Athletic Bio

Athletic Accomplishments Overview:

Swimming

  • Top 16 in the country at 16 years old in the 1,650 (15:39)
  • 14:54 in the 1,650 and was ACC champion in 2005 in that event at GA Tech
  • 9:03 1,000 (split from one of my miles) 4:21 500, 3:52 400 IM
  • 15:05 in the 1,650 at NCAAs 2005 (14th) 15:15 in the 1500 SCM at NCAAs in 2004 (15th)

Triathlon

  • 2008 8th overall Turtle Crawl (first triathlon)
  • 2008 1st overall Tugaloo Olympic
  • 2008 1st overall Lake Lanier Sprint
  • 2009 10th in the elite amateur division at St. Anthony’s (canceled the swim)
  • 2009 2nd overall with a 4:17 at Rock’n’Roll Man in Macon, GA (first half iron distance)
  • 2009 7th overall Olympic Age Group National Championship Birmingham, AL; Fastest swim
  • 2010 2nd elite amateur at St. Anthony’s and qualified for pro card
  • 2010 8th overall Olympic Age Group National Championship Birmingham, AL; Second fastest swim (darn you Doug Van Wie)
  • 2011 8th elite amateur at St. Anthony’s (shortened swim)

Cycling

  • 2011 1st place West Oak Crit (Cat 5)
  • 2011 1st place Burnt Mountain road race (Cat 5)
  • 2011 2nd overall at the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga TN (Cat 4)
  • 2013 2nd overall Circuit Race (Cat 3)

Running

  • 5k PR 17:15 at a Krispy Kreme race where the more doughnuts you eat before the race the more time is taken off your time (but this is my actual watch time – I ate 3 doughnuts)
  • 10k PR 35:54 at the Berry 10K (Run in conjunction with the Berry Half Marathon)
  • 13.1 PR 1:25 at the Atlanta Half Marathon

The Full Story

The Early Years

My athletic journey started when I was around 5 years old and kept on year-round swimming until I was 22. I also played soccer for 5 seasons when I was younger, but I wouldn’t say I ever excelled at soccer. I’d play sweeper and run all over the field doing all the throw-ins because I could throw about 3x further than any of the other players due to my well developed lats and triceps.

I remember winning events at a state championship when I was 9 and placed a top 16 time in the country when I was 15 in the 1,650 (15:39 was my time I believe), and a lot of other top-3 placements at the state level in other events. One thing that held true my entire swimming career was that I always excelled at the distance events. I would frequently “swim up” to swim a longer event not offered to my age group.

 

Georgia Tech Years

athletic bio Sam Morgan

When it came time to go to college I only visited and applied to one school – Georgia Tech. I started at Georgia Tech in 2002 where I got substantially faster. I swam 15:39 when I was 15, but then failed to improve on that time for the next 3 years. At the end of my first season at Georgia Tech I swam 15:12 which is a substantial drop. That drop can be attributed to having teammates to race, better coaching (my high school coach was great, but in college coaches tend to specialize in coaching one group of swimmers (sprint, middle distance, stroke, IM, distance, etc)), better facilities (I swam at Brenau University in High school which was a 6 lane 25 yard pool. The pool at Georgia Tech was the 1996 Olympic Games pool. . . pretty big difference), and just more time spent in the water. In addition to that we typically did two dryland sessions (swimmers call conditioning not done in the water drylands) of 30 to 60 minutes, and two weight sessions per week of 60 minutes each.

I had big time drops in time my freshman year in college and I continued to drop time the remaining 3 years with my best year being my junior year where I swam 14:54 in the 1,650 and also won the ACC championship in that event. The highest I ever placed at NCAAs was 14th in the mile with I believe was 15:05.

I was done swimming in 2006 and I graduated from Georgia Tech in 2007 with a degree in management. I found out three things early on at Georgia Tech:

  1. I do not like the higher level more abstract maths (anything above Calculus 2)
  2. The workload was substantially higher and the pace that we went through material was substantially faster than High School.
  3. I did not have the discipline or study habits to keep up with that curriculum while swimming at the level I was swimming.

 

After College

This is all ancient history and I’m sure you’re more interested in my triathlon bio. I was done swimming in March 2006 and then did very little until late 2007 or early 2008. I found exercise tedious, boring, and pointless other than “this is the activity that allows me to eat more food”. I was working as a head lifeguard and summer league swim team coach and my manager and his wife were both triathletes and had been for quite a few years. They got me interested in the sport of triathlon. I honestly can’t remember what the tipping point was, or if I started running first or bought a bike first, but regardless I signed up for the Turtle Crawl Triathlon down in Jekyll island May 3rd 2008. I signed up as a Clydesdale because I was over 200 pounds at the time (I swam at between 195 and 200 pounds and after college the highest weight I hit was 217 before I started training for triathlon). I didn’t know at the time that Clydesdale is typically reserved for guys quite a bit over 200 – not just a few pounds over.

I bought a road bike in Jan 2008 (Blue RC5 AL – an aluminum road bike with a carbon fork and carbon seat stays). When I started riding I of course fall over clipping out of my clipless pedals just like everybody else. I still remember my first 40 mile ride on the silver comet. It was below 40 degrees, I didn’t have leg warmers, I was wearing an old GT swimming warmup jacket and I did the whole ride in the drops “you know, because the average speed of my ride matters”. When I would run I’d just run out the front door and run hard from start to finish.

So Turtle Crawl came and I raced as a Clydesdale as planned. I had the fastest swim, but only by 12 seconds. Truth be told, it was my first open water RACE ever. We swam in open water during our college training trip to the Bahamas in 2008 but that was it. It was my first wetsuit swim (no big deal). So I swam hard and came out first, and then 3 people passed me in T1 as I tried to put on a cycling shirt while wet. I ran out of T1 and hopped on my road bike (that had clip-on aero bars by now) and managed to ride 23.7 MPH at my first race. I will say that I expected to hold my own on the bike. I still got passed by a few riders. I came back into T2 which was much quicker and then went for a nice suffer out on the run. I still managed a 44:20 (7:05 pace). I finished 8th overall and I remember when I accepted my Clydesdale winner plaque somebody jokingly yelled out “somebody better weigh that guy”.

After Turtle Crawl I raced 5 more times that season finishing mostly in the top 5 and winning the last two races of the season (Tugaloo Olympic and Lake Lanier Sprint). I also started getting coached after the West Point Lake race mid season and that helped a lot. I was dirt poor at the time, but triathlon was important to me so that’s how I justified the cost. I can’t say that I was “hooked after my first race” because I was already planning to get hooked. I learned that if you show up with a big aerobic engine and you already know how to swim, about 90% of the hard work is done. The rest is learning how to bike, run, and perform the transitions. In the fall of 2008 (before the season was over) I made a Match.com profile (where I met my wife after about 1 week) and in that profile I remember writing that triathlon would likely be a large part of my life for the foreseeable future.

In 2009 I bought a time trial bike (a Specialized S-works Transition with a 1080 Zipp in the rear and 808 up front) and set my sights on bigger races. I started the season with St. Anthony’s where they canceled the swim and I finished 10th in the elite amateur division. I did my first and only half-iron distance race (the Rock’n’Roll Man in Macon, GA) and finished 2nd OA and got some cash out of it. The run during that race was one of the most brutal experiences I can remember. I ran a 1:30 off the bike feeling like my quads were going to cramp every step. I lead the race until about mile 10 on the run. It was a great race, but I decided I’d rather go just a little harder for half the time and stick with Olympic distance races. I also wasn’t a fan of the higher entry price to the Ironman branded races. I also raced the Age Group National Championship Olympic in Birmingham, AL. That year the current on the swim was much larger than intended and most of the swim was upstream. I finished that race 7th OA and with the fastest swim. The winner that year was Joe Maloy who was an Olympian in 2016.

In 2010, I did a lot of the same races I did in 2009 including St. Anthony’s and Age Group Nationals again. At St. Anthony’s I finished as the 2nd elite amateur and qualified for my pro card. Racing as a pro was something that had been in the back of my mind for a long time. I eventually came to the conclusion however that I was just too big for the sport. I was racing triathlon with a swimmer’s body type. It’s easy to swim and bike fast with a swimmer’s body type, but it’s very hard to run fast – especially in the heat with that body type. I pretty much came to the conclusion I would not be able to knock 6-7 minutes off my run to be competitive at the elite level. I also knew what kind of training was required to race at that level (because I already did it in the sport of swimming). A lot of people think it must be awesome to just train all day and do nothing else, but I can tell you having done it. . . yeah it’s OK but not as great as you think.

In 2011, I still had big plans for my season (St. Anthony’s for a 3rd time, Memphis in May, Age Group Nationals etc) but St. Anthony’s was my only triathlon that year and my last triathlon until 2014. That year at St. Anthony’s they changed the swim course and shortened it. The swim had a lot more running through shallow waters, and the swim had a longer run into T1. I was having a nagging right ankle issue (and I still have a crappy right ankle to this day) and the only thing that bothered it was barefoot running. While I didn’t have any issues getting through the race (I think I finished 8th elite amateur) I just found myself not having much fun at that race. I switched over and started racing bikes.

 

Cycling

Through a swim lesson I taught I met a guy who was already racing bikes and he got me interested in more group rides and the masters cycling team he raced for. I had already done a number of weekend long rides with roadies, but I hadn’t done many in-town punchy rides. My first official bike race was on the West Oak Crit course (a weekly training crit on Tuesday nights) where I rode away from the field and won.

My next race was up and over Burnt MTN. I also rode away from the field on the climb and stayed away for the win. Typically in cycling you have to earn a number of points to “cat up” to the next category.  Everybody starts as a CAT5 (the lowest category) and you cat up from there. I sent in a petition to see if I could cat up early based on my racing history and they said sure. I raced the rest of 2011 as a CAT4 and my biggest highlight was finishing 2nd OA at the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga TN. The entry fee to the entire event (3 races – a short 4ish mile Time Trial, a Crit, and a road race the next day) was $85. I think I left with about $380 in my pocket. You win money based on how high you finish in the TT, the crit, the road race, and then your overall placement in the omnium as well as primes during the crit. I really liked the idea of potentially racing for free most weekends as long as I could keep winning. There is a saying in cycling though: “What do you call a fast CAT4? A CAT3”. Basically one is expected to CAT up when possible and I believe USA cycling will force you to CAT up after a certain number of points accrued. I think I catted up to 3 at the end of 2011 (when I had enough points).

 

Travel

2012 was a weird year. I was in super good shape in January / February of that year, but then I had an opportunity to go work as a “technical adviser for triathlon” for an Indian movie being filmed in Thailand that had a triathlon in it. I flew to India on short notice (about 1 week) and was in India / Thailand for 2 months where I hardly worked out due to being busy and the brutal heat. Upon my return I jumped right back into working out and overdid it for sure. I got a bad case of bursitis in my knee and basically had knee pain most of the rest of the year. I also spent another month out of the country over in Europe doing two cruises and a road trip.  Tough life huh?  I think I raced a Thanksgiving 5K that year with my wife that I “trained” her for, and she busted out 7:45 pace for her first serious 5K.

 

Coaching

In 2013 and onward there’s not much to talk about. I spent more time focusing on my coaching and less time on my own racing. I did one triathlon in 2014 (Peachtree City International triathlon) and I think I finished 3rd OA, but a train came through that race (twice for some) and kinda messed up a lot of people’s times. Who knows where I would have finished sans train. I did some running races in 2014, 2015, did the swim portion of a tri either in 2014 or 2015 (I forgot) and that’s about it. I didn’t race in 2016, and it’s 2017 now and I haven’t raced yet.  My main priorities right now are to raise my daughter, maintain my ultimate dad-bod, and continue to work on my coaching business. Ohhh yeah and we’re also selling almost everything we own and we’re going to live on the road for a few years in a 5th wheel trailer pulled by a truck.  I forgot to mention that.  I’m sure at some point in the future I will get the itch to get back in great shape and seriously race another triathlon.