Monday, January 9, 2012

Member Spotlight: Pat Dwyer

Q&A with Patrick F. Dwyer, Esq. by Austin Whitman

Austin Whitman: You’re kind of an older fellow, Pat. When did you do your first triathlon, which one was it, and had the bicycle been invented yet?

Pat Dwyer: In the past, being an ocean lifeguard, I did a bunch of open water swims and biathlons (swim/run), but my first triathlon was in 1989, in Pompton Plains, NJ. I think it was called the Pequonnock Lake Triathlon. It consisted of a ¼ or ½ mile swim, 25 mile bike and a 10k run. Back then there weren’t many triathlons to choose from, so I had to travel about 2 hours from home. Being only 17 at the time, my whole family came to watch and my father decided to race too. I remember coming out of the swim in the top 10, then getting destroyed on the bike, and searching for a porta john on the run. To add insult to injury, my dad passed me about 2 miles into the run. He still won’t let me live that down.

AW: I hope he at least helped you find the porta-john. You've had a lot of experience and burned through dozens or maybe even hundreds of coaches over the years. It’s no secret that you’re fast. What approach(es) to training (volume, intensity, speedwork, etc.) work best for you?

PD: I’m currently on my 4th triathlon coach. All have had different approaches. I truly believe all were good coaches and believed in their approach. But I think, like any relationship, some work better than others. My first coach was a volume guy. I still remember one workout before my first Ironman. He had me do a 120 mile ride with a 20 mile transition run (I actually logged 117/17). I was toast after that one, but I did it. He told me that since I’d never done an Ironman, I needed to feel what it was like. To be perfectly honest, I was glad I did it. It did give me some confidence. But when he put it on the schedule the next season I told him “no freaking way.” When I was gearing up for LP in 2010, I made the decision to go with my current coach. We had spoken at Timberman in 2009 (he won the amateur race) and it just felt like the right “fit”. I had known of him for year and had seen his progression from a good triathlete to one of the best amateurs in the country. We had similar strengths and he was cognizant of my time limitations. But, I’d say the best thing about my current coach is our actual relationship. He calls me out when he needs to do so (which is often at this time of year!)…but he’s not preachy. I’ve been doing this long enough that I don’t need someone preaching to me…I need someone to hold me accountable.

AW: I hear you have a penchant for taking the short route to Kona. How many times have you been to Kona, and where did you qualify?

PD: I’ve been to Kona three times…actually three times in a row (after years of trying!). I qualified for my first Kona IM at Eagleman 70.3 in 2008. After several near misses (I finished 4th in the AG twice), I finally won my age group. The next year, which was supposed to be an “off” year, I jumped into Providence 70.3, which added Kona qualifying spots (only for that year), and finished an out-of-shape 5th in the age group. But the slot rolled down to me so I took it. The next year, 2010, was LP, where I finished 3rd in the age group and earned my slot. LP was the first Ironman distance race where I qualified.

AW: How did you get so damn fast on foot?

PD: Interesting story. Before I moved to Boston, I was a decent runner, a 5:50-6:00 minute pace guy. I could win or place at local races. But I think sometimes you become complacent with your environment. I became content. You just don’t know how good you can actually get. My first year in Boston, I traveled down to Philly to do the Philly Broad Street Run (10 mile race). I did okay at the race, but got beat by a guy I knew, Dave Greenfield….owner of Elite Bikes. Dave crushed me running 56:30 (I think I may have run just under an hour). Now, Dave and I used to race against each other all the time at local triathlons and I would always beat him on the run. So, I was really bothered that he just kicked my ass. So I went back to Boston and decided to really just focus on my running. And that’s what I did for a couple of years. I ran 7 days a week with guys a lot faster than me, including the occasional Kenyan.
Our mid week training runs would end up at 5:30 pace towards the end (I was never with any Kenyans at the end). Anyway, I got my times down a lot. In fact, I ran the Broad Street Run a year or two later and threw down a 54:40 (take that Greenfield!). But, I’m not built like a runner and really wanted to get back into triathlon. So I ran one marathon in 2002 (Las Vegas 2:37) and then started my second triathlon career with a mean run.

AW: Hmm. Maybe we should recruit some Kenyans to the team. They sound useful. You were injured recently. What was the injury, and what was it like recovering?

PD: I’m always injured to some degree; who isn’t? But this last injury was one of the few that has actually stopped me from training. I had a sports hernia. I had surgery in April, which left me unable to do anything for 2+ months (I wasn’t even supposed to lift groceries). Fortunately I went into the surgery in decent shape, and was somewhat careful with my diet [Editor note: beer-only] so I was able to get back into my training by July and in fairly decent shape by August. When you’ve been racing as long as I have, these types of injuries (overuse) will happen. To be perfectly honest, I think the injury was good for me. It made me stop training, which is easier said than done. I needed the break.

AW: And who doesn’t enjoy a little self-pity now and then? I sure do. Speaking of pity, what has been the most pitiful race of your career?

PD: Easy: Ironman Florida 2004. It was my first attempt at the Ironman distance and I went in cocky [Editor note: as per usual] and with a bad attitude: qualify for Kona or crash and burn. Well, after a fairly good swim and bike, I crashed and burned on the run and dropped out at mile 19. It still bothers me to this day. BTW, some of the races that I’m most proud of are the ones where I’ve been reduced to walking. Walking all or part of the marathon when things go downhill, and where it would be a whole lot easier to drop out, is the true gut check.

AW: I have always been amazed that you convinced your wife to marry you because she is pretty and you are high maintenance. Congratulations. What role does she play in your athletic successes (and failures)?

PD: My wife is a saint. Once you get past my charm, good looks and sense of fashion, I’m actually not the easiest person to live with…and that’s saying it nicely! She puts up with way more than she should. I married up. I always feel bad about the people you hear about that get divorced over triathlon (what’s the term? Triathlon widow?). Not only does Jenn travel with me to most races, but she actually gets upset if she can’t. Fortunately for me, Jenn has a background in sports marketing (that’s how I met her). She used to work for Fila, and with many of their sponsored athletes. So she has an understanding of what we do and what goes into training, etc. I vividly remember when I dropped out of IM Florida in 2004, I was thinking only about myself. I was embarrassed and kept thinking about what I was going to tell people. A little later, when Jenn finally got back to the condo and I told her what had happened, she burst into tears. She really wanted to see me cross the finish line and have Mike Reilly call me an “Ironman”. I was like “holy crap, what did I do?” It really affected me. From that point on, I realized that it wasn’t just about “me” racing.
She puts as much into this sport and my training as I do….probably more. She sacrifices way more than I do. When I finally qualified for Kona in 2008, I think she was more excited than I was…it was cool!

AW: Probably because she knew she’d be going to Hawaii, and you’d be the only one suffering. Which reminds me: how long have you been practicing law on your own? How many clients did you work with last year?

PD: I’ve been practicing for about 13 years and on my own for 5. I’m really not sure how many clients I worked with in 2011. Over 10, under 1000. How’s that?

AW: Totally uninformative. Tell me about your career as a lifeguard. How did you first get into it and why did you like it? What, if anything, did it teach you about being an athlete? What, if anything, did it teach you about being a sex symbol?

PD: Lifeguarding runs in my family…my dad guarded for 7 years, my younger brother was a guard, and I guarded for 11 years. Guarding down in South Jersey was great….it’s like a fraternity….no it is a fraternity. Some of my best friends are guys I guarded with. It was an awesome way to spend the summers. I started when I was 16, back in 1988. Back then, our patrol was full of serious athletes….lots of collegiate swimmers, rowers and runners. We had a guy who rowed on 3 heavyweight Olympic rowing teams and we also had a guy who ran a 3:56 mile (back then, there were only a handful of Americans that could do that). Anyway, one of the things I’m most proud of is that when I got on the beach, I was one of the worst athletes, and when I left, I was one of the best. The beach patrol really defined who I am as an athlete. Without it, I may have never done a triathlon. It also taught me the fine art of using a combination of Sun-In and salt water to bring out the awesome blond hair I had back then! As far as teaching me about being a sex symbol? I don’t think it taught me all that much. Being a sex symbol…you just have to have “it”. You either have “it” or you don’t. Obviously, I have “it”…at least that’s what you and Jenn tell me.

AW: Do you teach PSL courses? (Philly as a Second Language)

PD: Is this some sort of Ivy League thing – are you turning your nose to the Philly speak? [Editor note: AW grew up in Philly.] Okay…the key about PSL is that anytime you have a word with “a” followed by “t”, you have to pronounce it like “u” and “d”. For instance the word “water” is pronounced “wudder”. Get it?

AW: Definitely not. Please sign me up for your next course. Hey, I’ve always wondered: why do you wear special shorts during races?

PD: Don’t bash it until you try it. I’ve turned Pokress to the dark side with shorts. I like wearing compression tri shorts when I race. I must own 15 pairs of tri shorts. Finding really good tri shorts is like my holy grail. I’ll just keep looking…and buying!

AW: I get it: it’s like finding the right coach. Good stuff. Now let’s play a game of more than/less than:

Your cumulative bar tab as a BTT member is (more/less) than the cost of your new bike?
Way less.

Four is (more/less) than the number of sets of race wheels you own?
More if you’re talking about sets. Less if you’re talking about wheels. I currently own a Bontrager disk, 2 Zipp 1080s, 2 Zipp 808s, and a Zipp 404.

Your new LED fireplace is (more/less) of a tourist attraction than your basement shrine containing all of your old, sweaty race numbers and trophies?
It’s a draw.

Your rabid and psychopathic cat has drawn (more/less) blood from guests than you have drawn from Matt Pokress on the race course?
You’ll have to ask Pokress. [Editor note: the answer probably depends on which Pokress is asked.]

Yuengling is (more/less) tasty than Harpoon?
Surprise answer…less. I’m a Harpoon convert.

Jersey is (more/less) awesome than Philly?
It depends. The Southern Jersey Shore is more awesome. But, Philly is more awesome than Jersey on the whole.

You are going to ride (more/less) than 20 miles at Training Weekend 2012?
Hopefully more. But, I don’t want to jinx myself.

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