One of the real joys of our job is interacting with some really amazing people on a daily basis. Every once in a while, someone really stands out, someone who inspires us. We hope to highlight some of those people- people who may at first glance come across as just another person, but who in our eyes has done something amazing and inspiring- and we want to share that with you! So once a month, we'll reach out to these amazing people, tell you a bit about them, conduct a short interview with them, and share a few cool pictures too. We hope you like it, and if you know someone you think would be great for the "Inspiration Campaign" please email their name and details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words by Antonio Gonzalez.
If you work in the sporting goods industry you hear about 'talented' athletes quite often. These are the athletes that make the challenging workouts seem easy, or the impossible seem.... well, possible. I've always hated the word 'talented'. To me, it implies that this talented person did not put in the work to deserve the results they've achieved. From my experience, there aren't too many truly talented people out there, there are just people who are really consistent, committed, and passionate about what they do. It's easy to confuse somebody like that as talented.
Dan Markowitz is one of those guys that may be confused as talented- and I hope he knows I mean that as a compliment! I believe I first met Dan Markowitz in 2012, early in his preparation for his first triathlon. At that time I don't believe I or too many other people could have guess how far Dan would go in so short a period of time. In just a few years Dan has gone from a back-of-the-pack to front-of-the-pack competitor, and I will be the first to say that he has put in the work to deserve every bit of that! But that isn't what makes Dan so special in my eyes- he's done this without losing a minutia of his natural kindness or humbleness. He is the first to volunteer for a race, or guide a new athlete through the "Tuesday Night Ride" route, and in every way I believe Dan embodies what is great about triathletes. I guess that is why we asked him to be the first person we interview for this series, and we hope you enjoy getting to know Dan Markowitz!
Tri Town: Thanks for taking the time to tell us a little about yourself! For our readers who don't know you, can you give us a little background on who you are and where you're from?
Dan Markowitz: Much of my extended family is on the East Coast in the New England area and I was born just outside of Washington D.C. My immediate family moved a few times for work before settling in Boise around the time that I started 3rd grade. I graduated a Borah Lion in 1995 and spent my college years in Wisconsin. I did play some club volleyball while away at school, but for the most part I have little to no athletic background.
I became involved with triathlon and multisport events because of my father. He had wanted to take a bike tour through Europe, but did not have a lot of people interested in joining him. A few years back he fell ill, and as he was recovering I decided to “get in shape” so that I he would be able to go with someone. I spent the early spring of that year running and managed to work my way up to 6 (very slow) miles and mixed in some biking as part of that effort to get some fitness. At some point a friend mentioned something about a biking and running race that the YMCA put on. That turned out to be the Camel’s Back Duathlon, which I eventually entered. The race took place a few weeks before we left for Europe and the bike trip so I figured it would be a good test to see if I was ready. After that race I became very interested in multisport and decide I would learn to swim over the winter so that I could attempt a triathlon the following year. The rest is history.
TT: I miss that Duathlon! I suspect it was a 'gateway' race for a lot of triathletes. So you've been racing for a while now... what is it that keeps you training and racing year after year?
DM: When I first started I felt that the race was the carrot, it is what made all the day in and day out grinding of training “worth it”. What I have come to realize is that the daily routine of training, and those that I spend all that considerable time with, are the true reward of the sport of triathlon. Getting to know the larger community, and seeing how hard they work and how the hard work pays off is what really makes it all worth it.
TT: I guess that's why we call it the 'Family'- it really does become just that. What do you enjoy most then about triathlon?
DM: Aside for the multimillion dollar contracts, fame, and endorsement deals? It would have to be the opportunity to wear lots of lycra.
In all seriousness, I enjoy the challenge of coordinating the training of three separate sports, the need to organize equipment, and the execution of a plan (which may need to change on the fly) so that one can complete an event. I always think of race day as winding up an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine and stepping back to watch it go.
TT: Are you coached or self-coached? How did you land on going that particular route?
DM: My first season in 2012 I worked to try and get myself fit on my own. I honestly did not have much of an idea of what to do other than run and bike quite a bit. By the time I started my second season I had manged to find Tri Town and utilize the weekly group workouts. That is when I really started to understand that it wasn't about brute force to get in shape, but a measured and meticulous approach to push the body to adapt. Triathlon is a great deal of self-discipline, discipline to get up and go swim early in the morning, or run late at night. It's also about not overdoing things so that one can continue to train effectively. I am still struggling with that last part. I believe that is what helped lead me to work with a coach. For the past two seasons I have had a great deal of help in not just tailoring a training program, but having someone there, in my corner, who is savvy enough to know when to push me and when to tell me to back off. I am fortunate enough to have had Harold Frobisher coaching me these past seasons and he has really been able to help bring everything together. From the overall training plan to work on my running and swimming techniques he is there every step of the way.
TT: That's really insightful- as a triathlon coach I would say that is the biggest mistake I see new triathletes make- they go too hard too often, and usually are pretty cooked by race day.
What is your favorite type of workout?
DM: They are all good! Sometimes I get tired of endless laps in the pool, so I look forward to my long runs. Other times its hot out and I am not sure I can stomach 4 hours on the bike for a long ride so I think of a nice long swim in cool water. That is one of the nice things about the sport, there is so much variety it is hard to just pick one thing.
TT: Do you prefer training alone or in a group?
DM: I like to have a mix of group and solo workouts. There are a lot of times that having a group with you helps to push you to the next level, to a place you never thought you could reach on your own. Other times its great to just get out and go on your own. Those are the times that you can really see how much stronger, both physically and mentally, you have become. If you can strike the right balance between the two its great!
TT: Who, or what, in triathlon inspires you?
DM: Everyone does to one extent or another. When I first started participating in the group workouts I was typically dead last after a Tuesday or Wednesday bike session. And I would struggle on the group runs. When I first started swimming I was in the practice lane of the pool. Seeing people in that same position go out every week and try is inspiring. I know how difficult it is to motivate oneself when it seems like things are not improving, or not improving fast enough. To see someone like that working their tail off is strong motivation for me when I have a difficult time pushing myself to keep going
TT: That's crazy to hear that- I noticed last week you lead a big part of the Tuesday Ride- not an easy thing to do! And you are now in the 'fast' lane at most swim workouts. To me it's a sign of how consistent and committed you've been over the years.
Do you remember your first race? How did it go?
DM: My first multi-sport race (or any kind of race for that matter) was the Camel’s Back Duathlon in 2012. It was a cold spring and early summer that year, and naturally it poured rain during the race. If you can find the results on line you will find my name near the very bottom of the finisher list (55th of 62 finishers, not quite dead last but pretty close). The whole event took me 2 hours and 24 minutes, they were taking down all the gates and bike racks when I finished, I was soaked, tired, and thought I’d just been through an excruciating trial. Despite that, or maybe because of it, I loved the idea of a multisport event and found more duathlons later that summer.
My first triathlon was Quest for the Capitol in 2013. That was a much different day, being very sunny and hot. I had a lot more time and help preparing for that race. I even had a “practice” tri a week or so before with Rachel Corey who had me go through all tree disciplines. Quest went pretty well after all that work and assistance and I finished somewhere in the middle of the pack with a time of 2 hours and 40 some odd minutes. Still hooked on the sport I found three more races that season and managed to qualify for USAT nationals later that fall out in Portland
TT: Wow, sounds like you had a pretty busy first season. So what is your favorite racing memory?
DM: Probably the 2014 USAT Nationals race. It was my first experience at a large “championship” type event, race day had perfect weather, I had a fantastic race, and really felt that all my hard work had paid off. I also felt that there was more I could achieve if I kept at it!
TT: What is a typical training week schedule like for you?
DM: Most weeks have me doing at least one workout a day, every day. Most days however have two workouts with an early morning swim and a bike, run, or sometimes both after work. On really big weeks I can spend 12-15 hours training. That may seem silly, or not very much, but considering I was basically sitting on a couch back 4.5 years ago its amazing to me that I would be able to demand that much of myself and still be able to function.
TT: It's really interesting how something that at one point someone may not be able to even comprehend doing may one day become 'normal'. Somewhat along those lines, is there one workout that has been most important to your success as an athlete?
DM: This year I feel I have gained a great deal of fitness by focusing on my swimming. That being said I think that the biggest thing someone can do to be successful is to be consistent in their workouts. Regardless of the amount of time someone has, if they are consistent in how they utilize their time they will see success.
TT: That's really interesting to hear you say that about your swimming- some of my best triathlon races have been when I was doing a lot of swim training. I suspect the extra aerobic work transfers over well to the bike and run.
What was the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received for triathlon?
DM: Jon Rushton probably gave me the best advice in the form of a rhetorical question, “How do you eat an elephant?”
“One bite at a time!”
The lesson being that no matter how long you must go to finish, you can’t get there all at once. Focus on the things you need to accomplish first; swim to the next buoy, ride to the next aid station, run one mile at a time. If you can keep doing that then the race (or workout) will take care of itself.
TT: That sounds like something Jon would say! I bet he would be a good guy to interview...
So recently you got 3 flats and had to DNF a half ironman in CA: what was that like to go through that and what take aways (if any) do you have from that experience?
DM: Having to DNF during the HITS Napa 70.3 race was hard. It was the first race that I did not complete. I had a fantastic swim and was feeling very good on the bike, looking forward to the run. The first flat that happened was disappointing, but I figured it was due as I had not had a flat in over a year at that point. The second flat was the most frustrating. At that point, I was installing my last tube and had only enough air to inflate it. Knowing that tube was my last chance to get through the bike portion and onto the run course made that period of time very stressful. When I lost the tube for the third time I knew it was over and no amount of yelling or pleading would change my situation.
I think what helped me keep it together and not lose my mind was the knowledge that I had given everything I could while I could. I could not control the circumstances that lead to my three flats. I was as prepared as I could be with spare tubes, knowledge to perform the repairs, and the fitness to compete. That’s all you can ask of yourself so being upset and angry over things I could not control seemed a waste of time and effort. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed, but I feel like that perspective helped me take the let down in stride.
TT: That sounds like really good advice- it's hard to be too angry when you know you did everything you could. What races do you have left on your calendar for this year?
DM: Coeur d’Alene 70.3 – June 2016
Santa Cruz 70.3 – September 2016
Xterra Portland – August 2016
Emmett Tri – August 2016
Portland Tri – September 2016
Looking for a ½ marathon at some point as well.
TT: We'll be sure to follow you! Thanks Dan for your time, and best of luck with the rest of your season!