I recently sat down and talked triathlon with TCSD member, Chuck Pateros. I really enjoyed getting to know Chuck better and I know you will, as well.
Craig: What was your sports background when you were younger?
Chuck: I attended a combined junior-senior high school for 7th and 8th grade and received varsity letters for swim team both years. That sounds impressive until you find out that it was a small private school and I was usually one of two swimmers in the distance races. Those second place ribbons really add up. I also played JV football until I realized that I was better at the drums and switched to band. I swam in high school but didn't letter because by then I was on a team with depth. In college I played intramural basketball and ultimate frisbee. In grad school I rode with the Mohawk-Hudson Wheelmen in upstate New York, where I peaked with a 4:56 Saratoga Century. I thought I would ride all the time once I moved to sunny Southern California in 1993, but the traffic, the job and finally 2 kids left me at a lethargic 250-260 pounds by 2001. I realized that I better do something if I was going to be around and healthy for my grandkids. I joined WeightWatchers and then started walking downstairs at work to go to the bathroom.
Craig: How did you get started with triathlons?
Chuck: I wrecked my car in Spring 2002! I am proud to say that I still haven't replaced it. That forced me back on the bike consistently. Our whole family (Denise, Alison 5, John 2, sister-, mother-, and father-in-law) did the Carlsbad 5000. Afterward, we all went to the pool at the Olympic Resort. Since there were so many adults, I took advantage of the opportunity to swim some laps. The fitness center was managed by Joao Silva, who had put up posters for the Carlsbad Triathlon. Hmm... I had just done the equivalent of the swim and the run, and I liked to bike... The rest, as they say, is history.
The Olympic Resort is closed now, but I am doing the Challenged Athletes San Diego Triathlon Challenge with Joao this October. Steve Pierce and Doug Poorman (of Poorman Triathlon fame) were instrumental in getting me out past the breakers. Mike Plumb got me going on the track (I was never a runner) and first inspired me toward Ironman with his website's description of the Ironman Revisited. I did my first group rides with the Camp Pendleton Triathlon Team, and still try to ride with them when I get the chance. I stumbled into TCSD through Brian Long who motivated me to help out and organize swims and 'preview' triathlons whenever I can.
Craig: What Ironman races have you done and how did you do?
Chuck: I did Ironman Arizona in November 2008 in 15:30 and Hawaii (formerly 'Ironman') Revisited in August 2009 in 18:15.
Craig: Tell me about your experience at Ironman Revisited?
Chuck: For me, this event sums up what triathlon is all about: you against your limitations. When I say 'you,' however, I mean that in the plural sense: you the individual, plus your support network. The core of my network is my family and around them I have the triathlon club, my remarkably flexible employer ViaSat, and a great network of encouraging friends. It doesn't get any better than that!
When I talk about limitations, I don't just mean me and my challenges in finding training time, etc. Those details are pretty easy when you're in the greatest club on the planet (which also happens to be a triathlon club). In the Revisited triathlon, like in the original Ironman, you provide your own crew. In my case, that's my family. Let's see, I have a wonderful wife who is a great driver, but is, for lack of a better term, directionally challenged. I have an 11 year old daughter who is really good with computers and an 8 year old son who is really good at everything, especially sleeping.
For Ironman Arizona, I had really worked on my bike speed and even previewed the bike course ahead of time. For Revisited, I realized that I didn't really want to burn through the bike course, because then I would be running in the hottest part of the day! That actually inspired me to do a lot more distance riding, resulting in an incredibly epic train ride with Danny Hyte and Jodi Hays. We took Amtrak up to LA Union Station, rode up the Hollywood hills to the Griffith Observatory, down to Hollywood (Danny fought through the pre-funeral crowd to get his picture taken at Michael Jackson's star) and then down the coast. After four flats, we couldn't even make it all the way back before dark and had to hop another train. That inspired me to bring 3 spare tubes, a patch kit, and an 'anything can happen' attitude to Hawaii.
In Hawaii, we pre-drove the entire bike course and even did the complicated end of the course twice. As well, I fitted myself with a GPS tracking system and outfitted the car with a cellular modem and GPS system. John got to ride in the front seat of the minivan and Alison was in the second row bench with the computer at her side. Of course after all that, the biking went incredibly smoothly. My crack crew actually took a break on the north shore to swim at Shark's Cove after feeding me a quick lunch.
Once I finished the bike course, John and I walked the first 5 miles through Waikiki to our hotel, where we found the girls swimming at the beach! I ran the next 6 miles or so, and they quickly caught up to me in the van. The mostly walking marathon went well, although I did suffer some mean blisters that still bother me almost a month later. The next few hours are a bit of a blur, although there was a little issue on the marathon course when I lost my crew for a while. I stayed on the route, however, and they caught back up to me just fine. By this time, John was asleep and Alison was watching movies. I do remember getting a little delirious, chanting 'Forks and knives, forks and knives' over and over again.
Finally we made it back to the hotel where Bob Babbitt, Rick Kozlowski and the great CAF crew were waiting for us. As wonderful as it was to finish, I have to say it was a little like my Ph.D. thesis defense. For both, I realize that the event itself is almost anticlimactic. The Ironman really began on the day I signed up. The event itself was just a test to see if I had done all my homework. The 'hole in the head' trophy is just another diploma.
Craig: What message would you like to share with someone who is considering their first triathlon?
Chuck: Sign up! There is nothing more motivating than having a date circled on your calendar. Work backwards and plan out your route. That triathlon starts NOW. The other advice I give is to not over-train on the run. Realize that you can do an Ironman without doing all the mileage that Craig advises in the training plan. Just don't expect to get up on the podium unless you volunteer to clean it. I figure that if I get injured, I'm not going to finish anything.
Craig: What other activities in the community are you involved in?
Chuck: I do everything I can to support science and engineering education. I am on the technology committee at the kids' school, which means I spend a lot of time blowing the dust out of old computers. I am amazed at the dedication and appreciation shown by the wonderful teachers there and always come away with a huge smile on my face. At the University of San Diego, I am an adjunct professor and also serve on the Engineering Advisory Board and chair the Electrical Engineering Advisory Board. My favorite event is probably when I get to help judge middle school robotic contests at Legoland. How cool is that?
Craig: Family is clearly a huge priority with you. How do you fit in time for family with all of your other responsibilities?
Chuck: I don't think I could do it without a great family to support me! When possible, I try to come up with training events that are fun for everybody. For example, we'll drive up to San Juan Capistrano with our bikes and ride together a few miles down the river trail to Doheny State Beach. From there, I'll ride back home and they will ride back to Capistrano to visit the petting farm. We all get home about the same time. This week we went to the beach and Denise went running while I swam with the kids. You see, she signed up for her first triathlon, the Mission Bay Triathlon next month...
Craig: I know you have crewed for a RAAM team in the past. What is RAAM?
Chuck: RAAM is the bicycle Race Across America. It goes 3,000 miles from Oceanside to Annapolis, Maryland. There is only one 'stage' so the clock is always running as you cycle a fixed route with checkpoints along the way. Originally a single person race (8 days or so if you want to be competitive), it now has divisions for 2, 4 and 8 person teams. Especially for the teams, the race is a serious logistical as well as physical challenge. ViaSat has had an 8 person team for the last 4 years.
Craig: Take us backstage with RAAM. What things did you learn that you could only learn by actually having a hands-on experience?
Chuck: That's a whole other newsletter's worth of material... You certainly learn just how big this great country is. I would like to encourage any interested readers to contact me directly about the experience. Maybe you can get involved next year.
Craig: What is your favorite TCSD story?
Chuck: One Friday morning, it was way too foggy to swim at Fletcher Cove, so of course we swam anyway. I was late getting out and just followed the group trying to catch up. I never seemed to get any closer, but I didn't worry (at first) because I figured that they would all be coming back eventually. After a while, though, it seemed like we kept getting further and further from shore. Eventually I got nervous and gave it everything I had. I did catch up as the sun came out, showing me ... a flock of birds. I had headed almost directly out from shore, too. Another foggy day at Fletcher I was counting heads on the way back in. 1,2,3,4, OK. 1,2,3,4, OK. 1,2,3,4, 5, huh????? It was a seal. I sprinted the rest of the way in and never looked back.
Craig: What are your future goals with triathlon?
Chuck: My goals are to stay healthy and keep having fun. I also want to support my family in their triathlon adventures.
Craig: Chuck, I knew you would be a fun and very worthwhile interview. Thanks for sharing your story and helping all to keep the fun and healthy perspective!