Athlete of the Month
The Team Sheeper Athlete of the Month award is handed out to a member of the team on a monthly basis, 7 or 8 times a year. The AOM is someone who made a notable contribution to the team or did something remarkable. Selection is made by nomination and voting by the membership.
You can nominate anyone and the nomination period is usually during the first week or two of the month. Look for notification that nominations are being sought. When nomination close, the voting starts and once all the votes are tallied, the new AOM is crowned.
Besides bragging rights for a month, our AOM gets some goodies from our gracious sponsors, such as free shoes from TRH, a massage from SMI, gift certificates from GoRide.
August 2009 Athlete of the Month
"Altay completed his first Ironman at IM Canada in a very impressive time after some stellar months of training. Aside from his athletic achievements, Altay is one of the most generous and thoughtful persons I have had the pleasure of meeting. Always the first to lend equipment or offer assistance to a teammate in need."
- Fellow Teammate.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had always wanted to be an archaeologist – Indiana Jones had always been a childhood hero of mine! The scar between my eyes was from a chance encounter with a ferocious glass table that housed the dense make-believe forest, …otherwise known as standard house plants, right by the curtain (pretend whip) that I was swinging on.
Do you have a spouse or children or pets to tell us about?
Some of you may have met Sahara, my 10-year old Australian Shepherd. When living in Atlanta, I used to work at the Atlanta Humane Society, and Sahara was one of the discoveries that I just had to bring home. He’s been a vital companion on many backpacking trips and runs, and has even accompanied me on a 22 mile run, “back in the day.” He’s also accompanied me along multiple phases of my life here in the US, from Atlanta, to San Francisco, to Tempe/Phoenix, and back, …and even a 1-month stint when we lived out of my old car, a Nissan 240SX.
What other hobbies do you have?
I love spending time outdoors – I get really fidgety sitting still indoors. Outdoor escapades used to include backpacking, climbing (sport & bouldering) and surfing, though in order to make room for the other outdoor activities of swimming, biking and running, the first three have been on hold. Aside from that, I love music, and discovering hole-in-the-wall music venues that ooze character. Other activities that I really enjoy that can consume me for hours or days are cooking and woodworking. I also love traveling – my job focuses on studying people, behavior and cultures around the US and internationally. I love exploring new places and digging into the local myth & lore, social practices, attitudes, running routes ...and of course, the food.
How did you become involved with Team Sheeper?
To qualify my running history, I've run [slow] most of my life. Desert trail runs with hashers lead to high school X-Country 3-milers, …which turned into 5K road races for one cure or another, ...which turned into 10K's, …20K's and half marathons, …and eventually full marathons. After a handful of marathons at a pace that most on the team would consider scenic & dawdling, I thought, "if I’m not improving, why bother doing these?" Over the years I had incrementally trained myself to go a little longer and endure a little more discomfort, but in the big picture – I was going nowhere fast. I'm not competitive, and my runs were typically solo sessions of introspection, and I had realized that I could push my capabilities only so far on my own.
I work in Palo Alto, and I was finally getting motivated to seek coaching at a legitimate capacity in order improve my running and basic triathlon skills, beyond a few monthly columns in Runner's World magazine and free online email advice. A friend and colleague of mine, one of the TNT coaches at Burgess, recommended that I check out Team Sheeper as a training group.
What is your athletic background?
I spent my entire childhood growing up in Saudi Arabia. Playing soccer barefoot in the local parking lots after school using crushed Coke cans as goal posts was routine socialization practice in that part of the world as a child. I began running with the local HHH (Hash House Harriers) that met up weekly for x-country runs in different parts of the desert outside Riyadh. I finished up my high school education at a New England prep school, where I continued the running through track & field (4x400, high jump and pole vault) and x-country. I even tried American football for a year (my all-too-naïve thinking was I had grown up playing soccer, which we referred to in my part of the world as futball – how different could it possibly be?!?!) After a very painful season of getting destroyed on the field, and suffering repeated shoulder subluxations, I realized my folly.
What motivates/inspires you?
Mother nature amazes me. I don't particularly like competition – it intimidates me, and I lose focus on the little details that I truly enjoy! Those details could include the crisp and fresh air in the mornings, occasional wildlife encounters on the trails, glimpses of the ocean from the hills, the raw power of clashing weather fronts and precipitation, the sizzling warmth of the sun – they're all very visceral signs that we're alive.
...also, staying on the bike saddle at races. I hear that's a good thing to do, and helps ensure safety, race completion, and a healthy and functioning body!
What races are you planning for the remainder of this year, or the future, that you are gearing up for?
In about two weeks, some of us will be heading south for the LA Triathlon. So far, that's the last race of the season for me. It's been a long year – after fracturing my knee last October, I was motivated to get my flexibility back (which started with the Death Valley Bike Tour). After that, my focus through the winter was to get my strength back, which segued into the Wildflower and Hawaii 70.3 training ramp up, which led us right to the 3-month Ironman Canada training ramp up, sprinkled with other races throughout. After LA, I hope to shift my focus a little for the upcoming year, and focus more on running and mountain biking, and off-road races like Xterra’s, 24-hours of Adrenalin, and such.
What is your favorite Tim Sheeper quote/story?
After I fractured my kneecap last October, I met with a variety of orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists. Tim didn't have any orthos to recommend – apparently the guy doesn't break down like the rest of us. The majority of them advised me to pull out of Ironman Western Australia, which was seven weeks away. Four weeks away was the Death Valley bike tour, and they urged me to cancel that as well. I interpreted their recommendation for IMWA as "no", and their recommendation for Death Valley as "I wouldn’t if I were you" – that's a huge difference! The physical therapists began working with me to get my flexibility back, though disapproving of my new focus of getting ready for the bike tour. In fact, all of my colleagues and peers were dismissive or doubtful of my intent to go to Death Valley for the bike tour. I had set up my mountain bike on a trainer at home with the seat jacked up to help stretch my knee by rocking it forwards and backwards. I didn’t have the knee flexibility to do a complete pedal revolution until two days before the trip. I was also quarantined to the free-swim lane, since I couldn't kick. Tim was amongst the very few that empowered my decision – and left it open to me, and allowed me to sign up for the bike tour, sans guilt trip. He's a man of few words. "Feel free to sign up anytime, we'd love to have you," he reassured me – not questioning my recovery nor mental stability
What is your favorite Team Sheeper workout or memorable moment?
It's a mad dash to get to the trailheads by 5:45 on a weekday for me, but if I can work out the timing, I love the Tuesday evening trail runs in the summer. Those runs are a perfect ending to a weekday – no set-up time, beautiful settings, intense and rewarding.
What would you choose as your last meal?
If it's my last meal, it's going to have to be an amalgamation of palates. For starters, French fries – extra crispy. As for the entrée, an Iskender kebab from Bursa (also referred to in the US as an Alexander kebab) which is grilled lamb and pita bread, basted in yogurt, tomato sauce and sumac. Most restaurants in Turkey offer the heavenly dish with a 1-1/2 portion upgrade – and since it's my last meal, why not supersize it? Lastly, there’s dessert! Years ago, Ben & Jerry's had released a series called 2-Twisted, and they had released one particular divine combination that I had fallen madly in love with called "From Russia with Buzz" which is a merge of "Coffee, Coffee, Buzz, Buzz, Buzz" ice cream and "White Russian" Ice cream. It’s coffee ice cream swirled with coffee liquor and dark coffee ice cream, perfectly complemented with espresso fudge chips – what could be better!
What scares you?
3 things come to mind... 1.) Ignorance scares the living daylights out of me! The region of the world I grew up in is often criticized for harboring a lot of ignorance. Having traveled to different corners of the world and the US though, I've realized that it can exist everywhere, and it’s a very scary thing. 2.) Knee injuries make me squirm! I've had challenges with my knees for most of my life – imbalanced and maldeveloped quads, dislocated knee caps, and most recently a fractured knee cap. Throughout college, more and more friends of mine were lining up for ACL surgery due to soccer injuries, and that fear drew me away from soccer over the years. 3.) Eggplants! I think it’s a texture thing, but I do my best to avoid those. They're rather deceptive too, so identifying them can be challenging. There's nothing worse than digging into what you think is chicken parmigiana, and discovering it’s actually eggplant! Argh!