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.
SMI is proud to sponsor this month's athlete who embodies the spirit of Team Sheeper. SMI is a non-profit public benefit corporation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of overuse injuries, optimization of human function and enhancement of athletic performance.
Christopher M. Balz
September 2011 Athlete of the Month"Chris is such a GREAT teammate and friend. He has such a positive attitude and always gives 110%"
"Congrats Chris on your first Ironman - you did it!"
- Fellow Teammates.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
An astronaut. I became one, but not like I had envisioned! This does not impress everyone :) , but it has its upside too!
Do you have a spouse or children or pets to tell us about?
I have a pussycat named Oliver, who is like a son to me. He is a much better athlete than I am, raging all over in the big oak tree above my apartment. But also, he's a very sensitive guy, too. I love spending quiet time with my cat.
What other hobbies do you have?
Gardening, from my earlier career in produce and seed farming. I enjoy growing rare varieties from Seeds of Change, which I used to be a grower for. I grew Martian Jewels Sweet Corn this year, an open-pollinated variety from Dr. Alan Kapular that has a deep purple cob and bright yellow kernels. It looks cool when you've eaten a chunk of it.
How did you become involved with Team Sheeper?
It was a natural progression for me after a year with Team and Training to come out and give it a try. It was not so natural to keep up! But it seemed, as it certainly is, a way to progress.
What is your athletic background?
I did a fair bit of middle-distance running in high school and early college, with a 10:04 3200M when I was 18 in high school. In college my best run segment was an unofficial 10:13 at the two-mile mark in a 5K in Golden Gate Park, which included some hills and grass. More on that one in the “worst race” section below!
I have pretty much always been jogging and biking in one form or another, outside of produce farming. When doing that, I was in various successive stages a field worker/apprentice, owner/operator, and field manager at different produce farming operations in rural areas for eight years. That might not really be considered athletic, and actually a chunk of it is being a mechanic, but the many days in the field were good endurance training in a way – sometimes pretty grueling.
Some of the best endurance athletes I know are produce field workers! They don't have the technical clothing, but they have what it takes, and then some.
What motivates/inspires you?
The experience of being part of a lifestyle that differs from the purely sedentary one that is so easy to slip into, especially because the active community is pretty vibrant, inspires me. Also, since I am not so great at swimming, I enjoy practicing it and especially the freshness after a swim workout. I just wish I could get out of bed to make more of the practices!
What races are you planning for the remainder of this year, or the future, that you are gearing up for?
For the coming year, I want to try to follow a plan that includes more swimming and less of the rest, and overall shorter, more intense workouts than I have been doing to train for the long-course and iron distances. Also I'd like to save time and money by staying local. So I think I would like to do local olympic and international-distance events (which are also have more weight on swimming than the longer distances), such as Lake Almaden.
Tell us about your best & worst race.
As alluded to above, my worst race was a JV race in college in Golden Gate Park. It was my first college race and I could not believe how fast everyone was. Most everyone was so much faster than me!
That competition motivated me to hang on in the back pack, and for me at least, it was a furious pace. The course was over dirt road, dirt path, and grassy mild hills, and I was 10:13 at the two mile mark. Then, because I was pushing so hard and probably because my breathing was not right, I got a cramp in my side that greatly reduced my ability to breath.
If I would have just stuck with it, I still would have had a decent, official PR time. Instead, I thought there would just be a next time. Also, I thought that because my race was not perfect, it was not worth finishing.
Well, other things and injuries came up and there was not a next time when I was that light and fast! Looking back at that race over the years with regret, I hope I learned that life is short and we need to make the best of what we are given. Also I hope I learned better to be thankful even if it's not the perfection we had in mind.
My best race was probably Lake Stevens 70.3 (“long course”) this year. My Vineman 70.3 comes close, and my swim there was much better from all this rehab on my shoulders that I'd been doing. Also the swim course is narrow since it's in the river and even I couldn't really get off course.
For me the Redman iron distance (140.6) was a much more difficult achievement, as it was my first iron distance race. I can't say it was my best race though as, of course, it was trial and error. At Lake Stevens, outside of the three or so minutes I wasted getting off course in the swim, I was able to do the rest better than I have been able to – just getting that pacing right and feeling great the whole time.
How many hours a week do you train?
Hopefully much less than I have been. Peak training for Redman must have been almost 20 hrs per week. I plan on reducing a fair bit this coming year to have time for gardening and “rol” (rest of life)! Maybe it will be 10 hrs per week?
What is your favorite Team Sheeper workout or memorable moment?
Chase Groups is my favorite. For me though that workout stands on the shoulders of the less-glamorous workouts that provide the foundation. As a runner-up, the Catfish open-water swims that a lot of us do add a lot of freshness and adventure that, at least for me, can't be matched.
I think my most memorable moment is Bob telling me to watch the road on the bike a few years ago – very inimitable! But really good advice.
What is your favorite race?
I like Vineman (I've only done the long course, but have done it three times) the best. I would say Wildflower, which I like a lot, but Vineman to me feels like home: I have lived all over coastal- and Central Valley- Northern California, and Vineman to me is Northern California. It has that unique spirit to it!