21-year old Aussie Pro Sam Douglas has New York City as his current training base and he will be there most of the summer. Douglas finished 2nd to Joe Gambles at 70.3 Syracuse and is now getting ready for Rev3 Maine.
Slowtwitch: Thanks for your time Sam.
Sam Douglas: No worries, its my pleasure to be interviewing with Slowtwitch!
ST: How is life in the Big Apple?
Sam: The Big Apple is crazy, there is always something going on and everyone is in a hurry. It’s an insane city at times but I love it. Training here has been a great experience. Prior to moving here, I never thought someone could train to race competitively in New York, but it definitely can be done and if I can train here I think I can now train pretty much anywhere.
ST: It has been a few months now that you have lived there, are you feeling more at home?
Sam: Home for me is Cronulla Beach Sydney, Australia, and for those who don’t know it’s also home to Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack, and once Greg Welch just to drop a few names. So you could say it’s a Triathlon Mecca. NYC however, is the complete polar opposite of this, but I am starting to embrace it as my home and settling in nicely amongst the chaos. To give you a quick example of how different these two are in terms of triathlon training and lifestyle; back home I would pay $5 for pool entry. Here the average cost of a Manhattan pool is $35 per swim!
ST: How did you connect with Ken?
Sam: I met Ken Rideout through the New York Athletic Club. Ken is on the Triathlon Committee at The Club and is an all round awesome guy. The NYAC have been kind enough to give me access to their pool and gym while I’m here via a Privilege Card Membership. The Club is unlike anything I have ever seen before and my swim and bank balance would be suffering without them! As for Ken, he has showed me pretty much everything I need to know about NYC. Ken and I do a lot of training sessions together and he has helped me survive this sometime chaotic city. I really thank him for that.
ST: Most folks I think imagine terrible training conditions in NYC, but clearly there is more to NY than the Rockefeller Center Plaza.
Sam: I hear there is a green statue lady and some sort of empire tower around too! I felt the same way too, but moving here with my girlfriend has completely changed my perspective on the whole city. In the City that never sleeps, crowds seem inescapable but there really are places you can get away and get some solid sessions done. I love running in Central Park through the Bridal Path, which is a dirt path around the entire park, which spans for kilometers. Here is where I also train with the NYAC guys, who are some of the Country’s best middle and long-distance runners. In terms of riding it is more than just loops of the Park. I ride out of Manhattan and over the George Washington Bridge into Jersey. It blew my mind the first time I rode over there because I too held that notion of terrible training, and was so impressed by the open roads and sprawling greenery that existed only 10 miles out of the City.
ST: Was 70.3 Syracuse your first race in the USA this year?
Sam: No, I arrived in The States in early April and raced St. Anthony’s 5150 in Florida against a stellar field, from there I flew across to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands to take a shot at my first 70.3 event, where I unfortunately flatted with 13 miles to go on the bike. From there I returned to a now warmer NYC and raced Quassy Rev3 70.3 in Connecticut, then Syracuse 70.3 and I placed 2nd. Most recently, I raced the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon in my new home and placed 5th.
ST: At Syracuse did it feel a bit like racing at home in Australia with such an Aussie podium?
Sam: It was an Aussie domination that day, so I suppose it did feel like racing at home! The conditions were just as hot as back home, and both Joe and Johnny raced really well in the conditions.
ST: Did the race go as you imagined?
Sam: It’s not very often I can say that a race went exactly to plan, but this one was pretty close. I wanted to exit the swim in first place and try and hold off Gambles. I knew he would ride strong and eventually catch me, so I planned to hold strong when Joe came around which was about 13 miles in. From there I sat legal and rode steady. Getting off the bike my legs were sore and the run course was brutal, but I had a nice 10-minute gap between myself and John Polson (fellow Aussie), which I wanted because I know Johnny has a solid run leg. I held my pace and finished in 2nd place for my third attempt at 70.3 racing.
ST: You spent a few days in Lake Placid recently and rumor has it that you might have been trying out for a winter sport there. Are your legs powerful enough to push a bobsled?
Sam: Haha! I don’t think so, those guys and girls resemble track sprinters. I think I’d rather be up the front steering!
ST: Well, everyone has to push, including the pilot.
Sam: This shows my knowledge of winter sports! Looks like I’ll be sticking with triathlon!
ST: Well, what did you do in Lake Placid?
Sam: Lake Placid was a training camp for both Ken and I with Jimmy Riccitello. Ken has Ironman Canada in 3 weeks and I have Rev3 Maine. The place is amazing for training, we caught the back end of the Ironman on Sunday for some inspiration, and started training on Monday morning with a climb up the 9 mile and 10% Mt Whiteface. We mainly rode up there but we also had a swim in the beautiful lake and squeezed in some bowling in our spare time. All up I think we covered around 250 miles on the bike in 3 days.
ST: So who among you three is the best bowler?
Sam: Well Ken had the spin technique down pat, whereas I went for the aggressive straight down the line approach with as much force as possible. But I think Ken may have beaten me. Jimmy was smart enough to sit it out – a very smart choice after a 120 mile ride!
ST: You mentioned Rev3 Maine. Why that specific race, and how do you choose the events you do?
Sam: I’m looking forward to Rev3 Maine. I chose Maine because it’s not too far from NY and travel will be cheap, plus I enjoy the Rev3 series. In terms of choosing events, there really has been no method or structure. This year has been a test in a way to experience the American tri circuit, to test a few different series and race structures, and to see how I fare. I also wanted to get the feel of 70.3 racing, and not to mention the travel that comes with it! Next year will be more structured and I’ll pick a certain series and stick with it.
ST: How long do you get to stay in the States?
Sam: I’ll be here until October 11th but possibly longer as I’m currently going through the DV Lottery process so I can receive permanent residency. So we will see what happens next. Fingers crossed!
ST: Is it difficult to be away from Australia for such a long time at this relatively young age?
Sam: I thought it would be, but I am very lucky to have an amazing girlfriend who looks after me so that makes things a lot easier! It’s been an awesome experience for a 21 year old who used to live at home in a small beach town, to move to New York City and pursue his dreams. I do miss my family and mates back home, oh and the beach! But I’ve found a really good network over here and am constantly surrounded by a great bunch of people - which has made the move easier.
ST: What has surprised you the most about the American culture?
Sam: Good question! Most things are similar to home, but what surprised me most would be the way Americans embrace you as one of their own. I’ve had some of the best experiences through homestays in meeting people who are willing to give you a helping hand. Perfect examples of this include Amanda and Rick Warehime, who hosted me in St. Croix, Bryan McGuire who hosted my Florida homestay and Caroline Kiper who organized it, as well as the Donovan brothers who drove me to and from the Syracuse 70.3. Edwin at Talent Cycles NYC who services my bike, Lars Finanger who lends me his awesome Mavic CXR80s, Ken and all of his help… Sorry, I know this isn’t the Oscars and I’m starting to sound like a freeloader here, but you need all the help you can get and I appreciate every little bit!
ST: Have you discovered any food items here that you are especially enjoy?
Sam: Yes! We don’t have Peanut Butter M&M’s back home so they have been my weakness over here. Don’t let me near a large bag of those; I’ll devour it in minutes!
ST: Where are you in terms of sponsors?
Sam: I’ve been signed with PowerBar Team Elite since I went pro back in Australia, and am happy to have their support over here in the US with the longer events. The New York Athletic Club also takes care of my swim and run training needs as mentioned above. More recently BlueSeventy supplied me with some cool gear, including two awesome Helix wetsuits. I’m currently training and racing on a TT bike only, so I’m definitely looking for a bike and wheel sponsor. Also, I moved here from Australia with only 1 suitcase (my bike box was considered my 2nd) which could only fit so many pairs of shoes and run shorts; so I’m on the lookout for apparel and shoes too.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Sam: I have competed in triathlon for 8 years. I am also an accredited Triathlon Coach with a Diploma in Sports Development, and am half way through a Bachelor of Education with the University of Sydney. Follow my adventures and stories on samdouglastri.wordpress.com or @samdougo91 on Twitter.
Thanks Herbert, for this interview, and for helping young professional athletes like me to get their names out there via Slowtwitch.
ST: It is my pleasure.