Olympic ambition


HSE alum training for triathlon spot in 2016 Olympics

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Justin Roeder had no idea he was in first.

It was the last leg of the 2011 Morse Park Summer Triathlon.

After a 600-yard swim, a 13-mile bike ride and about half of a three-mile run, the Hamilton Southeastern High School and Butler University graduate started lapping the competition.

Now Roeder trains every week, working toward qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics triathlon.

And he hasn’t turned back.

Triathlon Pic 2A new path

His story doesn’t start out as a would-be tri-athlete training his whole life for the grueling races. Roeder started running for fun during grade school, and by the end of middle school, he was convinced he could be a successful cross country and track runner. One IHSAA state championship and high school career later, Roeder’s next stop was Butler’s program.

He was coming down from the highest point in his cross country career and was about to hit his nadir – even with the success of qualifying for regional conferences.

Roeder struggled to hit the mark for training duration. A coaching change led to high mileage training that he couldn’t achieve while being plagued by calf and Achilles’ tendon injuries.

“To know what you have to do in order to run fast [and]just not be able to do it, it’s a tough thing to swallow,” Roeder said.

With his career at Butler over and a master’s program at IUPUI in the works while assistant coaching at the school’s program, Roeder said his dad suggested he give triathlons a shot.

After the win at Morse Park, Roeder was approached by Barb Lindquist, a past Olympian, who offered him a spot with USA Triathlon, a group that assists young athletes in reaching professional status.

After recently winning the Revolution3 Triathlon in Knoxville, Tenn., Roeder was offered professional status, but has opted to remain amateur for the duration of the 2012 Olympics and at least one more big race.

Triathlon Pic 4

Training for the global spotlight

Training for a triathlon is a beast on its own.

Roeder guesses his regular caloric intake is about 4,000 to 4,500 calories per day.

That’s four full meals. And snacks. He admits he can’t keep the weight on.  Sleep is important, too.

Sean Edwards, Roeder’s coach, said it takes a special mentality to make it in the sport.

Edwards has worked with Roeder for approximately nine months, and said he’s made a big enough impression to be favored in future races.

With another year or two of training, Edwards said Roeder can become a force to be reckoned with in the professional world.

“He’s a sponge,” Edwards said. “He soaks it all in.”

Training is like a full-time job for Roeder – he usually clocks in at about 30 hours every week.

Edwards said Roeder put his master’s program at IUPUI on hold to pursue his dream.

The competition is suited for any athlete’s build, so success comes down to an athlete’s ability to efficiently move his or her body weight, stamina and a level of mental strategy unlike any other sport.

The international standards for a triathlon include a 15-meter swim, a 40K bike ride and a 10K run.

Put too much strain on your legs during the swim? Good luck in the bike race. And best of luck trying to play through the pain during the run.

Roeder accepts that he’ll be passed in the first leg of any triathlon – swimming. But as he builds momentum, the competition evolves into a cat and mouse game.

“It’s nice to do the hunting in a race,” he said.

By the time a race is coming to an end, Roeder slogs through the pain and mental fatigue takes a toll.

“It takes a special person to make it,” Edwards said. “You gotta be self motivated. You gotta want to win.”

Road to the Olympics

Once Roeder takes professional status, he’ll have four years to prove himself.

Four years to prove that after major successes in his cross country career, he still has a competitive edge sharp enough to cut through global competition.

To qualify for the Olympics, he has to accumulate a number of points, run the right races, meet the right people and place in the top nine at a world championship triathlon.

He’s embarking on a journey unlike any other he’s ever taken, with unexpected twists and steep hills.

“You don’t ask questions,” Roeder said. “You just do it.”