Marcus Russi thrives on triathlons. The Staples High School junior is a national-level athlete in his age group for the 750-meter (approximately 1/2 mile) swim, 20K (12 1/2 miles) bike ride, and 5K (3 mile) run.
I get tired just writing that.
To train for those distances — and for events like the short-course world championship in New Zealand next year, which Marcus has qualified for — his summer regimen included swimming at 5 a.m., strength training at 10 a.m., then a long run or bike ride.
Of course, now that school’s in session he can “only” swim — still at 5 a.m. — and train with the cross country team in the afternoon.
After all, there’s classwork to consider. Marcus’s courseload includes AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, AP Language and Composition, German Honors, Physics Honors and Middle Eastern Studies.
Plus the Authentic Science Research Topic, a 3-year program in which students develop their own projects and find mentors to overseethem. He’s working on the mathematical modeling of drug transfer phenomenon.
Marcus is starting to look at colleges — Dartmouth and Stanford — are high on his list. He hopes to major in computer science.
I could mention that Marcus also plays classical piano for an hour a day (and enters competitions). And that he manages the website for Inklings, the Staples newspaper. But just thinking about all that activity exhausts me.
Marcus’ 1st triathlon came at age 10: the Westport Y’s Strong Kids event. He didn’t train for it, but he was hooked.
A hip problem when he was 12 to 14 prevented Marcus from running. Instead he swam — with the Y Water Rats and Staples — and last fall resumed triathlon competition. He entered the Kiwanis event at Compo, and another in Fairfield. He finished 1st in his age group at both.
Last winter he joined Vortex Racing, a New England-based junior development team. In the spring he ran track for Staples.
This past summer he competed in his 1st major event — in Seattle — and then the Junior Elite National Championship in San Diego. “It was incredible to see so many huge names,” Marcus says.
He wasn’t too shabby himself. He placed 35th overall — in the top half — and had the 11th fastest bike time.
Two weeks later he was in Burlington, Vermont for the Sprint National Championship, with 300 triathletes. There, Marcus qualified for the world event in Auckland.
Success in triathlons demands “commitment and focus,” Marcus says.
“It’s hard to do quality training in all 3 sports — but you have to. You can’t say, ‘I swam this morning, so this afternoon I’ll ride an easy 10 miles.’ You have to develop it all. Sometimes you feel horrible. You just have to push through it.”
Though he swims and runs with others, he usually bikes alone. Once a week he rides with a cycling club out of Bethel.
A good triathlete must be “light and aerobically fit,” Marcus notes. “You can’t have too much muscle.”
Marcus is 5-11 1/2. He weighs 140. You do the math.
Despite the demands — perhaps because of them — Marcus loves triathlons.
In addition, he says, “you go to a lot of cool places. You meet amazing people. Everyone is into being fit as a whole — not just in one sport.”
And, of course, “you get lots of free stuff!”
At Staples, Marcus downplays his accomplishments. “I don’t want people to think of me in only one way,” he says. Most teachers have no idea he’s a triathlete — or a piano player, website manager and everything else.
It’s not easy keeping so many balls in the air. Marcus’ iCalendar is crucial. “I plot everything out each day,” he says.
On weekends, Marcus says, “I try to relax as much as possible.”
Though I am pretty certain his definition of relaxation is not the same as yours or mine.