Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Clydesdale to Thoroughbred: Interview with Nate Cook

Weighing in at over 250 lbs a few years ago, Nate Cook is now one of Utah's fastest triathletes and isn't afraid to talk a little friendly trash along the way. We caught up with the owner of Cook Builders to get his thoughts on the quest for Kona, the "gateway drugs" that lead to increased triathlon participation, and the very short list of local athletes he's afraid of.

This interview also inspired a potentially super fun "county competition" idea for Ironman St. George... more to come!

What's your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon? What was your first race?

I grew up thinking people that rode bikes were idiots, and wondering how stupid you must be to spend that much money on a bike without a motor. I vowed never to exercise and laughed at those early risers as I stayed home and ate bagels.

Then one day I hit 253 lbs, went on a diet, started seeing a nutritionist, and with a ton of work got to 233 lbs. After that I tried all summer to lose weight and I just couldn't. I gave myself one more month and promised that if I wasn't losing weight I would start running. Out of nowhere on Oct 22, 2013 I bought a treadmill and it all began!

Nate's first bike ride

My friend and neighbor Luke Rothey got me to sign up as a relay for Spudman. I was going to swim and run and my wife was going to bike. Haha! So I bought a pool pass and added swimming to my new exercise schedule. It didn't take too long before I had paid for another single entry and bought a bike. I remember thinking that Spudman brings the very fastest guys from all around and being in complete awe of those guys that got that cool spud trophy!

The next year I trained all winter with Luke and another buddy in his garage. We would get his Spudman trophy and put it in front of us for all the workouts. I had one goal that year, a clydesdale (200+ lb category) trophy for Spudman. I went to that race that next year feeling prepared, and very nervous. It took around 2:06 to 2:10 most years to get a trophy and I thought I could maybe muster a 2:11 to 2:15. I ended up getting a 2:12 or so and it was an easier year so I got 1st place! When I got it, I cried. I cried a few times actually.... I cry a lot.

Side story- unknown to me, Luke had brought up one of his old Spudman trophies just in case. Pretty cool. Spudman will always be a special race for me.

From what we can gather it seems you've only gotten faster over the past few years... to what do you most attribute the improvement?

I think we all have a talent that God gave us. I want Tip Worob's talent of being freaking fast, but I got the gift of consistency. I never ever miss a day or a workout of training. I mean never! I think it helps that I actually love training, but really I think I have a gift of just grinding the workouts out... it was years before I missed a week of running, and that was Ironman recovery related. I also got a coach early on to help me understand how to train best. I started out with Keate Avery and he was awesome. Now Yaro with Middow coaching coaches me and for sure without both of them I wouldn't be where I am. Having a workout scheduled for me every day has been key! I also think having a coach has kept me injury free.

How would you sum up your day at Spudman, and what can you tell us about the "garage champion" title?

Spudman went well. I really should have done the elite wave, but I LOVE those dang trophies, so I signed up for age group. Josh Pay did age group too, and Rory did the elite (props for that). It turned into a time trial race because of that. I wanted to outbike Rory, Skye, and Josh; and then beat Josh and Rory. I easily beat Rory, I mean easy. But Josh just barely got me by 45 seconds or so. He had a great run and mine was good, but not good enough... 

Me and Josh Pay do everything we can together, he is always down to do a long ride or meet up for a run, and we do every swim together. We also spend a lot of time together in my garage. Our wives get jealous sometimes. Well, more than sometimes.

East Canyon

We push each other pretty good. Josh has always been faster than me, I can out swim him but he usually out bikes and for sure outruns me. But then last fall I snuck in an xterra win because Josh sucks at mountain biking and we both couldn't run because we blew up the week before at the Brineman Half. It actually came down to a sort of sprint finish. So I had bragging rights all winter. Then I got him at Ironman Santa Rosa so I had him for a while, but I was worried about Spudman. I just don't have that fast run I need at those races. 

We train a lot together so people always ask who is faster, and whoever has the belt can claim being the "garage champion." And boy do I claim it. Because of the Intermountain tri club, the garage crew is growing! It's really fun, we have about half a dozen guys that come regularly: Matt Sweatfield, Josh Wilson, Jeremiah Cunningham, Brad B. (I think?), Chris Studinger, Trent Hooper, and Brian Berry are all fairly new to the sport, but it's been fun to watch them grow! Jeremiah will probably have the belt soon and we won't be able to get it back.

Anyone out there want my garage code?? p.m. me I'm giving it out to everyone!

Now a thoroughbred, Nate is no longer 
content simply racing for apples

You crushed IM Santa Rosa this year and came within shouting distance of a Kona slot... would you say Ironman is your best distance, and is Kona a big dream & motivator or more "ehh, it would be cool"?

I am for sure best at Ironmans. I don't know why. I'm not a fast runner, but I can somehow put up a half decent Ironman run. I am all in on Kona! I have been since I went and watched Luke in 2016. I know better than most how hard it is and how lucky I would be to sneak in, but I love training and I am not afraid to fail like 30 times until I get there! Everything I do is based on the goal of getting to Kona. I always say Kona 2025 prep! My wife really hopes it's soon because she thinks I'll stop doing Ironmans if I KQ, haha!

In Santa Rosa I was 5th or 6th off the bike, and holding that would've been good enough for Kona, so I ran as fast as I could, but after 10 miles I just couldn't hold the pace and slipped to 9th. I finished in 9:43 and that is good enough a lot of years to sneak in, so I was happy. And yep, I cried. It lit a fire in me thinking that I may be good enough now.

What does the rest of your season look like, and are you signed up for IMSG 2020?

I am signed up for Ironman Maryland on Sept 28th and I'm afraid that race may be a complete blow up or a great day, because I only have one goal and I am going to go for it! You bet I'm signed up for IMSG! I'm pumped.

What are your thoughts on the new IMSG race in general and the course? The tough bike and less harsh run should play to your strengths, right?

I really hate that that race is back because now I have to do it. I suck in the heat, suck with any altitude, and suck on hills, so I am hosed. Josh is going to kill it though, he thrives down there.

Who are your favorite people to race, and if we were to get a fun "
cross country" style competition going for Ironman St. George pitting counties or other geographic locations against each other, who would rep Davis county with you?

I like racing the fast guys! There are sooo many and it seems new people at every race.- Rory, Josh, Lee W., Brice W., Sam, Jorge, and Nat to name a few. Also, buddies from Ironman events like Cam Comerford. Every local race seems to bring three or four guys that beat me and it's fun to think one day I may be able to hang with them! Ironmans always have fast guys and it's fun to pretend I can hang for a while. The Wasatch Running crew of Caden, Arom and Kyle are always fun too.

I hate racing the young fast suckers, they are the worst like imswimmer28!, Andrew Hall, and about 10 other smoking fast guys that really make you feel slow... all of them think they're soooo special cause they can run 28 min 10ks!! Except I like racing Tip Worob because he can't swim that well so I can try and bike race him. I'm super sad that our buddy and mentor, Luke Rothey has a bad hip. Just as Josh and I started getting faster, he had to stop running. Yep, I cried again.

As for repping Davis county, that sounds fun - I'd be in for sure and I'm sure we could round up a team!

On that note, from social media it's clear you have a lot of fun competing and don't shy away from that aspect of racing. From what you know where would you put yourself in the state for a 70.3 or full IM?

Ironman, in my age group, Brice Williams would kill me! With Lee Weatherhead, I'd go into the race thinking I can beat him, but he is probably faster. He beat me in Oceanside with a strong run. Jorge is in Idaho, so he doesn't count. Thank goodness Travis Iverson stopped training or he could beat me too. Gentry Yost is beatable like Lee but he may be in the old fart group above me? Sam Hobi is totally beatable!! Yeah, I am really only afraid of Brice and Jorge!! Haha!!!

Disclaimer: every person I just named has beat me in every half Ironman I have done against them. I just like to talk trash :)


What's your podium for favorite local races and why? In your opinion how can we continue to increase participation at our local races?

St. George 70.3 is number one, it brings the show and the talent. Then Brineman for sure. Third for me is Xterra, not enough of us doing that one. The local scene is pumped up by the clubs. They keep it alive and make Utah a strong tri community. We all need to be involved supporting these groups like Intermountain, BAM, Salt Lake Tri Club and Southern Utah Tri Club. The races like Spudman (float swim) and relays in traditional events are the gateway drugs to beginners so we need to help those newbies enjoy the experience and guide them. I also firmly believe if the other races had as cool of trophies as Spudman, they would have a big participation jump! No more drinking cups for trophies, haha! 

Anything else you want to add?

I definitely need to thank my HUGE sponsor Cook Builders haha!! Man this sport is expensive! And Utah Tri Buzz, of course, for hyping the local scene!!




Below are links to all the races in the 2019 Championship Series:

Below are links to all Challenger Races:

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If you enjoy Utah Tri Buzz and would like to pitch in, any amount would be greatly appreciated... (there may be something in it for you as well!)

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