Coach Mike met Dave in person, for the first time, in 2001 in Panama City Beach. Mike was in his 2nd year of full-time coaching and Dave was racing his first IM.  Mike had written a 20-week training plan for Dave, and he seemed diligent with his workouts and Mike thought Dave have a good day. His time ended up at 12:08 (1:10s / 6:15 bike / 4:28 run). A pretty solid day and he thought Dave would be well under 11:30 the next year. But Dave had other plans. He finished law school, got married, had 3 kids and became a successful IP attorney. That’s a nice ending to anyone’s story, right? 


Fast forward to 2013 and Dave contacts Mike about writing a plan for him for the 2014 season. He writes a Custom Plan for him for that season and things seem to go well. He’s working on being more fit, not necessarily competitive, and he’s improving here and there. For 2015, Dave decides he wants to get serious. Dave bumps up his training to 1-to-1 coaching for 2015 with Mike. He also invests in a power meter, he attends one of our camps and his results show some nice forward progress. Somewhere along the line, he tells Mike that he wants to break 5:15 in a 70.3 and eventually 5:00. Mike thinks anything is possible if someone is willing to work for it, but he also knows the reality of how busy Dave’s life is – 3 kids, demanding job, and he travels just about weekly. There is some improvement in his swim, but the rest is pretty much stagnant. It’s not lack of effort on Dave’s or Mike’s part, but it just took some time for Dave’s body to adjust. As Dave continues to work hard through 2016, he finally sees big improvements in his swim times and bike power … and that brings us to 2017!

We are pleased to introduce you to Dave Donoghue our Athlete of the Month.  Soak in all that he has to share about setting goals, training toward those goals and most importantly what you can learn from all of that effort!

1. How did you come into triathlon and get connected with D3?
I grew up swimming competitively but was never much of a runner. I started running marathons in law school to lose weight and as a competitive outlet. I eventually progressed to a handful of 12-24 hour adventure races. Shortly after graduating from law school, a classmate and I decided to sign up for Ironman Florida at a mutual friend’s wedding. Realizing that I had no idea how to train for an Ironman, I scoured the internet and found a relatively new coaching company D3, and its founder Mike Ricci. Mike guided me through that year of training and even was at the race offering crucial encouragement that got me through the run. I finished that Ironman in around 12 hours. Shortly after crossing the line, Mike had a plan for getting me under 10:30. But I had just met the girl of my dreams and was busy starting a career. So, I took a decade or so off to establish my career, build a marriage and have kids.

After that, I did some distance trail running races and a lot of uninspired running for exercise. Then about four years ago, my oldest, who was seven at the time, called me “chubby.” That night I looked in the mirror and had to own his comment. It was neither what I wanted for myself, nor what I wanted to model for my kids. I tried a variety of things to get fit — running, boxing, hockey. Eventually, I realized that triathlon was still what inspired me and what would drive me. There was no question that I would turn to D3 and Mike again to do it.

I connected with Mike and spent fourteen months getting control of my weight with a D3 nutritionist and building fitness toward Ironman Wisconsin. Days before Wisconsin, I needed a minor, emergency procedure on my eye. That postponed the race. As I discussed an alternate race with my wife Laura, she told me that the summer spent training for Wisconsin was the worst of our marriage. I was training too much and not present enough when I was there. Together, we settled on the 70.3 distance as the best balance of my need to race and be healthy, and our need to be together and present as a family.

2.  Jumping to a comment Mike made in that he remembers you sharing a goal that you wanted to break 5:15 in a 70.3 and eventually 5:00.  How did you come to set your sites on that goal?
I have never wanted to just finish a race. Even when I was starting out and that was the best I could reasonably expect, I was focused on improving and becoming a more elite athlete. Because of that, a sub-5:00 70.3 has been my goal for several years, albeit a distant one to start. To me a consistent sub-5:00 70.3 is a dividing line between people who are committed to the sport and those that are more casual. The 5:15 goal was only an interim goal on the way to sub-5:00. Of course, having gotten close to sub-5:00 this season, I immediately readjusted to 4:30 and 4:45 as my goals.

3.  Has your intention shifted to help you focus on your goal?  How?
My intention has shifted significantly. I have never had a problem completing workouts. I always do the work. I am by nature a TP greenie, as some D3’ers say. In order to get faster, I found that just showing up was not enough. I needed to increase my discipline beyond just making the workouts. I needed to place the same focus that I have always placed on making the workouts and hitting times or watts, on the non-workout details — getting rest, good sleep, proper nutrition, mindfulness during workouts, transitions.

One example of my shift is how I approach a workout. First, I make sure to have memorized my intervals. That way I know the workout intimately and do not lose track of what I am doing. Additionally, I make sure I know the purpose of the workout and I briefly visualize it. That helps me make sure I bring the right intensity to the workout. I also identify one or two things to focus on during each workout to make sure that I am improving and mentally present. Those steps — thanks to D3 mental skills coach Will Murray — ensure that I maximize the value I get from each workout. And before I start the workout, I take the time to do mobilization work so that I am ready to go from the start and do not hurt myself.

4.  Describe a typical week for yourself as you balance/blend work, family, and training.
Most mornings, I get up early to get my workouts in, and do a little work, before my three kids — 11, 9 & 7 — get up. Then I make them breakfast and help them get their days started. After talking to my wife for a few minutes about our days, I go to work. Most nights I head from work to my kids’ hockey practice or a Boy Scout meeting. Then it is home for a bit of family time and work before bed. Weekends look similar, except after the early workouts, I spend the day with my wife and kids doing their activities or doing something around the house. Whatever the schedule, I always clear any later workouts with my wife Laura so that she is not feeling like I am losing our balance by pushing the workouts into family time. Having said that, I have begun doing long rides in Chicago’s western suburbs which takes up more waking hours from my family because Laura and the kids were concerned with my biking in local traffic, which can be intense.


Beyond putting up with the training and racing schedule, one of the big things my wife has done to help me balance is making healthy, balanced lunches and dinners. Around the ice rink and at Scout meetings, I am well-known as the lucky guy with the lunch box. It is a huge help in maintaining good nutrition and avoiding bad choices on the run.


I also try to incorporate my kids into workouts whenever I can. My oldest two do some of my easier runs with me, leading to each of them trying 5k races over the last year or two. And I often have them join in core workouts or transition practice. They love it and it helps reinforce the lifelong fitness lesson I am trying to model for them. Finally, when I travel, I pre-plan my workouts, finding pools ahead of time (I favor SwimRadar and YMCAs) and renting bikes when I am someplace with good riding and can fit in the extra time.

acing schedule, one of the big things my wife has done to help me balance is making healthy, balanced lunches and dinners. Around the ice rink and at Scout meetings, I am well-known as the lucky guy with the lunch box. It is a huge help in maintaining good nutrition and avoiding bad choices on the run.


I also try to incorporate my kids into workouts whenever I can. My oldest two do some of my easier runs with me, leading to each of them trying 5k races over the last year or two. And I often have them join in core workouts or transition practice. They love it and it helps reinforce the lifelong fitness lesson I am trying to model for them. Finally, when I travel, I pre-plan my workouts, finding pools ahead of time (I favor SwimRadar and YMCAs) and renting bikes when I am someplace with good riding and can fit in the extra time.

5.  70.3 NC was the race!  Describe the day, the focus on your goal, your mindset, thoughts along the course, finish line, etc.
70.3 NC was a culmination of not just this season, but the last several seasons for me. I knew I had a great training year. I kicked it off with a great training camp in Solvang, California with Mike and another D3 teammate Bud Winn. I saw some big jumps in bike power, and I focused on my run significantly, with a number of 50-mile weeks across the season, which are huge for me. My run speed increased and my mental strength on the run increased even more. And having raced more than I ever had in a season, I knew that my race plan was dialed in. So, I came into the race excited and confident. As always, there were some nerves and life provided a few curves on race week, but I kept my focus on controlling what I could and letting go of everything else. 


Race day was perfect. The weather was great. I worked my plan and ran through affirmations from my family that Will Murray taught me to use. They remind me why I race, put the race in perspective and pump me up, all at the same time. The swim could not have been better, the water was comfortable and smooth, and the current was fast. My transition went well, albeit at least ten seconds slower than it should have been (more on that later).


The bike was surprisingly cool and fast. While I had trouble getting my watts as high as I wanted them, I hung with D3 Elite team member Mike Davis for nearly 15 miles which was a great sign for me. Otherwise, I focused on keeping my cadence high and nailing my time goals for each of the five-mile segments that I split the bike into. With the lower watts, I gave up some speed on the bike, but by mile 45 I knew I would come into T2 with the ability to go sub-5:00. I was feeling good, and excited. I briefly got lost in T2 and again ended with a transition time that was at least ten seconds slower than I needed. 


The run was a new experience for me. As has become my norm, I struggled to keep from going out too fast in my first three or four miles. By mile five, I had only seen a handful of people go past me on the out and back course. It was great. I distracted myself giving the top ten men splits. Being near the front of the race instead of amongst the walking dead on the run was incredible. It made the race much more fun and it made recovery much easier.


Throughout the run, I was estimating my finishing time and was pretty confident that I was on track for a minute or two sub-5:00. I slowed down a bit in miles 11 and 12, but was sure I was still on track and pushed for a great mile 13. I had planned to hit an 8:30 pace for mile 13 to put an exclamation point on the race. I missed the 8:30, but only by a handful of seconds. I finished strong. I was on a huge high until I saw my official time — 5:00:09. Ten seconds off a goal I have chased for several years. 


After making a list of all of the details I could have controlled to get those ten seconds back, it is pretty clear that I could have beaten the 5:00 mark by minutes. And it is clear that the ten seconds were the perfect motivation for seasons to come, and for the off-season. I have dedicated my off-season to a detail focus, one of the things that sets me apart from my opponents in my legal practice. Nothing is too small and everything will add up to a great off-season and a hard run at a sub-4:30 70.3 next year.


6.  What was a favorite workout Coach Mike gave you as you prepared for the race? 
My favorite workouts are the ones that I initially doubt and then finish. On the run this season, that workout was a six to ten mile run with pacing goals that looked something like 2-3×9:00 miles  (attainable but quick for me), 2×8:50 miles, 1×9:15 mile (rest), 2×8:45 miles; 2×8:30 miles. It took me weeks of that workout to hit both 8:30s, but it felt great when I did. In the pool, it usually means a big distance jump. I usually swim 2,500 to 3,400 yards. Occasionally a 4500-yard workout comes up. They are daunting, but I take great confidence from pushing out of my comfort zone and finishing them. On the bike, it is almost always FTP intervals.

7.  What are 3 things you’ve learned about yourself as a result of this race?
First, I am an athlete. If I am patient and put in the work, with Mike’s and D3’s coaching, I can compete as a relatively high-level age group athlete. Second, I love the sport and the challenge. Achieving the goal is great, but my favorite part is the journey. There are few things better than looking at Training Peaks and seeing a mentally and physically challenging week ahead, or sitting at the bottom of the Fig Climb in Solvang with Mike and my D3 teammates ready for an hour or two of suffering. Third, despite the time cost, pursuing my triathlon passion has made me better all around. A better husband, dad, and lawyer. The time cost makes that somewhat counterintuitive, but it is true in so many ways.


8.  What is 1 thing you learned in 2017 that you’ll take forward into 2018 as it relates to triathlon?
That was a surprisingly hard question. I learned a lot about myself as an athlete and a person this season, but the biggest thing I take into 2018 is probably that I am far from done. I have a lifetime of goals in this sport, in terms of improving, in terms of eventual podiums and in terms of helping others — hopefully one day including one or more of my kids — develop a love for triathlon.


One final thought, if I may. This was not technically a question, but I am a lawyer and it is hard to make us stop talking or writing. I want to thank my triathlon community. First, my family for inspiring, supporting and putting up with my triathlon passions.  Coach Mike for helping me remake myself into an athlete and achieve some big goals in triathlon over the last four years and those to come. And last but not least, so many D3 teammates and coaches, including Bud Winn, Julie Dunkle, Jim Halberg and Mike Davis for the long-distance camaraderie and inspiration. 

We are very excited to recognize Dave Donoghue as our Athlete of the Month.  As you read, the reflections about how his intention toward training has shifted, his commitment to blending his love of triathlon with his family and the focus he’s putting on the details this winter are what make him a remarkable athlete.  Congratulations, Dave!

Coaching like Dave has is

Right Here!