Ryan Giuliano’s rise to become one of the area’s top amateur athletes is extraordinary. During his time as a student at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, it wasn’t cross country or track that had colleges calling with scholarship offers, but wrestling.
“I got more offers for wresting, but my heart wasn’t into it at that point,” Giuliano says.
When he arrived at the University of Illinois, he ran on his own, thinking he didn’t stand a chance on the college team. Daring to try out anyway, he made the team after the first practice.
“I was getting faster,” Giuliano says. “I was with guys that were pretty much my idols, then catching up to them, then beating them in a short time frame.”
Recently, Giuliano has shown his prowess as a triathlete as well, having garnered first overall in six triathlons in 2014, including the Memphis in May Olympic Triathlon and the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Championship Indoor Tri. His personal favorite was Ironman Cozumel in November, in which Giuliano brought home first in his age group and second amateur overall in a field of 2,700 competitors.
Giuliano says his improved results in the half marathon—his favorite event, particularly at the end of the triathlon—to a counterintuitive approach in training: increasing speed by running less.
“Most would think, ‘I’m not running that fast so I need to run more,’ but it’s the other way around. I need to get off the bike feeling good,” Giuliano says.
More bike training and less running was key. “That’s what was holding me back in triathlon in the last 6 years,” he says. “Before this year I’d go with Jacqui. She’d have better runs than me. I was running a 1:30 half marathon, and now I run 1:15 off the bike.”
Giuliano’s wife Jacqui is an impressive athlete in her own right, and he credits his success to her support along with that of his parents.
“My parents have been supportive from the start,” Giuliano says. “Triathlon especially, it’s not a cheap sport! They paid for coaching, travel, I wouldn’t have a chance to do this without them.”
Giuliano has done some heroic deeds of his own as well. When attending Ironman Wisconsin as a spectator to support his best friend last year, he noticed thousands of tacks on the bike course.
“We saw black shining things, a whole bunch of tacks,” Giuliano says. “Luckily no riders had come through yet. We pushed them out before riders came through, it was pretty dangerous.”
Giuliano is contemplating racing professionally, having qualified for his professional triathlete license. His immediate goal in 2015 is to take the podium at Ironman Austria and the Ironman Championships in Hawaii as an amateur, and he will make a decision about going pro depending on how well he does in 2015. Even as his talent is sure to take him around the world, he’s still glad to be an athlete from the Chicago area.
“So many other good athletes makes it really competitive,” Giuliano says of racing in the Chicago area. “You know race day there will be competition for you. That’s what I thrive on: a pretty competitive outing. It helps me keep pushing.”