Athlete of the Month, November 2013 - Gary Lucchesi

Triathlete standing with his bike in the country
January 30, 2017

D3 Staff



Our Athlete of the Month, Gary Lucchesi, completed his first Ironman last month at the race that has suddenly become one of the toughest races in the world Ironman Lake Tahoe!   To get there, he executed his training plan to the letter while balancing a busy and stressful job as an ER physician, making time for his family, and dealing with all of the logistics that come from preparing for a first Ironman.  He's been racing triathlons for the last 8 years including 6 halfs.  Along the way to Tahoe, he PRd at Vineman by over 20 minutes!  "In my opinion" notes his coach, Dave Sheanin, his success this season was the direct result of his dedication to the goal.  He stayed focused on what he needed to do in order to have a great day at IMLT.  He made changes to his technique and paid attention to the details of training and racing.  Even though the conditions were harder than anyone had expected, he had his plan and followed it to a great finish. Congratulations, Gary!

What was your inspiration to move from 1/2 to full?

I had been thinking about doing a full Ironman ‚at some point in my future ever since completing my first 70.3 in 2007 but wasn't sure I had the time to train and maintain a healthy balance with work and family. In 2012 I knew Ironman was going to announce a new 2013 race in California, either in Lake Tahoe (a favorite vacation spot for me) or San Luis Obispo (my current home), which peaked my interest. I was turning fifty in 2013, and my wife kept asking what I wanted to do for my fiftieth birthday‚ what exotic trip or big party did I want‚ and I said I just really want to do an Ironman for my fiftieth. I got the thumbs up for the race and then ended up getting a surprise birthday party and trip in March as well. It's been a great year!

Staying focused on a goal, isn't easy, please share your thoughts on how you were able to stay focused and execute?

I am a very focused person in general, and the challenge of trying to go farther than I have gone before kept me very motivated from the day I signed up for IM Lake Tahoe. Over an eleven-month period leading up to IMLT, I probably only missed a half dozen workouts. Having a coach was immensely helpful in keeping me on track. Just knowing your coach will be looking at your files on TrainingPeaks gets you out the door and on the bike or in the pool on a cold day. And having the full support of my wife and kids allowed me to stay focused on my goal with less guilt!

Why triathlon?

I started doing sprint triathlons with my wife in 2005 as a way to get in shape. Although I've always been athletic, playing basketball, windsurfing, and skiing, I had never really done any endurance sports. I found triathlon to be a nice challenge and enjoyed the variety of being able to workout in multiple sports and reshape myself into more of an endurance athlete. I think the inherent cross-training preparing for triathlon helps me avoid the overuse injuries that plague most of us as we age and try to stay fit.

Tell us a little bit about what makes you you? Where do you live, why do you like it there, what do you do for work, do you have a family, etc.?

I live in San Luis Obispo, California, which is on the central coast of California, about halfway between SF and LA. San Luis Obispo (or "SLO") is a small university town, not unlike Boulder, CO. The people are active and outdoorsy, and the weather is mild year round great for training and for raising a family. My wife and I met in medical school in Chicago and have been married for twenty-two years. We have four wonderful children, aged 19, 15, 12 and "almost 10". Our 19-year-old daughter just left home for college this fall at UCSB and the other three (two girls and a boy) keep us busy driving to and from various kid activities. When we are not doing "everything else", I work as an ER doctor at two local hospitals, and my wife is a radiologist.

Do you have any competing priorities in your life that interfere or interrupt your triathlon training and racing?

If so, share some thoughts on how you bring it all together. I find there are always competing priorities in my life. I am constantly busy with work and family, but, then again, so is everyone else. I make triathlon training a priority because I love how I feel when I swim, bike or run, and I enjoy the challenge of preparing for a race. I feel my training and racing also models a healthy, goal-oriented lifestyle for my kids. The key for me in bringing it all together is to make balancing the priorities my biggest priority. In terms of committing to training, I find it helpful to have a coach who can customize a training plan to fit with my "busy" schedule and modify the plan as life happens.

Who is your coach at D3 and how has your coach helped you with your goals?

My coach is Dave Sheanin. Dave has been an amazing coach. He has helped me tremendously with my swim technique (I highly recommend his swim video consult/ analysis), and his builds and tapers have been spot on. Every workout has a goal or focus point. I am very technique-oriented, and I love the science behind the training with power meters, TSS, Intensity Factor, etc.. The way Dave coaches meshes very well with the way I like to learn. I am not very fast, but I have learned how to become very efficient.

Describe your best training day leading into IM Tahoe.

I think my best training day leading into IM Lake Tahoe was my Vineman 70.3 race, about nine weeks prior to IMLT. I was training through the race, with only a small taper, so I did not know what to expect or how I would respond that day. Coach Dave went over race day strategy with me, focusing on pacing and staying within certain power zones on the bike and pacing strategies to break up the run. It turned out that my Garmin did not sync with my power meter on my bike, so I had to use perceived exertion to try to stay within my zones. But I stuck with the plan, and I ended up with my best bike split and run split ever at that distance, and an overall PR by over thirty minutes! Having to rely on relative perceived exertion and doing so successfully was a huge confidence boost for me. In addition, that day I became a true believer in the value of pacing on the bike and staying below threshold, which ended up helping me immensely during IMLT.

 Where do you draw your inspiration and motivation?

My family. Hands down. Sometimes during a race or on a long training day, I’ll focus on each person in the family one at a time, one mile at a time, and those positive thoughts keep me going.

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