904's FittestIssue 14 • June 2013

904’S Fittest: Shawn Burke

Athlete Profile

Age: 47
Height: 5’ 11’
Weight: 165
Birthdate: August 10, 1965

  • Husband of Andi Burke
  • Father of Shane, Josh and Coen Burke
  • Ironman PR time of 9:21:15 set at Ironman Florida in 2012
  • Half Ironman PR time of 4:23:40 set at Ironman Augusta in 2012
  • Currently ranked 28th in the world in USA Triathlon Men’s 45-49 age group
  • 5 Year USA Triathlon All American
  • Sponsored by Wattie Ink Elite Team and Power Bar Elite Team

Being that Father’s day is in the month of June, we thought it only fitting to have a dad as our featured athlete. So this month we bring you Shawn Burke.

I had the opportunity to sit in on at an event he spoke at last month. He spoke a lot about training which was to be expected but he said something that I wasn’t expecting. His order of priorities; family first, work second, and training last. Now of course that sounds like something any dad would say but to do that and be ranked 28th in the World in the USA Triathlon Men’s 45-49 age group is just awesome! Shawn has competed in 17 Ironman Triathlons, four of which were at the World Championships in Kona Hawaii and 25 plus Half Ironman Triathlons, two of which were at the 70.3 World Championships, all while making sure to put his family first. That’s why Shawn is our June athlete of the month.

Over a weekend I met with Shawn and got to find out more about his training and his priorities.

I’ve heard that you pack more into a day than most people do in a week. Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of Shawn Burke looks like?
Typically I get up at 5am everyday – 7 days a week. Monday through Friday, I work and drink coffee from 5-6am checking emails or calling Germany and then start training at 6am. I will train for 1.5-2H every morning during the work week and then shower. I’ll goof around with my youngest son before school and rush to work to be there by 8:30am. At lunch, if I am on a heavy training week I will typically swim 45 minutes. I leave work at 5pm sharp and I get home and hang with the family, cook dinner, play until 9pm and then I work (emails again) from 9pm-10pm then bed. I typically train one or two nights a week if the kids have plans, group cycling rides or running. The weekends are bigger training blocks, on Saturday I will start at either 5am or 6am and train for 5-7 hours but my rule is to be done by noon so I can take Coen to lunch. Later in the day I will definitely mix in a nap – that is often during the previews for coming attractions at the movies. Coen and I see a lot of movies on Saturday afternoon – Christian at Regal 18 knows us as regulars Sundays are long run days and I usually get done by 9am then I cook breakfast, do Sunday chores then chill with the family all day. Most weeks I train 20-22 hours but during peak blocks it can get as high as 28-30 hours.

Was there ever a time you weren’t disciplined enough to fit everything in you wanted to each day?
When I first started racing it happened all the time. Once I got linked up with my coach, Alan Couzens, it really changed, he’s great! There are still times, maybe 2-3 times a year when it happens but I am really pretty committed to getting in the training. Alan likes to say “Do work son” so we do. I have gotten up at 3am in order to train before flying out on a 6am flight. I am pretty much drooling during the whole flight but my training is done for the day. I am ex-military, so getting up and getting moving is really not that hard. I look at training as a daily requirement, if I don’t do the work I feel like I let myself and my coach down. So, if I get up and I do it when I have control of my day, I can then focus on the things that I need to – family and work. I also use my peers and social media to hold myself accountable. I post my weekly schedule for my training partners and if I say I will be there, they hold me to it.

When speaking to the Ironman athletes at Native Sun you explained to them that family comes first, then work and then training. Have you always done that or was there ever a time where that was a struggle?
When I first started getting serious about racing I allowed my priorities to get COMPLETELY out of order. I used to get upset with the family if I couldn’t train or I would get upset at work if a trip or meeting cut into my training. It took a few years (2) for this to really become a problem but once I noticed it I just hit the reset button and just changed directions completely. I made a very conscious decision that Family is first always, Work is second (I don’t get paid to race or train and new bikes are expensive :)) and training is third. With this order established everything started to fall into place. I also try to remind anyone and everyone I can of this as it is a REAL major problem in this sport. This sport attracts very motivated type A driven people and it can become all too consuming. In the end, if you are not careful, Families suffer and people have a hard time focusing on their careers. Balance is very hard unless it is part of the message from coaches and peers.

You travel for work quite a bit. How do deal with food choices while on the road?
I could definitely write the definitive text book on top the Steak Houses in North America where I did NOT eat meat. I work for a medical device company and for some reason surgeons just love steak – I think they like cutting things up. (chuckle) Anyway, I have not eaten Beef in 18 years and I have really gotten used to ordering the Sashimi Tuna and a Salad for dinner and of course French fries…steak house French fries are my weakness. If you make an effort, even at the worst places, you can typically find something healthy. The hardest part is really making the choice NOT to just grab a burger and fries at the drive through and hit the bed. If I could change one thing about traveling it would definitely be to have healthier choices at more airports. In NYC at Laguardia they understand this, it’s great! I wish more places had a Native Sun style salad bar, Aaron from Native Sun is a good friend and I love the fact that he supports all the local sports scenes and he has a great salad bar.

You’ve accomplished a lot. Are you content with your current achievements or is there a goal you’ve yet to reach that you are really striving for?
I am REALLY very happy with what I have accomplished so far in the sport of Triathlon. I had a goal in High school of doing Ironman Hawaii and I have been lucky enough to go 4 times – that race is really special for me. I used to watch it on TV and we had an older guy who swam with us at our High school team practices that was training for Kona and we all thought he was crazy (in a good way). He was NOT a great swimmer but his drive really stood out to us. So Hawaii was one major goal and that was great. As for new goals, I still have a few. I would love to think that I am the exception to the aging rule but I don’t think that is possible. As we get older it is really hard to continue to get faster. I have been able to squeak out a few minutes on my personal best last year (9:21 at Ironman Florida) so I would like to think I have not quite peaked yet but I think I can see the top now. If we have really good conditions in November and I can heal up and stay healthy, I really like the sound of 9:19…even 9:19:59 sounds pretty good.

I’m sure you’ve told the story quite a few times already but how’d you get the road rash?
About a month ago while training for Ironman New Orleans 70.3 and Ironman Coeur d’Alene. I fractured my clavicle in 3 or 4 places and also had 3 rib fractures. I hit the ground hard going about 30MPH and I stuck the landing – the Russian judge gave me a 9.5 but I now understand it is better to roll. Dr. Deshmukh and his team at Heekin Orthopedics did a great job of putting me back together and now I have some cool titanium plates in my shoulder. Because of the accident, I did miss doing Ironman New Orleans but I am still trying to do Ironman Coeur d’Alene in late June if I am healed up in time and I get clearance to race.

Well we hope you make it out there and have a happy Father’s Day! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

Anthony Duran

Anthony Duran

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