trust the process

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May 16, 2024

Kevin Hester: Racing at Altitude for the First Time

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show notes


  • Racing at altitude can be more challenging than expected, especially on the run.
  • Hydration and electrolyte balance are crucial when racing at altitude.
  • Listening to your body and adjusting your effort level is important to manage the effects of altitude.
  • The support and encouragement from family and coaches can make a significant impact on race day.
  • Recovery after racing at altitude may take a few days, but it varies for each individual.

Sound Bites

  • "The run was a disaster. Oh my gosh."
  • "I just lost it."
  • "I always get emotional at the end of a race."


00:00 Introduction and Background

03:04 Racing at Altitude and Favorite Distance

09:02 Preparing for Altitude and Race Day Experience

20:13 Emotional Moments and Support

25:08 Advice for Racing at Altitude and Recovery


Mike Ricci (00:01.802)
Hi, Coach Mike Ricci here with D3 Trust the Process podcast. And on today's show, we have Kevin Hester from Canada. Hi, Kevin. Good, how are things going?

Kevin (00:10.547)
How you doing? Thanks for having me. They're going very well. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (00:15.042)
Awesome, awesome. So Kevin, how many 70.3s have you done?

Kevin (00:20.987)
I've got two in the bag and I've got one in three days.

Mike Ricci (00:24.782)
Awesome, awesome. So last year, you came out to Boulder. We're gonna talk about that a little bit, but tell me a little bit, you know, how long you've been racing, how you kind of got into it. Maybe you did some sports as a kid that got you into triathlon, maybe not, but just kind of give me your back.

Kevin (00:40.467)
Yeah, thanks Mike. So sports as a kid was nothing. I had a pretty bad temper. So my parents didn't really encourage sports because they didn't know how it was going to go. I picked up running in school, not anything spectacular, just school sports and just continued doing it. Started doing some 10 Ks, some five Ks. And then at one of my last...

workplaces, I met a guy who does triathlons. And I'm like, that's kind of interesting. Tell me more. So with already having the run portion of it, I started working with him, we just started doing some swims together and picked up a bike and stupidly started with an Olympic instead of a sprint. But yeah.

Like people told me at the time, once you get started, you're addicted. So I went, I did the one that year and then the year after that was just a few. And then, uh, yeah, just continued on from there.

Mike Ricci (01:47.318)
That's awesome. That's awesome. So when did you have you ever thought about doing Iron Man or something that's kind of on your radar long term?

Kevin (01:56.055)
So an Ironman has been on and currently on the bucket list. I have waited because my kids were young when I got into this, or my one son was young when I got into it. So I kept delaying, thinking it was gonna be too much on my wife because I'm gonna be gone most of Saturday, most of Sunday doing all these long training sessions. Then kid number two came along. So now I have to start delaying again. So.

I think I'm at the point now where maybe next year, the year after, maybe I'll do it. I do wanna do one, it's gonna be one and done. I'm not gonna go for a specific time just to not get pulled off the course for time expiry, but I do wanna do one because triathlon's been so ingrained in my life for the last like 12 years.

Mike Ricci (02:52.566)
Nice. Do you feel like, I know you've only done a couple of 70.3s, but do you feel like that's your favorite distance or is it Olympic or spread? Like where do you find yourself, like your sweet spot?

Kevin (03:04.895)
Sorry, can you say that one more time?

Mike Ricci (03:06.602)
Yeah, so you've done a couple of 70.3s. You've done some Olympics, you've done some sprints. What do you find the distance you like the most? Like what's your sweet spot?

Kevin (03:17.291)
Um, I think the Olympic is the one I enjoy the most. Um, the sprint is a little, I can't seem to push myself to go max effort for the sprint. Um, and the 70.3 is much more training. So it's just hard sometimes to fit in with life. So the Olympic is kind of, it's the nice family oriented amount of time. Um,

But after doing Skoka, I just, I kind of got a little bit of a love for the 70.3. So I've, I want to do more of them now. And I plan on doing hopefully two this year. Um, but I'm starting to notice the body. Isn't, uh, doesn't recover as quickly. So I kind of, I'm not sure how long I'll keep doing it before I might go down.

back to the Olympics.

Mike Ricci (04:17.79)
Makes sense, makes sense. I mean, from a coaching perspective, I can make the argument that the swim in an Olympic and a 70.3 is really the same, right? It's 1600 versus 1800. A run, if you're doing a normal long run of 90 minutes once a week, that half Ironman run really isn't that far. And then really it's the bike, right? It's putting in, versus putting in three hours a week, you really need to put in four, five, six. So that is the limiter for a lot of people.

Kevin (04:25.855)

Kevin (04:40.533)

Mike Ricci (04:48.486)
in terms of training time. And yeah, so training for an Olympic, yeah, you can get away with six, seven, eight hours a week on a two to three hour race, right? And still do well, and still do well. So yeah, that is the caveat.

Kevin (05:03.683)
Yeah, yeah. It's a little bit easier now. I'm finding my kids are getting older. My one son is self-sufficient, but my youngest is pretty much there. So I think in the next year or so, I'll see that the change is there, that I can do more training and not have to worry about as much, missing as much family time because they'll be off doing their own things anyways. So.

Well yeah, we'll just have to see as it continues.

Mike Ricci (05:35.466)
Yeah, that's a good point. So let's go back to the 70.3. So you did Muskoka first time around, right? A couple of years ago, three years ago, four years pre-COVID.

Kevin (05:43.543)
Correct. 2018, yeah.

Mike Ricci (05:46.73)
2018, right? And then this past year, 2023, you came out to Boulder, we saw you out here. You saw the, you know, you race to the altitude, you saw what the heat was like when it was dry. And you got the you know, the dusty roads to run on the whole thing. Not a not a fast run course at all. A quick bike course, right? I mean, everything that went up goes down, it's relatively fast. If it's not down, it was flat, right? I mean, it was, you know, some ups, but you know, a lot of it was pretty quick.

Kevin (05:54.322)

Mike Ricci (06:14.142)
What were some of the things you were worried about coming to altitude? And then take me through the day, right? Like take me through the experience of, I know we had some issues at the airport with your bike and some of those things. But what was any interpretation coming to Boulder saying, man, the altitude's going to get me or anything like that. Like, how did you feel about just coming up here to race at 5,400 feet?

Kevin (06:38.879)
Yeah, coming to Boulder, it was kind of, I knew it was going to be the next 70.3 I did. Um, I mostly just to meet you, meet the team, um, up here in Canada. I, I don't know how many there D3 years there are up here anymore. Uh, so it was good to meet some of the coaches and some of the other, um, athletes that were doing the race. I, uh, I honestly didn't think that the, um,

elevation was going to hit me as bad as it did. And I can explain that later. I knew it was going to be something to contend with. But I didn't, I didn't think it was going to hit me as hard as it did. Um, I never traveled with my bike before this was the first race actually flew to. So like you said, you know, they temporarily lost my bike at the airport. So, you know, that was kind of a really.

scary moment, like I knew it was there. I invested in some air tags. I could see it, but I had four people tell me my bike was not there. So that was kind of scary because that's the biggest portion of the race. And what am I going to do now?

Kevin (07:55.239)
a little bit about the day or I'll say one thing before, when we went out for that small training ride, we just went and we rode that one hill. We got to the top and we just had that little break to talk about it. And I had to do everything in my power to not fall over. I got so dizzy. I was so, like my head just went blank. And you were like, are you okay? And I'm like,

I'm like, I don't know. And that was my first actual life situation of the altitude. And I got scared instantly about what the race day was going to be like. I didn't, walking around getting used to everything and going to the expo and everything, I didn't really feel, I didn't feel bad. There was a few times I felt a bit heavy, but...

Mike Ricci (08:52.788)

Kevin (08:55.035)
You know, it was manageable. I just figured it was possibly fatigue or jet lag or whatever. Obviously it was altitude. Um, and then, yeah, I did, I did a swim, uh, the day before felt fine. Everything was good. Um, and yeah, and then that led up to race day.

Mike Ricci (09:02.594)
For sure.

Mike Ricci (09:16.83)
So you would, anybody coming out to you for the first time probably should go out for a ride, go out for a run, just kind of see what it really feels like and how it does affect your breathing, right?

Kevin (09:28.007)
Yeah, I didn't do a run outside of the race. That probably would have helped the race day experience. That was my own doing. The swim was good. That bike was, like I said, it was a little bit iffy. I don't know how you would train differently for it. I know, I think you can get like masks and stuff now that kind of adjust the air intake.

Mike Ricci (09:57.61)
Yeah, that's just garbage.

Kevin (10:01.088)
If you can do it, I'd go out way earlier than I did and try and acclimate that way. I know it's not probably possible with a family and work, but yeah, I don't know what I could have done differently to train for the altitude part of it.

Mike Ricci (10:22.154)
All right. All right. Well, tell me a little bit about the race. So, I mean, there's a lot of people, obviously, 3000 people. You've probably only done a couple of races with that many people in it. And, you know, obviously, all kinds of abilities. There's waves. There's a whole thing. You know, you're going down the boat ramp, you see, you know, even as someone who's a decent swimmer, I always look out of the buoys and I'm go, man, that looks like a long way. Looks a lot further than it is. Right. So, yeah, what were you feeling, you know, getting in the water and then just take me through the swim and the bike?

Kevin (10:52.759)
Okay, sure. Yeah, the lead up to the swim was a disaster. I had my wetsuit on, I was standing in line for all of the announcements and the start for the pros and everything. And you looked around and everybody was just drenched in sweat. The sun was out, it was scorching hot. I already felt a little bit behind by the time we got to the water.

As you can see, I wear glasses. I don't have prescription goggles. So I have to count the buoys in between each turn so that as I'm swimming, I know where I am. The swim was okay. I felt like before I felt a little bit heavy. I didn't swim terrible for myself. I'm not a great swimmer, but I was within about five minutes of where I wanted to be.

Kevin (11:52.991)
But yeah, there was a lot of athletes and it was hard to get going at first. I tend to stay at the back and off to the side. I'm not a strong swimmer, so I don't fight. But yeah, it was okay. Coming out of the swim, I think some of the altitude hit me there. And when I stood up, I kind of like had jelly legs.

It wasn't a lack of training situation. It was, it was a head thing. It was, it was almost like the dizziness, the two days prior. Um, so I kind of just took my time to transition, got everything.

Mike Ricci (12:32.878)
Do you have to get your glasses right away? Is there a table for you to get your glasses when you come out of the water?

Kevin (12:38.783)
Uh, no, I just, I have them in my, in my transition, uh, set up. Um, it's, I can see that far away that where I need to go when I'm running to, and I count how many racks before I know where my bike is and stuff like that. Um, so yeah, I just kind of took my time.

Mike Ricci (12:42.431)

Mike Ricci (12:56.436)
What kind of wetsuit do you use?

Kevin (12:59.144)
I have a 19. I don't know the exact brand, but...

Mike Ricci (13:02.51)
So we have a sponsor called Roca.

Kevin (13:05.512)
Yes. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (13:06.59)
and they have prescription goggles.

Kevin (13:09.383)
Yeah, I do need to look into them. I don't even know the cost. I don't know if it's worth it. But I use Magic Five, which I know is another one of our sponsors. So yeah, so I got to my bike. Just I took some Gatorade right away. I popped a gel, which I usually don't do until I'm kind of settled in on the bike. But just with the whole lightheaded thing, I wanted to make sure it wasn't a nutrition thing.

Mike Ricci (13:19.767)

Kevin (13:38.963)
Um, jumped out on the bike and the bike, I'm going to say the bike was easy. And the reason I say that is because my GPS was all over the place. My, my computer went to zero, zero Watts. It went to 320 Watts. It went back down to 15 Watts. It was all over the place. Um, I don't know if that's correct. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (13:52.04)

Mike Ricci (14:04.194)
So you had to write by skill versus power. Yeah, yep.

Kevin (14:08.819)
which then turned into a slower bike time than I wanted. And like you said, it was a pretty fast course, so I didn't get the advantage of that. And that was a bit, it was obviously my fault because when you're riding and it felt easy, I'm gonna keep going at easy, right? And when I was going up hills, I don't think I was actually pushing the hill power I wanted to push.

Mike Ricci (14:20.579)
Oh, you got to come back then, I guess. Do it again. Beat your time.

Kevin (14:38.939)
I don't know if that's like a GPS setting thing with where I am in the world. I did have a water bottle under my computer, which I've been told could cause problems between the computer and your power pedals. So I made that alteration after the race and I've stopped having that issue. But yeah, I didn't. And the Gatorade bottles they give you, they don't fit in your bike holder.

So it was jiggling all, I actually lost one because it fell out. I had to ride with it down my shirt. It wasn't an arrow thing. It was, I can't lose my nutrition thing. But yeah, overall.

Mike Ricci (15:21.506)
So what did you end up biking when we were just split?

Kevin (15:30.367)
don't remember actually. I probably should have looked that up. I think it was like a 310, and I wanted to go slightly, I wanted to be, I think like a 250-ish. So, 20 minutes, it's kind of bad. But I'll have to say.

Mike Ricci (15:37.87)
Okay, good.

Mike Ricci (15:45.069)

Mike Ricci (15:50.29)
On the course itself, would you say that there was a lot of spots where it was really hard and steep or you think the climbs were all pretty steady?

Kevin (16:03.727)
I would say they're pretty steady. There was really, I think there was really only one like hill that actually put you through some pain. That long one right after the start. Outside of that, there were rollers around the backside. You had that really nice long descent that was a lot of fun. I look forward to that on the second boot.

Mike Ricci (16:28.714)
And then pretty flat after that, you could just go aero and really get some speed up and not have to do all the work.

Kevin (16:33.759)
There was, yeah, there was a part along, I think it was a highway. It was like nicely paved so you could get down an arrow. I picked somebody up farther ahead and I just tried to catch them. The bike was a good course. I enjoyed the bike. I just wish I didn't have the computer issue. I didn't find altitude as an issue on the bike.

Mike Ricci (16:49.346)

Mike Ricci (16:52.874)
Right, right, awesome.

Mike Ricci (16:59.038)
You're probably a little acclimated and relaxed once you got through a loop and figured that your body is going to work the way it's supposed to work. Yeah. So coming into T2, you're feeling good. Your legs feel good, not lightheaded anymore. Feel like you're caught up on calories. And then how did the run go?

Kevin (17:06.248)
Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Kevin (17:17.767)
The run was a disaster. Oh my gosh. I felt like, I felt going into this race, I was probably the best drained I've been. It, I got, I was destroyed. I got out of transition, went across that, that like little rock path in between the water. Yeah. And the first aid station, I walked through that and that was the end.

Mike Ricci (17:27.68)

Mike Ricci (17:38.998)
Yeah, the dam. Yep.

Kevin (17:46.147)
I could not, I could not catch my breath. I could not organize my breathing. I literally had to run one aid station to the next. I had to walk for about a minute to kind of control myself and then go again. I was not able to get a consistent, even like barely running. It was difficult. And that's where...

Mike Ricci (18:01.473)

Mike Ricci (18:12.404)
In your lungs it was difficult, or your legs?

Kevin (18:14.467)
I didn't think the elevation was going to be that bad.

Mike Ricci (18:22.514)
Was it difficult in your lungs on the run or your legs?

Kevin (18:26.963)
Uh, it was my lungs. Like I, my legs felt fine. I felt that I could have pushed through, but I couldn't while running. I couldn't control my breathing enough. It was almost like a hyperventilation situation. Um, and yeah, it was just very hard to control. The only thing I could do is at the aid station, just taking my nutrition and just take some big, deep breaths, get somewhat under control and then go again.

Mike Ricci (18:58.014)
Right, so we call that oxygen, that's oxygen debt. Once you get into oxygen debt, it's really hard to get out of it. That's probably what it was. So that makes sense. Okay, okay. Do you feel like you're hydrated enough on the run?

Kevin (18:58.176)
I tried at one point to speed up thinking that I could make

Kevin (19:04.896)

Kevin (19:15.035)
Yeah, I probably going through the situation I did, I probably slightly over hydrated because in Muskoka, I'm comparing just the two same events. I didn't have to take hydrate nutrition every aid station. But because I was walking to catch my breath, I took I think I took some at every aid station. And I also think I started Pepsi too early.

So I didn't seem to have any gut rot, but I think I was trying to figure out what was happening and maybe over-corrected. The second loop, I found another D3 athlete. We kind of pushed each other a little bit. And then I was able to kind of leave him slightly. And once I found the kind of the last turn,

I kind of had like some adrenaline happening and I was able to run like the last two, two and a bit kilometers.

Mike Ricci (20:20.318)
Nice. So what was the worst part of the race? Maybe you've already told us, but what do you think the worst part of the race was? But Ron?

Kevin (20:30.935)

Mike Ricci (20:32.603)
Okay, okay. And what was the best part?

Kevin (20:39.067)
of the trip was meeting you. Like we've worked together for so long and that was the first time we met in person. I'd say the best part of the race, even though it wasn't necessarily what I wanted, was the bike. It was a lot of fun. Outside of that one hill, you got to really have some fun on a bike, especially in a triathlon when you know we're all about speed and aerodynamics and stuff. If I had better results on the

with my computer, it probably would have been better. But yeah, it was, it was, the scenery is amazing and shout out to the volunteers, always awesome.

Mike Ricci (21:11.298)
Gotcha. Okay.

Mike Ricci (21:21.258)
Yeah, well, I'm going to throw something at you. So you came in across the finish line and obviously, and I've been there many times, finishing a race that is hard and you don't think you're going to finish, you got cramps or whatever. I mean, it's emotional, right? It's definitely emotional. And you talk to your dad and you talk to him for a few minutes and you got emotional with that. I mean, that was a great moment. That was a great moment for me to see you just letting your guard down and being like, man, that was fricking hard, right? Like...

Kevin (21:37.031)
Oh yeah. Oh God.

Mike Ricci (21:51.655)
These events aren't easy. I mean, if they were easy, there'd be a million people registered for every one, but they're not. And there's only a couple thousand people that have the lunacy to do one, right? And get out there and push themselves and push themselves to failure sometimes, right? So...

Kevin (22:07.859)
Yeah, it was very emotional. I always get emotional at the end of a race. I don't know why, just something in me. I lost my mom a few years ago. So when I crossed the finish line, I grabbed my phone. And the first thing I saw was a text message from my dad and it was, worst, we're so proud of you. And I just, I just lost it.

Mike Ricci (22:30.582)
Yeah, I thought you were going to say worst race ever. Yeah, yeah, no, I hear you. I hear you. That's awesome. Yeah, that's awesome. I mean, everybody's proud of you, right? Your coach is proud of you. Your dad's proud of you. Your kids are proud of you. Even though they don't really have any idea of what you did, they see your training, right? They know you're out there pushing yourself and that's a great example for them, right? I mean, even if your wife is a better swimmer, it doesn't matter, right? Doesn't matter.

Kevin (22:40.148)
It was just great.

Kevin (22:55.957)
Well, when.

Kevin (23:00.635)
She is. It was a kind of a special moment when I got home, my kids, they had like this, my flight was delayed a ridiculous amount of hours and they had planned this whole little home surprise party thing for me, which backfired because I didn't get home till midnight. But the next day we went to soccer and the coaches had me out and had me talk about commitment, about the amount of time training.

Mike Ricci (23:01.454)
Thank you.

Kevin (23:29.631)
and sacrifices and stuff like that to the kids. And that kind of was a little bit special. Being asked to talk about that, because like you're saying, they see me doing it, but it doesn't click for them. Right. So.

Mike Ricci (23:45.614)
Well, they're still young. They're still young. They'll get it. And obviously your kids are athletic and they're following your footstep in different sports. And that's a kind of seeing you do it, right? Put your time into it and your discipline. Yeah, I mean, that's all great stuff. So a couple of things. Do you think, maybe you already answered this, but was the altitude harder than you thought it would be?

Because you said you caught it would be one thing, but maybe was it 10% harder, 20% harder? Like what's your take on it?

Kevin (24:20.927)
I think just day to day just touring around, there was times when it was, let's say about 10, 15%, like there'd be some times where if I got out of the car too fast, it'd be like, ooh, there's like a little hitch. The run, I would say it was probably like 80% more than I was expecting. Like I knew...

the elevation, everybody told me about the elevation, everyone thought this is not the race for you to do. But I wanted to experience it, whether it's good or bad, I finished. That's, that's the important part is finishing, I didn't give up. But yeah, it was the run portion was a lot harder than I expected.

Mike Ricci (25:08.958)
Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it's accumulation, right? The swim is one thing. It takes a little audio. You don't really realize it. You have a good bike split. You don't really realize that's probably taking something out of you, right? And then you get to the run and a couple of miles in, you're saying, okay, this is gonna be a challenge today. And I've had races like that. We've all had them. And they make you dig deep and they make you realize what's your why and who are you? Okay, two more questions for you.

Kevin (25:24.618)

Mike Ricci (25:37.829)
One, um...

What advice would you have for people that haven't come to Altitude to race before?

Kevin (25:47.773)

I'm not sure. I think like I mentioned earlier, I don't know if there's ways to do it around like those masks or if there's maybe there's a place near you. Like we have a place here called Blue Mountain. I don't know if that would be enough of a variant to go and maybe do some training there. I don't think like you guys are like 5,000 feet.

and we're like 500, so I don't know, I'm never gonna get that difference. But I'm sure there might be some things out there that you can incorporate into your training. I think if I was to do it again, I would try and find something to make myself more prepared for it. So that I could.

Mike Ricci (26:38.021)
Would you recommend that people take the altitude seriously?

Kevin (26:43.151)
Oh yes, 100%. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (26:44.158)
Yeah. And maybe hydrate a little bit more so you're not getting that lightheadedness, more electrolytes maybe. Yeah. Did you have any trouble eating when you were here?

Kevin (26:51.199)
That's the, sorry, I...

Kevin (26:58.331)
like the nerves were there in my stomach. So that kind of sometimes can affect me. But the one thing that helped after that little training ride we did was, I just started pounding electrolytes. And I found that did help just on the day-to-day stuff. Maybe I needed more on the bike and the run, I'm not sure. But yeah, definitely take it seriously.

Mike Ricci (27:11.294)
Yeah. Okay.

Kevin (27:28.756)
And I definitely recommend the race, even knowing what I went through. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (27:31.446)
Excellent. Right, right. And did you have a long time to recover? Like was it within a week you felt normal again? Or was it three or four days? Like what was your recovery like?

Kevin (27:42.848)
Um, just like body wise or.

Mike Ricci (27:45.354)
Yeah, like, did you feel like, okay, I can go hit a hard bike again, I can get in the water and swim hard for some hundreds or did it take, you know, four or five days a week?

Kevin (27:54.655)
Yeah, probably, probably about maybe four days. It wasn't too bad. And I think that could be, I think it could be the fact that I didn't bike as hard as I wanted to, or I didn't run as hard as I wanted to. So I might've still had some left in the tank, but the day after for sure, yeah, I was stiff and it was-

Mike Ricci (27:58.935)

Kevin (28:23.443)
It was hard moving around. Yeah.

Mike Ricci (28:25.27)
Right on, right on. Well, that's awesome. Glad you had a great experience and I really appreciate all the insight. I think that it'll help people understand that you just can't get off the planet altitude and you're not always gonna rock it. You might have to hold back five or 10%, hit the electrolytes, right? Keep up the calories and listen to your body, right? Like listen to your body and say, I don't need to bike that hard because maybe that run would have been worse or try to swim with a group.

normally swim with and just take the day as it comes to you. Well, thanks for coming on, really do appreciate it and good luck in your next race. I know it's coming up here in a couple of days and I'm sure you're gonna crush your time since the last one was at altitude. And this race is probably a low splatter and sea level.

Kevin (28:59.891)

Kevin (29:10.067)
Yeah, and.

Kevin (29:13.779)
Yeah, it's pretty flat. There's almost no elevation between the bike or the run. So hopefully gonna go all out.

Mike Ricci (29:20.65)
Awesome. All right. Well, good luck and we'll talk soon. Thanks, Kevin.

Kevin (29:23.755)
Thanks. Thanks for having me Mike.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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