Interview with Andrew Starykowicz – #turnapalooza, How To Win Kona, And How He Quit His Job

Andrew Starykowicz, Jess Jones, and Caroline Gaynor pause for a photo with some fansAndrew Starykowicz, Jess Jones, and Caroline Gaynor pause for a photo with some fans

You know him. If you’re reading this, you probably love him. Andrew Starykowicz is not only this site’s historical namesake (some back story available here), but arguably personifies the very essence of the TRS Triathlon brand. Honest and candid, hard-working and fearless, and a devoted family man, Andrew puts the pedal to the metal and asks questions later. With 10 pro wins, record-setting bike splits, and an increasingly-dangerous run, Andrew is a true triathlon champion. And as you are about to find out, he’s also a champion at life.

Dr. Starky, making sure all injured athletes are cared for

Dr. Starky, making sure all injured athletes are cared for

Interview with NOLA 70.3 champion and IMTX hopeful, Andrew Starykowicz

Aaron WebsteyFirst off, congratulations on winning NOLA 70.3 – a great result leading into IMTX.

Speaking of IMTX, let’s get that out of the way right now. Everyone is talking about what Dark Mark is calling ‘#turnapalooza’. It sounds like Ironman has produced more static than a Van de Graaff generator with this, so I don’t expect you to go bellyaching about it on record.

However, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the course and how it will affect the race. Will all this turning play out to your advantage, allowing your power and superior handling to crush those noodle-legged chumps …

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailYes.

Aaron Webstey… or does the Starky diesel operate better on the open road, chugging and ticking off the miles steadily?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailI like that too.

Aaron WebsteyWill mental toughness be an issue?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailOf course mental toughness will be a challenge, it is an 122.6 on a course that might as well be a steam room at the local fitness center.  Just like most races it is a bunch of guys packed into a tiny area and everyone is checking everyone else to see who’s got the biggest crank.  For me, I don’t pay much attention to anybody else because I know my game, “Dear God, make me a bird. So I can fly far. Far far” ahead of my competitors. (a special thanks to Forrest Gump for the guest appearance).

Aaron WebsteyDoes your brain push the same wattage as your legs?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailYes on race day, most days in training.

Aaron WebsteyYou worked for 3 years as an engineer for Caterpillar, a fortune 500 company where, presumably, one could have a successful and fruitful career. How would you rate your performance at this job?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnail3 years?  Try a few weeks shy of 5 years.  In my opinion I did my job very well.  I grew up working construction so I really truly liked my job and I am proud of what I did at Caterpillar.

Aaron WebsteyDid you ever feel fully committed, or did you always suspect you’d go whole-hog on triathlon?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailI never really expected to get to the level I have in triathlon.  Over the years I have just set little goals and inch by inch I have made it miles.  In 2008 I started to see glimpses of success then in 2009 a series of events gave me a window of opportunity and I jumped through it, not knowing if I would plummet or soar.

Aaron WebsteyWhat were the conversations with your boss and coworkers like when you quit – did they have any idea, or was it out of the blue?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailThere were really no conversations that went on.  I walked into my bosses office, had a conversation on how I was hired to fill a position, since 3 people got promoted out or laterally transferred to other positions and I had successfully absorbed all 3 positions.  Essentially I owned the front of the excavator, material handler, and forestry in the US.  When I asked for a promotion he said that I need more time to hone my skills.  I saw what was happening so I asked to be allowed to interview for other jobs within Caterpillar, when I applied for other jobs within Cat he cock blocked me.  I went in to his office, had a conversation about his actions and let him know that if things don’t change in the next two weeks I am out.  He thought I was balking.

Two weeks later…I remember the moment picture perfect.  He was about to take a sip of his Diet Coke at his desk, I brought in some forms for him to sign and he just had a dumbfounded look on his face.  I asked him what he would like me to do with all of my current projects, he just stuttered, after a short conversation I walked out the door and never looked back.

Aaron WebsteyNOLA was “your first win as a daddy”. How has parenthood changed your perspective and approach to training and racing?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailI got to admit that I struggled with either getting older or becoming a dad.  I think they both hit simultaneously.  It just took me quite a few months to find a rhythm that I could get quality training and recovery in.  It really took me until February this year to get something that works for the whole family.  

Aaron WebsteyYou seemed to express some relief after NOLA – do you feel any more pressure to win, now that you have an extra mouth to feed?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailI race to win.  PR’s are cool and fun, but winning is indescribable.  The last year broke a 6 year streak of winning at least 1 race.  It was also hard because last year I was limited by a healing hip, I could push but if the hip tightened up like it did at Roth & Miami I had to walk until it loosened.  It is not like I did not race well in 2015, I had 4 top 4’s and all of that was less than 1 year after a hip arthroscopy, most people are starting to run again after a year.

Aaron WebsteyDoes your babymomma get antsy when daddy hasn’t won in a while?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailNot really.

Aaron WebsteyI’m debuting a new segment in my column this week, called “random stupid questions”. In one sentence or less, please answer the following 3 questions:

1. You’re single, in college, and it’s Sunday night (because everyone knows athletes can’t party on Saturday). Which party do you attend – swim team or water polo?

WATER POLO

2. How many bicycles have you owned in your lifetime?

Oh wow, I have ridden at least 25 different bikes over 1000 miles in my career.

3. Engineer Andrew vs American Andrew: which is better, SI or Imperial?

American Andrew.

Aaron WebsteyLast question (by which, of course, I mean last 6 questions): are you targeting Kona this year?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailSuccess at Kona is a multi year scheme with the current points system. 
Year 1: Race as often as you need to to get to Kona and then finish top 15.
Year 2: Validate and get the points you need by spring so you can focus your season on Kona
Year 3 & Beyond – Repeat Year 2

Unfortunately with my hip surgery in 2014 and recovery through 2015, I am working on year 1 right now and my fate is being largely determined by a bike shortened Ironman Texas this weekend.

Aaron WebsteyDo you think it’s possible to pull a Stadler these days, and win with a mega-bike and 2:55 marathon?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailYes.

Aaron WebsteyIn your expert opinion as an engineer, do you think the TRS Triathlon web servers would literally explode if you won Kona?

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailIf I win Kona, ya, webservers exploding would be the least of your worries.

Aaron WebsteyAndrew, I can’t thank you enough for this. You are our namesake and Dark Mark’s hero, and we love to watch you race. Please, never stop. And also, please feel free to mention any sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible.

Andrew Starykowicz - thumbnailContributors to my success includes a lot of people and companies. Beyond my wife and family the 10 biggest for me right now are Orbea, Orca, Vision, Recon Instruments, Torhans Performance Hydration, Base Performance, Mavic, Atomic Speedshop, Glen Thompson, and Bob Duncan.

Starky, Jess Jones, and Caroline Gaynor

Starky, Jess Jones, and Caroline Gaynor

About the Author

Aaron 'King of All Technology' Webstey is a former ITU triathlete and current dadbod owner. If your social media posts have been 'liked' by @AaronWebstey, you might be a triathlete.