Athlete Interview: Jake Bauer
Jake Bauer is a MCC athlete from Olympia, Washington, who has been coached by Marilyn Chychota for the last three years. A successful Mohs surgeon, Jake took some time out of his busy schedule for an interview with Marilyn about his athletic background and his approach to training and racing while managing external life stress.
Marilyn Chychota: What is your athletic background?
Jake Bauer: I grew up playing any and all sports, including youth swimming, biking and running, but enjoyed running most. Soccer dominated my teens, and I went on to play Division 1 soccer. After college, I returned to running but developed a severe case of recurring Achilles tendonitis in my early 30s. My physical therapist was an Ironman triathlete and coach, and as I recovered, triathlon became a way to decrease the load on my body and continue high level competition. I’ve been a triathlete for five years.
MC: Can you tell me about some of the adversities you had to work around to train and race successfully?
JB: I am a very involved father of 3, and have my own medical practice. Balancing life, work, and triathlon has always taken its own appropriate focus. The most challenging aspect this season was separating from my spouse after 11 years of marriage. Balancing family, work, and training was challenging already. Managing the stress of separation, maintaining a healthy, functional relationship with my spouse, and at the same time, trying to rebuild my life, required a lot of extra planning, self-awareness and care, and flexibility.
MC: Your experience would make for a challenging personal life for anyone, without having additional sport stress. How did/do you make it work?
JB: I found being open with you as my coach about life stress, being honest about about the time and energy I had for training in and around life, and participating in counseling helped mitigate the upheaval. I focused a lot on trying to be authentic for myself and for my kids.
MC: What would you say are your strengths?
JB: In life, I am optimistic, and have a good handle on who I am as a person and what I can do. I enjoy the process of working toward long term goals. In racing, I think calmly and stay focused, I don’t get rattled, and I make adjustments well.
MC: Is there something you’ve learned over time that was unexpected?
JB: My biggest gains over the years have come through learning to follow a process in training and racing. I used to line up after training too hard too often hoping to PR and feeling anxiety about a placement or a result, and then not getting the most out of myself. I now trust a more intentional plan, and approach races as a chance to fully test what I have done in training, using process related goals. I think I have found the most satisfaction in that I am now happier competing with others instead of against them, and as such, I continue to find joy and improvement in sport long after I thought I was on the way out.
Another important thing I learned was to not lean on data so much. I love data and numbers! For the first few years of our relationship, I would ask you lots of questions about my numbers, particularly cycling watts. I remember you telling me, “Let’s learn how to ride first, then we can worry about numbers.” That was a turning point for me. Learning to use power numbers as a guide in conjunction with learning to dose efforts over the course of a session, week or block has really helped me to get more out of myself. As a result, I’ve had more positive surprises or breakthroughs this year than any year in the past. In the weeks leading up to Ironman Louisville, we recorded a 40km TT PR for time and watts and a half marathon PR. Now that was fun!
MC: Because everyone always wants to know, what is your standard training week like?
JB: We follow a pretty basic week. My typical training week ranges from 9 to 15 hours with three swims (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), three to four rides including a long session on weekends, three to four runs, and one or two core/strength workouts. I usually to train in the morning before work, and another session at lunch.
MC: With your life stresses this year, we approached the season differently. Can you share our approach?
JB: We abandoned planned early season races, specifically Ironman Whistler. This was really tough for me. I thought this was a year and race that suited my abilities and fitness, and I had a hard time letting that go. We then recovered mentally and physically. We replaced a lot of volume with shorter higher intensity workouts and found mid-season TT type races to help structure motivation when it was low. We used rest and recovery as a greater tool than in the past, and maximized the most of our time training and recovering. I learned that there are many ways to get to the same fitness endpoint in racing. Life stress is its own force, but we respected it and worked with it. Many days in the summer doing a bare minimum was very hard. More than once, you reminded me to think of my “why” and who I wanted to be. Each time I felt like throwing in the towel, I faced a choice of cutting away a little of who I wanted to be, then and in the future. A little more effort at those times, even when it was hard, preserved more of myself for when I started to come out of a very difficult time in my life. Eventually, we gained steam in training and in life and, despite an entirely different approach to my two prior Ironman distance races, I raced well at IM Louisville, with PRs in all disciplines. After the year I had been through, it was fulfilling to race happy and healthy.
MC: I think we have a good coach/athlete relationship. What do you think works well?
JB: As my coach, I have learned to trust you to make all the calls. Train or rest. Hard or easy. Plenty of times I have doubted my ability in training but been able to do the lofty set you laid out. Alternatively, there have been plenty of times I have blown up, too eager to challenge myself when I should have held back. It has all been part of a steady learning process and you have always approached me with an appropriately gentle or firm guiding hand. You understand what motivates me and what is important to me in life and athletically, and I can approach you with any of my thoughts without fear of judgement.
MC: What does triathlon bring to your life athletically and personally?
JB: In its most basic form, triathlon provides balance and added structure to my life and day. This structure has evolved and will continue to evolve, along with my life priorities, but fulfills a strong need to challenge myself in a physical, emotional and intellectual way. Further, it provides new friendships and a connection to others around the country through sports that I have always enjoyed. Thanks, Marilyn and team! I hope we see each other at another camp this year.