Weston Voices: Bruce Kirch Represents Team USA in Abu Dhabi
On Saturday, November 26, while most of us are snacking on Thanksgiving leftovers and watching the World Cup (oh fine, some of you may like the other football), one Weston resident will be representing Team USA at the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi.
Meet Bruce Kirch, longtime Weston resident and (editorial comment) completely crazy person. Okay, that is not fair, but this is truly amazing stuff–who runs up Mt. Washington? Cycles 90 miles through New Hampshire? Swims miles in Maine waters? Bruce does. And now he will be representing Team USA for the first time, at the young age of 65, in the age group 65-69 at the World Championships. The Age Group Standard Distance Race, in which Bruce will compete, is a 1.5 kilometer swim, 40 kilometer bike ride and 10 kilometer run– known as the Olympic distances.
The Owl caught up with Bruce before he leaves on his great adventure.
Owl: How long have you been competing in triathlons? How did you start–were you a runner or bicyclist first? Or swimmer of course…
Bruce: My first triathlon was as a biker in The Great Josh Billings RunAground, a relay race in the Berkshires, where I started my career with GE. The race had a small Ironman Division that got me interested and led to about a dozen races during my 20’s. At age 58 (2015), I learned of a sprint race in Bethel, ME where I would be camping that summer with college fraternity brothers (Hold my beer…), and decided to “tri” again. I finished 5th in the age group (AG), and found myself sucked into assessing where I could make up the 3 minutes to get to the podium. Seven years later, I have reached the podium in Sprint, Olympic, and Half Ironman distance races and am thrilled to get to the top race in age group competition. I owe my sister, a two-time Olympic rower, major kudos for providing perspective and opening my eyes to what might be possible.
Owl: What’s your favorite triathlon so far?
Bruce: Sea to Summit, a true New England “adventure” race, consisting of a 1.5-mile coastal swim in Maine, a 90-mile bike north in New Hampshire to the base of Wildcat Mountain, and a 4.5 mile run/hike up the Tuckerman’s Ravine Trail to the Mt. Washington Summit. I had the Age Group lead twice during the climb but ultimately finished second by 2 minutes in a nine-hour race. However, I have a spot in the 2023 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon (starts with a swim to shore from “The Rock”) so there could be a new favorite.
Owl: How did you qualify for the World Championship Finals event? Do you get sponsorship for representing the US?
Bruce: I qualified for this race based on my performance at the 2021 USA Triathlon Nationals in Milwaukee. For age group competitors like me, it’s an amateur, pay-your-way experience. Nevertheless, it’s a little surreal to see your name and “Team USA” together for the first time. I am officially on the same team and share the same hotel (and Thanksgiving dinner) with the USA’s best. Major kudos are also due to the GE Triathlon Team and the veterans who guided me along when I back into the sport seven years ago. From the Lynn Aircraft Engine site, we kept each other motivated on lunchtime swims at the Lynn “Y”, bike rides along the coast up to Marblehead, and runs along Nahant Beach, right up through my retirement at the end of 2019. The company supported our efforts with an activity budget and we paid it back by wearing the colors during the competition.
Owl: What is your favorite modality?
Bruce: I like the variety that comes with combining three sports. I’m a below-average swimmer, a very strong biker, and an average runner, which aligns with what I spent the most time doing as a kid. In races, I spot the field a lead in the swim, reel them in on the bike and hang on during the run. The beauty of the sport is that it’s full body exercise and if you have a physical issue, say with a shoulder, you can still train biking and running and vice versa. It turns out that swimming is good therapy for leg issues. Of course, the flip side is that you need ALL parts ready to go on race day.
Owl: Tell us about this triathlon–where are the run, swim, bike?
Bruce: This is the premier festival on the world calendar for the events contested, consisting of Age Group, Elite (world’s best), and para competition at the Super Sprint and Standard Distances over three days. The course is on Yas Island. Unusual elements of the venue include a water temperature in the mid-80s that will likely make this my first wetsuit ILLEGAL race, a bike course that includes the Formula 1 Course from the race the week before, and virtually zero elevation change. Desert 85F temps will make hydration key. I am really looking forward to taking in the excitement and international atmosphere of the event (including an opening ceremonies parade) and seeing the world’s elite compete, in person, in their races.
Owl: What’s your training regimen like?
Bruce: I try to rotate through the three events twice a week, which allows for a lost or rest day, and alternate between easier and harder workouts. On bike or run days I do some upper body strength training and on swim days it’s lower body strengthening. As a retired jet engine engineer, the myriad data provided by my sports watch scratches the itch for analyzing and improving performance. But the primary goal is to enjoy the time spent out and about in our scenic town and beyond.
Owl: Where are your training grounds?
Bruce: Since retirement, it’s Walden Pond or Nahant Beach up north for open-water swimming. Beede Center (don’t tell anyone) is great for winter lap swimming, plus weight training. On the bike, I fan out in the sector between the Mass Pike and Rt 3 as far as Mt Wachusett. Running is on the pathways and back roads on the north side of town and all through the nearby conservation land. King’s Grant and Pigeon Hill/Webster provide good doses of hill pain. We live in Weston now because of the training I did in my 20s, as a Bostonian who parked at Leo J. Martin Golf Course, then biked through Weston and Lincoln to Walden Pond for swims.
Owl: Which is your favorite conservation property in Weston?
Bruce: Campion, Jericho and Ogilvie Forests up to the Van Leer land and the boardwalk to the back side of Drumlin Farm and PonyHenge. Awesome space I know like the back of my hand, and I truly appreciate this benefit of living here in Weston. Weston Forest and Trail Association deserves our support!. [Note: The Owl approves this last message but did not solicit it.] Not exactly conservation land, but a big thank you to the town for the extended wooded pathway along Merriam Street from Sunset Road to Silver Hill, and the Silver Hill roadway upgrade!
Owl: Does (family dog ) LHK9 rescue Nugget run?
Bruce: Nope. Nugget, Danny’s rescued Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a super chill couch dog unless she can get into your lap or next to you on the bed.
Good luck to you, Bruce, and to Team USA on this most excellent adventure!
Ah yes, and go ‘cats!