The Power Within Olympian Ben Kanute
by Credo Tri
Professional triathlete Ben Kanute, a 2016 Olympian and a regular on both the World Triathlon and IRONMAN 70.3 circuits recently shared his insight with Credo Tri and USA Triathlon. In this Q&A, Kanute shares how he handled the transition from age group triathlete to professional and why he loves the triathlon community. Credo Tri is a motivational app to help age group triathletes to remain motivated and inspired.
CredoTri/USAT: Triathlon, what does it mean to you?
Ben Kanute: The answer could be super simple, or we could get deep with it, too. When I think of triathlon and the big picture of it, I think community, mostly because that's one of the things that kept me coming back initially, when I was on a kids team. I think many of us were type-A personalities, and we're all going through this process, and we're all driven toward a similar goal. That ties in with loving the process, and I especially love racing. I think it's pretty cool that this relatively large group of people are similarly minded and driven in that way.
CredoTri/USAT: You were part of a kids triathlon program, and you mentioned your love for the triathlon community. Are you still friends with some of these kids that were part of that club?
BK: Yeah. So, I race with one of them still who's a professional, Kevin McDowell. I did the local kids race the year before he did, and I brought him along the following year. So, then we both joined the team simultaneously because we were both friends from the swim team. (Now) I every so often I will message Kevin, or he will, or I'll keep up with some of the people from that team from all those years ago.
In my journey, I've always had some good mentors. It started with my dad and some of the coaches on the kid's team. But even when I went off to college and kind of expected to pretty much be on my own and just doing my thing. There were still people who popped up in my life that kind of just gave good advice here, pertaining to the sport.
CredoTri/USAT: Being a triathlete, it's a lifestyle. How did the transition from being an age grouper to being pro change your lifestyle?
BK: The most significant change was my daily schedule, and that it was a year-round program. My swim team prepared me nicely for the transition because one of the guys who started it came from a swimming background, and he had us all thinking long-term like Olympics stuff. I knew pretty early on in high school that at some point, I wanted to turn pro and pursue triathlon as a career. I learned how to prioritize, train hard and train smart, and create a structure for myself. I think the trickiest thing, moving from being a young athlete, whether you're in school and having set practices in your day, is the kind of structure that works for you. It's learning how to balance all of that, so time management (is key). Then truly once I became a pro athlete understanding that the next jump, it's just big jumps every single time to be competitive and the commitment level.
CredoTri/USAT: Speaking of being competitive — you said from the get-go that you were always competitive. Is your primary focus on improving yourself or beating the competition?
BK: I think it's both because I've learned and worked with a sports psychologist that I have to focus on my process. I have to find the positives even if I don't hit the outcome goal of beating everybody and winning the race. Now, I hate losing, and I hate losing more than I like winning; I truly felt like that after Challenge Daytona and everything I didn't like with that situation. But I think it starts with setting goals for yourself, knowing where your limits are, and pushing through those limits. Then it's also having that competitiveness and having that person running beside you or swimming beside you and just knowing that I'm not going to let them beat me no matter what. I want to dig deeper than I ever have to be able to stay with this person, even if it's just to the next town or the next turn around.
You have that self-motivation, that self that the goals that you set for yourself. But I do think that the competition helps you elevate your game and other people help you realize that, hey, you know, going sub 8 hours in an IRONMAN is possible, Or like when you watch somebody, you're like, you know, I aspire to be the best in the world. You watch all these people do that. It humanizes it for you a little bit.