Catching Devon Palmer Before IM AZ

Prior to his departure for Ironman Arizona, we wanted to catch up with first year pro and a member of the Gear West Bike and Triathlon Development Team, Devon Palmer. Devon turned in another impressive season with multiple wins against Minnesota’s top elites and some impressive national performances at the professional level. Some of his highlights include placing 4th at 70.3 Racine, 1st at Manitou, and 11th at both the Lake Stevens 70.3 and LTF triathlons.

At 23 years old, Devon continues to develop at an unfathomable pace while finishing degrees in Kinesiology and Coaching at the U of M and applying his knowledge as a coach for Optum Health Performance. Since Devon’s entry into IM AZ came as an end of the season surprise, we wanted to see what motivated him to scratch the IM itch, learn what he has taken away from his first pro season, and hear some of his expectations for racing as an IM newb (new to the distance). Below are his responses to some of our serious and not so serious questions.

1. Why have you decided to race an iron distance triathlon?

I’m doing the race for two main reasons. If I get it done now I’ll have the credibility to coach IM athletes for 2011. Who wants to hire a coach with no experience? I’m also doing it to scratch the Ironman Itch, which I’ve had since I finished my second 70.3 in 2007. If it is a disaster I’ll do shorter races the next few years.

2. When did you sign up for IM Arizona?

September

3. How have you adjusted your training schedule in preparation for this race?

Well, if I wasn’t doing it I would have spent the fall sitting around doing homework. So that’s a big adjustment. Otherwise, I’ve emphasized longer sessions working at steady paces and practicing nutrition. My run mileage has been fairly high for me, emphasizing a long run and a hard run each week. My swimming has been a sad story. Biking has been the biggest change as I did quite a few more miles than usual.

4. What goals do you have for this race?

Mostly I want to execute a reasonable IM in terms of pacing, nutrition, hydration, and thermoregulation. I don’t think I’m ready to ‘race’ it. If I can swim fine, bike fine, and avoid slowing down too much on the run I’ll be happy. 

5. Are you looking to apply your first iron distance experience to your coaching? If so, how?

Yes. I will have my own ideas about preparing for the distance. Also, I will have practical ideas about nailing the details on race day. For better or for worse, I will be learning out there.

6. After another strong season of racing, what are some triumphs and learning points that you will take away as a first year pro?

It was good to mix it up in the pro field to see where I stand. My triumphs were the two 70.3s I did where I was able to stay with the leaders in both swim and bike, so I know I can be up there and position myself to make money. At Racine I actually placed in the money so in my mind that validated the decision to race as a pro. Now I just need to run faster. 

7. You have stated before that eating is a strength of yours and maybe even a weakness. Are you planning on taking down some double cheese burgers and gas station muffins like DKT, or what does your nutrition look like?

I did some long rides with DKT this summer and learned the value of a McLunch on the go. It’s cheap and so tasty after hours of Gatorade. I considered a McDouble on the bike but ultimately decided against it. I’m going with a mix of Gatorade and Carbo-Pro. I’m also having a fun size Snickers every hour on the hour during the bike. If things are going terribly out there, I might have a McRib in my run special needs bag just so I can one-up Thompson.

8. While we are somewhat on the topic of racing weight, I have always been impressed at how fast you can run while looking like a UK cycling track sprinter. Any projection of how quickly you will run 26.2?

I really can’t say too specifically as I’ve never done a marathon and certainly never tried to run too far after racing 112 on the bike. That said, I’ll be pretty sad if it’s too far over 3:30. If it is going really poorly I’ll just stop. On the subject of weight, I recently had a tooth out and it will not be replaced before the race. I strongly recommend this as a method of weight loss.

9. So…Chrissie Wellington just found out that she had/has bacterial strep throat, pneumonia, and a bout of West Nile Virus. She is taking a ton of antibiotics and getting ready for IM Arizona. As a stud cyclist yourself, are you NOW going to have a chance of beating her?

Honestly, I was figuring she would handily defeat me overall but I’m holding onto the hope of biking faster. It is a flat and open course, so skill will not be a huge factor (except when passing AG athletes the 2nd and 3rd lap) and weight won’t count too much. Our bikes and wheels are both top of the line, except she rolls on HEDs so I have an advantage there with ZIPPs but this is not a huge factor overall. I am more powerful and I’ve hopefully trained enough to not blow up on the bike. The only way she goes faster on the bike is if she can sustain a much, much higher relative intensity than I can. I will be riding very controlled and perhaps her training will allow her to go that much harder. We will see. I’m just excited that the best female athlete in the history of our sport is going to be there. I’m trying to think of clever things I can say when she passes me on the run.

10. After doing some math and balancing your checkbook, are you in the black or red racing as a pro this season?

Two sponsors, Enterprise Lighting and The Law Office of W. Harvey Skees, P.A., have helped me tremendously this season with expenses. (To all the small business owners out there looking to spend marketing money on a dashing young Minnesota athlete, call me.) Obviously, my connection to Gear West affords me certain luxuries with bike equipment that I could not otherwise afford (Kevin is loaning me his sub9 Zipp Disc with Powertap and his Joule head). With this support I am actually in the black but I’m not exactly quitting my day jobs with Optum Health Performance, Gear West Bike, or St. Paul Central where I coach the boys swim team.

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