DC Triathlon Club

2022 Member Spotlight – Justin Sanak

September, 2022

First thing’s first: What is your favorite Beyonce song off the new album?
The best thing about Queen Bey is how she takes our aspirations and magnifies them to a scale we hadn’t even dreamed of. Lemonade wasn’t just about winning a breakup; it was about forcing Jay-Z to make her tens of millions of dollars from songs about why he’s a bad husband. Beyoncé wasn’t just about how good an artist she was. It was a celebration of her power to drop an album with zero advance notice or marketing and instantly become the fastest-selling artist in history.

So you can understand why, as a ginger, “Break My Soul” gives me the same vibes. Don’t settle for just wanting to have a soul; make it an unbreakable one.

Now that that’s out of the way, tell us about your triathlon journey. Why did you start, stop, and then restart doing triathlons?

I joined my college’s triathlon team freshman year for nefarious reasons: we were starting a cycling team, and I wanted to steal their members for our own team. The trouble was, road cycling is a spring sport. Until that rolled around, they persuaded me to do a few races with them in the fall. Four years, two half-Ironmans and one Speed Concept later, I realized I was a lot more likely to break a collarbone in a criterium than a triathlon and started doing tris year-round.

By 2015, I’d completed my first Ironman and felt like I could do anything. The next year I signed up for six (6) long-distance races: five half-Irons and a marathon over the course of six months. And while I finished all of them, racing that much burned me to a crisp. I knew what it was like to hit the wall in a race, but that was the first time I knew what true big-picture burnout felt like. Between that and an upcoming international move , I decided to take some time off to see whether I would love the sport enough to come back to it.

It turns out I did. This hobby is a big contributor to my identity, my self-image and even my sleep schedule. I didn’t feel like my complete self without it. So once I settled into where I was living, I joined a team and built myself up to the half-Iron level again. That race gave me the confidence to train for another Ironman the following year.

…which was 2020. The world ground to a halt and I found myself with a lower risk tolerance than the tri community where I was living in Texas, so I stayed away from group training until things started to reopen this year. Ultra-distance races give you a long-term mindset: I know that I want to keep doing this sport until I skid sideways into the grave, so it’s worth taking a bit of time away if I can make sure my body stays healthy enough for the long haul. When I finally felt confident enough to start again, I had moved to DC and signed up with you.

Many of us know from training with you that you are a speedy cyclist. Is cycling your favorite discipline? What is your favorite workout of the week?
Bikes have always represented freedom and independence for me. In middle school I’d take my dinky little hybrid bike to my local rail trail and disappear for the day. I remember getting a flat and calling my mother to pick me up one day, and her being horrified that I was a 30-mile drive away from home. So cycling is absolutely my favorite discipline. I’ve been doing it for half my life, and now that I’m in DC my inner 15-year-old is thrilled to be in a city where I can get around so well by bike.

But my favorite workout of the week right now is with Track Pack DC, which I found on some obscure corner of the DC Tri website. There’s something special about waking up at an ungodly hour of the morning and blowing out the cobwebs for a solid hour, then heading to work as if it were a normal day.

You just finished your first 70.3 of the year. How did it go? Is there a blooper reel?
I’m happy with how it went. The course itself, just outside Seattle, was like racing in a postcard. It’s certainly one of the top three prettiest races I’ve done. And while my performance wasn’t perfect, I was able to fall back to a plan B and execute it almost perfectly. More importantly, I know what I need to do to fix the issues I ran into: lots of core and stabilizer muscle work in the gym this winter. Turns out running is hard on your body. Who knew?

There actually is a blooper reel, but the video I have https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JYA8vOMGNUVn-mzGZsEdDHwMZ6qBb0Gl/view?usp=drive_web is just a tribute. In T1, you can see a woman with a steadicam running by my side and filming me. I’m sure she expected a shot of me running majestically through the field with a look of determination. She actually got ten seconds of me swearing at my own arm as I struggled to pull it from my wetsuit.

What’s next for you, and what keeps you suffering along with the rest of us?
By the time this newsletter comes out I’ll have finished the olympic distance at Waterman’s, and that’s the last race of the season for me. For the winter, I’ve booked a few lessons with a personal trainer. He’s going to show me how to lift free weights with proper form, and I plan to spend a few months picking things up and putting them down to build a base for next year. Assuming that goes well, I have my eye on a late-year Ironman for 2023. Maybe this time I’ll get the tattoo afterward.

Making friends as an adult is hard: Jesus Christ’s greatest miracle was having 12 good friends in his early 30s. But triathlons give me three activities where I can drop into any place on the planet and find a community of people who share the same interest and drive. I joined this team for the friends, the sense of camaraderie and the absolutely bonkers stories that come out when you get a group of endurance athletes together.

You’re new to the DC area and to the DC Tri club. Other than our magnetic personalities and impeccable taste in post-race snacks, what drew you to us?
There’s a line in the movie The Bucket List that I’ve taken to heart: “Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world? How do you propose doing that?” “Volume.” < Caution-https://clip.cafe/the-bucket-list-2007/kiss-the-most-beautiful-girl-in-the-world/ > And while I’m not here to play spin the bottle, there’s something to be said for the sheer variety of training levels and groups in this club. If I feel like taking things slow, there’s a group for that. If I want to go on an 80-mile cycling adventure to Maryland, there’s a group for that too. If I wake up in a bush in Arlington and feel like doing a track workout, there’s a group for that as well. The New Triathlete Program this year alone had more members than both of my two previous teams combined. That’s worth joining for.

What do you do when you are not training? (is that even a thing??)
That’s very much a thing: the more support beams you put under a bridge, the more stable it will be if one or two get knocked loose. I dabble in salsa dancing; I run a tabletop game or two; I try to get out for a hike every so often and I try to get out to support my artistic friends when they put on performances. I also have a day job in communications and volunteer my voice to fan-made audiobook projects. And, of course, I spoil the hell out of my cats.

Bonus question: How is a 10 like you still single?
He’s a 10, but:
– He gets up at 4:30 a.m. wide awake and doesn’t need coffee. And past 10 p.m. he turns into a pumpkin
– He goes to the bar and gets either a fruity mocktail or, somehow, a root beer float
– His hoodies are too small for you to wear
– His cat sleeps on your face
– He tell you with a straight face about playing D&D as three goblins in a trenchcoat
– He has a degree in correcting your grammar
– He had to look up every one of Beyoncé’s albums to answer the first question