During his stay at Playitas Resort for training purposes, the Belgian triathlete Frederik van Lierde gave us an exclusive interview on his professional triathlon career development and his achievements.
Frederik, welcome to Playitas once again. Why did you start in triathlon?
I used to be a swimmer as a kid and I always did competition swimming. In fact, I only started triathlon by the age of 17. It was my compatriot Luc van Lierde who won Hawaii in 1996 which led to a lot of media attention in Belgium. From then I thought triathlon is something I should try.
Tell us how you have progressed as an athlete.
Because of my swimming background I was in the first positions quite early and had good results from the beginning when I started. In the first part of my career I only did Olympic distance so I tried to qualify for the Olympics in 2004 in Athens, which didn´t work out. After that I decided to switch to longer distance and noted that my results where a lot better. Because of that I continued in long where I got my best results.
Why is Triathlon so special?
It is a really nice sport with three sports combined. Triathlon is never annoying, it´s always fun with many different things to do in a good atmosphere with good people.
You won 2 races in 2015. It´s curious that they were the first ones and the last ones. An Ironman and a half distance. Tell us something about last year.
I obviously had a really successful winter last year with the win in South Africa. It did not quite work out like I wanted to end the season as I only was fifth in Frankfurt, which was not the result I was aiming for. For the big goal in Hawaii I was in perfect shape but a couple of things went wrong and if something goes wrong in Hawaii, then you are dead. I managed to finish the season with a win in Turkey, which was mentally quite a positive thing to go in the next winter.
What are you expecting for the new season?
My main goal is Hawaii again. I won it once and I want to win it again. This is my motivation right now. I know how it feels and I know the importance of winning Hawaii. This is definitely my main goal and next to that I always have a second goal, which will be Ironman France again. I am starting June 5th in Nice.
What do you think is the secret of your success?
I must say I am not the most talented athlete. Of course, when you look at tests I have quite good results, but I am not the best. I am 36 right now, it has been almost 20 years I am doing triathlon so mostly it is because of the hard work I guess.
Besides training are you doing anything else? Do you have any time to practice any sports?
Next to triathlon I am not doing any other sports. As everyone knows I have two boys. One of them plays soccer and the other one does some swimming and athletics so if I have some free time, I love to see my boys when they are competing or training. This is my main thing next to triathlon.
How many days do you travel to a race in advance?
It depends how far it is. Normally I travel 3 to 4 days in advance. As you probably can imagine, you need to be 4 to 5 days ahead if you travel to South Africa. If I travel to Hawaii for example I am there more than a week in advance because of the 12 hour time difference. It all depends but I would say at least a couple of days.
You mentioned earlier that swimming was your first sport and that you started triathlon because you were a swimmer. Do you have some tips for training, for example for swimming?
I think for a triathlete swimming really is the important part, but if you do long distance it is also the smallest part. Be aware of the fact that you will not gain 15 or 20 minutes if you are a bad swimmer by just putting in miles and miles. It is good to concentrate on technique but it is not the most important part in triathlon. I think focusing on the important things will make the biggest difference.
What did you feel when you won KONA?
I can still feel it. It is the best feeling I ever had in sports when I realized I´m going to win it. Those last two kilometers were fantastic! My life went fast forward through my head. I was thinking about plenty of things that happened in the past, the things that happen right now, the people who supported me, my family, everything. It´s like a mix of emotions. When you reach the finish line and realize you have won it is so crazy. That’s the motivation for me to really live that again because you experienced a never forgotten feeling for about 2 to 3 months. You have goosebumps and everything goes by so fast. All the people who come up you, you need to be on television, you are elected sport man of the year. You just want to experience that again.
What would you like to do when you finish your triathlon career?
I would like to continue with triathlon. Now I am coaching about 20 triathletes already and I think as a coach I am learning a lot right now. I work with people, I see things that go well and things that don´t go well. After my career I think that with the experience and the name I have I can do something in coaching and triathlon.
What kind of remarks do you have about Playitas?
For me it’s the best place I have ever been for training. It is great that I can come over here in winter time, especially since in Belgium is not the best weather during winter. I always spend between 1 or 2 weeks here and then go home for a recovery of 10 days and then come back. It is my 4th time here now. First I spent 10 days here, then 7 then 10 again and now it is 2 weeks. It is always going back and forth and that’s something that really works well for me.
You are pretty active in social media; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Which one is your favorite?
It depends. I do the social media together with my brother who also is my agent so it´s not me all the time. All three of them are quite nice. Especially Instagram because of the pictures which you can change play around with. On Facebook people can react to you and you get to have some interactions with them, which is also good. I think it is important as an athlete to be active on social media as well as for sponsors and the people that follow you.
Does your family travel with you when you are on a competition?
Sometimes they do. When the competitions are during school holidays they come with me. They have been with me a couple of times at Ironman France and when my boys were younger they also went to Hawaii twice.
The try to come as often as possible, but they are big now so we have to be aware of the fact that they need to be at school as well.
And now some Short questions:
What is your favourite meal?
Spaghetti or Pasta in general
Where is your favorite place to live?
Belgium. I love to travel but I like to go home as well.
How many hours do you train in a week?
That depends. I would say a maximum 35 hours and average 25 hours per week.
Swimming, biking or running?
All three of them and it all depends. I don’t have a favorite one and I don’t have one that I don’t like so all three of them.
We know that rest is very important for an athlete. How many hours do you sleep?
I sleep about 8 to 9 hours. I am not a big sleeper but I can sleep 8 to 9 hours in one time and I don’t nap that much. Some people take a nap every day. I do it sometimes but not every day.
How many bikes do you have?
I should count but I work with Cervelo and I have a TT bike, a regular bike, a Mountainbike and a bike for the tracks. I would say around 5 or 6 bikes for every discipline.
What is your favorite distance and/or race?
My best distance for sure is full distance. When I look at the Olympic distance, full distance is my best. Favorite race is a hard question. Hawaii is the most important one, so that will be my favorite race. If you think about the scenery to look around I would say South Africa and Ironman France are really nice places as well. Most of the time triathlon is organized in really good surroundings.
No, not really. There is nothing I can think of that I am superstitious about, for example like number 13 or black cats or anything.