Elite Triathlon Academy resident Luke Farkas recently grabbed the title at the USA Triathlon Junior National Championships and has his sights now set on Auckland, New Zealand where the Worlds will take place in October. We had a few words with this promising young talent.
Slowtwitch: Luke thank you for joining us for this interview.
Luke: Absolutely! The pleasure is mine.
ST: Elite Junior National Champion does not sound shabby.
Luke: It’s great to finally hear that title not referring to someone else. I am honored and blessed to have run an excellent race when it really mattered, and I learned a lot from the experience that will undoubtedly help me to race to my fullest potential in the future. As great as it would be to wallow in this victory, the next step is Word Championships in Auckland, NZ. After that race, I can let myself celebrate a little bit.
ST: Do you mean that you have other work to do before you can celebrate this one?
Luke: Of course I am proud of the victory in West Chester, and I’m thrilled that hard work has paid off so far. National Championships was not the number one goal that I established at the beginning of the season though. New Zealand is where it all needs to come together.
ST: Your background is cycling if I recall correctly.
Luke: I do have some background in cycling. My Dad is a cyclist, and he had me on two wheels riding figure 8’s as soon as I showed the slightest interest in riding a bike. Having said that, I actually started out as a triathlete. My first kids’ triathlon was in the summer of 2000. Between then and 2007, I raced in both triathlon and cycling before I decided to narrow my focus to just triathlon when I was 16 years old. I would not trade my bike racing experience for a thing. There’s something to be said for being able to keep the rubber on the road, and having a basic understanding of cycling tactics.
ST: Have you converted your dad into a triathlete, or is he still mostly a cyclist?
Luke: Haha, I am still trying! Dad is not one for the swim aspect of it, and his knees give him issues on the run. I know he would be out there doing local races if he could, but I never doubt his support for my racing. He’s always been and always will be my biggest fan.
ST: So I guess that cycling prowess served you well in West Chester, Ohio, because you did the damage to your competition on the bike.
Luke: It is races like that where I am glad I have the cycling experience that I do. It was not just power that allowed the gap to open, but also the ability I had to know where on the course to push hard, and where to let up. Breakaways are all about getting into the chasers’ minds and making them believe that you are stronger than them even if you’re not.
ST: How much off a lead did you have coming off the bike?
Luke: I believe it was about 1:05. It was hovering around that point for the final two laps.
ST: How confident were you about holding off Tony Smoragiewicz and William Huffman on the run?
Luke: I knew I had a fighting chance if I built a 1-minute gap going into the run. Out of respect for the strong run weapon that those two guys have, I pushed as hard as I could on the bike to ensure that I had a shot at coming away with the victory. I knew I could never count those guys out. I didn’t know I had won the race until 100m to go.
ST: How big was the grin on your face when you crossed the line?
Luke: It was huge. There were so many emotions, and a huge load off my shoulders. I just couldn’t wait to find my sister, mom, and dad on the other side of the finishing chute.
ST: Rumor has it you worked as a bike mechanic shortly after winning the event. Can you explain?
Luke: Haha, it was hardly mechanic work. A few racers getting ready to go in the youth race later on in the day asked where the bike support was, and since I didn’t know, I asked what they needed. T urned out all they needed was tire inflation, so I found a pump and helped them out. Its always fun for me to help out the little ones as I remember what it was like to be there.
ST: Did someone who had just won a national championship event pump up your tires when you were a kid?
Luke: You know, not that I remember. To me, it’s just important that the people coming up in the sport always have the support they need to continue to enjoy what they do. It was just my little subconscious way of helping that happen I guess.
ST: What is on schedule until the Junior Worlds in Auckland, NZL this October?
Luke: A whole lot of training, and mental preparation. I need to stay healthy and get a good solid block of hard work in before October 21st rolls around so that I can be confident going in.
ST: Will the worlds be your last Junior race?
Luke: It will be. I actually got a little sentimental at the end of Junior Nationals because it was my last time at that event, but I am excited for what is to come. Next year will be an interesting and difficult transition.
ST: Plans for 2013?
Luke: None yet. Those decisions will be made shortly after my race in Auckland. I can imagine it will be about half and half with sprint and Olympic distance races as I make my transition into the professional circuit. I expect to have a hard year in 2013 because of the huge distance difference, and incredible jump in overall strength of the field.
ST: How is life in Colorado Springs?
Luke: You know, I can honestly say that it has been the most difficult 8 months of my life so far. The life of an elite athlete is taxing, and the move away from home has been hard to cope with. Having said that, I would not have it any other way. I have a great team to support me out there, and though it is hard, we’re living the dream a day at a time. It was fun to see the hard work pay off in West Chester, and as Colorado begins to feel increasingly like home, I’m excited to see how my performance will benefit.
ST: A few years back I was living in Chattanooga, TN and I believe you resided in Franklin, TN then.
Luke: I did! I grew up in Franklin, TN. I love it there.
ST: Colorado Springs is far from home. Do your folks come visit you or do you travel back home for that?
Luke: 17 hours if you’re a real determined driver! My parents and sister came help me settle in at the beginning of the year. They got to see where I would be living, and toured the training center. Since then I’ve been home three times for visits, so it’s been about every two to three months. That’s always a breath of fresh air (literally, coming from altitude) because I have the most excellent family and friends a person could ask for in Franklin.
ST: Have you made friends in Colorado with any of the more senior athletes?
Luke: Sure! Ben Collins, Joe Umphenour, Greg Billington, Mark Fretta, the list goes on and on of triathletes who have been more than welcoming to the ETA as we’ve meshed into the system over at the Olympic Training Center. I’ve had a few interactions with Hunter Kemper as well who is always very kind and encouraging.
ST: Have you gotten any advice?
Luke: Yes, although I think the best advice that I have gotten from those guys has come not just from what they say is best to do, but mostly from simply watching them in the way they handle their professional careers. Each one of them has far more experience than I have, and it’s been great to learn from the best in the nation.
ST: Anything else we should know?
Luke: Pursuing triathlon is just such a complicated road, so much has to go right for someone to be able to continue. I feel blessed to have had opportunities needed to do what I love. The Lord has allowed me to do what I do, and for that I am thankful. I also owe a thank you to all of my coaches, doctors, and friends who have helped me to get the title in Ohio.