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His silver medal performance behind Javier Gomez at Ironman 70.3 Worlds would be THE career highlight for many.
So should the man who has been struggling to crack the top 10 at WTS Olympic distance races pack up and focus on 70.3 races where is already at the top? Kanute says no.
Needing a faster run in WTS and 70.3 races, Kanute recognizes that that this is no time to simply ramp up the mileage and focus on 70.3 racing. Taking gold as part of the U.S. Mixed Relay World Championship in 2016 - and the inclusion of this event in the 2020 Olympics - gives him encouragement to keep up a variety of distances as the path to a longer, better career.
Slowtwitch: How did you progress so fast in 70.3 racing?
Ben Kanute: I think that I have made big improvements this year overall as an athlete. My coach Jim Vance and I have found a rhythm that has been getting results. I think that the ITU races were a little lackluster in how I finished, but the way I executed was spot on. We did a fairly good job at balancing the wide range of distances, and my run is slowly but surely improving. It does not show as much in the half distance, but it does quite a bit in ITU. I think I will benefit in the long run (70.3 and non-draft) from trying to perform well at the ITU races because it will force me to supplement my swim/bike combo with a good run.
ST: Do you think your 70.3 training and racing will benefit your WTS racing more? Or will your WTS racing benefit your 70.3 racing more?
Ben: I think they complement each other well. The strength in 70.3s helps at the end of the ITU races and the foot speed and intensity gives me a bit of an edge in 70.3s. I did some conjugate sequencing this year where we cycled a block starting with about a week of strength/base, then a week of intensity, and then some rest. I responded to this well, and we will take what we learned this year to apply it to training and preparing more specifically for next year.
ST: Seeing how you kamikaze the swim and bike on the WTS circuit and ride up front at races like the Olympics, how did you develop such a strong swim and bike?
Ben: I grew up swimming on a club team, so I got a lot of yardage and practice racing in the swim. I think swimming builds the engine, and that transferred over into biking well. Growing up, those tended to be my two favorites as well, so that helped. These two you can really put some progress on it at a young age. I think the years of work started to pay off as I developed.
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ST: What did Jim Vance do to prepare you for a career breakthrough performance at Chattanooga?
Ben: We put in a good training block beforehand and understood what I was capable of going into the race. Chattanooga was not special in any way where I performed above my process goals. I nailed the swim effort and the bike was right where we planned to be. My run [1:16:24] was just about there too, based on what I was training. It was a breakthrough because I cleanly executed the plan and took advantage of the situations during the race. Those guys sitting up deciding not to push helped put me on the podium and not a couple spots off.
ST: What did he do to create a belief that you could win this race against the likes of Javier Gomez, Tim Don, Sebastian Kienle, et al?
Ben: Consistent training. I put in the time and knew my zones and what I could hold. I knew it would at least challenge those guys. I have massive respect for all of those names and the guys who were trying to run me down. However, I step onto every start line with a plan to win and/or maximize my place. This was one of those days that my plan just happened to give me an amazing outcome. There was a chance I executed perfectly and I would walk away with 6th, and that is why I have process goals along with outcome goals; to define success when the outcome may not be what you want.
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ST: When you got out of the swim just ahead of Javier Gomez, what was your plan to deal with him on the bike? What were your watts goals in this first section?
Ben: I wanted to push hard to the top of Lookout Mountain. I broke it down. The first 5 miles are essentially flat to the base. I pushed about 350 or 360, right at the top of my half Ironman watts. Then on the climb I brought them up. I can ride 400 for 10 to 15 min, especially when rested. The actual climb is about 1.5 miles of steep and I had a 55 seconds lead on Gomez. After that there was a break, then it kicks up again and might stair step a bit, so there were areas to recover and catch my breath real quick. It wasn't a constant 400 watt effort. From the top there were some descents to get a few minutes of recovery, and I had enough training data to know I could sustain that effort and then recover on the descent.
ST: Knowing you have often swim and ride with the leaders at WTS races until the run, how much of a lead did you think might be enough to have a shot at the win?
Ben: I knew I could run 1:14 to 1:16. I wasn't sure how much, but when I heard I had a 3:50 lead at T2, I knew I had a real shot. But Gomez was just too good.
ST: How important was it to have a challenging hill early on the bike leg? On a flat course, could you have done as much damage?
Ben: I think having a hill anywhere on the course would be good. On a flat course the group starts to roll better than someone solo, but even on the flat part on the way into town in Chattanooga I didn't lose much time.
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ST: When you hit the line, what did you feel?
Ben: Still trying to find the words. It was amazing. I think I wore my emotions on my sleeve in that finish chute.
ST: What did Gomez and Don say to you?
Ben: They were all class. They congratulated me and mentioned some stuff about the race. Most of that is a blur.
ST: What made the difference?
Ben: I had a good training camp, a good support crew at the race, a solid plan that I executed, and I think the race played out in my favor. Pretty much a perfect day.
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ST: What is in your future? Does your 2016 Mixed Team World Championship gold medal make that event at the Olympics look brightest to you?
Ben: Hopefully! We will see exactly what is in store, but I know I am racing everything from super sprint MTR races to 70.3 and everything in between. I love the variety! I love the relay too because it is one of the few times in triathlon where you have a real team effort. I also get pretty excited about the short distance!
ST: I see you had an understandable letdown at the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam. I hear you were invited to round 2 of the Super League in Jersey and also to the third year at Island House. Good luck in those sprint distance clashes!