By Adam Turner
For Zach Aust, success is more than just a desired outcome. It is a family tradition.
Aust, a 21-year-old paramedical science major from Sunbury, Ohio, is a triathlete who recently qualified for a spot on Team USA in the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) 2012 World Championship taking place in New Zealand. What makes this unique is that his parents, James Aust and Tracy Disabato-Aust, will be competing as well.
“My parents have been doing it for about six or seven years,” Aust said. “They race together, so now it is like a big family affair. I knew this year my goal was to get onto Team USA with them.”
And he achieved this goal two weekends ago when he competed in his first national tournament in Burlington, Vt., and made the team alongside his parents.
“I believe I ended up getting seventh or so in my age group,” Aust said. “Happy with that for my first nationals. It was a very new experience. The best of the best competition is there from all over the country.”
For his parents, however, this was hardly their first go-round.
“My mom and dad have been on for a couple years,” Aust said. “My mom is actually world champion in her age group. The Worlds that I am going to, she previously won in Budapest, and she’s won the national championship twice. My dad got third this year at nationals and is fifth or sixth in the world. It was pretty high up for his age group since the guys are very, very competitive.”
The stiff competition making up the ITU, Aust explained, consists of amateur athletes split up into different age groups, such as the 20 to 24 year olds who Aust competes with.
“I am mainly competing against people in that age group, so it makes it fair,” hesaid. “There are people up in their 80s still competing, so it is a really neat experience.”
Aust himself only began competing in triathlons recently. Though he said he was a talented runner from fourth grade on, he decided to take a break after high school to pursue other interests, from practicing mixed martial arts to even performing magic. Two summers back, however, he started training with his parents to attempt his first triathlon.
“The triathlon was addicting. It was definitely very suited to what I do,” he said. “It keeps things fresh since it’s three different sports, and the cross training’s great for your body.”
Addicting as it may be, the triathlon is also very intense. Though there are different races, the sprint distance that Aust said he excels most at consists of a 750-yard swim, a 20K bike (12.4 miles) and a 5K run (3.1 miles). And the inherent dangers involved with these distances and preparations required to face them are not lost on Aust.
“People do get hit on their bikes often,” he said. “I actually just recently crashed my old bike. I actually have a road ID on my wrist with all my medical information just in case. But I haven’t received many injuries, because if you are training properly, it isn’t as big of an issue.”
Aust said he averages about 12 hours of training a week, usually two different workouts a day, in addition to 16 hours of classes this semester and fraternity life in Sigma Nu.
All the training in the world, however, can’t change the fact that sometimes you simply run out of energy.
“I have bonked during a race, which is simply running out of nutrition,” Aust said. “You can’t really think; you’ve just used everything you have. I knew what was happening. It was in the middle of a 10K at the end of an Olympic distance tri, and I knew I had a little sports gel in my hat, but my stomach was so cramped and miserable, that I literally couldn’t get it in.”
Thankfully, Aust has a solution to dealing with the strains of a long race.
“My favorite thing to do afterwards is to just grab a Coke and chug it. People think that you can’t drink pop after, but it’s simple sugar and quick calories,” Aust said.
Throughout it all, the wins and the “bonks,” Aust said his parents have been by his side and supportive.
“People usually think that I was kind of pushed into it by them, but really it was something by myself I did,” he said. “But I take a lot of my tips from them. It’s good, you know. They know the ropes, and tri stuff is very expensive, so I get a lot of hand-me-downs from my dad, which I don’t complain about at all.”
With the World Championship looming in the horizon, Aust expressed his excitement to get back into training full-time again.
“I’m excited to see my improvement since this was just my first real season of doing it with training under my belt,” Aust said. “Compared to other people in the sport, I’m still very, very new to it. It has just been a blast. A really fun experience. I always recommend it to anyone who wants to get into working out.”
And even though he is still young, Aust said he doesn’t see himself quitting the sport anytime soon.
“I see it as a pretty lifelong thing,” Aust said. “You see these people, 80 and 90 years old, still competing in triathlons, so it’s pretty inspiring for me.”