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.

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