2016 FEB - Athlete Profile
WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED
By Christine Bishop
Children: Sophia (9), Benjamin (7), Eva (4)
Profession: Non-Surgical Sports Medicine Physician
Sports: Triathlon, Cycling, Running, Cross Country Skiing
Hobbies: Sports, Cooking, Watching Movies, Reading, Brewing Gluten-Free Beer, Spending Time with Family
Community: Volunteering for Sporting Events (Ironman, Marathon)
Todd Shatynski is a sports medicine physician at Bone & Joint / Capital Region Orthopaedics and one of the area’s finest athletes. He has won many triathlons and competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii when he was 24 years old. The Mohawk Hudson River Marathon appreciates his volunteer work, as does the Lake Placid Ironman USA Triathlon. He is a devoted family man whose children love to bike, swim, and run with him. Activity is at the core of Todd’s existence.
Todd grew up around running. His parents competed in 5K and 10K races, so one would watch the children while the other ran. In addition to attending races, his parents encouraged both Todd and his sister to run in kids’ races. At age seven, life suddenly changed for Todd when his father was killed in an auto accident. In time, his mother returned to running and is still active in a variety of sports, as is his sister.
At school in Guilderland in addition to excelling academically, Todd ran both high school track and cross country, and was captain of both teams. He majored in engineering at North Carolina State and was on the college track team, but was sidelined by a stress fracture that changed his life. It introduced him to sports medicine and the realization that this was how he wanted to spend his life, not in engineering. In addition, the cross training prescribed to heal his injury from running, led to swimming and biking, and that, of course, spells triathlon.
In his third year of college, Todd did a couple of sprint triathlons and learned that they were not easy, but he thrived on the challenge. He trained for triathlons while pursuing his medical studies. In 1999, during his second year of med school, he did his first Ironman in Florida and qualified to go to the world championship at Kona, Hawaii, the next year.
Todd has also competed in sprint, Olympic and half Ironman distance events. Like many, he first became interested while watching Ironman on TV and got chills as the finishers came in exhausted but triumphant, with the obstacles worth the glory. As he put it, “Doing something so epic is a celebration of life with no better way to test your fortitude and spirit.”
At the 2000 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, Todd was thrilled to be in the mecca of triathlon and rubbing shoulders with the best of the best. The race conditions were difficult as the water was cold and choppy, the biking was hot with strong gusts of wind, and the marathon had temperatures in the 90s. Todd still is drawn to do another Ironman in Kona. His last Ironman was in 2004 in Lake Placid, where he once again qualified for the World Championships in Hawaii.
When asked how many triathlons he has done, Todd replied that he thinks around 58 but would have to consult his logs, which he has faithfully kept for almost 20 years. His running history so far spans ten notebooks. His father also kept extensive logs of his athletic activities, which Todd enjoys reading. Todd’s dad had run three marathons and came close to qualifying for Boston before tragedy struck. When Todd himself first qualified for the Boston Marathon, he knew his dad would have been proud.
Todd has volunteered his medical experience to the running and triathlon community. He has worked at the Ironman Lake Placid medical tent the last three years, dealing with a multitude of injuries from kidney failure to heart attacks to dehydration to blisters. He also was one of three doctors who created medical protocols for the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon, which included Drs. Kim Kilby and Michael Daly. Each year, Todd has his sports medicine fellowship recipient operate the medical tent under his tutelage.
His children love running in the Tuesday Night Summer Track program at Colonie High School, and enjoy participating in the Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club’s “Just Run” program. As a family they ride their bikes together and they all swim. He and his wife, Melanie, take them to triathlons where Todd participates – and he would love to watch them do a kids’ triathlon. Both Todd and his wife think that it is important to promote a healthy lifestyle for kids that involves lots of exercise, good nutrition, and loads of love.
Along the way, Todd has sustained some injuries but his knees are his “Achilles tendon.” He had a microfracture surgery done on his left knee in 2009, and in 2014 he had an OATS procedure in Boston on his right knee. Both injuries have forced time off, slowed him a bit and made it difficult to train at times, but have not prevented him from competing, finishing with two firsts, a second, and a third at multisport events last season. He is feeling healthier and hopes to stretch things out a bit longer this year with a few events including a half Ironman. He can’t deny it, when he is in the IMLP medical tent taking care of people, he thinks of how cool it would be to do another Ironman.
Todd’s advice to athletes is simple. If the effort becomes burdensome, take a few steps back and reexamine what you’re doing. Most people don’t do it for a living, so they should keep things in perspective. If it is not fun, then take a break because enjoying yourself should be paramount. When Todd participates in a race, he always has three goals: finish, have fun, and achieve a performance goal like time, place, etc. He has always reached the first two, but not always his performance goals.
Obviously there are many more races in Todd’s future. It’s easy to imagine Todd’s children someday reading his training diaries, and maybe a copy of this article will be in there, to let them know of achievements of their dad.
Christine Bishop (email@example.com) of Schenectady is a retired media specialist who loves running, photography and bird watching.