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Kevin O’Connor on Slowtwitch.com

Well the owner of one of the largest triathlon shops outside of the coasts has made it on the front page of slowtwitch.com. While Kevin O’Connor has always been great at sharing some of his hard earned triathlon wisdom (no dnfs!), his passion for our sport is what I really enjoy and it’s always great to hear of the good old days of triathlon. He has built Gear West into a multisport powerhouse and still runs the Midwest Multisport series (this is it’s 10th year) which has the best giveaways in the country!

Kevin O'Connor

The full interview that Herbert Krabel conducted is below:

Industry athlete Kevin O’Connor

Written by: Herbert Krabel
Date: Tue Apr 29 2008
We are starting a new interview series featuring industry people who are doing what they are preaching. It of course doesn’t mean that only athletic industry folks are competent when it comes to the sport, but it is nice to know who understands from personal experience what their customers go through. Our first subject of “industry athlete” is Kevin O’Connor, the owner of Gear West Bike & Tri. He has been as fast as 9:13 in Kona and just recently finished in 9:35.

ST: Kevin, how long have you been involved in triathlon?

Kevin: My first Triathlon was the Springfield Ironhorse in 1990. My next was the Vineman Iron Distance in 1991. Ignorance is bliss. I have been racing ever since.

ST: Can you share how you balance training, family and work?

Kevin: I learned from Tim DeBoom’s late father, Ken, that there are three things in life: Family, Career, and your Hobby. Choose two to do well because you can’t do all three well. I raced a lot as I started my career at Gear West through the 1990’s. My wife and I had twin boys in 2000 and my racing took a back seat to family and career. I still participated in races but I only worked out a little, no training. This last year I was in a position, with a very supportive wife and a great staff at the shop, to train again for the first time in 10 years. A little less time at home and a little less time at the shop afforded me the time to get fit to go back to Kona. It was stressful on everyone involved so it is not something I will do every year. Racing as an elite amateur isn’t worth sacrificing a successful business or a great family.

ST: What race result are you most proud of, and what is your favorite race?

Kevin: That is a tough question. It may not be much to the real fast guys but for me I am proud because I did work hard to achieve them. I would say there are a few things. I did 9:13 in Kona back when I was 22. I did a 53:14 40km TT at State Championships a long time ago. I have never DNF in any race including 125+ triathlons, 50+ running races, 20+ bike races. What is freshest in my memory is last this past October in Kona I did a 9:35. I executed my plan perfectly and it was my 2nd best time and it was 15 years after I first went to Kona.

ST: How were you fit to your bike? Who helps you to get dialed in?

Kevin: I have been riding in almost the same position since 1993. I am in a little less aggressive position since I don’t train as much but it hasn’t really changed much. I kind of “found” my position by accident. There were no triathlon bike fit experts in Iowa or anywhere in the Midwest back then. I played with my position and took any criticism or advice into consideration until I found a position that I felt like a rocket and that I could spend all day in. Now, I can take the feedback from everyone here at the shop if I am questioning something.

ST: Do you get to train much with your monster pro David Thompson?

Kevin: I don’t really train with David much. A couple of runs or rides but they would not be considered training just workouts. None of us amateurs could actually keep up with him on his hard training efforts anyway. David and I do a handful of Team TT’s together each year. Those are painful enough for me so I don’t need to add insult to injury by trying to train with him.

ST: What sports did you take part when you grew up?

Kevin: I did not do any organized sports growing up. I grew up on a BMX bike and did a lot of flatland freestyle riding. No help in triathlon. I am self taught in all of the disciplines. That probably explains a lot!

ST: What or who inspired you to race triathlons?

Kevin: I don’t really know. I think it was simply a challenge. I didn’t know a single triathlete nor anyone who swam, biked, or ran. Not sure how I became a tri geek.

ST: What is your favorite tip you have for a new triathlete?

Kevin: Have fun. The worst thing I see is when someone takes it too seriously. Relax and have fun.

ST: If a customer has only $300 to spend on new speed, what will you tell him/her to get?

Kevin: Easy answer, get a bike fit. From what I see at races, I would estimate that more than half the people at a race would go faster if they were fit better (or fit at all) on their bike. Go to someone that has the experience in fitting someone like YOU. All really good bike fitters have earned a reputation with their work so it isn’t too hard to find out who the good ones are.

ST: Do you get customers who want to set their bikes up in terms of position just like certain pros?

Kevin: We actually hear more of the opposite. We are far more likely to hear “I don’t want to ride like Bjorn Andersson”. We always fit people based first on comfort. Of the 1000+ tri bike fits I have done I don’t think there are two the same. So it would be pretty difficult to fit someone like their favorite pro.

ST: Kevin, can you tell me a bit more about Gear West?

Kevin: Gear West Bike & Tri has been around for 15 years. We have had 5 expansions and currently occupy 9,000 sq. ft. We have been working with triathlon bikes and involved in the local triathlon community since the beginning. Most of the brands we work with are the ones we have been with since 1995 or so; Zipp, QR, Trek, Felt, etc. With those relationships we have been able to have, what may be, the best list of giveaways of any race series in the country. At each of the 10 Midwest Multisport Series Races we give away a QR Lucero Frameset, A pair of Zipp 808’s, QR Ultrajohn Wetsuit, Kurt Kinetic Trainer, and a TYR Gear bag stuffed with $800 in equipment. These giveaways and other involvement is what has helped triathlons and Gear West grow in Minnesota.

ST: Outside of triathlon, do you follow other sports?

Kevin: I don’t care too much for the big 4 sports in this country. It seems to have a large number of multi-million dollar cry babies. Watching David train and knowing what all of the pro triathletes are sacrificing to achieve their goals, I have a hard time looking up to a 340lb lineman. I do follow cycling and running a little because it amazes me how fast those athletes are.

ST: What is your favorite and least favorite food?

Kevin: I like most all foods but on top of the list are Macaroni and Cheese, Spaghetti, cereal, cookies, and a gallon of milk per day. Pretty much anything with simple sugars is also in the diet. I don’t do fast food but only from guilt, I do like it. Dislikes are few: Sushi, Olives, and Coconut.

ST: Do you have a favorite band or artist?

Kevin: I grew up with “classic rock” and now I listen to country. Go ahead and laugh. I would put Bruce Springsteen, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, and Martina McBride on the top of the list.

ST: What is the last book you read?

Kevin: To Kill a Mockingbird when I was 14 years old. I have listened to a couple of book tapes on road trips but I don’t think that actually counts. If I have some free time it is either going to be a workout or decompressing in front of the TV for a few minutes.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Kevin: I am not from Iowa. Since I went to school at Iowa State and started racing with Tim DeBoom most everyone thinks I am from Iowa. I actually grew up in Illinois.
Full interview here

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April 29, 2008 at 9:04 pm
1 comment »
  • April 29, 2008 at 9:13 pmJason Rakowski

    Good Layout and design. I like your blog. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. .

    Jason Rakowski

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