Age grouper Bruce Gennari surprised a lot of people and himself when he was first out of the water at the 1997 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. He is still a great swimmer, but now he can ride and run fast too.
ST: Bruce, I remember when you were first out of the water at the 1997 Ironman Hawaii. Can you talk about that day?
Bruce: I was pretty excited that day as you can imagine. It was my first Hawaiian Ironman. I had a plan in my mind as to how I would swim the course. I started out on the left side of the course and actually was hanging on to the Body Glove boat before the start. When the gun when off I sprinted straight out for about 200 yards and then started to look around for all of the other swimmers. I was clear to my left so I started concentrating on all of the swimmers to my right. I slowly drifted over and then low and behold I was swimming with the professional men and women. At that point I didn't know whether or not somebody had gone off the front. It was great for me as I finally had somebody I could draft off of in the water. Basically I just bided my time in a swim pace line. With about 400 meters to go I pulled out of the line and started really putting some effort into the swim. Before I knew it my hand was hitting solid ground. I popped up and just started running towards T1. Honestly, I had no idea I was out of the water first. To tell you the truth, I didn’t realize it until the hot corner on Alii Drive going out on the run. I just remember the announcer saying…there he is, Bruce Gennari, first out of the water today. I was pretty stoked. That got my endorphins running and allowed me to run about another three (3) steps before I was walking again. I know, sad, but true! The aftermath of me getting out of the water was a whole lot more fun than the race itself. Tony Svensson took that picture and told me it was probably the best race picture he took all day. He included the picture in his Triathlon Training Almanac. The following year he had me autograph the book as I was shopping in the Ironman store. That was pretty cool. I think I owe a lot of my triathlon success and recognition to that photo. So, Tony Svensson has a lot to do with me being a triathlete today.
And just to follow up on Tony, I saw him again down in Clearwater after the WTC 70.3 Championships. Tony came up to me and re-introduced himself to me (it had been almost ten years since I had seen him) and he couldn't believe that I was still racing.
ST: What is on schedule for you for 2008?
Bruce: This season I'll be concentrating on USAT National Championships, Xterra National Championships and WTC 70.3 Championships. I was contemplating going to ITU World Championships but that race got lost in a rather busy schedule this season. I also hope to return to the Best of the US Championships in Arizona. Jerry McNeal and his wife Trudy do a great job with that race and I'd like to go back to it.
ST: How do you typically split up your training week?
Bruce: Training week is very hectic. I normally swim on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. About 4,200 – 4,600 yards per session. I bike on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday (long) and Sunday. I run on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (long). I also lift twice a week. Also, I am not an early riser so none of these workouts are done in the "wee" hours of the morning. I do a lot of "ninja" training. Which means when the entire family is asleep I am either down on the trainer or on the treadmill cranking out the miles.
ST: Do you have any swim tips for our readers?
Bruce: Swimming is all about technique. It doesn't matter how fast you're moving your arms in the water. What matters is how much water you moving with each stroke. Distance per stroke (DPS) is where it's at. I would suggest two things. One is to have a Masters coach take a look at your stroke and see if he/she can give you suggestions. We have a great person who does this here in Tennessee. Her name is Ashley Whitney and she's a former Olympic (Gold medal) swimmer. She can turn anybody into a fish. The second thing I can suggest is if you have the ability to do so have your swimming stroke filmed underwater. Having the opportunity to visibly see what you’re doing is priceless. Also, don't forget to incorporate a lot of drills into your swimming. Drills are what are going to make you a more efficient swimmer. Once you've got the basics then it's all about putting in the yards!
ST: You were mostly known as a swimmer, but really are now a force on the bike too. What did you do to bring up your bike speed?
Bruce: First and foremost I got set up on the bike properly by John Cobb. I had the opportunity to go out to John's Wind Tunnel Camp in College Station. He did some serious adjusting. I've ridden his position since then. Other than that I can tell you that I just put in the miles. I always make sure I have a solid base before I actually start to work on any kind of speed. I am also working with a Power Tap these days so this really helps me as a training tool. I know exactly where I need to be WATTS wise relative to my heart rate. This allows me to optimize my time on the bike. There are no "junk" miles in my bike training.
ST: What or who inspired you to race triathlons?
Bruce: My inspiration for triathlon comes from within. I like the competition. I have been "wired" like this for as long as I can remember. I don't necessarily like to train but I do love to race. Training is a necessary evil. I do it because I know I have to in order to keep up with my competition. Now, as far as who got me into triathlons, that honor goes to Bill Picciano. Bill and I were lifeguards down on Boca Raton’s beaches back in the late 80's. One day I asked if I could borrow his bike (Cannondale R-600) and away I went. I rode the bike from Boca Raton to Delray Beach and back. I was hooked. I knew I could already swim and run so it just made sense to give this sport a go. I am glad I did. I have met so many inspirational athletes along the way that it's been a blessing.
ST: What is your favorite race and why?
Bruce: My favorite race is any race where there is a long swim! But, if you're asking about a favorite race I'd have to say Xterra National Championships in Lake Tahoe, NV. Yep, I bet that surprises you! It’s a race that I have yet to master. As a matter of fact it's kicked my ass the past two years in a row. I have never felt as demolished as I do after that race. It's a killer.
I do also have to say that I love racing at the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon in Chattanooga, TN. It's a race that I won five times in a row in the past. The venue has changed in the past two years but the race is still one of the best ones put on in the country. Faye Yates and Therese Bynum of Team–Magic really do an awesome job of putting on that race. Plus, Chattanooga is a great place to visit and site see.
ST: Rumor has it that you just are part of Team Timex for 2008. Can you tell us about that?
Bruce: I have signed with Team Timex for 2008. I got to know Ben Harper and a lot of the Team Timex individuals throughout all of last year. At the Ironman Half World Championships I really got to spend some post race time with a lot of the racers on that team. It was a blast. Anyway, I liked what Ben Harper said about the team…they work hard and play hard! I really wanted to be a part of that. So, I went through the process of getting selected and thankfully Ben Harper thought I was decent enough to get on the team. I am really stoked heading into this year. We have camp at the end of March out in California. So, I'll get to meet and learn more about my team mates there. Plus, the sponsorship of the team is second to none. I mean Timex, Trek (I just got my Trek 9.5 Equinox and it's getting built as I type), Blue Seventy, Bontrager, Profile, Powerbar, Michelin, Power Tap, HeadSweats, Wigwam, Zorrel and others. Are you kidding me? Again, I am truly humbled by being a part of this team.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Bruce: I follow all sports. It doesn't matter what it is. Again, loving competition I like to see what other people in other sports do to get that competitive edge.
ST: What sports did you take part when you grew up?
Bruce: Obviously I took part in all of the staple sports when I was growing up (football, basketball and baseball) but it was swimming that allowed me to get a scholarship in college. So, I concentrated on swimming when I was in high school. This paid off as I was given a full scholarship to the University of Alabama (1984 – 1988).
ST: What is your favorite and least favorite food?
Bruce: Favorite is spaghetti with Italian sausage for sure. Least favorite is oatmeal. Bar none. I don't understand how people can eat it. I know they say it's good for you but I just can't come to eat it. Yet, I love oatmeal cookies. Weird huh?
ST: What is the last book you read?
Bruce: Right now I am reading "If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat" by John Ortberg. We are discussing this book in a bible study group that I belong to.
ST: Where do you think you'll be in 5 years?
Bruce: Wow, that's an interesting question. I think I'll honestly be right here in Tennessee with my wife, Tammy, raising my two sons Ian and Noah. I'll still be working out for triathlon and still trying to keep up with all of the extremely talented athletes in my age group.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Bruce: My life is an open book. I am one of those persons that can be defined by "what you see is what you get". I can probably be Jim Carey’s stunt double is so asked to do. Does anybody have his number?