Greg Bennett won the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon in Minneapolis, the Nautica New York City Triathlon, the Accenture Chicago Triathlon, the Kaiser Permanente LA Triathlon and the Toyota Triathlon in Dallas in 2007 and earned a massive paycheck. Meet the man.
ST: Greg, you had an amazing 2007 season. Would you consider 2007 your best one yet?
Greg: 2007 was an amazing season for me and I feel very fortunate to have had the body show up as often as it did for the big events. The sport has given me numerous high's and low's over the last 16 years as a Professional triathlete and I would have to say 2007 gave me the most consistent high I've had in all those years. As a professional athlete the number 1 priority is to make an income and I couldn't have done any better than I did last year, I truly am very grateful to Life Time Fitness for their backing of the sport.
ST: After you pulled in the big money in 2007, did "old friends" all of a sudden re-appear and/or did you all of a sudden get sponsorship requests of various sorts?
Greg: Ha... classic! We did our best to support people who have supported us... we had some great parties after the final race in Dallas, back in Boulder and finally Australia. We gave out bonuses to our massage therapists in Boulder and Australia, and some close friends. All in all the people we truly care about have been nothing but supportive and we haven't felt uncomfortable about our earnings around any of them. I've had a lot more interest from other athletes in terms of coaching but that's about the only request.
ST: Once you had one race to go in the series, rumblings were that you may need to pay someone off to ensure the victory in the last one. What do you say to these conspiracy theory activists?
Greg: I can totally understand why people would have these conspiracy theories. Trust me, it crossed my mind. On the way to race start in Dallas all of the top Pro athletes sat on the bus together. Most of us just listened to music and contemplated the day ahead... I hadn't slept for about two weeks and now that the day had come I could hardly sit still. Sitting there I thought about how would you actually put in place a payment system... it occurred to me there was no way you could make it work. At what point do you say that the person or persons have beaten you and have them back off... and then if they do back off how much do you pay them?? I honestly don't think there are many athletes that would play that game... we all want to win. I believe at that race in Dallas there were too many athletes including myself with too much integrity to play the game of paying them off to win. I got off the bus at the race start knowing I would have to make a win happen and there would be no backing down. I knew I would be taking many hard punches from the very best athletes in the world and I would have to just endure the hits until they all stopped.
ST: Can you describe a typical mid season training week for you?
Greg: Ah.... actually no I don't think I can. I guess Laura and I believe in what we are doing so much and we believe it is something so special that we'd prefer to keep it to ourselves. In the very near future we look forward to share what we are doing and it hurts not being able to give our knowledge to others right now.
ST: A few years ago I saw you in Hawaii during the Ironman World Championships and then you were certain that you would stick to shorter distances. Is that still true today?
Greg: Hawaii Ironman has always been that very special event for our sport, year in and year out, it keeps the world's attention on our sport. It is the event that I watch many friends tackle every year, some with success and many with hard times... it is a very inspiring event to watch. Maybe as an amateur in the future I would consider racing Hawaii but to be honest I love the intensity of short course racing. I love the athleticism, agility, speed, strength and power of short course racing. My challenge as I get older is to try and keep this speed and power. To go longer as you get older is the natural progression and I can feel my body wanting to go there, I feel it wanting to slow down. I'm 36 and I'm loving the sport as much now as I did when I was 18, I'm enjoying trying to figure out ways to get faster not simply go longer. I will continue to try and find more speed and endurance and hopefully in doing so more wins! In saying all that I actually have had some fun in designing training programs that I would use if I decided Hawaii was a race I wanted to win.... who knows if it would work but I do think about it.
ST: What is on schedule for you for 2008?
Greg: A big focus is making sure Laura has everything she needs going into Beijing Olympics. If chosen by my federation for Beijing then obviously I will go with the intention of winning. If not chosen I will focus 100% entirely on this fantastic LTF Grand Slam series in the States. I would love to see this series really take off, I would like to see it become even better than the glory days of USA Triathlon in the late 80's and early 90's when you had the USTS Budlight series.
ST: Do you train with anyone on a regular basis?
Greg: Laura and I train every workout together. She is the perfect swim partner as we swim about the same (actually in the pool I hate to admit it but I think she is slightly better). We always warm up and cool down together for all bike and runs. Laura has actually picked up my running rhythm and we now run together with a great easy tempo.
ST: Do you consider yourself a disciplined in terms of training and nutrition?
Greg: Desire, Determination and Discipline are the only reasons I have had the success I have had in the sport. I am not oozing talent and it has taken me a long time to finally feel I have a grip on this sport. Laura and I take roles within the Team Bennett business... I plan the multi year, yearly, monthly, weekly and day to day programs and I work on the mental side of things including the visualizing for events. Laura takes care of nutrition and recovery and many of the worst tedious jobs including finances....I definitely got the better deal but don't tell her that!. In Australia we have organized our own live in massage therapist and cook, but when away from Australia I do the cooking most of the time. We have both committed everything to this sport and we both support each other 100% to help each other reach our goals, which to be honest are simply to be the very best and highest paid prize money Triathletes in the world.
ST: We just had an interesting interesting discussion about Pro income in the Slowtwitch forum. Do you have any thoughts along those lines?
Greg: Classic! The question that needs to be asked is, who are the Pro's? Just because you train and race full time does not make you a Professional athlete. To be professional you need to be making a living at what you do. Most of the young generation of "pro's" are more interested in going to the Olympics than being professional. I see a small group of us older buggers as being the Professionals... since the Olympics has come into our sport it has become more federation based funding and the young guys are happy to take the government funding and not think about making a living beyond that.
ST: What sports did you take part when you grew up?
Greg: Growing up with all brothers meant sport was always a focus. The early years were soccer and running (in Australia we have "Little athletics"... very cool!). By 11 I was playing Rugby for school in the morning and Soccer for club in the afternoon. I raced small dingy sailing crafts on Sydney Harbour every Sunday until I began Triathlon in 1986. My family is sports made, with Rugby being the most important sport in the world. I've become a mad fan of the NFL... I can see the plays, and see how the game was built off Rugby.
ST: What or who inspired you to race triathlons?
Greg: I started racing with a mate in a team race in Dec, 1985, I did the 1 km swim and 14 km run with no training and figured I could add the bike. In Feb, 1986 I did my first complete race. In the late 80's I became totally consumed by the sport and with mates I would sneak into pubs to watch the classic USTS Budlight races that were shown on SKY TV. I would watch Molina, Allen, Pigg and Tinley race and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. In April the Hawaiian IM would finally be shown down in Australia (6 months late) and we would all sit around at someone's house and live and re-live every moment.... who will ever forget the greatest race of all time the 1989 Hawaiin Ironman... no Ironman has ever come close to this one. By 1989 I was shaving my legs, I was clad in fluoro yellow race outfits with new clip-less pedal's and of course the Scott DH bars.... man I thought I was cool! I loved the people, the challenges of the sport and everything it entails to be great at it. I feel very fortunate to have had the career I have had.
ST: What is your favorite race and why?
Greg: It is hard to just pick one event. Every event has something. I love a surf swim, hilly tough bike (preferably non drafting but happy either way), a 3 loop run, a huge crowd and one that offers a large prize purse with the very best athletes in the world racing. Probably the closest to this is either the Mooloolaba World Cup, on the Sunshine Coast in Australia or Minneapolis LTF or the US Open Triathlon in Dallas.
ST: What is going on for you in terms of sponsorships?
Greg: We are very picky with our sponsors and would rather race for dollars than just take anything that comes along. There have been several companies in this past 3 months that we have had to decline simply due to the fact we will only use the very best and what will help us win more races. We have been with New Balance (Japan) for 10 years, Aquaman wetsuits for over 5 years and our swimsuit company is Kiwami. Kiwami is a company started by one of my mates I use to race with (Craig Watson from NZ) and I love the fact that Laura and I have been a big part of this company growing... we honestly believe the suit is the fastest in the world and is the reason we knocked back all other offers to stay with this one. Our amazing relationship with Orbea continues. Orbea have what we truly believe to be the best bikes we've ever ridden and the best bike company we have ever dealt with. A major sponsor for us is our chiropractor Dr. Alex Keith in Florida... he has worked on us for the last 4 years and has kept our bodies going consistently... we are very happy to hear that USAT have included him on their Olympic team for Beijing. We have new (in the last year or two) contracts with Oakley sunglasses, First Endurance supplements and we are currently in negotiations with one or two other companies. We feel very fortunate to have all their support and really hope we can reward them with more success in 2008
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Greg: As mentioned earlier I am a big fan of the NFL. Actually I prefer to watch it in Australia as they delay the game a few hours and take out all the time outs, 2 minute warnings etc etc and package it into a 1 hr show. Yes they only really play 1 hr, not the 3-4 hrs that we all put aside on a Sunday afternoon. Can't wait to see a Brett Favre, Green Bay versus Tom Brady, New England, Superbowl... sorry to all Chargers fans but it wouldn't be right that the perfect team be beaten by San Diego it should be the old man Brett Favre that gets that right! I watch a bit of surfing, rugby, running, cycling and swimming.... really anything done by the very best is always great to watch.
ST: What is your favorite and least favorite food?
Greg: Favorite is probably a good old Aussie Burger (either chicken or beef) with eggs, bacon, pineapple, beetroot, onion, tomato and lettuce. Probably least favorite is Mexican... I used to like it but I've just gone off it over time... I reckon its just too much cheese and beans.
ST: What about music, what do you like?
Greg: Fan of most music... on my iPod now is some AC/DC, Simple Minds, Bernard Fanning, the Killers, Finger Eleven and a whole bunch more. I’m not a fan of the rap, hip hop or what ever it’s called.
ST: Where do you think you’ll be in 5 years?
Greg: Where looking at a couple of options at the moment: 1) Coaching - online programs, training camps, and elite athlete squads 2) Sports commentary and media work 3) Real state, and 4) Property development. We are building a home in Boulder, Colorado and we plan to go between Boulder and Noosa, Australia. I will still be racing Triathlon to some capacity and probably getting into surfing, mountain biking, skiing and various other sports I've put on hold for the last 20 years while I've been committed to this sport.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Greg: I am very much a planner and find it difficult to get much done unless I am following a plan I have set for myself.... I feel very misdirected and useless without one. I have been writing goals since before I was 10 (my dad would have the whole family work on these over Christmas and we would talk about them as a family)... like, "this year I'll work hard and pass the end of year spelling, I'll train hard and make the under 11 A's for soccer... etc etc". Of course we did not always reach our goals, hence my poor spelling and grammar now (actually Laura had to just re-do all these answers for me and fix the grammar and spelling!). But, it gave me an understanding early that it's not the goal that's so important it's the path a goal gives you that's important. We also had to always practice our public speaking... my dad is a brilliant speaker and my brother, and I have tried to follow in his foot steps.
Photos courtesy of richcruse.com