The Tri Life
By Darrick Meneken, Managing Editor | Photos by Brian Francis
It’s called the “tri life.” It involves defining days by workouts, knowing how many weeks until your next race, and wondering if your nutritional habits help or hinder your swim, bike and run times. Get a bit more serious and you probably own a race bike, prefer a specific flavor of energy gel, and know your resting heart rate by, well … heart. We recently caught up with three WAC triathletes, each of whom will be putting their training to the test this summer.
Brooke Lindsley steps off the WAC elevator wearing cycling cleats and carrying her bike helmet. She rode from Madrona this morning and will soon roll to the University of Washington.
This summer, Brooke is training for her third triathlon and first half Ironman. Her training and her physical therapy doctoral studies merge nicely. “It’s actually been really awesome,” she says. “There are so many aspects I can analyze and kind of geek out about in class.”
Her studies have benefitted everything from her swim stroke to her bike fit. “Being a beginner … I wanted to start in a good place,” she says. “When you’re training, you’re doing very specific movements over and over again. Doing them in a way that is mechanically disadvantageous can really hurt the tissue.”
Brooke joined the WAC in February 2016 and swims regularly with the Tri/Cycle Club on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. “What I really liked from the first day was the coach,” she says of the WAC’s Wade Praeger. “He’s very knowledgeable, he’s very welcoming, and he gears his instructions to whatever level you’re at. The people who are on the team are also awesome and really supportive.”
Brooke and husband Rob were looking for a community—and “a very nice gym”—after years of living abroad. For Brooke, expatriate life started not long after her first triathlon, which she undertook in 2006 while earning a master’s in teaching English as a second language at San Francisco State University.
Running from wolves
Degree in hand, Brooke spent a summer in Chile with the United Nations training beekeepers, followed by a full-time gig at Al Akhawayn University in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. “The Atlas Mountains were a perfect place for training,” she says. “Tons of great running and biking … except for the wolves.”
To be clear, the menacing beasts that came down from the mountains to chase cyclists through the city were actually feral dogs. “People had all these different methods for guarding them off,” Brooke recalls.
Despite the canine aggressors, Brooke trained for and completed the Marrakesh Marathon. She left Morocco after two years and started teaching adult refugees with World Education on the Thailand-Myanmar border. While there, she met her future husband, Rob Lindsley, a doctoral student working on his Harvard dissertation.
Brooke spent four years on the Thailand-Myanmar border, and the couple moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, for another year before fleeing the megalopolis for Seattle. “You wouldn’t even go for a jog outside,” Brooke says of Jakarta. Instead, she and Rob joined an upscale gym. “That’s actually what brought us to the WAC,” she says. “We enjoy having a nice place to go and work out and have a good meal.”
Brooke completed her second triathlon in 2013 and is now focused on jumping up to the half-Ironman distance at Chelan Man on July 15. “I like to point out that the bike is actually two more miles than a half Ironman,” Brooke smiles. Officially, a half Ironman—also called an Ironman 70.3—includes a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike, and 13.1-mile run.
“I don’t doubt that this race is going to be really challenging,” she says of Chelan Man. A week later, she’ll take on the Seafair sprint-distance triathlon. So far, the risk of feral dogs seems low.
The big thinker
There are a few things you should know about Mike McQuaid. He wants Seattle to host the Olympics. He calls the renaissance of South Lake Union “the most significant urban revitalization in America.” And he wants a new hockey and basketball arena built at Seattle Center. Oh yes, and his grandfather was president of the WAC in 1964.
“Don’t be afraid to think big,” Mike says.
Alas, a few years back, Mike’s big thinking found him way overweight and a long way from his days as a national champion rower.
“I could show you pictures from five years ago,” Mike says over a breakfast of oatmeal and strawberries in the WAC Café. “I was a big guy. Life catches up with you—and so does the ice cream.”
Nowadays, the 53-year-old works out twice daily and is training seriously for his first full Ironman—in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in late August—a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run that’ll take more than 10 hours to finish.
Mike’s triathlon journey began three years ago. “I was pushing 280,” he says. “I got away from what was ritual in my life, which was workouts every day and working out at a high level. I decided I was going to get back to what was important, and the WAC was a huge part of that.”
It started with walking around Queen Anne, Mike’s home neighborhood, with his dog, Tip, a black lab that might have excused itself had it known Mike’s walks would soon lead them halfway around Lake Washington. From there, Mike moved up to running, first three miles and soon enough five.
“I knew that if I got uber-competitive right away with myself that I was going to be prone to injury,” Mike says. Instead, he slowly added distance and disciplines. Before he knew it, he joined the Tri/Cycle Club and, about 15 months after that first walk around Queen Anne, completed Seafair’s Olympic-distance triathlon.
The 0.9-mile swim, 20-mile bike, and 10-kilometer run marked his first-ever triathlon. “I was hooked,” he recalls, noting longtime friend and WAC member Carin Weinrich originally encouraged him to take up the sport.
That was 2015. The next summer he did three triathlons and ran the Vancouver Marathon. Suddenly, his younger days of competitive rowing, including at Washington State University and with the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia—he rowed on an eight-oar national championship with Vesper—didn’t seem so far away.
Will run for cod
By August 2016, Mike nearly finished on the podium in his age group at Seafair, missing it only because of a slow run. “That’s been my focus all winter,” he says.
To keep it interesting, Mike undertakes long runs that often include a theme. His Green Lake to West Seattle jaunt, for example, connected two Spud Fish & Chips restaurants. “Will run for cod,” he jokes, crediting fellow WAC member Jim Cade for the idea.
Mike’s training runs usually start and end at the WAC, and his relationship with the Club goes back more than half a century. His dad’s dad, Thomas L. McQuaid, served as WAC president in 1964, and his mom was in the Clubhouse in 1963 when she entered labor with Mike—seriously!
Mike runs his own public relations company and serves as president of the South Lake Union Community Council. He uses the Club’s stationary bikes through the winter and swims regularly on the 6th Floor. “For the first time in my life I’ve enjoyed training,” he says. “In rowing, every tenth of a second made a difference. This is just about being happy. I’ve had more advancement, more success, and more fun just taking that approach. Losing weight is not easy. Getting back into shape is not easy. That all couldn’t have happened without the WAC community.”
“The first thing is, make sure you enjoy it,” WAC member Erik Ness says about his tri life. “You have to love what you’re doing. You have to garner some happiness out of it, out of the training and the process.”
Erik enjoys it, all right. The hepatologist (read: liver doctor) and director of the Swedish Liver Center started his 2017 season with an Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, Texas, where he placed 12th out of 237 competitors in his age group.
Admittedly, Erik has a built-in advantage. He started swimming competitively at age eight and competed in his first triathlon in 1985 as a 15-year-old. In American triathlon years, that puts him very near the start of the sport, which began in San Diego in 1974 and started to take off in the early 1980s, a few years after the first Ironman Hawaii in 1978.
“It definitely helps when you don’t have to worry too much about it,” he says of triathlon’s first and typically most-intimidating leg, the swim.
Erik stopped competitive swimming in college—he grew up in Northern California and attended UC Berkeley—and took up rowing. He then played basketball for a year while earning a master’s at the University of Cambridge in England. As his studies increased, his fitness life went the other way.
Medical school at Mount Sinai in New York City, eight years of residency and fellowship at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, and family life put his early tri career in the rearview. It wasn’t until 2013, following a two-year stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, followed by relocation to Seattle, that Erik found his old passion.
A friend was training for a race and Erik joined up. “I started to realize how much I enjoy it and how much I used to enjoy it when I was a teenager,” he says. He completed the Pacific Crest Olympic-distance race in Sun River, Oregon, and a couple of other events that year. “At the end of that season, I knew I wanted to take this a bit further,” he says.
He joined the WAC Tri/Cycle Club and started training with coach Julie Vieselmeyer. He also strength trains with personal trainer Eric Williamson and participates in coach Wade Praeger’s swim workouts.
In 2014, Erik bought a “real triathlon bike and started getting much more into it.” He tackled his first Ironman 70.3 that same year, clocking five hours and two minutes. He completed the same race 22 minutes faster last year, including trimming nearly 16 minutes from his bike time. The effort qualified him for the world championships in Australia. Erik and his wife, Kate, a pediatric endocrinologist at Seattle Children’s, and their two daughters, ages 6 and 10, made a family trip of it, and Erik raced in the world championships on September 4, 2016, on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. “That was a highlight of the year,” he says. “Certainly from a racing standpoint, but more important, it was an amazing family trip.”
Erik generally aims for 12 to 16 hours of tri training weekly—averaging around three swims, four bike workouts (sometimes on a stationary trainer), and three runs—from spring through fall. He admittedly geeks out on the science of training methods and endurance-race nutrition. “I enjoy watching my progression based on scientific parameters,” he says. “I’m fairly organized about what kind of workouts I do when, and about having a solid nutrition plan during longer races.”
His intent is that all that training and study will continue to shed time, particularly at the half-Ironman distance. “I’m hoping to break four and a half hours,” he says. “That would be a near perfect race for me. Even if I don’t reach that goal, I know I will have a blast pursuing it.”
To put that goal in perspective, four and a half hours would have been the fastest American time for a 45- to 49-year-old man at last year’s world championships. This year, Erik raced in Victoria in early June and again at Sun River later that month. He’s also considering 70.3 races in California and Maine and plans to finish the season with a full Ironman in October or November.
“I think triathlon kind of just takes you where you want to go,” he says. “It’s almost self-fulfilling. If you enjoy it, it carries you.”
Tri/Cycle Club summer workouts
• Pool swims: 6–7 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays; 6th Floor pool
• Open-water swims: 6 am on Fridays; Madison Park Beach
• After-work bike rides: 6 pm on Thursdays; start in front of the WAC
Contact the Tri/Cycle Club at email@example.com.
For information about Tuesday night track workouts with coach Julie Vieselmeyer, contact TriCoachJulie@gmail.com.
As published in the July/August 2017 issue of WAC Magazine.
—Posted July 13, 2017