RODNEY FRIEND is an IRONMAN and the founder and president of Merchant Management Group, a full service credit card processing company in Panama City, Florida. A city commissioner who is active on several boards as well as his local church, he is also a founding member of Team Reach, a triathlon group who raise funds and awareness for three non-profit organizations. Married to Jeanette, his wife of 27 years, they have a daughter, Katelyn, who is a senior in high school.
How did you get started in triathlon?
I didn’t have a big athletic background but I did a lot of athletic things growing up, like a lot of other boys. Basketball was my primary sport. I also competed in track and field.
What got me involved was my cousin. He and I grew up together. We’re more like brothers than cousins. He got into triathlon way before I did and is younger than I am. He did IRONMAN Florida, which is where I’m at, Panama City Beach. We’re the host city for that.
I’ve always volunteered for those events through various organizations. I was around IRONMAN Florida almost every year but I never even really thought of it until my cousin was involved in it.
How did you find out about TriDot?
I didn’t use them for my first 70.3. I only started TriDot in my training for my first IRONMAN which was IRONMAN Florida. I’m pretty fortunate. It’s right here in my backyard. I train on the actual route. It’s a good one for first timers.
When I volunteered and my cousin ran, we were at the finish line waiting for him and I kept seeing the Tri4Him jerseys coming in and they looked fantastic. They weren’t dying. They were looking good and strong and smiling and happy. I started seeing TriDot on their jerseys.
So I called them up and contacted Cindy. I told her, “Here’s the deal. When these guys were coming through, they looked good. What were they doing?”
What were your initial impressions of TriDot?
It’s such a professional program. I don’t want to overlook the athlete/advisor role. Mine is Cindy. That’s the person I first connected with. She introduced me to the whole TriDot family, the way TriDot works, Jeff and his vision, and the system. They point you in the right direction. They ask if you want a coach. They give you options. Your athletic advisor is a huge part of the process.
What triathlons have you finished?
I’ve done several, starting with my very first sprint at Buster Britton in Birmingham. I like doing the local ones to support local events. We have Beach Blast. That’s twice a year. I typically do the Olympic distance there. I travel to Georgia and I like the one up there called Tri the Mountains. I do that one almost every year. I do Sandestin. And I do the Gulf Coast 70.3 locally and IRONMAN Florida.
What kind of race results have you seen using TriDot?
When I did Tri the Mountains in Blue Ridge for the second time, I beat my previous time by 8 minutes. I didn’t think it was that big a deal. My coach said that was huge. And I felt great. If you’ve done the race before and want to get better, there is pressure to improve. I want to do better than I did before.
What was your IRONMAN Florida 2015 experience like?
My overall experience was above my expectations. My original goal was to finish strong (not doing the dead man IRONMAN shuffle) at around the 13-hour mark. I finished at 13:38:26 and very strong. Because of my TriDot training plan, I was more than prepared and it allowed me to enjoy the race and not just finish it.
What stands out about TriDot to you?
They emphasize quality over quantity. You’re using your time more wisely. And the other big thing I love about the program is measured results. Every 3 to 4 weeks you do your assessments. You do your 5K. You do a 15-mile time trial on bike. And you do the swim. Almost every time I get faster.
When I plug all my numbers into TriDot, it adjusts all your training numbers, which is fantastic because now my threshold time is a lot higher. The pace is a lot faster than when I first started because my 5K assessment has improved. I’ve gotten faster.
The data can almost be overwhelming but I love it. You get better. Your numbers change. You just keep getting better.
How do you like working with a TriDot coach?
There’s interaction throughout TriDot’s approach. We email back and forth – especially when you complete an assessment and enter your numbers. Your coach reviews it and always returns feedback, usually the same day, often within hours. He says, “Great job.” I’ll never forget the first one. It still motivates me. His response was, “Go faster!”
I love the coaching aspect because it keeps you on track and motivated. You know someone’s always looking over your shoulder. I’ve had a lot of questions but he always replies within minutes.
I like to race. I’m a competitive person. I just enjoy it – the atmosphere and the people. I enjoy all of it. My coach helps me figure out how to do some of the races and meet all my training goals.
How does TriDot differ from how you trained before?
When I did the 70.3 before TriDot, I just put in the miles and never really felt that I was getting better. I knew I could ride and run those miles. But I wasn’t any faster. And I wasn’t any stronger. I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt horrible after most of them. I felt on Saturdays that I had to run 10 miles or I wouldn’t be able to finish.
Obviously, TriDot is a set plan. If I follow the plan, I see the improvement. There are measured results. That’s the best part about it. You’re not just working. I’ve done other plans before and actually had another coach. I’ve never done anything where there are such measured results. That’s the beauty of it.
Before TriDot, I also used to struggle with injuries and since I’ve been using it, I haven’t had any.
What is your motivation in triathlon?
I’m a goal setter. I like to set a goal, formulate a plan, and work the plan to reach the goal. That’s just how I’m wired. TriDot helps with that tremendously. Now what motivates me is doing the full distance. Do I want to go to Kona? I don’t know if that’s even something to think about yet. What really motivates me is that I just want to get better. I want to get faster. I’m very competitive.
How does TriDot affect your family/work schedule?
Another reason I selected TriDot is because I’m very busy. I own my own company. I sit on boards at church and am on other elected boards. I’m a city commissioner. I’ve been married 27 years and I’ve got a teenage daughter. It can be challenging. One of the main reasons I selected TriDot was for the time management aspect of it.
And for family, I’m really very blessed and fortunate that I have a wife and daughter who are so supportive. We enjoy it. We use it as an opportunity to get together. Last year we went on a vacation together where my daughter took a bunch of her friends to a race. This year our goal is to go out of the U.S. Probably just a 70.3. Maybe the Philippines or Australia or somewhere like that.
Triathlon definitely keeps me motivated in my professional life. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a life change. You’re either in it or you’re not.
How has TriDot helped you in the mental aspect of triathlon?
TriDot gives you a huge amount of confidence. When you’re out there training you have to have faith in the system, and I do. There has been a huge night-and-day difference for me. I have faith in the plan. There’s no doubt about that.
The mental part of triathlon is a huge part of it. Training is how you overcome that. That’s why TriDot is important. It’s being prepared and knowing you can do it.