Dispatches: A Pro Triathlete Into The Wilderness

As the coronavirus continues to affect the world, we check in with pro triathlete Eric Lagerstrom who has found a new love for simply swimming, biking, and running.

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As of this writing, roughly 1.9M people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, according to the World Health Organization, and as the pandemic continues to spread, COVID-19 is something that will likely change the rhythm of our world and our sport for a very long time. 

We’ve connected with six triathletes—each in very different geographical areas, with different athletic experience levels, and in different coronavirus situations. They range from international-level pros to age-groupers to coaches to college athletes. We initially collected some of their initial firsthand experiences as the pandemic fully hit the U.S. two weeks ago, and we’re going to continue to check in with them to see how their situations change. 

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be posting expanded dispatches from each of these six triathletes and more to give you a closer look at how restrictions, wellness, goals, and personal decisions effectively “create” the smaller world that now surrounds each of them. 

Today, we’re checking in with Eric Lagerstrom, a 30-year-old pro triathlete and videographer with wins at St. Anthony’s, Escape From Alcatraz, and 70.3s Indian Wells and Santa Cruz. Currently, Lagerstrom is in and around Tucson, Arizona, with his girlfriend Canadian Olympian Paula Findlay. The couple says they’ve been spending as much time as possible camping in an effort to remain outdoors while still avoiding others. As of this writing, Arizona has approximately 4,000 cases of COVID-19 and under around 140 deaths, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, putting the state at a case rate of roughly 55 per 100,000 (for reference, New York State’s case rate is at roughly 1,000 per 100,000 people).

Photo provided by Eric Lagerstrom

On His Area’s Restrictions:

“I think Arizona in general has less cases than a lot of places. Everything seems pretty open and spaced out here so maybe the virus is spreading more slowly. We’ve actually been spending as much time as possible camping, so that we encounter the fewest people possible but can still be outside…Things are slowly progressing here. Almost everyone is wearing masks now and certain grocery stores have waiting lines to get in. There still isn’t a mandate to stay indoors or anything, so we’re just plugging along with some outdoor rides, camping to be as isolated as possible while running and riding.”

Photo provided by Eric Lagerstrom

On Pre-COVID-19 Season Goals:

“My main goal was to have a strong showing at 70.3 worlds, to win St. Anthony’s again, and just have the most fun possible. I think I’m on track with the ‘having fun’ part, but I’ve completely let go of any idea of what or when I’ll race again. I’m looking at this time as a major opportunity to do things I never would have been able to do if we’d had to be 100% dedicated to a strict training and racing schedule. I’m learning new skills to use in my video production (we have a youtube channel), going camping a lot, and doing some epic rides and runs that would have been hard to fit into a normal training week.”

Photo provided by Eric Lagerstrom

On Adjusting:

“Everything is coming in waves now. Even my desire to continue creating video content, which isn’t tied to racing at all. I personally struggle without having stretch goals in place so I can tie the day to day in with the long term vision. But I think we’re still handling it pretty well, considering. I’m slowly getting better at time management and building structure into days even if there really isn’t any need to. I’ll get up at 5:30, answer emails for an hour, get out for a run for an hour, edit video for a couple hours, and then go spin around on the bike. When we’re camping near the lake, we’ll swim whenever it’s hot and we need to cool off anyway.”

Photo provided by Eric Lagerstrom

On Coming Together:

“I’ve been spending a ton of time chatting with our “quaranteam” Heather [Jackson] and Wattie [Sean Watkins]. I’ve been learning a ton of new business concepts from Wattie, and I’ve been teaching him some stuff about cameras and filming. As far as my bigger community goes, I’ve been meeting some friends from Oregon on Zwift for crit races. It gives a little structure to the day and is fun to connect, chat on the phone while we race.. basically a digital version of what we’d do if we were both home and things were normal. Probably the most important thing I’ve taken from this time is that I don’t feel the need to stay “motivated” to keep training. I don’t feel like I’m training right now. I feel like I’m just doing triathlon because I enjoy it and it doesn’t actually matter if a race is coming up or not.”

Photo provided by Eric Lagerstrom

On The Future:

“I think this time has a lot of positives wrapped up in it because it’s making us all realize what we really like, what we miss most once everything is stripped away, and hopefully we’ll all come out of it as better people. I’ve re-realized that I love swimming, biking, and running just as a lifestyle—totally independent of racing and the financial implications as a pro. I feel zero drive to train for an event right now and my girlfriend (Canadian pro Paula Findlay) and I are just deciding what to do each day over breakfast, but we still end up running or biking.”

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