Q: What motivated you to start participating in triathlons, and how did your journey begin?
A: “I started competing in triathlons around 2009. I have always been a competitive cyclist and wanted to ‘tri’ my hand at multisport events.”
Q: Training for an Ironman requires dedication. How do you prepare?
A: “Competing in any triathlon takes a lot of mental toughness and grit. Before an Ironman event, I am training about 15-20 hours per week. I listen to Spotify when I run. When I train on my indoor cycling trainer, I thank God for Netflix! What helps the most is the community of triathletes, my ‘tribe’ of all age groups in Gainesville that has become my extended family. We all encourage and help each other, and it makes the training much easier with friends.”
Q: You recently competed in the 2023 Ironman World Championship race. What does this accomplishment mean to you?
A: “I have completed several full Ironman distance triathlons in the past, and I came in second place in Ironman Florida in November 2022. This led me to receive an invitation to the 2023 Ironman World Championship race in Nice, France, on Sept. 10. It was a 2.4-mile swim in the Mediterranean, a 112-mile bike course through the mountains and then a 26.2-mile marathon along the coast in Nice. It was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I tend to be humble, but I am proud of this accomplishment. It has been a goal of mine for years. Few get the chance to compete in an Ironman, and getting invited to the world championship race was a huge honor.”
Q: Can you tell us about the significance of the lymphoma triathlon racing team kit you wear?
A: “My first wife died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. My oldest son, Dan, who lost his mom, is also an Ironman triathlete and started the team to raise money for the Lymphoma Research Foundation. So far in just over a year, he has raised about $50,000!”
Q: How did your race go in November in Cozumel? Will we see you in the 2024 Ironman world championship?
A: “I did well in Ironman Cozumel and came in first for my age group. That automatically qualified me for another world championship spot this year in Kona, Hawaii. I will be racing Oct. 26 in my second Ironman World Championship. It’s been a tough but good year in Ironman racing.”
Q: What inspired you to become a doctor and specialize in cardiology?
A: “I always wanted to be a physician, even as a kid, but I was not the best student in high school or college, so it took me a while. Once I applied myself, I did better and improved academically. I wanted to be a surgeon, but when my first wife died after my third year of medical school and I had an 8-year-old son, I just could not complete a surgical residency and be a dad. So, I finished a residency in internal medicine, which was still hard, and then trained in cardiology and interventional cardiology. Cardiology mated well with my engineering background from college, and interventional cardiology lets me be involved in procedures, which I enjoy.”
Q: What drew you to UF and Gainesville, and how does the community here help support you?
A: “My career brought me to Gainesville, mostly for the academic experience. The ability to interact with students, residents and fellows daily is one of the joys of my career. I get to participate in quite a bit of research, and I feel lucky to be surrounded by the UF environment. The community is quite supportive both in the professional and extra-professional realms. I have amazing partners in cardiology and a very supportive group to do my triathlon training with.”
Q: February is American Heart Month. As a cardiologist and an Ironman athlete, can you speak to the importance of staying active? Do you have any advice about fitness for heart health?
A: “I have always been and continue to be a strong advocate for physical activity. I think Heart Month reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves by eating well and staying active. Triathlons are not for everyone, but it is important for all of us to find something we like activity-wise and go out and participate, even if it is just a walk in the park.”