Coach Lee’s No Holds Barred and Revealing Interview with the Dark Veil Dynasty

Today, dear readership, we would like to introduce none other than The Dark Knight himself, Mister Lee Zohlman. Sit back, relax, and enjoy 3 minutes with the Dark Knight!
lee wall
Introduce yourself – who are you, and how did you get the honor of being on this blog?
First, it is Sir Dark Knight to you. HA! Second, I will attempt to answer these questions seriously but with a humorous slant as life is too short to be so serious. Kind of like racing. I received this honor because I was told if I didn’t my athletes would leave me and coach themselves.

As a little warm up: our sources tell us you are a connoisseur in the areas of pizza and coffee. Name your favorite pizza joint both in Miami and worldwide, same for coffee places.
I just got back from Italy and while there I googled Best Pizza in Napoli and it told me a joint named Prellano was the best. So we went there and it truly was great. Better than anything I ever had. In Miami I love Cassolas Pizza and of course BZ HQ North, Harry’s. The best coffee I’ve ever had is at Lava Java in Kona. The Kona coffee is just better than anything out there. Sorry Brasil!

What’s your favorite part of being a coach? Least favorite part?
Tough question! Favorite part is still being part of the process of seeing athletes succeed and seeing them hit their goals. It’s still magical to this day and no matter what the level they are I love seeing and hearing the joy in their faces and voices after a great race. Coaching is very rewarding and if I had to get granular about the favorite part I would say coaching ocean swims on the SUP is something I really enjoy. Also, pushing cyclists on their field tests. Least favorite part- Seeing the prevalence of uneducated, fly by night, couch coaches. Also, the unlimited number of fast food style coaching ‘companies’. But mostly the unethical and unprofessionalism in the field. It will all be in my book but suffice to say there are some coaches out there I wouldn’t trust to bag my fries at Five Guys let alone steer me to a race.
You asked!

What was/is your biggest/most proudest accomplishment as a) a coach b) an athlete and c) a human being?
As a coach- Being able to maintain my sanity coaching the DVD team. JK- Consistently having a low injury rate with my athletes is something I am most proud of. As an athlete- winning a few races here and there was cool. As a human being- easy one, my incredible daughter- duh!!!

What’s your mantra to push you through when the going gets tough?
I use mantras a lot in business and racing so they have to be authentic. I used one for many races which was in the closing miles when I needed and wanted to speed up, close hard I would repeat to myself, “Nail in the coffin.”
Quirky but it worked!

What was your most awesome race experience ever? And why?
Most awesome- I had a race where I SBR’d in the AM to warm up then raced against 700 athletes and won and then did a running cooldown and felt really fit. I also ran across the line with my baby girl a few times which no matter what made me smile. Crossing the finish line t my first IM was a top ten life moment too. I’ll never forget that first one.

What was your worst race experience ever? And DNFs, and why?
Worst race ever was IMAZ where I neglected to take a 1200 Kcal bottle from my bike halfway bag and ended up walking over 20 miles, literally! I was like the wandering Jew in the desert. J It sucked. I was pissed. Still am to this day!

What’s your favorite race of all times, both for you and for your athletes?
For my Zenners it’s any race they love and are passionate for. My Zenners boost me up all the time with their excitement and intensity so when they are excited for a race it excites me. I think my fave race of all time was a nighttime snow shoe race in Vail. It was so hard but fun.

If you could give a brand new triathlete just ONE piece of advice before their first race, what would it be?

What’s your take on the much discussed Ironman tattoo? Get it or not? If yes, where? Any design/placement ideas?
Go for it but not as a tramp stamp. Who does that? Inner wrist is cool a la one my Zenners who did Kona a few years back!!!

Tell us all about your race morning breakfast. What’s on your plate?
What distance? Jeeeez. Such amateur questions. You know it depends!!!! Seriously, mostly oats, almond butter and a turkey sausage link downed with strong Gatorade and 4 gallons of Espresso.

Now the fun part, what’s your post-race celebration meal?
We’re part of the DVD team so we know it’s pizza, Hawaiian please!

If out of swim-bike-run you could only do ONE of them for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Cycle. But the ocean calls me every month or so and begs to me swim in it. But cycling is the best right?

Back in the day, when you were racing Tri’s, what bike did you race on?
Best bike ever was a S Works TT Shiv. Not the Shiv Tri but the TT with Mavic errthang and DI2.

Do you miss racing at all?

Back then – when traveling for a race, did you pack light or take the kitchen sink?
Always pack light but specific. I could go away for a whole day and only pack a small backpack. I also was able to go to Clermont from Miami and travel and race for under 150.00 for everything!!!! Ask my wife about my thoughts on packing. ERRRRR

What’s your number one pet peeve when you see people out cycling and/or running?
USING MPH to train with on the bike or even mentioning MPH in talking about a bike workout. I have so many others. TT helmets and disc wheels when training. Arm sleeves with tri tops. But the worst is when bikes that look like M1 tanks and have too many contraptions on them.

You are a big fan of car racing and Formula 1: Do you see any parallels between car races and triathlons?
You always know how to get to my heart and what a great question. YES, to succeed you have to stay calm when going fast. I call it going fast, slow. Always stay in control no matter what’s occurring and work the problem. F1 drivers have their HR at 160+ and going faster than they can think and process their vision but they remain calm and perform tasks without losing their composure. When you race, you have to give it gas at times but calculate all the variables as well.

What’s the funniest/most embarrassing thing you have ever done in a race?
My wee wee was popping out of my speedo during the bike portion of a race once. I was the only one who noticed but wondered how long it was out there for. I also was racing one of my good friends once and we were battling it out physically in the swim but laughing at the same time. It’s hard to go full gas in the swim when you’re laughing your butt off. So that was a great memory!

What annoys you more, if your athletes completely skip a workout, or do it but don’t follow the instructions?
I’d rather them sit it out then go do something off the plan. With our sport there is more room for injury or burnout to occur when more stress is introduced to the body.

What’s a no-go for you and would make you drop an athlete?
Not bragging here but I’ve been coaching almost 20 years and probably close to 2000 athletes and in that time I have let go of only one athlete. He was just impossible to communicate with and was a super successful lawyer and loved debating. I couldn’t get him to work with me. No one had ever fired him or talked to him the way I did and he was paying me a lot but not listening. After he cooled off for about a week he asked me to take him back and I did and coached him successfully to his first IM and many other races.
We’re in a people person service industry so it’s a two way street and communication is vital. I’m far from perfect and so is every athlete so both me and the athletes have to be the reed and bend. Oaks break, reeds bend.
But just do the damn workout and sleep a lot and we’ll be fine! J

What’s the most common mistake you see your athletes make a) in training b) in a race
In training- going too hard too often and using MPH as a training tool. In racing- biggest mistake I see is pacing. Successful pacing = successful racing. The vast majority of athletes don’t know how to pace either with their heads or their tools.

Who is the most famous/accomplished athlete you have ever trained, and what’s their crowning achievement? (it’s OK to say Susi)
I’ve been fortunate to work with many IM champions and Olympians. Winning an IM or going to the Olympics is pretty much the best you can get. That said I think it’s important to keep in mind to have fun in the sport and while to do well it’s important to be serious and organized, it’s also important to not take it too seriously.

Anything else you want to tell us?
This has been utterly enthralling and I’m sure your readers have been riveted on the edge of their seat waiting for my very next word. My Zenners who make up this raucous DVD team are certainly some of the most fun, unique and interesting athletes I’ve worked with.
Love my King, Temple and Zee German. And for anyone out there reading- if after IMFL 2016 I disappear the very first people you should investigate are the DVD team. Remember, in coaching you get what you pay for! God bless you and god help us all.

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