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Athlete Spotlight: Aaron Myers & Matt Casey


Ironman: (noun) a title reserved only for the few, the brave, the determined and athletic who despite the rigors of three individually tough disciplines: a 2.4mi swim, a 112mi bicycle ride and a 26.2mi run, surmount all obstacles, tiredness, doubt and exhaustion and hold their head high through to the finish line. Kudos and congratulations to the first "Ironmen" of Knoxville Endurance: Aaron Myers and Matt Casey.

Aaron Myers and Matt Casey
1. How did you get your start in triathlon and why?

A: My brother was the one that got me started in triathlon. I spectated his first open water Olympic distance race at Fall Creek Falls and it looked like fun, so the next spring my wife, Lauren, and I took a tri 101 class and after about a week I was hooked. I had done some ½ marathon training, but was easily burnt out. Triathlon has the right mix of variety and challenge to keep me interested in the sport.


M: I did my first triathlon, the Memphis in May Olympic Distance Tri, in 2008 as part of a Team in Training Group. I had been a casual cyclist for years, but felt like at the level I was riding I wasn't getting enough health benefits and thought the multidiscipline and competitive nature of triathlons would be a logical next step.


2. What would you say that people get from triathlons that they can't find in other sports?

A: There is a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie within the triathlon community. From what I have seen at races, triathletes are incredibly friendly, helpful, and fun people. Racers will actually stop on the bike course to help out an athlete in need (sacrificing their race time) or share salt or food on the run course to someone who is struggling. The sense of accomplishment with just completing a race is unlike any I have experiences with other types of races and hearing the words "You are an Ironman" when you cross that finish line is one of the coolest experiences a triathlete can have, and knowing people that have done more than 10 Ironman races I don't think it ever loses its power.


M: The two main things I believe you get from triathlons are: good overall health and getting plugged into multiple groups of athletes. Not only do you meet a number of other triathletes, but you also get connected to other groups who focused on each individual sport within the tri.


3. They say to "never say never," but I really doubt I could ever compete in an Ironman Triathlon. Do you feel that there is a particular personality that is drawn to the Ironman Triathlon? If so how does your personality fit that mold?

A: I don’t think there is any particular personality that is drawn to triathlon.  Triathletes seem to be drawn to the challenge of the sport.  Completing 3 disciplines in a single event is a unique thing and often one that brings interesting questions for people outside the sport such as, “You did that all in one day?”  I feel that triathletes are often just looking for a new challenge and this sport offers new challenges in many different ways from different types of swims, to varying distances, to the challenge of getting all your gear to a destination race.  I definitely fit into this category.  In my racing life, I am always looking for the next challenge or how to improve my time, and each course, each race brings new challenges and an opportunity to learn and get better. 

M: I agree, I don’t believe there is any one particular personality that is drawn to competing in an Ironman.  Through training and racing, I’ve met individuals that are very introverted, some extroverted and everything in between. The same can be said about their level of competitiveness, it differs greatly. At the same time though, I think the one thing that almost all Ironman participants have in common is that they’re more long-term strategic thinkers.  I myself, tend to approach most things in a strategic way and in turn have found that it’s helped me in preparing for and competing in Ironman distance races.


4. How do you fit training it all in-training, family life, a professional career, social life, etc.?

A: Fitting all the training in takes a significant amount of planning and really early mornings.  During my peak training I am often awake and out of the house by 4:30 in the morning.  This works best for me because it is hard for work or other obligations to get in the way at that hour. Also by having my training done in the morning allows for some extra time in the evening for going out and having a social life.  It also helps to have someone or a group to train with to help keep you accountable, but also to provide some of that social life during those long training hours.

M: Depending on whom you ask the answer would probably be “not very well”. All kidding aside, for me it is very important to have a plan (Thanks, Rhonda!) and the full support of my family. My wife, Monica and I, make a very conscience effort to ensure we both have time to pursue our interest, while still having time for each other and our two children. Balancing training and work can be quite difficult, so I think it’s very important to keep everything in prospective and remind yourself, when you miss a workout because you had to work late, that it’s not the end of the world and that you’ll still be ok come race day.


5. What is your favorite discipline and why?

A: I really enjoy all the disciplines, but if I had to choose one it would be the bike.  Riding a bike and going fast makes me feel like a kid again.  It is also fun to ride with a group you know well and be a little more social.


M: Bicycling by far. It’s the event I am the most comfortable with, have the most fun and really feel like I am “competing” where often times with the run and swim I feel like I’m just “surviving”.


6. What motivates you when it starts to get tough? How do you keep yourself going?

A: The main thing that motivates me is the finish line. I have a big desire to finish any race that I start. The things that help me through those tough moments on the course are seeing my wife, my family, and friends or even just spectators in general. Spectators at these events are incredibly supportive and are great motivators for getting me past whatever issues I am having on race day.


M: I don't really have a particular quote or mantra for when it gets tough, but rather just the mindset that I can push through the pain and finish, even if that means not finishing with the time I thought I could achieve. I have always been pretty successful with pushing myself to go further, but have struggled with pushing myself to go faster. My next training focus definitely needs to be on going faster.


7. Race preference: small/local or big/national?

A: I like all types of races. The small local ones are great and offer a wide variety of options, but the larger national races have a unique atmosphere that just can't be matched by the smaller events.


Swim preference: pool, ocean, river, lake?

M: River


8. What about hydration: aero bottle, bottles behind seat, bottles on down/seat tube?

A: For my tri bike (yes, I have more than one bike) I use one on the down tube and two behind the seat. This offers me more options for fluids during longer races. On my road bike I just have two on the down tubes.


Wetsuit preference: sleeves or sleeves?

M: Full wetsuit with sleeves.


9. What is one race you haven't done yet that you would like to do someday and why?

A: The #1 race on almost any triathlete's bucket list is the World Championships in Kona and so one of my goals is to qualify one day. However, I like to use triathlon races as a reason to visit places I haven't been before. Other races I would like to race are the Wildflower Tri, Ironman Switzerland, Arizona, and Mont-Tremblant just to name a few.


M: The big goal race for me is Ironman Lake Placid. With the obvious exception of Kona, I think Lake Placid is the most iconic Ironman and I think the temperature and course would work well for me, although I might feel different about the climbs about halfway through the first bike loop.


10. What advice would you give for someone just starting the sport?

A: For those starting out, I would first recommend finding a group to train with. Whether this is some formal training program or just friends that are crazy enough to go along with you, a group will keep you motivated and keep training enjoyable. Next, I would say just challenge yourself. Try an open water race; move up to the next distance, do a race where you are the only one you know racing. To me this keeps the sport interesting and fun.


M: My advice would be to have fun and enjoy the training. If you love the race day experience, but view the training as something you have to suffer through, you won't be in this sport for long. I also think it is very important to keep the proper balance between being a triathlete and your job, family, etc.


11. Why or what brought you to join Knoxville Endurance?

A: After signing up for Ironman Chattanooga, I felt like I needed some guidance from a coach to help me to improve on my time. I had essentially trained myself for Ironman Florida in 2012, but knew to beat my time in Chattanooga I would need a better plan. Rhonnda helped me to achieve my goals (beat my previous best by 45 minutes including 4 extra miles on the bike course) and improved in all three phases of the race. Before I started the tri program though, I worked with Bobby for Charleston marathon training much to the chagrin of my wife who had started training with KE a few months before I started.


M: Over the last few years, I have had some great training support, originally through Team in Training, as well as Shahin and the staff at Fleet Feet. However, once I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga 2014, I knew I needed a different level of support. My life had become increasingly hectic and I wanted to have a finish I could be proud of, while still being realistic regarding the amount of time I could spend training. Aaron had recently started working with Rhonnda and his wife was also working with Bobby and based on his recommendation and all the positive things I was hearing about Knoxville Endurance, I decided to meet with Rhonda. The weekly plans, training advice and overall encouragement from Rhonnda were a critical part of my success in Chattanooga.