Thursday, February 15, 2018

Killing It! Interview with Perry Hacker

Perry Hacker has shown up on our radar 3x of late. First of all, he was near the top of the list as a Most Improved Local Triathlete - 2017, followed by a strong showing at Ironman Arizona. Last but not least, two weeks ago he churned out a Boston Qualifying marathon... no big deal.

With a trifecta like that, we knew we had to track this guy down and interrogate him on his success. Thanks for the time, Perry!

Standard question: What’s your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon?

I was mostly into weightlifting and skiing/snowboarding all through high school and college, and mostly into mountain biking when I moved to Utah. I started running in 2010 when I did my first 1/2 marathon at Walt Disney World. It was the Wine and Dine 1/2 Marathon which ended at EPCOT park with a large food and wine party (which was the main reason I ran the race). I was hooked after that, doing many other running and Spartan Races, relays, etc., and started ending up on the podium. I was invited by my running group to do the Spudman Triathlon in 2014. I bought a wetsuit and a road bike and started training (I hadn’t ever road biked or swam before). I LOVED it, and was hooked. I did Jordanelle and East Canyon that same year, joined the Salt Lake Triathlon Club that December and then signed up for St. George 70.3 in 2015.

Perry @ his triathlon debut - Spudman 2014

According to your Facebook page you’re originally from the east coast. What brought you to Utah and how long have you been here now?

I'm originally from New Jersey. I came here for my college senior year spring break ski trip in 1988, and immediately fell in love with the mountains, sunshine, and big open skies. As soon as I graduated I moved right back out, spending the summer mostly in Southern Utah and then got a job with Snowbird. I have been here 30 years.  

You were 4th overall on our “Most Improved Triathlete” list, which compared 2017 results to 2016. What would you say have been the biggest keys to your improvement?

Getting a coach who helped me set up a good training plan, dialing in my nutrition, and looking at the sport in a different light. Up until last year, I never felt like a “competitor.” Last year I had some good finishes in local and IM branded events, which changed my mindset. I realized that I could really progress with good training and focus and get close to or even on the podium at some of the larger races. I ramped up my training both physically and mentally, invested in a new bike with a good fit and started training with power. This made me stronger and more confident in my ability as a triathlete. 

How has the local club scene helped with your progression?

The SLTC has been a huge help. Initially, it introduced me to a whole community of people who were doing what I loved. I was so new to the sport that being able to share experiences and knowledge with so many great triathletes has been so helpful. Not to mention support at races. Seeing so many club members getting to Kona and to 70.3 Worlds as well as winning local races has been a big push for me to compete harder. The club is a great community both athletically and socially. I love helping new members get involved and love to supporting the club any way I can. I’m pretty active on the Facebook page, and love to talk to people. So I hope I help people feel welcome and involved. I recently started training with Pat Casey at BAM and joined that club. I really love the facilities, focus on training and the community that BAM has. Pat’s strong focus on holistic training, achievement and success has pushed me even harder. Not sure there is another city where you have two amazing Triathlon clubs dedicated to the success of their members.

St. George 70.3 in 2016 didn’t factor into your "Most Improved" average mentioned above (average of Top 3 races), but out of curiosity what happened on the bike? How did it feel to come back with a very solid 6:09 in 2017, and what advice would you give to rookies on that course?

Oh man, St. George 70.3 was my first DNF. It hit me pretty hard. I was in the 2nd to last swim wave, and it was raining and freezing when I got out of the water, I didn’t have the clothes I needed and by mile 15 I was frozen, shaking, and almost hypothermic. I had to stop. I got in someone's warm car and it was over. I knew I wouldn’t go back out. It took me a while to get over that. So, my goal was to go back in 2017 and not only redeem myself but to PR my 70.3 time, which I did. It felt awesome. St. George was my first 70.3 in 2015 and coming back so strong felt amazing. It is my favorite 70.3. Advice I would give: The course is intimidating but it's not as bad as its reputation. Definitely get to St. George and get some time on the course. Even if it's just once. The swim can be cold. Prepare for it. Get in the water before race day so you get a feel for it. On the bike, be steady on the uphills and use the downhills to your advantage. Despite what you might hear, there is a lot of downhill on the bike course. For the run, hill repeat training. The first three miles of the run are hard. Nothing you can do about that. Just take it easy and get to the top. It’s very much a mental game. The rest of the run course is challenging but doable. The last 3 miles are all downhill. It’s a beautiful course, take it all in. Plus, there is so much participation from SLTC and BAM, so you are never alone on the course.

found this online... how SG '16 went for a lot of people!

We see your name on the St. George start list for 2018 as well. What are your goals for this year, both at SG and for the season in general? What other races do you have in mind?

I’m super excited for St. George this year. My goals are to beat my previous time by 30 minutes, with faster times in all 3 disciplines. I am also doing Boulder 70.3, Arizona 70.3 and IMAZ. This year I'm also doing a bunch of marathons (LA, Boston, Chicago, & Big Cottonwood).

Was Ironman Arizona last November your IM debut or have you done others as well? How would you summarize that race, and what was the key to running so well off the bike? (Perry ran 4:03 to close out a 12:10 overall time)

IMAZ was my 3rd IM. I did Ironman Coeur d'Alene on my 50th birthday in 2016, then Boulder in June 2017 before IMAZ in November. I hired Pat Casey as my coach after Boulder and spent the rest of the summer focusing on my goal of a sub 12 IM. Pat helped me focus not only on the physical endurance, but the mental endurance needed for such a long event. IMAZ was a great race, almost perfect weather. I loved the swim, and came out feeling really strong and energized for the bike. Smarter bike training helped me go faster without burning my legs up. The bike had a big headwind, which I believe was the main reason I missed my sub 12. I was confident on the run. My run training was solid, and I had just come off a Boston Qualifying time at Big Cottonwood. I was shooting for sub 4 hours and pushed myself pretty hard, but unfortunately missed it by 3 min. I’m going back this year to redeem that race with a goal of 11:30.

Talk a bit more about your marathons... is it true you went 3:26 at the Walt Disney Marathon in full Pluto?

LOL, I did get a 3:26 but not in costume. I am a runner at heart. Half Marathons had been my love traditionally, but lately I've really been into the marathon distance. I've done St. George and Disney 4 & 3 times respectively. Again, I never felt like a competitor. This past year I committed to getting a BQ. I qualified for Boston last September at Big Cottonwood Canyon with a 3:16, and will be heading to Boston this April. Big Cottonwood was the perfect race. Everything fell into place and I beat my goal time by 10 minutes. My plan this year is to BQ every marathon I run (7 this year). Aside from Disney, I did the Sun Marathon on Feb. 3 in St. George and finished with a 3:26:25. I have LA, Boston, Big Cottonwood, Chicago and possibly NY. I'm waiting to see if get in. My coach is not happy with me. ;)

Perr bear??? That you???

What’s your podium for top 3 favorite local races and why?

I love Salem Spring. Great little race with a fun swim, nice 2 loop bike course and a somewhat challenging run course. It’s an easy venue and a compact single transition. Lots of local participation. Next I would say Echo. Warm water swim, fast bike and nice trail run. The race is always well attended by almost everyone in the tri community. It is easy to get to, single transition, and both the sprint and olympic courses are great. Plus if you want to camp, you can stay up the night before right at the venue. Third, I’d say, Daybreak. This race has such a great local feel. It's a great spectator friendly event, nice out and back bike course with some really fast sections, and a great run around the lake with lots of people to cheer you on.


Anything else you’d like to share?

Triathlon has been a huge influence in my life and my mental and physical fitness. I appreciate all that the SLTC, BAM, my coaches and the community have done to support the sport and to motivate me to continue to progress. It’s great to see the BUZZ around all the new and revamped local races this year, there are some real positive changes. I am excited for a strong and successful 2018.

Related Posts

Buzzworthy: New SUTC President Shawn Jaca

Curls For Girls: Interview with SLTC Founder Rory Duckworth

Skye's the Limit! Interview with Local Pro Skye Moench

Friday, February 9, 2018

Respect the RD! Meet the San Rafael Classic Crew

Continuing our ongoing "Respect the RD!" series, Utah Tri Buzz contributor Christopher White had the opportunity to talk with the three awesome dudes who collectively run the San Rafael Classic.

Word on the street is that San Rafael is a great race with a friendly, grassroots feel... worth checking out!

Last July I traveled to my hometown down in Emery County to compete in the San Rafael Classic Triathlon, which is held every July at the Huntington State Park. This race holds a special place in my heart. It was the first triathlon I ever did way back in 2008. I met up with race directors Wade Allinson, John Karren and Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk to talk about the race.

L to R: Greg Funk, Wade Allinson, & John Karren

How long has the San Rafael Classic been running?

JK: We started in 2007 as a fund raiser for the Emery County search and Rescue. Nobody here gets paid by anything that goes on here, everybody is a volunteer. That’s what the race was created for and that’s why we do this, to benefit the Search and Rescue.

All three of you are the race directors right? How long have you all been doing this?

WA: This is my 3rd or 4th year
JK: 9 years
GF: I’ve been the Emery County Sherriff for 7 years, part of the race for 3 years

What is your favorite thing about directing the San Rafael Classic?

WA: I like the early morning. Just before the race starts, everybody is excited and it’s just fun.

Chris at his triathlon debut, the San Rafael Classic in 2008

JK: My favorite part of being the race director is when the race is over, honestly. Another favorite part is watching the kids' race. We have an open water swim that the kids do. There are kids that are really, really fast and really competitive. Actually some of those kids are doing really well as they’ve gone through the ranks and do well competing against adults. If you look around this place, it’s a really family friendly environment. Everybody camps, everybody hangs out. It’s super low-key. Having the search and rescue here is great. This past year felt really easy, everything was dialed, everything was super smooth and everybody knew what to do. We had a lot of support, a lot of volunteers, a lot of manpower.

GF: Truthfully the best part of this race is the participants. I've been part of the race three years, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Next year is my final year as sheriff, and mark my words, I will do the race this year.

We’re going to hold you to that!

GF: You better. Whoever beats me this year gets an extra medal.

JK: We’re gonna have a competition called “Race the Sheriff.” We’ll hand out medals and if you beat the sheriff you get a coin.

Chris had a lot more energy in 2014

WA: I think what we ought to do is give him about a ten minute head start and whoever catches him first gets an extra award.

Are there any inspirational stories you can think of as race directors?

GF: I would definitely like to talk about Jana White. She's actually won this race. Her family is really close to all of us at Search and Rescue. We did participate in a rescue for them. She lost both of her parents in an accident down here. They have been phenomenal supporters of us. They show up every year and participate in the race. Kudos to Jana and Brenden White and their kids, Cooper and Cam.

JK: For me there are a lot. There are a lot of people, like you, where this was their first triathlon. I don’t know if you ever see the back end of the swim but there are a lot of people that are barely getting through this thing. For me, it’s about getting people off the couch, getting all these kids off their computers. If you look around, none of these kids are on their phones. These guys are all on their bikes, they are jacked up for this. For me that’s the best thing. Jana and her husband are really good friends of mine. We swim together, and I’ve known them for a really long time. They are near and dear to us. There are a lot of rescues that happen here so this race means a lot.

The San Rafael Classic is an official Challenger Race in 2018.
Check out this post for more details: Utah Triathlon Championship Series!

WA: What I like about this race is about two months before the race here in Emery County you see people hitting the pool, you see the road bikes start coming out around town. It’s kind of fun to see people get excited about getting out and getting some exercise in, getting on their bikes and zipping around town. It’s fun for me to see the excitement.

as a reference, only ~90 min south of Provo

Last question: why should someone come down from Salt Lake, Colorado, or wherever they come from to do the San Rafael Classic?

JK: This is the best race in the country. Bar none. If you’re looking to be competitive, there are a lot of really fast people. If you’re looking to just have a good time, there are a lot of people here, lots of family, everybody is here watching. It’s a really laid back, super fun event. We have a big spaghetti dinner for everybody. Homemade cookies, homemade rolls, and everybody camps. For me it’s the race experience. As triathletes we can be selfish. We spend time away from our families training and they suffer a little bit and they sacrifice for us to race. For me this is a little bit of payback for them. We can get away and give them a little weekend away. There are a few families like the Goates and the Bayles families, they have 30 something people coming down. It’s almost like a family reunion for them. They all come down a few days early and stay a few days late. This is the highlight of their kids' summer, coming down to the San Rafael Tri. For me what it’s about is the opportunity to hang out.

Come down to Huntington this year to participate in a great race and to support a phenomenal cause.

Learn More Here!   San Rafael Classic


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Monday, February 5, 2018


As we did with Ice Breaker (now only 6 weeks from this Saturday) and will do for future races as well, here are our TOP 10 REASONS why you should hit up the classic Salem Spring triathlon on April 21st!

10) With the inaugural race being held in 2003, come celebrate Salem's "Sweet 16" party. They grow up so fast, don't they?

9) The first open water swim tri of the Utah season!

8) The thermal-fed pond combined with our mild winter = nice water temps. Salem was originally held in April, as it is now, and from personal experience it was plenty warm even in a thin, sleeveless wetsuit.

7) With the iconic bridge, 2 loop bike course, and a park as the venue, arguably the most spectator and family friendly race on the local calendar.

6) Second race of the inaugural Utah Triathlon Championship Series. Get a race under your belt early and set yourself up for a great season.

5) Venturing to St. George in May? Why not kick off the race cobwebs two weeks prior?

4) Utah Tri Buzz is still working through our SWAG hit list... if you've been eluding us, come and collect!

3) Great race and venue for beginners and veterans alike. Being only a Sprint distance race (no Olympic distance), there's always a competitive field, but at the same time the 800m swim in calm waters, ~12 mi bike and 5k run is a great event for beginners.

2) One of the coolest finishes around, up over the bridge you swam under earlier.

1) Aaron Shamy pre-race speech. Still #1!

So hope to see you there, and bring a friend or three.  Not racing?? Volunteer! The more the merrier, RaceTri would surely love your support.

Link to register: Salem Spring

Monday, January 29, 2018

BAM FAM - New President Mark Thorum

Our interview with new SUTC President Shawn Jaca last month has prompted a mini series of club interviews...

Next on the Utah Tri Buzz "hot seat" is Mark Thorum, the newly appointed President of BAM Endurance.

Thanks for the time, Mark!

What’s the structure of BAM, and what aspect do you lead?

Wes Johnson is the founder of Balanced Art Multisport, or BAM for short. Wes had a dream of creating a dedicated environment for endurance athletes. Wes and his wife Jen have focused on coaching and training athletes for nearly a decade. They doubled down on this dream in 2013 when BAM officially began.

Andrew Stasinos, Wes Johnson, and Mark after
an annual 100 x 100 swim challenge

Today BAM has grown to be a leader in coaching triathletes here in Utah as well as globally. This is taking up a great deal of Wes’ time. To handle the demands on his time, a Board of Directors was established to take on many of the responsibilities and to oversee BAM Endurance, a club for like-minded athletes.

I am the president of BAM Endurance. I oversee the board and club functions. My top priority is to organize BAM in a way to make it much easier for people to recognize the culture and direction of the training and the club. I really feel like the athlete’s advocate. BAM Endurance is about supporting the individual athlete. This is important to me because we race as individuals. But in a broader sense, the BAM culture is about being a team. We support and lift each other up.

I am fortunate to work with such amazing people. As a team, we search for and promote our sponsors. We create activities and upcoming events that will benefit our members. The activities will include group workouts, rides, get-togethers, training seminars, and much more.

When did you begin this role, and what are some things you’re focused on as a leader? What are the team’s objectives for 2018?

I began in this role in November. I have been focusing on creating a template for business and member interaction that simplifies access to BAM, our services, and our sponsors. I believe that many would agree that BAM is confusing. It was for me. I am also working on building closer relationships with the local and triathlon communities.

While it’s great to have bragging rights to place as many BAM athletes on the podium; it’s not my main goal. I’m going to leave that up to the outstanding BAM coaches. They are great at what they do. That alone will put our athletes on top.

My main goal is to make sure everyone can do their best and to fulfill their dreams. BAM is made up of a wide range of athletes. We have working moms, college students, retired people, para-athletes, youths…well, you get the picture. BAM is a very diverse group of people. And yes, we have elite and pro athletes, but it’s much more than having top competitors. We love all our athletes! It doesn’t matter if they are first or last.

Last.   But still welcome.

An important objective is community service. I feel strongly about giving back to those in the triathlon and local communities. We have set goals to be a greater part of serving those around us. This has always been a guiding principle of BAM. I hope that we can expand this in 2018.

Another focus is to create consistency in our programs and activities. Look for weekly group rides, swims, runs, and community activities. We will tie many of these activities in with sponsor support.

Roughly how big is the “BAM FAM” these days, and from your perspective, what’s the team’s biggest strength and opportunity for improvement?

The BAM FAM is made up of many groups and teams. Wes’ coaching reaches out to high school and youth groups, college teams, and other organizations throughout the state. I couldn’t give you an accurate number right now because there are so many different groups that are part of the BAM FAM. I love calling the group the BAM FAM. This is so true, we are a family. I do worry that some people see us as a closed group. I find the BAM FAM very welcoming. Although, I know from personal experience that the words elite and BAM intimidate people. I want to invite everyone to check out a group event. In a social setting, I find it difficult telling the elites from the athletes like myself.

I think that BAM's greatest strength is the resources for all members. We have a trained and experienced group of coaches. These coaches are guided by Wes. In addition, there is a close relationship with Dr. Max Testa. Dr. Testa works with Wes regarding testing and some of the general training. Endurance coaching is more than a training plan or a certificate, it’s an art and a science. The depth of BAM’s resources is deep. Plus, we have a dedicated facility that has some incredible equipment.

We do have some areas that we need to improve. I believe the greatest issue is improving our communications with the members and tri community.

In his recent interview, new SUTC club president Shawn Jaca mentioned the club’s slogan several times: “Train Hard, Race Well, Help Others.” If you were to sum up BAM with a slogan, what would it be?

Wow, a slogan (ahem)…How about an unofficial “Dream, Love, Train, Race”. BAM has promoted believing in yourself and being driven by a dream. I believe the 'journey’ begins with a dream. We encourage people to dream big and then act. It is important that we love what we do and those around us. Love and passion can be powerful when training. Dreams can be magnificent, but we must act to make those dreams reality, so we train hard and ultimately that training brings us results on race day.

BAM HQ in Sandy is pretty awesome. What’s offered throughout the week in terms of structured workouts? Or is it pretty much an open door policy and people can show up and train whenever they want?

We have a mixture of both open and pay to participate workouts. This is one of the most confusing elements about BAM. Our coaches are dedicated to training athletes, and for some, that is their only job. And they are very good at what they do. BAM also offers free group workouts to members. These include swim workouts, group rides and group running workouts. These group activities are organized for all types of athletes. BAM has weekly group swim workouts where everyone can find a lane that best fits their abilities.

We will have designated rides that follow the ‘No Drop’ rule, meaning that a slower athlete will not be left behind. Group trail runs and track workouts are another value that BAM coaches provide. In addition, our members have access to workouts that our coaches prepare and post. There is an annual membership fee, the cost of which can be offset by many of the special discounts our members receive from our sponsors.

And of course, BAM is a coaching-based establishment. Our indoor power trainer classes are structured with coaching. Athletes sign up and pay for sessions of several weeks. Our coaches work closely under the supervision of Wes to give personal instruction, coaching and training for those that would like to elevate performance, avoid injury, and have a structured plan at an affordable price for the quality they provide.

How fast do you have to be to join BAM? It is an elite team, right?

You don’t have to be fast to join BAM. BAM does have elite athletes. And we are very proud of the fact that many incredible athletes have chosen BAM. However, most of the athletes haven’t finished on the podium. Everyone has their own reason for joining a BAM; we try to help with their dreams and aspirations. BAM is big enough for everyone to feel comfortable.

What other club members comprise team leadership and what are their roles?

BAM has many amazing leaders and coaches. Their roles tend to be very dynamic. For now, I would like to refer you to the BAM website.

What’s your own athletic background and how did you get into triathlon? What are your race plans for 2018, and thoughts on the Utah Triathlon Championship Series?

I grew up in a pool. My father was a successful Utah high school swim coach. I swam competitively up to my first year in college. I also played football and ran track in high school. My interests shifted to cycling in the summer and skiing in the winter for the next couple of decades (seriously, I’m that old). Then the swimming bug came back. With some inspiration from my younger brother Tom, who had done very well in Ironman, I started to race in local triathlons. In the beginning, my efforts were unstructured and the goal was just to finish. It took me years to take training seriously. Trying to figure out how to train effectively for a race that has three disciplines was difficult. It would have been so much easier if I had been involved with a club and coaching like BAM back then.

I prefer the 70.3 triathlon race distance. I feel very comfortable competing at that distance. However, I will be stepping out of my comfort zone to compete in my first ‘Full’ in November. I’ve registered for Ironman Arizona. It will be a challenging year and I’m looking forward to it.

The Utah Triathlon Championship Series is awesome. I love the fact that it promotes the major Utah events and gives athletes a chance to aim for even higher goals. The 10 races that will lead up to the Brineman State Championship this year should appeal to everyone. It’s an interesting format that will move races in and out of the series based on the popularity of the event. I believe that this is mostly geared to the individual athlete, but it would be fun to have a friendly club vs. club rivalry.

What’s your “podium” for Top 3 local races and why?

Utah triathletes are so lucky to have so many high-quality race events in the state. To pick the top 3 is an impossible task because I haven’t experienced most of them.

I would like to give props to the organizers of races in Utah. It is incredibly tough to make these races run smoothly. And as an athlete, it is so important to know that the event will be executed well. Everything from safety, support, and even the food and swag are critical. Organizers like TriUtah, RaceTri, BBSC, USTriSports, On Hill Events, Xterra, and Ironman do an incredible job. And each organization has some great strengths. There are a few of the independent races that have impressed me as well.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Endurance athletes are a special breed. Countless hours go into training. Pain and fatigue seem like old friends because they are around so much. The level of self-discipline and sacrifice is admirable and carries over into other aspects of the athlete’s life. Many balance family, job, comfort, and freedom to reach their dreams. These qualities alone are something to respect. But there is so much more. I have witnessed competitors help and cheer others on, and even stop racing to help someone that is experiencing trouble. As a group, I see them reaching out to the community to make it a better place. Triathlon is not just a race, it’s a culture of outstanding dedicated people that aren’t average. And that is why I love this crazy sport. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share some of my time with these special people.

Related Posts

Buzzworthy: New SUTC President Shawn Jaca

Curls For Girls: Interview with SLTC Founder Rory Duckworth

Skye's the Limit! Interview with Local Pro Skye Moench