Jason Pedersen finished 5th at the recent Escape from Alcatraz event and this former Northern Arizona University track athlete has shown nice improvements since getting his Pro card in late 2011.
Slowtwitch: Hi Jason.
Jason Pedersen: Hey Herbert, thanks for the interview. Almost four years ago I asked the Slowtwitch community for training and racing advice to break 2:10 in my first Olympic distance triathlon, so getting an interview on the front page is like a dream come true!
ST: How did that 5th place in Alcatraz find you?
Jason: I actually had a very poor start reaction and was probably one of the last pros to hit the water. Because there is no buoy 200m out that everyone is sprinting for like in an ITU race, the swim is much more spread out and it is more about battling the elements than the other competitors. Unlike last year, I was able to keep an eye on the lead boat the whole swim, rather than sighting landmarks, and found myself in the mix with the back half of the field exiting the water. I did most of my passing on the bike by the time we hit the Legion of Honor for the first time. From there I tried riding as consistently as I could up the rest of the hills, knowing that too many out-of-the-saddle efforts might come back to bite me on the run. Once out on the run, I could see a lanky dude about a minute ahead that I just couldn’t seem to chase down. Once I hit the beach I realized that dude was Pete Jacobs! I think I ran the second half of the run much faster just because I was so excited! The crowd was awesome the last couple miles and they helped me catch Francesc Godoy just before we hit the grass for the final stretch.
ST: Don't tell us you posed with Pete for pics or asked him to sign you kit?
Jason: Actually I did pose for a picture with Pete at the finish line! After the race I shook his hand, and a photographer asked for a picture of us two. I’m sure Pete is still talking about it…
ST: Early on somehow your name did not show up in the results that were posted.
Jason: I heard about that after the race while reading through my Twitter timeline. I was happy to see my coach Paulo Sousa and some of my Triathlon Squad teammates were on top of it right away.
ST: Well, your name was apparently not on the finish line results for a while either.
Jason: I was getting really cold after just a few minutes of finishing. I went looking for warm clothes pretty quickly, so I was unaware that any of this was going on.
ST: Last year you finished 7th in this event and that was your first season competing professionally. What have you learned since?
Jason: Since then a lot has changed, namely joining The Triathlon Squad and working with Paulo Sousa. I think the biggest thing he has taught me is that every session is an opportunity to improve. I have always been very well focused on the big picture, chasing goals and such, but I think I have a tendency to get distracted during sessions. Did I get something out of that workout, or did I just put my head down and mindlessly get the work done? There is a difference.
ST: Talk about the conditions at the race this year and how in your view they compared to last year.
Jason: It was colder for sure. I heard water temperatures were about 51F, which as Matty Reed pointed out on Twitter, is on the lower end of the scale for ideal ice bath temperatures! With the wetsuit and three caps I was actually comfortable enough for the thirty minutes or so that I was in the water. What I was more concerned with was the chop! That made it pretty rough to breathe and sight. I don’t think my shoulders and neck have ever been so sore from a race, and I think that was from battling with the rough waters. I ran from the beach to T1 with my wetsuit zipped up all the way, which really helped to get my body temperature back up before heading out on the bike. I had planned to wear gloves and sleeves on the bike, but I made a game-time decision and left those behind. It was cloudier and much windier than last year, so if you got on the bike with a chill, I’m sure the ride was miserable.
ST: It appears that you have come a long way since I met you at Interbike in 2011 at the lunch we had then.
Jason: Yeah I was pretty much a deer in the headlights at that point. I remember having lunch with you, Dan Empfield, Jordan Rapp and a few of his sponsors, and thinking I had no idea what I was doing.
ST: Then you were talking about the difficulty getting started as a new Pro in terms of sponsorships and getting to know folks. Is all of that now less intimidating?
Jason: It certainly is less intimidating. At the time, all I could really offer was, “I ran in college for a pretty good school and I am going to start racing professionally.” That didn’t get me very far. I think it is a little easier to approach people now with a résumé that has some good results at races they have heard of.
ST: What is the biggest challenge now?
Jason: I think there are a lot of professional triathletes that are frustrated with the disparity sometimes found between results and sponsorship dollars. It seems logical that the dollars follow results, but it doesn’t always work that way. Sponsors want a good return on their investment, and that doesn’t always come from standing on top of the podium wearing a logo. I think the challenge for me now is to make more time for sponsorship requests and promotion while keeping the same intensity I have for training and racing. I know there are a number of pros that do this very well, including Jordan, so I am hopeful.
ST: Who are some of the sponsors you are working with?
Jason: At the moment I only have two sponsors. I began riding on ENVE wheels last year and I have a deal with Hypster.com, which is a music streaming website.
ST: No running shoe sponsor?
Jason: Nothing yet. As a developing ITU-focused athlete, I think it can be difficult to be recognized by many of the bigger brands in the US. Because 2013 does not count toward Olympic qualification, I plan to do more non-drafting races domestically this year – possibly focusing on 5i50 or Lifetime Fitness series. These races are so much more visible to age group athletes and will hopefully help me be recognized, especially if I can throw down some top run splits.
ST: You mentioned the Triathlon Squad earlier. When did you join that group?
Jason: I joined at the conclusion of my 2012 season. I went to my first camp with The Squad at the end of November.
ST: Is there anyone on the squad you are especially close to?
Jason: I spoke with Anna Battiata and Joe Maloy toward the end of last year and they played a big role in my decision to join. I currently live in Poway with Anna, Joe and another rookie to The Squad, Eric Lagerstrom, in a small two bedroom apartment with nine bikes. My bed is squeezed right between Eric’s and Joe’s, so yes, we are quite literally very “close.”
ST: Do you guys at least have the bigger of the two bedrooms?
Jason: The boys’ room is larger and it has its own bathroom attached.
ST: I guess neither of you guys has to worry about bringing a date home, since all of you are clearly too busy with training and on Twitter.
Jason: Correct. Training volume and Twitter are among the many reasons that is not an issue.
ST: How much time do you spend in camps versus being on your own?
Jason: After my first 4-week camp, I went home for a week or two and then made arrangements to move in with Anna, Joe and Eric at the beginning of the year. Since moving to Poway we have had one more official camp, also about four weeks long. For the four of us living in Poway, however, not much changes when camps are officially in session. There are more training partners and Paulo comes to a couple more sessions each week, but otherwise it is business as usual.
ST: How does your girlfriend feel about all these travels and time away?
Jason: My girlfriend Maureen ("Mo") lives in Tucson and is the assistant distance coach for the track team at University of Arizona. I'm really lucky because she gets it. She travels a lot for work herself, so it can be tough finding time to visit. Her summers are mostly free so hopefully we get to spend a lot of time together then.
ST: Are you, Eric and Joe very competitive in training?
Jason: When it is called for, yes, we can get quite competitive. I think we all realize that it isn’t in our best interest to beat down on each other in every session, and some workouts it just isn’t a nice thing to do, e.g. a 50-minute run at the end of the day will always be conversational. I’m not at their level in the pool, so I don’t get to participate in the naval battles just yet, but I do try to make up for it on occasion during rides or runs. They love it. And so does Paulo.
ST: What about outside of training?
Jason: We pretty much debate everything, which I suppose is a form of competition. There is never a shortage of Devil’s advocates. These conversations normally begin like, “Did you guys read/hear/see what so-and-so said/did/Tweeted/blogged?” That usually gets the ball rolling.
ST: One would think that you'd be pretty much on the same page.
Jason: We generally are, but what’s the fun in always agreeing? We often argue for arguments sake. Life is more interesting with a little bit of conflict.
ST: Does that time when you were running track at Northern Arizona seem far back?
Jason: Yes and no. I finished my eligibility at NAU in June of 2011, so we have yet to come up on two years since I was competing, and I was a graduate assistant coach through May of last year. In October I went up to Flagstaff to watch their conference championships for cross country, and it was weird seeing all the new faces on the team added in just five months. When Thanksgiving week rolled around and I wasn’t in a cold, Midwest town for NCAA’s, it kind of hit me that I’m on a new path now.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Jason: If you are a fan of The Triathlon Squad and the work that we are doing, I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to show your support with a contribution.
You can follow Jason Pedersen on Twitter via @jasonpedersen