Chris Marks – Coach
Everybody has a coach that not only pushed them, but inspired them. Chris Marks developed me from a beginner triathlete to competitive professional in just a few fast years. Here is brief conversation with a master of all trades, Chris Marks.
Andrew – Chris, growing up you were a Friday night light’s football player in Fort Wayne, IN. In college you were an All American Hurdler and Long Jumper. After that you got into triathlon and founded the Tri-Fort triathlon club (Fort Wayne, IN) a club that is still going strong today. The moves in life moved you to Lafayette, IN where you started a family and built up the Purdue Triathlon Club as an advisor and coach. Now you coach your son’s sports teams and spend much of your time playing dad. I know from personal experience how deeply passionate you are about sports, which sport is your favorite to coach? Watch? Compete? Why?
Chris Marks – I enjoy coaching junior high cross country and track & field because it is when many kids start competitive sports and are new to an organized coaching environment. This allows me to teach kids what is involved in a good work ethic and correct techniques. My love for coaching is at the collegiate level. I am coaching the Purdue Triathlon club again, which is as rewarding the second time around as it was the first time. What I love about college is the tradition, the pressure of being a student/athlete, and the excitement of racing for the sake of racing. I look forward in building upon the college experience of each and every.
My favorite sport to watch is road cycling (especially mountain stages). Those guys go through so much and crank out incredible wattage. It is humbling to know that over 20 years ago 18 miles per hour would win many road races in the mid-west.
I still run competitively, do bike tours, race triathlons/biathlons, and play recreational hockey. Running and biking help me build up and recover from the summer triathlon season. Hockey is a great off season sport and helps fuel the fire to race fast in the summer. Hockey helps with my core strength and balance.
Andrew – The sport of triathlon is unique in many ways. It is the only sport where a “sprint” takes over an hour. It is also about combining speed, endurance, and nutrition across three sports. You have made many athletes successful, (out of Purdue you inspired Brad Zoller, Malaika Homo, and myself to race professionally and a lot more to race at the top of the amateur world,) what is it about your training that creates such success?
Chris – A coach and athlete relationship is built upon becoming a family unit. I have been blessed to be around special people who share the same love for the sport as I. There are no secrets to training but the way that I package it is unique to everyone I coach.
Strength and core training is a base for all of my athletes. After a solid base on muscle development which mimics the disciplines of triathlon, we dissect the “A” caliber races and slowly migrate to specificity training. I subscribe to Dr. Tudor Bompa’s Theory of Periodization which enables my athletes to think on a holistic perspective and utilize meso and micro cycles to enhance specific points of the “A” races. Having a full understanding and making sure everyone is on the same page is critical for success.
I recall a drive to northern Indiana to participate in a Troy Jacobson training video with Andrew, and heard him say I want to race triathlons professionally. We talked for nearly 4 hours that night planning out training, target races, occupational/training management, and the Olympics.
Andrew – I know you were working on gathering with intent to publish your wealth of knowledge. Will that ever become public?
Chris – In 2005 I had a blog and posted weekly updates. There was a lot of positive feedback but there were intellectual property theft issues with unethical viewers taking my posts and capitalizing on it financially. My intent was to give back to the sport of triathlon free experience and information to help build young American triathletes. Even though I have ties with the Australian and Kiwi National Triathlon Teams, we honor national respect for our athletes and enjoy healthy competition.
I am on a panel for the Tri-N-Run spring symposium this February and continue to speak at Purdue on Periodization and triathlon training. I may go back to offer community service at the YMCA for those wanting to get back into shape by participating by swimming, biking, running, and developing core strength. I may go back to a website in the near future.
Chris – Speaking of a wealth of knowledge, a few years ago, you were presented with a life changing decision to give up a good job with Catepillar and become a full time professional triathlete. What was the deciding factor to go pro?
Andrew – A lot of factors, and many I will not talk about here. I think one of the many pushes was from my manager (who was of retirement age), who also took it, Tim Geier. His wife had had some illness’ a few years back that she had recovered from, and he told me, and pretty much the whole department that… “he wanted to get out and enjoy life.” He went on, but the comment really stuck.
I can work until I am frail and old, racing like this is only a small window. Even the pro’s with “long” careers, we are talking 15-20 years in any sport. Corporate America, a short career is 30 years. Plus triathlon does not exactly have a 401K. So, live a dream, and when it’s over…We’ll see what doors are open at that time…but don’t expect me any time soon!
Andrew – Chris, so many times you said to me: “You are of a different breed.” What did you mean by that, and what, in your opinion, has allowed me to be successful is such a dynamic and challenging sport?
Chris – You are a rare breed because I remember your 1st race at the YMCA when you fought tooth and nail on a Raleigh 10 speed you got from your parents garage. Your work ethic from that race and training on McCormick Road in-front of Westwood (the President of Purdue’s residence) every Friday at 6:00AM were miles above any of the All-American athletes on Purdue’s team at that time. I find your persistence to do it your way and proving to the triathlon world that races can be won on the bike.
I find your intensity and passion for being successful is always in the forefront. You never give up and I have had to reel you in from time to time. I often miss the time when you treated every race as if it were your last. In your last year as an amateur, you had to race a few “C” races and were only allowed to aquabike or brick the triathlon. After a couple of wins on races that you were not to place, I realized that you would build such a huge lead that no one couple catch you. My son’s tell me it’s because you played water polo which makes you a stud.
Andrew – What is next for Chris Marks?
Chris – I was presented with an awesome Christmas gift with 2 men of the Purdue Triathlon wanted to enter the professional ranks this summer. I will focus on coaching the Purdue Triathlon Team.
Personally, I have no ambition to race in anymore IronMan triathlons but limit my time by racing sprint distance triathlons, road races, and cycling tours. My best friend has developed into an incredible cyclist and I plan on training with him more this year.
Well Chris, life has come full circle over the course of a decade and welcome back to the reigns of the Purdue Triathlon club. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to catching up with you in 2011. I wish you and your family a safe, healthy, and fantastic 2011.