Sports

Giulianos set to return to Kona Ironman

Ryan Giuliano, an Oakwood Hills resident, has expanded to coaching triathletes

H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com
Ryan Giuliano rides in his Oakwood Hills neighborhood. Giuliano along with his wife Jacqui will again compete in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.
H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com Ryan Giuliano rides in his Oakwood Hills neighborhood. Giuliano along with his wife Jacqui will again compete in the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon.

The vast knowledge Ryan Giuliano accrued through his years of triathlon racing was undeniable.

As he succeeded, both as a professional and an amateur, people sought him out for training suggestions.

The 31-year-old Oakwood Hills man willingly offered advice, giving back to his sport. Giuliano dropped his professional status four years ago to compete as an amateur, although outsiders barely can tell from his results.

Giuliano routinely finishes ahead of professionals in some triathlons, including his 38th-place overall finish last year at the Kona Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, which is considered the sport’s Super Bowl. Ironman races are 2.4-mile swims, followed by 112-mile bike rides and a 26.2-mile run.

Giuliano will race the Kona Ironman again Saturday, along with his wife Jacqui, and should be one of the top amateur finishers. With a strong year behind him and two first-place finishes, he could move up from last year’s Kona finish, again beating many of the 50 professionals who will be in the field.

“It’s always super-competitive,” Giuliano said. “It’s always a little intimidating when you get there and you start to realize that every single athlete who is there is very qualified and very good. They put in all the work just as hard and earn their spot to compete there as well. Last year I was third place amateur in my age group and 10th overall. I’m hoping I can move up on both of those places and see what happens from there. You never know from year to year.”

Giuliano won Ironman competitions in Houston, where there were professionals racing, and in Lake Placid, an all-amateur race. He is pleased at breaking the 3-hour barrier in the marathon portion of his two Ironmans this year.

No longer being a pro led Giuliano to a new job opportunity as a triathlon coach. He quit his job with PowerBar last year and now designs workout programs for about 15 triathletes. He also will start working next month with Multisport Madness Triathlon Team, an elite youth team in the St. Charles area.

“There was more I wanted to learn and experience as an amateur because it’s going to be a lot more relatable to athletes I’m working with,” Giuliano said. “Racing professionally is almost a completely different style of racing. Dropping back to amateur allowed me to get back to roots and learn more about amateur style and how it plays out.”

•••

Megan Hode attended Crystal Lake South with Jacqui Aubert, one of the best distance runners in Gators’ history. The two kept in touch through the years and when Hode, who lives in Crystal Lake, decided to try triathlons, she found her old teammate.

“I knew her husband was this marathon/triathlon god,” Hode said. “I contacted her to see if he could give me some tips.”

That was in the fall of 2013, after Hode already had done her first Ironman without really knowing what she was doing. She did not even own biking shoes like most racers had.

“If I did it, I needed to get some serious help,” Hode said. “Last year, I would try to pay him and he’d throw it back in my face. Other times, he would accept it. I might get him a gift card so he couldn’t turn it down. He hated to accept money.”

After leaving PowerBar, Giuilano set up rybreadracing.com, his website where he works with his clients. He was all in on coaching, while still competing as one of the nation’s best amateurs.

“Last year, I started toying with the idea that this would be something I could do pretty much full-time because there’s a lot of people out there and the sport is growing drastically,” Giuliano said. “Most of the time it spreads by word of mouth. You get good results from your athletes and people start seeing what they’re doing and the corrections they’ve made and it catches people’s eyes a little bit.”

Hode was thrilled when she completed the Lake Placid Ironman this summer in 11 hours, 22 minutes. She and her brother, Mark, both are Giuliano’s clients.

“Ryan understands that life happens,” Hode said. “Every workout for his other athletes are personalized to them. Work schedules, kids, life, spouses, things get in the way. And every athlete he has have personalized workout schedules to accommodate their lives. That’s what you need. Getting a cookie-cutter workout plan will get you across the finish line, but it’s not going to get you exactly what you want.”

•••

Giuliano graduated from Conant High School in 2003 and ran for two years at Illinois before transitioning into his triathlon career. He earned his degree in kinesiology in 2008 and competed as amateur after college, then as a pro for three years, before dropping back to amateur status.

Giuliano is the top-ranked U.S. amateur in his age group (30-34) for the third straight year. He can do most of his workout-planning for clients online, which allows him flexibility for his own training.

“It varies from person to person and what level they’re looking at,” Giuliano said. “Some people I can’t really meet with them, they’re farther away, that’s more phone and email. I use a specific program online where all their workouts and data are stored so I can pretty much see everything that they are doing.”

Giuliano says technology helps him thoroughly evaluate everything his athletes are doing.

“It’s crazy, with the amount of technology that’s out there these days,” Giuliano said. “People running with GPS watches, computers on their bikes and they can upload every workout and I can monitor it every single day, providing feedback and making sure they’re making the right progress to hit their goals. It’s sort of nice because I can monitor and give constant feedback to make sure they’re on the right path.”

Giuliano said the coaching is still a work in progress. He spends early parts of his week analyzing data from this clients and monitoring their workouts. Later in the week he will develop their plans for going forward. Everything is specific to that person and how their workouts have progressed.

“It’s amazing. I was absolutely clueless when I asked him for advice,” Hode said. “And here we are, three years later and I have one of the best coaches I could ever imagine. To say it’s going well is an understatement, for sure.”

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