Houston, Texas resident Sean Schnur closed out his 2011 season at Ironman Arizona with another Kona ticket. Considering his recent bad taste non racing experience there we would have understood if he had passed on that slot.
Slowtwitch: Sean, it is good to have a chat with you.
Sean: I appreciate the invitation to speak with you.
ST: Our photographer Kerry Yndestad took a great pic of you in Arizona and you seemed overjoyed at the finish. We assume the race went well?
Sean: It was a great day. I had a group of family and friends there to support me and I achieved my goal to wrap up my 2011 race season.
ST: What was your goal?
Sean: My goal going into the race was simple; to qualify for Kona in 2012.
ST: Qualify you did, but despite your fast time you ended up second. Did you know that you had someone in your age group still ahead of you?
Sean: I knew leaving T2 that I was the 7th amateur, but I was not sure of the actual age groups. Keeping my goal in mind, I took a conservative approach to the marathon knowing a 3 hour split would most likely claim my Kona slot and gain a few positions overall. Due to the multi loop course I didn’t know my actual position until I made the turn towards the finish.
ST: You consider a 3-hour marathon a conservative approach?
Sean: Yes, I truly feel I’m capable of a 2:50 split based on my LT testing incorporated in my training at 4th Dimension Fitness.
ST: So is it fair to say that running is your strength?
Sean: Running is definitely my strength, but I’ve made substantial gains on the bike through the help of John Cobb and Mark Miller. It’s now time to focus on improving my swimming as I head into the off-season.
ST: How much time do you think you can knock off an Ironman swim time?
Sean: Realistically, I would be happy if I could swim anywhere from an hour to an hour five at the same effort, but of course it would be nice to go faster. I know that it is not worth gaining time in the swim if it is going to cost me later in the race, but since I started swimming in 2007 I know there is a lot of room for improvement.
ST: What is your fastest run time in a marathon?
Sean: Outside of ironman events, I’ve only run two marathons. As I was getting into endurance sports, I set my marathon PR at 2:44 in Boston (2008). In an Ironman event, my fastest marathon split is 2:55 at IM CDA (2010).
ST: Can you explain your athletic background?
Sean: I grew up playing soccer, and then I played rugby for the University of Pittsburg. I have always enjoyed running, but I didn’t run competitively until 2007 when I decided to run the San Diego marathon. Through the encouragement of my friends, I then decided to attempt a Half Ironman in 2008, which is when I began training with 4th Dimension Fitness. I have now completed 7 half ironman and 5 ironman races.
ST: So which Half did you do in 2008 and what was your time then?
Sean: My first half ironman was Lone Star Half Ironman Triathlon in 2008. I finished in 4:30:48 which claimed 13th overall and 2nd in the M25-29 age group.
ST: 3rd place in Arizona was only 16 seconds behind you and that means you must have caught that guy quite late.
Sean: I actually caught Owen Lisa under the Mill Street Bridge. As I was closing the gap to him, I started my kick to the line hoping he could not match the pace.
ST: Are you and Owen usually having those close races?
Sean: This was the first time that I have race against him, but we did spend some time at the awards ceremony discussing this race and other events along with the rest of the M30-34 podium.
ST: Tough age group in Kona for you with the top guy being the fastest amateur overall. Were some of the guys ahead of you familiar to you?
Sean: Yes, it is definitely a tough age group, but after racing several 70.3 and Ironman events you get to know your competition. Overall, triathlon has enabled me to meet a great group of friends.
ST: Most of the folks in front of you in Kona though seemed to be from other places in the world.
Sean: I knew several athletes racing in Kona this year and last year across multiple divisions although the majority, but not all were from the United States. In terms of my age group, I have raced against Andy Gardner and Chuck Sloan in the past. They are both extremely talented athletes.
ST: But it appears that your biggest memory of Kona has nothing to do with the race itself.
Sean: Reflecting on this years’ experience at the Ironman World Championship in Kona, I can truly say I’m blessed. Overall Kona was an amazing experience. I don’t think I can do justice to fully describe the atmosphere of Kona; the energy and excitement is just incredible. I walked across the finish line, stopping the clock at 9:11:47 and 74th position overall. I achieved my goal of beating my time from 2010, 9:19:34, and setting a new Ironman personal best, beating my Coeur d’Alene time of 9:16:35. But after staying at the finish area to watch my friends finish, we headed back to our bed and breakfast to discover we had been robbed during the race. Everything of mine that was not with me at the race was gone. All I wanted to do was take a shower, but I didn’t have any clean clothes. This was a terrible way to end a truly special day. As it turns out, there was a string of burglaries that occurred during the race and awards ceremony including Matt Reed. On Sunday, my body was broken-down and spirits tarnished from the burglary, but my friends helped me through these times and allowed me to stay positive with regards to the trip. I had the opportunity to spend some time in the NormaTec MVP boots, which impressively helped with my recovery, thanks to Gilad Jacobs, who went out of his way to help me when we met 2 days prior. Overall, it is difficult to truly express the emotions of this year’s race; but I still have to stay positive because I can truly say I’m blessed.
ST: Has anything along those lines ever been cleared up?
Sean: I would have to say it has not been a good experience dealing with the burglary. Truthfully, it seemed as we were an inconvenience to the Kona police and they just wanted us to return to the mainland. After talking with Matt and Kelly Reed, I know this is not a one-off experience. Unfortunately, the police did not recover any of our belongings, so I have slowly began to replace my belongings.
ST: Bummer indeed. How much time a week do you dedicate to training?
Sean: On average, I spend 13-14 hours a week with my peak volume being in the neighborhood of 17 hours. It is not easy to juggle my training schedule with family, friends, and work.
ST: What is next for you in terms of racing?
Sean: I’ll start the 2012 season with the Rouge Roubaix; a 105-mile Roubaix style race in St. Francisville, LA, before focusing on my triathlon season. Although, I have not fully planned my 2012 race schedule, I’ll focus the first part of the year on the Half Ironman distance, including the Ironman 70.3 Texas before shifting my focus on Kona.
ST: Do you expect to do well at Rouge Roubaix?
Sean: My plan for the Rouge Roubaix is to serve as a domestique for some of my training partners even though I’ve had consistently high finishes in the past few years. This gives me an opportunity to ‘give back’ to the guys that have helped me succeed. I enjoy road racing because it allows our team to work together and it offers me a chance to further develop cycling fitness during the off-season.
ST: What is your day job?
Sean: I am a chemical engineer working in the petrochemical industry.
ST: How do your co-workers feel about your triathlon adventures?
Sean: Most of my colleagues question how do I do it or wonder where do I find the time, but they are all supportive of my racing. I get a lot of questions on fitness or running, which I like because hopefully I can provide them with some useful knowledge or motivation to help them live a more active lifestyle.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Sean: I am extremely lucky to have terrific support from my family, friends, and sponsors. I honestly owe a great deal to my entire support team; without them I probably would not be able to compete at this level. To my family, Will Jones at 4th Dimension Fitness, Mark Miller at Precision Bikes and the numerous others who’ve been there for me; thank you for believing in me.
ST: Has Mark Miller ever tortured you on a bike ride?
Sean: For as old as he is, Mark is definitely a strong cyclist, but I think the TT discipline is his stronger event versus the road. He is definitely an accomplished triathlete and a friend.