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.

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