I recently caught up with professional triathlete, Branden Rakita, which is a hard thing to do these days given how much he has been racing.
Branden, the racing season has just gotten underway and you have already raced in four, high profile events, Escape from Alcatraz, Oceanside 70.3, XTERRA West Championships and IRONMAN St George. Is this a new approach to your season as opposed to previous years?
I had an unexpected coaching change at the end of last year, but it has been a great change as well. I have been working with Derick Williamson of Durata Training, and we decided that if I really want to make it in this sport, I have to race the best. We knew the fields were going to be good at these events, but they were the strongest fields ever outside of a World Championship event.
You are known as an "off-road" triathlete, but three of the four events you have raced are road events. This seems to be a growing trend with off-road athletes. Are you looking to change disciplines or just trying to mix it up a bit?
It is more mixing it up a bit. The number of off-road events are limited, as are the prize purses for those events. If I am going to make a living racing triathlons then I need to earn money racing and compete in events where sponsors recognize your results more. Off-road is still the heart and soul of my racing calendar but I will be on the road about half the time now. It also just depends on which races fit in the schedule, for some time the off road races will dominate my schedule.
The life of a professional triathlete is not all glitz and glamour. What inspired you to turn professional?
I was inspired to turn professional by my desire and drive to see how good I can be. The desire to reach the top step of the biggest race on the biggest stage.
I like that! It's all about you pushing yourself to YOUR limit. Is that your biggest motivation for continuing to race?
I don't think I will ever stop racing. My motivation to continue racing professionally is that I have not gotten the most out of my abilities. I will only back down once figure out what that limit is.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2013 to help test your limit?
Some racing goals of mine are definitely to be on the top step of the bigger races. I want to be a name that my competitors always have in their mind as an athlete they have to watch out for.
Triathletes are known for their toys. What new gadgets or products you are excited to try out this year to help you get the most out of yourself?
I have had some amazing support! I can't thank 2XU enough for the support over the years. Paul Mitchell and being a MITCH Man has been key these past couple years in helping ease the burden a bit, and letting me focus on training. I only like working with the best out there. If I don't believe in the product you offer, I am not going to use it. Nothing matches what SRM makes for power meters. They were the first, and will always be the best. 1st Endurance has been the only nutrition company I have ever wanted to use because they are devoted to developing the best products on the market. They have the strictest testing for contamination so we know we are putting the purest ingredients in our bodies. I also work with Rotor Bike USA for the best cranks to mate to the SRM as well as use their Q-Rings. Sidi has been my method of applying my force to the bike for years, and there is simply no more comfortable shoe available. Rudy Project has been a phenomenal company to work with the past couple years. Their helmets are aerodynamically proven, and their glasses have no equal as they have the clearest optics out there. I have started to work with Enduro Bearings this year as well. There is no reason to waste the effort we are putting into the bike due to friction. Their products are more durable than similar products. A critical part of racing is staying within striking distance. You have to keep up and running without worrying about having a flat or mechanical issues. I use Caffelatex sealant from Effetto Mariposa in my tires for on and off road, and their tools make sure I have everything tightly built so my bikes are ready to fly. Huge thanks to Pro Cycling for their support! Their mechanics keep my rides rolling smooth, they give me a great place to work and they help support my racing by giving me a flexible schedule that revolves around my races. Colorado Running Company has been supporting me from the ground up, making sure I am in the proper shoes to remain injury free as well.
It sounds like you have great support. It would be a lot harder to race without it.
We all know music is a great tool to get us fired up before a big training day or race. Is there a particular song or artist that helps put you in the zone?
No particular artist, but a lot of up beat songs, really prefer good musicians over the electronically enhanced pop stuff.
As an off-road athlete, I know you've taken a few falls. If you are about to take a spill, what is the first word that leaves your mouth?
GO! Get up and get on with the race. Sort of a shoot first and ask questions later, so just get going then evaluate why.
That's probably the best philosophy. I mean, there is still a race happening!
We've talked about what drives you personally Have there been any people that have inspired you to do what you do?
The biggest inspiration has come from my parents. Seeing their work ethic and moral ethic has helped guide and inspire me to be the best I can be not only athletically but also personally. I will always get more satisfaction having some one remember me for kind words or help I have given them than recognition for winning a race.
I think that is very admirable. We could all learn a lesson from that.
Fifty years from now, when you look back on your time as an athlete, what mark do you hope to have left on your sport?
I hope to leave the sport and have people talk about what a great person I was first, and then hopefully my accomplishments and how I helped improve the sport second.
Branden, it was great talking with you. Can you tell us how people can keep up with you and your racing career?