In January 2009 Caterpillar offered Andrew Starykowicz a severance package and he accepted it to pursue the dream of being a Pro triathlete. After working for Caterpillar as a design engineer for just under 5 years, this was his chance to finally train and race full-time. But he got hit by a car in early March - an incident that cause him to sail over 25 feet through the air before landing on his head. The sheet metal on the car was pushed in 6" from the impact and that pretty much stopped him in his tracks most of the spring. He has had an impressive string of results during the summer and is well known for his bike prowess, but Sunday's Chicago Triathlon did not go as planned.
Slowtwitch: Why don’t you talk about your Chicago race yesterday, including your expectations?
Andrew: Chicago is my house. It is windy, it is humid, it can by warm or cold...It is Chicago and where I have lived my whole life. My expectations were high and to be building on my last two races (Steelhead, NYC). Race day was cold (but not cold enough) and windy, perfect for me. I had a horrific swim coming out behind people who have NEVER out swum me ever. On the bike I rode and ran frustrated. Maybe emotion got the best of me, but I gave it my all and I am beat today. Time to refocus on what is up ahead.
ST: Well, what is up ahead?
Andrew: Westchester, LA, US Open (Dallas), and Clearwater. I am also in the final stages of ironing out the details to guide Aaron Schiedes in a triathlon.
ST: Your bike split at Steelhead 70.3 wowed quite a few onlookers especially because of the conditions. But that is seemingly old hat to you.
Andrew: It’s no secret that the bike is my strength. I was actually a bit disappointed that I was not closer to 2:02.
ST: On your blog you talked about going through the race plan as you walked up to the start. Are you good during the race staying with the plan or are you inspired by the heat of the moment?
Andrew: Depends on the race. Since I have done NO training for the ½ Ironman distance, I knew I had to stick to the plan or the result would be walking or injury. Yet, for Olympic distance it is about going red-line for 110 min. It is how I train.
ST: You have raced Andy Potts quite a few times now. What will it take for you to beat him?
Andrew: 1K/50K/5K, then I might have a chance. Andy is one of the best all-rounders. Matt Reed, Greg Bennett, and Andy have proven they can be both successful in ITU and non-drafting Olympic distance. Now the M-dot guys fear their presence.
ST: What exactly should the M-Dot guys worry about?
Andrew: Look at the success Potts, Reed, (M) Jones, and Alexander have had at the longer distances almost instantly. Guys & Gals who have spent their late 20's and early 30's jamming the Olympic Distance, then in their mid 30's move up and conquer the "iron" distances.
ST: Including the Steelhead event you had raced 5 weekends in a row. Was that planned as a nice prep for the 70.3 race or the schedule dictated it and your body could feel it at the end?
Andrew: My priority is Olympic Distance. My big races are St Anthony’s and the Lifetime Series each year. The nice thing about the Olympic distance is that you can race week in week out. The ½ distance takes a lot longer to recover. All that said, the schedule dictates when and where I get to race.
ST: Along those lines, was the Underwear Run prior to the NYC Tri more for the recovery of flight tired legs or inspiration for the curious eyes?
Andrew: I needed a shake out run to relax after the planes, trains, automobiles, and 6 blocks of bike box pulling. It is still about having fun, yet ½ the people were wearing more than they did on race day. Quite disappointing.
ST: The field at NYC Tri was also quite impressive and your 6th place there must have made you feel pretty good.
Andrew: Pretty good is right. I caught Potts (3rd), Hayes (4th), & Reed (5th) as we entered T2, then closed out the race with a 35 minute 10K and finished 6th, 3 minutes out of 5th. The good news is, for the first time, I did not lose any spots on the run.
ST: Word has it that you are praying with your bike leading up to a race. Can you explain?
Andrew: When I race I let it all hang out. I am just asking for support during the race that keeps me safe and strong when the body begs to ease up
ST: You have been plagued by injuries and illnesses more than average. Does that mean moving forward only good cards will be dealt to you?
Andrew: Yes. I have yet begun to fight!
ST: Of all your race results, which one means the most to you and why?
Andrew: 2005 Wildflower (Olympic Distance). I was on, in a great way. I set a goal of barely breaking the course record. I ended up crushing the record and winning the race by over 2 minutes.
ST: You started triathlon apparently because of a bet. Is that true?
ST: Well, what was that bet that got you started?
Andrew: My good friend Adam Frankel bet me that he could beat me in a triathlon (He swam and ran). I blew him off. He tried this for the next 2 years, and then got really smart. He got my mom to do it. So if my mom, who had never raced or even run was going to do it, I had to do it. I did the race...I was 3rd out of the water, 2nd off of the bike, and finished 3rd (barely).
ST: Swimming and soccer are what you grew up with, but you fell into triathlon. Is that choosing an individual sport versus a team sport?
Andrew: Not at all. Triathlon has more camaraderie than most of the teams I was ever on.
ST: Who gave you the nickname Starky?
Andrew: It came around in Junior high, coaches and teammates who couldn’t pronounce my 11 letters last name. When I went to high school and college the coaches came up with the same name with no influence from the proceeding teams.
ST: You, David Thompson and Jordan Rapp have all engineering jobs or backgrounds. What is it with engineers going so fast on the bike?
Andrew: We are numbers people. We connect with data, can play with it, manipulate it, and understand it to a high degree. This allows us to use these numbers to notice when we are getting over trained and when we are making improvements. Then there is the fluid mechanics of how air really flows.
ST: You are a Zoot athlete, what else is going on in terms of sponsorship?
Andrew: Gin Optics, Zoot, Gu, Zipp, Orbea, Suunto, Alciis, and Bob Duncan Racing.
ST: Do you have an off-season?
Andrew: This season I had, 3 weeks in November, 1 week in May, and 1 week in September. So off-season? Is right!
ST: What about other sports?
Andrew: I still enjoy getting in and tossing the polo ball around. I really think that Water Polo is the hardest sport I ever played. It is rugby in the water. Mostly I love the winter. Not only do I enjoy training in the tougher weather, but also skiing, skating, and snowmobiling is where life can be lived.
ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?
Andrew: I like food. There is very little I dislike, I can still go to any restaurant and find something to eat. If I had a top three:
1.) Ribs (2-3 racks)
2.) Mom’s Lasagna
3.) Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M’s
ST: What music do you like?
Andrew: I spend a lot of time driving so I listen to the radio I ton and I listen to everything based on my mood. First choice is Country, then new rock…
ST: What was the last book you read?
Andrew: Breaking the Chain by Willy Voet. Talks about the Festina scandal and how rampant drugs were in cycling.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Andrew: Where Bennett, Potts, and Reed are right now. A positive asset to the sport and a force to be reckoned with on the course.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Andrew: A lot. Just ask me a question and I will answer it!