One of the many great things about the sport of triathlon is that there is not just one single way to enjoy competing. It is not a sport where you need to love swimming, biking and running simultaneously to fully appreciate and get involved. While some triathletes are purists and have known the sport in its entirety from the start, others find their way there through one of the disciplines and have used that first passion to transition into a new one.
The same can be said about the distance that a triathlete competes in. Triathlon distances and courses are not a one-size fits all equation and whether racing a super-sprint or working up to racing a 140.6-mile full triathlon, the feeling of crossing the finishing line is still the same bliss.
Grand Rapids local and TITAN Kevin Neumann has his own equation on how he competes in triathlon. He found the sport through his love of long-distance running and while he is a self-proclaimed “average guy,” he has worked his way up to racing at the 140.6-mile full-distance course.
I am a TITAN, Meet Kevin Neumann
City: Born and raised in Grand Rapids
Distance: 140.6-Mile Full
How did you first get involved in triathlon?
I have been a runner for most of my life with a few casual races growing up leading into running Cross Country in high school. After high school, I continued running occasionally before completing my first marathon in 2005. After a couple more marathons, the prospect of doing a triathlon popped up on my radar. I was originally intending on doing the Chicago Triathlon with a friend but it sold out before I registered (who knew these things were that popular). So, instead, I ended up signing up for Tri del Sol. I was hooked and signed up for the Millennium Triathlon and Reeds Lake Tri after that.
What is your favorite discipline? And strongest?
Running has always been (and always will be) my favorite discipline. Over the years, I have really evened out at the three disciplines. At the 2019 Grand Rapids Tri, I was 7th in my age group in the swim, 7th in the bike, and 7th in the run. How’s that for consistency? haha!
What was the first triathlon you ever raced in?
Tri del Sol in 2008.
What made you first decide to race the full 140.6-mile distance?
I completed my first 70.3 in 2009 (Steelhead) on a whim. It kicked my butt but I was immediately hooked. I was 26 at the time and decided to set a goal to complete an Ironman before I turned 30. At the time, I created a blog (www.ironmanbythirty.com) to track my training and hold myself accountable. I ended up completing Ironman Wisconsin in 2011 and completing my goal!
What was your training schedule like for that race?
For my first Ironman, I strictly followed a plan from Matt Fitzgerald’s book Essential Week By Week Training Plans. It was a 24-week plan and worked great to prep me for race day.
How was your race experience? Did you accomplish your goal? Did you enjoy the distance?
I had an absolute blast! But it was by no means easy. The Ironman Wisconsin course (bike course in particular) is no cakewalk. I have done that race three times now and each time the bike course has chewed me up and spit me out leaving me trashed for the run. Even still, there is something about the full-distance that you have to experience to fully understand. I knew going into the race that my first wouldn’t be my last (heck, I was already signed up for my 2nd before starting my first).
What did you like specifically about the MiTi race experience?
I did Ironman Wisconsin in 2011 and then Ironman Mont Tremblant in 2012 (the first year of MiTi). Because I was already signed up for a full distance in 2012, I decided to help champion that transition area at the inaugural MiTi. What a fun experience that was! But I quickly discovered that racing is actually easier than volunteering – it takes a LOT of work to put on such a great event. Having that experience as a volunteer really made me appreciate what a great race MiTi really is. I decided to come back and race the full distance at MiTi in 2013. I really loved and appreciated the atmosphere of the race. While smaller than the other full distance races I did, you would have never known it based on the quality and execution. The race staff and volunteers went out of their way to make it a memorable experience.
Would you ever complete that distance again?
What advice would you give to someone looking to do the full distance for the first time?
My advice is always to build up to it and enjoy the learning process throughout the different distances (sprint -> Olympic -> 70.3 -> full-distance). While you can obviously jump right into the full distance, you are going to have a much more enjoyable experience if you can work out the kinks and figure things out in the shorter distance first.
What makes you a TITAN?
I think what makes me a TITAN is that I am just an average guy who loves to race and push myself to the limit. I never excelled at sports growing up but I eventually found something I simply enjoyed doing. Friendly rivalries aside, at the end of the day, when I toe the line, the only person I am racing is myself – to be stronger than last time, to push myself to limit and see how my body responds, and to be a role model for my two kids.