This post appeared first on the endurance sports website innervoice.life, on January 19th, 2018. You can read the original post here.
Ben Kanute talks through what he wants out of triathlon, and what he wants to give back. All words are his own. Photos are courtesy of innervoice.life.
I have spent a lot of time picking the people I associate with. I always like to have ‘a guy’ to go to. Whether this was a mechanic, coach, butcher, tool guy etc. It is important to surround yourself with experts and people willing to push you and make you think. I guess I do not have a strict set of guidelines I follow for each person I pick, but I do try to make sure that they are good, well-rounded individuals who care about me just as much as I care about them. I have some people who have been around me forever and are very close. They are the ‘rocks’ of my tribe. And, I have others who are more on the periphery who I still trust, but if I have to move or leave them my entire career won’t suffer to the degree it would if I lost one of my ‘rocks.’
My dad is one of my rocks and probably my best source of advice over my career. He has given me a lot to think about over the years. His best advice for life is to be a good man. It is all-encompassing and helps me think about what I am doing to better myself. He has also given me good racing advice, like telling me there will always be something that goes wrong in a race, and what separates the good racers from the bad is how they handle it.
I HATE TO LOSE
My competitiveness comes from hating to lose, and a motivation to be my best-self. I love seeing how hard I can push myself, and competition brings that out in me. I want to be my absolute best and I want my best to be better than everyone else’s. I have always loved competition. Watching events like the Olympics, or sporting events on TV, and even board games always bring out my competitive side. There is this drive in me that just wants to be first, and while the win itself is motivating, I also think that the process and the grind in getting there is just as important, if not more so.
I have worked a lot on my inner voice over the past few years. When you are in the ‘flow state’ everything seems to come easy. In these situations, it does not really feel like I am thinking much at all, but just reacting. When things are getting tough, and I may not be in that flow state, I have a checklist that I do to try to focus on something productive. When things get really dark and painful, and I have to reach deep for some inner motivation, I think of the hard work I put in, and especially the team that helped me get to where I am.
“I think the adage “winning is everything” is one of the worst. I love to win, but it is not everything. I value the friendships and the process more. I hate losing and love winning, but a winning at all costs attitude can drive an athlete down a dangerous path that nobody should go down.”
I FELL IN LOVE WITH THE SPORT
I was first introduced to triathlon at a young age, through my father. One of my earliest memories is watching him ride his bike on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago during the Mrs. T’s triathlon. In the years after that, I got to watch both my parents participate in a number of races, and then I got my first opportunity to race when I was about 9 years old. My parents helped organize a kids tri at our local health club and I jumped at the opportunity. From there I fell in love with the sport. I then raced in numerous USAT Youth and Junior races, and essentially followed the high-performance pipeline available to me.
Like most kids, I wanted to be all sorts of things when I grew up. But, I do remember specifically wanting to be a professional athlete, and by the time I was in middle school I was fully focused on being a professional triathlete. I just loved my sport. I loved the fact I was pushing myself to the limit and seeing improvement. I loved to race and travel. I also loved the people that I was around. My teammates were awesome, and I loved spending time with them just as much as I loved going fast. I just thought everything about triathlon was cool.
I am happy to say I do not have that many big regrets in my career, or in life, really. I look back on my life and each of my decisions has gotten me to this moment, and this moment is great! I am sure the next moment will be even better, but I try not to dwell on ‘what ifs.’ There are times when I see I did not make the best choice, or could have made a better one, but that it was still a valuable thing to learn from. I also feel I have not made any decisions that have greatly cost me, at least not yet.
I’m well aware that triathlon is not forever. I think the great thing about our sport is that there are a lot of great people involved. It would be great to go down as a legend of the sport, but in reality I would rather have people view me as a good man. There is really is no price or victory worth being thought of as a bad person. Sport is supposed to bring out the best in people and to have them try to achieve their best self, and that is my main goal each day, year and race…to be a better man and improve myself.
“My biggest rookie mistake was at Age Group Worlds in Vancouver. I put my bike shoes on the wrong side of the bike and I only found out once I went to strap them up after the swim. It ended up being okay because my feet were so cold they were numb, and it didn’t bother me at all. I still had a great race there, but had to laugh at myself, even in the moment.”
THE PERFECT TRIATHLETE
If I was building the perfect triathlete, it would be hard not to pick someone like Javi Gomez. That guy has no weaknesses; he has a strong mental game and a range like nobody else. I mean, you can make some tweaks, like adding Kristen Blumenfelt’s aggressiveness and Dave Scott’s stone-cold mentality, but Gomez is considered one of the best for a reason. He has won Super Sprints up to 70.3 races and has been at the top for a long time.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
I take my dedication and drive to help further good causes. I try to give back in any way that I can. Just like I try to immerse myself in my sport, I try to immerse myself in my community and find ways to give back. Because I travel a lot, it can be hard to immerse myself in my local community, but no matter where I am, I try to be respectful and live like a local.
My giving back starts with the triathlon community, and helping with kids teams. In these programs, they’re already dreaming of being a superstar triathlete, but sport can teach them so much more than just going fast. It helps develop drive, dedication, and multiple other good virtues that are necessary for a successful and well-rounded adult. I also have enjoyed working with the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I found the group incredibly inspiring and would love to help spread more awareness about groups and organizations like this one.
Most importantly, I try to lead by example. I still see myself as young and coming into a more prominent leadership role, but setting a good example is somewhere to start.
FOOTNOTES: Words by Ben Kanute, Photos by Matt Clark @stirlandraephoto and courtesy of Major League Triathlon, Editor Cody Royle, Published by NTSQ Sports, Presented by Rudy Project North America