904’s Fittest: Karel and Marni Sumbal
Name: Karel Sumbal
PR’s and Personal Accomplishments:
2010, 2011 Pro 1,2 Florida Cup Series Champion
2006 Tour de Gila finisher Silver City, New Mexico
US 100K classic (3x finisher) – best place 9th
Athens Twilight Pro race finisher – 2x finisher (2011,2012)
Multiple podium finishes Pro 1,2 in Florida cycling races
Raced on the national level pro racing series, highlight was finishing Athens Twilight 2xs
Raced on the Czech development team as a Junior while growing up in Znojmo, Czech Republic
10K: 15K: 55:35 (2013 Gate River Run)
Half Marathon: 1:21:37 (2013 Donna Half Marathon)
2013 HOT Overall winner – 2:09:15
2012 Branson 70.3 – 5th age group (1st half IM, 70.3 World Championship qualifier)
2013 Ironman Lake Placid – 10:03 (13th age group 35-39)
HITS Ocala – 4th overall (half ironman distance)
Rock n’ Rollman – 2nd overall (half ironman distance)
Won age group in first triathlon (2012 BFAST, 5th overall)
Name: Marni Sumbal MS, RD, LD/N
PR’s and Personal Accomplishments:
Ironman Florida, Panama City Beach, FL: 11:00.47 (2006) 1st age group**
Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawaii: 12:26.58 (2007)
Ironman Kentucky, Lousiville, Kentucky: 10:53.45 (2009), 7th age group,
Ironman Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin: 10:57.53 (2010), 4th age group **
Ironman World Championship, Kona, Hawaii: 11:02.14 (2011)
Ironman Lake Placid, Lake Placid, New York: 10:43:14 (2013), 5th age group**
** Kona qualifier
7x Ironman finisher and 3x Ironman World Championship finisher
Ironman PR – 10:37.10 at 2013 Ironman World Championship (31st age group, 30-34)
Half Marathon PR: 1:31:51
10K PR: 40:09
5K PR: 19:52
2012 Branson 70.3 overall amateur female winner – 5:19.02
2012 Iron Girl Clearwater overall winner – 1:33:25
2006 Boston Marathon finisher
2012 Recognized Young Dietitian of the year (Jacksonville Dietetic Association)
USAT level 1 coach
Clinical dietitian at Baptist Medical Center Beaches
Interview with Karel
It’s rumored you have an interesting story about coming to Jacksonville.
Coming to Jacksonville isn’t as interesting as how I got to the United States. While cycling in Czech was always my passion, as a young kid in a post-communist country, fresh out of school, there was not a lot of opportunity for me. I came to the US pursuing the American dream. Initially, I worked low paying jobs, like cleaning floors; I was working 3 jobs a day to just make ends meet. For the first five years in the US I didn’t touch my bike or do any sport activity because my priority was making money. In 2005, it was time for a change. My dad sent my bike from Czech and I contacted the Gearlink cycling team (who remain my good friends. They later set me up with Marni.) They introduced me to the owner of the Gearlink online bicycle store and he recognized my experience in the cycling industry. It was in 2005 that I decided to race again. I progressed quickly, upgrading from cat 5 to cat 2 within a year. Later on, I received my cat 1 upgrade and have been racing at the national level with other domestic professional riders. I could easily settle for local races and place on the podium but going to the bigger races was a better challenge for me.
In 2006 I met Jeff Kopp who was part of the Linder Capital cycling team and owned American Bicycle Company and the Trek Store. I was racing for Jeff’s team while living in Clearwater. At a race in GA, Jeff mentioned that we should move to Jacksonville because I would make a great fit for his Trek Bicycle Store. We’ve been here ever since and Jeff has always been a great friend and mentor. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him and his family. In 2006, I met Marni on a group ride on her birthday (we were set up, but she stood me up for a few weeks because she was afraid to do the group ride)
Tell us about how you ended up spending time in the European prisons.
LOL! There were no European prisons – just a joke from Jeff Kopp. I wish I had a cool story to tell.
When did you get into cycling? Was it something you did while growing up and it turn into more?
My dad raced bikes and I have been around bikes since I was very young. I always wanted to be a bike racer and do the “peace race” in Eastern Europe, aka “Tour de France of Communist Countries”.
When you first met Marni she was training for her first Ironman. You said you thought she was crazy at the time. What do you think about it now that you have done an Ironman?
As a cyclist I didn’t know much about triathlons, and I would joke with Marni, “Why would you run if you could ride a bike?” Marni’s dad would joke with me saying, “Let’s see you run after you ride a bike!” After Speed Week in 2012, I realized I could not stay at the top and hold a full time job. While I wasn’t feeling challenged racing locally, I didn’t want to settle for small races. In May 2012, I was watching Marni at the Rock n’ Rollman Triathlon in Macon, GA after taking a break from cycling and on the way home, I told Marni I wanted to try a triathlon. In 4 weeks, I learned how to swim and did a few runs off the bike and ended up 5th overall at the 2012 BFAST series #2 race and won my age group.
I thought the Ironman distance was crazy at first because Marni was a newbie and took the typical training approach of doing more miles than needed. I realized that the Ironman distance is not as difficult as people make it out to be in terms of training, so long as you train smart. It requires a lot of time and dedication but we enjoy an active lifestyle and both love to compete and push our body. We both also like challenging courses so racing Ironman allows us to race and travel at the same time. With Marni’s background in exercise physiology and my cycling background, we are also able to coach others.
In cycling, the season runs from February to October and I was racing almost every weekend with a short break in the summer. With triathlons, I can train throughout the year and pick key races to focus on and to peak at. Although I miss red-lining it and being in the hurt box at 30+ mph for 90 minutes, dodging crashes and diving in the corners, I enjoy the balance of triathlon training and a new type of challenge.
You two coach one another. Are there ever any training disagreements? If so how do you resolve them?
You’ve gone through a lot to get where you are today. When does that cross your mind the most? While training or winning?
With my upbringing in Europe, I was always taught that you are never good enough. When I see results, I always think that I can do better. I don’t like to settle. There are always faster people out there; it’s just depends on who shows up on race day. Therefore, I don’t chase times, I chase competition. Triathlons and cycling aren’t my job, it’s just my hobby so even though I want to do my best, I understand it’s a lifestyle that keeps me active and healthy.
For many households it’s difficult to manage one athlete training for endurance racing but the two of you seem to manage it pretty well.
Although training and racing is costly, we don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. We both share a similar lifestyle and passion, so aside from training gear and paying for races and traveling, we don’t spend a lot of money. We both enjoy eating at home and watching movies or TV together. We spend most of our time working to help other athletes.
On your busiest day can you give an example of what your schedule looks like?
It really depends on what type of race I am training for and what I am focusing on. We believe in periodized planning and enjoy changing up the schedule. With shorter races, it is less hours but more intensity. When I was training for IM Lake Placid, my longest day was 6 hours, which included a 4 hour bike, 13 mile run and a 30 min EZ spin. For Branson 70.3, my biggest training week was 10.5 hours. For Ironman Lake Placid, my biggest peak week was 20 hours but typically my training weeks were around 14-15 hours.
Our own triathlon training has made us excited to share a new approach through our business, Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition. Recently, there have been some exciting changes which have allowed me to focus 100% on helping Marni (who provides coaching and nutrition services as well as speaking and writing) grow our business). We are looking forward to adding new services to Trimarni (ex. camps, clinics, Retul fits, pre-built plans) in order to help athletes train smart and to reach personal racing goals.
Interview with Marni
At a young age you decided that you didn’t want to kill animals anymore and became a vegetarian. Was there a traumatic experience that led to that decision?
As a dietitian, specializing in sport nutrition, I often get asked about my personal diet and what I do to fuel my very active lifestyle. The easy answer for me is that I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian long before it was “cool” to be a vegetarian. At 10 years old I told my parents that I didn’t want to kill animals anymore. I don’t remember a traumatic experience but I do remember loving the animated movie “Charlotte’s Web” as well as loving all creatures and furry friends from a very young age. Now as an adult, I do not endorse a vegetarian diet but I do encourage others to adapt a more plant strong diet and to focus on real food, made from farmers in a garden and to de-emphasize chemical concoctions made in a factory.
You and Karel coach one another, are there ever any training disagreements?
In any marriage, there will be disagreements and when training for a triathlon, with sore muscles and a tired body it’s expected. However, we are both very supportive of each other’s career and sport goals. We love being able to see progress in one another and sharing in the excitement when the training pays off. I will often complain to Karel when he says to stay on his wheel, he’s in a comfortable zone but my quads are on fire and my heart is pounding. So, although we bump heads at times, we’re a team and enjoy working through life’s situations (and training/racing) together. I trust Karel he knows my body and how it adapts to training. Thank you Karel for helping me achieve many PR’s over the past few years! For the days I question my fitness and any other aches/pains, I also have a sport psychologist (Gloria) who can handle the mental side so that my husband doesn’t have to deal with my pre-race/training doubts.
You and Karel have a bit of a different training style than most, can you tell us more about that?
We believe in a less is more approach. Our philosophy involves training hard and smart but recovering harder. We both love to sweat, train hard and push our limits. However, we believe that the best way to be consistent with training is to save your best performance for race day, racing with the least amount of training stress possible. For most people, triathlons are a lifestyle and not a career that pays the bills. We feel that athletes benefit the most by getting faster before going longer. Putting in the hours (or miles) is only one component of reaching performance goals. In a balanced training plan, we focus on daily nutrition, a proper bike fit, recovery tools (ex. 110% Play Harder, Epson salt bath, compression, trigger point), stress and sleep management, active recovery and rest to help athletes experience optimal performance gains. We design individualized plans for our athletes allowing them to peak at the right time. The most important thing of all though is that we want our athletes to love the journey that they get to take their body and mind on when training for an event. We hope that every athlete that we work with understands that he/she has the opportunity to inspire others (friends, family, children, co-workers, strangers) and to be thankful for their body and the ability to train and cross the finish line.
Find out more about Karel and Marni at:
Facebook: Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition