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Q&A With U.S. Amateur Triathlete Kaleb VanOrt

Kaleb VanOrt was the overall age-group duathlon national champion in April and he’s one of the favorites for the overall title heading into the USAT Age Group National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this Saturday.

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Kaleb VanOrt was the overall age-group duathlon national champion in April and he’s one of the favorites for the overall title heading into the USAT Age Group National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., this Saturday. VanOrt, who won the elite amateur division of the Chicago Triathlon in August, has been gunning for Saturday’s race all season. Inside Triathlon’s Courtney Baird caught up with him recently.

Triathlete.com: So tell us a little about yourself. When did you get into triathlon?

VanOrt won the elite amateur division of the Chicago Triathlon in August. Photo: USA Triathlon/Tom Kimmell
VanOrt won the elite amateur division of the Chicago Triathlon in August. Photo: USA Triathlon/Tom Kimmell

Kaleb VanOrt: I graduated from Notre Dame in 2006 and while I was there I ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track. I was an All-American in cross-country my senior year, and after I graduated I took some time off because I was kind of burned out from running competitively for the last ten years. Then I decided to enter an off-road triathlon in 2008, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Then I started to train a little bit more and got into contact with Barb Lindquist in the collegiate recruitment program at USAT. Through her program I decided to move on to the road and qualified for age-group nationals last year. Through the collegiate program I also got put in touch with Greg Mueller of Innovative Endurance. I’ve been training with him since November of last year. That’s kind of where I’m at right now.

Triathlete.com: What are some of your biggest races in triathlon so far?
KV: Probably the biggest one is the duathlon age group nationals win, and then I just recently won the elite amateur division in Chicago [at the Lifetime Fitness Series’ Chicago Triathlon].

Triathlete.com: What are your expectations as you head into the race on Saturday?
KV: Uh, I would like to go after the win. That’s the main goal. That’s kind of been on the table since the beginning of the season. My coach and I talked about trying to win age group nationals in duathlon and triathlon.

Triathlete.com: Since your background is running, what’s your swimming like?
KV: My swimming is improving. I swam when I was little but I didn’t really swim too much through high school and college. I’ve been logging a lot of hours in the pool over the last eight months.

Triathlete.com: How has your running been holding up now that you’re balancing three sports?
KV: My run’s actually been holding up well. I set an 8K PR on the road at the end of March. I’m not as fast over a 10K as I was over a track in college. I’ve lost a little bit, but it’s nothing too bad.

Triathlete.com: What are you going to do after nationals?
KV: After age group nationals, I’m going to race the Dallas triathlon [the Toyota U.S. Open Triathlon] as an amateur and then apply for my elite license probably in January of next year, since it’s a calendar year license.

Triathlete.com: What are you goals overall as far as triathlon is concerned?
KV: Um, I mean, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a long-term goal would be to make the Olympics. If you don’t have a really big long-term goal, then I feel like you’re in the sport short-term, maybe to have some fun. I’m in it to have fun, too, but hopefully one day I’ll have the opportunity to represent U.S. at the Olympics. I think that’s what every little kid dreams about.

Triathlete.com: After you get your elite license, are you going to start racing ITU after that?

KV: Yes.

Triathlete.com: Do you have a full-time job?
KV: I do.

Triathlete.com: What do you do?
KV: I’m a mechanical engineer, and I work at an engineering firm in South Bend, Indiana.

Triathlete.com: How do you fit in your training with working?

KV: It’s not much social life and a lot of time management.

Triathlete.com: How many hours a week do you train?
KV: I mean, I’ve never sat down and calculated numbers, but it’s probably around somewhere between 20 and 25 hours.

Triathlete.com: South Bend has pretty harsh winters. How do you train through them?
KV: I mean, the main focus for me over last winter was my swim, just because that was my weakest. A lot of my training was done in the pool. I also set the bike up on the trainer and did two or three rides on the trainer [a week]. [For running] I wear as much clothing as I can to stay warm outside. If it’s extreme cold, I’ll probably either run on the treadmill or add another bike workout [on the trainer].

Triathlete.com: When you turn pro, are you going to keep your job?

KV: At least for a while, until I can get another source of income. Triathlon is kind of an expensive sport, so without a job it’s kind of hard to be able to do it.

Triathlete.com: So how is your work about travelling and taking time off?

KV: They allow me to. Sometimes it’s a little tough to get time off and occasionally I have to take unpaid days off. But I haven’t yet missed a competition I’ve asked to have off.

Triathlete.com: What’s your strategy going in the race if you’re looking for the overall title?
KV: Um, my strategy going into the race, hopefully, because swimming is probably my weakest, hopefully I get in a good swim pack … and then I’ll just try to stay a little conservative on the bike. Then I’ll just let it go on the run and hopefully my time stands up against everyone else’s.