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Fleet Feet Triathlon coach Steve Keller is no stranger to the three-sport event as he’s participated in triathlons and other sporting events since high school. In his coaching, he helps others face big challenges. Photo Contributed

Fleet Feet Triathlon Coach Looking To Achieve Goals

MADISON-  Once a decorated high school swimmer, collegiate athlete and veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Steve Keller is now a certified personal trainer and has enthusiastically jumped into the position of head coach of the Fleet Feet “Tri 101” training program for those wishing to participate in a triathlon.

“I enjoy helping others achieve their goals, and with experience as a coach, personal trainer and competitive athlete, I’m ready to help Team Fleet Feet reach their goals in 2024,” said Keller. “The biggest challenge for beginners who join in the training is hold yourself back, set a pace as there should always be a level of pacing.”

Tri 101 is one of three levels of Fleet Feet Training Groups for triathlons with 201 an Olympic distance program for the triathlete ready to tackle open water swimming and 70.3 training a specialized program for the endurance triathlete looking to complete a Half Ironman. Tri 101 is a 12-week program with the goal of participating in the Huntsville Spring Triathlon scheduled for Aug. 3.

Keller’s enormous experience is a huge plus for anyone willing to undergo his leadership and coaching. He’s competed in four Ironman distance races, along with many half-Ironman and triathlon distance races. He’s also completed 17 marathons and at least 40 half-marathon and shorter distance races. His credentials are staggering and all began as a young boy where he was a state participant swimmer in high school and a four-year swimmer in a NCAA Div. I program at Ball State where he earned a degree in computer science and later a MBA.“I joined running as that workout was part of training for swimming,” said Keller. “I can run, I’m good at it and I’ve done it a lot. While in my years with the Air Force, there were always running events. It was just a way to stay in shape. It was the Air Force lifestyle.”

 

The triathlon is made up of a swim, bike ride and a run. There are three stages of athleticism needed to participate and the proper training to incorporate the three is a must. Each race begins with a swim as the distance depends on the race. For Keller, the swim portion of a triathlon is like second nature as in 1986 he won a National Championship at age 24 in the 50-meter butterfly event swimming for a YMCA adult swim team. In 1993, he won an Alaska State Championship in the 200-yard freestyle event with a time of 1:48.00 which is a record time that remains today. Keller was stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska from 1990-1994.

Keller, 62, and his wife, Denise, have been married for 38 years and have two grown children, one of which lives in the Madison area and gave the Keller’s a grandchild, which in turn led them to move to the area from Nashville three years ago. Once arriving, they began they own franchise travel agency called Dream Vacations. His lifestyle of retirement as a Lt. Col. has been one of freedom, but filled with exercise and helping others.

At times, Keller was a swim coach in his younger days and in 2007 while living in Illinois he was asked by a local triathlon group to train them how to prepare for a triathlon. “That parlayed to what I do today,” added Keller, who became a certified personal trainer eight years ago. “Once arriving in this area I began to work for Fleet Feet and for the last two years I’ve been a part of their triathlon training. This year, I’m the head coach.”

Keller was born with what is known as being “pigeon-toed.” Throughout his life he has had to adapt to his physical condition and even laughed about it when remembering playing football, he once intercepted a pass and was on his way to scoring a touchdown when he tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground at the five-yard line.

Unusual occurrences have followed him into the realm of being a triathlete, though not related to his physical condition. While partaking in the swim portion of a triathlon in Louisville, Ky. he was so focused on his technique he passed the exit point out of the water and had to swim back to that location against the current. The bike portion of the sport has also presented Keller with some humorous and memorable moments like the time in Grand Rapids, Mich. the chain kept coming off his bike. By the time he was finished, his hands were disgusting by being full of grease. As for the run, this time in Illinois, he failed to see the turn-around spot and kept running and a quarter-mile later a policeman stopped him and told him he was no longer on the course.

“My style of coaching is simple as I show the students the skills needed to participate and I let them do that skill even if they fail,” said Keller. “I show them again and help them succeed. I also teach the athletes the correct ways to handle the transitions between the sports as those are very important.”

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound Keller understands most beginners can become overwhelmed with the process of training, though most can swim, have ridden a bike and have ran of some sort during their years. He said of one local woman who had issues with being overweight and lack of athletic skills. Keller kept working with her over a two-year timeframe, but she finally participated in an Olympic distance triathlon of a 1,500meter swim, 40K bike ride and a 10K run. The race was the local Rocketman Triathlon. “She completed the event. I was so proud of her,” said Keller.

“For me, swimming is my favorite part of a triathlon while I have to be better on the bike portion since I had no experience in bike rides prior to my starting being a triathlete,” said Keller. “As age catches up with me, running has become tougher to navigate. The knowledge I gained through the years is fabulous as growing up on the Southside of Chicago made me face challenges.”

For Keller, helping others face challenges is a gift the immediate Madison area can’t do without.

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