Meet Paul Tichelaar

Paul Tichelaar just won the 2008 Desert Classic Duathlon and is focusing now to qualify for the Canadian Olympic Team. We wanted to know more about this ITU triathlete.

ST: Paul, you just beat a great field at the 2008 Desert Classic Duathlon. You must be very happy with this kind of 2008 season start?

Paul: I am really excited about the result. I was hoping to get off to a great start to the 2008 season and this race was my first really big effort and first test. I've made a lot of changes to my training since last season. I have a new coach, Joel Filliol, I quit my job as an electrical engineer to train full time, I've lost weight, and I am now very focused and dedicated to triathlon. It is good to see these changes paying off. The week before the race I called Simon Whitfield out on my blog telling him I was going to give him a run for his money. I’ve never beaten him in a race and I think a lot of that is mental. For the first time I believed I could beat him and that made all the difference.

ST: Can you tell us what else is on your 2008 schedule?

Paul: I'm in Flagstaff, Arizona for the next 4 weeks at a high altitude training camp with Simon, Jordan Rapp, and the rest of the BAMF group. From here I will fly to Australia and then New Zealand for the first 2 ITU World Cup races. I'll have one more short training camp in Flagstaff before racing the Madrid World Cup May 26th and then prepping for ITU World Championships in Vancouver on June 8th. Vancouver is the big race of the year for me as it is the last qualifying race for the Canadian Olympic team. The rest of my season is up in the air as it will depend on whether I make the team or not. I will hopefully be racing in Beijing August 19th before heading home to Edmonton for a break and my wedding on September 13th. The later part of the season is also not planned yet as it will depend on how the early season progresses.

ST: You mentioned Team BAMF, can you tell us more about it?

Paul: The group is coached by Joel Filliol and is based in Victoria. The core athletes are Simon Whitfield, Colin Jenkins, Kyle Jones, Andrew McCartney, Jordan Rapp and Kirsten Sweetland. Since I don't live in the same city, I'm a fringe BAMF athlete and I have been joining them at National Team training camps this year. There are a few other part time BAMF athletes out there. It's not an official group name, just something we have fun with.

ST: What does a typical mid season workout week look like for you?

Paul: 6 swims (25-30km), 4 bikes (250 – 350km), and 5 runs (70-80km). 20 – 25 hours total. I’m usually training twice a day with a triple once or twice a week. I have a few key workouts that I focus on during the week. The rest are endurance, activation or recovery workouts. I get a day off every 3 weeks or so.

ST: What do you do to motivate yourself after a crappy race or workout?

Paul: I don't have crappy workouts or races; what are you talking about??? A bad race IS motivation for me. When I fail at a race, like I did at the Beijing World Cup last year where I came out of the water last and missed all of the packs and ended up 55th, I want to get better. I realize I have done something wrong in my preparation and make sure that I get it right the next time. In the case of the Beijing World Cup last year, that failure (my biggest failure in any race) made me very determined in training. I came back at the next World Cup race in Cancun and finished 2nd, my best ever performance. Afterwards, I went on to change coaches, lose weight, and quit my job to train full time.

ST: Tell us how you spend the off-season.

Paul: Last year my off-season was 3 weeks in November. I worked 30 hours a week for Magna IV Engineering as I have been doing the past 2 years. I swam and ran a couple of times, caught up with friends and enjoyed a few beers. By December 1st I was back to training and counting down my last 23 days of work before Christmas holidays and the start of my professional triathlon career. I had one more week off for Christmas where I went downhill and cross country skiing with my girlfriend, Lindsay and asked her to marry me.

ST: What is your athletic background?

Paul: I started swimming competitively when I was 10 years old and I specialized in the 1500 m freestyle. By the time I was 15 in 1997, I was sick of the pool and looking for something new. A neighbor of mine was a cyclist and I had a crush on his daughter so I got my parents to buy me a bike and I took up cycling. I found out about triathlon in 1998 and decided to give it a try because it consisted of the three sports that I was good at. I competed in local races until 2001 when the ITU World Championships were hosted in my hometown of Edmonton. I raced as a Junior and surprised myself with a 5th place finish (I beat Sven Riederer (2004 Olympic bronze medallist) and Terenzo Bozzone). That result made me believe I may have a future in professional triathlon and I started to think about the sport as more than a hobby. I have been steadily improving since then and am now getting closer to top of the sport.

ST: So if your neighbor's daughter had been a ballet dancer instead of a cyclist, would we see you today in ballet slippers instead?

Paul: I don't think embarrassing yourself in ballet slippers and a tutu has been known to attract members of the female sex. I wouldn't say I am strong at 'skill sports' (aside from swimming since I picked it up when I was young). Also, I don't dance unless I am good and drunk and I don't think they let you into ballet school intoxicated. I probably would have tried a different angle. Like asking her out directly instead of beating around the bush.

ST: Can you share your nickname with our readers?

Paul: Tich (pronounced Tish)

ST: Have you had help with your bike fit?

Paul: I had help with my bike fit about 5 years ago. Now when I get a new bike I usually just try to make fit about the same as the old one. When I take up non-drafting racing I will get help finding a good aero position but for the draft-legal racing I do now I'm happy as long as I'm comfortable.

ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?

Paul: I'm really happy with my sponsors for this year. I've got all of the best equipment from Cervelo, Saucony, 2XU and WayPastFast along with corporate support from Canaccord Capital and Magna IV Engineering. The national team funding from Triathlon Canada is pretty good especially since Teck Cominco signed on as title sponsor this year. The athlete assistance program from the Canadian Government for Olympic sports is what really makes being a pro on the ITU circuit possible for me. Because I have made the standard I am eligible for a monthly stipend of $1500 for living expenses. I'm making enough to keep going in the sport. As my results improve and my exposure goes up, the rest will follow. By the time I retire I hope that the triathlon community can properly pronounce my last name and mention it when they talk about the triathlon legends.

ST: Do you have a favorite race?

Paul: My favorite race is the Fast Triathlon super-sprint in Brazil. It is three 15 minute triathlons (approx. 300m swim, 6km bike, 1.5km run) raced back to back with 15 minutes rest in between each race. The format is a lot of fun because everything happens so fast. Over the years I’ve raced against guys like Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmel, Matt Reid, and Andy Potts. Because I've got a lot of natural speed I was able to give those guys a run for their money even when I was younger.

ST: Can you tell us about your family?

Paul: I grew up in the small town of Beaumont, Alberta with my parents and older sister. My dad is an electrical engineer and my mom is a librarian. My parents moved to Calgary when I was in University and my sister moved to Lethbridge. They are within driving distance of where I live in Edmonton so I see them several times a year. My sister is married and made me an Uncle last October with her adorable baby, Sean.

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Paul: I watch Tour de France videos when I ride my wind trainer but I don’t think that counts.

ST: How many bikes might we find at your house if we came by and looked?

Paul: My apartment is only 550 sq. ft. so I have to keep my equipment collection to a minimum. I have a cyclocross bike and a Cervelo Soloist. When I do more non-drafting races I will have to add a TT bike and more race wheels. Hopefully by then I will be in a bigger place. My dream in life is to own a garage.

ST: Talking about wanting a garage, do you sometimes envy folks who have "real jobs" with "real income"?

Paul: It's not that I envy other people with real jobs. My friends usually envy my job as a triathlete. It's just that I wonder if I wouldn't also be happy with a "real job". It certainly would be easier than what I am doing now. Some of the guys in the sport do it to avoid having a "real job" (along with other motivators as well), I do it just because I want to be great at something. I'm not afraid of 40 hrs at a desk and in fact I'm looking forward to it when I am done with racing.

I would prefer if I could buy a house with a garage while racing triathlon. Maybe once the guys who run the Tri-Dubai Team see this article, they will sign me up and buy me a house.

ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?

Paul: About the only thing I dislike is the gristle on a bad steak. If something tastes bad, I usually assume it is healthy and I like eating healthy food. I try to get about 75% of my daily calories from 'real nutritious food' and the rest is usually a combination of sports drinks, bars, chocolate, donuts and coffee. I like ice cream when it is in a cone but my favorite is donuts and coffee together before a bike ride (or in the middle of one).

ST: What about music? What do you listen to?

Paul: I usually listen to modern rock (Arcade Fire, Hot Hot Heat, Billy Talent, White Stripes, etc.) but I am a sucker for old country (Garth Brooks, Paul Brandt, Tim McGraw, etc.) and sappy girly music. My favorite artists of the moment are Missy Higgins (from Australia) and U2. I train with music occasionally and I just bought my first ipod last week.

ST: Can you tell us what the last book was you have read?

Paul: I am currently reading 'Watership Down' by Richard Adams, before that I read 'A Widow for One Year' by John Irving. My two all time favorites are 'The Power of One' by Bryce Courtney and 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving.

ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Paul: 5 years from now I will either be an electrical engineer with a wife, two kids, a dog and a cat OR a professional triathlete and part-owner of a triathlon store with a wife, one kid and a cat.

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