Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Feature Friday: My Dad the Triathlete

Happy Happy Friday everyone! There is no sound sweeter than 'Friday' in my opinion!

I have an exciting post today: the first installment of my 'Feature Fridays'!

The first athlete I'm featuring is none other than my own dad.
He is quite the triathlete in his own right, and finally got over his fear of swimming free style! He currently lives in Tokyo, so I don't get to see him often, but he is always sending me photos from his bike rides, races, and little running tid bits. He is even training for his first Ironman Triathlon this summer! Woah. (I actually didn't know about this until the interview! haha) It was interesting for me to find out more about his racing life, and I hope you find it interesting too!

Ten minutes with my dad Peter: ( a little background info: he's Danish, grew up mostly in upstate NY, and has been living in Japan for about 30 years now.)

Q: How long have you been racing for?

I started with my first adventure race - a one-day MTB, mountain-running, stream-walking team event up in the mountains of Nagano in 2001 and switched to more conventional triathlons in 2005.

Q: Roughly how many races have you completed?

Major sanctioned events? Let's see, about ten, the longest of which have been four half-Ironman distance triathlons.

Q: What prompted you to get into endurance events?

I got a call from a mutual friend one day in late 2000 asking if I'd be interested in joining two other guys, a young Frenchman named Fabien and an Aussie named Brodie, on their adventure racing team. Not knowing then how serious it would be, I said sure, why not. That one call changed my life. One of my best friends now is Yutaka Kojima. He recently returned from the IM championship in Kona as the 2009 world champion in his age group. Kojima-san is 74 and has the body - his doctors tell him - of a 49 year old. He is an enduring inspiration.

Did you have any biking/running/swimming experience prior to your first race?

I rowed in college. That said, we were all under-prepared for our first adventure race which had several strong sponsored semi-pro teams and members of the Japanese MTB Olympic squad. We vowed to come back a year later and place in the top 20 which we did, at 19th. In that event only 1 team was able to finish during regulation time, and though we did not manage to finish, we were in 19th place out of about 75 teams when darkness fell.

Q: What has changed between your first race and now?

Ability to think about the whole race and the management of time and energy over the distance. Considerably improved ability to climb hills.

You’ve competed in triathlons, mountain bike races, marathons…what is your favorite event and why?

Hard to pick one - it really depends on the location and the quality of the event organizers. Having roads blocked off, aid stations handy and not running out of supplies before the end - these things make for memorable events, that and the camaraderie of it all. Though you race against your own best time and fatigue, it is nice to have friends in the event as well.

Have you ever gotten disqualified? Ever not been able to finish? How do you deal with defeat mentally?

No, but I had a tough time at the Nojiri short distance triathlon a few years ago after having injured a tendon; I wanted to quit but the local people cheering us on helped me make it to the end.

Tell us about the time you breast-stroked the entire swim portion of the triathlon. What happened?

Well here's the scoop on that. I have breast-stroked all the swim courses ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 meters (let's see, a total of 6 times) because as a kid growing up in Scandinavia, that is what we learned; we were told soldiers could only swim breaststroke if they were carrying a pack and a rifle, something like that, I guess in the late fifties that was still a reasonable argument. I have only recently conquered my fear of drowning by being unable to breathe doing the free-style (known as the "crawl" in those days). Breast-stroke let's me see where I am going, and I am usually about halfway in the pack getting out, but it does tire the legs far too much compared to freestyle.

You currently live in Tokyo . What is the best part about training in such a chaotic city? What do you find the most challenging about training in Tokyo?

Good question. But Tokyo is not that bad really due to the civil behavior of most drivers, and the landscape of the city, by which I mean the half dozen rivers that flow through it and have bicycle paths alongside them. I have a public pool that charges a dollar per swim, and several parks suitable for running. We do some challenging rides out to the west of the city in the direction of Mt. Fuji - and we have one 100km ride that takes us up to the top of the Yanagizawa Pass beyond which you enter the neighboring Yamanashi Prefecture. We can go through the scenic vineyard area and catch a train back or head back the way we came to Oku-Tama which has some hot-spring onsen and a more direct trainline back home.

Q: What has been your favorite racing location and why?

The best racing has been on the island of Sado (which along with Maso) is an ideal name for a challenging triathlon event out in the Sea of Japan, and on the island of Niijima in the chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific south of Tokyo. I missed going to the Zurich IM in 2008 due to an injury. My favorite riding location has been Hokkaido (in September 2009) and the bridges of Shikoku (in November 2008).

What is one city you haven’t raced in that you dream of going to?

I guess Zurich is one I would like to do properly. There is the Silkeborg Triathlon in Denmark, and people say Lanzarote in the Canary Islands is supposed to be incredible.

Q: Do you have any pre-race rituals?

I try to warm up my muscles by doing a bit of a dance that might strike others as me having a bad case of the shakes. I also use the heart-rate monitor to relax as deeply as possible.

Are you currently training for any upcoming events?

I have the Tokyo Marathon 2010 coming up late Feb. and the Canada IM in late August.

What is the best piece of training advice you have received?

Simple: Don't go fast at the start when the mob is pulling too hard, stay to the side, pace yourself. With anywhere from 3 to 13 hours to go, you have nothing to gain. Get loose and limber and do reverse splits (ie. faster splits later on). The risk of burning out early is always real for me.

What is the one piece of advice you’d like to share?

Keep it simple and never bring an untested piece of equipment to a race. We use "old-fashioned" tubular tires and rims as they are faster to remove and replace than clinchers, but that is just a personal preference. Don't splurge on carbon parts or fancy nutrition supplements. Just eat fruits, fibers, nuts, spices, and lots of vegetables, tofu, natto and as much fish as you can find.

Thanks for the interview Dad, and good luck with your training!

I hope you all have a super fantabulous amazing weekend!


  1. This is a great feature and I love you started with your dad!

  2. That is so cool about your dad! I love it!

  3. Love the feature idea and how cool that your Dad is a triathelete. I can see where you get your drive from!

  4. Hi Julia,
    I just found your blog! What an awesome post! Thanks for sharing and I can't wait to read more of your future posts:) Happy Friday!

  5. That's a great interview! With a Dad like that you'll do great in triathlons!

  6. wow, your dad is hardcore! I love his last piece of advice about keeping things simple.

  7. What a great idea! I really enjoyed reading this. :)

  8. Wow, that's pretty cool Julia! Good luck to your dad; let us know how he does. My dad just sits on the couch and drinks beer in his spare time.

  9. What a neat story about your dad!!! :) He kicks butt!!! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great story!

    You dad kicks ass! :)

  11. Fantastic story! Loved reading it and I am glad to have found your blog! Your dad rocks!!



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