Doug MacLean - stepping up

Boulder, CO based amateur Doug MacLean was the top age grouper at Ironman Coeur D'Alene and managed to break into the top 10 overall. Moving forward though he'll be starting with a Pro card and facing much tougher competition. He talked to slowtwitch about his goals and aspirations.

Slowtwitch: Congrats on a nice performance at Coeur D'Alene.

Doug: Thanks! Coach Tim Snow (of QT2 Systems) and I came up with a realistic race plan based on what I was doing in my long workouts, and Cait Snow gave me a great fueling plan. All I had to do was go out there and execute. This was my 7th IM, and it was the first time I was ever able to race “tactically” in an Ironman. For the first 6, I didn't care where anyone else was on the course - I just put the blinders on and tried to get to the finish line in one piece. But now that I have more miles in my legs and more experience with the full 140.6 miles, I was able to actually “race” this time. I picked up the pace at key moments, and made moves based on what was going on in the race. It was certainly a huge step in my education as a triathlete.

ST: Going in, what were your expectations?

Doug: I went up to Coeur d'Alene with one goal – earn my elite license. I didn't care about Kona, and I didn't care about my time. All I cared about was getting top-3 overall amateur (which is the requirement to earn an elite license).
I felt confident I could do it, except I was a bit concerned about my run durability. In early April, when I was running, all of a sudden it felt like I was being stabbed in the groin with a screwdriver. In what turned out to be a mistake, I raced New Orleans 70.3 on April 17, and that just made things worse. After getting an MRI, we found out it was a stress reaction in my right femur. I had to drop out of IM St. George and completely stop running. In the end, after taking 5 weeks totally off from running, I started running again in late May. Before CdA, I was only able to build up to a long run of 2 hours (90 minutes on the road, and then 30 minutes of aqua jogging), so I didn't really know how my legs were going to react when I got to the later parts of the marathon. Fortunately, I was able to keep things together and execute a decent run. Coach Tim said something that really helped boost my confidence heading into the race, despite my lack of a proper run build, "When you've put your body through the wringer a few times, you'd be surprised what it's capable of."

ST: 8th among the Pro men as an age grouper isn't bad, were you at all surprised?

Doug: No, not really. Last year, I was 20th overall (including pros) at Coeur d'Alene, and we knew I was faster than last year, so we figured I had a good shot of cracking the top-10 overall.

ST: Plus you were second Pro female.

Doug: Hahaha! Yeah, but there aren't many males on the planet who can beat Julie Dibens, she is a phenomenal athlete. Did you see how fast she got to T2? Well under 6 hours... wow! So I'm ok with being a couple minutes behind her... for now.

I'm just glad that Julie Dibens was the only pro female to beat me, because the 2nd place pro female (Cait Snow) and I had a bet going into this race. If she beat me, I would have had to give her my replica WWF Title Belt. I cherish that thing, and I'm very glad to report the belt is safe and sound, back home with me in Boulder.

ST: Explain the WWF Replica Belt to us, how did you get it and why is it important?

Doug: Hahaha! It's more of a fun joke. It's just made out of plastic, and I originally got it for Halloween in 2007, when I dressed up as Rowdy Roddy Piper (def my favorite wrestler in the 80's). And then, in early June of this year, Cait and I decided that IM CdA would be an official "title match". She wants a rematch at Kona this October, but since I won't be racing there this year, we'll have to wait until 2012 for the rematch. The belt has gained a lot of sentimental value over the years, because I associate it with a lot of fun memories.

ST: Did you get a nice welcome back reception in Boulder?

Doug: I did! As soon as I got back, my sister took me out to lunch at the Hungry Toad (the French Revolution Burger is awesome). I've already run into a bunch of friends at the pool and at Tri Massage, and I've got some plans to hang out with a lot of local friends this weekend. Party time!

ST: So was CDA your last age group race?

Doug: Yes, I just mailed in my forms to get my USAT Elite License. As of now, I'm planning on making my pro debut at Rev3 Cedar Point, on September 11.

ST: People are indeed quite impressed when you finish as an age grouper in 8th or 9th place overall, but the same is not quite true if you had worn a Pro bib.

Doug: That's fine. Here's a bit of the backstory – I was a Division Officer in the US Navy for 4 years, and when I finished my service in 2006, I started working on a PhD in Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan. I also discovered triathlon in 2006, and by 2008, I was far more interested in triathlon than I was in doing my PhD research. At that point, I hadn't really shown any promise as a triathlete (138th overall at IM Lake Placid in 2007 was my best result), but I knew I had potential. So in December 2008, I dropped out of school (taking my "consolation" master's degree), and moved out to Colorado with nothing but a small about of ability and a lot of faith in my potential. So here's the point of the story - I didn't give up everything and move out to Colorado so that I could be a "really fast age grouper." I did it so that I could race as a pro, and try to make a living as a pro athlete. You only have one chance to be fast, and I'm not going to let my chance go to waste.

ST: So what will it take to step up even more?

Doug: Get faster at everything!! Haha, seriously, though, I think the keys for me are to continue building swim volume, continue to add more LT work into my bike training, add a few pounds of muscle, and tweak my bike position to get a bit more aero without sacrificing power. Other than that, my run training is right on track, I feel great about my race nutrition.

ST: Will you quit your day job?

Doug: Heck no! I'm a coach for QT2 Systems. I love the job, and I love my athletes.

ST: Do you think it is possible to be both a coach and a Pro triathlete? Or is that really just a reality of the sport?

Doug: Well now you're getting into what actually defines a "pro triathlete". You could certainly make the argument that the only people who are "pure" pro triathletes are people who make their living strictly through racing, with no side jobs. But there are very few triathletes who can actually do that, so I think having a side job like coaching is fairly typical for pro triathletes.

ST: What bike were you riding in Coeur D’Alene and will that be your bike moving forward?

Doug: I was on a 2007 Cervelo P3 frame, with an SRM wired power meter, and Dura Ace components. Even though I only ride that frame during racing season, it has at least 30,000 miles on it by now (and one T-boning of a car at 28 mph). Last year, I told myself I wasn't going to get another frame until I got one from a sponsor. So hopefully I can make some connections soon, because I don't know how many miles the ol' P3 has left in it. It's a great, durable bike, but I really abuse the hell out of it.

ST: So do you have any specific bike brands in mind in terms of possible sponsors?

Doug: I wouldn't say any specific brands. There are a lot of companies out there making great frames nowadays, and I think it mostly comes down to fit and customer service. For fit, I mostly look at stack, reach, and seat tube angle. Right now, my P3 has 56.4 cm of stack, and 45.4 cm of reach. I'd like to stay in that neighborhood, but with the numbers a bit smaller- around 55.5 cm of stack and 44.5 cm of reach. I have my saddle pushed forward, so my effective seat tube angle is nearly 80 degrees right now, and I'm quite happy with that.

ST: What races are next on your schedule?

Doug: I'll probably do a couple of Olympic distance “tune-ups” in August, and then my next priority race will be the iron distance at Rev3 Cedar Point. I may end my season after that, or I may jump into Rev3 Anderson with my buddy, AJ Baucco.

ST: What kind of diet do you follow?

Doug: The “Core Diet” ( I won't attempt to fully explain it here, but it was developed by Jesse Kropelnicki, and it seems to be working well.

ST: Do you have a sweet tooth?

Doug: No, not really. My guilty pleasures are nachos, Brazilian Steakhouses, and sweet potato fries.

ST: Anything else we should know?

Doug: Well, first, I'd like to give a huge “thank you” to my biggest supporters since I gambled on myself and moved to Colorado 2.5 years ago. I could not have gotten to this point without Ethan Brown, Jesse Kropelnicki, Tim Snow, Sam and Maggie Yount, and my sister, Sue. They've all been huge. Also, I've got to thank Cliff Keen Triathlon, Athlete's Honey Milk, and Schwalbe Tires. Those companies had faith in me, supplied me with top-notch products, and I hope to be able to repay their faith with some strong race performances. And last (but definitely not least), I've gotta say it... I'm single, ladies!

ST: Do potential single lady applicants need to be fast?

Doug: Hahaha! Well, it's not a requirement, but it certainly doesn't hurt...