After the Lifetime Fitness Championships in Oceanside, California, I talked to the folks at Garmin about the race, andd the pressures I felt leading up to it. The interview came out better than what I could have produced in my excited but exausted post-race euphoria, so I’m reposting this interview from the Garmin Connect Blog below.
The long and short of it: I won the Toyota Triple Crown race – a 3 part, winner take all $50,000 prize between men and women. In the process I also came to a sprint finish with Cameron Dye for the Lifetime Fitness Series title, and came up second. I came home with two gigantic checks for my performance worth a total of $75,000 – my biggest triathlon payday to date. Check out the Interview:
We caught up with Ben Collins after his Toyota Triple Crown Series victory this weekend at Life Time Tri Oceanside to hear about how winning the first two events of the series (Life Time Tri Minneapolis and New York City Triathlon) prepared him for the final race and how he’s celebrating a successful season!
How does it feel to win the Life Time Tri Toyota Triple Crown?
I’m ecstatic! The dynamic of gutting men versus women is exciting so the Toyota has been able to bring a ton of attention to these races. Alicia Kaye had a great year and to edge her out for the title has taken months of focused training. I have never been as nervous as I was warming up for Oceanside and it was all I could do to direct all that emotion into the race. I raced as hard as I could on Sunday, but it was the months of preparation that made it possible to win the crown. I’m just so happy that it all paid off.
Walk us through how you were feeling this weekend… did you feel extra pressure leading up to the race?
Absolutely! After Minneapolis it seemed like Alicia Kaye was the clear favorite but in New York I had one of the best races of my career and reversed the standings. I was terrified going into Oceanside because while Alicia has been extremely consistent in her performances I’ve had a year mixed with great races and terrible races without really being able to predict which it would be. At high pressure races in the past I’ve made mistakes getting positioning penalties, crashing or some other stupid mistake that I cause by focusing too much on the outcome and forgetting that every step is important to get there. All this had my head spinning in the days leading up to Oceanside.
Was the possibility of winning the Triple Crown on your mind, motivating you during the race or did you need to block it out to focus?
It was absolutely on my mind but I knew that in order to catch Alicia I needed to focus on my own race and ensure that I made no mistakes. On the first turn coming out of T1 I crashed. I underestimated how slick the road was from dew and found myself sliding across the pavement on my side. Immediately I thought of the Triple Crown and told myself, "you can overcome one mistake but you’d better get your head into this and do everything else right." It was motivating in a pivotal moment.
Was there any particular moment when you felt certain that you’d won the Triple Crown?
I came off the bike with 4 minutes and 40 seconds to make up to Alicia – which is almost two minutes longer than in Minneapolis or New York. In that moment I thought for sure I had lost the Triple Crown but I wasn’t about to give up. At 5k into the run I had closed two minutes but that meant I was still not closing fast enough and my legs were starting to give out on the hills. In the last 800 meters of the race when I passed Alicia I thought, "this is it, you’ve got it!" But at that moment my lungs started tightening up and I went into a full-on asthma attack. Suddenly I wasn’t so sure, and until I crossed the finish line (and was dragged off to medical for an inhaler) did I truly believe that I had done it. It took every ounce of training and will power to get the job done.
You posted a picture on Twitter of your giant check at the airport – it must have been fun carting that around! Did it start any interesting conversations? Surely that isn’t something airport security sees very often.
The giant check is pretty wonderful. Most people think you’ve won a sweepstakes and say things like, "I wish I had won." Then you explain how you won and the expression changes form jealousy to wonder. This time was especially fun because I had the $25,000 check for placing second in the Life Time Series on top. When people asked if I really won $25,000 I would pull the second check from behind and say, "yeah, but I also won $50,000."
How do you think winning in Minneapolis and New York helped prepare you for Oceanside? Did having those wins under your belt help you feel confident coming into this weekend?
If anything it added pressure to the race. Those two races were exceptional and I knew I would have to repeat that kind of performance if I wanted to win.
How did this race differ from the previous two this year? How was it similar?
The field was different. In October you get a lot of talent from ITU and long course athletes who
are done with their respective championship races. I knew with these athletes there would be a much faster swim and that the run would be blazing fast.
At the same time, I knew Cameron Dye would take a flyer on the bike, Hunter Kemper would seek shelter in a pack, Alicia would dominate the bike and that I would need to be within a few minutes of her when I started the run. I knew who to pay attention to and I chose to ignore the athletes without a stake in the series.
How did you celebrate?
I had to get back to Chicago for class, so after a few hugs and smiles I left Oceanside. When I got home I had fresh baked cookies and ice cream waiting for me, and this weekend I plan to indulge in some of Chicago’s famous restaurants that don’t really fit into my training nutrition. It’s been a great year, but also really intense. I’m going to celebrate by taking a step away from triathlon for a bit and enjoying some of my favorite things: family, friends, urban living and the great outdoors.