Telecom CEO aims high in triathlons

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Local,Alana Goodman
Eight years ago, Tom Stroup gasped for breath at the edge of a pool after swimming one lap, unsure whether he could swim another. Today, the telecommunications executive completes up to 10 triathlons a year, even finishing in the top 25 in his age bracket at the 2009 Triathlon World Championship in Australia.

He succeeds in athletics the same way he succeeds in business: by being organized and being persistent. The 56-year-old entrepreneur and Georgetown Law graduate says he was always physically active, but the devotion to his fitness changed after he decided to compete in triathlons.

"The amount that I train isn't all that much more than what I was doing before. The mix is certainly different and probably the dedication is more consistent," Stroup said. "For example there would have been days when I was busy at work. Now I come home and I'll make a point to still get in my workout."

Stroup, the chief executive officer of two major wireless technology corporations, typically trains six days a week for the Olympic-distance triathlons (1.5K swim, 40K bike, 10K run), mixing up the types of exercise. He says he alternates among swimming, running and biking. He will usually train early in the morning before work -- getting up at 6:15 a.m. -- and during the week his training sessions run anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes per day. On Saturday he says, "I'll get in at least one very long bike ride and a long run."

"The great thing about endurance training is that anybody can improve their endurance," said the 20-year Great Falls resident. "Endurance is one of those things where if you just put in the time to train you definitely will get better."

Stroup has seen an improvement in his own abilities since he began training. In addition to his success in the 2009 Triathlon World Championship in Australia, Stroup also completed his other two goals last year of winning his age group in the 2009 Columbia Triathlon in Maryland and the 2009 Virginia Triathlon.

Stroup said he is driven by his enjoyment of physical activity. "If you don't like to exercise ... it will be harder," he said. "I would exercise [anyway], the difference is I push myself harder when I compete."

Finding time to balance the athletics with his family and career is "like everything else, you just need to be organized," Stroup said. He divides his time into early morning training sessions, work during the day, and spending evenings with his wife and 14-year-old daughter.

"My family is tolerant of my work and my triathlons because they know I enjoy it," Stroup said. "You end up trying to structure your family time when you can."

Stroup's goals for this year are to finish in the top 10 at the national duathlon (running and biking) championship, and in the top 10 at the national triathlon championships. He also would like to finish in the top 20 for both those categories in the world championships.

In the duathlon, which was held last week, he placed 11th in his age group, missing his goal.

"I've been having Achilles' [tendon] problems and haven't been able to run much, so my training going into the race was less than optimal."

Still, he qualified for Team USA in the duathlon and will compete in the world championships in Scotland in September.

To reach his goals, Stroup is "trying to train the way that I have been and stay healthy. That is one of the biggest challenges as you compete in something like this, especially as you get older.

"I've got a pretty good structure to my training," Stroup added. He said he also will spend a lot of time improving his swimming technique.

Stroup said he is inspired to keep training by athletes who are overcoming physical challenges like obesity. "I know that those people that don't come from an athletic background. It's a much greater challenge."

In addition, Stroup says that his "real heroes" are triathletes who are in their 70s and 80s. "It's one thing if you're in your 20s, and a great athlete to do it -- it's another thing to do it when you're older."

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