In all honesty, 2017 was a make-it or break-it year for me. After a challenging 2016 season, I began the year with some fairly clear performance goals. These correlated to a legitimate break-even analysis: given the investment I wanted to make, I knew I needed a certain income from prize money or sponsors to financially break-even. Contrary to some perceptions of professional athletes in general, in triathlon, with the exception of the top 3-5%, most Elite triathletes on the ITU circuit have rather meager, unstable incomes. While I am not doing it for the money, (and I don’t think many of my colleagues are either), we do need to make a living. Otherwise, triathlon just becomes a hobby.
Overall, the results were largely positive finishing the season 18th in the World Triathlon Series Ranking, 3rd in the European ranking, with 2x World Cup podiums and 10x Top ten performances at European & World levels. This exceeded my break-even analysis allowing me to continue my professional career. The progression was not linear, nor entirely consistent throughout the season. On the whole, though, I was much more in control of my races.
Learning to focus on my process, rather than on the outcome was something that made a big difference this year. This may seem somewhat contradictory after explaining that I started off the season with such precise objectives. I believe goal-setting is important to establish a direction, but once the aim is set, all energy and attention must go into the daily process of making it happen.
And let’s be honest, the process is the hard part! Actually doing the daily actions required to put you out of your comfort zone is difficult. It’s the not-so-glamorous daily grind. It’s the morning 5km swims. It’s the drag yourself out the door, third-workout-of-the-day evening runs. It’s the 10th hill repeat when you thought your quads exploded on the last one. If anything, setting goals is the easy part. Thinking about holding that blue finish line tape above your head, champagne showers, happy hugs with family and friends. Coincidentally, the media and federations love to talk about goals and results the most, and it takes conscious effort to keep my attention on my own process.
Alongside learning to the trust the process came the realization that it will never get easier. In other words, trust the never-ending process. I know this is not a very sexy motto, but as I said before, to get the glory, we must endure the mundane. My profession simply allows me to experience pushing my own boundaries, fears and limits and this is precisely what brings me satisfaction.
Thanks for reading and I wish you all a healthy holiday season!
It is with great pleasure to announce my newest partnership with Scott Sports. This is an incredible company that is committed to doing things right and takes no shortcuts when it comes to designing and building the best dang bikes around. Check out the video below and you'll understand why I love riding the Scott Foil Premium.
The story behind the sponsorship
Those who have followed my career will know that I have been riding a Mathot bike since 2013. Paul Mathot was an entrepreneur with a passion for bikes. I was a developing athlete with big dreams of the Olympic Games. He took a chance on me and stuck by me through the ups and downs of the qualification process to Rio 2016. As of January 2017, Mathot made a decision to change jobs and industries thereby no longer building his custom bikes. I will forever be grateful for Mathot’s support and wish him nothing but the best in the future.
Thus, as I launch into a new Olympic cycle with new goals, I came in contact with Scott Sports Benelux. The impression that struck me most after visiting the Benelux office and discussing with the representatives is that the Scott brand is hard-working, but humble, diligent with the details, but relentlessly pursuing excellence. These values really resonated with me and the commitment to excellence is something I really appreciate.
The sleek, fully integrated design, in a matte black finish gives the Scott Foil Premium a shadowy presence. This carbon aero frame complete with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, Zipp 303 carbon clincher wheels, Syncros carbon components, weighing in at only 6.88kg provides reactive stiffness without compromising comfort. (Here is a link to all the specifications if you want to geek out on the bike). I am beyond excited to ride and race my new trusty steed in the coming races. Up next on the calendar: World Triathlon Series Hamburg on July 15.
The last eight days have been action-packed competing at the European Championships over 3 distances: Sprint, Olympic and Mixed Team Relay finishing 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively. Overall, these are encouraging performances building a solid consistency throughout the season. In all honesty though, being so close to the podium is disappointing, but it is also what keeps me focused and motivated moving forward. Here is a quick race-by-race recap:
To the external eye, a training camp can seem like a sunny holiday for athlete's to work on their tan while working out. From an athletes’ perspective, going on a training camp is akin to going into the office to focus and get work done before a big presentation. Finding an ideal location with adequate infrastructure for triathlon training, safe roads, geographic accessibility, suitable climate, and so forth is never easy. However, I discovered Banyoles, Spain last year leading into the Olympic Games and it is my place of choice again this year.
I am proud to announce that I have teamed up with Agenda Sports & Elements as a Triathlon ambassador. Agenda is a leading sport agency in Spain and they work with a reliable network of providers to offer tailor-made packages including everything from accommodations, transport, sports facilities, plus help with amenities like physio and medical services.
The last 14 days can be summed up as: 5 plane rides, 2 countries, 3 races – a sprint, super-sprint and Olympic distance - countless bowls of rice, a 4th place and 9th place finish. Here is the race recap from my Asia tour.
If the two images below can characterize my past two race - the World Cup in New Plymouth, New Zealand and World Triathlon Series in Gold Coast, Australia - then I am reminded of two simple truths: daily intentional work can lead to big results, but if there is no struggle, there is no progress. Here is the race recap.
New Plymouth World Cup
1) What is it like to train with your significant other?
Hello dear readers, welcome to 2017 and my first post of the new year! In my previous blog, I outlined my decision to join the Triathlon Squad based in Poway, California. After nearly two months training with the squad in what is affectionately known as ‘Powadise’, here is a friendly reminder to myself: recognizing a need for change is the easy part, fully implementing and sustaining changes requires a lot more effort.
This is not surprising news. Just like Newton’s first law, people seem to have a natural tendency for inertia. Athletes, in particular, are specifically trained to be creatures of habit trying to convert certain movement patterns into muscle memory. This means altering or reversing some of these routines tends to be - consciously or subconsciously - uncomfortable. Thus, to fully embrace a new process and new way of training requires a daily commitment to being uncomfortable.
For example, I am really focusing on breathing earlier in the swim with a deep hand entry. This has been particularly hard for me to overcome, in part because doing so goes against a movement pattern I’ve perhaps repeated hundreds and hundreds of times over the years. Despite my mind screaming to breathe earlier with every stroke, coupled with the coach’s verbal pool side reminders, changing this bad habit has been - and continues to be - a struggle to execute correctly. When any change is required, it will be hard regardless, but here are some strategies I’ve tried to employ to accelerate the change process:
If there has one thing I have learned to be true during my 28 years on this planet, it is indeed that as Charles Swindoll said, "life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." Some lessons you have to learn the hard way, but those events can be an excellent catalyst for change. And I am ready for a change. Thus, I am excited to announce that I will be joining The Triathlon Squad coached by elite coach Paulo Sousa and based in Poway just outside of San Diego, California.
It took an 11hr plane ride to Brazil to finally sit down and catch up on my blog. So here is the short version of my summer racing and training since the end of the qualification period and in the lead up to the Olympic games.
Belgian Championships (sprint distance): 12 June