Was your Formula One win at the Olympic distance a big boost for your confidence?
It definitely did a lot for my confidence, mostly because I ran really well, and also because it was hot, and I've had a couple races where I haven't done well in the heat. It showed me that I'd acclimated and that the training I was doing down there was working. And another thing is that I wasn't really focusing on the Formula Ones while I was down there. I was doing base training. The week prior to that race I think I had run six hours total and the week before that I had run eight or nine hours. I wasn't tapering except for one or two days for those races. I was using the races as my quality workout for the week.
Is it fair to say that you'd have to repeat that performance rather exactly to win a gold medal?
Yes. There will have to be some other people who are strong on the swim for me to work with in order to get a lead because I'm realistic, there's no way I'm ever going to outrun Jackie [Gallagher] or Michellie [Jones]. I hope that the lead I'll need will get smaller over the next year as my run improves. The magic number used to be three minutes. Lorretta [Harrop] and I and whoever else we worked with on the bike would shoot for three minutes. Hopefully at some point two minutes will be enough.
Do you think you are yet the best runner you're going to be?
I'm definitely not peaked out as a runner. I have so much to learn in regards to technique. I keep working on technique, trying to get my stride longer. I don't have a lot of years and miles under my belt, and that's what I've been trying to do since last December, put a lot of running miles under my belt.
Also, I do a lot of drills to help me work on getting my knee up, opening up from the hip. When you're a swimmer for so long, you have this flutter kick where there's little range of motion in the hips. When you translate that to running you're going to have this swimmers shuffle. I have to undo years and years of training, to open up the muscles around my hips, and it's getting there. And there's also a changing of the body type and shape. It would be interesting to see pictures of me from five years ago, then four, three, two, and just this year, to see how I've slimmed down and gotten a sleaker body shape. That takes some time.
Do you wish you had become a multisport athlete sooner, or that you'd come up as a runner or cyclist?
If you had asked me that a couple years ago, I would have said I wish I'd been a runner. But I've seen some of the runners really struggle with swimming. I'm glad I had all those years as a swimmer, because it taught me a lot of discipline.
I guess my only regret is that I wish I had gone into triathlon right when I was done swimming. I graduated Stanford in '91 and stopped swimming then and I didn't do my first triathlon until '94. I'd been out of the water for a couple years because I moved to a town that didn't have an indoor pool. So I kind of had to start over again with swimming. I wish I hadn't lost those three years, just so I would have been younger and would have had some continuity with the swimming.
But I'm still getting faster each year as a swimmer. I'm not being complacent about my swimming at all. I worked really hard on it last winter and I know that's going to pay off in races. I set the standard, but everyone else is improving, so I have to raise the bar.
Is there a difference between approaching the Olympics as a triathlete and as a swimmer, in terms of what it means to you?
It's finally dawning on me that I'm a better triathlete than I ever was a swimmer. I swam from the time I was 8 to 21, and granted, all of that has helped me as a triathlete, but I never made a World Championship team in swimming, or the Goodwill Games, or anything like that.
The idea of being in the Olympics is not what brought me to triathlon. Even in my first year [as a pro] it wasn't the driving force; it was only last year that I thought, "This could really happen." And not making the Olympics as a swimmer, I never thought I was a failure because of that. I didn't feel I wanted another chance at it.
The qualifying process is so intense do you worry about being burned out for the Olympics?
I know I won't be able to do these double-seasons throughout my career, but I feel that I have so much room for improvement, and the trials are a year away, so I want to get in as much racing experience as possible with the Australians right up until that Olympic year. I'm training right now to peak for Worlds and then I'll make sure I get some down-time in the fall. I might take a break and do some cross country skiing in the winter. At this point, avoiding mental burnout is as important as not being physically burned out. I feel fresh and ready to go.
Is your goal nothing less than to win a gold medal?
You have to make the team first. But if I make the team, then I'm definitely shooting for gold. I have the best shot at it.
Unfortunately, our Olympic qualifying process is not ideal. It's not what the athletes want; they're not using a World Cup as a qualifier. They're trying to simulate a World Cup without having a World Cup and it's not going to happen. It's pretty disconcerting, and it makes me upset to think about it. But it just makes me work harder and know that I have to be the best swimmer, cyclist and runner out there.
If you do win gold, and triathlon itself goes over well in the Games, you could find yourself enjoying the opportunity for tremendous exposure and financial gain. How would you deal with that?
I haven't really thought about the responsibility if I do win a gold medal. I guess one thing that does have a big draw on my heart is kids. I'd love to get kids more involved in doing triathlon. I think it's great lifestyle sport. I went into a second grade classroom in my area and asked the kids if anybody knew what a triathlon was, and nobody raised a hand. It blows me away!
Also, I'd like to use the platform and my name to glorify God. There are a lot of great athletes out there who are not good role models. I would like to be a good, clean, pure role model. I'm just a regular person who came from Wyoming, is married, and has a cat.