Neo Pro Mark Van Akkeren currently resides in Boulder, CO among many of the triathlon elite. He is an amazingly fast cyclist, an even faster swimmer and quite possibly the fastest talking man in triathlon. Word now has it that the man known as Marky V is bringing his running up to speed. He chatted with Slowtwitch about this and various other topics.
ST: Marky V, this year you did not race Ironman Hawaii as you had not qualified as a Pro. How did you spend the day and did the race go as you had thought?
Marky V: With my mom in town, and Saturday being my lightest training day of the week, we got a nice swim in (mom competes too and has even been tops in her AG) then some shopping and a bit of cooking. Got back in time to watch the swim finish then pretty much stayed off of the coverage till early in the marathon. What surprised me most was how conservative so many of the normally aggressive players were going about it. At the time I did not know of the heat but later learned (from personal athlete and spectator accounts) that it was much hotter than 'normal.' This would make sense as some of the bigger players seemed to struggle with it. Aside from that, Crowie won and Llanos and Beke were in the top 5, so I got 3 of 5 right.
ST: With Andy Potts and Ben Sanson pushing the pace during the swim this year and the conditions appearing to be quite good, were you surprised that the top swim times were not even close to the current record of Lars Jorgensen?
Marky V: On the age group side of the race though you had John Flanagan and Noa Sakamoto (from XTERRA Wetsuits no less) both pushing the pace and only coming up ~15 seconds shy of the record. I can't comment for Andy and Ben and knowing how varied the conditions can be in the bay it's simply too difficult to armchair quarterback this. Also I would be interested to hear as to how the course is set each year. How was it set in the 90's and how is it set now? Is it GPS now and is it possible that the course could have been short, or even long, back when the record was set?
ST: Are saying that Lars Jorgensen might have had a short swim course when he set the record?
MarkyV: I totally believe that it's possible that the swim could have been LONG when he set the record. :) Not implying short. ;)
ST: Along those lines, do you see that Hawaii record falling any time soon and who do you think will be the new record holder?
Marky V: I think it’s very possible for it to be taken down. However it would take a very strong effort by someone (or some ones) who might not be as interested in making it to Ali'i at the end of the day as fast as possible but rather racing for a shorter term goal. It's also impossible to know how the conditions are going to be till you get out there. When I led the race last year I flew out to the turnaround boats, but then felt as if I was stuck on a side shifting water treadmill on the way back. The conditions will make a new record possible.
ST: You lead Ironman Canada for a long time this year before being run down by quite a few folks. What have you learned from that day and would you have rather dinner with Wolfgang Dittrich or Mark Allen?
Marky V: Hmmmm… Wolfgang coaches just around the corner from here. That might make for an easier arrangement. ;)
Canada was a really awesome experience, and I want to go back and finish what I started. The area is very similar to Boulder and the natural beauty of it (as well as 1 loop for each sport) is an enticing draw. Obviously the race left something to be desired. I had not been with Coach Paulo for very long as well as the fact that I had not run much from December through late May so what you saw in Canada was the very best that I could manage from start to finish. I rode very much within myself but simply did not have the miles in my legs. Despite some initial disappointment I was quite happy with the effort as a whole. Since then I've been running even MORE. Two weeks of LOTS of running in Las Cruces gave me a nice little run boost going into Longhorn where I took 7 minutes off my half IM run split best. I am now beginning to "feel" like a runner. I can head out the door even on a day where I am not feeling so great and still turn the legs over and get something of a good run in. Not promising anything but I know IMAZ will be another strong step in the right direction for my IM racing. Something of a mantra of mine since the Canada race… "it's only going to get better."
ST: Please describe your athletic background to our readers.
Marky V: From the age of 6 until 20 I chased a black line and played wall tag. Competitively I qualified for the Olympic Trials in 5 events (200 Butterfly 200/400 Freestyle 200/400 Individual Medley). I never swam in college, but rather developed through the club system that is so very strong here in the states. I dabbled in triathlon immediately after this (competing on my Dad's Schwinn Varsity no less) and while I attended Business School at the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest kicker toward where I am now would have to be my time working and hanging out at Austin Tricyclist and the "Saturday Morning Taco Ride."
ST: You recently moved up from Age Group athlete to Pro and we would like you to describe to our readers some of the pros and cons of that decision.
Marky V: There are two ways to look at this. Some folks get their elite/pro card because they are looking for a bigger racing challenge, a more competitive field. When I turned pro I did so because I want this to be my career. I was finished with Finance and wanted to make a life out of doing something that, when I woke up everyday, I really really really enjoyed doing. I want to be heavily involved within the multisports industry. Training, racing, marketing, promotion, clinics, coaching, etc. I love the people involved with this sport and want to make it my living. So on the one hand turning pro was just another step in that direction. The pros: it's forced me to up my game and approach my training (and job for that matter) in a much more dedicated manner (i.e.: this is not a hobby). The cons: absolutely none.
ST: How much do you still train swimming wise and can you describe a hard swimming session you do?
Marky V: Coach Paulo most of the time prescribes a distance for the day (either 4000 or 5000 and 4 days a week of it) and then I just piece something together that fills it in. During big training blocks this could mean me just floating in the pool for 90 minutes struggling just to get my required yardage in. These are the really bad days. :) Then there are other days where I feel great and get right to it and kill it. Sometimes I'll show up at the pool and feel like absolute crud but within a few hundred meters will begin to feel AWESOME and just really go for it. My highlight of swim training from the recent summer came on one such day. I had already run and put in a 4 hour ride and all that remained was a 4k swim. I was feeling suuuuper sluggish upon arrival at Scott Carpenter (51m LC pool in Boulder… yes it’s weird) a pool know for being slower then a Louisiana Gumbo. I get in and within about 500 I feel like I'm on fire. I then promptly hammer out 30x100’s on 1:20 with #'s five thru thirty being 1:06 to 1:07. Simply UNREAL. That's something close to what I would have done 10 years ago at the peak of my swim prowess. Can't wait to do the equivalent of that on a run sometime!
ST: Does it matter if a triathlete does his swim training with flip turns versus with open turns?
Marky V: It doesn't. Although I do have a good friend here in town who always does touch turns when he's getting ready for big events.
ST: What do you do to overcome a disappointing race?
Marky V: I don't really dwell on it for very long. I put my head down and get back to the work. As I have something of a goldfish memory when it comes to this sort of….. I'm sorry what was the question again? ;)
ST: As a new Pro, how are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Marky V: It's been difficult but also has shown promise. Granted I am learning the business on the fly and coming into this year I did not have any incredible results that I could simply throw out there to use as leverage. Rather I have worked to portray "sponsorship" as a "new business venture." This isn't about charity; this is about two parties doing something for one another.
I am pleased to be working very closely with XTERRA Wetsuits in both product development and testing as well as some marketing functions. MattGiven.com has assisted me in getting to races as well as being a entrepreneur mentor of sorts. Coming from a swim background it's nice to have the guys at TYR supplying me with all my aquatic and tri racing needs. Boulder Running Company has been great this year as I've increased my run volume 10x over anything I've ever done in the past. By having a running store supporting me for my shoe needs I am not locked into one company's shoes, but rather have a whole store and many shoe types to select from. Those are the big ones.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Marky V: I am a casual observer of lots of sports… just enough to make good at water cooler talk. However the Longhorns level of play this year has me pretty stoked. 4 weeks in a row of unbeaten top 5 ranked opponents… 2 gunned down… 2 to go.
ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?
Marky V: Salad. I loooooooooove salad. You know those all you can eat salad bars? When they see me coming they close up shop because they know they'll be losing money when I walk in the door. Fresh summer fruit is always high on my list of favs as well as anything that has to do with breakfast. Dislikes? Nothing really comes to mind.
ST: What do you enjoy in terms of music?
Marky V: DJ Tiesto- good for long days in the saddle just getting a groove with some trance tunes. Aside from picking up trance as of late my musical tastes largely halted in about 1993. GnR, Metallica, Megadeath, Greenday:dookie, Offspring: smash, Nirvana. Occasionally I'll throw in some classical. My new kick for falling asleep is this hour long recording of rain fall. Super high quality (something like half a gig for the file) and just really soothing.
ST: Can you tell us what the last book was you read?
Marky V: Sadly business school (4 years past now) still has me running in fear of books. Being "forced" to read so much mind numbing info for so many years has left somewhat of a disdain for literature. However, every once in awhile I will pick something up and run right through it. The latest case of this was James Michner’s "Hawai'i." Beyond the Ironman World Championship being there I am in love with the islands and their unique culture and so in turn have tried to learn as much as I can about them. Best time of year in Kona… January… it's quiet. :)
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Marky V: Still living in Boulder (or in the foothills nearby) that's for sure, I love it here. Continuing to race from the front and finishing at the front more often. Winning a domestic IM would be awesome as well as placing in the top-10 at Kona. That would be very satisfying. On the biz front I will have continued to expand my coaching business (helping others to succeed and meet there goals gives me a huge rush) and possibly have started up a club here in Boulder for competitive swimming and triathlon.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Marky V: I have pet frog still residing at my parents house… he's almost 20 years old. No… not kidding.
I am originally from Michigan (not Texas) despite having spent most of my life in Texas.
Some dude from Chattanooga that wears a cowboy hat gave me my first bike sponsorship. Oh, and a wetsuit too.
On my ride today I got a dose of the following: snow, sleet, rain, high winds, brilliant sun, and all accompanied by some really incredible fall colors. I love living in Colorado.
Mark Van Akkeren's website is markyv.com