Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Interview Tuesday: A Little About Me - Tony Konvalin

A Wet 5K
I knew it would come one day, that I would not have an interview for a Tuesday, well that day is here.   So instead of missing a week I figured I would share a little about myself so you know who is behind Bluegrass-Runner

Here is a little about myself not necessarily related to running:

I am 59 and have been married 29 years.  I have three children , 2 of which that got married this year and one still at home.   I am a Manufacturing and Sales Engineer in Composites for aircraft engines and work for a company in So. Cal.  We moved to KY 6 years ago from So. Cal but I still work for the same company I have been with for 21 years working remotely 2-3 months in KY then working in CA for a month and sort of going back an forth like that.

I was born in England on an RAF base, mum is English and dad was American so had dual citizenship till I was 17.  Maybe this is where I get my love for, did not say I was good at it but loved it, X-Country as it is big over there, or was when I was young and while I have not run any I do have a fascination with Fell running as well

My profession:

As mentioned above I am a Manufacturing Engineer working with Composites (Carbon Fiber) aircraft parts mostly for engines.  Initially I worked in running shoe stores then moved to working in bicycle stores when I took up racing bikes.  When I got married I moved to working in composites from the ground up as I do not have a degree in this field but now have been working in composites for 29 years building everything from radomes to sailboat parts, including masts for the Americas Cup, to engine parts as a sub-contractor for the big engine manufactures.  While I was in CA I did pastor a church for a number of years as well till we moved out to KY.

Would love to one day get back into the running side of things but for now my set up is pretty good.

A little about how I started running and what prompted me to do so?

I started running because when I went to HS I tried to make the tennis team as I did not want to take PE and football, well soccer for those on this side of the pond, was no longer offered in my HS.  When I did not make the tennis team I took up all that was left, X-Country and then track when baseball did not work out.  I have to say it was painful as while I was in good shape from playing football for many years but running 3 miles, and in the heat of AZ in the late summer, was harsh.  From that start I have kept it up and am still at it to this day.

Bike racing in Tucson

How long have you been running?

I have run for 45 years, since my freshman year in HS in 73’ in Tucson AZ.  Truth is I have run most of my life as I grew up playing Football (soccer) so was sort of prepared for a change when it came – I say sort of since it was not an easy change since running in soccer is not the same as the prolonged effort of distance running.

In those 45 years I have run most of it with about 10-12 years of competitive bicycle racing, getting up to a Cat 2, and racing mostly in Arizona and the Southwest but also raced on the Velodrome in Redmond WA for a couple years.  I also did biathlons (Run-Bike-Run and Bike-Runs) back when they started and did the initial Desert Princess (10K-62K-10K) in 1986 which was a longer one and had some big names but I learned while I did OK I was not at their level.  Even when riding I still ran some just because I liked it and it kept me ready if I wanted to do a running race.  After I stopped riding, it just took too much time, I did not run much but did run a little.   Then 6 years ago I moved to KY from So. Cal and due to some neighbors running I started back and after about 2 years got back into competing and working towards a trip to Boston in 2016 and running my first ultra.  

Other sports I have participated in over the years

I played soccer and baseball  from when I was little till HS and after that I either ran or raced bicycles, road  and velodrome.  I also played some youth football, the American type.

About my running in High School & College

I ran in HS, Catalina HS in Tucson AZ, and also ran 3 years at the University of Arizona.  Running at the UofA was a humbling experience as we had a really good team and I could run times that when I look back now were not too bad but in light of who I ran with they were way off the front.  I remember once running a 5K on the track at the UofA in a dual meet against Washington State and got lapped, I think almost twice, by Samson Kimobwa who at the time was the world record holder in the 10K.  Also, got to run  in the same stadium as Henry Rono,  can’t really say I ran with him.  But, even our team with Thom Hunt, Dirk Lakeman, Mike Bergman, Don Janicki and others was really tough and often, for me anyway, workouts were harder than they should have been as I had to try really hard hoping to get on the traveling team, which rarely happened.
UofA 1980 X-Country Team - 5th from right in back - I had hair then - We all did

What I did learn, and share with others, is that if I could do it again I would go to a smaller school or Junior College as I basically burned out just trying to make the team such that often workouts for me were races.  I once ran a 4:20 mile in a workout and was only in the middle of everyone else.  I had thought it would be cool to run with a team like the UofA and while it was, looking back, to be honest I was way over my head and paid for it.

In all the years of running in Tucson I ran a lot of trails as from Tucson you did not have to go far to hit some great trails and there were a number of Ultra guys there as well, before Ultra was what it is today.  I often ran/raced trails with Ken Young and lots of other really good runners who called Tucson home.  Really got my love for trails so it was a great place to start running.  Looking back I got the privilege to run with many who got the sport going, olympians and just downright fast guys.

PR’s for: 5K, 10K marathon and any other distance

I tend to look at my times in the “what I was” and “what I am”, now that I am a masters runner.

What I was times (most are just estimates as hard to remember them all)
2018 Yamacraw 50k

  • 1 Mile – 4:20
  • 5K – 15:00+ (never broke 15)
  • 4 Miles - 20:19
  • 10K – 31:00 (Don’t think I broke 31 and if did it was barely)
  • 10 Miles – 52:00
  • ½ Marathon – 71:00 (Could not find the exact time but never broke 70
  • Marathon – 2:30:52 (When I was 19)
  • 25 Mile Bike TT - 52:00
Current PR’s
  • 5K – 19:36
  • 10K- 43:12 (Run during a leg of Hood to Coast Relay)
  • Marathon – 3:34:22
  • 50K – 5:15:00 (During RUTS 10hr run)
  • 50Miles – 8:44:51
  • 10hrs – 56.5 Miles

My most memorable race or races and a little about them

While I do not remember all of it my PR marathon at the Fiesta Bowl Marathon in 1978 was memorable as it just felt so easy.  Truth is as this was back before I had a digital watch I had miscalculated and thought I was on 2:25 pace and while feeling good I was afraid to pick it up so did not, then with a mile to go I realized I miscalculated so picked it up but was too late to go under 2:30.  Also, looking back I should have seen from the race that this was what I needed to train for and not try and run at the UofA as well.

Another race that I remember was a county championship X-Country race I ran in England in 78’ or 79’ as while I did poorly it was really cool to run with hundreds of others through snow, mud and hills in a true X-Country race.  While I have run X-Country all over it is hard to beat the atmosphere in the UK where the sport is, well at least was, taken very seriously no matter ones skill level.

I would also add the 2016 Boston Marathon because even though it was a terrible race for me it was amazing to see so many people, spectators and participants., as this was my fist race with so many people.  What also sticks out is that because everyone, well most everyone, has to qualify you are running near someone pretty much all the time since they are all at about your pace.  My goal now is to run Boston in 2020 when I turn 60 then every 5 years till I can no longer qualify.

There are just so many races it is hard to choose then but this last August I ran my first Hood to Coast relay for the company I work for and we got 4th in the Corporate division.  It was a lot of fun but the down side is that with al the sitting you do after running hard I ended up with Plantar Fasciitis from having my legs get tight and still am struggling with it a year later.  That said it was still great fun.

I am sure there are more races but those were a few.

Favorite workouts

I like long, 20 or so, trail runs that I run by feel.  As I have been training mostly for Ultras lately my speed work is mostly longer tempo runs.  However, after my 100 miler this year I will be aiming for more of a marathon distance so I will take up some shorter intervals as I think they are important for speed as well as since I want to get down to the low 18’s for 5k if not dip under 18 this will also help.  For me I have to reign things in as while I am not as fast as I was I like running hard and that is not conducive to avoiding injuries so while I do hard runs most of my running is at MAF or thereabouts.

1986 Desert Princess Biathlon - Me, on left, and Paul Huddle

How about a favorite route you like to run?

I like running in Pulaski County Park, which is near me, about 40 miles, as the trails are nice.  I  also like the roads locally around my home which have very few cars.  Initially people were not as ready for seeing a runner on some of the roads I run but I think now they know there is this crazy old guy that runs and it is not as much of a surprise.  When working in CA I have a number of routes near where I stay but like running the Chino Hills Park trails as well as the trails around Fullerton and also the trails near my hotel in Bonelli Park.

My favorite distance to run and race

While I like the challenge of Ultra’s I think with my time to train and wanting to be careful with injuries I think 50K and less is my best distance.  I can say that having run over 50 miles so far it does make the marathon seem shorter and makes 5K’s seem really short.  I have to admit I do like 5K’s as you can run them with little damage to the body

Long-range plans
  • I will be attempting my first 100 miler, maybe my last:), this November at Tunnel Hill
  • Run Boston every 5 year, starting in 2020 when I am 60, till I cannot do it any more
  • I am working on fitting in a Rim-2-Rim2o-Rim on one of my trips to CA for work as well as a trio up Mt Whitney
  • One goal is to run a marathon/50k in every state by the time I am 70
  • Run some Masters track meets in the future
  • To stay healthy and run till I am in my 90’s
  • I want to figure out how to use my experience in running and writing into some from of employment /income
  • Start work on a devotional that looks at scripture and running

What I like best about living and running in KY

1st Ultra - 2015 Chino Hills 50K & 30lbs heavier
As I live out in the sticks of Kentucky I like that other than dogs, which are a pain,  I have very few cars to deal with and no traffic lights.  Also, the fact the roads around me are rolling I get some elevation on every run.  Where I live is mostly private land so not many trials but It is also nice to know if I travel a little I have the Daniel Boone National Forrest and a number of other places with some great trails.

What I struggle with most with regards to running

Finding the time to run where and as much as I would like and just staying healthy.  I have a lot of miles on my legs which makes injuries a thing to watch out for so this often is what derails my plans.

Another thing that is often hard to realize I am not as young, or as fast, as I was and readjusting my goals accordingly.  Often I try and do more than I should and then have to deal with the consequences.  I am much better at advising others so they can avoid injuries than I am about advising myself.  I think it is one reason often those who can coach & run still like to have a coach/advisor to help in this area.

What do you see as a trend in running?

Ultras seem to be the new marathon and while you will not see the numbers you see in the big marathons the number of opportunities to run ultras seems to be increasing.  As part of this I also see all sorts of people with all sorts of capabilities running these distances.  This is great as it shows people looking to push there limits and not just the fast people doing so.

As part of this I see more people participating in running events as events and not just races.  While from a racing side this is not great the really god thing is it gets people off of the couch and being active

I also find the direction of many running companies not only having full fledged sponsorships but also having Ambassador programs interesting.  I think this is a smart directions as the days of people running in shoes or wearing clothes simply because some pro does is not as strong as seeing many on social media sharing about the products, thus the advertising is much greater for much less of an outlay. 

A few words of encouragement
Freeman Lake Trail Series 5K

Keep at it – aim for the long haul as running is a sport that takes time to get better at and simply builds on itself year after year.  If you want quick results running is not the sport to do this at.  That said you will progress in fits and starts as you progress then plateau then progress again.  But, again, just keep at it.

To steal from Nike - Just Do It.  Do not put off starting to run but just get out and do what you can.  The best thing is to get connected with a local running store and find people to run with.  When you have people to run with it makes things much easier.  If you live near Elizabethtown KY then check out Running Soles as they have a group that meets twice weekly and a great owner in Will Rivera

Make sure you see running as part of your life and not your life as for most of us it is not how we make a living and it is healthy to realize this so that we see the big picture.  

Lastly, but not the least is that if you are a Christian, and I realize that not everyone who reads this is, seek to glorify God in your running as you are to do in all things in life.


Hope this lets you know a little about me and that I will have some more interviews coming in the weeks ahead.

#SFuels #GoLonger #Zensah #Carson

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