Ryan Giuliano was the top age grouper in Texas with a a time of 8:17:24 and 19th place overall. Giuliano started in the sport in 2004 at a Half IM race in Illinois and despite a 52:17 minute swim he managed a very respectable 5:13:32. He was inspired and has improved vastly since, and will go to the big dance again in Kona - for the 6th year in a row, and the same is true for his wife Jacqui.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.
Ryan Giuliano: Thank you, it sure is crazy to be interviewed after reading about all of my idols on this website since I started triathlon!
ST: Who are some of the athletes you look up to?
Ryan: One that comes right to mind would be Matt Hanson. I remember just a few years back racing him at Rev3 Wisconsin Dells when he was still an amateur. I actually had passed him on the bike and then he came by me on the run like I was standing still. To see how far he has come and the success that he has is something I greatly admire.
ST: Any other folks?
Ryan: Oh the list could definitely go on and on. The likes of Jesse Thomas, Tim Don, Lionel Sanders, Heather Jackson, Patrick Lange. So many inspiring athletes and its always fun to hear their stories.
ST: In Texas you were the top age grouper and 19th overall with a time of 8:17:24. Are you pleased with you effort on that day?
Ryan: Texas was an incredible day. It was one of those days where just about everything clicked and went how I expected it to. I knew my fitness was at an all time high coming in, so if all the pieces fell into place on race day, it was going to be fast.
ST: Your swim split of 1:01:41 was the slowest among all who finished in the top 20 overall. But somehow I thought you swam 52 minutes in your first IRONMAN race.
Ryan: Haha! I think you are mistaken with my 52 minutes swim in my first Half IRONMAN. I come from absolutely no swim background at all. In college I was unable to swim 25 yards, so when I jumped into my first Half IRONMAN not knowing much other than how to keep myself afloat, 52 minutes seemed fast. My dad came to that race and said he was waiting for the rescue boat to come pull me back in.
ST: What was the name of that Half you did back then, and what was your overall time?
Ryan: It was the Cutting Edge Half (non-Ironman branded) in Effingham, IL back in 2004 which was my first year trying out triathlon. I finished in 5:13 with splits of 52:17 for the swim, 2:49 for the bike, and 1:28 for the run.
ST: That is still a pretty impressive total time. What about that day made you want to do more?
Ryan: I think that I knew that I had a lot of room for improvement. There were guys finishing nearly an hour ahead of me and being a naturally competitive person, I wanted to be able to compete with them some day.
ST: Have you raced against any of the guys who were on the podium back then recently?
Ryan: None that I recall. I did not really know anybody in the sport so I’m not sure who they were. It was rather that I knew there were people going over an hour faster than me.
ST: Back to Texas. I think you posted before that when you swim sub 60-minutes, that it typically sets you up well for the race. Was this close enough?
Ryan: Honestly, I was a bit frustrated with the swim. With it being wetsuit legal, I thought that I would at least be under 60 minutes as I swam 59 in 2017 with no wetsuit. I try not to let the times fluster me too much as you never know if the course was long or short so my swim of 61 minutes may have been good if everyone was slower as well. I didn’t have anyone out in Texas with me, so I wasn’t even sure how far back of my main competitors I was coming out. I just knew I needed to stick to my plan and that there was a lot of racing left in the day.
ST: When you got back out of the water how many folks were around you and did you feel confident?
Ryan: I definitely felt confident coming out of the water. Looking back, I felt as if I didn’t even swim when I got out and that was maybe a sign I swam too easy! There were plenty of people around me when I got out, but none of them that I knew. From the start of the bike, I rode steady and strong and was passing others for most of the race.
ST: What did you see and experience in terms of drafting in that race and how was it similar or different from other events you have done?
Ryan: This race was quite different in terms of the drafting than say a race like Kona. From the times that I’ve raced Kona, the most congestion is all in the first half up to Hawi. So many people come out of the water in such as tight time frame coupled with everyone being pretty strong riders is what makes it difficult to avoid. Once the heat, wind, and miles add up, people tend to get broken up quite a bit more on the back half. In Texas it was almost opposite for me. I rode solo for the first 70 miles and encountered no drafting. I noticed very large packs in front of and behind me when I made the turnaround at 60 miles. I was more concerned that I would get gobbled up by the pack behind me, but I must have been rolling pretty quickly as they never caught me and instead I rode up to a big pack that was about 3 minutes ahead of me at the turnaround. Once I caught them, I never was able to shake away off the front. It was frustrating, but I had to remind myself that I needed to stick to my plan as best that I could. I put in a few efforts to try and ride away, but with my legs getting tired that late in the ride, I wasn’t able to hold big watts for a long period of time.
ST: What are big watts for you and what wattage were you averaging that day? And please forward your file too.
Ryan: Sustained big watts for me would be anything over 350. I’m a pretty small guy at 135 pounds, so putting up really big numbers is tough. Average for the day in Texas was 218. [Strava file here slightly under reported compared to the Garmin file where the distance was listed as 110 miles, NP at 218, a TSS of 229 and a IF of 0.73]
ST: And how tall are you?
ST: When you notice or sense that someone is sitting on your wheel, do you react and or say something, or do you simply focus on the task ahead?
Ryan: This would depend on the situation. If it is a big pack like it was in Texas, I put my head down and focus on staying ahead. If it is a single rider or two, I’ll definitely start to yell out my thoughts to them. I’ve had this happen in Ironman Cozumel when there was some blatant drafting by single riders. I just don’t understand it.
ST: Have you gotten a drafting penalty before?
Ryan: 1 time in Kona my first year out there. I had an athlete re-pass me, drop right in front of me and slow down. The official said that I didn’t drop back immediately. Ever since then I’ve been paranoid about getting a penalty as I know it can ruin the race, so I do the best that I can to ride clean and at legal distance.
ST: There weren’t too many age group folks who managed to ride sub 4:22 on this slightly short course. Where does that time rank for you?
Ryan: Time isn’t that important to me. I don’t care if I rode a 5 hour or 4 hour split. I look more so at my watts from race to race to see if I’m progressing and where I can improve. I was also out there knowing that the race was going to be very competitive. So placing was more important than time.
ST: Last year you still rode a Javelin and were likely the only one in Kona with one. When did you switch to the Cervelo P4?
Ryan: Yes, I had a 2-year deal with Javelin. I loved the bikes and have nothing bad to say about them. Unfortunately, the contract ended and we were unable to come to an agreement that worked for both sides so I did not re-sign with them. I found a used P4 in my size back in January and built it up.
ST: You previously rode a P5, what made you switch now to the P4?
Ryan: The P5 is a great bike, and a big thanks to Sammy’s Bikes in St. Charles, IL for all of the support year after year for letting me pick just about any bike to use. But after looking at photos and position, I knew the P5 was not going to work too well for me without major adjustments to the front end. I had the option of also going back to the Scott Plasma that I rode, but the same issue with sizing. I chose the P4 because of the geometry. It is long and low, so I am able to be a bit more aggressive on it.
ST: What handlebars were you using on the P5 and how much of a drop did you have then?
Ryan: I was using the stock 3T Aduro bars. I’m not exactly sure on how much drop there was, but it wasn’t enough!
ST: Would you mind describing your current race bike with all the parts as you rode it in Texas?
Ryan: Cervelo P4- size 51, SRAM Red eTap group, 55/42 chainrings with 165 mm crank arms and a TriRig stem with Enve SES aerobars. Plus a custom 3d printed adapter made by Alex Arman [slowtwitch user doublea334] to run a TriRig Omega rear brake instead of the integrated brake. I also have a TriRig Omega front brake.
Wheels are Alto cc86 front and Renn 555 rear disc with Conti Grand Prix TT tires and latex tubes. I used an Ice Friction Chain with SLF Motion Hyper speed system pulleys.
ST: Are you planning on doing further modifications?
Ryan: Funny you ask, I am still figuring a few things out. I might be on a new bike soon as I’m working out the details. Still weighing the options. If I decide to stick with the P4 the only thing I will change is my front hydration bottle.
ST: What front hydration did you use in Texas?
Ryan: It was an XLab aero bottle. It stuck way out front- ideally it would be closer to the headtube.
ST: Have you spent any time in a wind tunnel?
Ryan: Never, but I would love to try it out some time. Usually I just send photos of my position to my friend Alex, who made the P4 brake adapter, and ask where I can make changes.
ST: I think you are really excited to return to Kona with your wife. Are you mostly thrilled to return because it is your wedding anniversary, because it is Kona, or because you look for redemption for last year?
Ryan: A combination of the two. When my wife and I got married on October 13, 2012, I knew it was the same weekend at the Ironman World Championships. We both had never been to Kona, so I slightly joked that it would be fun to race there to celebrate our anniversary. We both ended up qualifying that following year and have not looked back. This year it will be our 6th consecutive year racing Kona together and the race day falls on our actual anniversary day. Our dream goal would be to be on the top of the podium together. Last year was a disaster with both of us not being anywhere near 100% on race day, so it will be nice to go back and give it another go.
ST: I think you were really sick going into the race, plus I think you had really loaded up your schedule.
Ryan: Last year I actually did a little less racing than before. Two years ago I raced 4 full IRONMAN events (Texas, Lake Placid, Kona, Cozumel). Last year I only did Texas before Kona. But yes, I was pretty sick leading into Kona. I caught an infection one week out which was the day we were flying. I never really recovered and was the first time I considered dropping out of a race as I was concerned for my health.
ST: I actually meant that you apparently had a pretty busy week leading up to the race despite being sick.
Ryan: Oh yes, race week was very busy. My wife and I landed late at night, slept for a few hours, and then hopped right back on another flight over to Honolulu. We wanted to visit Pearl Harbor and do some sight seeing as we never had a chance to before. It was non-stop running around all while feeling miserable. The idea sounded great when we booked it. But not so much when the time rolled around to do it.
ST: So what made you decide to hang tough after all and what was your final time?
Ryan: I decided to hang tough because the race means quite a bit to me. I know that there would be so many that would give anything to be out there. I told myself to just slow down and conserve as best that I could and maybe things would be ok. I ended up finishing in 9:23. Looking back I have no clue how I did it.
ST: What did you learn in Kona?
Ryan: With being sick last year, I honestly didn’t learn much at all. My main concern was getting to the finish line and not ending up in the hospital. If I had one take away, it would possibly be from post race, which would be to let your body recover and heal. I wanted redemption because I was so frustrated and raced Ironman Arizona, which ended up being a disaster as well since I wasn’t completely healthy yet.
ST: What is on tap for you between now and Kona?
Ryan: I plan on doing a few 70.3s (Wisconsin and Steelhead). I’m also signed up for Ironman Mont Tremblant and Ironman Wisconsin. Mont Tremblant was more of a back up race in case something happened at Texas, so I won’t be racing there. I’m on the fence with Ironman Wisconsin. It is fairly close to Kona, but I will make my final decision if I’ll race it as the season progresses.
ST: I believe you have a major sweet tooth. What exactly is your poison?
Ryan: Anyone that knows me, knows that and sour candy or fruit snacks are my go-to. I’ve been known to make sure I go candy shopping the week of the race so that I’m fully stocked for post race celebrations. After Kona in 2016 when my wife and I got on the podium, we went out and filled our Umeke bowls with a gallon of ice cream. Mine was topped with candy!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Ryan: I just wanted to thank my wife, Jacqui, for really pushing me in the sport. I started much earlier than her, but once she started, I saw what true dedication and drive was. I’ve learned a lot from her and only wish that I could have the same mentality as her.