Kalamazoo resident Andy Van Dis, 36, races as part of the Trikats team and talks about racing as a Clydesdale.

Q: What does it mean to you to race as a Clydesdale and have the National Championship so close to home?
It’s awesome! I was first exposed to National Championship races when Age Group Nationals came to Milwaukee. At that point in time, Clydesdale and Age Group were together. When it was first announced that the Clydesdale National Championship would be coming to GR Tri, it became my singular focus to go fast. I competed in the Olympic distance last year and had my fastest race ever—2:37, but that wasn’t good enough to podium. I am planning to do the Long Course this year and see if my luck is any better. My favorite Clydesdale slogan is “big guys are fast, too!”

Q: What is your history with the Grand Rapids Triathlon?
I’ve competed in GR Tri since it started. It’s really been one of my favorite races over the past six seasons. I’m looking forward to completing my second Long Course Race here this year.

Q: What was your triathlon highlight moment?
2013 was the start of my second year doing Olympic-distances races. The GR Tri was my first triathlon for the year. As I was crossing the finish line I heard them say my name and that I was first for Clydesdales. I was in disbelief. Someone asked while I was cooling down how I did. My answer was something like, “I think they said I was number one but I never believe the announcers.” But I was, and it was the coolest feeling to step up on the #1 block on the podium. That was the day I realized I’m pretty good at this and my expectations for my own performance changed.

Q: What are your race goals for 2016?
I’m doing a few unusual things this season. GR may be my only tri. I would like to complete my first 10K open water and my first Tough Mudder.

Q: When/How did you get started in triathlons?
I started Triathlon’ in 2010. I signed up for a sprint triathlon in August. My wife (the voice of reason in my life) suggested that I do a 5K Run first since I had never raced in any endurance events in my life. I did my first 5K in June and followed it up with the sprint tri in August. I loved it so much I signed up for my second Triathlon a month later. My wife then bought me a new bike that fall for my birthday and I have never looked back.

Q: What’s your favorite discipline and why?
Swimming is my favorite discipline. I call it my head start. I have enjoyed the water my whole life. When I was in elementary school I swam pre-competitively, but as I entered middle school and high school football, basketball and tennis became the dominant sports in my life. Triathlons reunited me with my lost love of swimming.

Q: What’s been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been balancing training time with family life. Ultimately, I am not a pro triathlete nor do I have the goal of doing that. So sometimes you just have to shake off a missed workout or a session that has to be cut short for whatever reason. I track my workouts by the minutes but typically 15-20 minutes missed out of a week of 6 hrs (360 minutes) is not a big deal. The other big challenge I face is to resist the temptation to buy speed (a new bike) every year.

Q: What does your weekly training schedule look like?
I typically mash together about 4 training sources – Athletic Mentor’s training plan on GR Tri Website, a half marathon training plan (for my early season run), Crossfit Endurance and a cool article from Triathlete Magazine called super simple half iron man plan. For me the three critical sessions I try to get in every week are:
1) Swim/Run Brick speed work (Typically less than an hour with both being ladder interval sets).
2) Long Brick (or long run early in the season) – This is geared to the race distance I will be doing.
3) Multiple strength training sessions a week – Usually 2 focused on Crossfit Endurance WODs
For my half iron distance racing I usually peak at 10 hours a week and Olympic racing 6-7 hours per week peak. For more about my training philosophy check out my blog at: (Andy’s Blog)

Q: Any pre-race rituals?
I try to warm-up backwards by doing a little run, a little bike, and a little swim. Also, usually pre-race food includes a peanut butter sandwich.

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Grand Rapids Triathlon

Grand Rapids Triathlon

We are the largest independent triathlon and proud host of five USAT National Championships over the course of our nine-year history. While our event brings in some of the best athletes from across the country, we have also been named one of the Top 5 Best Triathlons for Beginners in the country according to Triathlon Business International. This triathlon event is a chance for athletes of all skill levels to compete on a scenic riverside course, perfect for the novice through the seasoned triathlete. Offering Sprint, Olympic, and Half distance Triathlons, Aquabike, Swim and Relay events, this USA Triathlon sanctioned event promises heart-pounding excitement from start to the finish.