Indy 500 Winner Tony Kanaan on Triathlon, Training and Driving



ACTIVE: How does a racecar driver get involved in triathlon? When did you first start?

TK: I started training for the racecar. I started swimming when I was a little kid racing go-carts because you can't really lift weights, so I started to swim to get stronger in my upper body. And I've always biked and the run just sort of happened. I thought, 'If I'm doing all three, then I might as well motivate myself to train more,' so I signed up for my first triathlon 18 years ago and I caught the bug. It was always to be fit to drive the racecar.

ACTIVE: I think I can guess, but what's your favorite--swimming, biking or running?

TK: The bike--it's really similar to the racecar with the speed and the focus, so it's, by far, my favorite.

ACTIVE: Companies like Specialized and McLaren, and Pinarello and Jaguar are working together and designing high-performance bikes. Do you see the similarities since you're in both the automotive and triathlon scenes?

TK: It's really similar to racing; the bikes right now are so aerodynamic. I race with my Trek triathlon bike, which is elected the fastest and most aerodynamic bike. All that stuff fascinates me and I really get into it because I'm part of it everyday.

ACTIVE: How many IRONMAN triathlons have you done?

TK: I've done a full IRONMAN and five 70.3s.

ACTIVE: How does winning the Indianapolis 500 and finishing the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona compare?

TK: To be honest, winning the Indy 500 was my all-time goal, so that was my dream and I raced my entire life for that moment. As a personal and career moment, nothing will ever top that. But then finishing Kona--being a racecar driver and having the opportunity to go--as an individual doing the sport and with everything depending on me, it was a personal goal I had. So I approached both differently, but the emotion of crossing the finish line of each was very similar. One was my life's dream, and the other was a big, big personal achievement.

ACTIVE: So which were you more tired after, the IRONMAN or the Indy 500?

TK: For sure, the IRONMAN.

ACTIVE: What distance is your favorite?

TK: The 70.3 distance, for sure.

ACTIVE: I'm sure you hear it all the time, but some people don't consider racecar drivers athletes. You've raced in a car at the highest level and raced the biggest triathlon in the world, what do you have to say about that?

TK: We hear that all the time, but those people have never driven a racecar. The way they relate to it is like, 'oh, I drive my street car all day, how hard is it really?' There are a few drivers who do iron-distance and 70.3 triathlons, and we're definitely athletes.

ACTIVE: The IndyCar series and the triathlon season have a huge overlap. What's your secret for balancing training, racing and family?

TK: It's a fine line, but obviously the racing season is the priority. The family knows that, and my training reflects that too. I have to train every day because I have to be fit for the racecar, and I take my family around with me so they can be part of it, even if I'm busy. I shouldn't say it's a balance, because racing comes first, because you have to be committed 100 percent. And I can't appreciate enough that my wife and kids understand that for now. Luckily they know that I'm not going to race forever. When I'm not racing, I'll have more time for my family.

ACTIVE: Are you self-taught, or do you have a coach?

TK: I actually have three coaches-- I have a triathlon coach and I have two weight lifting and core coaches as well. It's not just about endurance; you have to lift some weights, too.

ACTIVE: So you're taking on IRONMAN 70.3 Miami this weekend, how are you feeling? Do you have a time goal?

TK: I'm not racing for time; I do it for training. I don't train enough to be competitive but it keeps me in shape and I enjoy it a lot. Triathlon is so tricky, because it depends on how you feel when you wake up and you never know how the day will go. But hopefully I'll be pretty close to beating my best time.

Editor's Note: Kanaan finished the 2015 IRONMAN 70.3 Miami with a time of 5:11:10.

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About the Author

Michael Nystrom

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

Michael Nystrom is the triathlon editor for Active.com. A California native, Michael graduated from the University of Southern California with a master's degree in journalism. He has done several sprint- and olympic-distance triathlons, raced Ironman 70.3 California and raced Ironman 140.6 Arizona. Follow Michael on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn.

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