On an annual summer trip to visit friends stateside, this Brussels, Belgium, native with pro aspirations hit his stride in Maple Grove.
Where are you from? Are you living and training in the U.S.?
I’m from Brussels, Belgium. I went to high school in Wausau, WI, during my senior year (2001-2002). I was part of on exchange program called AFS. Since then, I always come back to visit my host family who lives in Wausau. I’m only going to be in the Midwest for two weeks, and then I’ll fly to Las Vegas to race the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I arrived in Wisconsin on August 18, so I’ve been training here since. I wish I could train here all year long (maybe not during winter) because the facilities you have here for training are awesome. Great swimming pool, wide open spaces for biking and running.
Give us a little background on your racing. When did you start competing in triathlon? How often do you compete?
I started racing triathlon about three years ago. I used to be a track and field runner. My best events were the 1500m and the 800m. When I lived in Wisconsin I went to State both in cross-country and track and placed third. I got into triathlon because I grew older and still wanted to improve my level of fitness. Triathlon is a good sport for that. You can be faster even when you get in your thirties. My very first race was actually in Elkhart Lake, WI. I enjoyed it, so then I started training a little more when I got back to Europe.
Right now triathlon is a big part of my life. I train between 15-25 hours a week and compete all summer season. This year I’ve been to Switzerland, Norway and France to compete. It gives me some opportunities to travel in places I’ve never been, which I like a lot.
Take us through your race. Did you have a race plan, and were you able to carry it out?
I didn’t really have a race plan. The goal was to control everything and all the little things during the race and get a bit of confidence for the big race in Vegas. I was worried about my biking because I haven’t been feeling so good on my bike lately. It turned out that it was my best leg of the day. I usually start with a good swim. I make sure I warm up well so then I can start out fast. The first five miles on the bike I’m always sort of testing myself to see if my legs are responding well. And then I usually cruise and keep on pushing myself to keep the pace. I was really excited about getting close to the hour time for the 42k bike leg. That was what got me going. It was mental. I’m always competing against myself first and then when it gets to the running, I start competing with the other triathletes. I like to think about it that way. So, my running is like my secret weapon. As a former track runner I really enjoy going fast during those last miles. And if the race went all right, and I kept pushing myself to my limits, then I’ll deserve to treat myself after the race.
What’s your favorite pre-race dinner?
In Europe you can buy those cakes full of proteins, dried fruits and nuts, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any here in America. What works the best for me before a race is usually a sandwich with avocado and slices of turkey breast. It worked great for this race. I felt wonderful.
What’s your favorite way to rest and recoup after a race?
First, to put your mind off, you’ve got to treat yourself by eating something you really want. Some junk food or a good pizza or something. For me, it was a big fat cookie dough ice cream. The day after I usually train with a nice and easy bike ride just to stretch my legs a little bit. I’m not used to training without a heart rate monitor because my coaches always ask me to wear it, and I have to follow specific instructions for training. So the easy bike ride without worrying about going at the right speed or not seems to me a good way to relax.
Where will we see you race next, and what are your long-term triathlon goals?
I’ll be racing in Henderson, Nevada, at Lake Las Vegas for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. After that I’ll fly home and go back to work. I’m a high school P.E. teacher. My long-term triathlon goals would be to turn semi pro or pro and keep on racing 70.3 and maybe one day a few full Ironmans. I really believe the half-Ironman distance will be the one I’ll be the best at.