Think about this training scenario – 2:00 am you head out on your bike ride in 100 degrees and 50% humidity. That was real and consistently real for our December Athlete of the Month, Gregg Blucher.

Take a guess as to where he lives. Gregg lives in Dubai! His job took him there, which has been an adventure in its own right. And the crazy temperatures required both Gregg and Coach Simon to get creative with his training schedule as he had his sites set on Ironman Arizona. Gregg was committed to his goal, and that translated to the best of desire, determination, and discipline.
Gregg’s Ironman Arizona support team was 20+, and we think that approaches record breaking! Gregg’s epic training commitment and first IM finish earns him the honors of Athlete of the Month.
Enjoy his Q&A below.
We have to start with Dubai … of all the places in the world, what drew you to Dubai?
Dubai. Well, the reason I’m here in Dubai is for my job. I’m an airline pilot on a Boeing 777 flying for Emirates Airline. I’m originally from Rocklin, CA, but actually lived in Prescott, AZ (about an hour and a half north of Phoenix) for 11 years prior to moving over here, to the Middle-East. The airline industry has been in a real shamble in the US over the past 10 years. I was flying for Mesa Airlines out of Phoenix and decided that I needed to move on and broaden my experience. After 5 1/2 years there I was hired by Emirates over here in Dubai. I’ve been here for 3 1/2 years now – flying all over the world!
How did triathlon become of interest?
I had been interested in the sport of triathlon for a while before I actually started. A friend had started racing tri’s a few years back. Just hearing him talk about it really planted a seed in my head. I had a family issue arise in late 2012 and I decided I needed something to keep my mind positive and going in the right direction. Triathlon, I decided, was finally the answer.
What was your progression to Ironman?
My first tri race was Rocketman Florida in May of 2013. It was an International + distance race (Olympic distance swim and run with a longer bike leg). My second race was the Nations Triathlon out in Washington DC in September 2013. Following that, I raced Ironman 70.3 Austin in November 2013, and then Ironman 70.3 New Orleans in April 2014. It was after New Orleans that I toyed with the idea of a full distance Ironman. The night that IMAZ opened for registration I decided to see just how fast it would sell out. I’d heard that is was usually sold out within 2 minutes. As soon as registration opened I refreshed my computer screen and an age group slot popped up. That was it. I decided I wanted in!
Describe the triathlon scene in Dubai?
The triathlon scene here in Dubai is growing. The big tri club here in the area is TriDubai. Last year a fellow pilot started up the Emirates Triathlon Club. We are sponsored by our company, Emirates Airline and a local bike shop, Ride Bike Shop. As for the Middle-East, there really haven’t been too many races until recent years. The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon was around for a few years but has recently disappeared. TriYas is another race down in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and about a 45 min drive from Dubai. It’s a unique race because part of the bike course is actually ridden on the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race track. Two new races in the area that have made their way into the triathlon scene this year were the Dubai International Triathlon and Challenge Bahrain.
Tell us about your training and why you have to get it done so early, how it affects your sleep, how it affects your family…
Training for IMAZ was definitely an experience in itself. When I made the commitment to compete in an Ironman, I decided that I wanted to do it right. I made the decision to opt for a professional coach. This is where D3 and Coach Simon came into play. After speaking with Coach Simon a couple times he told me it was going to be a fun and an interesting challenge for him to coach someone with a work schedule like mine. One week I could be flying a 16 hr. flight to San Francisco, and 4 or 5 days later in Phuket, Thailand. There was never any sort of normal schedule that I could give Coach Simon in order to have a normal training routine. Training routines varied from week to week. My days off here in Dubai presented an interesting challenge all their own. I was having to train throughout the summer months and the summer months are not kind when it comes to temperature. Long bike ride days started as follows: Up at 1:30 am to be out the door by 2 and on the bike at the bike track by 2:30 or 3. This was the time I had to get up and ride to beat the heat. Even at 2 in the morning temperatures were still averaging 95 degrees with 50% + humidity. I’d be out riding in the dark for about 3-3 1/2 hours and when the sun finally came up, so did the temperature. By 8 am the temperature would already be over 100. This always made it interesting on brick days! Temperatures during the months of June-August regularly top 110 degrees with humidity over 50%. Training outside is non-existent during the day. Swimming during training was, for the most part, confined to a pool. The ocean swims in the summer are non-existent due to the water hovering around 100 degrees. Runs were not an option during the day either due to the temperatures. Early morning runs were still a challenge due to the temperatures and humidity. I always looked forward to getting to a destination with cooler temperatures and being able to just run without fear of overheating.
Coach Simon couldn’t stress from the beginning just how important sleep was to my training. With the irregular schedule of my job and the havoc it wreaks on my sleep schedule by being in different time zones on any given day, getting home at 8 am after flying all night, I was never on the same sleep cycle and going to bed early to get up early made it even more of a challenge. My girlfriend felt the wrath of the training as well. There were many nights where she wanted to go out with friends, have a drink or two and spend the night out on the town, but I had to say no. I was the “old man” (as she says) that was in bed by 6 or 7 pm just to be up at 1 in the morning to go ride his bike for 5 hours. She wasn’t impressed.
What is a food that you have grown to appreciate in Dubai – something that is either a treat or a compliment to your training?
Something that I loved to eat during my long bike rides was waffles with Nutella. It was something I picked up from a book that had food suggestions and recipes for endurance athletes. An after workout favorite was chocolate milk.
Describe your favorite moment(s) about IM Arizona.
Some of my favorite moments during IMAZ were when I saw my family along the race course. I had 12 family members that made the trip to Arizona to support me and another 8 that live there. My girlfriend made the trip from Dubai, her parents traveled from Toronto, Canada, my mom and step-dad from Atlanta, GA, my dad from Sacramento, CA and my sister and her family all the way from Honolulu, HI. My brother, grandparents, and uncle (along with his family) all live in AZ.
Three memories stick out from the rest, though. The first came around mile 105 of the bike when I spotted my uncle and his family along with my grandparents out along the Beeline Hwy. It was a great boost in morale. The second was around mile 6 of the run when I ran past all my family. They were cheering and holding up signs. Right next to them was Coach Simon. It was a big boost to see Coach there supporting me! The last was at mile 21 of the run coming down the backside of Cherry Hill. It was dark, my legs were drained and I looked up to see my girlfriend Kaitlynn and my brother Brad. They’d found their way up the course and ran alongside me for 5 minutes or so. When we got to the bottom of the hill, the rest of my family was there as well and my 4-year-old nephew Jack. He had a huge smile on his face and was excited to see Uncle Gregg. He ran with me for a few seconds before I took off for the last 3 miles of the race. Running down the home stretch to the finish line and the “clock” felt great. Crossing the finish line, hearing the crowds cheering and seeing all my family there at the end made everything worth it.
What is a nugget of advice from Coach Simon that you deployed in the race?
The biggest piece of advice that Coach Simon gave to me to carry during the race was this: “You will have negative thoughts try to enter your head throughout the race. Don’t let them.” And he was right. Keeping his advice in the back of my mid throughout the day really paid off.
What’s on deck for your racing in 2015?
As for 2015, I’ve decided to stick to 70.3 distances for the year and hope to get 4 or 5 in on the race schedule. We’re hoping to move back to the U.S. sometime this year, and I’ve made the decision to hold off on training for an Ironman distance race again until we move back.
Open question…share whatever you would like about this sport, your training, your goals for the sport – or anything!
Moving forward I’m excited about future races. I’m looking forward to more disciplined training, improving each discipline of the sport and improving my times over my 70.3 distances and again in an Ironman. Completing an Ironman distance race was a huge accomplishment. It really taught me just how far the human body is able to go and what it is able to accomplish. If you put in the time and effort, you will get results.
Relating flying to the sport of triathlon I can say that for myself, its about not settling and always striving to be at the top of your game. There is a speed factor, though. There’s something about going fast. There’s something similar between the two about always wanting to do your best. Triathlon has taught me more about myself than I ever expected, and I can only look forward as to what else it will bring.

Coaching like Greg has is ...