Team USA’s Ben Kanute made his Olympic debut at Rio last summer and is one of the many ITU stars to be transitioning to Ironman 70.3 racing this year. While still competing on the ITU circuit (Kanute raced at WTS Gold Coast earlier this year) triathlon fans have taken note of his early success across the half distance. In his first 70.3 race he took third at Ironman 70.3 Puerto Rico and then earned an impressive 5th at the Ironman 70.3 North American championship in St. George, Utah.
How are you finding Ironman 70.3 racing so far?
[It’s been] a blast so far. The style and the way the race plays out is different from ITU, and I am enjoying mixing my schedule up a bit this year. I would say that my results have been at or above expectations. I am just trying to execute what I do in practice, and so far I have been able to do that. I am very proud of my two results this year in a format that is still so new to me.
What is your current training environment like?
I spent the winter in Tucson, AZ and now find myself training wherever I am traveling. While typing this out, I am in St. Charles, IL at my parents house for my brother’s college graduation. I will be here for a couple weeks and use this as a base while I do a couple races on the east coast.
What are some key sessions you’ve put in that differ from your ITU training?
One of the main differences is extending the intervals on the bike and run. My swim has stayed about the same, but a new bike workout would be 3 x 30 min right around my 70.3 race-pace wattage. While not a new run, the extended tempo (basically 70.3 goal pace for a long run), has become pretty normal for me.
Given the success you’re seeing in 70.3 so far, does that change your plans for the future of your triathlon career?
I think this is right in line with my plan. I have always wanted to do the 70.3 distance, but the Olympics have been a dream for a long time. I have a couple years now to experiment and try lots of different races I could not do while trying to grind out the points to qualify for the Olympics. Once the next Olympic points cycle starts, I will have to plan more carefully, but for now, I just want to enjoy every race that I do.
Do you think we’ve entered a new era in Ironman racing where the majority of the top athletes will come from an ITU background?
I always find this question interesting. I would say a majority of the fast long course guys right now have come from ITU racing. Off the top of my head, Crowie, McCormick, Raelert, TO, Ryf, Salthouse, Michele Jones and Frodeno have all done ITU and had varying success at it. I think it is a bit of a natural progression to try to max out your speed first before going onto the longer distance. It is actually surprising the amount of people who have done ITU at one point or another, but it can be difficult to find the results or even know much about triathlon history. There are some serious legends in our sport that have done short and long course throughout the years and the stories that go along with it are epic!