I had the opportunity recently to talk triathlon with Andy Concors. Andy wears at least 2 hats for the Tri Club. He has been the Bike Coach since since 2005 and began the TCSD youth program in 2009. Please join me as we get to know this exceptionally giving person.
Craig: What was your sports background before triathlon?
Andy: I was active as a kid and played football throughout middle and high school and wrestled for a couple of years. For me running was punishment meted out by sadistic coaches and the chlorine in pools made my eyes red like I had been smoking something quasi-legal. Growing up in the Midwest, I have been skiing since I was 4 years old and began surfing soon after moving to San Diego 25 years ago.
Craig: What sequence of events led you to become a triathlete?
Andy: About 20 years ago my car died and we didn’t have the money to replace it so I decided to walk, run or ride my bike everywhere. During that time a buddy of mine who had moved to Oklahoma City came to visit and told me about the sport. He couldn’t believe that I didn’t know who Paula Newby-Fraser or Mark Allen were even though they lived here in Encinitas. A couple of months later there was a triathlon on Camp Pendleton for the ridiculously high price of $40. I did it in a speedo, running shoes, the bike my parents had given me for college graduation and a hard shell Bell bike helmet. Although my crotch was sore and my feet were numb I was hooked!
Craig: Of all the races you have done in your career, which performance are you the most proud of?
Andy: I can’t say I’m proud of any individual performance but I was fortunate to have placed in all the races I did last year and got second overall in the Koz Triathlon Series in my division. One of my most memorable was doing the Spring Sprint as a relay with my kids in 2004.
Craig: How did you evolve into becoming a coach?
Andy: Jim McCann approached me at a club meeting several years ago to take over the bike workouts when the coach at the time moved on. I hadn’t really attended the workouts myself but had watched my kids’ workouts at the velodrome and drew from those for inspiration. I read up on training principles and got my USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach certification a couple of years ago when a local company offered me the opportunity to do private coaching. I’ve continued to work with local athletes on a one-on-one basis since. The youth program was partially inspired by the enjoyment my kids had and partially inspired by the epidemic of inactivity among children these days. I wanted to create a program that was fun but partially structured to get them into the sport as well as prepare them for competition.
Craig: What are some of the most common mistakes you see beginner triathletes doing on their bikes?
Andy: There are three big ones: 1) Buying second hand bikes that are either the wrong size or in bad need of maintenance. The value of getting a decent, well fitting bike from one of the club’s bike shop sponsors can’t be overstated; 2) Not maintaining or knowing how to maintain their bikes. I had a club member come up to me during a workout with a flat tire and no levers, tubes or a pump and no idea how to change it. I asked her if she was new to the sport and she responded that she had just finished the Half Vineman for the third time! Lastly, triathletes of all levels seem to be ignorant of the rules of the road when training or racing. I still see people using their aerobars and brakes when riding in tight groups and people riding in the middle of the lane during races, making legal (and safe) passing nearly impossible. I pass a fair amount of people when I race but move to the right as soon as possible to allow faster riders by and get the legal draft from the rider in front of me.
Craig: What does the TCSD youth program offer?
Andy: The youth program is continuing to evolve from monthly informal races to weekly workouts that began in April and ended in the middle of August. The races and workouts are open to all athletes under 18 regardless of experience although they’re geared mostly for grade school athletes 5-12. TCSD youth members get discounts for races as well as a technical T-shirt uniform. It’s been a great way for kids to experience the sport as well as have fun within a healthy environment. The biggest challenge right now is to find local competitions for the kids. Ironkids was a tremendous success and the youth nationals were an awesome experience at an awesome venue and I’d like to continue the momentum.
Craig: Why should parents encourage their kids to participate in multisports?
Andy: The great thing about triathlon is that it encourages independence- athletes get comfortable getting around under their own power and makes them safer around water. Also there are no teammates or coaches they can rely on so their performance depends solely on their talent, training and desire . Parents should encourage their children to be active and try to include their children in their training whenever possible. If a child shows interest participating, then the club workouts are great, although formal swim lessons and/or a swim team will do a lot to prepare them for the swim as well as build overall fitness. The good thing about triathlon is that participating in other sports such as soccer or basketball will build fitness for triathlon and vice versa but triathlon has very little risk for injury.
Craig: You have taken a very active role in sharing triathlon with your own family. How did you get your kids "turned on" to triathlon?
Andy: We’re a very close family and have always chosen “active” vacations such as camping or skiing. When they were really young we’d take their bikes and let them ride around while I ran and got them used to the ocean at an early age. After coaching them in soccer for a few years (which I knew nothing about) they got involved with the velodrome’s kids program where they made friends, competed against some of the future stars of the sport and my daughter even took silver in the state track championships! My son really enjoys mountain biking and we did several races together when he was a preteen. I started bringing him to club races soon after, especially the off-road duathlons and the aquathons. For him the big enticement was the food! He was really let down after finishing San Diego International that all there was to eat was muffins and fruit- he thought all triathlons offered eggs, sausage and yogurt parfaits! Our most recent family endeavor will be the Disney Half Marathon which was a college graduation gift to our daughter. My son is going to run with her and my wife and I will cheer them on. Maybe I’ll run a few miles with them. We don’t see them much now that they’re off at school.
Craig: What is your favorite benefit of your TCSD membership?
Andy: The best part of TCSD membership for me is all the amazing friends I have made since joining and especially since I took over the bike workouts. Triathlon can be a solitary and sometimes selfish sport. Having dozens of people yell your name at local races is really motivating!
Craig: If you could wave a magic wand over the sport of triathlon, what would you like to change?
Andy: Personally, I wish the Olympics would change to non-drafting races. I understand that ITU races are more viewer friendly but it seems to eliminate a third of the sport from the competition. Of course, making race entries cheaper wouldn’t be bad either!
Craig: Who is your hero and why have you chosen them?
Andy: Bob Babbitt is someone whom I personally admire and wish I could emulate. He’s done a ton for promoting triathlon and giving back through the Challenged Athletes Foundation. And it’s always great to see him out there at local races so he obviously hasn’t lost passion for the sport.
Craig: What do you do for a living?
Andy: My wife and I have an ergonomics and injury prevention consulting business that keeps us really busy as we have clients all over Southern California. A good analogy of what we do is fit people to their work environments the way a bike fitter fits them to their bikes for maximum comfort and efficiency. In addition, we are both instructors at local colleges and I still practice physical therapy on occasions. I also really enjoy private triathlon coaching, especially newbie athletes and those with hectic schedules that have a hard time fitting in training.
Craig: Andy, thank you so much for sharing your story. You have given a great deal to a lot of people over the years. Our community and the Tri Club are lucky to have such a significant contributor like you. We are proud to call you our friend.