I talked triathlon recently with Dean Rosenberg, one of the Tri Club’s Beginner Coaches. Dean made sure to finish Ironman Arizona quickly so he’d have time to answer all my questions.
CZ: How did you get introduced to triathlons?
DR: Like so many before me, it was on a bet. I worked with a friend who had previously finished an Ironman, but who hadn't done much swimming, cycling, or running since. I had a good endurance running base, but didn't know how to swim and didn't even own a road bike. So of course, I took the challenge! I bought a bike and got some swim lessons. The rest of our office got into the act, and the trash talk started. The event was the Mission Bay Triathlon, and when it was all over, he beat me by 12 seconds. Then he went back to the couch and I got hooked on the sport.
CZ: What was that first triathlon like?
DR: Well, three months before the event I was not able to swim a single lap in a pool. I have always been able to "play" in the water (wakeboarding, bodyboarding, etc.), but just never learned to swim the "right way". In the pool I would hold my breath for as long as possible, swim (ok, convulse uncontrollably) as far as possible, then tread water while gasping for breath halfway down the lane before reaching the end of the 25-yard lane.
While I made some progress in my swimming before the Mission Bay Triathlon, when I started the event, I headed out for the first 50 yards and then took a 90 degree left turn (without knowing it) and headed straight for shore. My wife and her family were trying to figure out why I was going one way and the rest of the field was going in a different direction. Let's just say that when I finished that swim, my bike was very lonely in the transition area!
CZ: What other funny things have happened to you in the sport?
DR: Lots! That's why I created the "50 Tips" document that I have posted in the Beginner's Corner on the TCSD website. I have done everything from "hydrating on the swim" to starting the run with my bike helmet on. As one of the Beginner's Coaches in TCSD, I am hoping that others will learn from my embarrassment.
CZ: Which Ironman races have you done?
DR: I did Ironman Lake Placid, just 18 months after that first triathlon in Mission Bay. It was a really good experience. While I finished in the middle of the pack with a 12:50, my biggest personal victory was that I finished the swim in 1:08, which made it my best split of the day. I felt like I came a LONG way from that fateful day in Mission Bay! I also just finished Ironman Arizona.
CZ: Now that you mention it, how did IMAZ go for you?
DR: It was truly an amazing day and pre-race week. The coolest thing was that the place was crawling with TCSD members. We ate together at the pre-race dinner, and kept running into each other throughout Tempe. It was a VERY supportive environment, which is what our club is known for. My goal was to finish in under 12 hours.
CZ: So, did you accomplish your goal?
DR: Funny you should ask. The day turned out to be tougher than planned. While everyone was concerned about heat, race day turned out to be only 75 degrees, but with a constant 25mph wind that lasted all day. The swim was pretty much as planned, and the first 70 miles of the bike were uneventful. Then it happened.
You know how everyone says, "You either HAVE crashed on the bike, or are GOING TO crash on the bike?" Well, I have always been a cycling virgin. Never went down. Knew it couldn't happen to me... my bike skills were too good, I was too careful, yada, yada, yada. Well, mile 70 at IMAZ was my time. I had an encounter with an overzealous aid station volunteer, and after an (unsuccessful) evasive maneuver, I went down hard. It was there at Mile 70 that I had my own personal “Paula Newby-Fraser incident” - sprawled out on my back looking up at a bunch of people trying to help, police officer on his radio saying, "Racer 1045 is down, roll Fire Department". Then I remembered Paula and announced, "Don't touch me, and DO NOT send the Fire Department!" When the initial shock (and pain) subsided, I realized that even though I took the entire fall on my hip and elbow, nothing was broken (but the road rash sure looked nasty). More amazingly, my bike survived as well. So, I got back on, got a "Tour de France" style push off from a spectator, and was off. The road rash on my arm kept me from using the aerobars for the last 42 miles (a real bummer in 25mph winds), but hey, I was just happy to still be in the race.
CZ: How did the race go from there?
DR: When I started the run, I saw my training partner Jay Simpson at the first turn-around at mile 2. He was about a half mile behind me and looking really strong. I shouted to him, "See you in a few minutes", since I assumed that he would soon catch me. It turned out that he didn't actually join me until mile 10. We ran together for a few minutes, and then I suggested that he go ahead since he was pushing my pace a bit and I wanted to stay with my plan. I was focused on the 12-hour mark, and NOT on competing with Jay. I watched him pull away, then lost track of him, then saw him hop out of a port-a-potty a few miles later and we once again were running and chatting together. We spent the next 6-8 miles kind of hanging together, but also doing our own thing. I would walk through an aid station that he would run through, then he would walk the next one and I would run through.
I looked at my watch at Mile 22 and realized that I would achieve my goal if I could hold better than a 10-minute/mile pace for the rest of the race. I thought this was unlikely since I had deteriorated to about an 11-minute pace by that time. But then I thought, I came this far and even if I blow up, I could walk the last 2 miles and still consider it a good day (I was still amazed that both my body and bike held up after the spill).
So... at Mile 22, I picked up the pace, and never looked back. I assumed that Jay was going to slow since he was complaining about impending hamstring cramping. I ran through the Mile 23 aid station, grabbed some Coke at Mile 24, and just kept going. I then hit some rolling hills in mile 25 that Jay and I walked on the first lap. I knew I wouldn't hit my goal without surging, so I actually picked up the pace (!) on the rollers. About a half mile from the finish I saw Trisha Gazin, who said, "Great job, Dean!" Then, as I passed, I heard her say, "Looking good, Jay!" I turned around for the first time in four miles and realized that Jay had been chasing me the whole time! That was when it officially turned into a race... I picked up the pace, Jay picked up the pace, and in the end, we finished 6 seconds apart. Overall, a VERY COOL finish to a very eventful day.
In the finish chute, Jay called it an "Iron War". I never thought of it that way, since I was focused on beating the clock (at least until the last half mile ). In the end, we both did sub-12 hours, which neither of us thought we could possibly accomplish back at Mile 10.
CZ: Great story, Dean. Is a rematch planned?
DR: No. Jay is now focusing on spending more time with his son, and I have to get back to my day job. Ask us in a week or two.
CZ: What else is on your race calendar this year?
DR: With an early season peak through a rainy winter, I promised myself (and my wife) some time off from the long stuff. You will probably see me at SD International, and I may try an Xterra event or adventure race this summer.
CZ: What has been most rewarding about your involvement in TCSD?
DR: I have really enjoyed serving as one of the TCSD Beginner's Coaches for the last two years. It is great to start by answering an e-mail from someone saying, "I have this crazy idea of doing a triathlon but don't know where to start". Then, next thing you know, they are at the clinics and training events, and pretty soon, kicking my butt in the club races. That's the only downside.
CZ: Dean, thanks for sharing your story and thanks for all you do for the Tri Club. And congrats on winning Iron War I!