Adam Otstot, 4th year professional - I grew up in Richmond, Virginia playing soccer, basketball, and baseball. In middle school, I decided I would run track in order to stay in shape for soccer. Immediately I saw success as a runner. I decided in high school to commit to running for all three sports seasons.
That led me to running for The College of William and Mary in 2000, where I continued to improve, and in 2005 I was the Colonial Athletic Association 3000m Steeplechase Champion.
Once my college career ended, I still felt compelled to race competitively. I briefly entertained the idea of racing marathons, but after purchasing a road bike for cross training, I fell in love with cycling and my interest shifted towards competing in multisport events.
It took me a couple years to learn how to swim well enough to be competitive, but after yards and yards of hard work, I reached a level of proficiency where I could use my bike and run to start winning races.
Racing as a professional had always been a dream, but I had a bucket list of accomplishments that I wanted to achieve as an amateur before I started racing pro. I wanted to win an amateur national championship, be in the top 10 amateurs in the Ironman World Championships, and win my age group in an Ironman. It took me nearly six years to accomplish those goals, but in the process I grew as an athlete in all three disciplines.
I use the opportunity of racing professionally to maximize my athletic potential against the best triathletes in the world. In my first four years, I have earned two second place finishes in 70.3’s, and in 2017 I earned a spot to race in the 70.3 World Championships. The goal for 2018 is to continue my improvements and win a 70.3!
Holly Benner, 2nd year professional - My athletic career started in the pool, swimming with my local summer-league team in Georgia. I swam for a Agnes Scott, a small NCAA D3 college before picking up rowing in graduate school at Clemson University. I quickly fell in love with rowing and ended up moving to Philly to pursue it further. Over time, I found it difficult to manage a growing career with rowing, so I thought I’d give triathlon a shot. I entered my first race in 2009 and haven’t looked back. 2017 marked my first year racing professionally and I look forward to seeing where more experience takes me. Outside of sport, I work full-time designing and developing training curriculum for our Armed Forces. I live in Bethlehem, PA with my husband and two cats.
Josh Terwoord - I grew up in northeast Ohio and after trying (and being lousy at) sports like soccer, wrestling, and basketball, I found my niche in distance running. I ran cross country and track through high school and then enlisted in the Air Force, which brought me out to Phoenix.
That’s where, in 2004, I met my current coach, Bettina Warnholtz (Racelab). Since then, we’ve learned that I tend to place proportionately better as the race distance gets longer. I ran my first two marathons in 2005 and 2006 (Air Force Marathon) and while looking for a new challenge, I entered my first triathlon in 2007. Like everyone else, I was hooked on the sport immediately and honed my skills over the next several years before signing up for Ironman Arizona 2011.
IMAZ turned out to be one of the most positive, memorable experiences I’ve ever had and I absolutely love the challenge, the training, the mental fortitude, and the smarts it takes to race well at such a distance. As a mediocre high school distance runner, I never imagined I’d be capable of running sub 3-hour marathons off 112 mile bike rides. Now I’m continuing to enjoy the journey and seeing just how fast I can go and how far I can take it!
Mathew Shanks - I’m an engineer. I do computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to learn about how water flows over things. I first went to school for Athletic Training, in which I have a B.S. However, engineering pays better so I went back to school for a Masters in Aerospace Engineering. Then I realized that in a single day winning Kona, a pro triathlete can make more than a generous annual salary. So I decided to be a pro triathlete. It turns out winning Kona is pretty hard so I’ve kept my day job.
Alright, backtrack to 2001. I did my growing up in Hawaii, living there for all of my middle and high school years. There people don’t watch football. They go surfing, hiking, sailing, snorkeling, play soccer. Oh and they do triathlons. I found my love for the sport during my years there, competing in numerous sprint and oly tris, open water swims, biathlons, off road tris, 5k’s to marathons. At 14 it wasn’t a particularly deep AG field so I easily got on the podium, but I really wasn’t anything of a prodigy. I knew I wanted to do the longer races at some point but was advised it was smartest to wait. So I waited.
In 2014 I qualified for and took my elite license, meaning that I can race in the pro category and compete for prize money. In big pro races I typically got lost in the great abyss between the pro’s way ahead and the age groupers behind. The American Triple-T and Beach2Battleship were my favorite races those years because the prizes drew a lot of competition right at my level. The best racing is when you have a number of competitors similar in ability, all gutting it out.
In 2018 I’m upping my game (saying so makes it happen.) Progress comes in small steps with consistent work, and I hope to continue to progress up the pro field. Maybe next year I’ll go for the big Kona win to be rich. But for now, I’ll keep at it because swimming, biking, and running faster than you used to be capable of is an amazing feeling of self improvement that drives us all.
Cassandra Tripaldi, 1st year professional
Tim Russell - Tim is a professional triathlete from southern Vermont. When he isn't training or racing, he coaches track and field at Mount Anthony Union High School and swimming for the Bennington Marauders.