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Pre-race Interview with Angela Naeth at Challenge Bahrain

Credit: Gareth Scobie
Credit: Gareth Scobie

With one day to go, TMC sat down with Challenge Bahrain’s invited guests and Canada’s professional racers – Angela Naeth, multiple 70.3 winner and recent 2014 Ironman Chattanooga gold medallist. (Stay tuned for our interview with Jeff Symonds).

Naeth has had a successful 2014 season although has been flying below the radar compared to her 2012 season where she mopped up the competition with wins at St. Croix 70.3, Panama 70.3, and Leadman 125 Las Vegas. 2012 also saw her place 2nd at the Abu Dhabi Triathlon, 3rdat the Rev 3 Quassy half-iron distance event, and 4th at the Hy-Vee big payday event. 2014 has proven a strong springboard for Naeth’s run at Ironman Hawaii for 2015. This year she took the win at the challenging Latin America Regional Championships at the Panama 70.3, 1st at 70.3 Buffalo Springs, and on a recon race – 1st place at the Honu 70.3 suffer fest. In March 2014 she placed 6th at Ironman Melbourne and then broke through to the top of the podium with a win at Chattanooga Ironman in September.


Here’s what Naeth had to say:


Chris Willer (CW): How do you feel about the race coming up tomorrow?


Angela Naeth (AN): I feel great! It’s been an awesome experience here so far. I travelled from the United States, where I live now. It was about 20 hours of travel. I’ve been at this hotel [The Sofitel, race host hotel] and they’ve been treating me so amazingly. It’s a beautiful country. The body feels good. The mind feels good. I’m ready for tomorrow.


CW: When did you arrive to acclimatize.


AN: I arrived in late Tuesday. I’ve been her three days. The first couple of days it was hard to get the time zone differences sorted. But after last night’s great sleep I feel pretty good.


CW: How is the climate different than where you are based now in the US?


AN: I’m just out of Las Vegas and the temperature is pretty similar to here. The temperature during the mid day is a bit warmer here but the mornings and nights are about the same as back home. It’s more humid here. I’ve been doing a lot of heat training. That’s been helpful.


CW: Looking at your resume, victories in Panama as an example, it looks like you do well in the heat. Do you enjoy it?


AN: I love the heat. I do much better when everything is hot and humid. So for this swim I’ll be wearing a neoprene cap mostly because my body shuts down when I’m cold. I don’t know what happened to my Canadian blood but I’ve lost it in the process of triathlon.


CW: I noticed today in T1 that your bike stand has you listed as from the United States…


AN: That’s a mistake!


CW: I took a picture of that to take to the Challenge team to correct.


AN: My race number is Canadian. It was a mistake.


CW: I thought maybe you had pulled an Alicia Kaye and changes citizenship.


AN: No. I’m still a Canadian and have residence there and ties there. Don’t worry; I’ll always be Canadian.


CW: Nice! Coming over here, where does the race fit?


AN: It’s an odd time of year. I did Chattanooga to help me qualify for next year in Kona. My new coach and I felt that if I did well in Chattanooga then I would do Bahrain. I’ve known about this race since March and it was definitely an ‘A’ race since that time. I’ve been preparing well for it. I’m not stressed over it and I just want to have a good experience and so far it’s been beyond that.


CW: Did you have this on your radar when you came 6th at Ironman Melbourne?


AN: It was after Melbourne and going through the season, after Chattanooga that I really wanted to do this. I enquired about it in June and it’s been a focus since then.


CW: Congratulations with Chattanooga. How does that set you up for Kona and the KPR points?


Credit: Michael O'Neal
Credit: Michael O’Neal

AN: The point system means I’ll have to do another Ironman most likely and a few half-distance races.


CW: After this Challenge Bahrain do you have the time to reassess where you want to go next season?


AN: Yes. It’s been a long season for me since I did Panama in February last year. I took a mid season break. My coach really wants me to take a break now. During Christmas I’ll be heading back to Canada and staying there for a while. It’s a lot easy to have an off-season when it’s cold!


CW: Especially if you’ve said you shut down when it’s cold.


AN: Exactly.


CW: Who is your coach now?


AN: Jesse Kropelnicki with QT2 systems who is out of Boston area.


CW: How has to move from training in Boulder and Bend gone?


AN: I was back and forth in the US and Canada. I would live in Boulder during the summers and live in Bend, Oregon. I met my husband a couple of years ago and he lives in Las Vegas. We reside in Vegas. We are free to travel elsewhere. We haven’t found a place that we’re absolutely in love with yet.


CW: Is your husband [Paul Duncan] here?


AN: No he’s racing in California. He’s a triathlete and coach. He’s doing well and growing a business with his athletes. We work well as a team together and it’s a lot of fun doing things together and having your own little goals too.


CW: It’s likely important that you know each other’s goals because you are both triathletes.


AN: He’s one of my main training partners. When he’s there active it makes a big difference.


CW: Changing gears and talking about the press conference, do you have a sense of who you have to look out for?


AN: Everyone who has come here has proven themselves. They are very strong. It’s a matter of looking to see what happens on race day. I’m notoriously coming out of the water in the back end and so I’m focused on a mindset that allows me to focus on the race itself and I can get a lot of time on the bike and the run. I have to see how the race pans out. Everyone on the start list is a phenomenal athlete. It’s definitely going to be a good race.


CW: You mentioned one of your strengths is the bike. It’s happened more than a few times in your career where you plow through the field on the bike. Do you have expectations of what you need to accomplish on the bike leg to meet your goals?


AN: I need to catch whoever is up in the lead by then. There are some very strong swim bikers and very strong triathletes. You’re going to have to put a lot of power into the first have of the bike for sure. I believe there will be a tailwind for some of it. With the new 20-meter draft rule for the pros, it’s going to make it a bit more fair. Definitely I’m going to have a focus on getting good power on the first half of the bike.


CW: There have been some of the best 70.3 racers racing in recent weeks in the Australian season and in Challenge Laguna Phuket. How do you see you being rested versus their being revved up in the lead up strategy for this race?


AN: I can’t speak for anyone else, I’m in a good position. I’ve had races where I’ve done back-to-back races and others where I’ve rested. When I did Panama this year that was the first race for 4-5 months. I had a really good race there. Looking at what I’ve done in the last few weeks, I feel extremely excited about Bahrain. I’m not tired at all. For me that bodes well.


CW: One of the things about his race and the 70.3 World Championships is the meeting of the ITU short course athletes and the established long course racers. Do you have a sense of where you fit into that spectrum at the moment?


AN: My goal is definitely to focus on Ironman and half-iron distance races as I’ve always done. I’ve done a few Ironmans and I love the distance. I’m definitely in between the two. As an Ironman distance athlete you can still do halfs and also some pros have shown you can still do great Olympic distance races. Once you experience all three distances you can see that they all fit in to a year if you plan correctly.


CW: In terms of your training block, after Chattanooga IM in Sept, did you go back to speed workouts?


AN: Definitely and also I went through another base phase again after I’d taken some time off to make sure I was mended up well. The last month or so we’ve hit some specific perimetres to make sure I could gear up for this.


CW: Do you think it’s inevitable that the younger ITU racers who come to the 70.3 distance like Jodie Stimpson will have the speed that carries the win?


AN: If they haven’t done any of the halfs they would lack the experience. The thing about ITU athletes is that they have a lot of experience because they race so much. You find that a lot of them look at when the Olympic year is. So for Jodie this is a great time to do some halfs. Next year she has to be focused on getting qualifying points for her Olympic event. It bodes well for them. They have the speed. If you put in the distance they have proven before they can have success at the 70.3 distance.


CW: What will it take from yourself to meet your expectations for tomorrow’s race and to allow you to come away knowing you gave it your all?


AN: I’ll make things simple – I want my legs to hurt as much as possible at the end! It comes down to giving it your best effort. There have been races where I’ve gone to the finish totally depleted and there have been other races where I haven’t. My goal in this race is to be completely depleted. I definitely want to feel satisfied and the best way to be satisfied is to be completely drained at the end.


CW: One of the big pushes here to have the race is to have the local population be inspired to participate in sport. It’s also to include more women in sport. How do you see your role in inspiring others to try sport and triathlon?


AN: I look at who inspires me. When I was younger and not in triathlon, watching the triathlon on TV inspired me. With the live coverage tomorrow it’ll be exciting and ability to have exposure for female athletes will be huge. Also, if there’s a lot of people watching the race and seeing when people are perfecting their sport, that’s what inspires me and I hope to do so for others on race day. I met up with a local lady who helped me across the free way. She offered to help me out and we talked and she is competing as her first triathlon. I gave her my email and chatted about race tips with her. It was great. She was inspired to do this race by the initiative that Challenge has offered. It was exciting to see a local woman who has a desire to do the race and that’s a significant accomplishment for the crew here.


CW: I know that you’ve always given back to the community and your races are more than about the placing or the win. How do you see your role as a professional in this manner?


AN: One of my favourite things is definitely in our local community is helping new people to the sport of triathlon. People visit my Facebook page and ask me all kinds of questions and I love that. If I had started out having access to some of the Canadian pros that would have been awesome and so I like to give back in that way to new athletes. In terms of my charities, I am in the process of working with a group where a dad lost his children to cancer. My mom and dad are both cancer survivors and so I had a close connection to this. We are planning to do some triathlons around the US together to raise awareness and funds for cancer research and treatment.


CW: How do you see the Challenge Family as a relative new option in North American and a push in 2015 with their partnership with Rev3 in terms of their mandate?


AN:  Yesterday Challenge invited the pros to have a forum and to get our feedback. It was helpful as we could chat with the CEO of the company to provide input. They have exciting ideas coming up and want to hear from us to benefit the pros and the amateur athletes. Their bread and butter business is the age grouper and they are focusing on that for sure. To have the North American races as a series race will be great next year. I know what Challenge has envisioned will take a few years and will be very comparable to other race series and cohesive. Challenge’s goal is a triathlon group that wants to embody everyone and support other races too. I’m excited and it’s a family oriented team and they want to support everyone. The support of the race up until now has been great. Even the race bags and gear bags are top class. For them to put in all the money to the benefit of the race and the athletes is a breath of fresh air. It’s going to change the sport.


CW: The last word – do you have anything you want to say to your fans back home and around the world?


AN: I hope you have a great time watching the live footage. Hopefully the two Canadians here will do everyone proud.


CW: Thank you very much.


AN: You’re welcome.