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Athlete Spotlight: Daniel Starks

Name | Daniel Starks

Tell us about your family/career.

I work at the Department of Veterans Affairs Debt Management as a telephone operator assisting veterans and families with entitlement debts. I served 21 years in the Army with four years as Army Paratrooper and 17 years with MN National Guard. I have a 16-year-old son named Zachary, who lives with me during the summer months and plans to join the Airforce.

What is your personal favorite sport/activity?

Biking is my favorite activity; however, running is a very close second place. A lot of rediscovering the joys of biking and running is through strength training to overcome service-connected back, hip, and shoulder pain.

Outside of training with Tri Fitness, what are some of your favorite hobbies?

I love playing team sports. I play softball with Catholic Softball League and the Veterans Softball team. On Fridays, I play volleyball with the Twin Cities Christians Single group. Dancing is another fun activity that I like to work on; improving my dance floor skills.

What is your favorite motivational quote?

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place, and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” Rocky Balboa

Favorite gear for summer/winter training?

Under Armour base layer 2,3 & 4 keeps me running outside in the winter month. Garmin is my favorite digital gear.

What keeps you going when you really don’t want to go?

Self-discipline comes in 34 on Clifton Strength 34 report despite being in the Army. Enough said.

What got you started with training/racing?

My original intention for starting triathlons is to make working out fun by training for races after getting out of the National Guard. The journey led me to make a lot of new friends in running and the community. I never felt judged for being a Clydesdale (endurance athlete over 200 pounds). Plus, I feed on the energy of the crowds on race day. My athlete friends keep me motivated during the peaks and valleys of training and injuries.

When you tell your friends/family about beginning your journey, what was their reaction?

My experience has been relatively positive until training for Chattanooga Ironman. I endured a lot of pain emotionally and physically training for my ironman; however, when I tried to explain the obstacle that I had overcome, I was abruptly shut down by the two words “You're Old.” I am so happy to believe in myself and not listen to implied remarks, “I am too old for Ironman” for Chattanooga. Ironman was one of the best experiences.

How long have you been training/racing?

All my adult life has been spent training, and I joined the Army at 18. Racing started in my 40’s with 5K runs that evolved into triathlon competition.

Were you involved in other competitive sports prior to your adult years? (ie- athletic background)

Baseball was my primary sport during my childhood. I did try on a season of basketball and track and field, doing shot put and disc throwing. I played football in junior and senior high, plus a year of football in college at Anoka Ramsey Community College, which was the last year they had a football team.

Best tip for a newbie?

Understanding your why. Endurance sports have an emotional element that gets you to climb those mountains so you can coast through the valleys. Enjoy the moment.

What is your favorite pre/post-workout snack/drink?

I need to work on healthy pre/post-workout snacks.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Vicki. I’m probably a pain in the ass for not sticking with the plan. She believes more than I that I would finish my ironman. I was clinging to the saying, “It is better to fail to succeed than to succeed to fail.”

What is your biggest struggle?

Sleep. I put a lot of work into sleep hygiene. Sleep impacts my mood, motivation, and memory.

What is your pre-race routine?

Talking with people before race. Learning their motivation and drive to compete.

Goals for the upcoming year?

My number one goal is to conquer my binge eating disorder by the time of the Twin Cities Marathon; otherwise, I will be admitting myself to inpatient treatment. My second goal is to build strength, so I no longer require cortisone shots to mitigate pains.

Races: Fargo half marathon, Buffalo Spring Triathlon, Grandmas Marathon, Chisago half ironman, Ragnar Twin Cities, and Twin Cities Marathon.

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