Catching Up with Superstar Klodian Mitri

The best thing about our sport is the people. Because of what I do for a living, I get the chance to meet a lot of them. Little did I know that Klodian Mitri lives about 20 min from my house. Klod (that's what I call him) is someone that makes our sport better. He takes the time to share his talents, knowledge base, and passion for the sport with anyone that asks. I felt like more people should hear his story and some of his advice. So I spent the day with him and then sent him some questions and he took the time to answer them. You can follow his adventures here.

Slowtwitch: Do us all a favor and Pronounce your name.
Klodian: Haha, sure thing. Kuh-Loh-Dee-An. Mee-tree. The best way to remember how to pronounce my name is “Nickelodeon” without the “Nick'' part. It’s an interesting name, and I like it. It’s unique. It is of Albanian origin. I was born and raised, and my entire family emigrated to the US, specifically the Chicago suburbs, in the late 90s. Many people think my last name is Gosling as I am often mistaken for Ryan Gosling, but it’s actually Mitri. No relation to Ryan Gosling.

Slowtwitch: You just raced the big oval track in Florida; how was Daytona? Did you like the big circle better than a regular race course?
Klodian: Challenge Daytona was a very last minute thing. Luckily my wife and coach were both supportive of it. From a wife’s perspective, it was a downer seeing how we were supposed to be recovering in Fiji after 70.3 Worlds in Taupo. Florida didn’t sound as appealing to her, so my wife decided to let me have a quick boys’ trip before the holidays. Plus, with two young kids, we thought we would be extra cautious with limiting exposure points.

From a coaching perspective, Jon Fecik has been one of the most patient people I have ever worked with. With 2020 being what it was, if I texted him on a Thursday about a half-marathon on a random Saturday, he was always supportive and would figure out how to make it work within the training build for a race that was most likely to get canceled. Daytona was the big show, and he was able to put together what I considered a perfect 6-week plan to fine-tune the engine. The global pandemic drew something out of me I didn’t know I was capable of.

If 2020 taught me anything, any opportunity is something to be grateful for… and I wasn’t going to take this chance to race hard for granted.

And racing on a track sounded cool, but it wasn't. After the first lap, I had to get out of aero the majority of the time to try to get around people. Then, once off the track, there were about 50 turns before we had a good out and back section. The first half of the out and back was a headwind, so I figured the way back would be a tailwind, but that wasn’t the case. That’s Florida for you.

Other than that, it was a great race. It was definitely a championship-caliber race. Some of the top US athletes showed up with clearly lots of pent up energy from not racing. It was an amazing feeling to finally really race a 70.3. My last real 70.3 was the 2018 70.3 world champs in South Africa, and then I spent most of 2019 with a stress fracture with only Kona as my main race. 2020 I just put my head down and waited patiently to race. Felt good to execute a race I knew I was capable of and go 3:58 in such a stacked field. I was about 1 minute off from the expected times I communicated to my coach. I just happened to find an extra gear on race day to run a 1:14 off the bike and try to close that gap to Eric Engel.

Slowtwitch: You have a pretty interesting view on time management. Tell us about that.
Klodian: Coming from a management consulting background, big firms always like to pitch that ‘work/life balance philosophy’ as a way of making employees think that they aren’t overworked. Personally, I thrive off that demanding environment and have been in that capacity for eight years now. The demanding nature of those firms keeps me engaged. I am very detail-oriented and like to set some schedule; however, I have to be very flexible because you never know what comes up on a typical day with the family. They are my favorite part of every day, so I will always prioritize them first.

Personally, I hate the cliche of ‘work/life balance’ - I believe in giving everything 100%. Every moment of my day is intentional; when I’m focusing on my family, I’m 100% a dad and a husband, and when I’m an athlete, I’m 100% dedicated to that specific workout. Passion is energy. I feed off the power that comes focusing on what excites me. I’ve always wanted to be a husband and dad, and those things excite me. I lucked out, marrying my best friend. And luckily, she supports my dreams to no end.

Slowtwitch: It seems like you have been on a couple of different teams. What's been the difference between Every Man Jack and the Suunto Team?
Klodian: I don’t have a lot to comment on EMJ as that didn’t work out, but there are still many on the team that I respect as athletes, fathers, husbands, etc., but the Suunto Elite team has some sort of vibe that cannot be compared. When I started triathlon 5 years ago, I never thought I would be deserving of sharing a ‘jersey’ with the likes of Ryan and Jacqui Giuliano, DJ Snyder, Samantha Mazer, Elyse Gallegos, or Tim Hola. You can’t tell me hearing those names doesn’t make you want to sack up and race hard. Ryan especially was a local Chicago hero dominating running and triathlon events. If I could become half the athlete he is, I would consider that a success. Plus, at camp this past March, I got exposed to the ultra running world. There aren’t many elite teams that combine so many talented individuals under one umbrella. That’s the philosophy that Suunto as a brand is built on finding adventure and always exploring one’s unlimited talents.

Slowtwitch: You have two kids, right? Which one is your favorite? Everyone has a favorite
Klodian: Yep, two kids, and they are 13 months apart. Adeline just turned 3, and Oliver just turned 2. They are awesome kids and unique in their own ways. They are both my favorite; however, I know what you are hinting at, and a girl will always have a special place in my heart.

Slowtwitch: Does your wife train with you at all?
Klodian: Being an awesome mom will always be the most challenging job in the world. I hope everyone working at home with COVID can finally realize the daily struggle, making them appreciate their spouses just a little bit more. Plus, having two kids back to back was incredibly challenging to her body. She recently did a local half marathon with me on Halloween and surprised herself by crushing her goal. I was incredibly proud of her. After finishing, I ran back and ran the second half with her and played DJ. She’s an amazing person and inspires me daily.

Slowtwitch: Your wife says you're learning how to cook steak. Got any tips for cooking a good steak?
Klodian: Pan sear on cast iron, then finishes in the oven. Lots of butter. And if you think you have enough butter, you don’t, add more.

Slowtwitch:One of the most commonly asked questions we ask ourselves. How do you find a balance between your crazy hobby and your work and family?
Klodian: I try to set expectations with my wife during the offseason with what we want to do during the year with the kids/as a family, then I plan appropriately. I communicate these to my coach Jon regularly, and he plans my training as needed. I put my full trust in him, and whatever I see in TP, I’ll do it without question. His big thing is about doing the right things at the right time, and clearly, it’s been working. Honestly, without a coach, I would probably overdo it. Sitting still is hard for me.

I try to get a lot done early in the morning and during the kid’s nap time. I make sure always to dedicate my evenings to my family.

Slowtwitch: Favorite all-time race?
Klodian: Any race that isn’t Kona. Probably cause I can’t figure out how to have a good race there; I have a feeling 70.3 Worlds St George next year will be my favorite.

Slowtwitch:You're not a Zwift user, are you? You have the setup for it. Can we convert you at all?
Klodian: I spend enough money on this sport. I can’t justify another expense to my wife. Plus, during my hard indoor sessions, I love just entering the hurt locker, blacking out with some of Taylor Swift’s classics just blasting hard.

Plus, I lucked out. We moved to Utah before the quarantine hit, and I’ve been lucky to make some really good friends that make even better training partners. Nate Zarlengo especially; he has been a huge asset to my training this year. He’s always willing to jump into any workout, no questions asked, and suffer with me. He’s an amazing athlete and just an amazing dude in general. Goals for 2021?
Klodain: I’m going all-in for 70.3 worlds in St. George. Having it as a “home town” race, I plan on making as many trips as I can to know the course like the back of my hands. You can’t miss a layup in the playoff—I plan on going all in for that race.

Slowtwitch: Go Pro or Stay in the Age Group Ranks? Isn't that the question?
Klodian: The age-old question. I have a lot to learn still and a lot of weaknesses to work on. Luckily I have a lot of great mentors that are either very strong professionals, new elites, or AG legends. I don’t want to be too eager. I want to make sure I really earn my spot and can actually be competitive. Sometimes I think it can be harder to qualify for Kona than an elite license.

Slowtwitch:Last question, on a scale of 1 to 10, how big of a Taylor Swift fan are you?
Klodain: I am Taylor Swift’s biggest fan. Without a doubt. If someone can please have her reply to my DMs, it would be greatly appreciated.