Tag Archives: triathlete

The Pro Triathlete College Student

By Corrie Seabrook

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATAMPA, Fla. –  At 9 on a Friday morning, Michael Poole jogs a lap around the trails by the University of South Florida’s tennis courts. His new orange Saucony shoes leave imprints in the dirt. The warm up barely makes him sweat, but his hair is wet from the swimming workout just before. His lean body stands at 6-foot-1-inches and his skin is tan from being in the sun for years.

This morning his training is light because the next day he will be racing in Barbados. There he races what he says was the best race of his life.

At 21, this New Zealand native spends 30 to 35 hours per week training for triathlons, while balancing a 15-hour course load for chemical engineering.

Poole discovered his passion for triathlons at age 16, when he joined his high school team. He met the challenge of coming into the sport late in adolescence. “I ran growing up, but didn’t start swimming until age 16,” Poole says. “That is something I have had to work very hard to catch up on.”

At 18 he began to excel and win race after race in Auckland. At that point in time he made the choice to go pro. In 2012 he was ranked seventh in the U.S.

Poole made decisions that many young people cannot imagine. Realizing that his best shot at making a living as a professional triathlete was in the United States, he decided to move to Florida, specifically the Tampa Bay area.

His area of study, chemical engineering, serves as his plan B.

“This is more like a backup plan,” Poole says. “Some guys get to 35 and they have to retire from triathlons, and they have nothing. I don’t want to be like that.”

MichaelPoole2So he researched what college he wanted to study at with the help of Google. He weighed the qualities of all the universities in the state, the locations and the fees. He decided that University of South Florida was the best place for him.

Before Poole moved, he endured a horrific bicycle accident when a car knocked him off of his bike, smashing his face. The driver drove off after the accident. The friend he had been training with called Poole’s mom to rush him to the hospital.

“At that moment I really realized I needed to go to college; it could’ve been worse,” he said.

Although he now has a fear of cars and sustaining another injury, Poole hasn’t allowed the incident to prevent him from racing.

In January of 2010 Poole competed in New Zealand’s Half Ironman Championships and met the professional triathlete standards. “It’s not complicated to stay a pro, I just need to be consistently getting top placings in races,” he says.

Another hurdle Poole had to jump was getting sponsors to invest in him. “Many triathlon related companies are willing to give me products,” he says. “But it is very hard to get a company to invest cash, which is important for me to be able to make a living and pay tuition.”

He is sponsored by New Zealand businesses like the bike company, Orbea. He receives two bikes and triathlon clothing throughout the year. His sponsors pay for 50 percent of each race’s fees, and Poole must come up with the rest. He manages to use the money he wins to finance his future races. For some of the races he stays in hotels when the race organizers pay for his stay. Otherwise he finds someone to stay with for that weekend.

MichaelPoole4“I have found Americans to be amazingly generous at inviting me into their homes,” Poole says.

Poole lives at an apartment alone near the USF campus. He trains by himself. No trainer or nutritionist guides his training. He starts his school days with 5 a.m. workouts and begins exercising later on his free days. He spends five hours every day training.

Poole suits up in his Lycra and takes his bike to a park called Flat Woods Park. There he rides a seven-mile long course for three hours. Next he runs in circles around the neighborhoods by his apartment for an hour. Finally, he swims freestyle for an hour and a half at USF’s indoor recreational pool.

“In a week I do 250 miles cycling, 60 miles running and 20 miles swimming,” says Poole, who has been away from New Zealand for more than a year.

He keeps in touch with his father, Alwyn, who acts as Poole’s agent and coach. Poole misses many things from home like the culture but most importantly his wife who works in Australia.

Every other weekend Poole travels to races. He takes a shuttle or catches the bus to the airport. So he doesn’t miss any classes because he usually flies early Saturday mornings and comes back to Tampa on Sunday evenings.

This year alone he has competed in 20 to 25 races. His dedication to this career has led him to travel to 20 different states for this sport. Poole doesn’t focus on Ironman races anymore, but instead concentrates on the Olympic distance races.

“I no longer do Ironmans as it takes me too long to recover from them so I would rather race Olympic distance races every weekend,” Poole says.

MichaelPoole3His favorite race by far has been the Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco. The athletes zip up their wetsuits and swim from the former prison through 1.5 miles of freezing waters to the St. Francis Yacht Club. They then bike up hilly terrain for 18 miles and finish by running eight miles along the ocean side.

When Poole is not training he is taking five classes two days a week. His favorite thing to eat is Snicker’s ice cream and Asian cuisine. He gets through each race by picturing a bowl of ice cream at the end of it.

A sophomore, Poole has two more years to go in school before he can graduate. On average, he wins about $1,000 a race. He pays for most of his living expenses, but he hopes to attract more sponsors so he can provide more financial support for his wife.

His most recent race took place in Barbados, which was an International Triathlon Union Continental Cup. He placed second.

“Must have been a combination of shaved legs and the short run on Friday,” he laughs.

Poole hopes to continue to advance in this sport.

“In five years time if I am not the best, I am not stuck,” Poole says. “I can do something else with my life.”

View Michael Poole’s fan Facebook page HERE.

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Honoring a Fallen Triathlete

By Pete Williams

Jason Workman

Our team captain gathered us around the bed of his pickup on Sunday morning and unwrapped a bundle of American flags. Then he pulled out a printout listing the names of the 30 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan on Aug. 6.

“Thirty men, none older than 47,” said our captain, a Marine Corps veteran. “Take a flag, pick a name and let’s honor them as we run.”

Our triathlon group, a dozen or so that ride out of Safety Harbor on Sunday mornings, had just finished our usual 30-mile loop. I’ve been a dropout in recent weeks, opting for a stand-up paddleboard workout, but I still show up for the run, which given the heat this time of year is a modest 2-miler. A few other athletes got word of what we were doing and joined us.

I perused the list, feeling guilty that it was the first time I had done so. Just two of the fallen were older than me. Most were much younger. I’m partial to people with names at the end of the alphabet, so I chose Jason Workman, 32, of Blanding, Utah.

We left from the Safety Harbor Marina, flags in hand, running north past the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa along the water toward Philippe Park. Usually we turn at the entrance, which is about a mile, but I was feeling uncharacteristically good and proceeded into the park.

Three of us ran another half mile. Walkers in the park smiled and waved as we passed. If I turned around at the top of the hill, it would be a three-mile loop. But still I felt great. Weird. I often joke that my strategy for running better is to do little distance running, opting instead for intervals and the residual benefits of swimming, spin classes, and paddleboarding.

Even though I had pushed through a brutal paddleboard workout, I felt like I could run all day. Rarely can I keep up with my two colleagues, but after we turned – just shy of the 2.5-mile mark – I felt another burst of energy.

Back in the 1990s, I worked at USA Today in Arlington, Va., and went on runs that finished with a loop around the outside of Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial. This was hardly the first time I considered our fallen heroes during a run, but this time felt different.

Now I was cruising, surging 50 yards ahead. I spotted one of our flags on the ground and scooped it up, running with one in each hand. I picked up the pace. All alone now as I ran through Philippe Park under the canopy of oaks draped with Spanish moss, I thought of Jason Workman of Blanding, Utah. What were his hopes and dreams? Did he have family? What compelled him to become a Navy SEAL?

I thought of how I’m a member of the first generation never to have to worry about mandatory military service. So many Jason Workmans have volunteered to make that possible. I ran faster.

I was not breathing particularly hard. I couldn’t recall the last time I had run more than four miles at once. I’ve done a couple of sprint triathlons in the last month, each with a 5K (3.1 mile) run at the end. Where did this kick come from? There was just a few hundred yards to go now as I came around the Safety Harbor Spa, sprinting for our captain’s truck.

As I came to a stop I looked skyward and thanked Workman for his sacrifice.

I felt like I could have gone another five miles.

When I got home, I looked up Jason Workman. He was the youngest of four brothers, one of whom graduated from West Point when Jason was 14. It was then that Jason vowed to become a Navy SEAL. He had been a Mormon missionary in Brazil before enrolling in Southern Utah University and later enlisting in the Navy.

The Deseret (Utah) News reported that Workman was a three-sport star in high school, playing football, baseball, and basketball.

The paper also noted that he was “also a strong swimmer and competed in triathlons.”

At least three others killed were triathletes: Brian Bill, 31, of Stamford, Connecticut; Matthew Mason, 37, of Kansas City; and Jon Tumlinson, 35, of Rockford, Iowa.

Many of the fallen were Navy SEALS. For them a triathlon is a light workout. For all of the talk in the fitness and endurance world these days about boot camps, obstacle mud runs, iron this and tough that, it’s easy to forget that nothing we do remotely approaches military training, let alone putting your life on the line.

Jason Workman leaves behind a wife and 21-month-old son.

He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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