Saturday, January 28, 2017

New Species Among Us: The DANIMAL Dan Trott

At the risk of creating an avalanche of public panic, we feel it's our duty to inform you that a new species recently crossed our borders undetected. Researchers still aren't 100% sure what it is exactly, although it is generally known to be some type of ferocious water-to-land mammal...

Due to lack of full understanding, it is referred to only by its code name:


Always the curious one, I set out to learn more. After days in the wilderness tracking the Danimal in its natural habitat, I eventually located and cornered the hissing creature in a grove of trees.

Armed with only a pocket knife, here was the interrogation that followed:

and here it is... the moment I spotted the Danimal in his natural environment

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

I started swimming at age 8 in the Sundance summer swim league in Albuquerque, NM. This is where I got the nickname "Danimal" by the way. When I was 12 I was a head taller than any of the other kids so one of the parents on my team started calling me The Danimal. The legend has only grown since. I continued with swimming until my freshman year of college where I swam at Cal State Northridge. To tell the truth, at age 18 I probably wasn't mature enough yet to leave home and I didn't particularly enjoy my experience there for a number of reasons so I transferred back home to the University of New Mexico (Go Lobos!). One of my UNM classmates was doing a local triathlon and convinced me to join him. At this point I had quit swimming and was kind of primed for some sort of activity where I could stoke the competitive fires again and triathlon was something I always kind of wanted to try. I did the swim in a speedo, put on baggy basketball shorts and a cotton t-shirt for the rest of the race and did the bike leg on my mountain bike. I was hooked immediately. I went out, bought a road bike and some Lycra the next week and did 3 more races that summer. As I got more serious I raced and trained with the UNM triathlon team and later the Texas A&M triathlon team while I was in grad school.

What was the training schedule / volume like at the collegiate swim level? Did you enjoy it or was it a recipe for burnout?

To tell the truth, neither of my coaches in high school or college were real "pile the miles" types. We would usually swim mornings on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and every afternoon with a pretty long session on Saturdays. As I recall, I don't think I had too many days over 12,000 yards, which is not uncommon for good distance swimmers. I was definitely not burned out after I quit swimming. In fact as I alluded to before I still needed some sort of training and competitive outlet and that's how I found triathlon. I think swimming just revealed my inner exercise junkie.

What brought you to Utah, and where did you move here from?

We moved here in the fall of 2014 so that I could do a postdoctoral fellowship in the Translational Vascular Physiology Lab at the U. We actually just published a study that I'm pretty proud of, showing that exercise can reduce the inflammation that occurs around arteries with age, which is obviously good news for your readership.

We came here from Nashville where I spent some time working at Vanderbilt. Since we are originally from Albuquerque my wife and I are happy to be back to dry air and mountains after a couple stops in the south.

the Danimal at RockCliff

Whereabouts do you live, and do you train mainly solo or with others?

We are in Holladay right now. My wife and I run together with our 3 year old son riding in the stroller (sometimes more happily than others). I also swim with Gwenael Layec, a great triathlete, who I work with. He's also gotten me into cross county skiing this winter. I do some mountain biking with a couple guys from our church, City Presbyterian. I am looking for a good road riding group so if anybody out there is willing to put up with my bad jokes a couple hours into a ride, drop me a line.

If you were doing triathlons in your former state(s), what are some differences you notice between the Utah scene and the others? What are your thoughts in general after a season under your belt here?

Yeah, I've been fortunate to race in the four-corners states as well as Texas and the South. The weather is a million times better and the courses are more interesting in the West!

On the flip side, in Texas and the South you can probably race 30 weekends out of the year if you really wanted to because the weather is warm. Your wetsuit also collects a lot of dust because the swims are usually lukewarm bath water temperature. Even with a swim background my first couple high altitude, cold water swims in Utah were a shock to the system!

I found the fields to be somewhat more competitive in Texas and the South. I imagine that is partly because there are more large population bases in close proximity. I also have a theory that in Utah we lose some would-be triathletes to cycling and mountain biking because the riding here is so great. Overall, I'd say there are great people and great races all over the country.

We have you in our results as doing 4 local Olympics in 2016: Rockcliff (5th overall), DinoTri (5th overall) , Echo (15th overall), and Jordanelle (4th overall). What was your favorite thing about each of those races individually, and your favorite race overall?

Yeah, it was a pretty solid season. I also had an illustrious 165th place overall finish at the Xterra Pan Am championships in Ogden, that is where I learned that I am a subpar mountain biker. To answer your question though, the venue for Rockcliff and Jordanelle is a perfect setting for a triathlon. The swim, bike course and the off road run are awesome. For Jordanelle I had some friends from Texas visiting Nathan Poland and Alicia Allen, we camped out at Rockcliff the night before and they managed to win the men's and women's overall, respectively, so that was a fun day (if I hadn't invited them I'd be on the podium, ha!). DinoTri has a fantastic swim and bike course with some serious climbing and a great Tshirt (my son loves the dinosaur). Overall, my favorite was probably Echo for the combination of great course and competitive field.

the Danimal at DinoTri

You’re a threat to be first out of the water at any race you enter. I’ve heard guys like pro Andy Potts say they love this position, but I’m too slow of a swimmer to know… what’s it like to be “the hunTED” vs. “the hunTER” during a race?

Oh yeah! It is a total rush coming out the water first and leading the bike. Unfortunately my dreams of being Andy Potts come crashing down every race sooner or later, some times spectacularly! One of these days I hope to hold 'em all off until the end and win one.

You’re no slouch on the bike and run either. How has the progression from swimmer to triathlete been?

Well, I am a big boy so cycling and running are a little more challenging than in the water where I don't have gravity to contend with. The best thing about cycling and running is being able to exercise with scenery other than the black line on the bottom of the pool. Probably the biggest factor in my improvement in cycling and running was the opportunity to train with my grad school buddies Pat Dougherty and Nate Poland, the Texas A&M Triathlon Team and the Brazos Valley Cyclists. College Station, TX is a surprisingly great triathlon town.

What are your race plans for 2017?

I'm signed up for Icebreaker since that looks like it usually has a great field. I had my eye on St. George 70.3 but it turns out our second child is due the same day! With the new baby, racing this summer may be a bit more hit or miss but I hope to do Echo and Jordanelle and the Xterra Pan Am race.

Anything else you want to share?

Thanks so much for having me, I really like what you are doing with the site. I especially enjoyed your interview with the old school Utah race directors. I have always loved off-the-radar local races. Maybe I'll make a "Make Local Races Great Again" hat for myself this season ;).

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