Rob Urbach: Walking The Walk

For USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach, triathlon is more than a job.

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For USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach, triathlon is more than a job.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

Last October, Rob Urbach did his second Ironman Hawaii, 30 years after his debut on the island in 1982. “Do the math, I was 7-and-a-half. I was the youngest person to ever compete in Kona,” jokes the 50-year-old Urbach.

Urbach’s role as CEO of USA Triathlon—a job he took in February 2011—means he has his pick of race entries, but it also means his travel schedule can be pretty overwhelming. When asked about his 2012 triathlon season, Urbach says, “Let’s call it a year in participation. I don’t have a lot of time because I travel so much, so I don’t have a lot of consistency in training.”

In June he challenged Ironman CEO Andrew Messick to compete against him at Ironman 70.3 Eagleman in Cambridge, Md. “We fortunately negotiated a nonaggression pact on the run that we would go in together,” he says. (They both finished in 5:41:10.) Then he raced Ironman Hawaii, followed by ITU Age Group World Championships in New Zealand the weekend after.

On a day-to-day basis, Urbach’s list of priorities range from growing membership (in 2012, adult membership grew 9 percent; youth membership was up 35 percent), to improving rules, sanctioning events (500 races were added to the calendar from 2010 to 2011) and expanding corporate sponsorship.

The avid triathlete is well aware of the difficulties our sport faces: cost, intimidation and lack of spectators, to name a few. In an attempt to alleviate a couple of those issues, USAT is debuting the “no-frills, no-psychological barrier” Retro Tri Series this summer, which includes 10 races with a 300–400-yard swim, 5–10-mile bike and 2–5K run.

USAT is also launching a professional super sprint tri series in San Diego and Las Vegas with hopes of bringing in more spectators and television coverage.

Urbach says he enjoys connecting with members and experiencing race courses for himself. He has done 74 triathlons (someday he wants to be a part of USAT’s Century Club), and this year he plans to do four to five events, including the ITU World Triathlon San Diego, which he was an integral part of developing, and hopefully a Rev3 event, a Life Time event, and others on his personal bucket list.

Will he race again in Kona this year? “Maybe in another 30 years. I don’t want to peak too early.”

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