To say QBP has some staff experience with multi-sport is a bit of an understatement. We wanted to hear more of the story so we asked some questions of our Ironman–distance competitors Nick Essma, Product Manager; Brendan Dolan, Staff Attorney; Mike Younes, Senior Buyer; Neil Hailstone, Garmin Sales Manager; Nick Graham, Director of Continuous Improvement; Nik Hobbs, Purchasing Supervisor; Paul Lehrer, Account Manager; and Tom Morgan, Inside Sales.
What memories do you have from your first Ironman?
Morgan: I was completely crapping my pants since it was my 2nd triathlon ever.
Graham: I was very nervous. I had done marathons, but they did not require as much preparation, nor was hydration and nutrition so important. I did not have the right foods or equipment.
Essma: It felt good because I had trained with everything I was using. The only fear was the unknown of race day and what the 140.6 would bring.
And then when the gun went off?
Younes: That was one of the coolest experiences in my endurance racing history. I just kept thinking to myself, “I’m really doing this! I’m competing in an Ironman.”
Dolan: Reality set in when I was treading in 20–30 feet deep water listening to the National Anthem, what an amazing moment.
Graham: I felt very relieved to be finally underway. I had trained for nine months. I was just glad to be out there.
Hailstone: Oh crap!
Any classic rookie mistakes?
Morgan: I changed gear literally the day before the race: new goggles, new bike outfit, new run outfit.
Dolan: Do not wear a watch during mass start swim. There is a Garmin 910 at the bottom of Lake Monona if someone is interested.
Graham: I did not drink well on the bike. I drank straight Gatorade which made my stomach very sick and I couldn’t hold anything down. Since I was low on fluids my body began cramping up at mile 80 on the bike and had to pedal with one leg. I ended up walking 10 miles into the run as I was falling over with cramping legs.
Lehrer: Listening, and attempting to implement, all the advice people were giving me…now I stick to the mantra of “plan your work, work your plan!”
What changed about how you prepared for future events?
Morgan: I learned that you couldn’t fake anything—fitness, nutrition, mindset etc. Specifically, running on fatigued legs, there is no hiding. The biggest part was dealing with it mentally, learning how to push on and deal with pain while not losing any focus on your task on hand. Sort of addicting!
Younes: After racing that distance, you learn a lot about the mental component of racing and your personal limits. For me, triathlon is about the right healthy balance, and every race day is different—that sounds simple enough, but a healthy balance and relaxed mindset will pay dividends come race day.
Hailstone: I tried to become more efficient with my training. Cut out “junk miles.”
Lehrer: Key pieces: training, nutrition/hydration, mental. Being a young and in-shape athlete I had certain expectations, regardless of training, of how my race was going to go. Man was I wrong. If you want a certain result, it’s no joke; you have to commit to a program!
Hobbs: The biggest area of learning for me was to prepare a flexible hydration and nutrition plan.
Morgan: I love aero equipment. My friend talked me in to aero wheels that first year; I’ve been obsessed ever since. It’s like getting in to character. Most recently I used a pair of Zipp 808s.
Younes: Carbon tubular race wheels; chalked up some decent bike splits on these. With a little luck, you won’t have to worry about flats!
Dolan: Power meter. Ironman has proven the last couple years to be “bike for show, but run for dough” so making sure you do not go too hard on the bike is key. A constant, accurate output of average watts, variability index and intensity factor from your power meter will change your racing forever.
Graham: I grew up running since I was 14. So my favorite piece of gear was always my running shoes.
Hailstone: Of course I love my Garmin 910XT. For me it’s the little stuff that makes the big difference late in a race. A pair or two of good socks for the run. I carry a gel flask with me. I think all of my long-course race photos have a picture of me carrying a gel flask. It’s kind of a security blanket.
Lehrer: Tri-specific bike. For whatever reason, I feel most at home on the bike and having one for the event adds a level of comfort and perceived speed. I feel fast (even though I’m averaging 18ish MPH).
Hobbs: Salt tablets and Red Bull.
How have you seen the sport change?
Morgan: Triathlon has seen exponential growth; it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. So many events are popping up ranging from sprint distances up to Ironmans, you can be busy year around if you would like. The depth of age groups and professionals has gotten ridiculous at big events.
Younes: The popularity of the sport has grown a lot. People are migrating toward the sport too because they are looking for a good cross training regimen to their exercising. Some simply like the challenge of racing three disciplines all in one race.
Graham: I started triathlons in the 1980s. The races were small and geared toward having fun. It was almost a family environment. Now it is much more serious and über competitive.
Hailstone: It used to be that only the top pros had all the cool gear and trained with a coach. Now, it seems like everyone is taking advantage of the latest in training and racing equipment.
Lehrer: The evolution of nutrition/hydration. In the past it was Clif bars, GU and Gatorade. Now, with the introduction of companies such as OSMO and SKRATCH we have begun to see the pendulum swing towards endurance specific product.
Hobbs: Outside of the growth in participation, the biggest change I’ve seen during my years in the sport is the investment in triathlon-specific product from brands without roots in the sport.
What do you think the future holds for multisport?
Morgan: 10 years ago nobody had coaches, nobody used power meters, and few had aero helmets. Everyone does now; people are spending ridiculous amounts of money in this sport these days. However, this sport still shows its roots at the local level and the barrier of entry is still pretty reasonable when it’s all said and done.
Younes: I think multi is just scratching the surface. There are big areas of growth such as in winter multisport races where the swim can be switched out to skate skiing, and the bike to fat biking in the snow. Or Xterra racing to bring in the mountain biking and trail running experience. Endurance athletes are always looking for a new challenge.
Hailstone: According to the U.S. Olympic Movement, triathlon is the fastest growing sport in the country. Women’s triathlon was just approved as an NCAA Emerging Sport. I’m hearing more about high school triathlon leagues and junior programs grooming the upcoming stars of the sport.
Essma: There is a growing movement towards health and wellness and people identify triathlon as a way they can achieve or maintain their goals. On the other hand events like the mud runs, color runs, and cross-fit have risen to be challengers vying for participation. I think this has resulted in race directors getting more creative and making their events better. I think the future will see races develop to be better for the athlete, their families and the community as a whole.
How have your personal experiences influenced your jobs here at QBP?
Younes: As a buyer in the purchasing division, I have the luxury to buy leading multisport brands and products for our distribution network. It’s really rewarding having vendors request my feedback on product after racing in it. Having that experience with the product, and then witnessing the changes get implemented into the supply chain is one of the best perks of my job.
Dolan: Hard work and time management. You can’t be an Ironman if you are afraid of hard work, long hours, blood, sweat and tears. Plus, with all those hours training while working full-time you have to become the master of your time.
Graham: Ironman triathlons really taught me to suffer. Also the fact you can have bad patches and still turn things around. I had this happen in several races and the same is true is for work.
Hailstone: A few years ago, I saw an opportunity to formalize our multisport program at QBP. I was hired as QBP’s first Multisport Sales Manager.
Essma: I am the multisport product manager here at QBP so my experience affects a lot of what I do. It has allowed us to build a collection of all the best products and brands in the category that I am very proud of.