British age grouper Nick Baldwin is known as Sesel in our forum and in 2013 we will see him compete in the Pro category. The nomadic Baldwin spent a good amount of time this year in North America, England and the Seychelles and 2013 does not appear to be very different.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time.
Nick: It’s a pleasure. As a long time Slowtwitch reader and forum contributor, it’s great to have the chance to chat with you.
ST: How long were you on the road this most recent outing?
Nick: I returned to the UK a few weeks ago having been away for five months. After years of dreaming about training and racing in the US, I decided to make it happen and headed out there with a friend. Like most international athletes we based ourselves in Boulder, where we stayed for almost three months in preparation for the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. From there we flew to Hawaii for 5 weeks on the Big Island. With Kona being the final race of the season, I enjoyed some down time in Arizona and started to put the plans in motion for 2013.
ST: Was your stay in Boulder everything you imagined?
Nick: Boulder seems to be the go-to place for triathletes and having heard so many good things my expectations were high. I’m already planning my return next summer - which shows how much I enjoyed it. The training options there were great, particularly the network of running trails as there are so many options that you never get bored of the same routes. I can see how some might find Boulder a bit ‘full on’, but not everything has to revolve around swim-bike-run all the time - there are plenty of things to do there outside of training.
ST: Word has it you got a bit of a temperature shock upon your return to the UK.
Nick: After 10 weeks in Hawaii and Arizona I wasn’t even remotely prepared for the British winter. I personally don’t believe that enduring adverse conditions toughens you up, in fact I find it demotivating and the quality of training suffers. Some athletes thrive on training in subzero temperatures and relentless rain, but I’m much happier in the sun.
ST: Well, Northern Europe in December is a far cry from Arizona and Hawaii in terms of weather, but it does have some other advantages.
Nick: I do love Europe, in particular France. Whilst at university I spent a year studying just outside Paris, spending most of my free time exploring the surrounding areas on my bike. Earlier this year I trained at Les Stables triathlon camp in the south west of France, which offered a great training environment and amazing cycling routes. Having enjoyed it so much, I’ll return next spring to prepare for the summer of racing.
ST: Do you enjoy French food in general?
Nick: I must admit to being a bit of a foodie and I love French cheeses and pastries. Nobody does pastries like the French! When I lived there I’d often stop at la boulangerie on the way back from a long ride and choose something. After my summer in the US – and in particular my stay in Arizona – I had my first authentic Mexican experience, which unfortunately isn’t so popular in the UK or the Seychelles, so I’ll have to wait a while to get a good burrito again!
ST: What are your plans for the holidays?
Nick: I seem to alternate where I spend the holidays. Last year I was in the Seychelles, so this year I’m in South Wales, UK. I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with the family, which is rare as I’m away for so much of the year. It’s important to keep things ticking over in training, but at the same time I allow myself a bit more leeway to enjoy this time of year.
ST: Is there a specific Christmas tradition your family observes?
Nick: We always have a traditional Christmas lunch and the day generally revolves around eating far too much. Mince pies and Christmas pudding are a favorite here in the UK, which is something you’re missing out on in the US!
ST: Where is your 2012 Kona Umeke bowl as we speak?
Nick: It’s adorning the bedside table. Whilst the Umeke bowl is a wonderful reminder of my achievement in Kona, the real prize is the experience of walking on stage alongside some of the best athletes in the world. All the sacrifices you make and the pain you put yourself through in training suddenly become worth it for that short moment which you remember forever.
ST: You ended up second in 18-24 with a 9:13:39 time, about 5 minutes quicker than in 2011. Did you know that Matt Burton was ahead of you again?
Nick: Last year I finished 2nd behind Matt and like last year I was keeping tabs on him all day. As expected he led off the bike, then at the turnaround point in the Energy Lab his lead had grown to ten minutes and he looked strong, at which point I knew it was game over. The Ironman World Championship age group win was my biggest motivation in recent years, so naturally there’s a slight air of disappointment in not achieving that goal. That being said, I’m very proud to come away with two consecutive 2nd place finishes in Kona.
ST: Most folks actually went slower this year in Kona - so being able to improve must feel pretty good.
Nick: Getting hung up on a finish time can be dangerous, especially for a race like Kona where conditions can be so volatile. If you’re fixated on a certain time it can become demoralizing if you get behind the eight ball, so my primary goal is to execute the race plan and let time take care of itself. I managed to sneak under the hour for the swim and on the bike my average power was 13% higher than in 2011, yet I rode 2 minutes slower, indicating just how tough the conditions were. The run is where I had (and still have) the most room for improvement, and despite a mini detonation in the last 7 miles I finished with a 3:09 marathon for a 9 minute run PB.
ST: Who is your coach?
Nick: I’ve been working with Brian Stover of Accelerate 3 Coaching since the start of 2012, before which I was self-coached. This year’s training was quite different to what I’ve done in the past and it seemed to work well. It was great to spend some time with him in Tucson recently and discuss future plans. 2013 is set to be an exciting year!
ST: You have had a very busy year. Is there any race result that particularly sticks out?
Nick: The season started well with the age-group win and at Abu Dhabi, although there was a setback in May when I was hit by a car on a training ride and separated my shoulder which inhibited my swimming this season. Without a doubt, the highlight has to be the age-group win at the 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas. Winning a World Championship title was beyond special and an accomplishment I’ll always be proud of. Equally pleasing has been the consistency of my results, particularly finishing 35th and 40th overall at Las Vegas and Kona respectively.
ST: You mentioned that you are planning to go to the Seychelles in the New Year. How long will you stay there?
Nick: I’ll be there for just over 2 months to prepare for the Abu Dhabi Triathlon in March. The swimming facilities there are fantastic, with an outdoor Olympic and 25m pool, countless beautiful beaches for ocean swimming as well as two athletics stadiums with running tracks. Training there isn’t without its challenges though, as the main island (Mahé) is only 59 square miles, making it difficult to do the long rides needed for Ironman. The solution is the indoor trainer, which is tough when it’s 90 degrees and 90% humidity.
ST: That sounds like fun. Are you sure you wouldn't rather ride outside back in the UK? After all you could still do indoor training there.
Nick: A lot of the Europeans seem to spend the winter months either in the Southern Hemisphere or in places like Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, where the weather is more dependable. Looking ahead that may be something to consider, as I’d much rather be able to train outside all year round. There are compromises with any location, but if competing at a high level you want to minimize them to be able to get the best out of yourself.
ST: You actually were born and raised in the UK but have a big connection to the Seychelles. Can you explain?
Nick: My mother is Seychelloise and my father is English. Growing up we lived in both the UK and the Seychelles, two places which couldn’t be more different from one another. Looking back it was a unique upbringing and I have some wonderful childhood memories from both countries.
ST: We assume thus that your slowtwitch screen name Sesel is connected.
Nick: Translated from Créole, "sesel" means Seychelles. People there didn’t really know about triathlon until relatively recently, but there have already been short distance events organized with athletes coming from neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean, such as Reunion and Mauritius. Hopefully the sport will start to grow and the next generation of athletes will be developed and you’ll see more Seychellois triathletes in the future.
ST: Are you turning Pro in 2013?
Nick: Yes, although I’ll race Abu Dhabi in March as an age-grouper, as I didn’t want to start my pro career in the most competitive race outside Kona. My first pro race will be Ironman South Africa, which is also the 'loca'’ Ironman race to Seychelles. I’ll spend the summer racing in the US, although Las Vegas and Kona aren’t part of my plans for 2013. I’m under no illusions as to how difficult it will be to make a successful living from the sport, but I’m patient and have a long-term approach which I think is important.
ST: Have you talked to some Pros about this big step?
Nick: A few people have been kind enough to offer advice on the transition to being a professional, so I think my expectations are realistic. After graduating with Business Economics and French I seriously considered the corporate path, but whilst applying for jobs in finance I knew my heart wasn’t in it. Perhaps there was an initial sense of expectation as a graduate to follow the normal career path, but I knew that if I didn’t at least give triathlon a shot, I’d always look back and wonder what if.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Nick: As an age-grouper I’ve been hugely fortunate to have the support of some great companies, so I can’t pass up the opportunity to thank my fantastic sponsors: Click Fragrance, Eden Island Marina, Hunt Deltel, Vijay, Compressport, Drag2Zero, ENVE, Extreme Endurance, NormaTec and ZEROD. Finally, I’d like to wish all Slowtwitch readers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!