Meet Ron Gierut & Lincoln Murdoch
For a little extra motivation to start the year here is a story I wrote this past fall on two friends of mine who among the absolute best (maybe the best) in the world at what they do. That is swim bike and run.
Saturday August 18th USA Triathlon Age Group Olympic Distance Championship, Sunday the 19th Sprint Distance Championship, both races in the same Burlington Vermont location. The most competitive age-group triathlon in the US. Turns out I happen to personally know both of the champions in the 55-59 age group that emerged from each of those events. Although I've met them at different times and places, know they have different personalities and backgrounds, and yet their experiences on that day were remarkably similar. Thinking it would make an interesting contrast I asked them separately the same questions just to see how close their answers would be. Introducing Ron Gierut Olympic Champion and Lincoln Murdoch Sprint Champion, both of whom I admire and respect:
The moment you signed up for Age Group Nationals, where did you picture yourself placing at the finish line?
Ron: - I was pretty sure I had as good as shot as anyone to win the race. I entered the race with every intent on winning.
Lincoln: - Based on the previous year's results I thought if I had a solid race, I could be in the top three...until I realized they capped the 2011 race at 500 and that this year they upped it to 2,000. Word got out it's a great race, thus they had between 1,200-1,300 register for the sprint. Later, I looked at the registrants list and starting seeing some really fast guy's names there, so I hoped for top 6-7. In my mind, getting on the podium was a pipe dream...
If your closest friend would describe your identity with triathlon as an animal what would it be and why?
Ron: - A Beaver. Never stops working.
Lincoln: - Border collie dog because they are focused and because they are fast
Your favorite workout of the week generally includes?
Ron: - Swim - a hard Masters workout with plenty of longer reps: 200 yards+, Biking - My weekly Interval session. Running - I don't really have a favorite workout...I love to run, but I really love it when my running just flows.
Lincoln: - A long run. "Long" for me is 6-8 miles. I've battle foot pain and calf issues regularly and they seem to always limit anything longer. Though I've done marathons and several ultra-marathons in the past, my definition of "long" has changed. I love running though.
What keeps you motivated to race at such a high level?
Ron: - I still love to race. I still love to put pressure on myself.
Lincoln: - Trying to stay at that high level. I don't think I could ever race just to do the distance. I'm too competitive. However, I'm having a ton of fun athletically with this. I never played a varsity sport in high school, so I feel like I'm living out some youthful dreams now. Also, I believe that God has given me a gift and I want to develop it to its maximum level.
Both of you had your wives there helping you to know what place you were in on the course. Can you give us a short answer on how key that relationship is to your success.
Ron: - Dottie is my biggest supporter and an experienced spectator. But her support is more evident on a day to day basis. She understands the ups and downs associated with training. She's positive. She makes our household a positive environment but at the same time, she's not afraid to pull the rug out from under me when I get too nutty about races and training. I've learned that she's right 99.9 % of the time when it comes to me being over trained.
Lincoln: - It's huge for me. Jennifer has followed me around the world literally, cheering me on. She doesn't race them but believes in me and gives me tons of freedom to pursue my goals. She kept telling me I could win. Coming off the bike she told me I was in second as I started the run. That was really helpful to know. Coming down the final quarter mile of the race, having just taken the lead and knowing she was at the finish line helped me to push really hard. I tell her that when she's at a race of mine, I go faster because I still want to impress her like when we first met. We're still very much in love after 35 years.
Have you been given any tough reactions from beating triathletes half your age, or just respect?
Ron: - Sometimes I'll hear something as I ride or run by younger athletes, but it's been all positive and supportive
Lincoln: - Respect. It's fun after a race when the results are posted and people gather around them, to listen to the 20somethings say, "Dude, check it out...some 50 yr. old guy won this thing! That's insane!" I say nothing. Just smile and walk away.
Do you do anything special to stay health and injury free (as possible), especially considering how fast you can run at age 55?
Ron: - There isn't anything I specifically do...#1. My coach is great about structuring workouts so I don't do hard running efforts on fatigued legs. #2...Luck. I've been very lucky to not experience any lingering injuries.
Lincoln: - I only run every third day. That's ten runs per month. I need the 72 hours between runs to be sure I'm recovered and not going to pull something. Again, I've had tons of injuries so I'm real cautious. I also walk 30 seconds out of every five minutes that I run, always. I'm huge on icing, using The Stick, Zensah compression gear, ART, massage and rest. I do little to no speed work other than races. Strength training and stretching also help. Discovering Hoka running shoes have been huge for me, helping to minimize injuries.
How did your closest family and friends react to your winning a USAT age group national championship?
Ron: - All have been very supportive. I'm lucky to have an immediate and extended family that supports my racing and training habits. There's no negativity what so ever.
Lincoln: - Jen cried right there on the spot. We went to the tent that has the computers and printers that spit out the results on a small paper...and saw a "1" after Place in Division, and freaked out. Getting on the podium was a dream that felt almost unattainable. Winning: well that was beyond belief. My folks who are 80 and 84 were thrilled. My family and close friends were waiting at the Omaha airport with signs and made a big scene when we returned. The Omaha newspaper had a small article and one TV station mentioned it.
If you could relate one thing that has contributed the most to your mental toughness what would it be?
Ron: - I’m not sure how mentally tough I am...I still don't think I've ever raced to my physical limit yet.
Lincoln: - I'd say past successes. Success breeds confidence. Confidence and mental toughness are cousins I think. Slowly but surely, over the 20 years I've done this, I've gotten faster and faster. This year's Nationals were the fastest sprint tri I've ever done...at 55 yrs. old. With a straight swim (I went a little off course) I could have gone 1:04: something. So, when I line up for a race, I'm confident because I know I can be very competitive.