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Posted On February 1, 2014 By In Interviews And 904 Views

The DFW Tri Club

“We’ve accomplished more together and impacted more lives than we ever could have done on our own. That’s what it’s all about.”  – Bertrand

The story of DFW Tri Club is really three fold. There’s DAVID BERTRAND, FREDDY VACA, TREY YOST, and MIKE SEXTON. It’s really a triathlon group of the people, made simple. It’s four guys coming together with their specialties, allowing all to succeed, doing what’s best for the athletes. Simple.

DFW TRI Club, according to David Bertrand, was created to help make it easier to become a triathlete. “Mike, Trey and I all had our own tribes. It just made sense to pool together and work smarter, not harder. Plus, we all get along great so it’s enjoyable and that positive energy permeates out into the club. We’ve accomplished more together and impacted more lives than we ever could have done on our own. That’s what it’s all about.”

Mike Sexton backed up David with his own concept of the club. First, the club was created to make being a triathlete or becoming a triathlete easier. “We just wanted to provide a sense of community amongst all the clubs, retailers, races, etc. so that they could all go to one place and get what they needed at a reasonable price but with a high quality. Second, we aim to create a larger voice in the national triathlon world. We have some of the best athletes, coaching, training and race venues in the country. Andwe have one of the largest populations of triathletes in the country in one spot, right here. Why can’t we get together and make something big happen for the sport that we enjoy in our own town? No need to go to Boulder or San Diego. Last, I was worried, because I am a dreamer and an optimist, which makes for the absolute worst combination in business. I feared that these guys wouldn’t see my dream or be as optimistic, but I knew I couldn’t do it myself. The best part is we have one of the best checks and balances I have seen in business. We have the dreamer, the business mind, the logistics guy, and then the pragmatist. All of these have kept and saved us from making huge mistakes early on that we may not have been able to bounce back from. Pretty amazing really. Lots of serendipity, that’s how I know we are doing the right things.”

Co-owner FREDDY VACA says, “DFW Tri Club is unique, not because it is the greatest club in the world and 10 galaxies (I made that up), but because we have such a diverse leadership team and an incredible level of respect for one another. There is no one ruler and commander like you typically see in small businesses. We all come from different walks of life. We have entre-preneurs, executives and educators (an actual professor). We all play our respective roles and are laser focused on the mission. But the biggest difference is that we all trust each other. ,That, in a small growing business, is key. My role specifically given my back ground, is mostly behind the scenes. I provide the business strategy around the operations of the business.”

Currently, there’s “OWS,” Open Water Swims being held at Sand Bass Point, Lake Grapevine, every Saturday morning, 7:00 am. They work on specifics such as drafting in the water during the swim portion of a triathlon.

“Our coached and kayak supported open water swims are now every Saturday at 7:00am. One hour of strategy and race technique specifically designed for open water swimming in triathlon. We mimic swim starts, drafting techniques, sighting and teach you how to RACE in the open water to shave minutes off your swim in a short amount of time.” Drop ins are welcome so long as you email (info@dfwtriclub.com) before attending. Oh, and there’s also a group bike ride with two different distances and two different speeds after the OWS.

David Bertrand

His smile gives him away. David Bertrand’s life, personality, and goals are in his smile which is as brilliant as his ideas, infectious as his enthusiasm, and sincere as his passion. He only does things he likes or cares about. If he shows up to talk with you, you know he’s one-hundred percent on board. He likes you, your idea, or both.

He decided to meet Thursday, April 3, at the Starbucks next to Luke’s Locker for a “cap” as he calls a cappuccino. Everyone needs one, he says.

The guy has some accomplishments one doesn’t usually find among triathletes. First, is his graduate degree, then there’s Sports Performance Leadership position (in the Applied Physiology and Wellness Department) at Southern Methodist University that is set to launch in Fall of 2014. It is a premier coaching undergraduate program. And that’s to say nothing of his two little girls.

He’s been with SMU for five years, but is also the Co-Owner and Head Coach of the DFW Tri Club,

The former Eagle Scout who grew up in Lake Highlands, is talking about an epiphany he had in the woods of Colorado before giving a day long presentation to the big wigs and head honchos at a USAT conference in Albuquerque.

David loves the outdoors and mountains, especially camping and hiking. It’s his other hobby. Yes, he likes a good TV program (some of his favorites are Friday Night Lights, Suits, House of Cards, and a throwback, Alias).

The presentation also included movers and shakers of the multi-sport government, industry heads, sponsors, and athletes. Simple, right?  No pressure.

While his talk was ground breaking it was also exhausting for Bertrand. I caught up with him in the Albuquerque airport shortly after his talk February 9, and he was still gracious and patient, though weary. His wife NIKKI, petite at about half the size of David, was traveling with her very proud husband. They met six years ago on a blind date at the Blue Fish restaurant in Las Colinas. Nikki shares a positive attitude, a love of triathlons, and two girls: Annie (2 1/2) and Tessa (13months) with David. Both are very fit!

Meanwhile, back at Starbucks, he sprawls out at one of the outside tables, not wanting to miss spring’s first rays of better weather to come. He talks, smiles, and listens. Talk, smile, listen. Wash, rinse, and repeat. He’s happy to hear another person’s idea, but is also happy to hear himself articulate a thought that’s been gestating all day, possibly all year. David thinks there’s plenty of competition in the area and that the level is pretty high. However, he’d like to see better support of the area’s aerobic events such as running, cycling, and swimming. “We’ve got some work to do.”

TREY YOST is one of the four co-owners of DFW Tri Club. He feels slightly different about the area. Trey believes DFW is changing, a “turnover of races”, he calls it. The race calendar will be whittled down, leaving higher quality races. “This is also occurring within the group training section of the industry in DFW.  Clubs and organizations are offering more workouts in more locations and providing more and more value every day. Running and cycling have received by far the most local and national support. Triathlon is still in its infancy, but is growing rapidly and will continue to demand more support, especially given the demographics and spending power of its membership base. We now have multiple professional triathletes living and training here, and many more amateurs very close to going pro.”

Partner MIKE SEXTON feels, “It’s getting better. There has been a very non-inclusive attitude here for years due to certain mentalities. You have to spend a ton or you have to NOT spend any money. It is a weird paradigm, that makes no sense to me. I feel like we can open it up for everyone and start getting to know each other better in the area, to make a stronger community which will bring us better races, better support from the industry and more opportunities.

What do you think of the area’s support of triathlons and triathletes, runs and runners, cycling and cyclists, swims and swimmers? We have some of the best [run, bike, swim athletes] in the world living right here. The area could support it better if they understood how powerful this group would be if they could be united. Buying power, marketability, etc. Run on emotion and believe in humans. I believe we can all be good and better to each other; that we were meant to support each other and not destroy one another.” The local competition, he says, “Best in the world.”

FREDDY VACA is the fourth co-owner. “As with any young or new industry you always have the earlier adopters. Triathlon is the fastest growing adult sport in America. Its impact is not only on the fitness community but also the supporting industries. Swim, bike, and run provides opportunities for new companies to be created and existing ones to grow. This also creates competition and crowding.  For example, where there is a McDonalds, there is a Taco Bell and a Burger King very close by, typically across the street. While each company has its own brand, style, and audience, what this really means is that the consumer has multiple options based on his own perceived values and needs. This is kind of where the local triathlon industry is in Dallas, however, there is a shake-out coming soon. The speed of growth has leveled off significantly and value to the consumer is at an all-time high. They want more for their money. Companies that are unwilling to shift their business models to accommodate for a more consumer driven market will quickly be left behind and suffer a slow death.  The race to the online market place is real. It is happening at an amazing rate. Dallas has some tremendous athletes. There is no shortage when it comes to competition, that is for sure.”

As an 8 yr. old David Bertrand wanted to be a painter. But after graduating from Lake Highlands High School, he went to work for Major League Baseball overseas. “I was part of a crew that did setup and takedown of a ‘Baseball Festival’ in various cities across the UK and Germany.” But after graduating from Baylor University for undergrad and graduate degrees (2001, 2003 respectively), his weight shot up to over 200 pounds. “This is one of the motivating factors that jolted me into a hyper-active lifestyle!”

He’s probably one of the few triathletes that has a children’s book written about him. His mom wrote, “David Gets a Brother.” “Every now and then I’ll get someone to tell me that they saw it in a library, someone across the US!” He laughs heartily.

After the baseball gig, he was with the corporate office of Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, GA (he’d like to thank all the runners there for influencing him), and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas. “In these two environments, I was introduced to the life style of endurance and health and this had the greatest impact on influencing me to pick up swimming, biking, and running.”

Born at Dallas’ Presbyterian Hospital March 12, 1979, he has 12 siblings: nine biological, two step, and one half. His dad was an OB/GYN and his mom a teacher. Everyone grew up in Lake Highlands. David was shy, honest, caring, and helpful, participating Eagle Scouts, basketball, baseball, and church activities. “There was a short stint of rollerblade hockey there for a while.” He rolls with his laughter remembering the attempts. “Going to a Dallas Mavs game was a huge deal.” But he was scared to death of defying his dad. “I pretty much wasn’t going to stray from what he expected of me!”

He loved the outdoors and camping he says. “In the summers I would catch insects for my sisters’ biology projects. I kind of became the neighborhood guy for it. Was a good summer job!” More laughter.

His heroes were larger than life as a kid (Michael Jordan, Ty Detmer, and the Dingo “Ultimate” Warrior), except for one, his dad, who was tops. Today, his dad still ranks at the top with his mom, Nikki, siblings, mentors and friends, “survivors of cancer and terrible life tragedies, and those who live with high integrity and use their gifts to build up others.”

His “home” sport is running, which he started in 2003 only to get in shape. “I liked the way it felt after finishing a mile run.” His first run was the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. Cycling (2004, “I lived near White Rock. And I was curious how I would fare against other cyclists. I guess I started because I was competitive.”), then swimming, came shortly after when he wanted to do his first triathlon in 2005.

The July 10, 2005 Disco Triathlon at Lake Grapevine was his first foray into multi-sports. “I was so stoked. Hooked right from the get-go.” He finished in 29th place overall of 424 competitors. He was third in his age group. His splits were 5:37 for the 500 yd swim, 54:13 for the 19 mile bike, and 20:47 for the 5K run. The TexasMan triathlon is also one of his favorites.

Working out is something David truly cherishes. “It’s a reminder that I’m alive and that my daily actions matter. It’s a way to be grateful that I can perform these three activities well; freedom to express myself through sheer enjoyment of the outdoors. I rarely work out indoors anymore, unless it’s focused, strength work.” Sometimes he uses the time during training and racing to “sort out challenges or issues in my mind. Sometimes it’s just for the love of it, and I think about what a blessing it is to be alive. I look at my kids and know that I want “being active” to be a natural, fun part of their lives. And I look at my parents, who to this day still work out daily…and I see how the power of living by example works.” His goals are in-line with these sentiments. “Longevity! Live to 100. There’s really no one doing triathlon after age 70, which is only three percent of the USAT membership).”

His PR’s are very consistent.

18:35 5K

33:23 5 Mile

40:34 10K

1:30:10 Half Marathon

3:19:03 Marathon

2:17:06 Olympic Distance Triathlon

5:05:43 Half Ironman

12:48:59 Ironman

His favorite times were during the training for his first triathlon, and then his, Ironman. “I have good memories of these times.”

Other than some local club runs and triathlons, he’s only shooting for The Plano Balloon Festival 5K with his family in September. He lists his training partners as “anyone from DFW Tri club,” and smiles.

Favorite restaurant: “Houston’s Hillstone has to be my all-time favorite restaurant.” Music: Coldplay, Mumford & Sons, Weezer.

Though he doesn’t like to shop (“‘Like’ and ‘shop’ don’t go in the same sentence for me unless there’s a ‘don’t’ in there too!!”), when asked about being fashion conscious he replied, “I grew up with 9 sisters. Probably.” He wears Hoka and Kinvara running shoes.

“If I’ve learned anything,” David says, “it’s that there’s not one way of doing things. Also, the more I get to rub shoulders with the greats of the sport and the ones that have the reputation of knowing the most, a common thread amongst their attitudes is best summarized by Albert Einstein, ‘The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.’”

Freddy Vacu is simple and to the point when looking over his training and racing experience. “No matter what you do, be consistent.”

Trey Yost summarizes all the above. He puts a nice cap on it. “I’ve learned that consistency is the key to any endurance sport, and really life in general. That combined with a healthy diet can make all the difference.  For me, it’s a means to an end, the end being long-term health and fitness.”

Trey Yost

Trey could be Bertrand’s brother. Twin sons of different mothers. Trey’s smile is just as magnetizing as David’s, with the accompanying ease laugh, and willingness to listen. They are a couple of old souls; really nice guys.

Of the two, David’s taller, but Trey is beefier with a large chest and biceps. Sitting down with him is like stopping at an old friend’s home to relax together.

Born December 13, 1977 in Enid, OK, Trey has one sister who’s nine years older. He grew up in Perry, OK, pop. 5,000. There were 64 people in his graduating class.

“Of course everyone knew everyone in a small town like Perry.” He says he was very outgoing with a lot of friends. He was involved in a lot of activities, clubs, was student council officer, band (trumpet, piano, and guitar), and sports such as baseball, golf, and wrestling. His school mates thought so much of him they voted him “Most Likely to Succeed.” They didn’t know about his fear of heights. “Would never go off the high-dive as a kid.”

He received his undergraduate business degree at the University of Kansas in 2000 and then his MBA at Southern Methodist University in 2005.

After a set up by a former boss, he met and married Melissa. Together they have two children, Katherine (2 ½) and Donovan (1 year old). His dad was a lawyer while his mom was a high school teacher.

He has worked for Dealertrack Technologies for 10 years in many different capacities, he says, namely strategic initiatives, business development, consulting, and corporate account management. Trey says he’s also an “active investor, mostly at the angel or start-up stage.” Additionally, he is the Partner/Membership Director for DFW Tri Club and Co-Chair of Heroes for Children 5K.

Trey considers running his home sport. But don’t discount him on the bike, either, despite not owning a bike until three months before his first triathlon in 2004 when he found a bargain on eBay for $700. That first race was the Rockwall Sprint. “If I didn’t finish dead last I was very close to last.” Humble beginnings, indeed.

He went on to finish one of the hardest triathlons in the world, twice; St. Croix 70.3 half Ironman. (He tells a good story about beating a competitor who was distracted because he was going to propose to his girlfriend at the finish line. “As I finally passed him, about 100 meters before the finish line, I realized he had slowed down to pull out the diamond ring; otherwise he could have beaten me.  I felt sort of bad about it afterwards, but not for long!”) Other races that he has completed, and enjoyed, are Eagleman 70.3, and Ironman Cour d’Alene. For local flavor, he does the Blackland Sprint and Trifecta.

For his competitions, he’s done 24 hours of total training time; his biggest week. “And I was completely trashed. I don’t know how the pros go 30-40 hours!” His longest single ride is 120 miles (2007), longest run has been the marathon, and his longest swim has been the 2.4 miles of the Ironman.

Though he doesn’t train as much as he used to, he still gets in 5-8 hours per week. “These days my training volume is much less than it was in my prime.” Working around a full time job, coaching, and “daddy duty,” he starts with weights at 5:15 am Mondays and Fridays. “I either run or swim at noon on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.” Typically, he rides on Saturdays. “Sunday’s are my longer runs with the kids.” Wednesdays he coaches swimming at 5:30am, and track at 6pm.

While training, his thoughts drift to his family, career, goals, and dreams. “When I’m dialed into competition mode I visualize the race and see myself doing well on race day.”

He’s very proud of his 4 hour, 50 minute finish time for a half Ironman PR. Meanwhile, he’s pulled off a 5K in 18:30. “But I think there’s still more room to improve there.”

For 2014 he is shooting for the Kansas 70.3 Half Ironman as his main goal. “I’ll also do TexasMan and maybe some other local races.” His long-term goal is to eventually qualify for the Hawaiian Ironma. “Even if I have to wait until I’m 80 years old.”

His biggest inspiration? His kids. “I want to set an example for them as they grow up that you can be successful and find a healthy balance between family, work, fitness, etc.” He’s sort of a loner when it comes to training, but he does enjoy “pushing my kids in a stroller on my weekend runs.”

Of course my most proud accomplishment will always be my children.

Mike Sexton

MIKE SEXTON still has a side gig going in addition to DFW Tri Club. The true swimmer in the group, he’s bigger, and prefers cycling of the three disciplines. “I like cycling the best but I did none of them growing up.”

But just as out-going and friendly. He’s usually part of an All Industry Tri Expo in one of the area fitness clubs.

Mike is a nice guy with a well-intentioned mission: To make triathlon training a reality for just about anyone who’s interested.

He has a philosophy for doing triathlon capsulated in his “four reasons.”

“Four reasons a triathlon would be a fine thing for you (but OK, not me) to undertake:

  1. Because doing just one sport is boring and fascist.
  2. Because everyone looks cool in bike shorts!
  3. Because while a marathon is awesome, it’s even more awesome if you first swim 2.4 miles and ride your bike 112 miles. (Note from me: That’s for an Ironman competition; there are quite a few distances not nearly that far)
  4. Because we all have something we’re good at or enjoy, but trying (or tri-ing, as the lingo goes) something you were previously afraid of and then CONQUERING — well, it’s a very good thing.

He’s 39, born June 14, 1975. (Birthday alert!)

He grew up in Midland, Tx with two siblings, where his dad was a police officer, and his mom worked in sales. Mike says he was the funny fat kid growing up, playing soccer, BMX/Freestlye, skateboarding, baseball, and football in high school. The Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, Lawrence Taylor, and Tony Hawk were his heroes then. But he was also interested in science. He was always worried he’d get in trouble with his dad.

Like most of us, he learned to swim so he could complete a triathlon in 2008. He’d begun running the year before after a boss “made” him. The bike came back to him when the date of this first triathlon got closer. For inspiration he used Rick and Dick Hoyt.

Today he doesn’t look to super heroes. Instead, Mandela, Obama, Ghandi, and Steve Jobs have taken over the slots, “anyone who flies in the face of ‘how it should be because it has always been.’ Risk Takers. The Steve Jobs mentality, that I will succeed whether you like it or not.”

His first triathlon was in Flower Mound. How did he finish? “I finished. That is all that matters.” His favorite was  Ironman Coeur d’Alene. “It was a culmination of a journey and it was a beautiful day. Beautiful course. Just perfect.” Others include St. Patrick’s Triathlon and The US Open.

After attending Midland Lee High School, Mike went off to A&M and UTA where he met his wife at a rugby party. They have one child. Oh, and Mike did graduate in 2000.

His hobbies are simple. “It is either triathlon or family. Very little room or desire for anything else.” His future goal is to “make the best triathlon club in the world.”

Working out to Mike is freedom and the chance to stay active. “It’s fun. It gives me a challenge or breaks up my day. Either way it keeps my brain and my body sharp.” He says he smiles to inspire himself to get up and out in the morning. “I love the people cheering you on when you are hurting. It is so great. To hear them call your number or your name. It gives you wings.”

Mike is a member of the USAT Board.

Asked about being fashion conscious, he only laughed. But his running shoes are the Brooks Pure Flow. Favorite music? Pearl Jam
Beyond the confines of triathlon, Mike has also started a training website, won a national championship in rugby, and considers himself a “true entrepreneur.”

He’s finishing “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell.

Freddy Vaca

“Growing up I was bullet proof,” says the shortest of the foursome. Always able to rely on his dad and older sisters, he grew up in Los Angeles (where he was born April 13, 1978) and Katy, Texas, west of Houston. “I come from a large family; four siblings. We are a very close family.”

He was known as everyone’s friend. “I had friends in all different groups. I did the usual sports: football, soccer and tennis, growing up just like everyone else.” But his real passion was in business. “I spent lots of time working in the various family businesses, growing up so my time was always already spoken for.”

His parents migrated from Quito, Ecuador, “with a suit case and a dream,” Freddy says. They raised six children, three girls and three boys, in Los Angeles. They created Excelsior Travel, the largest chain of travel agencies in southern California after many years of struggling. His father died tragically in 1989. His mom moved the family to Houston where she continued in business venturing into real-estate and other industries. “My mother owned the local country club so my friends and I always had a place to hang out.”

Graduating from James E. Taylor High School in Katy Texas, he attended Blinn Jr College, Houston Community college, SMU Technologies program, The Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern, and finally The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Currently he has been the CIO and SVP of Strategy at The Pinnacle Group for 15 years. “I have been extremely blessed when it comes to my career and family. I have two beautiful and healthy little girls, a thriving business, and a family support system that I would not change for the world.”

He considers bicycling his “home sport” of the three disciplines in triathlon. “I have been riding all my life. However, triathlon riding for only three years. Like with swimming and running, I did not start riding competitively until I embarked on the triathlon journey.” His older sister Nina got him going after she bet him he couldn’t do a half ironman triathlon. “So I signed up, hired a coach, and trained for six weeks. It was very painful!”

That was the Oilman 70.3 Half Ironman Triathlon in Conroe, TX. “It was brutal. My legs started cramping at Mile Five of the run.  It was all I could do to finish but I did.

About the same time, he also began swimming, inspired by triathlon.

Of the three sports, running is the newest to Freddy. “Running is very new to me. Growing up, there was not much ‘running’ going on at all. I started running as a byproduct of triathlon.

He looked up to his dad and sisters while growing up. Today, he includes his mother, and his daughters, Sofia and McKenzie Vaca.

“I admire most everyone. We all have a story [to tell]. We’ve all had different challenges in our life and for that, I admire you.”

He has various races planned for 2014, including Chicago Life Time Series and USAT National Championships in Milwaukee. These are his two favorite races. “It is just amazing. Having the honor to share the battle field with the best is such a huge feeling!” Other races he likes are the Miami 70.3 Half Ironman and CapTex in Austin.

With no other hobbies his weeks are very full being a single father, a triathlete, an executive of one of the fastest growing firms in America, entrepreneur, board member, and a mentor to a handful of people. It gets pretty wild some times. Between work and various other commitments, there are really no time for hobbies. I spend all my free time with my children.”

Freddy opens up about his background and passion. “I really don’t have a sports background at all. My real background is [that]I have had a front row seat at building various companies my whole life. That is my passion, that is what I am good at. Triathlon for me is just a byproduct of who I am, that competitive spirit that allows me to always be pushing forward, to always push the ‘that’s good enough’ mentality.”

As he remembers his children and all the people counting on him (“That is all the fuel I need!”), triathlon, he says, “Empowers me to live an active lifestyle. It gives me an avenue to keep not only my body healthy but also my mind. It is also a great example for my girls that anything is possible.”

Freddy doesn’t make his workouts a chore, he says. That inspires him to get out the door. “I make it a way of life.” Mainly training with the DFW Tri Club, “I love being around other athletes and helping each other achieve our goals. I often too have to work out on my own when I know I have a key workout that I must focus on. My coach also joins me.”

It has taken him years to find the right running shoes, he says. “After hundreds of pairs of shoes I have settled on the Adidas Boost. With shoe technology always evolving, I am sure I will try a few more pairs.”

Freddy doesn’t consider himself traditionally “fashion conscious.” “It’s less about what it looks like and more about how it feels and holds up during training.  Having to worry about comfort during long training hours in the Texas heat is no fun.”

The same about the food he eats. “I enjoy a healthy active lifestyle so I try to maintain the same in the food that I eat. My local favorites include, Start, Starbucks (food), Origin Café, Chipotle and Central Market.

Freddy attends St. Monica, Catholic Church.

Chris Phelan has written, laid out, photographed, and published The Phast Times News since 2001. He’s crisscrossed Texas on his bike three times, swam 5 miles across Lake Ray Hubbard three times, completed three Ironman triathlons, and has represented the US in completion three times, and run with the Olympic Torch. He maintained All-American status for five years and has also biked across the country, 3600 miles in 30 days. The running/triathlon coach has PR’s of 2:27 marathon, 15:40 5K, 3:55 at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and 10:00:52 Ironman. Chris is the only person to have won overall and Master’s at Dallas’ Crosson Dannis road racing series, DRC road racing series, and the USAT/SMW duathlon series. In 1988 he began Dallas’ oldest track workout, 1998 started north Texas’ first treadmill class, and 2003 he founded the world-wide Ride Of Silence. He’s been twice nominated Master’s Road Runner of the Year, highlighted in a variety of magazines and is frequently asked to speak at camps and organizations about fitness. Outside of swimming, biking, and running, Chris has summited several mountains including Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.