Having finished second overall in both last year’s Steelman Triathlon and this year’s Independence Triathlon, Nick Radziul admits he was tempted to force his less-than-one-hundred-percent leg into full competition for a shot at gold in Sunday’s 2023 Steelman.
But being the pragmatic, science-based type, the Warrington native went with his instincts, decided discretion was the better part of valor and will settle for the less-demanding Aqua-Bike Division of the competition in and around Quakertown’s Lake Nockamixon.
Who knows? Maybe he could have toughed it out in the 19th rendition of the Pennsylvania state championship full triathlon Olympic division event but at what price?
So the chemical engineer at GlaxoSmithKline will be satisfied with this limited competition and live to go at it in all three swim-bike-run events another day.
“I was training for the Independence Triathlon (back in late May) and my leg wasn’t feeling like a hundred percent,” he said in a telephone conversation. “I wasn’t able to run through it.
“So I thought I would race that day and then rest my leg. But then I went on a vacation in the mountains of West Virginia. I was actually biking in the mountains and the roads aren’t marked very well. I did three miles up and down a mountain (with gravel on the road surface) and that’s when I realized my leg probably wasn’t ready to run on yet.”
At 26, Radziul knows there will be plenty of chances to chase down that elusive gold medal.
“I think there was just stress on my leg before the Independence,” said the Central Bucks South High School graduate. “I was solely running during this past winter – it’s the sport that requires the least amount of time. Once I started biking and swimming and running less per week – but more per run – that probably wasn’t good for my leg.”
Radziul had finished third overall at Steelman in 2021 so he knew he had a chance to medal in the ’22 Steelman event. But a shot at the overall win went down the drain partly due to circumstances.
“It was really hot,” he explained. “During the run I actually had to sit down for two minutes because I didn’t feel very well.
“But after that I was right back on 6:20 pace for the last two miles.”
As a chemical engineer at GSK, he sees the world of racing through a slightly different lens.
Especially the area in and around Lake Nockamixon, an emerald jewel situated in upper Bucks County.
“I just think it’s the best course out there,” he said. “There have been courses where they have been hard to navigate but I’ve never had that issue with this course.
“It’s beautiful and the closed off road (bike segment) is amazing. That course on Rt. 563 is difficult but it isn’t so difficult that it would be initimidating for new starters or even experienced cyclists. It’s still a challenge.”
Nick’s dad, Kevin, couldn’t be prouder. The family moved from Philadelphia to Bucks County (Horsham) in the late ‘80s and landed in Warrington shortly after.
“He really excelled on the high school swim team,” the elder Radziul offered. “I think he graduated second overall in his class. Went on to the honors program at the University of Delaware and graduated with close to a 4.0 grade-point average.
“And he’s an accomplished pianist. Before the pandemic he would volunteer to play at senior citizen centers. He’s also an artist. Pretty much self-taught.”
No doubt having the analytical mind of a scientist plays into Nick’s training and race strategy.
“In training, I really like looking at splits and having workouts where I need to hit a certain time or defend throughout the workout does excite me,” Nick said. “During the race day, I like to be a little less analytical and just go based on feel.”
Running is the branch of the triathlon on which Radziul would like to improve.
He was in serious contention in both the Independence (including a second-place finish on the bike segment, 24.6 miles per hour average) and the Steelman (second in 24.6) but his running performances (10th at Independence; 18th at Steelman) probably cost him titles.
Once that leg is back to a hundred percent and some sport-specific training is in place, watch out. The Steelman just might have a new Man of Steel.
5K Anyway and Color Fun Run for Accessibility, 8 a.m., Yardley. Contact www.raceentry.com
19th annual Steelman Triathlon, 7:15 a.m., Lake Nockamixon, Quakertown. Contact www.runsignup.com