I had the chance recently to talk triathlon with Bob Rosen, a long time member of the Triathlon Club of San Diego since 1986. Some of you may know Bob as the “Bike Case Bob” as Bob doles out the club’s bike cases to our many traveling triathletes.
CZ: You were part of the Tri Club when it had less than 100 members. What are your thoughts about the club now that we have more than 1,000 members?
BR: Back then, you knew everybody in the club, and everybody was active. Triathlon was very new and we were a very close-knit group, it was pure athletics. Today you have hundreds of members and that many different reasons for joining the club. Today’s club has many more resources to draw on. People like you, with years of IM experience. When I joined there was nobody that had more than maybe 1 or two years racing and training experience with a handful of races at the most. The club now has professionals in its ranks in many areas of the sport. We have nutritionists, physical therapists, massage therapists, swim, bike and run coaches, clothing manufacturers, bike builders, bike set up specialists, just to name a few. There is a wider age range also. In the beginning we were mostly all between 25 and 35. Now what is our age range 16-80? And we had very few women back in the day. Out of 75 of the originals, I’d say there were maybe less than 10 women.
CZ: You’ve been around a long time. Have any Tri-Club history you’d care to share?
BR: How about I name all the club Presidents, in order since it’s inception? Judith Moore, Bill Barbour, Tom Piszkin, Tom Word, Lynn Polk, Gurujan Dourson, Will Canham, Bob Doyle, Rita Reyes, Gurujan (again) and our current President Jim McCann.
CZ: Tell me about your first triathlon?
BR: The Ensenada Triathlon in the fall of 1986. It was very primitive. Less than 100 participants. No bike racks, just lay your bike in the dirt. We used surfing wetsuits back then. Tri specific suits were yet to be developed. After the race I went back to the transition area to find someone had stolen my bike shoes. Gotta love that!
CZ: What Ironman races have you done?
BR: I’ve done Canada the last 5 years running 1999-2003. My times were respectively 12:32, 11:27, 11:13, 11.19 and 11.26. IM Coeur d’Alene 2003 12:45
CZ: You were in the sport a long time before you took on the Ironman challenge. What helped you “turn the corner” and want to race Ironman?
BR: Oddly enough it was my position as “Bike Case Bob” that pushed me over the edge. People would come by to pick up the cases for a trip to an IM and come back with the stories. All the stories. I caught the fever. I was at best a middle-of-the-packer in the shorter distance races at the time, but as I started to get deeper into my IM training I noticed that the longer the swim, ride or run was the better and stronger I felt. I found my niche. Finished middle of the pack in my first IM and two consecutive top 10 finishes after that.
CZ: What are the most important tips you would share with a 1st time Ironman racer who is not in your age group?
BR: Join a gym. Early on in the training, get to the gym at least 2x/week. Work on overall body strength. Not just legs; focus on core strength. Strong abs and lower back are essential. Get plenty of rest, on a nightly basis as well as on a 3 week on 1 week off schedule. This is essential to mental as well as physical well being. Take one day off per week and don’t even think about your training.
As your running mileage increases, pay close attention to aching joints, hips, knees. Could be time to look into orthotics, or at least examine you shoes. Not a good time to run through injuries. Set a goal beyond of “just wanting to finish”. Keep a journal of everyday from your first day of training till the day after the race. It will become a treasure in the years to come.
CZ: What advice would you give to a guy in your age group?
BR: No answer.
CZ: Tell me about the best, or most memorable triathlon you ever raced; the race you are the most proud of?
BR: There are 2. The Vineman ½ a couple of years ago. The year they didn’t allow wetsuits because of warmer than usual water temperatures. In a wetsuit I’m maybe okay, without one well… Came out of the water about 50/55 in my AG, and was pretty frustrated. I didn’t give up. I managed to channel my frustrations positively. Peddled like a madman and ran like my life depended on it. 2nd in AG on the bike, 4th on the run for a 4th place finish. Also set a ½ marathon PR that day. Go figure. The other was IM Canada 2001. I had a decent swim and was flying on the bike. I knew where I needed to be on the bike to be in the hunt for a qualifying spot and I was considerably ahead of that. Then every Ironman’s nightmare; a mechanical. A seat post bolt had worked its way loose and I was on the side of the road at mile 100. With the help of some German tourists, who didn’t speak any English, we were able to semi-secure the seat with some bailing wire (I know, technically illegal) The stop cost me somewhere between 12-14 minutes. At that point I’m thinking I might be out of contention. Right out of T2 I spotted my girlfriend cheering me on. I ran over to tell her what had happened,
“I can’t believe it, a mechanical!” I yelled I was pretty agitated. I started to tell her the story and she interrupted, grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me straight in the eye and said, “It doesn’t matter,” she yelled ”IT DOESN’T MATTER! You can run. Now go!! GO! With her inspiration I settled down and had a good run. Missed the Kona spot by 1:38.
CZ: Great story, Bob. Tough break. Any other IM memories you are particularly fond of?
BR: Sure. IM Canada 2002. My great friend and long time training partner Bill Gibbs and I had worked very hard that year getting ready for Ironman. Bill was swimming exceptionally, amazingly well and I was feeling very strong on the bike. The gun went off. I managed to stay on Bill’s feet for about 25 yards and he was gone. Relax, swim my swim and catch him on the bike. I figured he’d have me by 5 minutes on the swim. I can make it up on the bike. The miles passed on 25, 50, 75, 100, No Bill. Where was he? Was he behind me? Did I out swim him? Not likely. Must have passed him at an aid station, maybe just missed him. I was riding well. Into T2, and there he was, ready to leave, (turns out he swam a 1:03 that day, and I was 1:xx; well it doesn’t matter. He waited a minute or five and we left together.
We crossed the run start timing mat together and ran step for step shoulder to shoulder for about 12 miles. After all the training we’d done together, the long days in the saddle, all the highs and lows, there we were, side by side. It doesn’t get any better; we’d go miles along beautiful Skaha Lake without saying much. Taking it all in. Nothing needed to be said. The race photographer got a great picture of us. It is one my greatest IM memories. And get this, the next year, it happened again!! Different circumstances, but we ended up in T2 together. Just for the record, Bill ran me ragged then dropped me on both occasions and went on to a sub 4 hour marathon both times!!
CZ: What would be your dream job in the sport of triathlon?
BR: Did I hear the TCSD presidency would become a 6-figure position soon? Actually I’ve never really thought that I’d want to make my living in the sport. Triathlon is my world apart from my professional life. I wouldn’t want career or the political or financial issues that comes with the job to invade that world. It’s best to keep those worlds separate.
CZ: What are your triathlon goals for the 2004 season and beyond?
BR: Stay healthy and competitive. I’d like to close in on a sub 11 hour IM, to do it I’d need a sub 4 run. I have it me, just need to bring it out. Also, I’d like to travel to more races. Although I am going back to Canada in 2005, I’d like to race other venues. Brazil, Germany, maybe Malaysia, NZ. If Kona happens, so be it. It has never been a huge motivating factor for me.
CZ: Hey old-timer, thank you for sharing your story. You’ve made a lot of friends in the sport and I’m proud to be one of them. We know you’ll have a great year!