ISU triathlete looking to go pro this season



Paige Anson

Sleep, train, class, train, study/work, train, repeat.

For student triathletes like Reece Linder, this schedule is the norm.

“I train six days a week … anywhere from two to three hours a day. So that ends up being 12-15 hours of training a week during the school year,” Linder said. 

A junior in kinesiology and health, this Iowa State Triathlon Club member from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, began his triathlon training around the three triathlon sports (or disciplines) of swimming, biking and running in early high school, and participated in mountain biking, competitive swimming, cross country and track. 

Described as a casual start, Linder’s training became more serious during the summer between his junior and senior year, he said.

Today, his dedication to training is such a priority that he schedules his 14 to 15 credits, 10 to 12 hours per week working, volunteering at Mary Greeley Medical Center and attending church, around training. 

“I don’t really have any [downtime] during the week. It’s pretty much go-go-go,” Linder said, “[I] train, shower and go to the next activity.”

To those who don’t know him, the hours Linder spends in gyms training may reflect a simple dedication to health and fitness. To Linder, his time also represents a serious, competitive intent, an intent that is recognized by fellow Iowa State triathletes. 

“Athletes that are competing at the national or world level will train up to three times a day, six or seven days a week,” said John Leinberger, Triathlon Club’s Social Chair member and aerospace engineering major. 

The fact that Linder often trains at this level during the school year is no coincidence.

“I just want to keep getting better and better. My main goal this season is to get my Pro Card [at Collegiate Nationals],” Linder said.

Collegiate Nationals is Linder’s most anticipated race, which he travels to with the ISU Triathlon Club as USA Triathlon (USAT) members, where national high school and college teams meet to compete, Linder said.

This year’s 2018 Collegiate Nationals, or Collegiate Club National Championships, will take place during April in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, according to the USAT’s website. 

Although there are many ways Linder can qualify to get his Pro Card, or “Elite Athlete Qualification” with USAT, he is aiming to qualify by placing in the top three of competitors that do not already have their pro card in the Sprint-Distance, Draft-Legal Triathlon race at Collegiate Nationals, Linder said.

The distances in a sprint-distance triathlon are a 750-meter (.47 mile) swim, a 20K (12.43 mile) bike ride and a 5K (3.1 mile) run, according to the Team USA Triathlon website. 

This means Linder could qualify for his Pro Card by placing seventh overall in the race after the swim, bike and run, as long as at least four of those that beat him already had their Pro Cards, Linder said.

To complete the elite membership process, Linder must also comply with the 2018 Elite License Qualification Criteria, fill out the Elite License application and pay the annual license fee of $50.

Eligibility for the license is then retained until Dec. 31 of the same year, and in that time enables Linder to compete in Elite events with opportunities for “prize purses” or cash rewards, according to the Team USA site.

To prepare for Collegiate Nationals and his Elite License goal, Linder’s current training schedule tends to start with biking in the morning, swimming in the afternoon and often running in the evening, Linder said. 

“I swim, bike and run almost every day. I do each of the three disciplines [in one day] about five days a week.” Linder said.

Each session lasts usually an hour to an hour and half, and frequently includes training with fellow triathletes from the ISU Triathlon club, Linder said.

Linder finds that group training can be fun, particularly in the club’s group swims in Beyer Hall’s pool at noon. However, most of the time, he enjoys training by himself.

“I [typically] enjoy training alone because I can be specific with my [training] intensity. I also enjoy the alone time. I don’t mind going on a two or three hour ride by myself,” Linder said.

On average in the triathlon season, during March through late September, Linder said that he competes in anywhere between seven and 14 races. 

While he competes with his Elite License in mind this season, Linder also hopes to see the ISU Triathlon team make the top 10 this year at Collegiate Nationals.

“Our team has really improved the last few years,” Pauline Aamodt, a fellow ISU Triathlon Club member said. “Last year we placed 15th…before, we weren’t really considered competition.”

Regardless if he achieves qualifying for his Pro Card this year, Linder plans to pursue a pre-health professional career and is grateful for the experiences training has given him.

“I’ve gained a lot of friendships through triathlon. It makes up both my social life and gives structure to my day,” Linder said.

That structure, and demand for organization when training, is a factor of triathlon training that other triathletes appreciate.

A senior in bioinformatics and computational biology and one of the four girls in ISU Triathlon Club, Aamodt feels that the triathlon training she puts in 14 hours a week pays off not so much as a potential career, but rather as a great lesson in time management, organization and dedication.

“It takes a lot of time and commitment and passion to choose to work out 14 hours a week. It helps you prioritize very well. If you don’t, your entire day you’re not going to be able to do what you want to do,” Aamodt said.

As for what it’s like being in a predominantly male club, Aamodt said that there can sometimes be clashing opinions between the men and women. However, the girls hold their own well.

“We try to get more girls, but they just don’t stick around. It’s obviously not easy [training]…but we work just as hard as [the men],” Aamodt said.

Aspects of life that are important to consider when training, outside of time commitment, according to Linder, Leinberger and Aamodt, involve fueling this multisport lifestyle with healthy foods.

“Training is important to break down your muscles and break down the fibers. But you have to replenish [them] with nutrients…You have to know what to eat and when to eat. You can’t just eat whatever you want to get your body to perform at its best,” Leinberger said.

Sleep is also an essential variable in enabling triathletes to keep up with their highly active lifestyles.

“Sleep is definitely very important with training, so your body doesn’t get hurt. I’ve been hurt several times due to overuse injuries,” Linder said.

Linder sleeps about seven hours each night, he said.

Another variable of training includes staying motivated, Linder said.

“I do have those times when I kind of question whether the amount of time I put into triathlon is worth it…but I just have to keep a positive mind about it. I can’t really see my life without training for triathlons,” Linder said.

Other triathletes feel similarly in their moments of doubt. For them, the physical reward and the sense of community are what make the training worth the pain and sweat.

“[At a race in Naples, Florida, over winter break] it was an ocean swim in Olympic distances. It was incredibly difficult. I almost quit after that race. It was raining in every single part except the swim,” Aamodt said.

Leinberger also remembers that rainy race as an especially difficult and cold event.

“The water was warmer than the air,” Leinberger said.

This was Aamodt’s first race, and although it was difficult, it did not deter her from sticking with triathlons.

“The people on my team. There was so much support. Yeah, the race was miserable, but you have the feeling of accomplishment that you’ve done something a lot of people can’t do or haven’t done. And being able to share that with your teammates is very cool…and makes it worth it,” Aamodt said.