Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cliff Scherb - Coach, Triathlete, Diabetic and GREAT Guy

We at True-Motion are big fans of NYC Elite Age Grouper Triathlete Cliff Sherb. Many of you may know Cliff from his stellar performances over the past few years. Any race he enters, he manages to surface to the top of his age group. It's a combination of dedication, passion, and sheer raw talent. Founder and head coach of TriStar Athletes (a coaching program for runners, cyclists and triathletes), here are some things about Cliff you may not know. Enjoy!

1. What sports did you play growing up?

Baseball, basketball, soccer, waterpolo, swimming, track. Anything I could do to be active and help my fidgeting while sitting still.

2. I'm sure when people see you and read your racing stats, they would never know that you are a challenged athlete in some ways.you live each and every day with diabetes. What type of diabetes do you have? (explain)

I have Type 1 insulin dependent diabetes, (A genetic disease where my body no longer makes insulin for glucose metabolism. I wear an insulin pump that helps regulate and control my blood sugars. I test my blood on average 12-15times per day)

I guess I have never thought of myself as "challenged" and for many years I raced without letting many others know that I was a Type 1 diabetic. I did this because I wanted to be respected for my racing and not let anyone think that I had a bad race due to being diabetic.

Athletically it has taken me 8 of my last 10 Ironman races to learn how to pin my blood sugars with racing and training accuracy. I will say there were several major bumps in the road that were hard learning through "crash and burn" style nutrition and training but it helped me craft how I manage my blood sugars for my sport. Ironman Hawaii in 2005 was the hardest learning experience I have had in this sport. My high blood sugars forced me to walk 26.2 agonizing miles of the run.

As a coach and athlete I have always recognized the importance of recovery. Uncontrolled diabetes for me is a major issue as an athlete because it slows recovery time. What I have learned through racing, training, especially nutrition has helped me to train my athletes and help them to have break through races.

3. Have Dr's advised you against racing Ironman? (As if that would stop you)

Surprisingly not in the past 5yrs but years ago they were more skeptical. But at this point in my career they also want to know how deep the rabbit hole goes! Most Dr's don't know what to tell me when it comes to this sport; rather I tell them how I do it and they give me feedback. I am encouraged by them and they are motivated by me to help me become the fastest type 1 diabetic. My goal is to break the unofficial course record at Ironman Western Australia after Hawaii this year. (This would mean a
record sub 8hr50min Ironman)

4. What sort of compromises do you have to make in training/racing?

I don't think there are any compromises for me. I live, train, and coach they way I
want. Its great when you're the boss : )

5. You founded TriStar Athletes - a personal coaching service for multisport athletes. Tell us why you jumped from your day job in corporate America to personal coaching. (other than to "live the dream" of course)

It was actually quite simple, I loved working with people and training. I was way into triathlon and wanted to give others the opportunity to unlock their race potential. At the end of my corporate sales career I was wearing my tri top and bottom under my suit and going from lunch in the pool back to Dr's offices before heading back to the park for an evening run. I decided to take a leap of faith and do what I love and I have never looked back since.

6. How many athletes do you coach presently? Is it as rewarding as you had hoped?

Coaching is very rewarding because each time I work with an individual they learn something that will either help them race faster or be healthier. I enjoy understanding each athlete and how to help them improve. I try to only work with 15 coached athletes as I find this is the optimal number for me to give the best attention to. Any more than this as a coach and its like trying to land too many planes at a major airport! I lose sleep at night worrying about their training, therefore so I can sleep and they can race well I keep the numbers close to 15 : ) Our other three coaches work in the same way and we refer to one another when an athlete wants to be a TriStar.

7. Ok.now let's shift to your ever-improving racing career to date.It took a few tries, but you finally did it. You qualified for Kona in Ironman AZ in 2008. How did that feel?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words..i would say this photo is worth 10,000.

8. Having a great ironman race (I believe) requires proper physical and mental preparation, as well as a little bit of luck.

Let's talk mental preparation. You finished Ironman USA in 10:07 in 2006. It was a time that would have clearly gotten you a slot to Kona in that race years prior. Were
those demons in your head going into last year's Ironman Florida? What were your expectations?

Well, I have had so many close races to qualify and each one I knew going in my training was where I needed to be but the wild card has always been my blood sugar control. Lake Placid in 2007 was particularly brutal, I gave it 110% and the end of the marathon was really grueling for me. I was on the bubble with no roll down. In one sense it just makes you want it more. The best part about coming so close is that you tweak things each time and get better. I have taken my training plans and reworked them so that they are very specific. I am focused on specific strength and speed 12 weeks and less to an Ironman. As for demons none to speak of, but it did take some self reflection to get up and go after three bad Ironman races back to back
to back. It was at this point that I made a major overall to my nutrition and diabetes regimen and kept the faith that one day I would achieve my goal. I have always been motivated to do something that no one else has ever done before and racing for the spot as "fastest type 1 Ironman" continues to drive me.

9. So now you've made it to the dance, and we'll see you at the start line in Hawaii this year. Do you carry that thought into every training swim/ride/run?

Yep! Each workout I try to think about how it will help me for that particular race. This kind of focus is the best way to be physically and mentally prepared for a race that has the best of the best that will be at their best! My last trip to the big island was a long day over 14hrs. This year, armed with better training strategies and diabetes control the question is how fast?!

10. Have you thought about your post race meal? lease share.we are obsessed with food at True-Motion.

Im already drooling for my post race Hawaiian pineapple cheeseburger.. I crave beef only one day per year and it is always right after an Ironman. That and some local Hawaiian brew and I will be way ahead on recovery. Ha.

11. IF you see a shark during the swim, what will you do?

I think I would say hi if he or she was a friendly shark. Otherwise I would punch im in the nose. Its bad karma to mess with any Kona island creatures as it can bring bad luck for many triathlon years to come.

12. Lastly, for those who read this and have never met you, we need to let them know that you are, quite possibly, the most upbeat person we know. Does ANYTHING upset you? (example: people who don't flush public toilets, someone failing to use their directional signal, woman in front of you in Starbucks who takes a cell phone call in the middle of her order and causes the line
to jam up)..something..

Thanks : ) It's a better way to be, glass half full type of thing. It must be the way I was raised? Being happy isn't always easy but putting a smile on when others are sad or upset makes you stand out. Who would I rather spend time with someone who is a debby downer or a smiling TriStarAthlete :)


Anonymous said...

It's so nice to get to know Cliff a little better. We will be rooting for you in Hawaii and hope that any sharks you may bump into are friendly ones!

That's for the inspiration and for sharing your wonderful attitude.

Anonymous said...


Reyna said...

I was sent over from This Is Caleb. Great article and Cliff keep up all the hard training and great attitude with life. You are an inspiration. (My son Joe, now 7, was diagnosed with type 1 at 3...he is into Hockey for now...but definitely throws his heart into all he undertakes).

jpnairn said...

Good luck in Kona, Cliff!
I will send you a note about maybe getting some coaching in a couple of weeks.

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