Saturday, July 9, 2022

Meet Mr. Macho Man Marco Menchaca!

Marco Menchaca is a rising star on the local scene and a newly minted Utah Tri Buzz contributor. The first order of business was to formally interview him and learn more about this bike/run phenom.

Thanks for the time, Marco!

What can you tell us about yourself, including your athletic background and how you got into triathlon?

I was born in Chile, am the father of two girls and work for FLSmidth, which is the largest mining equipment supplier in the world.

I started my endurance journey back in 1997 racing cross country mountain bike (known now as XCO). I was racing until 2002 in Chile as part of different teams. At that point my work schedule was not compatible with training and racing at a high level, so I decided to stop racing and just keep enjoying riding my bike (No Zwift or smart trainers back then so indoor training was pretty boring).

In 2006 a work opportunity showed up to move to Tucson, Arizona. When I moved there I bought an entry level road bike to stay active and quickly engaged in the local road biking scene. It was very easy to get familiar with all the local options as there was a website that kept track of all group rides with a short description and what to expect.

One of them was the famous Shootout that is basically a bike race every Saturday morning. My competitive nature quickly kicked back and I was "racing" the shootout every weekend. That got me excited to start racing again and I got a new race bike and signed up for a few local races.

Road cycling was a different animal compared to mountain biking, as I quickly realized that without a team it was really difficult to win a race even though I will be fighting all day long in the front. 

A few riders from Trisports Cycling Team (pb Eclipse Racing) had approached me and eventually invited me to be part of their group. That was great, having a small close community that kept me motivated to train and provide support during races too.

I got a coach again and raced for 4 years getting to be a top CAT 3 cyclist and doing as many AZ and some CA races every season. The club had a Triathlon part too and we would share lot of the rides with them and I would go to some of the runs as cross training too.

That got me interested in triathlon but I had no swimming background. In 2009 I decided to give a local Tri a go, and as expected I was dead last out the water but with a strong bike and an ok run I managed to finish 5th in my Age Group.

That was a great experience but also made me realized that to get into triathlon I needed to swim.. which was not on my priority list...(and still isn't but I hit the pool 3 times a week as I know I have to!)

At the end of 2010 I had enough points to move into CAT 2 but also that year my first daughter was born, so I had decided to stop racing again and just focus on fun endurance events and challenges like a 252 mile bike race, an uphill marathon, and 24 hours mountain bike races and lot of hiking and trail running. Basically my definition of having fun.

How long have you lived in SLC and what do you think of the place? Where are some places you love to swim, bike and run locally and what other racing have you done?

In 2013 once again because of work I moved to Salt Lake City. For some years I just kept riding and running enjoying the beautiful scenery this area has to offer. I live close to Big Cottonwood Canyon so I ride up and down that place a lot.

I would say is my favorite ride. In 2016 at my local rec center there was a triathlon program run by now BAM coach Shannon Clawson.

It was a multi weeks program that ended with the "Tri the Heights" sprint triathlon. I signed up for it planning on giving triathlon another go and this time with better swim preparation. I did that triathlon and that gave me a kick to start training more organized again and looking at some long term goals. Since then I have done many local triathlons including a couple of XTerra and Brineman Half.

In 2017 as I started increasing my running volume I met a couple of long distance runners that were preparing to do Utah Valley Marathon with the intention of qualifying for Boston. So I took that as an opportunity to step up the running and experiment a little bit on long distance. 

Utah Valley 2017 went great and in April 2018 I was running Boston on a very cold and rainy day. I finished in 3:01, so the sub 3 at Boston is still a goal I will try to go back for it.

After Boston I kept training and running marathons and with that came the interest of doing a full distance triathlon. I did Ironman Coeur d’Alene in 2021 and after a very humbling experience there, I signed up right after the race for Ironman St. George full looking for redemption but this time training better, mainly trying to be more consistent and getting good rest.

St. George then became the World Champs and it was an amazing experience, however I haven't figured out the full distance yet, so I will keep working on it.

IMSG - click on to see better

The Jordan River Parkway is my go to place for running, mainly because I can squeeze a lunch time run straight out of my office.

It’s clear that you’re a big supporter of the local tri scene. What’s your “podium” for your favorite local races and why?

I love participating in the local races as they bring people of all levels and backgrounds together with the sole goal of having fun and pushing your personal limits. I love to share my passion for sports, and engaging in local events it is a great way to do that.

I love sports for the contact you get with nature and your body and for the same reason I believe I struggle so much finding motivation for swimming. Going to the pool is far from entertaining on my books. I love however open water swimming and during summer I spend a lot of time in Rockport or other lakes around as I take my dog, paddleboards and we can all have a great time in the water. 

As you extend your network of friends and you can learn from the most experience athletes and inspire others. Of all local events I would say Jordanelle is the one I like the most with Brineman coming a close second. I like the course on those races and the atmosphere around them.

Looking at some local race results from circa 2018-19 (compared to present day), it’s also clear that you’ve improved a ton. You aren’t the best swimmer, but are a feared predator on the bike and run! To what do you attribute your continued progress over the past few years?

Hahaha yes as mentioned I am still a really bad swimmer, but enjoy so much passing almost everyone on the bike that maybe I don't want to become a better swimmer. In all seriousness swimming is my main weakness and I know I need to improve a lot to be able to do better at the full distance among other tweaks.

The major change I did to start improving was to add better recovery into my life. It sounds opposite but it was common for me to do workouts at 5 am and past midnight and survive with 5 hours or less in some cases of sleep. I realized that even though I was getting the workouts done, without the right recovery I was not getting the proper adaptation and I couldn't push hard when needed. 

I have now all well structured in Training Peaks and I keep modifying the plan according to the other life demands. Also I have gotten better at finding small windows of training opportunities, for example taking my bike and rollers to some training sessions of my daughter. Or if there is a treadmill next to the ice, you will see me there running rather than seated on the bleachers watching my phone.

What races have you done so far this season and what's left on the schedule? Will you be hoisting the Utah Tri Buzz M4044 Championship Belt this season and/or what other goals have you accomplished or looking to accomplish this year?

This season my goal is to go for that Championship Belt. I saw some pictures last season and I wanted to be the one holding it this year for my AG. I started with Icebreaker, then St. George, Daybreak and Jordanelle. Next up is Echo (UTB State Champs) and finally Brineman 70.3. I hope to finish on the AG podium at those and hold that belt at the end of the season.

What interests you about contributing to the Utah Tri Buzz mission of “hyping the local scene?” How can we continue to make the local scene stronger?

There are so many great races and triathletes in the state. We need to showcase and promote them better to present these races as a great alternative to Ironman and long distance racing.

There are some many advantages, it is a lot easier to train for a shorter distance event, is a lot less expensive, you get to grow your local community of athletes and friends to go train and share the love of the sport, and it is not less challenging as you can still work hard to beat your personal best and get to accomplish something that very few are willing to even start that is to finish a triathlon. 

We need to keep working until the point that holding a Championship Belt is as important as qualifying to Kona... well maybe won't be at the same level but at least let's make sure people are looking forward to getting those belts and seeing progress in their local rankings. We need to work closer with the different teams and clubs to get them more engaged on participating in local events and support the local series of races.

*****Below is the 2022 UTCS - the only update we're aware of from the below is that Brineman will be a unique Friday race on Sep 9th. Check out this post if you need a refresher on how the UTCS works.*****

Note: Brineman is now Sep 9th!

Below are links to all the 2022 Championship Series races:

Ice Breaker - Sprint
Sand Hollow - Olympic
Daybreak - Olympic
Jordanelle - Olympic
East Canyon - Olympic
Brineman **Now SEP 9th - Half (70.3)





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