Thursday, October 28, 2010

May Magic on Market Street #5: Stuart Simmons, Willis

Even though he would be considered the patriarch of the Conroe Triathletes, a small, yet growing, family-style, close-knit, but welcoming multisport club, Stuart Simmons just doesn't fit the image of Grandpa Walton.

As well loved as John Boy, though?  Absolutely.

Stuart Simmons looks perfectly comfortable in the water just prior to the start of the USAT Age Group Nationals in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Even the name on his Ironman Texas entry reflects his first name, John.  But, of course, everybody knows him as Stu or Stuart.

Stuart has two Ironman finishes to his credit -- Ironman Florida in 2008 in 12 hours, 20 minutes and three seconds followed by the inaugural Ironman Cozumel last November in 12:34:57.

And he'll look to punch his Ironman card twice more - once next weekend as he returns to Panama City Beach and then again in May at Ironman Texas.

He speaks below about his first triathlon being in 2002.  While we couldn't find the results, it was interesting to note when we pulled up his results at (not necessarily complete) that he has done just three running events since 2003 - and two of those were trail run 5K's -- and almost 60 triathlons.

He says he got suckered, but we'd call it hooked!

In the meantime, though, we think that you'll be hard-pressed to find a better personality and ambassador to the sport.

2010 USAT age? -- I am 44 this year and will age up next year although the times do not seem to get any slower in the 45-49.

Birthplace? -- Fredricksburg, Texas.

You've been identified as registering for Ironman Texas. What motivated you to sign up? -- I am trying to do one Ironman a year until I reach the age I have to get a Kona slot because I am the only one left in my age group.  There was an athlete at Ironman Florida last year that was 74 and had been at Kona less than a month before.  That is my plan, if I can not out race them I will outlast them.  The other factor was it was close to home, Ironmans are not spectator-friendly events but this close to home my family can see me several times on the bike and run.

Will this be your first attempt at an Ironman? -- This will be my 4th (I hope) Ironman by race day.

If not, how many IMs have you completed? -- My first race was Ironman Florida in 2008, last year I did the inaugural 2009 Cozumel race with my friend Paris Menefee, and I am going to Florida again with a large group from Conroe Triathletes for 2010 Florida.

Will you/did you get an MDot tattoo after your first Ironman? -- I did get an MDot after my first race, it was such a huge personal accomplishment that I felt it was tattoo worthy.  I also told people I would get one if I finished months before the race.  It helped having that out there because every time I wanted to bag on a run or a ride my friend Paris would start in with “The only tattoo you are going to get will be a DNF tattoo it”.  It worked, I finished.

What triathlon/running/cycling clubs do you belong to? -- I am part of Conroe Triathletes, which is one of the most inspirational groups of people I have every met.

Do you train with anyone (i.e. training group)? -- The Conroe Tri Club has some standing rides, runs, and swims geared toward the sprint and Oly distances.  Those of us that are training for the full or half Ironman distance will start to meet outside those times three to four months out and train together for the longer distances.

Are you coached by anyone? If not, do you follow a formal training plan? -- I am not personally coached; however, we do have several athletes in the club with coaches and we are all close in ability so I tend to follow the workout of whomever I am training with at that time.  I have a target for distances and/or time based on how far out from the race I am and as long as that my training partners workout falls close to that mark, I follow them.  I do get a track workout in once a week, if possible, and that is out of a marathon training book.
How many hours a week do you spend training (overall and at each discipline)? -- I hope to spend three hours a week swimming.  At the high point of the training cycle I want to spend 10 to 12 hours a week on the bike/trainer, and I try to get four to five hours running.  I have two kids (11 & 14) plus a job in Pasadena so I can end up really short on training time if work or the kids have a lot going on.

When was your first triathlon? -- My first race was Cinco Ranch in 2002.

How did you do? -- My swim and bike were competitive and I did finish; however, I was passed on the run by a woman on the other side of the street power walking with a yippee dog.

Why did you get into the sport? -- I got suckered!  I started swimming Masters in Conroe and after a few weeks, the tri geeks in the group invited me out to ride bikes.  So I bought a bike for $1,000, which my wife thought was outrageously expensive (little did she know) and started riding.  Then came the hook, “If you can walk three miles you ought to come to a race with us”.  After my first race, I was sold and it fit with the reason I started swimming in the first place, both sides of my family having horrible cardiovascular histories.  My father lived to be 74, but had five strokes and two heart attacks before he passed.  Most of the men on my mother’s side of the never made it out of their 50's.  Triathlon is a good hobby to have if you want to live to be a problem to your children.

What have you learned about yourself while pursuing triathlon/Ironman? -- Mainly that I am a much more social person than I thought I was.  Outside of my family, the time I spend with other members of my Tri Club are what I look the most forward to during the week.

Which of the three disciplines is your strongest? -- I am a strong swimmer and comfortable in the water, if they would do sprints with a 300 meter run, a 15 mile bike, and the 5K swim ... I would be much more competitive.

What's your favorite triathlon distance? -- I enjoying racing the sprints more than anything else but I really enjoy the training and preparation required for Ironman.  If you have Ironman on your calendar, then for 6 months of the year you have a focus for your training and diet.

Favorite race? -- The Sports Spectrum River Cities race in Shreveport has always been my favorite.  The swim and bike are long compared to the run, it is one of the nicest courses I have raced, and the club goes up to the race as a big group.

What's your bucket list race? -- Kona like everyone else, but I would like to do the Ironmans in Brazil and New Zealand.

One piece of gear or gadget that you can't do without? -- Now that I have a Garmin that reads out run pace, I do not know how I trained without it.

What's your favorite training routine? -- Open water swims in the lake when the water temp is cold enough to wear a wetsuit are what I look forward to the most.

What are some of your favorite routes (biking or running)? -- We ride out towards Richards, Anderson and north toward Bedias on long rides.  We usually end up at Starbucks in Huntsville at some point in those rides which in August is sometimes the only thing that keeps you from just pulling over and calling home for a SAG wagon.

What foods are most critical in your training? -- I have standardized on vanilla powergels and vanilla powerbars for Ironmans.  I know that they get along with me but they are so BORING.  By the time I get through training and a race, I am so sick of them I will not touch anything vanilla for months.

Who or what gets you out of bed to train on bad days/freezing rain/100 degree heat? -- Whoever I have training set up for that day or myself if it is close to a race.  I know that my training partners are also making themselves get up so they do not leave me hanging so I make sure I do not bail on them.  The me best part of Ironman is the camaraderie during training and I rarely miss those opportunities.

What has had the greatest impact on your progress as an athlete? -- Paris Menefee; Paris is one of the truly inspirational people in our club and was the person who really got me started into Ironman.  If it was not for Paris and my other training partner, Leslie Dupuy, I would never have pushed myself hard enough to be ready for my first Ironman.  My best triathlon experience was Ironman Cozumel with Paris, first he found me in the swim and we swam side by side for most of the course and then I found him on the bike at mile 70, we rode in together into T2, and started the run together.  After months of training side by side getting to do large sections of the race together was awesome.

How has triathlon changed your life? -- It has changed how I define my personal success away from my job and more towards my family and myself.  It has also provided a close group of friends that I can look to for help, advice, or inspiration.

Favorite website(s)? -- I look at Slowtwich, RBR, and Velonews but in general my web viewing is Facebook or politics.

If you were the God of triathlons for one day, what change would you make? -- From a sport standpoint, I would change USAT back to being more focused on organizing races and supporting clubs.  I do not want to see so much focus on selling me “The Multisport Lifestyle”.  From an athlete standpoint I would instill every triathlete with an unbearable sense of guilt for drafting when they do it on purpose.  Sometimes you just get bunched up but when you are in a pace line you know it, everyone in the pace line knows it, and you all know you are cheating.

Favorite triathlete? -- Heather Gollnick.  She was at Ironman Florida last year and after she finished she was out walking around in the crowd talking to people and watching the age groupers finish.  That is someone who still loves the sport even though it is her job.

Favorite athlete to watch in another sport? -- Kurt Rambis was always my favorite pro athlete.  He was never the most athletic guy on the court and his job on the team was not to be a star but he did everything right every time and never stopped hustling.

Favorite city to visit? -- College Station, Texas.

Bucket list (1 to 5 things) -- I hope I am so far from the bucket that I have not really thought about it yet.

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