Haskins’ Coach Bob Sebohar Talks to Aspen Times
Source: ASPEN TIMES By Jon Maletz
Bob Seebohar paced in his hotel room. His hands were sweating — it wasn’t because of Iowa’s summer heat.
In the days before June 22’s Hy-Vee World Cup triathlon in Des Moines, Seebohar, a former Aspen resident and personal coach for U.S. triathlete Sarah Haskins Kortuem, said he couldn’t shake his nerves.
This was Haskins Kortuem’s third and final opportunity to qualify for her first trip to the Olympics. And while he would never dive into Blue Herron Lake, pound the pavement or mount a bike, Seebohar was on edge.
“I was so nervous. The tough part was staying in the same hotel with Sarah and her husband,” Seebohar said Thursday. “I couldn’t really hang out with them too much because I was a bundle of nerves and didn’t want to pass it onto her. … I think I was more nervous than she was.
“Luckily, I hid it all from her until afterwards.”
Haskins Kortuem, a St. Louis., MO., native, went on to finish second among U.S. finishers and nabbed the U.S. Triathlon team’s final Olympic spot.
In 2004, Seebohar was strength coach and dietitian for triathlete Susan Williams, but watched her win a bronze — The U.S.’s first Olympic triathlon medal — on television. Now, the 36-year-old, who once pondered suiting up for the U.S. Soccer team during his days playing on Roaring Fork Valley fields, will be coaching in Beijing.
Now, he’ll be right in the middle of the action.
“It was shear bliss, like all the emotions you can imagine hitting you at once,” Seebohar said. “I was able to make a difference in another athlete’s life, and help them achieve their dream of making the Olympics.”
Seebohar, who currently resides in Littleton with his wife and three young children, will be looking after more than Haskins Kortuem during his five-week stay in China. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) has enlisted his services as a sport dietitian. His responsibilities will include assessing the food in the Olympic Village as well as finding, purchasing and preparing meals for the U.S. Triathlon Team.
He leaves in one week.
“I’m going to wear many hats over there,” he said.
Ask him how he went from plumber’s apprentice to elite-level endurance coach, dietitian and author (his book “Nutrition Periodization for Endurance Athletes” was published in 2005), and Seebohar will tell you he could never have envisioned such a path.
“I knew I had the drive, but the thought never entered my head,” he said. “I never saw this in my crystal ball.”
Seebohar was born in Chicago and moved to the valley with his mother in 1981. After graduating from Aspen High in 1989, he went to Colorado State University in Fort Collins to pursue an undergraduate degree in exercise and sport science.
In addition to playing club soccer, he parlayed his studies in physiology and nutrition into work consulting athletes on CSU’s football, track and field and swimming teams, among others.
It was during his junior year in Fort Collins that Seebohar was first exposed to triathlons. A friend coaxed him into entering a university race.
“I had never done something like this, and he said, ‘I bet I can beat you,’” Seebohar said. “I decided to take him up on the offer.
“It wasn’t a success story. I didn’t finish first, I didn’t have the right equipment or really know what I was doing. But the bug hit me.”
And hit hard. He’s taken part in multiple triathlons, Ironmans, the Boston Marathon as well as the Leadville 100 run and bike. He plans to compete in five Leadville Trail 100 Series events next summer.
Despite his newfound passion — and brief stint with the U.S. Duathlon Team in 1996 — Seebohar insists he was never motivated to pursue an athletic career of his own. Instead, he was content to help others, and said his own competitive experiences have served him well.
“It sounds corny, but I got into this field to help people,” said Seebohar, who founded Fuel4mance in Littleton in 2006 to consult athletes of all abilities on performance and nutrition. “My goal is to help others achieve their goals.”
“My persona has always been to practice what I preach. I like pushing my own mental and physical limits, and I think that makes me better versed to work with athletes. … When they’re tired, I know exactly what kind of tired they are.”
After finishing his undergraduate degree in 1995, Seebohar spent some time in the “real world” before returning to Fort Collins in 1998 to pursue a master’s degree. In 1999, he became a certified coach and dietitian with the U.S. Triathlon Team.
He finished degrees in health and exercise science and food science and human nutrition in 2000 and 2001.
Four years later, he became director of sports nutrition at the University of Florida. During his one year in Gainesville, Seebohar worked with high-level Division I as well as Olympic-caliber athletes.
Soon, the USOC enlisted his services. In addition to his duties as coach for Haskins Kortuem and his responsibilities for the triathlon team, Seebohar’s first two weeks in Beijing will be spent evaluating the food situation for all athletes.
He has been working closely with the USOC to develop a dietary plan for these Games for the last eight to 10 months, he said.
“Food is by far the biggest concern for our athletes,” he said. “My goal is for [athletes] not to undergo a shocking experience when they get over there. We want them to be eating what is very familiar, exactly what they’ve been doing before the competition in China.
“The Olympics is already a stressful event. We want athletes to be able to focus on
Seebohar has traveled to China twice — the first to visit the sports venues and meet with food distributors, then for an Olympic qualifier with U.S. triathletes. He and others have provided input and feedback regarding the tentative menu for the Olympic village, which will consist of 70 percent international and 30 percent Chinese food, he said.
Contingency plans have been mapped out. The USOC is even setting up its own cafeteria outside the village to accommodate athletes should issues arise in the village.
And Plan C?
“That’s when I start running around Beijing,” Seebohar joked. “That would just be a nightmare. … I can only carry so much food in my suitcase.”
Seebohar will land in China two weeks before the opening ceremonies to oversee final preparations. In addition to his coaching duties, he’ll coordinate efforts to transport — and maybe even cook — food in South Korea, where U.S. triathletes will stay in the weeks leading up to competition.
He said he expects things to run smoothly and is prepared for a few hiccups.
Calming his nerves and excitement might be more difficult, he said.
“This is going to be amazing,” he said. “Every emotion you can think of will surface in my mind repeatedly.
“I never thought I’d have this opportunity. Now that it’s here, I’m so blessed and thankful.”