What a genuinely nice guy Ron Tribendis is. Really. To meet him is not imposing at all. He’s of normal height, good looks, not a boisterous talker, and doesn’t throw his athletic accomplishments into a conversation as if he were dumping food on someone else’s fine carpet. No, it’s only after you meet him and find out all that he’s done that you are impressed, wondering if you should be sharing this guy’s air. How’s it possible this Clark Kent looking guy has completed 16 Ironman triathlons and has PR’s of under an hour for a sprint, two hours for an Olympic distance race, 4 hours, 15 minutes for a half Ironman, and 9:27 for a full Ironman?
“As far as PR’s, I am a true triathlete. I have never really done any run races for time. PR’s for triathlons are hard because the distance for the short stuff is always different.” His time for The World Championship Ironman in Hawaii – considered a difficult course – 9 hrs., 45 minutes.
We first caught up with him in August 2010 has he was heading to Utah, “to cycle around the state.” Sure, that’s what everyone does on vacation. “Starting in Vegas Day 1. Doing the Silverman Triathlon course. Day 2 will be the St. George Ironman Triathlon course. So needless to say it should be epic!!!” Really? Really!
After his May 2011 Ironman Texas where he finished in 9:54:08, he commented, “That was a tough race. Sorry about not getting back to you last year about the interview. With the new kiddo and everything, I lost track of time. I also have a hard time talking about myself. I would love to do it. Can you send over the questions again and I’ll get them back to you?”
Ron was hard to track down for this story as you can see from emails three years ago. Nevertheless, he’s conscientious to a fault, making sure the other person is taken care of first.
Four months later he wrote, “My little boy is two and the second little boy is due two weeks after Kona. So I hope Amy doesn’t pop while I am away.”
Finally on August 24, 2011, I had an interview in my hands. (It actually occurred in three different sections due to his schedule. We did a few questions, then he was out. I waited until some obscure time and got a few more questions. Over three years this is how it went.) Next was to schedule a photo session. Over a year later, he wrote, “I’m getting my wisdom teeth out. Will get back with you early next week. Thanks.” Ooookaaaay.
Finally, in the fall of 2013, I was able to take some photos of Dr. Ron.
This may be a characteristic of his upbringing in Pennsylvania. By his own admission, he was competitive growing up, “but a laid back kid.”
He played the usual baseball and basketball, but his dad’s legacy in running sat in the shadows, confident, and waiting to see if or when Ron would become a runner himself.
“I would really want to win, but really wouldn’t let it bother me if I didn’t. I would just keep going back for more until I got it right. I lived and breathed sports. It is funny because my dad was a big time runner and I hated running as a kid.”
Born January 8, 1978 in Wilkes-Barre, PA (he has one sister), he graduated Bishop Hoban High School (PA) in 1996, then Slippery Rock University in 2000 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Health Science. (He moved it to Dallas 2001 and received his doctorate from Dallas’ Parker University in 2003.) He had a bread and butter existence where only the essentials are considered important, such as friendship, loyalty, honor, dignity, and respect.
In June 2006, Dr. Tribendis was afforded the opportunity to start a new practice in Plano, TX. This was the start of his own facility, North Texas Performance Chiropractic.
Today he and his wife Amy have two sons (Eli, three, and, Isaac, one). Ron and Amy met at a health fair when he was just starting out. “I was trying to drum up business at a local health fair, and the only patient I got that day was my [future] wife.”
His dad was in sales but was also a serious 2:42 Boston Marathon runner. His mom has always been a teacher. Ron’s biggest fear was disappointing his family and friends.
About 2003, a change took place. A miracle, really. Suddenly, Ron became interested in swimming, biking, and running, all at once, when he entered his first triathlon, The Athens Sprint Triathlon. “I finished mid pack but was hooked. I was bigger back then, and from that point on, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I researched and read everything I could to do with triathlon. I immersed myself in the sport. I love triathlon. I love being able to put all three sports together.”
Up until then, he never swam competitively. “I taught myself to swim for my first tri 10 years ago. People ask me how I got my Ironman PR swim to 54 min. There hasn’t been one week in 10 years that I haven’t swam at least 1-2 times.” I would have to say that swimming relaxes me the most. If I don’t swim for a day or so my wife is kicking me out the door for a swim.”
He began running and biking at the same time as swimming. “When people ask me my background I say baseball.” He laughs heartily. “I truly am a triathlete. I have developed all three [disciplines] together at the same time. One may need more attention depending on what my body needs. But in general I believe in a balanced basic schedule. This is the principle that I also coach my athletes with.”
As a coach, Ron is praised by his athletes. But he combines his coaching with his work, too. As a chiropractor dealing with athletes, his name comes up on the short list for people to make an appointment with if there’s a structural problem. His office is located in the same aeaa as the Tri Shop off the tollway.
“I started going to a Chiropractor when I hurt my back playing baseball in college. I enjoyed his approach and he fixed the problem fast. I thought it would be something to keep me close to athletics. So after college I went to chiropractic school here in Dallas. In 2003 I started North Texas Performance Chiropractic. I also started a multisport coaching business. Last October, I shifted my coaching business to working with one of my friends and mentors, Gordo Byrn. So now I have the chiropractaic business and am a part of Endurance Corner out of Boulder CO. www.endurancecorner.com. I love combining my knowledge of the human body into great training plans. Currently, I am working with athletes from around the globe, from beginners to Kona [Hawaiian Ironman] qualifiers. Both challenge me and inspire me to keep training hard.”
Finally, his dad’s influence rubbed off on Ron. “My parents definitely influenced me. I watched my dad running all the while I was growing up. Hopefully I can be the same influence on my little guys.” Growing up he says he didn’t have the traditional heroes, but enjoyed watching athletes competing at a high level. “My dad and my grandfather are people that I admired the most and what I consider heroes.”
Ron’s largest training volume occurs during his preparation for Ironman Hawaii, the World Championships. Though his swim distance is still a stout 15,000 meters per week normally, during peak training it climbs up to 25,000, or 5,000 meters per swim workout for his five days a week regime. His bicycle training goes through the same transformation from 150 miles per week average to over 300 miles a week. His run training sees the smallest increase, from 30 miles per week up to 50 when training for Ironman.
“I have a deep base so it really doesn’t take me long to get ready for an Ironman. I train year round. But when I say get ready, [that’s] probably only 10-15 weeks of specific preparation to get ready to race an Ironman. So those high totals hit during that phase.”
Monday: Swim, Run
Tuesday: Swim, Bike 2-4 hours “Mix of some kind of intervals,” Run longer
Wednesday: Swim, Bike easy spin, Run
Thursday: Bike: 2-4 hours “The same but not quite as intense,” Run
Friday: Swim, Run
Saturday: Bike very long ride
Sunday: Swim, Bike easy spin, Run longer “Run: I like to run frequently. So 5-7 runs per week.”
Getting ready for the 2012 season, he looked over what he needed to do. “I have nothing planned for the rest of 2012 other than [to] get some strength back after a long season. I am registered for Ironman Texas again, which I would like to see how close to nine hours I can get. I am probably not going to go to Kona [Hawaiian World Championships] again [until] I feel like I am able to be competitive in my age. My age is deep, so I have some work to do. That is it for now.”
For Ron, his durability is one of the strengths he counts on. He’s never had a major injury. This is impressive given the training regime. “I think my durability is one of my strengths. This November will be 12 years since my first Ironman. It has taken consistent training over time to get to the point I am at right now. Being durable has allowed me to train year round without many setbacks.”
He’s optimistic about the future competition, race venues, and support of triathlon in the area.
“I think the state of competition is the best I have seen in my 10 years of multisport. I think it is just going to get better. With all the youth tri’s and kid specific training, you are going to start seeing kids coming from a triathlon specific background rather than just swimming or running. I also love how many racing options we now have in this region. We have Ironman Texas, Galveston 70.3 Half Ironman, etc. It is great to have national events (Kona, Hawaii, and Las Vegas qualifier’s) so close to home. Nothing compares to the competition the Ironman and 70.3 races have to offer. If you want to test yourself on a national level, in this region we don’t have to travel far. It’s great!!! The area support is amazing. All the clubs and now with Ahmed’s performance center,… We have great running shops, Richardson Bike Mart, etc. We really do have a very good training ground.
And the level of competition? “The level of competition is great. This summer I made it a point to try to get the best of the best to train together. We had some really great sessions together. I really think it helped us all. I have never seen a group really want to help each other get better. Yes we all want to win, but we had great fun beating each other up and enjoyed good company. I owe Harold Wilson and David Jones a big thank you for helping me get ready for Las Vegas and Kona, Hawaii.”
“Swimming, biking, and running have changed for me over the 12 years I have been in this sport. When I first started it was about training so I could race. Now I am just enjoying the lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy racing but it really isn’t that important to me. I really enjoy being fit year round. As I get older, that seems to be more important. I want to be a good example for my kids.” Then he cites a quote to make his point. “’What you get by reaching your destination is not nearly as important as what you will become by reaching your destination.’ – Zig Ziglar. The above quote is what Ironman has become for me over the years.” He refers to this in his column, www.endurancecorner.com/Ron_Tribendis
He writes about qualifying for the Hawaiian Ironman in Kona.
“On the day I started writing this column, I overslept and missed my run (up all night with a screaming toddler), I ate a less-than-nutritious breakfast with one hand while holding a baby bottle in place and I left the house for work with two kids in hysterics. At some point, I think I passed by my wife and said, ‘Hi.’ On second thought, I think we just grunted at each other.
“My wife knows me well and could probably mark the calendar in advance for which days I’ll say I’m going to retire from triathlon in a given year. The stress builds and very often, it feels like it’s just become too much. Before kids, I had all the time in the world to train and at a price that was minimal. Now the time is limited and the cost is high. I have to get up early and stay up later than I’d like. I miss my kids on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I miss my kids when I go to camps and races. I feel guilty that my bikes could fund their first years of college. So I ask myself repeatedly, why continue with a sport that’s so stressful and selfish? Why not chuck it all, sleep in and hang out with my kids?
“It’s because my kids are watching me. They’re seeing me set a goal and work hard to accomplish it. They’re seeing me do research, look for improvements, invest, focus and put in the effort to achieve my dreams. I hope they’re also learning how important it is to have a support system and to show gratitude and appreciation for that support. I can only hope they have the same drive and commitment in reaching their own dreams someday. When they do, I’ll be right there supporting them, cheering them on in whatever they choose to pursue.
“Getting to Kona is getting harder for me every year. The competition is tougher, the toll on my body is harder, and the effort to balance family/life/triathlon is exhausting. All of this makes the reward of Kona that much better. The message I hope this sends my kids is: Effort + Commitment + Risk + Gratitude = Immense Rewards.
“I often ask myself, will it ever be too much? What would cause me to stop? It seems impossible to answer. As long as my family is safe, healthy and happy, I can keep going. (Hopefully with a little more sleep, a solid morning run, and a kiss from my wife.)”
What’s it like trying to qualify and then train for the Hawaiian Ironman?
“Yes, the mindset is very different. Take Kona for example and the race to qualify. I tend to be more intense when I am playing for something. In my qualifying races I am thinking the entire time about what I need to be doing in order to get my Kona slot. Kona is more a ‘Celebration of the Year.’ Which is probably why my best race of the year is my qualifying race. I did make a deal with myself after this year’s Kona race. I really don’t think I am going to go back until a can run a 3:00-3:15 marathon off the bike there. I think that’s what it will take to be competitive. So I guess that would be the next step. Trying to be competitive in Kona.”
What do you do to inspire yourself to get out to train?
“It doesn’t take much to get me out the door. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do. I want to be a good example for my kids. Hopefully I can show them that having a good work ethic can help you accomplish your wildest dreams.
“Sometimes it is very hard to get out and train. When I don’t feel like getting a session in I guess I tend to think about everyone faster than me and how in order to make up for what I lack in natural talent, I need to be willing to outwork them. I need to be willing to do things most don’t want to do.”
Who are your regular training partners?
“’My regulars’ as I call them. I have a great group ride from my house which has most of the best local triathletes showing up. I started this about a year ago for selfish reasons. I wanted to train with the best. So here are a few guys that I respect and have made me better over the years. Pedro Triadade, Harold Wilson, David Jones, Chris Hughes… and many many more.
What are your favorite moments while racing and/or training?
“Some would think I would say Kona or something like that, but it actually was a local sprint that I won. My oldest son Eli was cheering for me and asked me after the race if I won. There is nothing better than having him get excited seeing me race. It was awesome.
“In training, I love my organized Saturday rides with the fellas. All of them are fun. We also do a hard open water swim, then run, on Sundays. Weekends in training are very hard, but most rewarding.”
What is your favorite swim, bike, run, duathlon, or triathlon race?
“I like a lot of races for different reasons. I guess the easiest is to say that Kona is my favorite. It is just a big party celebrating triathlon. It’s our super bowl. St. Croix is one of my favorites for it beauty and level of difficulty. I did Oceanside 70.3 this year and just had a blast. Pulling off the double of Vegas and Kona should be a pretty cool experience.”
Ron’s particular about his clothes matching whether he’s racing or just doing a three mile training run. What’s funny is he doesn’t like to shop. “No time,” he says. That explains one reason why he’s worn the same type of shoe (Newtons) for over six years. “Love them!”
Favorite band? “I am an Alt nation fan on satellite radio. But I like listening to anything other than country.”
Over the course of years of interviewing Ron, in the end I had to be happy with what I had because there were many questions I never got to. Questions about holding office in his community or career, accomplishments beyond or outside of triathlon, hobbies outside of triathlon (“That’s funny. As you know I have my Chiropractic and Sports medicine business, www.pcsmtexas.com, and I am an endurance coach for www.endurancecorner.com. I also have my wife and two great little boys. So as for hobbies…not so much.”), what he’s learned over the years about staying active, books he’s reading, what we don’t know about him, his future athletic goals, his philosophy of exercise, and last, is there something we haven’t covered that he’d like to?
As of this writing, Ron has qualified for the 70.3 World Championships five times and Ironman World Championships in Hawaii three times. But he’s still a really nice guy. Really!