Jasper Blake talks about his retirement from triathlon
He will still compete in running events.
TMC: So why retire now? Was this planned no matter what, or would we still see you racing if you had won Ironman Canada?
Jasper Blake: Honestly the timing just felt right. I’ve really struggled over the past few years to execute the process in a manner that is conducive to high performance and doing the best job possible. I’ve struggled with several health issues largely brought on by too much stress – things like shingles, mono, chronic fatigue. Part of it has been the need to take on other means of financial stability to support a family and part of it has been spreading my energy between high performance athletics and being the kind of Dad I want to be. I was showing up at races feeling under prepared and under recovered and it was becoming harder to perform at the level I wanted to perform at. I wanted to go out on a high note and I feel Ironman Canada this year was exactly that. I had to sit out the year prior due to health reasons and I really didn’t want that to be my last one. I wanted to finish on my own terms the same way I came into Ironman – doing the best job that I could and executing the best race that I could. I feel like I did that in August. I decided earlier in the summer that this would be my last Ironman and even if I had won it would not have changed that decision. I was ready to be done and I feel good about the decision. No doubt I will miss it but I’m excited about the next chapter of my life and of my mountain running ventures
TMC: What does this retirement mean? No more triathlons ever?
JB: I don’t think it will be my last triathlon ever. I love the sport and the people too much not to be involved at some level and perhaps compete for fun down the road but who knows at this stage. I do think it will be my last one as a professional and competing to win. That said, I am eager to get cracking in the mountain running and long distance running scene. I think I can do really well over there. If there is one thing that Ironman teaches you it’s how to run on tired, heavy legs and I was good at that. There is a guts component to the tough run events that I think will suit me as well. Time wise it’s an easier commitment. You can run really well off of 10 odd hours per week (and not all running hours). Triathlon and Ironman in particular requires some much larger weeks and the management of three sports. I was finding this increasingly difficult with a family. I am not finished being competitive yet, in fact I think some of my best years may still lie ahead, just in a slightly different endurance sport. I plan on also getting involved with some of the rising bike events like Gran Fondos, Centurions and some multi stage mountain bike events.
TMC: Will we see you compete at another ironman race again? Maybe when your kids go up and express a desire to race one?
JB: Who knows! If I had to answer now I would likely say no. I think I would find it hard initially to go back and race an event that I am used to preparing so meticulously for. It’s even hard to watch on the years I haven’t competed. If I do another one it likely won’t be for many years but who knows. As for my kids doing Ironman, that’s even more of a mystery. Actually think it might be kind of funny if one or both decided to do one day. I certainly won’t be pushing them in that direction or any direction for that matter. I’m excited to see what paths they go down. Inevitably whatever they decide to get into is probably what I will gravitate towards so I can spend time with them.
TMC: When was the last time you got the chance to play a got set or two of tennis? Does this retirement open up the opportunity to enjoy the sport that earned you a university scholarship to Wisconsin?
JB: There are a few sports that I plan on getting back into. Tennis is definitely one, but skiing and ice hockey as well. Skiing and Tennis are sports I grew up competing in and I have huge passion for them. I love ice hockey as well and am on a men’s league team this winter. It’s an organized league with refs, uniforms and they even keep statistics. I am like a kid at Christmas on game days. It is the most fun I’ve had in years. I love team sports and highly dynamic sports that move quickly like hockey, skiing and tennis. I lose myself completely and feel like a kid again. It will be fun to get re-engaged with all of those.
TMC: How did you manage the transition from scholarship tennis player to pro triathlete?
JB: As soon as I moved to Green Bay Wisconsin on the tennis scholarship I knew I was changing directions. But I figured I would be an idiot to pass up a free year of at a Division 1 school. It was really great to experience college sports in the USA. They are a big deal down there and it was fun to be part of it. That said I went down with the intention of coming back as a triathlete. When the team was out partying I would log miles running or biking. I made friends with the swimmers and runners and picked their brains endlessly on how to get faster. I did my first real epic sessions on the peninsula that extends north from Green Bay into Lake Michigan. My first 100-mile ride took place there and I did it with one water bottle, 5 Hershey’s kisses and a banana. It was before the days of cell phones and GPS navigation so riding was always done with a paper map and no shortage of time spent lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere. When I left Green Bay I basically jumped straight into my first real season as a triathlete (2005 I believe). I enrolled at the University of Guelph in 2006 and got involved with the swim and run teams which became the catalyst for improvement. I still keep in touch with and train with some of the gang from the Guelph years. The transition from tennis player to triathlete was relatively easy because I was so intent on it. There was no question that I was doing the right thing; I just had to manage a year of tennis with it first!
TMC: Looking back at your career, what was your finest moment/best race? Why?
JB: Ironman Canada in 2006 obviously sticks out because after six years of getting close I finally won. I had more confidence and peace of mind that year than any other year. It was the kind of day you aim for your whole career, where everything falls into place and you just enjoy the day. Many times in racing you have to do the best with the cards you are dealt and that sometimes means winning and sometimes not. In 2006 the day just rolled and unfolded so smoothly, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I’m so thankful I was able to win Ironman Canada even once in my career. Racing in Penticton was where I put most of my focus for ten years, I really wanted that title. Winning in Penticton is like winning at home, friends, family and even the race staff were people I would see all the time so it was nice to share that with them.
TMC: What was toughest thing about being a pro triathlete? Especially in the last few years.
JB: Probably the toughest thing in the last few years has been managing a new life with kids. Ironman takes an incredible amount of time and energy if you want to compete as a professional. In the last couple of years I’ve found it difficult knowing how I was supposed to be preparing and how I was actually preparing. I was still fitting in all the training but the recovery was seriously compromised. I wouldn’t trade it for anything but I also knew what the outcomes were likely going to be. I was burning the candle at both ends for a couple of years and it caught up to me numerous times with health issues or pretty bad fatigue. Dealing with the lack of recovery was probably the toughest thing. It’s also hard to see your results starting to slip from where they were previously. Part of this can be attributed to age and part to preparation and recovery.
TMC: You are one of the guys behind 7SYSTEMS. How did that come about? And talk about what makes your product unique and any future plans.
JB: In 2005 several others and myself were sitting in a friend’s kitchen. He had ten different bottles of supplements on his counter, which generated a discussion around supplement use and the pros and cons. The reality was that we all had a similar looking counter top. We came to the conclusion that it was not an ideal situation. We had no idea of the quality of the products we were taking. We were all getting tested regularly and wanted to make sure that what we were taking had no banned substances and we all agreed that having ten different bottles was really complicated and definitely not convenient. Our goal was to create a product that solved all of those issues. At the time we had a connection with Douglas Laboratories, one of the most reputable companies on the planet in terms of quality and absorbability. We approached them with our idea and they loved it and agreed to manufacture it for us. And so after two years of formulating, consulting with experts and making sure we were delivering on all of our goals 7SYSTEMS was born. We have been in business for several years now and the company is doing great, growing steadily each year and we are looking to expand our product line. We are taking our knowledge of the micronutrient world and moving into a completely different area that we are incredibly excited about. Stay tuned for more.
TMC: You’re a big Twitter user, how did you get started and what do you like about it? Will you still be as active there in your retirement?
JB: Twitter is a really fun venue for me. I find it thoroughly entertaining and for me it really is a place to dump out all of the weird stuff that floats around in my head. I toe the line sometimes between what is appropriate and what is not but I like that there is a place to just dump random thoughts. I plan on being just as active in retirement. There’s always something to say and there’s no shortage of crap in my head.
TMC: What else will be keeping you busy?
JB: Family obviously is one of my main focuses. I want to be able to get up early in the morning with my kids and not worry about whether it’s going to mess up my training that day. My coaching business is something I am looking forward to putting energy into. I coach some really great people at the moment and it’s fun helping them reach their goals. Coaching has also forced me to really develop and communicate my own philosophy on things. I’ve spent roughly 30 years dedicated to sport, 17 of those in triathlon and it’s interesting to see how all the experiences have come out in my own philosophy and set of basic rules. I’m also fascinated by the amount of new and shared knowledge there is in the coaching community. Social media and blogs have really opened up a great dialogue between athletes, coaches and experts. You can now tap into so many different ideas and philosophies, which is great for the growth of sport.