Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center: A New Multisport Mecca in the Bay?

Near the end of last year, I found myself browsing bikes at Roaring Mouse Cycles, a small but well-loved independent bike shop on Crissy Field’s west end.

Roaring Mouse Cycles
Roaring Mouse Cycles

While gazing at a gorgeous Specialized Shiv that was unquestionably beyond my riding capabilities, I was approached by a shop employee who noticed my interest. We got to talking and I learned she was a triathlete too, newly hired to expand Roaring Mouse’s burgeoning triathlon business. After talking about our favorite California races, she asked me if I’d heard about the new triathlon center planned for next door. I certainly had not and, like any good Rare Bird, was thrilled and intrigued to hear the news.

I can now confirm that there are indeed plans to open a 24,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art swimming and fitness facility in the former airplane hangars next door to Roaring Mouse. The facility, to be developed by the Presidio Trust in partnership with an anonymous donor, will be eponymously named the “Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center.” More newsworthy to you Rare Birds, the Center’s anchor business will be the “California Triathlon Center,” San Francisco’s first triathlon-specific training facility for professional and amateur triathletes. Matt Dixon and his Purple Patch fitness company will manage the CTC.

If Matt’s name doesn’t ring a bell, the long list of professional triathletes that he coaches might. The list includes San Francisco’s own Meredith Kessler, Ironman Arizona’s defending champion and a four-time winner of Ironman New Zealand; Tim Reed, winner of this year’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship; and Jesse Thomas, the four-time defending champion of Wildflower’s famous long course. Matt’s also helped dozens of amateur age-group triathletes snag coveted Kona slots for the Ironman World Championships. So it’s no exaggeration to say that Matt’s one of the leading triathlon coaches in the country.

 

The planned features for the Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center should be tantalizing to every triathlete. I know of no single facility in the Bay Area that can match them. According to Presidio Trust documents, the Center’s features will include:

  • a pool with enough 25-meter swim lanes to run two training programs at once, and that will have access to the outdoors to allow triathletes to practice their transitions between the swim, bike, and run segments of a triathlon race;
  • a flume that will allow Matt and his team to analyze individual triathlete’s swimming technique;
  • a cycling studio large enough to accommodate 30 people and that will include up to 25 computer-controlled power trainers;
  • a strength-and-conditioning gym and yoga studio, with accompanying amenities like lockers, showers, a sauna, and steam and massage rooms;
  • bike storage for up to 50 bikes and additional space for bike fittings; and
  • a running studio with an AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill for training and rehabilitation work.

While the Presidio Aquatic & Fitness Center might not be the triathlon playland in the works near Wilmington, North Carolina – whose plans incredibly include a 25-acre lake specifically for open water swimming and a 14-mile paved bike loop closed to cars – the Center sounds like the dream home for any Bay Area triathlete.

TriHabitat Facility Plans

The only bad news is that there’s been no news about the Center’s progress since last summer, even though the Presidio Trust has said that they intend for the Center to be open by 2016. If anyone out there knows more about the Center’s status, please fill in the Rare Bird flock on the details in the comment section below.

Gwen Jorgensen: If You Don’t Know, Now You Know

All right, Rare Birds.  Despite the fact that you’re dedicated triathletes, many of you seem to know little about the pros at the top of the sport.  In my first blog, for instance, I mentioned Sebastian Kienle, the new Ironman world champ.  A good number of you told me that you had no clue who he was until you read my blog and Googled him.  That surprised me.  How could you know nothing about the new King of Kona when you’re such passionate triathletes that you spend more time on your bikes than with your family?

 

I’ve begun to learn that you’re not unusual, though.  During some recent training runs, I threw around names like Jan Frodeno and Craig Alexander to pass the time with my training partners.  Without fail, at least one of them would ask me who the heck I was talking about, even though “Frodissimo” is an Olympic gold medalist and “Crowie” is a three-time Ironman world champ and Kona course record holder.

That probably says more about the uninspired marketing efforts of triathlon’s governing bodies than the celebrity-triathlete IQs of you Rare Birds.  But whether that’s true or not, as a fan of triathlon – as I know you are too – I feel duty-bound to raise awareness about the sport when I can.

From this point forward then, I intend to showcase a top triathlon pro in every couple of blogs.  These men and women are the finest and most inspiring athletes in the sport we love. 

And if that sport is to ever grow beyond its niche-sport status, every Rare Bird and fan of triathlon needs to know and support these men and women.

There’s no one better to start off with than American Gwen Jorgensen.  Who’s that, you say?  Well, with all due respect to the likes of Andy Potts and Tim O’Donnell – don’t worry, I’ll explain who those two are in later blogs – Gwen Jorgensen is the greatest American triathlete in the game today.

gwen

Gwen stands at the pinnacle of ITU racing (you probably know it better as Olympic-distance racing) as the reigning 2014 world champion.  In reaching that top spot, she became the first woman in history to win five ITU races in a row, with her streak culminating with a win at the season-ending ITU Grand Championship in Edmonton, Alberta.  This makes Gwen America’s best hope for its first triathlon gold medal by a man or woman in next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Gwen’s also a marketer’s perfect pitchwoman for the sport of triathlon.  To start, she’s got a likeable background story.  Like many other pro triathletes, she sacrificed a steady, well-paying career for triathlon’s relatively paltry prize purses:  she was an accountant at Ernst & Young before chasing her triathlon dreams.  Of course, she didn’t abandon her comfy white-collar gig without good reason.  Gwen had a distinguished amateur athletic background, having been a swimmer and All-American runner at the University of Wisconsin.  It’s because of that background in both swimming and running that USA Triathlon, in its never-ending search for Olympic-quality triathletes, recruited Gwen in 2010 to give triathlon a shot.  She immediately proved them prescient to do so, qualifying for an elite card in her first triathlon ever.

The other, much more important reason why she’ll be fantastic at marketing triathlon is an easy one:  she’s a winner.  After earning her elite card, Gwen quickly racked up a couple of decent accolades – you know, just becoming the 2010 USAT Rookie of the Year and the 2011 USAT Elite Race Series Champion – before qualifying for the Olympics in her very first attempt in 2012.  She finished a disappointing 38th in London because of a flat tire, but three years later she’s the undisputed queen bee of triathlon and the gold medal favorite for Rio.

What makes Gwen special is her run leg.  She’s the Olympic-distance version of Ironman world champ Mirinda Carfrae:  if you haven’t built a hefty lead during the swim and bike legs, you’re dead.  Her race at the ITU Grand Championship is a great example.  In Edmonton, Gwen was a minute and ten-seconds behind the leaders after the swim and bike legs, in most cases an insurmountable deficit in an Olympic-distance race.  But since we’re talking about a former Big Ten champion in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, it still wasn’t enough of a gap for the leaders.  On the 10K run she quickly rallied, ending with the fastest run split of the day at 33:24 and crossing the finish line a comfortable sixteen seconds ahead of her closest competitor.

A few months after the Grand Championship, Gwen emphatically showed off her pure running speed by winning the Dash to the Finish Line 5K, a respected road race held the day before the New York City Marathon that’s littered with pro runners.  Her winning time was 16:03, a tad over a five-minute average-mile pace to us mortals.  Among the over 4,000 women (and countless men) she outpaced was a British Olympic 1,500-meter runner.  That’s blistering world-class speed, whether you race on a track or a triathlon course.

Given her already long record of excellence, the USAT would be foolish if they didn’t take advantage of Gwen’s massive marketing potential when the Rio Olympics come around.  With the USAT’s support (and maybe a talented agent) Gwen could become the face of triathlon, and possibly take the sport to new heights of popularity, expanding it into demographics beyond the old forty-year-old men like me who presently dominate the sport.

So please, if you’re passionate about triathlon, remember the name Gwen Jorgensen.  She deserves your full attention.

Beyond Aero: A New Berkeley Bike Shop That’s Beyond the Norm

As a father of two young boys, I visit pediatricians regularly. When I do, I’m always a bit shocked at how the waiting room in your typical pediatrician’s office can be so grimy. The children’s books and magazines are sticky to the touch and pockmarked with suspicious-looking stains. The air everyone’s forced to share is as stale as a windowless weight room, filled with the musty coughs of sick kids. And the room is acutely cramped, with patients, parents, and boxes of medical supplies squeezed into every square foot. In short, a pediatric waiting room can be pretty repulsive.

 

 

Which brings me to the first time I walked into Beyond Aero, a new high-end full-service bike shop in Berkeley that caters to both cyclists and triathletes. My very first thought as I stepped into the place was, “Wow, this is cleaner than my kids’ pediatrician’s office.” It’s what every doctor’s waiting room should be: sparkling, spotless, and thoughtfully designed. Its modern and appealing mix of wood, brick, and concrete is straight out of Dwell magazine. Beyond Aero is almost certainly the best-kept bike shop I’ve ever personally visited, and it puts my boys’ pediatrician’s office to shame.

But its cleanliness and easy-on-the-eyes architectural trimmings aren’t the reason why you should visit Beyond Aero. You should go there for the outrageously impressive bikes.

Beyond AeroIn my opinion, truly impressive, showstopping bikes can be hard to find in Bay Area bike shops. While indisputably great rides, the Specialized and Cannondale bikes you can find in nearly any bike shop feel ho-hum to me. Beyond Aero, on the other hand, has got some real showstoppers in its store.

They begin right when you enter the front door, where greeting you is a Scott Plasma previously owned and personally autographed by the newly crowned Ironman World Champion, Sebastian Kienle. “Sebi,” as he’s widely known in Europe, is a friend of Beyond Aero’s proprietor, Andres Douzoglou, an accomplished amateur cyclist and triathlete in his own right. (I know I’ve never qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.) Andres’s main stash of drool-inducing bikes is parked just around the corner from Sebi’s old ride. It consists of some of the most desired road and triathlon bikes on the market today. From what I could tell during my visit, in addition to top-end bikes from Boardman and Guru – brands that you wont find at just any local bike shop – it primarily carries Cervelos.  Thus, as you might imagine, it carries Cervelo’s full-line of popular road and P-Series triathlon bikes, and can build any one of them in-house to your exact specifications. Andres can properly fit you on one as well, in the stand-alone fit studio behind the main bike shop, which is equipped with a top-of-the-line Purely Custom Fit Bike Pro.

Now, what you might not imagine is that Beyond Aero even carries Cervelo’s latest “Project California” RCA – which, at $10,000 for just the frame, is easily Cervelo’s spendiest and most technologically advanced bike. It’s known in my house as the “Buy-It-And-We’re-Divorcing” bike. Bikes don’t get any better. So while it might not be entirely fair to judge the quality of a bike shop on the brands and models that it’s allowed to offer by manufacturers, believe me, if Beyond Aero has Project California bikes in stock and in a wide range of sizes, Cervelo thinks highly of the place (and it explicitly does). You probably should too.

Rare Birds therefore warmly welcomes Beyond Aero to the Bay Area triathlon community. We can always use another first-rate independent bike shop here.  If you visit, say we sent you.