I find it so inspiring when I read about individuals who are able to balance family and fitness. I discovered one such person when I stumbled upon the blog Journeys of a Triathlete Father of Five. Mark Olivieri is the host of the blog. In the "About Me" section, Mark says, "I am an eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic—and I am proof that no matter how busy our lives are—it is possible to find balance with a little sacrifice." As a father of 3 and a runner, that was enough to pull me in and I've been following the blog ever since. Read on to learn more about Mark's story.
RD: Where are you from? Mark: Rochester, New York
RD: Share a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? Hobbies? Mark: I am a composer and a university professor. One of the really great parts about my work is that I get to travel places and work with incredibly skilled musicians and ensembles who perform my music. It is also a great opportunity to work in location runs. My hobbies include running triathlons, cooking, and eating—my wife and I are self proclaimed foodies.
RD: How long have you been running?
Mark: I first started running in 1997 while a graduate student at Ithaca College. I was into strength training then, and would run to get in some cardiovascular training, or so I thought. I did not really know what I was running for, how to train, how far I should go, or how fast. I only ran indoors on the treadmill after weight training. I would run two miles at 6.5 m.p.h. I remember thinking that was fast at the time.
This will be my fourth season of triathlons. I wish I had found the sport earlier in life, and that I had done more running, swimming and biking at an earlier age. However, I think that is part of the reason why I love it so much. It is great—and humbling—being a beginner at something again.
RD: What got you into running?
Mark: I think I got into running because my training partner at the time was trying to get leaner (we are so narcissistic when we’re young, aren’t we?) Not to mention, the treadmills in the gym that we went to faced the cardio area where there were a lot of college coeds climbing up and down on steppers and kickboxing in scantily clad sports apparel. Shallow to be sure, but it provided a great landscape of the potential dating pool.
As far as triathlons go, as a child, I have always been captivated by watching Ironman on t.v. When I was a kid, I would listen to my father marvel at these athletes who would get off their bikes after riding 112 miles and then run a marathon. Two summer’s ago, my wife’s cousin Matthew stayed with us to lose weight. I trained him and he lost 72 pounds over the course of three months. We decided that we would train and run our first one together, which we did.
RD: What do you enjoy most about running? Mark: My favorite thing about running and participating in a triathlon is how it makes me feel. Training can sometimes be tedious, but that is when you have to switch gears to make it work for you. There is nothing quite like the feeling of crossing a finish line—no matter how far the distance. I also love the camaraderie that you share with fellow athletes training—your successes and failures. They help you grow as an athlete, and develop ways to be more efficient.
RD: What are your favorite training foods? Mark: My favorite training food is pasta—no doubt. I can eat it about a hundred different ways. I actually wrote a post on my blog titled “ Confessions of a Complex Carboholic ” where I proclaim my love for this culinary masterpiece.
RD: Are you a lone runner or do you run with some buddies? What do you like about each? Mark: It depends on my mood, but I am almost invariably someone who enjoys running with others. For me, it is a motivation and safety issue. I am less likely to dog it out there if I am being pushed by someone else. I do like to go out there on a long run by myself to collect my thoughts, and my mettle.
RD: You just taught me a new word—mettle (inner strength, spirit, the courage to carry on ) Cool! I definitely agree. I love my buddy runs, but also need the solo runs just to think about complex issues or just absolutely nothing.
RD: What’s the funniest or oddest thing that’s happened to you while on a run? Mark: I am not quite sure how funny it was for me, but my training partners thought it was: let’s just say that training for my first HIM, I made a b-line to the bathroom with 3 miles left to go while running the half course. I have yet to run faster negative splits, but when you are having lower g.i. issues, you can really motor to the nearest bathroom.
RD: What’s your biggest running accomplishment? Why? Mark: My biggest triathlon accomplishment thus far was a top ten age group finish at the Finger Lakes Olympic Triathlon just a week after running the Rochester City Marathon. My legs were still fatigued, and I had to push it hard and forget about the pain for a couple of hours.
RD: you have a favorite brand of running shoe? Which model? Why? Mark: My favorite brand of running shoes has been New Balance. I am a creature of habit. When I find something that works for me, I stick to it. I wore New Balance 882’s for about five years. They do not exist anymore. I just recently switched to Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel. The verdict is still out.
RD: I'm like you. It takes me a while to find a shoe that works and when I do, I like to stick with it, but Murphy's Law always kicks in and usually the shoe I find is overhauled the next year or discontinue, so the search is back on. I just recently reviewed the Pearl Izumi Syncro Fuel XC Trail shoe for Pearl Izumi. I really liked how is performed and gave it 5 Dudes. They just sent me the road version and I'm looking forward to testing them too. Let me know how you like yours after you've run in them for a while.
RD: What’s your favorite race distance(s)? Do you have a favorite race you run each year? Mark: I think my favorite race distances are both the half marathon and half-ironman. You can push it, but you will not be wobbling like you are nine months pregnant for a week after the race. My favorite race so far has been the Musselman Half Ironman in Geneva, N.Y. The race director, Jeff Henderson, does an outstanding job making everyone from the first place finisher to the person who comes is last feel like winners.
RD: If you were speaking to a group of non-runners or runner wannabes and trying to encourage them to run, what would you say? Mark: I speak to non-runners, and wannabe triathletes all the time. When people find out that I race triathlons, they always ask me for advice getting started. The first thing that I tell them is that running and triathlon communities are wonderfully supportive. People want to give you advice, and be encouraging. Find a running group, a triathlon club, or other support network. Take a spinning class, start doing master’s swim, and take lessons if you feel you need improve in a given discipline. Make it a lifestyle. The other thing I tell wannabe triathletes and beginning runners is that you do not need to go out and purchase a $5000 carbon fiber rig for your first race. Your mountain bike will be fine, or rent or borrow a road bike. See if you like it. Don’t skimp on running shoes though! Find a qualified professional to help you find a decent pair of shoes for you. This will make a big difference.
RD: Open Mike: Share anything you‘d like about your running experiences, past accomplishments, goals, dreams….anything you haven’t previously shared. Mark: Everyone has off days and weeks. That is okay. Try to analyze what it is that is impeding your training. Do you need more sleep? Do you need to change your diet? Running should be fun. You can make it as difficult as you want depending on the goals you are trying to attain, but for me, it is always about having fun.
As for my own goals: I want to become a much better swimmer this year. I know that I need to take lessons and work with a professional in order for this to happen. My goal with any race is to perform better than I did the last time out.