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Simpson talks about triathlon experience on 'The Pep Talk'

Senior swimmer Ian Simpson finished an Olympic-length triathlon in just under two and a half hours on Aug. 12 in Omaha, NE. (photo/ ONU Sports Information)

On Aug. 12, senior swimmer Ian Simpson fought the 90-degree heat to finish the USA Triathlon Championship race in just under two and a half hours. He placed 461st out of nearly 1,100 male finishers.

The Olympic-length race, held in Omaha, NE, consisted of a one-mile swim, a 25-mile bike and a six-mile run. In an interview with Sportsbeat 94.9’s Grant Pepper on The Pep Talk last week, Simpson said that he came close to his personal best time during the race.

Here is the rest of that interview, where Simpson details his training methods and talks about how triathlons help him prepare both mentally and physically for the ONU swim season:

GP: How long did you have to train for this, and how long have you been doing triathlons?

IS: My first triathlon was when I was 11 or 12 years old, then I kind of took a break. It was just something that my swim team did when we got started. And then, come college, I met a couple guys who really got me interested in it. So, freshman year is when I really started training for triathlons. Typically, I’d just train in the summer, and come school season I’m pretty much a full-time swimmer. Technically, that’s training for a triathlon, but I’m in more of swim season mode then. But [in the summer] it’s more about running and biking.

GP: How do you train for triathlons, logistically?

IS: It really depends on the day, because a lot of the time I like to focus more on running because that’s my weak-suit. A lot of times I like to pair biking and running together, but it really just depends on where I’m at. This summer, I spent my summer researching at Iowa, so I swam at the University of Iowa’s pool. And then also I’ll try to find a reservoir or pond that’s allowable for people to swim in, to practice open-water swimming, being in a lake rather than a pool, where visibility is a little bit harder.

GP: This race a couple of weeks ago was in Omaha, NE. What was the setup like, and talk about the race itself.

IS: The swim was in Carter Lake, so part of it was in Iowa and the other part was in Nebraska, so that was kind of cool. The swim course took me into to two different states, while the bike and the run were both in Nebraska. The swim itself was pretty cool because it’s an oxbow off of the Missouri River -- it used to be attached to it but over time it detached itself from the river -- but the race itself, it was huge. There were about 5,000 athletes there between the two races. And in the race that I participated in, maybe about 3,000. But it was a huge venue, on race day there was a lot of delays because of traffic. So the best athletes were the ones that could adjust to anything. I struggled with that a little bit. But the venue itself was awesome. There was so many people and a lot of hype going on all day, so it was really exciting to be there.

GP: Had you ever raced in a triathlon of that magnitude before?

IS: I did one triathlon last year that had about 2,000 people in it, that was out in Boulder, CO, which had a little more hype to it and was a little more serious of an event. But this one was the biggest in terms of the amount of people that were there.

GP: After you do the triathlon -- I mean it takes you two and a half hours, I’m sure it’s physically exhausting -- how long does it take to recover from it and what does your body feel like afterwards?

IS: Right after an Olympic distance, you struggle to move for a couple of hours. But after that, it’s fine. I jumped in the ice bath right after -- especially that day, it was a really hot day. It was pushing 90 degrees and there was no shade on the course. So, just the sun beating down on you made it really hot. But once I recovered from the heat, I was pretty much fine to go. Longer distances, those take a few days to a week [to recover]. But with this one, I was up and moving in a couple hours and started the drive home with my mom, who came out.

GP: How do you think you raced on that day?

IS: Two and a half hours is just above my best time. I think I had a very good race for the circumstances I was in, with the heat and a lot of race-day delays. A lot of people adjusted to it and performed their best. I was a couple minutes shy of my best time with a really good bike and a really good swim; the run was really my only weak part, but I was still pretty happy with what I did, and really just to be there was the best part.

GP: Who got you into triathlons? You said you started when you were young, so how did you get the idea?

IS: When I was young, my swim team did a really short triathlon. We trained for it and I thought it was fun, but not great enough to get into. Then, one summer, my friend and I were trying to get into shape and we didn’t have anything to train for, so we decided to do a triathlon. That was my senior year [of high school] coming into college, and it was fun but it didn’t really stick with me. But then I came to college and two kids who I swam with, Gabe Rastatter and Duggan Trenary -- they both are extremely accomplished triathletes as well -- they got me into it. They helped me get a more serious training idea and become more successful. So those guys and both of their parents really helped me get into it and like it.

GP: How big of a connection is there, in your mind, between swim culture and triathlons?

IS: There’s always the connection of cardio. I mean, if you’re swimming, you’re going to be good at cardio. Other than that, it helps you get into shape and progress easier in the sport. But when you get to a really high level -- like if you’re at a really high level of swimming -- you need to be swimming more than you are running. But running or biking is a great way to get you into shape to have a more successful preseason of swimming, or vice versa. It really helps build you into your sport. It also helps you prevent injury, because the more you come prepared into swim season by a running and biking background, you’re muscles will be more adaptive. And vice versa; if you’re swimming a lot, you’ll be better off starting running and biking.

GP: What’s it do for you from a mental standpoint, to be able to do this and accomplish this? Is that also something that benefits your swimming, too?

IS: I definitely agree. When you go into a triathlon and you’re looking at these crazy distances and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, how am I going to do that?’ And you’re going through the race and your mind is just telling you to stop or quit because of the mileage that you’ve gone through, but you keep pushing yourself… by the end of a triathlon, you really feel like you can take on anything. And it’s a great feeling when you cross that finish line, especially when there’s a ton of music going on and people are cheering you on. The venues are insane. And you cross that finish line and you get your picture taken -- it just makes you feel like you’re on top of the world and that nothing can hold you back.

GP: Was there a point in Omaha a couple weeks ago when you hit a wall? When was the first time during the race where you thought, ‘This is going to be hard?’

IS: I had a buddy who was there with me, and when I qualified I actually beat him on the run. And then in Omaha, I passed him early on in the run and he passed me back, and I was like, ‘Oh man.’ As soon as that happened I thought I was in for it; I started cramping up, feeling the heat. But when he passed me, he motivated me to get back up and get going. So, it was a little rough in the run, but towards the end of it he pushed me to catch back up to him. He ended up beating me by a little bit, but it was great to have him to help me push through that. Because it was only a six-mile run, but by mile two I was feeling it and the heat was bad.

GP: In looking at the results, it seems like you got out to a really good start swimming and you were one of the faster swimmers there. Is that always something you’ve had, where you get out to a fast start on the swimming portion?

IS: Yeah, that’s always how it’s been for triathlons with me. With the swimming background, I’m always going to be one of the top out of the water, and then for the bike and the run I try to hang on to the lead that I have. But a lot of people have a better biking and running background than I do, so I try to make do with my background now and progress every year. So that’s why, when I train, I mainly focus on running and biking, because I know that from the previous swim season, I’m set to hold on for that.

GP: Do you think you’ll keep doing triathlons after your swim career is over?

IS: Definitely. I have to find something to keep me in shape and I won’t be a competitive swimmer any more, so this is the best way for me to compete and have fun and do something that I really love. And the benefits of it are great.