Being Taller Than Most

Chad McRae grew up in Brooklyn, NY but now calls California home. This 6'7" tall athlete and former Marine is a passionate triathlete, but when you are really tall that brings some unique challenges. Sure he is easily spotted when friends and family want to cheer him on in a race, and when out cycling an angry motorist will likely think twice to get out of the car for a confrontation with him, but the typical triathlon gear is not designed for folks at either end of the height spectrum. We sat down with Chad to find out about how he finds his gear, and learn about his racing, training and much more.

Slowtwitch: Thanks for your time Chad.

Chad McRae: You are very welcome.

ST: What brought you from the East Coast to the West Coast?

Chad: I moved from Brooklyn, New York to Los Angeles, California to pursue a graduate education in psychology.

ST: Maybe you can also talk about what made you stay in California.

Chad: After earning my second Masters degree I looked for work across the United States. However, I was already teaching health science in California and through the endurance sports I became part of a community I cherish. California is home.

ST: What is your day job?

Chad: I am a behavioral scientist.

ST: And when did you start with triathlon?

Chad: I did my first triathlon about 10 years ago.

ST: How did that get started and what about it got you hooked?

Chad: My grandmother got me started in the endurance sports. She said something along the lines of, “If you can’t fight… you better run.” Her advice has worked for me in Brooklyn, the military, and triathlons. I have stayed with triathlons because I love the diversity of sports and the challenges. Being competitive at triathlon requires tenacity, skill, and a willingness to standout. My grandparents had these skill sets and triathlon represents their legacy well.

The willingness to stand out and be recognized as different are a central part of triathlon. Competitors wear tight spandex outfits and more often than not we race in circles and closely resemble fallen superheroes. Recognizing my frailties through pictures, pace times, and a power meter put my life in perspective. The path to success is not always pretty and in order to be successful I can’t always blend in with the crowd. This has been true in my professional life and sports. Leading means standing out.

ST: I would say that you surely stand out. Is that a fair statement?

Chad: It is a fair statement. I am 6’7" and more commonly mistaken for a basketball player than an endurance athlete.

ST: Earlierou said your grandmother told you that you best run if you can't fight. Do folks really want to fight you?

Chad: Largely joking. Brooklyn is a bit of a tough town. The Marine Corps was a safer place for me. However, both places have their risks.

ST: Did you play any team sports when you were younger?

Chad: While in high school I played basketball, after graduating I joined the Marine Corps. I enjoyed my time in the military and I do not think I will replicate that team experience. Thus, I am hesitant to join other teams.

ST: Does your height make it difficult for you to find appropriate gear?

ST: Being tall presents its challenges. Finding bikes, shoes, and kit to me is always tough and sometimes not possible. Most of the manufactures do not make equipment in my size. However, the lack of variety in choices means I need to focus on my skill set and ability rather than the equipment.

ST: Focusing on skills versus equipment is a good thing, but we still need stuff that fits. How big are your feet actually, and which shoe models do you use for running and cycling?

Chad: My running shoes are size 16. Finding shoes is a struggle. Altra running shoes and some of the New Balance shoes fit me. I am not aware of others. My road bike shoes are made by Sidi and my triathlon shoes are made by Lake.

My biggest asset in purchasing equipment has been my relationships with my local bike store and my local running store. They research equipment at a level of ability far beyond my own. My local running store identifies brands that offer shoes that fit and review them long before I can find a review online. My local bike store saves me on a constant basis. My local stores are invested in keeping me as a client and this relationship works well for me and them.

Before I established a relationship with my local bike store buying bikes was a major headache. When I went bike shopping many stores seem to try to get rid of their largest bike at my expense. There was no discussion of a pre-fit, instead there seemed to be an intent to get rid of the large bikes they could not sell to anyone else. Forming a relationship locally aided in me finding a fitter, a bike that fits and a coach.

ST: Describe your race bike.

Chad: My time trail bike is a Cervelo P3. It reveals an alarming amount of seat post and has an aftermarket stem which cants upward. However, it accommodates me better than most of the stock bikes.

ST: What size is it and did anyone help you with the bike fit?

Chad: My time trial bike is a size 61 and I had a pre-fit before I purchased the bike. I had a fitting before I rode the bike. My understanding is the bike is low and long. It is the second bike I have purchased as an adult and I wanted to get it right.

My initial race bike was a road bike and I had been fantasizing about looking and racing like the people who consistently were ahead of me when I raced. The time trial bike was a step in being faster. While window shopping in San Diego I learned about a clearance sale on the bike I was interested in owning. My local bike store was willing to match the price and so I purchased the bike locally. I am very glad I used my local bike store.

There have been warranty issues with all of my bikes. As a larger guy I put a lot of stress on my bikes. I flex and break frames. My local bike store helped me to navigate replacing frames, maintenance, and upgrades on my bikes.

ST: What about wetsuit. How difficult was that task?

Chad: About 8 years ago while looking for a neoprene swim cap I discovered Blue70 wetsuits and other swim products. They are available at a price point which is more economical than other brands and the customer service is phenomenal. I am currently racing in a Helix. I find the suit to be fast and flexible.

I swim a lot. I wear Blue70 gear for swimming and I really like their products. The company has really reached out to accommodate me. When I was searching for a wetsuit, they talked me through sizing. They added a swim parka size for me. The company does this for everyone and I am very appreciative.

ST: What size is you Helix wetsuit?

Chad: It is an XL.

ST: And what was your last race?

Chad: I raced “Dwight Crum Pier-to-Pier Swim on Sunday August 7th 2021.

ST: How did that 2-mile swim go for you?

Chad: It was a great swim. Many of the members of my triathlon teams and swim teams participated. It was a great return to large scale racing.

ST: Talk about your weekly training.

Chad: My triathlon coach writes monthly plans for me and my masters coach has workouts prepared 6 days a week. Because my last 3 races were swimming events I largely fell under the supervision of my swim coach. Until the middle of August I swam 4 to 5 days a week, most pool sessions were 2-hours. On weekends I did a long swim without wetsuit in Bayshore, Long Beach. My long swim was up to 3 miles. Currently, I am refocusing on the run. I am now running Sunday, Wednesday, Friday and often doing a bike-run brick on Saturday, and Monday and Wednesday I swim. I cycle Tuesday and Saturday. Wednesdays I do strength workouts as well as stretching. If I miss a workout I run instead. Thursday are rest days. I try to adhere to this schedule, but I occasionally fail in that regard or I do extended bike rides instead. There are also times when I do races instead of the planned workouts.

ST: Can you break down one of those 2-hour pool sessions?

Chad: I leave my swim workouts to my masters coach and I largely do not question them or remember them. I used to question the diversity of strokes. However, I have learned there is a benefit in simply complying. I attempt all strokes and drills. My only questions are attempts to clarify how task should be completed. I suspect I am getting in around two thousand yards most workouts but I do not have many other details.

ST: Which masters team are you a member of?

Chad: I swim with the Corona Crocs a few times a week.

ST: Of swimming, cycling and running, is one of these sports that comes easiest to you?

Chad: Running has been the sport I have done the longest and probably come back to the most. However, I still need to work at it.

ST: Which sport do you think you can still improve the most, and are you willing to go there?

Chad: I need to improve my run. I am back to running more and eating healthier meals. I am employing a coach and working at following the plan. Thus, I am doing the work.

ST: What is next?

Chad: I have my first full Ironman in October Ironman California 140.6

ST: Somewhere in a bio of you I saw that you listed ÖtillÖ as your bucket list race. Have you made any steps towards that goal, or is that no longer on the bucket list?

Chad: SwimRun events are still a thought. However, I have yet to complete a full Ironman. After completing my full in October I will re-evaluate.

ST: Other hobbies?

Chad: I love spending time on the water and reading. However, triathlon training takes so much time and money there is little time to do much more.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Chad: Not that I can think of at this time.