Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kona Profiles: Interview with Luke Rothey

The Ironman World Championships ("Kona") are a mere three weeks away, taking place Oct. 8th. As you all know, it's incredibly competitive to qualify, and therefore a major accomplishment to do so. We'll be catching up with a few of our local Cinderellas in the coming weeks... getting to know them better as a tri community and seeing how they're feeling as they get ready for the ball!

Thanks for the time, Luke, we'll be cheering you on!

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

I'm generally the guy that is pretty good at everything but not great at anything. I've always been very active but saw no need for endurance sports until 2007. During a high stress time of my life I was introduced to trail running and marathons by my neighbor and great friend, I found this to be the therapy I needed to get through tough times. I finished my first marathon in 2007 with a Boston Qualification with about :20 seconds to spare. After a few successful marathons I jumped into the local tri scene with Tri Utah's Cache Valley Tri that has since been canceled. It didn't take long to figure out Ironman was where it's at, and Kona would be a dream come true.

Which is more stressful / pressure-packed: attempting to qualify for Kona or the thought of actually racing Kona? How are you feeling now, only a few weeks out?

The pressure has always been the qualifier, Kona is the prize. The real pressure was the roll-down meeting the day after IM Tahoe 2015. On race day I knew there would be five KQ spots in the M 40-44 age group. At the finish line of Tahoe I saw on the electronic finish board that I took the fifth spot! About seven minutes after I finished, a competing age grouper crossed the line with a :14 second faster time than me. He apparently let everyone get a head start to avoid the rough water; he was the last one to start the race in the rolling start (the reason the old school mass start is king). Now the stars needed to align for me to KQ. I learned there was only one starter in the M 70-74 group. I watched his splits starts to slip late into the night and unfortunately for him he DNF'd. That KQ spot would be reallocated to the next largest age group and 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49 all had virtually the same number of starters...but what mattered were finishers. The next morning it was announced that the allocation came to 40-44. Kona bound!

Sources tell us you qualified at last year’s (now defunct) Ironman Lake Tahoe. Was it nice to get your qualification out of the way early or has it been too much time waiting and thinking about it?

Tahoe was one year ago this weekend. It has been such a fun year having Kona on the calendar. Had I KQ'd at Mont Tremblant or CDA it would not have been the same experience for me. It has been a blast planning for the big dance.

How has training gone in general, and do you have a coach or self-coached?

I have always been very disciplined and consistent in my training, but that doesn't mean I have done it right. I've seen my times plateau at all distances over the last few years and I have been looking for a way to break through. I felt like I was doing things right, but was often battling injury and never very good at taking time off for recovery. About two months ago I asked Rory Duckworth to coach me through my ramp up and taper to Kona. It's been great. I hope to experience a break-through race with some tweaks to my training, recovery and nutrition.

Have you been to Kona before? If not, do you have specific goals or will you be more, as many people put it, “happy to be there” your first time?

This will be my first time in Kona. My goal is to soak it all in. I have trained hard and I hope that pays off, but really I will just be so stoked to be there. I've got family and close friends going to support me and plenty of local race friends participating. It's going to be a day to remember.

You went 33 / 2:40 / 1:35 for a 4:52 at this year’s St. George 70.3… what’s the “secret” to running a nasty split like that on that hilly course??

Thanks Collin. That was a pretty tough race for me. I couldn't get the power I wanted on the bike all day. I Didn't feel cold like many did on the bike, but when I got on my feet I realized the weather had taken a toll. Cramps in the first mile made me wonder if I would make it up that first big climb. After some stretching I got rolling and felt pretty good about my run split.

Looking at our results database, we couldn’t help but notice that your name seems to often be right around two other names: Marc Rosello and Adam Hicken. Do you guys do battle on a regular basis or are we imagining things?

I haven't met Adam. I'm sure I will get a chance to in the next couple of weeks. Marc and I seem to think alike when it comes to race selection. It seems every race the last few years I can expect Marc to be there. Fortunately he is now in a different age group, that guy is strong! Brice Williams is another local athlete going to Kona this year. Brice took a spot in Tahoe last fall as well. We traveled to the race together, ran virtually the same race all day long, and both got our first KQ's in Tahoe. Watch for Brice in Kona, he has been hitting it HARD!

Brice, Luke, B.J. & Marc after qualifying for Kona at IM Lake Tahoe
Again looking at past results, you didn’t race as much locally this season as you usually do (I’d imagine with the focus on Kona), but you did just take 3rd in the Brineman Half. What did you think about the inaugural Brineman?

I've battled some tough injuries the last few years. My main goal for Kona was to show up healthy and as a result I have had to pull back from some of my favorite local races. Brineman was a great four week out race. The race is about 15 miles from home and I ride on Antelope Island often with my training crew Nate Cook and Josh Pay. I absolutely loved the course and couldn't have been happier that it was shortened.

What’s your podium for top 3 local races?

Because of the number of local participants I would put Spudman on top and call it a local race. I have been to the last nine Spudman's. BJ owns that race, but it is fun to compete for a spot on the podium. I always have enjoyed IM STG and I think Brineman will now be a regular for me.

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