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March 14, 2024

University of Colorado Tri Team Ramps up for Conference Championships

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show notes

In this episode, Coach Mike Ricci interviews members of the CU Triathlon team as they prepare for their conference championship and nationals. Madeline and Devin share their journey into triathlon and their roles within the team. Coach KJ discusses her background in swimming and her transition into coaching. The team emphasizes the importance of fundraising to support their races and the upcoming crowdfunding campaign. They also highlight the team's focus on process-based goals and the importance of a supportive team culture. The episode concludes with information on how listeners can donate and support the team.

Link to Donate to CU Triathlon Team

Link to Buy CU Triathlon Gear


  • The CU Triathlon team relies on fundraising to support their races and subsidize costs.
  • The team emphasizes process-based goals and a supportive team culture.
  • Coach KJ has seamlessly transitioned into her role as coach and has brought a focus on swim workouts and maintaining team traditions.
  • The team is focused on preparing for their conference championship and nationals, with a goal of performing their best and enjoying the experience.


00:00 Introduction and Team Background

03:06 Roles and Fundraising

05:55 Preparations for Conference Championship

09:03 Coach KJ's Impact on the Team

12:00 Coach KJ's Transition and Comfort with the Team

14:58 Coaching Moments and Frustrations

19:46 Fundraising and Support

21:30 Closing Remarks and Good Luck


Mike (00:01.55)
Hi, Coach Mike Ricci here with the D3 Multisport Podcast, and today I'm super psyched to have the CU Tri Team on as they head into their conference championship next week. I have Devin on here, and Madeline and Coach KJ. How are you guys doing today?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (00:18.278)
Good. Doing well. Thank you.

Mike (00:20.014)
Did you get in a solid workout getting ready for conference?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (00:23.494)
Nice long run this morning enjoying the nice weather

Mike (00:26.99)
Yeah, awesome. So Madeline, tell me a little bit about your role in the team and then how you kind of came into Trathlon and, you know, with the CU team.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (00:34.694)
Yeah, definitely. I think I'll start with how I got into triathlon. I've been running since I was young. And then throughout high school, I was doing track and cross country. And my last two years of high school, I decided to pick up swimming because the school just added a team. And then I knew a girl who used to be on the team, Ashley Dara, who was the president a few years back. So her and I were at the same high school. We ran together. And she came to CU. And so then when I came to CU, I saw her.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (01:04.838)
I was at the club fair, like at a triathlon booth, and I was like, wait, what is this? It's just like, you need to join. Like, this team is so awesome, and it's probably the best decision I have made. Like, this team is just a family, and it's been so fun training with everybody. And then, yeah, this year I'm working for fundraising for the team. So basically we don't, like, since we're club sports, we don't get money from the school, so we have to fundraise all of our money, basically. So that way we can have subsidized.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (01:32.806)
for all of our races for athletes. And so right now we're like getting into our crowdfunding campaign, which is a big deal where we make a lot of money from donations. And that mostly goes towards our Havasu conference race and our national conference race, which is coming up soon. So I bring in all the money.

Mike (01:45.998)
Awesome. So you guys still write letters to you? Do you still write letters to grandparents and parents and all that and ask for money? Is that how you guys still do it? Yeah, cool. And Devin, and Devin, tell me a little about your role and how you got started and your background.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (01:56.712)
Yeah, we do. We collect. Yeah.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (02:07.11)
Yeah, yeah, so I'll start the same as Madeline, how I got into the sport. I've been a swimmer, runner, essentially my whole life, junior year of high school, which was 2019 to 2020 for me. I just had an epiphany. I wanted to start triathlon. So that spring instead of running track, again, spring of 2020, I picked up cycling, joined a local triathlon team, maybe got three months into that before COVID hit.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (02:36.486)
And that just pretty much pushed everything triathlon related in my life back a few years. I really wouldn't call myself a triathlete. I wouldn't have called myself a triathlete until I got to CU. Part of the reason I chose to go to CU was for the tri team, because I knew again, I wanted to do triathlon and it's been a great, great decision, great choice. I'm so glad to be on the team. Finally now getting all that training that I set out to do in high school now.

I really, really enjoy the team. It is a really family experience. It's really fun. Madeline's one of my best friends. Love the coaches. It's a great experience. I'm the president of the team, which really means I do a lot of the administrative tasks. So working with the school, working with the coaches, working with all the athletes, just a lot of micromanaging, but then also a lot of long -term planning, putting together the team's goals, those sort of things.

Mike (03:38.35)
That's great. That's great. I've always thought that, even top 10, top eight kids, it seems like the first half of those kids came to see you for triathlon and the other half kind of just picked it up and somewhere along the line, they were just able to get up to speed. And I think that's a lot has to do with the coaching in terms of just coaching those kids up. Maybe they were good at swimming or running and we could get them to, and I know Dave will say to me, oh, I got this kid who's a runner and I got him in the pool and I'm teaching him to swim and just watch what this kid does. And that's awesome.

Mike (04:07.31)
And Coach KJ, I know a little bit about your background and you went to one of the best schools around in Tufts. I have a nephew that goes there right now and my cousin's husband also went there. He actually teaches at Harvard now. So I know it's a pretty smart school. Tell us a little bit about your background maybe in swimming, is that right?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (04:24.822)
Yeah, so my background is in swimming. I grew up a backstroker and a butterflier, not distance swimming. Did swim at Tufts and played club water polo, so I had a slight introduction to the club sport world. Swam all four years, loved having my teammates. They were my best friends on campus. And so joining this team, having that team culture was really important to me and maintaining it. I had  started doing triathlon in 2015. And so kind of came out of school and wasn't really quite sure what to do. Tried just running and just running wasn't cutting it for me. It wasn't enjoying it all too much, but throwing the bike into the mix really made it a manageable and fun challenge. And yeah, just fell deeply in love with the sport of triathlon.

I've been coaching swimming, whether I was like a learning to coach coach since I was 13, was the head coach of a couple different summer swim teams in California and then here in Boulder. And just, I love coaching. I love sharing my love of sport. And yeah, it's triathlon is such a dynamic, dynamic place to be. There's a lot going on and it's super fun. I'm so thrilled to be part of this team.

Mike (05:43.886)
That's awesome. That's awesome. How do you guys feel the preparations are coming for a conference and who's the biggest rival? Is it still CSU or is it another school?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (05:55.178)
Probably ASU, CSU, our team has a lot of friends and therefore competition from probably University of Arizona. So those are the two schools we're most looking forward to racing with. Although Air Force has at least one really strong athlete that will be fighting for our podium spots. But yeah, the team looks really good.

The coaching has been great, which I'm sure KJ will talk about in just a little bit. Everyone's super stoked. The practice attendance has been super high lately. All the freshmen, I've been so proud of them. They're so excited to race this race. They have no idea what's coming, but they're just so giddy and excited to get on the vans in the next few days and race at Havasu in about a week.

Mike (06:46.094)
And you get that nice long 14 hour bonding experience driving down there. So that's awesome. Coach KJ, so same question for you. You've been with the team since October. How do you feel like things have come around? Do you feel like the team's ready? Do you see improvements? Like what's your take on the whole thing?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (07:03.91)
Yeah, so my first in -person experience with the team was actually at Pumpkin Man, so our last race of the fall. I was moving back to Boulder via Pumpkin Man. So I got to watch a lot of the racing, but had no idea who I was really watching. We'll echo Devin. We've had such great practice attendance. I think the smallest practice we've had has been like 20 people.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (07:30.63)
And that's for like a midweek run. So that's been really outstanding and like seeing everybody's dedication and just like investment in themselves and in the team, like the camaraderie has been super duper high. And so I'm really excited to see what happens in Havasu. I think it'll be, it has the potential to be super successful. And so, yeah.

Mike (07:50.446)
Awesome. Awesome. When I started coaching the team, fall 2008, I started like in November, I think, because they replaced the coach. But the first workout I did, I'm a swim coach by experience as well. And I get out there and I had like 35 kids for a run. And I was like, what do I do with 35 kids? I mean, it was like, holy cow. So I took them down to Scott Carpenter, we ran hill repeats up there and then ran them all over the place and tired them all out because when you get that many kids, there's so much energy, right? Like you just go home buzzing, right? Just buzzing like, holy cow. And it's almost like you had like a tank of caffeine. So it's pretty wild. Right. So Devin and Madeline. So obviously you guys were there under Brad, right? So for a couple of years and kind of, I'm sure the team was, he's been there for 10 years. So a lot of his things have probably been, you know, in the culture for a bit there.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (08:30.79)
Yeah, for real.

Mike (08:45.838)
What's been the change with Coach KJ and what does she brought to the program? What do you appreciate about her coaching? Because I'm sure it's a different style, right?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (08:54.822)
Yeah, I'd say like one of the biggest differences is just the swim workouts. I think we all immediately were like, yep, KJ was a swim coach and she's kicking our butts in these swims. But I think like that's just adding to the excitement of Havasu. Like I'm ready to watch all of us race so hard. But I don't know, I think KJ has done a great job of like, like when our officer board meeting, she's always like, what are the traditions? Like, what do you guys usually do? How do we incorporate it? Like,

I think it was the smoothest transition we ever could have had with a new coach. There was no, nothing felt like drastic, like it was all same workout plans. Like they're slightly different workouts, but like the plan was the same. The traditions have been the same. I think you've just done a great job of just assimilating right into this team and keeping the culture and the spirit super high. It's so energetic. It's awesome.

Mike (09:58.414)
Do you guys do the 8x100 on 3 mintues workout? Eight by 100 swim workout. Okay. So that came from a friend of mine who swim at the university of Maryland and done that work out for a long time. So I had the team one year that had such a high level of fitness that we ran through it twice in one practice and they were just all like, what? And so coach, keep that in your back pocket for next year.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (10:19.566)
Don't say that! We just did that workout on Monday.

Mike (10:25.486)
That's awesome. That's awesome. So, coach, what do you feel like, I mean, how long has it taken you to feel comfortable with the team and feel like, you because I know, you know, walking in there, it's kind of intimidating a little bit, like all these kids, and now you're the focal point. And I know you got some help with Dave, but it's still, you know, it's a little overwhelming with so many kids coming up to you. And then, you know, sometimes you are the point when it's a problem with something like, hey, I'm going to miss practice, I'm going to do this.

I got this going on or so and so and I got an ankle injury and then you know all these things and so you know how long is it taking you to feel comfortable and do you feel like you've kind of settled in at this point?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (11:03.59)
Yeah, sure. So my introduction to the team was actually through Devin and Madeline. They did my first interview and was just so struck by their professionalism and how well they handled the whole process. Because then we had a second interview, which was a whole panel. And I was really nervous because they were so professional. So in a video call with the team, I was very, very nervous going into it. And then the questions started coming up that were a little bit sillier. And that's when I kind of, I was like, okay, I can take a deep breath. These are the right kids. This is who I was supposed to be working with. This is gonna be fine. Like I mentioned, Pumpkin Man was my first in -person introduction and it was very intimidating, just not knowing names and doing my best to be helpful, but also not in the way. Because really Coach Dave has been so awesome and has made the transition pretty seamless. I've been able to really lean on Coach Dave, Devin, Madeline, the rest of the office, reporting like, okay, you guys like help me out sanity check here. Like, is this feeling right? Like, are we going the right path on this? And so it took probably a good week or two in practices before I was like, yep, got my feet back under me, feel okay.

But at this point, like we got everybody's names down, like there's no questions around that. I know folks histories, I know like what we're dealing with in terms of injury or anything along those lines. And so yeah, like I feel, I feel embedded at this point. So I hope you guys are. Right.

Mike (12:43.118)
That's awesome. That's I mean, coaching is coaching, right? Like the coaching is the coaching, but the other part is always the hard part, right? So I remember when I started, same kind of thing as you, I had like maybe a month and then the kids went off to break for, you know, three or four weeks, but I gave them a schedule. I'm like, look, you guys need to stay on the schedule and da da da. And a lot of the kids did it. But I remember we came back and all of a sudden, you know, the leadership team was like, hey, we're getting ready for, you know, to go to conference. And I'm like, well, what do you mean we're taking 60 kids and we're gonna take bikes in a trailer and
they pulled out this big binder with all this stuff in it and everything. I'm like, wow, you guys are so organized.

We had 60 kids in eight different cars and you know who ran out of gas and I mean you know it's just it's the crazy stuff that happens right so that's awesome that's awesome so coach have you had any you know like special fuzzy moments so far where you're like wow things are starting to click and you know you can see like kids are making progress and you feel like wow this is we're coming together here.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (13:44.166)
Yeah, you know, I mean, rightfully so. A lot of the, a lot of the team was kind of cautious around me for like, they weren't quite sure if they could ask questions or, um, I offered like kind of check -in calls, like get to know you, like goal setting that kind of thing as I was coming on board. And, um, like a lot of people took me up on it and it, as that kind of developed, it seemed like folks were more, more interested in having conversations. And like, for me, the warm fuzzies come from like post -workout.

Like the really sincere like, thanks coach or like, thanks KJ. That was really hard. And I know for a lot of people like saying like thank you in passing, like doesn't mean much to give a thank you, but to receive a thank you is really special and it means a lot.

Mike (14:29.742)
No, as a coach, it means a lot. And I coach with BAM now a couple of times a week and even older adults, and I've got these old, I got a Wednesdays, I have a lane of older women, they're all 65 plus and they get out and they're like, hey, thanks, that was really hard and it's what I needed. And I'm like, you're welcome. It just makes you feel, it fills you up, right? It fills you up. The younger people are mad, they got a hard workout and the older people are appreciated. So that leads me to my question of...

Has Coach KJ ever been a moment where she's been frustrated or has said, come on, you guys, let's get it together? No?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (16:02.086)
No. Oh, I have one in mind. From the athlete's perspective, I can't really think of any. I think Coach KG's been very good on our end of being just being very level -headed. And it comes down to a lot of our athletes to be the ones to say, get it together. Let's work harder. But I'm curious.

Mike (16:11.694)
You're good at hiding it. See, that's great. That's great. That's awesome.

Mike (16:27.892)
That's great. That's great. That's great.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (16:30.15)
Oh, I don't think they're mad so much. So Coach Allie is one of our alumni athletes, and she's been helping, especially with swims. And it was one of the first, probably within the first six weeks of being on board. And was like, and like folks were either over swimming speeds or under swimming speeds. I like, you gotta hit what's prescribed. Like we're trying to swim this zone. Like we're trying to swim this pace. Like don't overdo it, but also don't underdo it. And Coach Allie was like,

Coach Brad never said anything like that. That's the first time we've seen that so early for Coach KJ to be like, brah. And I've known for like three years, so.

Mike (17:08.044)
No, that's...

Yeah, no, I love it. I love it. That's you got, I mean, you know, same thing on the track. You'll see kids trying to overrun things and you're like, look, that's not the pace, right? This is the pace and they got to stick to it. So that's, that's always the fun stuff. That's awesome.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (17:20.326)
Yeah, it's not about today, tomorrow, next week, right? Next month.

Mike (17:24.462)
That's right. That's right. Well, I always go by the Jack Daniels rule. If you want to run faster in training, run faster in races first. So that's how you earn running those, you know, 90 second or 85 second, 400s. You got to go run five 40s in the race or six minutes, whatever it is. So awesome. So coach, what, um, what, what are the, what are kind of the outlier goals for conference and then, and then, um, nationals.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (17:32.646)
Love it.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (17:37.958)

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (17:51.494)
Yeah, you know, I mean, this team has seen so much success, like at the national level, at the conference level. For me, coming on board, like there's always room for growth. And so it's really important, like process is really important for me. And it's so easy to focus on an outcome, but the racing we do really like it's.

like time trial bikes, but nothing is time trial about it, right? We have a unique new course at Nationals. Habits too is a very unique course. So the, like focusing in on how we can do the best we can, like achieving within a process based goal system is a lot more powerful to me than an outcome. And so like ultimately winning podiums,

Mike (18:34.478)

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (18:41.808)
like championships, like cherry on top. But if we're going into the race happy and healthy, then we're coming out fast and feeling strong about how we performed. Like that's a win for me. That's what's most important.

Mike (18:53.87)
Yeah, love that. That's perfect. Yeah, I agree. I think there's a lot of things you can't control. And one thing that I've learned over the years, even going into some races where I thought we weren't ready or maybe some kids were hurt and we didn't, we weren't as strong as we thought we could be. These kids are so adaptable and they're so amazing at assessing in the moment, like what they need to do to get up a couple of places or do whatever. You know, kids are telling me, well, I was counting how many kids I was passing. I knew I was in the top 40 and I'm like, Oh my God, like there's,

500 kids out there, like you're counting people. It's just amazing, the kids are amazing. And they never, I never doubted them and I never, they never stopped amazing me, right? So that was always the fun part of everything. Awesome, awesome. Okay, this has been awesome. So Madeline, do you want to tell us a little bit about where people can donate and get some money to the team and help you guys fundraise and help support you guys get to nationals?

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (19:46.022)
Yes, definitely. Yeah, so we'll have our crowdfunding link live in about a week or so. And so if anybody's looking for that, it'll be latest updates will be on our Instagram. And the link will be in the Instagram as well once that's live. I believe it will also be on our website, which people can just Google as well. So I'm super stoked for it. It's definitely, like I said, the biggest way that we raise money for our team. So it's super important for us.

just go in and donate any amount of money. So we'll be sending it out to like people on the team. We all like submit like our crowdfunding emails. So we'll be sending out to our family members, but then anybody at all is welcome and encouraged to donate. And that money is important for us to send as many athletes as possible to nationals with like the most subsidized prices that we can get because it is expensive to fly with all of our bikes and everything. And, um,

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (20:44.166)
Yeah, so I'm super stoked about it. And then as always, like as officer board will be doing the alumni calls in a few weeks. So we encourage alumni to like wait until we like give them the call. And then we like having those conversations with them and just like reminiscing about the team and hearing where everybody's at right now and then having them donate that way. Yeah, so we're super excited. And then we'll also be having a second fundraiser going on through our like BSN store, which is like the.

like all of us are wearing basically. So we have that store open right now and that's for like parents and alumni as well to buy. So you try gear and as we're getting ready for nationals some of that money is going to be donated back to the team which is awesome as well.

Mike (21:30.99)
Awesome, all right. And if you send me a link, I'll put it up in the show notes and people can see that. And I'll put it when I post this up too. So, well, thank you all so much for being on and good luck. And I hope we continue to do it. We have not lost a conference yet, right? We won every year. All right, so that one you got to keep going. All right, awesome. And good luck at Nationals. And hopefully we'll talk after that and you guys can tell me how you did. Thank you so much.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (21:35.512)
Thank you.

CU Triathlon (Devin Schmuckal) (21:42.122)
Awesome, sounds great. Thank you, 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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