November 25, 2003

Trying New Thanksgiving Traditions

Print More

Wheeze, cough, snort, spit.

That’s me this Thanksgiving as I run in my first turkey trot. Along with a few hundred other amateurs trying to burn off the day’s stuffing and pie, I’m going to get up early, put on my gray New Balances, and try to finish a 3.2 mile jog in 27 minutes. My calves will probably start to burn, and the ‘ole lungs will gasp for breath, but one thing will keep me going: the thought that Chris Schaeffer’s workout is far more grueling.

Schaeffer, a senior in the Ag School, will start his turkey day with a two hour swim. Hopefully, by the time he’s finished free-styling the equivalent of the English Channel, I’ll have crossed the finish line of my run. Later on, while I anoint my quads with Ben Gay and exercise my pointer finger channel surfing for football games, Schaeffer will hit the road with his two younger brothers for a “light” half-hour jog. His brother, a senior in high school, runs a 4:22 mile. And this is Schaeffer’s off-season.

“It’s sort of a tradition,” Chris said of the fraternal jaunt. “It makes us hungrier.”

Feel pathetically out of shape?

So do I. But take solace in the fact that Schaeffer is one of the best athletes in America — and perhaps the best at Cornell. As a member of the under-23 U.S. National Triathlon Team, he runs, swims, and bikes better than most of us could even dream of. He has 4-percent body fat, a six pack, and the resting heart rate of a corpse. He’s an Olympic hopeful among us.

“It all started when I was in fifth grade, and I ran a really fast mile in gym,” he said a la Zoolander style. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m good at this. I should do more of it.'”

Those middle-school inklings paid off. Last semester, Schaeffer spent several weeks at the U.S. Olympic Training facility in Colorado Springs. There, he worked out with other members of his U-23 team and underwent various physiological tests which revealed startling data — he’s in really good shape.

“They do a lot of testing out there, like VO2 max, and watching your swimming stroke on video,” said Schaeffer. “We also did about one-and-a-half to two hours of interval training on the bike, ran to get a lot of base mileage, and did about one-and-a-half hours of swimming every day.”

This semester, Schaeffer’s back at school, and you’ve probably seen him around. Perhaps he and his Trek road bike have passed your Honda going up Buffalo Street, or maybe you almost choked on your CTB coffee when he blasted by you running through Collegetown.

“Right now, I’m in the off-season, which means I don’t have much of a structured training schedule — just swimming four or five times a week, dieting, and jogging,” he said casually. “But when I’m in season, I go on four-week cycles where I’ll train about five to six hours a day for three weeks, then take it easy for one week.”

Though strict, the regimen has paid its dividends. Over the past few years, Schaeffer has traveled from New York to Mexico, and Washington to Puerto Rico, competing against some of the world’s best triathletes for a chance at making the 2008 Olympic team.

“My goal right now is to make it to the games in Beijing,” he said. “I’m going to take off next semester to start training hard for that again.”

Though a broken ankle has hindered Schaeffer’s performance lately, he feels confident that diligence will get him back to peak condition soon.

But regardless of whether he wins gold in China or misses the boat, Schaeffer thinks everything will turn out all right.

“Honestly, I wake up in the morning and get to go out and exercise,” he said. “Even if I don’t make the Olympics, I have fun everyday.”

And this Thanksgiving, isn’t that all that really matters?

Archived article by Everett Hullverson