Interview with Rodger Rau

Since I haven't been able to train for awhile I decided to start interviewing my fellow triathletes again. The first round of interviews received positive feedback so here is round two! Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you, Rodger Rau

1. Rodger I met you a few years back at a Ride N Shine workout and then on a cold winters ride along the North Shore. It was at this time I found out your very first triathlon was Timberman 70.3. Can you tell me how you became involved with triathlon and why you chose the 70.3 distance as your first triathlon?
"It was August 2009 and I just finished a training run for an upcoming 10k race called ‘The Great Cow Harbor 10k” in downtown Northport NY. After beating myself up for 6.2 miles of hills, my wife Michelle, myself, and a few of her aunts friends decided to get some dinner. We all sit around a small table and began talking war stories of past races. I mention to the group that someone actually bet me I could not break 3 hours for my first marathon (which would be the Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2009 – 3 months away). We start talking about my past race results of shorter distances which they were amazed about. Then the conversation shifted to another woman who I had just met. She was in her early fifties at the time..she started talking about the 5 Ironmans she has done. The table (including myself) was absolutely mesmerized by her accomplishments. No one cared about my recent 5k or half marathons anymore. She spoke about her training regiment, her nutrition, her Kona qualifications, the list went on. After dinner, Michelle and I drove home. The second I walked into the house, I said, “Shell, I AM DOING AN IRONMAN!” She asked me what exactly it was. I said, “Give me a few minutes; I need to find out myself on Google”. I think I stayed up the entire night watching youtube videos of Ironman. I was hooked! I rented and bought every book and video about Ironman. There were a few problems though. I knew how to run but never swam or really rode a road bike.

I joined a team to learn the basics, walked into a bike shop and dropped 5k on a bike and everything else bike related. I learned how to some-what swim and ride. I started training that very next weekend. I downloaded a 36 week Ironman training plan from the Internet and started my journey. Everyone thought I was crazy to go right to the Ironman distance, but I was focused, determined and ready to go to hell and back if need be! I volunteered up at Lake Placid so I can get in to next year’s event. Watching that Ironman in person was an absolute incredible experience. I volunteered at mile 24 of the run from 8pm – midnight. These people looked like zombies.. it was horrible and heroic at the same time. Michelle looked at me and said, “Rodg, are you sure you want to do this?” I replied, “YES!” I had my golden ticket for IMLP 2011 and was stoked.

I was talked into by a friend to do a half Ironman before Placid so I can understand T1 and T2 and everything else there is to know. So I signed up for the Timberman Half IM. I went into this race with the same cocky attitude of being made of steel and nothing will break me. It winded up being one of the toughest races. I was a mess at the end and couldn’t imagine doing double the distance in less than a year. I really suffered on the run but still managed to pull a 5:10 (puke and all). Now I have been bitten by the so called “Tri-bug” and needed to improve. So that is why the 70.3 distance was my first triathlon, it wasn’t supposed to be, but it was.

Ps- 2009 Philadelphia Marathon = 2:59:26" 

2. After racing Timberman it appears that you immediately signed up for Ironman Lake placid, can you explain why your second race EVER would be the 140.6 distance?

"I was signed up for IMLP before racing Timberman. So I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I might not have signed up for a full IM after feeling so horrible in the half distance. I then thought maybe this is how you are supposed to feel and maybe the reason why the percentage of people completing an Ironman is so low. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Anyway, I was fully vested at the time and had no choice" 
3. Looking back at Placid could you mention a few high lights and low lights about your experience and what you took away from it?

"Well my experience of Ironman Lake Placid had many highs and lows. I had conquered the Philly marathon and got the time everyone said I couldn’t. I was swimming, biking and running 24/7. I locked in my nutrition and was feeling great. I always carried around a little self-doubt because of my Timberman experience. I mean, 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a freakin 26.2 run all in one day under 17 hours was daunting! I would DVR every Ironman aired on TV and just study them. I would watch professional athletes crawl across that damn finish line. This was no joke and I had to take it serious. No more drinking alcohol, no more junk food, 8 hour sleep every night, etc.. this turned into a lifestyle now and was my first priority in life. People also told me I was crazy and was I positive I would finish. That right there adds fuel to the fire. My only plans for 2011 was Placid.. I needed full concentration on that race.

After rocking a sub3 at Philly, I realized I had qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon that any real runner would die for. I decided to sign up for it. I figured this would only help me and would build my weekly running mileage. Running was my strength and maybe I could pull a descent marathon in Placid. I would survive the swim, stay comfortable on the bike and race the marathon. It didn’t really turn out this way as you will find out later.

For a little background, I winded up also qualifying for the 2010 NYC Marathon through the 9+1 program. I trained only a couple months (3 months after Timberman) and winded up bonking at mile 18. Yep, I had hit the “Wall” for the first time. It was terrible and I suffered for the final 8 loooooong miles. I winded up getting a 3:10 and was 10 minutes slower than Philly. I didn’t care much because Placid was goal #1. I recovered from NYC and started to prepare for Boston. I started training in January and was only running about 30-35 miles/week. Boston was here and I was pumped. I drove there by myself and was ready to race. It was a perfect running day with a cool tailwind for the entire point-to-point course. I was scared of bonking again but was fired up to go. I wasn’t necessarily looking to PR but it would have been nice. I felt great for the first 13.1 and then again at about mile 22, I had hit the wall. It was just as terrible as the first time. I managed to waddle across the line at 3:09. I recovered again and focused all energy on Placid.

As the weeks went on I had been getting stronger and fitter. I had developed a cold and had to take 4 days off. I could not physically or mentally train at all. My coach has talked me into resting and getting over the cold. It was hard for me to do, but I managed. I was healthy again and a 6 mile run was on the schedule. I was fired up to run again and I had to make up for lost time (bad idea). I had hammered out 6 miles as fast as I could. I felt amazing until I stopped and started to walk up my driveway. I had a sharp pain on the side of my knee which I had never felt before. I couldn’t even walk without a limp.

I now had 3 months till the big day and I was injured. I could ride the bike and swim, but zero running. I had been to doctor after doctor, got shots in my knee, MRI’s, x-rays, etc... Unfortunately, the number one answer was REST! I was so frustrated.. I had no time to rest.. especially now, all my long runs were about to start up. Long story short, I winded up only running 22 miles for the entire months of May and June. My longest “long run” was 8 miles. My coach had me start doing some pool running which actually caused another pain in my groin from the all the pressure in the water that I wasn’t used to. I was a complete mess but still determined to now just finish this race.

Race morning arrives and I am a nervous wreck. My knee no longer hurts but I had missed all the run training that was so important. My coach kept me optimistic as well as the 30 family members that had traveled up to Lake Placid to watch me race an Ironman. The gun finally goes off and it is 3000 athletes swimming like animals. I was getting thrown around, kicked, punched, and just about everything you could imagine if you were in a blender. Swimming is my worst discipline and this was not fun. Undertrained, inexperienced, nervous, groin hurting and almost drowning in Mirror Lake. I managed to survive the swim and was ready to battle the hills of the Adirondack Mountains. I had nailed my nutrition during my long bike rides in training and was ready to conquer the next discipline. I was ok up until mile 80 on the bike. I couldn’t eat or drink anymore. My coach had me shoving something in my mouth every 15 mins. I stopped all nutrition all together. Couldn’t get it down anymore.

Finally made it back to T2 and this is where the race really starts. I got my shoes on, grabbed more nutrition and headed out for a 26.2 run. Seeing Michelle, and my entire family was a huge highlight. I was pumped! I ran 13.1 and was feeling some-what OK. Still not eating any nutrition but was able to force down water and Gatorade. I got to about mile 14 and I was TOAST! My run quickly went to a slow jog and then to a slow walk. I had nothing left in the tank. I winded up walking from mile 14 to mile 26. I did run the .2 J. 11 hours and 45 mins later I crossed the finish line of my first Ironman. Seeing Michelle and my family there brings tears to my eyes. Someone once tried to explain the feeling of crossing the finish line of an Ironman. I never understood it until then. It was the best feeling imaginably. I will never forget the look on my Moms face the day I crossed the finish line at IMLP.

After reviewing my 2011 season, I had realized the NYC Marathon, followed by Boston was too much for my body to handle at the time. I hadn’t recovered properly. That’s what I believe led to injury.

What did I take away from it? You can do anything in this world if you set your mind to it. "

4. If I'm not mistaken your first few years of racing you were self coached and now you are working with a coach. Could you explain why you made the switch, who you are working with and the impact it has had?

"Yes, I was self-coached all the way up to 3 weeks before I raced the Boston Marathon. I am or at least was the type of person that didn’t think I needed help. I had run a sub3 marathon with no help. I had finished a half IM with no help. All these other short course running races with no help. But then it got me thinking..the professional triathletes in the world all have to know what they are doing. This is their job, their living.. their everything.. and most of them are all coached.

It was March 2011, and I had to travel to North Carolina for business. I was sitting in the airport waiting for my return flight back to NY and some guy sits right next to me. He looked at my volunteer Lake Placid shirt I had on and said, “Did you do Ironman Lake Placid?” I replied, “no, not yet. It’s in July”. We started talking Tri and he was telling me he has done a few in his life. He told me he done Kona multiple times and he did Placid multiple times..blah blah blah. This guy was feeding me a load of crap. He gave me a business card of a metal design company he owned and he left off with me with one bit of advice. He said, “Nutrition is 80% of it!” I then said goodbye and we went our separate ways. I boarded the plane and took the card out of my pocket. I had a few minutes before takeoff and decided to fire up my laptop and look this guy up. I googled ‘Jamey Yon – race results’ and a million results came up. I was completely shocked. He was a professional triathlete and elite marathoner for years. Just a few notable races to mention, he placed 2nd overall in Ironman Lake Placid in 2000 with a 2:56 marathon split. He ran a standalone 2:23 marathon to get an overall win. Won numerous half IM’s..This guy was the real deal. He never even told me he was a professional. I was pissed I didn’t know this before I boarded. I was sitting and chatting with the real deal!

I got home and immediately contacted him about coaching. We setup a plan and I have been with him ever since. It was the best decision I have made. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t under training or overtraining, eating correctly, and everything else that you must do for IM training. He lived and breathed this sport for 25+ years, he must know what he is doing. I have PR’d in 5 of 6 races since being coached with him. The workouts are not easy, but very effective. High props to Jamey Yon and TRi YON Performance." 

5. Obviously you have a love for long course racing and you most recently have competed in Challenge Roth in Germany. Can you share with us why you choose Roth and your experience over there?

"Challenge Roth was another amazing experience. I am all German and have some family in Germany so this race fit my liking. They say it’s fast and flat and it gave me enough time to regroup and train hard. I also needed some redemption from Placid. I don’t think the 11:45 really shows my ability because of the injury. My wife was excited about a European “vacation” so it was perfect. About 18 close friends and family joined for this journey.

Jamey came up with a rock solid training program which started January of 2012. I trained hard for about 6-7 months. I raced a half Ironman in June of 2012 and PR’d with a 4:51 at REV3 Quassy. That was a huge confidence booster and I felt amazing. I knew I was close to ready.

We headed to Europe and arrived at the hotel. We did some light taper training and were ready to race. Race morning arrives with zero sleep the night before. There was a wedding at our hotel and it was loud the entire night. I could not get my mind to rest just thinking about the long day ahead. I got up at 3am and ate my breakfast and headed to the start. There were thousands of people around from all different countries. That got me thinking, I am 6000 kilometers from home, no one speaking English, dragged my entire family here, what the hell am I doing? It was just the nerves taking over. We finally made our way to the swim start. We managed to get into the first swim wave with the Pro and Elite athletes. The canon went off and on we went. My younger brother Kraig (20 years old) started to hammer the swim. Adam (my older brother – 37 years old) followed behind him. My goal was to take it very easy on the swim so I can finish the race strong. The swim is just a long warm up. I finally approached the swim exit and noticed both my brothers T1 bags were gone as well as their bikes. They were the amateurs in triathlon and they were long gone. WTF!? I got through T1 and started riding.. I had some hammering to do because I had to catch both my brothers. I was off to a great start and then at about mile 19 on the bike..a motorcycle pulls up alongside me and starts yelling something in German. He was holding up a red card and just kept screaming something. I told him I do not speak German. He was able to say in English, “Drafting! PULL INTO THE PENALTY BOX!” I tried fighting it but it didn’t work. I was devastated! I thought about just blowing by the penalty box but figured they would DQ my entire race. Frustrated and all, I pulled over and asked some lady sitting at a table in the penalty box what I exactly did. The motorcycle guy pulled in as well and told me I was caught drafting and I must wait 8 mins until I start riding again. .. I started screaming at him, “8 MINS!!!!?? Are you crazy? I didn’t do anything” After calming down and speaking to him, he said it took me longer than 10 seconds to pass someone on the left. I do remember now, I went to pass someone and the guy decided to speed up and we were riding side by side for about 20-30 seconds. Apparently, you cannot do this in European long course racing. I figured drafting was just sucking someone’s wheel which I clearly was not doing.

The 8 minutes felt like days! I was watching everyone fly by me and I was just sitting there. I still get angry to this day just thinking about that. I was mentally done at this point. I seriously considered shutting the whole race down.. But I couldn’t, I had my very supportive wife and family all the way across the world to watch us race. I got myself together, climbed back on my bike and started pedaling. Now my brothers beat me in the swim and had an extra 8 mins on me on the bike. I had some serious time to make up. I started to hammer down and quickly realized I had 95+ miles left on the bike and a marathon to go. I couldn’t burn myself out chasing these guys. I am never racing against my brothers but I couldn’t let them beat me :).

I finally hit mile 90 on the bike and I come across my youngest brother Kraig. He didn’t look good at all.. his face was completely white and covered in salt. I asked if he was ok and if he seen my older brother Adam. He looked at me and said he was hurting.. He also mentioned Adam passed him about 30 mins ago. I reassured him everything would get better once he started running (bit of a lie J ) and to just keep moving forward. 22 miles later I finally reached T2. Grabbed my sneaks and headed out for the daunting 26.2 shuffle. I was feeling pretty good and locked into a pace I determined during training. At about mile 22 on the run, I come across my older brother Adam.. We exchanged a few words and then I passed him and headed towards the finish. I finished with a time of 10:15 but officially 10:23 with the 8 min bike penalty. I ran a 3:31 marathon and rocked a new PR!

Challenge Roth was an experience of a lifetime. The Challenge Family organization, the country of Germany, the millions of fans, my family/friends, the list goes on. I will be back for sure." 

6. With the amount of time and sacrifice involved with long course racing you must have a great support system, anyone you care to give a shout out to?

"Yes, working a fulltime job, maintaining a house, and all that training sure does add up. However, you turn it into a lifestyle and take it one day at a time. My family is always number one and that will never change. My biggest fan and most supportive person in my life is my wife Michelle. Shell does everything for me. All the healthy lunches and dinners, cleans all my sweaty dirty training clothes, all the words of encouragement, she comes to all my races, the list goes on. She understands the true passion I have for this sport. I have a true love for triathlon and running and she respects that. I also have to give a huge shout out to my brothers, all of them. I enjoy training and racing with them. I feel we all have the same mindset when it comes to this sport. It’s kind of unique. And another huge shout out to my entire family and friends that travel the globe to watch me beat the hell out of my body. And last but not least, my coach Jamey Yon. He is not only a coach to me. He is by far my mentor and good friend. He is the nicest guy you will meet. He has the same burning desire about this sport and raced it for 25+ years. He figured out all the kinks and is now passing all that valuable information to his athletes. "

7. Similar to me, racing has turned into a family affair for you. How did you convince your brothers to get involved and why is it that you guys are so damn fast?
"It wasn’t convincing that got them hooked. Adam and Kraig actually came up to Placid to watch my first IM. During that looong day, they had the same feeling I had when I first learned about Ironman racing. They needed in and they needed in NOW! They have been hooked ever since. If there are 2 people in this world that beat me without me getting upset, it would be them. I don’t race against them..I race with them. We are all some-what beginners in the sport and we all have the fire inside to take it to the next level. We are following a very tough training regimen that enables us to get the results we get. Some say genetics, but we don’t think so. The best advice I have ever been told, “Bleed in training, and you will sweat in competition!” Those are the golden words to live by."

8. What are you plans for this off season and what is your race schedule looking like for next season?

"I had a pretty solid 2012 season.. I PR’d 5 of 6 races, so I am happy about that..and the one I didn’t PR in I was seconds away. Off season looks like a ton of base building and marathon training. I really want to improve my swimming so I will concentrate on that. My coach rarely gives a day off, so I am always training. His method is quality over quantity. There is no need to log a million miles, it’s the efficient workouts that matter. I really don’t consider it off season. Maybe a little less structured but still working towards the ultimate goal.

My 2013 season is actually already booked up. I am doing the Hyannis Marathon in February, Eagleman Half IM in June, and the REV3 Cedar Point Full IM in September. I will most-likely throw some short course races in there as well. "

9. Last question. You rock aviators, professional triathlete Jesse Thomas rocks aviators. Who would win in a race between you two?

"Today he would win (unless he bonks and winds up getting a DNF). However, I never have the attitude to show up to a race thinking I am going to lose. I race to win no matter who is there. However, Jesse is a bad ass triathlete with a solid resume. I am currently not at his level, so ask me again in a few years" 

10. Word association, I’ll say a word and you respond with what first pops into your head.
A. Power meter Wish list

B. Ironman or Challenge CHALLENGE

C. Speed Concept Precision

D. Tri Yon Results

E. Rodger 2013 PR

I had the pleasure of watching many athlete race this year and Rodger is the absolute truth and he is only going to get better.  Im claiming that I interviewed him first before he hits the big time.

Thanks Rodger


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