoying my day.
Craig: What advice would you want to share with people who are considering an international triathlon?
Liam: Make it more about the adventure than the race. Get there a few days early. International travel has a substantially higher risk of missing connecting flights, and lugging around a bike box makes customs people very curious about what you are doing. Try to spend the bulk of your visit after the race, so you can get the full experience rather than being consumed with race preparation.
Craig: You are also a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach. What are the 3 most important tips you would share with someone who wants to do their first Half Ironman or longer race?
Liam: First, completing long course events is more a factor of consistency, determination, and fortitude than athleticism. If you've had the pleasure of hearing Dave Scott speak, you'll recognize these last 2 tips. Enjoy the day, it's a long day, and there will be highs and lows, focus on the moment: do what you can at the moment. And finally, if you finish first people will love you, and more importantly, if you finish last, the people that matter will still love you.
Craig: You are one of the owners of Pulse Endurance Sports, the tri shop located in Chula Vista which is a TCSD sponsor. How did Pulse come to be?
Liam: I'd known Mike Drury (TCSD’s other Ironman Coach) from some of the shops and races around San Diego. During 2007, Mike and I started training together pretty frequently, he was building up for IM France, and I for IM Lake Placid. We continued training together through the fall, he was preparing for IM Florida, and I was getting ready for Silverman. He mentioned he was going to open a tri shop, one that was built around triathletes that are willing to share their experience and know the sport. After a month or 2 of going back and forth with ideas Mike asked if I'd be interested in partnering with him on the venture.
Craig: What is unique about Pulse?
Liam: We built Pulse to be much more than a repository for retail items. It's a place you can go to draw on our experience and share your experience, something of a triathlon library. It's the intangibles that most differentiate us from other shops. Pulse employees are active participants in the sports we cater to, down to earth, easy to talk to, happy to share their knowledge and experience, more importantly, smart enough to realize every interaction has the capacity to teach you something, be it with the guy that just heard about triathlon and is curious to learn what you know, or the lady that's been doing triathlon for the last 30 years. Pulse also offers several training groups to help prepare individuals for upcoming races. We are currently running training groups for Wildflower - Long Course and Olympic, San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon, and the Spring Sprint Triathlon.
Craig: What is the best part of being a TCSD member?
Liam: TCSD has a wealth of resources, from veteran triathletes to first timers. There are numerous group workouts and gatherings offering an opportunity to network. Without TCSD, Pulse would be far different, if it even existed.
Craig: What is one of your funniest triathlon stories?
Liam: I'd dedicated myself to doing well at IM Lake Placid and trained hard and consistently for the race. A couple weeks before I went to New York, Mike and I were riding and noticed my front derailleur cable was frayed, I mentioned this and that I need to replace that before the race. I kept putting it off and went so far as to pack a new cable with my bike. I got to New York, unpacked my bike and saw the cable, I decided I was too lazy to deal with it. Within the first 5 miles of the bike course, I shift up into the big ring, and all the tension released from the shifter. That frayed cable just turned my IM race into a 112 mile small chain ring high cadence drill. The cable broke, I stopped at an aid station, they checked with race support and were unable to find a derailleur cable. I was relegated to the small chain ring for the entire bike portion.
Craig: What are your future triathlon related goals?
Liam: My primary ambition is to see Pulse grow to be a centerpiece of our triathlon culture, it's more than just some place to go and buy items. With the rise of Internet shopping, brick and mortar shops can no longer survive as such, that need is served by the Internet. There has to be more value, Pulse is happy to share the wealth of our experience gained through the tens of thousands of hours we've trained for and competed in our sports. We seek to be a reference and resource, first and foremost, our primary goal is to help people, as well as learn from them. Our goal is to grow Pulse as a resource, a place to get advice, share advice, and just be part of the community.
A secondary ambition is to add race and travel packages to our offerings in the future, providing an opportunity to travel to races and have Pulse take care of the details.
Craig: Liam, thanks for sharing your story. Both you and Mike and the entire team at Pulse have made a huge contribution to the TCSD and our local triathlon community. I’m certain you will meet and exceed all of your goals.