Saturday, October 24, 2020

Rookie of the Year Award Winner - Mr. Zack Dent!

Although 2020 gave us a very limited number of races, we wanted to hand out at least one award for this strange year. Zack Dent somehow managed to squeeze delicious lemonade out of nasty covid lemons, participating at pretty much every possible race option this year.

Zack's a great dude that you'll wanna meet when you get the chance. At 6'8, he's probably Utah's tallest triathlete, and we dare you to find us a better beard. He did a couple pool swim tris a decade ago, but against all odds, 2020 was his first legit season.

We're very proud to anoint Zack the Utah Tri Buzz 2020 Rookie of the Year.

Standard question - what's your athletic background and how did you get into triathlon? What/when was your first race?

I was really not much of the athletic type - I never really competed in team sports, but I did a little bit of BMX racing when I was younger. In 2010 I was stationed in Jacksonville North Carolina, where I was introduced into mountain biking, which got me into cycling, which finally got me into triathlons. In 2010, I did two triathlons - the Wilmington Athletic Club and the Azalea Festival Tri.

What brought you to Utah and ultimately got you back in the triathlon game over the past year?

Utah brought me to Utah! The mountains, the views, the outdoor community. It was the ability to go to Moab, hike into the canyons or explore the Salt Flats in just a few hours. It even took my wife over a year to finally agree to the move - once she visited, she was obsessed.

As for my intro back into triathlons, it all started with my daughter and how I knew I wanted to be able to hike and enjoy the things Utah provides with her - and not struggle while doing so.
I hit my highest weight of 320lbs, and knew I had to make a change. In December of 2019, I started keto and dropped 50lbs prior to getting back into cycling. I did a few rides with Nat Harward and I knew him from Jeeps - not triathlons - so that made me even more interested in getting back to triathlons.

It was only a few months before my first one back, in Beaver. I don’t think that there was a better race to come back to, was Dough Boy. It was a ton of fun, no timing, so I had no idea what my times were - I was just happy to make it through it.

When we showed up to Beaver to race, I realized that I had forgotten my goggles (rookie move, I know), and that’s how I was introduced to the Salt Lake Tri Club, when I asked Mike Humphries and crew to borrow a pair of goggles. All of those guys have been imperative in making sure I’m meeting my goals for this year and next.

From your perspective, how would you compare the Utah scene to other places you've lived?

I think it’s great! There’s a ton of active people, clubs, and shops that make it all worthwhile. It’s upsetting that it took me three years to get back into it, but I’m so glad that it’s all worked out again. When I first got into cycling, I was living in Jacksonville, NC, it had an amazing cycling community because of the community's love for health and wellness, and the active lifestyle of the military.

I would feel like it’s quite similar, but there’s a whole lot more climbing in Utah then there is in Jacksonville. It’s definitely been a challenge, but one I’m working through, considering I’ve just climbed Emigration for the third time in 7 days.

From our records you made some serious lemonade this season, racing pretty much every option we had. What races did you do and how would you sum up this limited "season"?

I did Dough Boy in Beaver, UT; Cache Valley Sprint in Logan, UT; South Davis Labor Day Tri; and Bear Lake Brawl. The first three were sprint distances and I wanted to end the year with a challenge so I went with the olympic distance for Bear Lake, and boy did I get that challenge. Bear Lake Brawl by far was the most memorable.

Starting out freezing on the beach to swimming in 3 foot whitecaps, to getting poured on the bike, and not being able to feel my hands and feet in transition for the run. Overcoming the weather to achieve my goal was definitely the highlight of the season. Overall, the season was a huge success for the races that we were able to have. Covid sucks, but I was glad that I was able to participate in these triathlons and look forward to seeing how 2021 compares.

On that note we hear you have big plans for 2021 - what races are in the works for you as of now? What is most exciting to you looking ahead and what specifically is most intimidating?

2021 for me is going to be the hardest year of my life for my athleticism, as well as home life. We have our second daughter due to be born in February, so that will present some challenges. I’m looking at racing as many races as I can next year, with the highlights being the IM St George 70.3 and Ironman 140.6 Coeur d’Alene.

Coeur d’Alene is definitely the most intimidating race that I’ll see next year, with close to 7000’ of climbing on the bike course, it’s sure to be a challenge. I never imagined that I’d be back into triathlons or doing a 140.6 so soon. However, thanks to some amazing friends and supportive people around me, I feel that it is a very attainable goal.

Tell us more about your growing support crew - who do you have in your corner as you continue on this journey and how are they helping you?

I would say the biggest person in my corner who is motivating and abusing me right now is Casey Merrill. He forces me to push for constant improvement every single time that we work out. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a workout with him where I didn’t say “I hate you”, in the most loving way possible.

Having people like him and the Salt Like Tri Community has been huge, and something that I’m just so grateful for. Their constant support pushes me to always have the best and most productive workout I can.

What's atop your "podium" as the most memorable ride you've done in Utah?

Salt to Saint, for sure. Myself, Casey Merrill, Jake Burt, and Kolby Christensen decided to tackle the Salt to Saint Relay this year. That was by far the most mentally and physically taxing, as well as the most rewarding of the year. Having back to back weekends at Bear Lake and going straight into Salt to Saint was definitely a crazy experience.

I really started to question my sanity at 2:30am on one of my bike legs, doing nothing but climbing. It’s in those moments that you really realize what you’re capable of. Over the course of that event, I did about 105 miles and just under 5000’ of climbing. That’s the most that I had done, climbing wise, over the course of a “ride” for this year.

How does it feel to be (we believe) the tallest Utah triathlete at 6'8 while also possessing our community's most impressive beard? Isn't it being a little bit greedy to hold both of those titles?

LOL. Yeah, it definitely has a unique set of challenges, but at my height nothing comes easy if you don’t like team sports. I’m definitely happier to hold the beast beard, rather than being the tallest. Finding the right bike can be a real pain.

You've got a little one at home and one on the way (congrats!). What's your game plan to balance family/work/training?

I think it all starts with having an incredible support system. My wife and I have been married for almost 10 years, and had our first daughter last year, so we’re still adapting to life as parents. It was an even bigger shock the weekend of Dough Boy, when she told me that we were pregnant again on Fathers Day. Mind you, this is after two rounds of IVF to have our first.

My wife Kelly is really the one that makes this possible by never complaining about workouts, traveling, or the cost that triathlons bring. My work is also another huge factor with the ability to travel and a very supportive ownership team and staff that want their employees to succeed and be happy while at work, as well as outside of work. PS - if you need a great deal on a used car, hit me up! Triathlons aren’t cheap.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has worked out with me, inspired me, or given me the ability to race and crush some goals. Nat Harward for helping me get started, and Casey Merrill for always making sure I’m killing my goals. There’s a bunch of great people at Salt Lake Tri and Intermountain Tri that are always willing to train or offer words of encouragement to any athlete to see them become better. I really look forward to the 2021 season, and crushing some more goals!

Zack's the biggest boss that you've seen thus far:

Zack with 2 big time Utah triathlon ambassadors, Shawn Jaca of the Southern Utah Tri Club and Nat Harward of Intermountain Tri




Sadly the 2020 Series Championship couldn't get off the ground, but have no fear!  We'll come back with a vengeance in 2021. 

Thinking about Lasik or have other eye health needs?
Dr. Brice Williams is offering some incredible
deals for fellow Utah Tri Buzz readers

Local triathlete Steve Monson has a stellar reputation
as one of Utah's finest financial advisors

We started a Patreon account (link below) with the hope of raising a few bucks towards awards & swag for athletes of all abilities in our tri community. We've given out a lot over the past 3 years, but would like to continue to expand our offerings & the volume we can do.

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!)

We're also always grateful for talented people who contribute in terms of time... let us know if you'd like to be part of the Utah Tri Buzz team.



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