Dave Burgess is a Michigan native who made his way to Colorado Springs via stops in Chicago and New York. A former high school and collegiate swimmer, Burgess drifted from his athletic passions while pursuing a career in information technology.
He said it took a decade to decide that, if he was going to work into his 70s, it would be doing something he loved.
The triathlete coach and owner of Podium Training Systems discovered his calling while living and working on the East Coast. Friends from a multisport club he’d joined said, during a run, that Burgess’ proficiency in swimming could mean an instant advantage in what many consider the hardest part of triathlons. They asked if Burgess owned a bike.
“Two glasses of wine at lunch and I found myself at a bike shop,” Burgess said. “Six months later, I did my first [triathlon] and I loved it. I didn’t do that great because I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I had an absolute blast.”
After competing and placing in several triathlons, Burgess sought to start his own coaching business part-time.
“But the East Coast is a horrible place to start a business,” he said. “It’s too expensive.”
“Boulder is lovely, but we’re at a higher elevation, we’re cheaper and [we’ve] got hills galore, whether road or mountain biking.”
– Dave Burgess
He had been working with a USA Triathlon coach based in Colorado Springs and had visited the area. Burgess moved to Colorado Springs in 2011 and since has become the head high school swim coach at District 20’s Discovery Canyon Campus. He also instructs a U.S. Masters Swimming club at Cheyenne Mountain High School and volunteers as coach of the Air Force Academy triathlon team.
Via his small business, Burgess is personal trainer and coach to 14 triathletes both in Colorado Springs and, thanks to technology, internationally.
Burgess said swimming normally presents the largest hurdle for clients (and triathletes in general) for several reasons.
“For the majority of folks, that’s the biggest challenge,” he said. “It logistically and often physically is the most demanding. With cycling and running, you can walk out your front door. Swimming means packing a bag, getting in your car and going to wherever. It can be hard to motivate early in the morning. It’s easier to stumble out your door and run down the street.”
Burgess said motivation is one of the key components to coaching.
“It’s easier to get motivated when you have someone else putting the plan in place,” he said. “It’s like, ‘I’m paying for this and someone is putting in the time.’ More importantly, a coach has some expertise in utilizing different energy systems and how to train different energy systems. A coach is meant to discover your weaknesses. You may be a good runner, but maybe just short and fast stuff and you need to work on endurance, or vice versa.”
To each his own
Triathlons now come in a slew of flavors, including sprints of 500 meters to half-mile swims, a 13-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run. Sprint times vary, depending on the event.
Olympic, half and full Ironman triathlons each have fixed distances — from nearly a 1-mile swim, 25-mile bike ride and just more than a 6-mile run at the Olympic level, to a full Ironman that features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride followed by a full, 26.2-mile marathon.
Off-road triathlons have gained huge ground in popularity, and winter events that include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are also becoming more common, Burgess said.
Burgess competed in sprint and half-triathlons, and specializes primarily in training others for sprints, he said. He had planned to compete in his first full triathlon in 2011 when he suffered a broken ankle.
“It was both the best thing and worst thing that could have happened to me,” he said. The injury forced him to withdraw from competition, but allowed him to focus on his coaching and earning certifications which include Level II certifications from USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and USA Swimming and a Level III coaching certification from U.S. Masters Swimming.
The overall success of the cycling USA Pro Challenge’s Colorado Springs stage leads Burgess to believe the region could provide an ideal setting for world-class triathlons, or at the least, a place to train.
“I know how much it costs to put on a triathlon. I know it’s an undertaking and expensive,” he said, having helped coordinate triathlons in New York. “But Colorado Springs is a great location to come and train. Everyone goes to Boulder. Boulder is lovely, but we’re at a higher elevation, we’re cheaper and [we’ve] got hills galore, whether road or mountain biking.”
Burgess discussed being asked to beta-test a Sports Corp Pikes Peak triathlon that would include a swim, a bike ride up Pikes Peak followed by a run.
“That sounds horrible! I was asked if I was willing to do the course and share my opinion,” he said. “So, swim and ride down to the Barr trailhead? [I was told] no, up. I don’t want to do that. … That just sounds brutal.”
Burgess said, like the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, which attracts more than 1,000 participants and their entourages, a Pikes Peak triathlon, while not for him, would be a big draw.
“Participation would be astronomical,” he said. “I think you would get so many people. They just want the next challenge. It would be off the charts. Grassroots races are great for the community — the triathlon community — and it puts money in the pockets of the people.”
Podium Training Systems