Interview with Kris Swarthout: OptumHealth Performance Tri Series

1)      As the tri season is rapidly approaching, how are registration numbers looking for Manitou, Minneman, and Twin Cities Triathlon?

Registration is up from this point last year. This is really encouraging since we have made some serious strides to incorporate athlete feedback to correct mistakes of the past. It is also encouraging to see since last year so many races took a big hit with lower than expect participant levels.

2)      What is the registration capacity for each race?

We are going to cap Manitou and MinneMan at 600. TwinCities Tri is another story. Harriet Island could legitimately hold 3000 athletes with no problem. This year we have not set a cap, but we are shooting for around 750 racers.

3)      Last year was the Inaugural year for Twin Cities Triathlon and it was a hit.  Will participants see anything new on the swim, bike or run this year?

For starters, the river will be flowing at a lower level. 2011 saw the river at 5 times the normal water level. There will not be any more 14 minute 1.2 mile swims, sorry. The sprint swim start will move to the St. Paul Marina gas pier, about 100 yards upstream from last year’s start point. The swim course this year will be marked with a single line of buoys and athletes will simply keep the m on their right. This should eliminate any confusion in the swim course. The bike stays relatively the same. Ohio Street is epic and changing that would be a crying shame. The Sprint will have a small course change based on construction, but basically remain the same. Right after both bike courses converge, athletes will now continue straight downhill on Butler to Concord. This is a slightly steeper decent, but a safer course than last year’s trip through the neighborhood. We will also be closing Wabasha Ave. from where it intersects with Cesar Chavez St all the way to Kellogg Ave. This will make the turn onto Plato as safe as possible and a fun corner to watch the elites take at about 25mph! The run stays the same.

4)      Minneman will have an Olympic distance race this year. Can you speak about that a little bit and maybe tell us the thought behind bringing this distance to Minneman?

I have personally always hated when I hear people say “I am just doing a sprint”. If you have seen how hard DKT or DP or KO or CY run sprints you will agree that they are not JUST doing a sprint. With that I always like to put my own touch to a race and wanted to give those that are prepping for a mid-season half or longer something new. People like to experience something new at a familiar site and I think this will give people that new added flare. I believe that races with multiple distances on one day also serve the tri community better as a whole.

5)      Since you are adding a different distance for Minneman, can it also be expected that a Pugsley fat tire wave will also rise up at one of these races?

Maybe, but I think I might save that bit of fun for another date or season.

6)      Most of these races have excellent prize purses for the top three men and women. Since OptumHealth Performance has numerous coaches that could make it to the podium, do you set any regulations on how they spend their prize earnings?

Manitou pays 5 deep on both sides and the other two pay three deep. As far as how our coaches use their money, that is truly up to them. I can say that my desk has no shortage of Soy Lattes in the week after a good race. I will also accept Jimmy John’s #12 with no mayo and Chipotle Chicken Burritos. Hint, hint, wink, wink.

7)      Speaking of reaching the podium, there was a small little rumor that you have the nickname of Kris “Podium” Swarthout. Please enlighten us on how you earned this rock star status amongst your fellow peers.

Back in “The Day” I was at Turtleman, hitting the food line for the third or fourth time during the awards. My partners at the time were John Shelp and Dan Cohen (SCS Multisport). Jerry McNeil was the MC and in rare form. During the awards I hear John and Dan get announced to the men’s overall podium followed by “John and Dan are 2/3rds of SCS Multisport, Kris Swarthout is the other third, but we usually don’t see him up here on the podium.” Of course Kevin has never let that one die and so from that point on Kevin has nick named me “Podium”.

8)      We have heard that the Junior Draft Legal Race will not be taking place at Manitou this year. Does that provide any benefits to the age group athletes out there as far as race-day logistics?

I think that we did a good job of integrating the two events last year and we heard some good feedback to that extent. As far as athlete experience this year, the only real change will be less skinny little kids running around and an 8am start time as in previous years prior to the draft legal event.

9)      As race director, what is the number one thing that has you excited about each of these races this year?

Manitou-the increased participation in the corporate challenge. I love to see people trying triathlon out for the first time in the safety of their co-workers. MinneMan-the Olympic distance race winner will set a CR guaranteed and I can’t wait to see who it is. TwinCities Tri-watching this race grow to be the iconic race I envisioned it to be. It is also nice to know that so many of the small kinks are going to be gone. It will be great to see all athletes experience this race.  Also for all three- Breakfast Burritos can’t be beat! Nobody does better post race food that we do.

10)   Since you are also an awesome coach over at OptumHealth Performance, can you close out the interview with a little coaching advice? In your mind, what is the top thing that should not go overlooked in February as people begin spending more time training for specific races?

Don’t skip the base work. Training in HR zone 2-3 can be boring to say the least, but without it you are setting yourself up for failure. I told an athlete last week that they need to do the foundation work because no one lives in a tree house and skipping the base work is no different from building a house with no foundation. So go out and build those basements people!!!!

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