Interview with Dan Perlmutter
What drew you to the triathlon?
Probably not the normal answer people would say. A lot of people get into the sport because they want to challenge themselves, or to lose weight, or achieve a specific goal. I did it to impress a girl. I had recently quit smoking and started to go to the gym. I was putting on a little muscle and a lot of weight at the same time. I actually had fallen for this girl that was a marathon runner at the gym. I started running on the treadmill with her and we became close friends. I knew there was no way I could do a marathon but, let me try this triathlon thing. I could do something small and give it a shot and maybe that would impress her. I ended up doing a triathlon, her and I don’t really talk anymore but at the same time its been a great thing in my life. I did actually run into her at a park I was running at about three years ago and after seeing her I wrote her a thank you letter. I wrote her letting her know that I changed my entire life because of our friendship and that I’m so thankful. She actually said you have no idea how nice it is to hear that and thanked me.
How many years have you been involved in multisport?
This is going to be my fifth year. I started off initially just running and I had a bike that wasn’t too impressive. I ended up doing a metric century bike ride and the next year did my first duathlon and then went to Sunrise Tri. I originally just wanted to get clip-in pedals for my crappy bike. After meeting a couple guys from the shop I ended up getting my first tri bike and its been love ever since.
You have built a reputation of having raced every race, how many triathlons do you think you have done over the years?
If I had to guess, I would say about 50.
What was your most memorable race and why?
Does it have to be a triathlon? No, why not, give me what you got. My favorite race or most memorable one involves my uncle who recently passed away on Christmas Eve of Leukemia. While in remission he came to New York from Europe, he lived in France, and we ended up doing the Carl hart Duathlon at Hecksher Park and we won the relay. He ran and I biked. Later on that week we ran a 10k in Central Park together and every step of the way I was with him; getting him water and encouraging him the best I could. That was without a doubt the most proud moment and the most memorable experience involving anything endurance related that I have ever had. Even though I’m very much looking forward to my first Ironman, no matter what I do there, that moment crossing the finish line with him was and is my most proud moment.
That’s amazing! It seems like people’s greatest moments are with family. It doesn’t matter about time. It truly is. Especially since he was sick as well. At the time it was a triumph, he was better, he recovered and he was back to normal. My uncle had run 32 marathons across the world and he best time was in Berlin, 3:16. He was 52 years old. Very cool thanks for sharing
Being so competitive you must have had a pretty impressive background in sports, did you play any sports in grade school or at the collegiate level?
I was anything but. I wasn’t athletic at all. I played a little baseball at the Junior Varsity level and I got cut from the team. I wrestled in Junior High and quit that team. In High School and College I was a DJ. I would listen to music and smoke cigarettes. I was definitely thin in college but after I definitely ballooned a little bit. Right now I’m 163lbs and at my peak I was 210 almost 215. It wasn’t muscle. I think that is one of the reasons why I enjoy this so much because I never knew how wonderful it could be to be so in tune with your body on a daily basis.
For the past couple of years we have become friends and training partners and let me say it publicly that you have helped me tremendously with my development and understanding of this amazing sport. With that being said what can you attribute to your understanding and successes in triathlon?
I wouldn’t say I’m so successful in triathlon. I do think that one of the reasons I race as much as I do and made it such a big part of my life is because I simply enjoy it. It gives me a real sense of satisfaction and a sense of belonging knowing that I’m with a group of people that are in a way, just a nutty as I am and just as driven and passionate. It’s a great feeling. As far as my understanding, I’m one of those people that when something grabs my attention I try to understand it as much as possible. I try to break down all the little idiosyncrasies. I will try to learn all the subtle nuances of every aspect of it and try to become as proficient at it as I possibly can. Thankfully I have a great coach, Gary Jensen who has certainly helped me through out the way and some great friends as well who have been inspirational and great training partners, including you man. I’ve learned from you just as you learned from me.
I have been witness to some of your successes as a triathlete, be it in training or racing but what happens when you’re not successful on race day or training. What do you do on the days that aren’t going as planned?
Sometimes those days are the most difficult to keep pushing on. I know everybody says those are the days you just want to throw in the towel and not keep going. I mean I really want to throw in the towel when things aren’t going my way. Being honest, sometimes I have in the past but really the best thing you can do is remember that there are certain days during races that your conditions aren’t going to be ideal. Things could go wrong nutritionally, physiological, the weather or if you are just having a race where things aren’t going as you expected them to. I think those are the times you have to remember that you and I are not professionals. We do this because we love it and you have to remember that the reason we do these really, really long training rides and are away from the ones we love and subject our bodies to this high level of intensity is because we love the endorphins, we love the adrenaline and at times the pain makes us feel alive.
Within the past year you have made a switch to an all carbon bike. Can you discuss that transition?
A friend of mine offered me a deal on a bike he was looking to get rid of that I really couldn’t refuse. Thankfully the guys from Sunrise Tri were able to take the components from my old bike and swap them over and the bike is certainly a little more comfortable. Carbon is definitely a little prettier. I do have a non-branded bike so sometimes in transition people will come up and ask what type of bike it is. I usually laugh and just tell them it’s all smoke and mirrors, you’ll probably pass me anyway.
I would say that most triathletes are just athletes, they race and then go home and train until the next race. You on the other hand volunteer and go to races your not participating in just to cheer people on, why?
Again, it’s one of the reasons why I love being involved in this sport. It’s not just because of the sport itself. It’s the lifestyle, the camaraderie, the friends that you make and meet and the great stories that you hear. So many of my close friends and the friends that I have made over the past few years are involved with the sport. I have just as much fun going to a race and being a part of it as I do as being an athlete in it as well.
You race, volunteer and apparently have become a race director. Could you talk about Barnstorm?
The Barnstorm is still very much in its small stages. Barnstorm is a non-profit event. Essentially what it is is me inviting a few very good athletes and talented people to come meet each other, get a race in and pretty much have a good time. Its in Setauket and invite only. You do need to qualify to be invited to race. The only way you are able to qualify is to beat me at a race somewhere. Any of my friends that do beat me in a race they are invited to the Barnstorm and test their medal against Long Island’s greatest athletes and possible even borough the Barnstorm Trophy. Its kind of like the Stanley Cup you don’t get to keep it, just borough it until the next race.
What is one piece if gear you cant live without?
Other than my bike? I have a two-part answer. Even though I’m have been collecting way too many bib shorts recently I am a big fan of them. They’re not so comfortable to run in but they are very comfortable on the bike. Other than that, I really just need a good pair of running shoes to keep me happy.
You had major break throughs 2 years ago at the 70.3 distance and then you changed gears in raced primarily short course last year. What can we expect from you for this upcoming season in terms of training, racing, goals etc?
Going into this year I’m not really sure what to expect in terms of my performance. I’m kind of venturing into the unknown and tackling my first Ironman. I’m very much looking forward to trying the distance but as far as my goals, like everyone else participating in their first Ironman, is just to complete the distance with a smile on my face. With that said I have great confidence in Gary Jensen and know that he will put me on the right path and get me in the best shape I can possibly be in to not only do the best job I can but also enjoy the day and get the most out of it.
If you had to give a noob one piece of advice or wisdom what would it be?
There are so many people that get involved in the sport for different reasons whether it’s to harness your competitive spirit, to raise money for a charity, to get back in shape or have a good time. You have to find whatever passion you have for it and run with it, that’s what it comes down to. I do this because I love it and I wake up one day and say I don’t want to do it anymore I wont. I know I will never make a dollar off this sport yet I still give it every single thing I possibly can and the reason I do it is because I respect the sport and I also have a lot of love for it.
What was you most embarrassing or noob moment?The first triathlon I ever did was the RJ Aaron Memorial in Montauk. I had bought my wetsuit two days before. I said to myself I used to be a great swimmer back when I was 8 years old, this shouldn’t be too big of an issue. As soon as the horn went off I went like a bat out of hell for the first 25yrds and by the time the 100yd buoy came by I was holding onto it for dear life wondering if I was going to be able to finish. Thankfully the water was relatively shallow and I was able to walk the last 150 to 200 yards back to shore so I could begin to finish the rest of the race. For some reason I thought this was going to be easy Its been challenging on many levels but I wouldn’t take anything back.