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Eric Lagerstrom had a breakout season last year, winning the iconic Escape From Alcatraz and Beijing International Triathlon. The 26-year-old Portland, Ore., native got his pro card in 2012 and has been steadily working his way onto the podium, training with coach Paulo Sousa’s Triathlon Squad near San Diego. When he’s not training, Lagerstrom spends his downtime working on two of his favorite hobbies—producing videos and building his dream adventure van. Lagerstrom will return to defend his Alcatraz title June 12.
As a kid, I wasn’t really motivated when it came to swimming. I didn’t like morning practice or weekend practice—that was ludicrous. I had snowboarding or wakeboarding or bike riding on the weekends.
When I was 12, I discovered triathlon through a local coach. He had us [swimmers] doing cycling and running, so I signed up for a local tri. Everyone else went back to swimming, but I was into it. He kept telling me I was good, which kept me running every week. But oh god, I hated running. I did two years of cross-country, which was a total joke at my high school. It would be “go do a 40-minute long run,” so we would run out to an apple orchard, eat some apples, and run back after enough time had passed. After that, I fell in love with bike racing in Portland. That kind of honed my bike skills and kept it interesting.
I worked at [Portland bike shop] Athlete’s Lounge for almost 3 years while paying rent at my parent’s house. Outside of that, I didn’t spend any money and saved $10,000 to move to San Diego.
I had a paradigm shift last year where I was having fun with triathlon [and doing well], and my dad said, “You know, I’m not concerned anymore. I know you’ve got this. No matter what happens, you’re going to figure out how to support yourself. You could take over triathlon if you wanted to, I’m convinced.” I still get chills when I think about it because it had finally set in—my parents finally said, “OK, thank god, he’s got this.”
[Girlfriend and pro Magali Tisseyre’s] approach to everything is that it’s serious and this is a job. Have fun, but when there are things that can enhance your performance, why would you be stingy? I’m not going to get the $59 hotel 8 miles away from the race start instead of the $100 hotel that’s a block away when I have the chance to win $10,000. It’s risky, but you’re essentially putting a bet down on yourself.
Book: The Fighter’s Mind by Sam Sheridan. It’s a really good profile on a bunch of UFC fighters … It’s powerful and has so much application to many [facets] of life, especially competition.
Movie: “Gladiator.” Gets me every time.
TV show: “Breaking Bad”
Post-race meal: Pizza. It’s also my pre-race meal.
Family traditions: I’ve never missed a Christmas. Or a Thanksgiving. I love going home for the holidays. My mom, grandma and sister are all phenomenal cooks.
Race(s): Hamburg has the best atmosphere, Stockholm is the coolest destination and [Escape From] Alcatraz is the most epic course.