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Athlete Spotlight: Rowdie Erwin

Before we dive in, here's a quick message from Coach Vicki:

From an early date, Rowdie has embraced the process of training for Ironman. He has embraced any aspect he has not been familiar with and is dedicated to doing the “hard work”. When he was less confident about his swim skills, he took a lesson. When he was unsure about his biking, he participated in bike sessions and clinics. When he has questions, he asks and then, more importantly, he takes the information and implements it! Rowdie recently participated at Chisago 70.3 and put into place things that will be critical to his success at IMWI. Let’s cheer Rowdie to the finish line at IMWI on September 10th!

Tell us about your family/career:

I have a pretty small family. My parents split when I was two, so my Mom and I moved from Austin, Texas (where I was born) to Homer, Alaska. We spent about a year in Alaska, then moved to Hopkins, MN to be closer to my mom’s side of the family. My Mom subsequently met the man who’d eventually become my Step-Dad, and the three of us settled down in a house on the east side of Saint Paul (in the Battle Creek neighborhood), across 94 from 3M’s Headquarters.

I’m an only child but have been told I don’t have ‘only-child tendencies’, which is apparently a good thing haha. I think it’s because I always managed to keep a good group of friends around me throughout my entire life, who I’ve treated like family (and vice-versa).

Professionally, I’ve been in the digital marketing/advertising industry since my college internship 8 years ago, and am currently a Media Activation Supervisor at Ciceron, which is an Ad-Agency based out of the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood in Saint Paul.

My day-to-day (in short) involves purchasing digital ad-space (digital billboards/signage, digital radio, social media, search ads—any ad you’d see on the internet) to drive business results for my clients.

Since being in the industry, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on brands such as Subaru, Target, Kohl’s, 3M, Cargill, Healthpartners, UCare, Securian, Mall of America, Dunn Brothers, and a handful of others I’m probably not thinking of.

How long has fitness been part of your life?

As long as I can remember! I have memories of throwing a Vikings football around with my stepdad when I was as young as three or four years old. I then got into organized football in 3rd grade and played until my sophomore year of high school, at which point I quit so I could work more. Aside from football, I ran track in high school and played rec league basketball at various points in my life. In college, I lifted weights 5-6 days/week, and would typically do a mile-long run after my workouts for cardio—oh, how things have changed.)

Post-grad, I ran progressively longer races until I did two marathons in 2019, then transitioned to Tri-Sports in 2020, and have been doing that since (with the occasional running event sprinkled throughout).

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

Outside of training for triathlon (which takes up plenty of time)—I try to read when I can, and love listening to music and podcasts. I tend to read non-fiction on business, technology, and self-improvement (I read both of David Goggins books last year), and am currently reading ‘I, Human’ by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, which discusses how AI fits/will fit into our life as it becomes more pervasive in society, and how people can ‘stay human’ in the face of that reality.

There was a point in my life when I was a die-hard Vikings fan, but as I’ve gotten older it’s turned into more of a passive interest (I’ll watch the games, but if I miss one it’s not the end of the world, type-of-thing). Timberwolves are cool too, but kind of the same deal there (I don’t watch many games at all, but keep a pace on the team.)

Otherwise, just hanging out with friends! I have a good group of high-school buddies that I’m still close with, a handful of friends from elementary/middle school that I play video games with, and a good friend from college who lives in the same building as me, so I see/connect with all of them relatively often.

Do you have a favorite quote or motto?

It’s not quippy like a quote or motto, but generally speaking--my goal in life is to fulfill my potential as a human being in all aspects of life. While I’ve certainly been through a fair share of trauma and hardship, I also recognize the opportunity, good fortune and privilege I’ve been blessed with (being born white, blue-eyed, healthy, intelligent and (even) middle-class in America is a jackpot, in my mind), so feel responsible for making the most of it.

After writing the above, I remembered a good one that is directly applicable to fitness, but also (almost) all other aspects of life, and that is, “Run your own race.” It’s the acknowledgment that everyone was born into a different circumstance, has had different experiences, and has different goals. Comparison is a frivolous exercise for these reasons, so worry about what’s under your control and do the best you can to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself (and ignore the person next to you).

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

My mom was diagnosed with a chronic memory disorder called Korsakoff’s Syndrome my freshman year of college, which is the result of chronic alcoholism. It’s a form of short-term memory loss, which results in the permanent inability to create new memories.

When we got her diagnosis, I recognized that her situation was either something that I could let destroy me or that I could use as motivation to push myself further. Knowing that she’d want the latter for me, that’s what I did! After starting college with a 1.5GPA, I went on to make the Deans List 7 times and finished with a ~3.35 (I know this isn’t great, but given the circumstance, I was proud of myself for the turnaround).

All’s to say, the majority of the time when things get hard, I’ll just push myself to finish them because I know it’s important to fulfill promises I make to myself for the sake of my own self-confidence, but when times are the hardest—I think back to the first time I saw my Mom in the hospital following her diagnosis, and the sacrifice’s her and my step-dad made for me during my childhood.

What got you started with training?

I did my first 5K in college, following my Mom’s diagnosis. I didn’t do any more distance events in college, but after graduating in 2015, I steadily increased the distance of the events I did until I did two marathons in 2019. After an intense amount of training in 2019, I started to find running a little monotonous, so decided to switch to triathlon, which is when I first contacted Vicki.

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

My family is all very supportive and extremely proud of my fitness journey, often referring to me as an ‘inspiration’. I think this language is a little lofty, but I do appreciate it. With regards to my friends, it kind of depends on who we’re talking about. Some seem supportive, while others seem skeptical of whether I can ‘do it’. I appreciate both groups, as they both encourage me to push myself harder (for different reasons, of course).

How long have you been training?

I’ve been training Triathlon for about three years. Did my first sprint in 2021, first Olympic in 2022, and plan on completing my first Half-Iron and Full-Iron this year (2023).

Best tip for someone that is thinking about starting a fitness program

Set SMART goals (Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Time-Bound)!

Business acronym’s aside, just set goals that are both ambitious and practical (so you’re pushing yourself, but not in an exercise of futility.)

Who is your biggest inspiration?

Going to cheat and name three--each of my three parents, for different reasons. My Mom, because I know what she’d give for her freedom (freedom from her circumstance), my Step-Dad for his sacrifice, and my Dad for his relentless pursuit of his dreams.

What is your biggest struggle?

The heat! I suffered a severe heatstroke my sophomore year of college while working a summer on an oil rig in West Texas. It was so severe, I had to be air-lifted and went into a coma for a day or two. Upon waking, I was told that at my worst, I had a 10% chance of survival during the event.

As a result, I was told that I’d forever struggle more in the heat and be more susceptible to heat stroke.

Goals for the upcoming year?

For 2023, my ‘A-Race’ is Ironman Wisconsin! That said, the way the question is posed, it seems to be asking about 2024. If that’s the case; I have not yet put any thought into what I’ll be doing next season, but if Madison goes well, I could see myself doing another!

The goals below for IM Madison are from February. As of today, I think goals 1 and 2 should be more than doable. I think 3 is possible, but as of today, my run is not that ‘fast’.

Goal 1: 

Finish and enjoy the race--time doesn't matter

Goal 2: 

2:35/100M Swim

T1: 7:00

12MPH Bike

T2: 5:00

12:00 Minute/Mile

Total Elapsed: 16 hrs, 26 mins, 12 seconds

Goal 3: 

2:20/100M Swim

T1: 7:00

15MPH Bike

T2: 5:00

10:30 Run

Total Elapsed: 13 Hours, 41 Minutes, 15 Seconds

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