Meet James Burke.
Husband, father of three, full-time sales manager and TIMEX Multisport Team athlete, James Burke is a study in time management. A relative newcomer to the Ironman world, his first race was in 2013, Burke has rapidly rose to become one of the top competitors in his age group, currently 35-39. With a background in competitive swimming and running, all Burke needed was some time on the bike to complete the triathlon disciplines.
As he made his way to the 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga, Insiders caught up with Burke to learn how he manages to balance family, work and training.
Q: You are on your way to the World Championships. How are you feeling?
A: I’m very excited. I’ve been targeting this race all year. I’ve had a light race schedule and won’t be competing at Kona so for me, this is putting all my chips in. It’s my first time at Chattanooga so I’m looking forward to competing on a new course.
(Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted just prior to the 70.3 World Championships. Burke would place 1st in his age group, 35-39, and 34th overall with a time of 4:14:12)
Q: You have a strong background in swimming and running, correct?
A: Yes, I’ve been running and swimming competitively since grade school and high school and swam at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for two years. After that, though, I really had about a 10-year stretch where I didn’t train. I did some biking but it wasn’t until I decided to try my first IRONMAN race that I got back into serious training.
Q: Being quite familiar with swimming and running, how hard was it to get up to speed on the bike?
A: When I started I really didn’t have much experience at all. I had done some mountain biking for fun but nothing competitive. So, for training I really had to devote a lot of time to getting to a point where I felt comfortable. By no means am I a great biker but I’ve gotten a lot better. And I fell in love with it. Out of the three disciplines, it’s the one I enjoy the most.
Coming from the cold of Wisconsin, Burke also enjoys playing in a men’s hockey league, a sport he says they all take way too seriously but allows him to challenge his competitive nature. Growing up the 4th of 5 siblings, Burke’s childhood revolved sports.
“Our parents saw how restless and reckless we could be so they basically gave us an ultimatum: choose a sport and channel your energy into it,” Burke says. “Ask any of my brothers or sisters and they will tell you how competitive I am.”
Once Burke had his career and family in place, it was time to fill the other void in his life: physical challenges. In 2012, he decided to watch the IRONMAN Wisconsin and seeing the action up close was all he needed to set a goal of competing in 2013.
“I knew I could swim and run”, he says, “But it was the 112-mile bike ride that had me nervous. With an IRONMAN, you really don’t know what you are getting into. You have an idea, but until you are in the water or on the course, you can’t imagine the demands this race has.”
Luckily for Burke, plenty of friends and family came out to support him.
“Being in Wisconsin, I had a tremendous amount of support,” he says. “When I hit the last mile, it felt like I was floating. Just knowing I was going to complete the race gave me a euphoric feeling.”
That feeling continues to drive Burke as he sets his sights on a return to Kona in 2018. Burke first attacked the famed Hawaiian race in 2014 and made a splash by finishing as the 9th amateur overall. And now, with the support of the TIMEX Multisport Team, he has found a family in a sport known for individual achievement.
Q: Tell us how you got involved with the TIMEX Multisport Team?
A: Going into 2014 I was still very new to the sport. I met Craig Lanza and we would train together and share our experiences. Then, after Kona I met Tristan Brown and applied for a spot and was accepted. I quickly got to know the team and immediately saw it as a great outlet. In addition to the sponsorship and gear, you really appreciate the training techniques other athletes share. One of the biggest advantages was comparing nutrition and learning how to eat healthier when training. Also, the coaches are terrific and have helped me transition into more hi-intensity but shorter workouts.
Q: Other IRONMAN athletes have mentioned how training helps in dealing with other areas of their life. Is this true for you?
A: Absolutely. Exercise has always been a stress reliever for me and I find it quite relaxing. When I’m training, it helps to take my mind of things that would otherwise drag me down. But when I have race I have something to work towards and that goal helps me focus.
Q: And when it comes to training watches, which TIMEX do you prefer?
A: I love the new IRONMAN GPS. From a validation stand point it’s great and practically bulletproof. I really like using it for recovery runs. I was never really a watch wearer but now I also have two Timex watches that I wear for work too.