This is an interview I did with Luke Dragstra for my website www.canadiantriathletes.com
CT: Luke, sounds like you have had a hard season of racing already in 2008, how do you feel your season is going so far?
LD: It hasn`t been so bad. The training camp was pretty brutal!! But I really had a bit of a break after Challenge Wanaka and got to see a bit of NZ and then did IM Malaysia as a training race. The races since then have all been pretty small and convenient as far as travel goes. Things have been pretty average as I have put in some sick training and was a little tired going into some of the races the past year. I have been training apart from the squad the last while to try and get on top of things and the hard work is starting to pay dividends… I had a strong race at Challenge France and I am feeling stronger all the time, looking forward to a big performance in Roth on July 13.
CT: You seem fond of racing in Wanaka, (a little NZ town close to my heart!) what drew you to this race?
LD: Wanaka is a beautiful spot. A small town with a laid back community and fantastic scenery, with endless options for the active… mtb, hiking, trail running, kayaking… etc. etc.. I actually went the first year bc I had been training in Australia and asked my coach if I could give it a rip. The prize money was good and it was looking like a nice cherry pick. It worked out very well and I also got to know Felix Walschoefer, the organizer for Challenge Roth. They put on fantastic events and always have a family atmosphere and the events are a true triathlon experience that you seldom see around the globe. Wanaka is no exception. It is small but will grow slowly and if you make the trip, you will never forget it.
CT: You have been battling an injury, could you tell us a little about it, and how it has affected your training?
LD: I had a minor hip injury I was nursing for the 6 weeks between Wanaka and IM Malaysia. It wasn’t affecting much but I couldn’t run hard on it and sometimes it would really lock up on long runs. I wasn’t training too hard at that time, as my mind was focused on something else… but it made Malaysia a bt of a trial, not having done any real run training for 6 weeks. So when I got to the camp in philipines, Brett wanted to make sure we let it heal and as it didn’t affect biking or swimming, we thought it would be a good chance to get some serious bike miles in. I put in 3 weeks back to back of 1000km per week with a rest day in between each and 20 – 25km of swimming on top of it. The avg temperature was 35 degrees and you couldn’t dodge it.. 7am the sun came up and it was already 32!! Needless to say it was the hardest block of training I have ever done and I am much tougher for now. The hip healed up with some extra stretching, yoga and massage. I think it was mostly a badly blocked SI joint and my body compensating for it. I still do a lot of extra gym work and such to keep my hips square and my core strong to avoid any future problems.
CT: What has it been like training with team TBB, and particularly Brett Sutton?
LD: The last question gives you an idea. It has been a great experience and it is a program where you can really test your limits. I think ‘overtraining’ is a word we use much to often in the triathlon world and when you learn that you can back up hard sessions like we do, you learn mental toughness and you realize the point at which you are pushing the limits.. Brett is the guru and has this sixth sense as to when you are about to push beyond your limit and will back you off just in time. Training in the atmosphere with all these top athletes is also very stimulating and motivating and because the sessions are not optional and at specific times, you don’t have to motivate yourself to get out the door.
CT: So, what are your plans for the rest of 2008? Any major goals that you would like to achieve?
LD: I would like to have a good show at Roth (a top 5 would be huge this year.. the field is absolutely stacked!). That is my summer highlight. After that, I am not sure what the plan is.. I have been invited to a few really cool races with decent prize purses.. (alpe d’huez triathlon, triathlon de Gerarmer, etc) but I am also considering coming back to Canada and racing the new Muskoka 70.3 and then setting up a training base somewhere south and hitting up Ironman Fla or Ironman Arizona and shooting for a podium.
CT: I know many Canadian Triathletes would love to see you racing at IMCDA, is this a possibility for you in the future?
LD: It is definitely a possibility. One of my major goals is to rack up a win at IMCDA. The problem is that I have to run my racing career as a business. You can’t get flights paid by race organizers to any races in North America (unless you are Hawaii champ, maybe), so if you’ve put out for an international ticket, you have to make a podium just to break even. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that prize purses in Ironman have been the same for almost 20 years. Anyway, I am planning tentatively to change my travel schedule so that I can race more in North America and possible make Canada a major event for 2009. Wait and see…
CT: What does a typical training week look like for you?
LD: I don’t know if there is a typical one.. but … I guess I would normally swim 20-25km, ride 600ish, and run anywhere from 80 to 120.. I haven’t been running that much as of late though. I can’t give to many details though cuz my coach would kill me.
CT: Obviously you are a very talented and driven triathlete, what first brought you into the sport?
LD: I was a runner straight through HS and College. I never reached the potential I had dreamed of and thought that Triathlon may be my ticket to be something.
CT: What is your sponsorship situation looking like this year?
LD: bleak.. it is always bleak in this sport. I have had to evolve into a ‘vielstarter’ (one who races a lot) to make ends meet. It is especially hard to make sponsor relations when you don’t have a home base. Media love to put me in magazines and use me in ads and people often think I am well supported but I live 70% off of prize money, and the lack of prize money in our sport means I have to race a lot. I have somehow been able to save up over the past year or so and will start to concentrate more on single events for the remainder of this year and next.
CT: Do you have a race that sticks out as your favourite? Why?
LD: Challenge Wanaka is my favourite. Mostly because I won and it paid very well. Other Ironman distance events I really liked were Ironman Canada, Wisconsin, and of course Quelle challenge Roth. Roth probably being the most well run and ‘biggest triathlon event’ in the world.. bar none!!
CT: Has your family always been supportive of your triathlon pursuits?
LD: ahahhah.. yeah.. well they have had to accept as I am such a stubborn bastard. My parents have always been great. They are always the first to check my website or to email events and complain about the poor updates!! Ahahahahha.. I think it is a little tough for my parents as they would love to see me settle down and make a home but they have always been behind me either way.
CT: What is your favourite food?
LD: I had this pastry once at a Kiwi coffee shop and I think it would take the prize! Kiwi’s have absolutely awesome bakeries and coffee shops. I like anything chocolaty actually. Supper type food, I think I still like Thai (despite eating Thai nonstop for half the year last year). Indian is also yum and .. well I could go on forever and I am getting hungry thinking about it so I will stop there.
CT: If you had one piece of advice to offer an aspiring pro or age grouper what would it be?
LD: Do a season in Europe. You will learn how to race and you will be able to rate yourself better. Contact a club and chances are you will get a hook up if you are going well.
CT: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Best of luck this year and hopefully we will see you on top of the podium!
LD: Nines! I hope so too!