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At 36 years old, Don boasts an imposing résumé—four world titles (1998 world junior triathlon champion, 2002 ITU world duathlon champion, 2005 ITU world aquathlon champion and 2006 ITU world triathlon champion), three Olympic appearances (2000, 2004 and 2008), several Ironman 70.3 wins, third place at the 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Championship and victory in his Ironman debut (Mallorca 2014). Did we mention his 28:56 personal best 10K? In short, the man is fast and his talents many. Despite his enormous success, Don’s greatest pride is as a family man—father to Matilda (4) and husband to Kelly, with whom he welcomed a son in December 2014. Don makes his home in Boulder, Colo., where he trains under the guidance of fellow Brit Julie Dibens in pursuit of his next big goal: the Kona crown.
– I’ve learned a lot watching Kona. I was there in 2011 when Crowie won. He had 5K to go. He was easily winning, and he was running four-minute kilometer pace, which is jogging for him. I thought, ‘Yeah, let’s go have a chat.’ But there was nothing. I couldn’t believe how unresponsive he was. I was like, ‘OK! This is war! This is what Ironman is like!’ But then again, don’t be too worried if you do come off the bike 14 minutes behind. You can still win!
– I’ve finally been able to access my run—not because I’ve done a massive more amount of it, but because I’ve gotten stronger on the bike. And that’s down to Julie [Dibens]. We knew it was a two-year plan to really show what I could do, and even now there’s a lot more to give at 70.3 and masses more to give with Ironman. I’ve only done one Ironman! I’m not as fast now, but it’s all relative. I’m probably one of the faster runners in 70.3 and Ironman, but the track sessions I used to do—the 3,000-meter times—I couldn’t touch them now.
– I don’t want a coach to be fluffy. Honestly—it’s my job. I just want: ‘To do this, you need to do X, Y and Z.’ I respond well to that. You don’t need to beat around the bush with me. Just say it how it is. A few hard truths won’t hurt me.
– I don’t get nervous before races any more. What’s there to get nervous about? Long-course racing is such an individual thing. In ITU I used to get very nervous, because no matter how well you swim, if you don’t get to that first buoy in the top 20, your race can be over. Within three minutes of swimming your strategy goes out the window. With this, there are no tactical decisions to be made. It’s like a marathon—once you get into it you’re just running, while in a 1500, or even 10,000 meters, tactics play a massive role in positioning. Leon Griffin and James Hadley, whom I room with at races, they get annoyed because we say good night and then they carry on with Twitter and such. The next day they’re like, ‘Soon as the light went out you were asleep. We were wide awake for another hour!’ I sleep really well, actually!
– Matilda’s always been a massive part of what I do. The problem now is that she asks, ‘Is Daddy going to bring back a medal?’ Because every race this year I have! So the pressure’s on—she likes the medals. I guess it’s good that with Ironman you always get a finisher’s medal.
Find more pro triathlete interviews at Triathlete.com/profile.