Athlete Spot-Light Chris Heinz

This month we catch-up with Chris Heinz. Chris has successfully used endurance sports as a way to improve his quality of life. What makes Chris tick - racing and helping cheer and support others at races as a coach for Team Challenge. He is not the only active member of his family - he often races alongside his wife and two children (how cool is that?) Chris exudes positive energy and embraces all of the challenges of racing with an awesome sense of humor and desire to take on any adventure that comes his way. 

1. Endurance Sports background prior to coaching.

Early in life, I didn’t do much when it came to endurance sports.  I did cross country in High School in Hawaii during the tennis off season thinking it would be good cross training.  After running through the sugarcane fields for two weeks, I quickly realized that running wasn’t for me.


At the end of 2011, I saw a picture of myself and realized that I extremely overweight.  So, in typical ‘New Year’s Resolution” fashion, I made the commitment to start losing weight.  I started watching what I ate and logged all of my food on MyFitnessPal.  In 3 months, I had lost 25 pounds but you really couldn’t notice.  Everything changed while a friend and I were down in New Orleans for the NCAA Final Four.  He told me that “no matter what we ate or drank” we were going to workout twice.  The first workout was supposed to be a 15 minute run...he lied!  After 45 minutes we finally turned around.  I didn’t die (though I felt like I was going to).  The second workout was a 20 minute HIIT training...I truly believe that I flat lined after that workout...but I didn’t.  After these workouts where I realized that I wasn’t going to die, I decided to come home and implement them.  So, I started running a one mile loop near my house where I tried to get faster and faster each time.  Then, I added HIIT/Tabata 22 min workouts twice a week.  


After speaking with a different friend, she recommended that I don’t try to just go faster, but that I needed a plan or I would get injured.  She recommended a couple of runner gurus and I really latched onto one philosophy:  The Galloway RunWalk program.  So, I read the book cover to cover and decided to head down to Creve Coeur Lake (a lake just outside of Saint Louis) to see if I could do the loop.  3.7 miles...was I crazy?  Well, I didn’t die there either.  Then, we got a flier in the mail for Team Challenge.  If I was going to continue this running idea, why not do it for a greater cause than myself?  Team Challenge is the endurance training and fundraising arm of CCFA (Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America).  And, we are deeply tied to CCFA because my wife was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2001.  Plus, 13.1 miles in Vegas at night?  Heck yea!  So, I started training with them in Aug of 2012.  At this point, through running, Tabatas and tracking my food, I had lost 60 pounds.


I thought that completing a half marathon would be the pinnacle of my endurance accomplishment.  After completing Vegas, I got hooked.  I trained for another half marathon with Team Challenge in Chicago in 2013, again in Vegas in 2013, in Palm Beach in 2014 and now MoCowbell in October.  Since the fall of 2013, I’ve been coaching with Team Challenge, taking people that were like I was and training them to complete a half marathon.  But, my running didn’t stop there, I ran races of almost any distance every month.  Since Oct 2012, I have run at least a 5k every month (this weekend will put me at 48 months straight.  Included in these are 28 half marathons, 6 marathons (including NYC in 2015) and several multi-day challenge races (Disney’s Dumbo Challenge and Disney’s Dopey Challenge).   In all, I’ve ran more than 100 races in four short years.  I guess you can say that I’m hooked.


In every single race, I have followed a run 4 min/walk 1 min program.  I truly believe that this program has helped me stay (virtually) injury free.  And, it has made me faster!


Running became a family affair.  I trained my wife for 5 half marathons, my son for 3 halfs (his first at age 12) and my daughter does the 5ks.


As I increased my distances of running events, I half joked with my wife that one day I would do a Half Ironman.  We both laughed at it.  Well, through the encouragement of a couple of friends, I decided to sign up for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga late last year.  Who was laughing


2. Why you wanted a coach?

I figured that if I could train myself through multiple marathons and coach others in half marathons, I could put together a training program for Chattanooga.  There were only a couple of challenges:  while I knew how to swim since I grew up in Hawaii, I didn’t really know how to swim with a proper breathing technique.  And, while I knew that I could ride a bike, I really didn’t have good form or know how the heck I was going to ride it for 56 miles and be able to stand up afterwards.  Of course I scoured the internet and found lots of articles and simple training plans.  Well, after 2 months following my own program and all of the internet knowledge, I decided that I only had 1 chance to do this right the first time.  So, I started looking around for a coach.  While there were so many online coaches and retail-based coaches, I decided that I wanted to find one that had a local presence and who wouldn’t ignore me when I would ask 1,000 questions.  I didn’t just want a training schedule.


So, I reached out to a couple of coaches as well as asking for referrals.  I had remembered that one of my facebook friends had trained for triathlons and mentioned that she used a coach.  While reading the testimonials on one of the pages, I realized that Evolve was the coaching firm she used.  I met with Sam and quickly realized that Evolve was the right program for me.


3. What you got from your coach?

Sam matched me with Lenny to be coach.  Of course, I immediately looked her up on Athlinks and quickly realized that she was experienced and very accomplished.  Lenny has been there to provide feedback after every training session, sometimes encouraging me and other times suggesting needed changed.  But, the most value that I have received have been from the countless back & forth messages where she has answered my barrage of questions.


4. What you got from being on the team?

With the exception of the training runs I do with Team Challenge, I do all of my training solo.  Because I do most of my workouts starting at 4:30-5am, not too many would be wanting to meet me then :)  But, I have had the good fortune to getting to know some of the team at a couple of races, while in Chattanooga and via the facebook group page.  This is an incredible group of athletes who truly care about each other’s successes and are there to help through the challenges.


5. A memorable workout - how it shaped your race or mindset going into racing.

While I can’t point to a specific workout, all of the long rides that let up to Chattanooga, both on the trainer and doing loops from the bridge to Creve Coeur Lake, gave me the confidence that I could handle both the distance and the hills.


6. Race Highlights.

Since April of this year, I have now completed 2 Half Ironman distances, 1 Olympic, 2 biathlons and 2 sprint distances. But, the one race I would highlight has to be Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga in May.  This was the culmination of all of the training over the winter and the thousands of miles on the trainer (and a lot of Netflix viewing!).  Having confidence that I would complete the 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike and 13.1 mile run is one this.  Actually doing it is something totally different.  I got through the swim portion accomplishing goal #1...not drowning.  One of the last things my wife wife said before we went to sleep the night before was “Good luck...and don’t drown!”  I went even faster than I thought I could. (targeted 45 min swim; completed it in 38min).


One the bike segment, I really worked on staying focused on the road in front of me and keeping my heart rate in check.  I quickly realized that I was passing lots of others.  Of course I was too was getting passed by all of the athletes with the super tires (zipps, etc).  But, it was exciting to see that I had the legs and strength to pass people while climbing.  All of those training sessions spinning up hills at a 70 cadence had paid off.  (targeted finish of 3:30; completed it in 3:00:56).  On the run, it was hot and hilly.  I let the excitement from the crowds give me additional energy.  And, seeing my wife and kids along the course twice was just incredible.  Coming around the final turn and seeing the finish line was just incredible.  To realize that I was about to complete something that I once thought was impossible sent chills through me.  We originally targeted 7 hrs for my completion.  I finished in 6:05!


7. How being coached helped you at the above race?

With the swim portion being my greatest concern, my coach Lenny helped me tremendously with the mental aspect.  I memorized the race plan line “Find your rhythm, don’t get distracted by others, do your own thing, stay focused.”  After the first 400 yards and going around the buoy I freaked out a bit.  I repeated that line in my head and got in a great rhythm for the rest of the swim portion and finished strong.