Tough as nails: Marshfield graduate earns spot on Team USA
BY KRIS LEONHARDT
Marshfield, Wisconsin, graduate Travis Schlafke has earned a spot on Team USA.
Schlafke qualified for the USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championship event in April, at the Half Moon Bay Triathlon in California.
“I was 13th overall at this race and took third in my age group, which is 35-39,” Schlafke said. “The top 18 people in each (age group) at the National Championship get an automatic roster spot on Team USA for 2019. This is basically the only way an amateur with a full-time job like me, can say they are representing their country in athletics.”
Schlafke said that he never did much swimming or bike riding in his youth.
“I hated swimming in lakes as a kid, so the idea of swimming in open water wasn’t exactly something I relished early in my triathlon career,” he said, adding that he completed his first triathlon in 2016.
“My friend Chris in San Francisco was training for an Ironman and 70.3 distance races and he called me out for only being a runner at that time,” Schlafke recalled. “I bet him I could beat him in a triathlon and signed up for my first Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz that afternoon. I didn’t beat him at Santa Cruz, which I maintain was because I flatted on the bike, but I did beat him the following spring at Santa Rosa 70.3.”
The USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, qualified athletes for the 2019 ITU Standard-Distance Triathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.
To prepare for the event, Schlafke spent a lot of early morning hours in the pool, which he identified as a liability, as well as time on his bike, sometimes spending entire Saturdays riding on country roads and “climbing up mountains on my bike when my legs felt like they had nothing left.”
On Aug. 11, in Cleveland, Schlafke took 11th place in the event, earning him a spot in the World Championships.
Schlafke is a 2002 graduate of Marshfield High School in central Wisconsin, where he participating in track and field, earning the Tough as Nails Award.
“I can say retrospectively that one thing I’ve come to cherish and use as a motivator is an award I received during my senior season of Track and Field, called the ‘Tough as Nails Award,’” he said. “I wasn’t the most athletically gifted guy on the team; I wasn’t even the hardest worker at times. But, I had the ability to show up on race day and completely gut myself in the name of winning.
“I remember one meet in Wisconsin Rapids where guys were bailing out of events left and right. I had already run the 3200-meter relay, the 800-meter, the 400-meter and then someone dropped on the 1600-meter relay team. I stepped in and ran either lead-off or anchor on super-tired legs. I don’t remember the result, so let’s say we won. My efforts for that meet were recognized by being named Tough as Nails.
“I kept stepping up and doing things like that all season and eventually got the year-end Tough as Nails award along with team MVP for the season.
“Over years of competing, they have become a symbol of so much more than those track meets. They serve to remind me that I am tougher than I think and that I can suffer through whatever challenge is put in front of me and come out on top.”
Schlafke recently relocated from San Francisco to Seattle, Washington, where he works in sales for Cisco Systems.
He will compete in the Triathlon World Championships in Switzerland, Aug. 29 – Sept. 1, 2019.