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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?

You can follow along at brandenrakita.com which has a link to my blog for race results also on twitter @btrakita or through my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BrandenRakita

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Skinfit will be the official apparel sponsor for Craig Evans in 2013. Craig had a breakthrough season last year placing 2nd overall at the ITU Cross World Championships and taking 3rdin the U.S. Pro Xterra Series. Craig works full-time in the medical device industry and is the father of two. He is also busy building a new team (Optimum Endurance) and launching a new race series (Breakthrough Endurance). Craig defines professionalism and we greatly respect his commitment to family and giving back to the triathlon community that has given so much to him. We are very excited about this partnership and look forward to watching Craig excel as an athlete, husband, and father! 

Comments from Craig regarding this partnership:

 “As an endurance triathlete and mountain biker who trains and races in every environment imaginable, my body demands gear that is highly functional across each discipline (swim, bike, and run) without compromising fit and comfort. Skinfit’s multi-layer concept allows versatility as the situation changes and continuously provides a professional appearance whether I’m training, racing, or on the podium. Partnering with Skinfit, who shares my passion of endurance sports and understands how hard I push my body and gear to its limit, was an effortless decision.” 

Skinfit is a sports apparel company based in Austria. It has become a global brand with U.S. headquarters in San Diego, CA. Uncompromising functionality, coupled with beautiful design, is the top priority. The pleasure of exercising should not be diminished by anything- this is our creed. To reach this goal, our products are manufactured with extremely high-quality, fast-drying, and lightweight materials. In addition to our superior fabrics, we place a high value on an ergonomic cut. Visit our website at www.skinfit.eu to learn more about the company.

If you would like more information please contact Trevor Glavin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can learn more about the Breakthrough Endurance race series at http://www.beraceseries.com and Optimum Endurance at http://www.trioptimumendurance.com

 

 

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Posted by on in Breakthrough Endurance :: Opinions

The one question I get asked most frequently by athletes, besides what do I eat, is what is the main difference that separates pro endurance athletes from amateur athletes. Most people assume that PRO athletes have some innate ability that allows them to compete at the ultimate level. While this might be true with some mainstream sports like baseball, football or basketball, it just is not the case with endurance sports. Yes, there are some athletes who are more genetically predisposed to excel at endurance sports, but the pro endurance field is mainly made up of people who have an unwavering dedication to their craft. This dedication ensures that they not only do the main things correctly like swimming, biking and running, but also the small things like taking naps, getting massages, eating optimal meals throughout the day, getting plenty of rest at night, you know, the things that amateur athletes are not able to do because of having regular jobs. This was always my answer, and it was one that I firmly believed. While I still feel this holds a ton of truth, I don’t think this is the greatest separation any longer.

 

We all know the motivational clichés like, “Pain is temporary, but pride is forever” or “Pain is just weakness leaving the body”, and we have all used them to help us through rough patches of training or racing. I think most amateur endurance athletes have a misconception that pro athletes do not suffer while they race. They believe that they are able to accomplish amazing feats of endurance achievement, and do so with minimal discomfort. The biggest contributor to this belief is what I call the “Finish Line Misnomer”. Most spectating at endurance events occurs at the finish line, and when all athletes, cross the finish line they appear to be full of energy, happy and smiling. I think this leads to the belief that everything went beautifully out on the course. Race plans were executed to perfection, cramps did not occur and everything was right in the world. I’m here to tell you that this cannot be further from the truth. This also leads me to the reason I now believe is the main difference between pro and amateur endurance athletes.

 

Suffering is defined as: 1. To submit to or be forced to endure 2. To put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable 3. To endure pain or distress. Please do not misunderstand me, amateur athletes suffer just as much as the pros, if not more, but the way pro athletes respond to their pain is quite different. Breakthrough Nutrition was fortunate enough to have played a role in helping two of their athletes achieve podium spots in both the Beach 2 Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon (Carrie McCoy, 2nd Place Overall) and Bone Island Half Iron Distance Triathlon (Craig Evans, 2nd Place Overall). I spent time with both of these athletes out on course, giving them splits and cheering them on through some of their tougher moments (This will be the feature of an upcoming blog), and I am here to tell you they too suffered. How they responded to the pain is what amazes me. The one image that I keep seeing in my head is Craig clipping along at 6 minute miles into a headwind, everything beautiful with his stride, then just like someone flipped a switch, he stopped dead in his tracks, bent over, spit up a couple of times, then took off again at 6 minute miles. I knew he was in pain and I was amazed at the ability to turn the pain off and continue on as if nothing was wrong. Had it been me, after spitting up I probably would have walked/run (ok, mostly walked) the remaining miles.

 

I really do find it reassuring that we are all human, and we all deal with the same issues while racing. This gives me hope. Hope that maybe, just maybe, if I put in the training, do all the small things correctly and learn to suffer beyond imaginable pain, I too might one day grace one of the top spots on the podium.

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Co-founder of BE, Craig Evans, sat down with Triathlete Mag editor, Holly Bennett, to discuss our new series.

1/3/2013

With triathlon’s enormous growth over the past decade, the event calendar available to athletes is endless. But a new series called Breakthrough Endurance looks to create a new competition format wherein multiple different events combine into weekend-long festivals of endurance fun. The passion project of business partners Craig Evans (professional off-road triathlete) and Clifton Duhon (president of Breakthrough Nutrition Bt-nutrition.com), along with consultant Conrad Stoltz (six-time world champion triathlete), Breakthrough Endurance kicks off with the BEast of the Southeast in Gallatin, Tenn. May 24-26. Evans and Duhon plan to host three major weekend festivals in 2013, with additional venues in Colorado and on the west coast. While the initial festivals are mostly targeted to off-road athletes (or those wishing to test their off-road skills), the new series will ultimately appeal to road and off-road triathletes equally as the event offerings expand. Other race opportunities exist under the Breakthrough Endurance brand as well, including the Xterra Lock 4 Blast Triathlon, the Spring Thaw Indoor Triathlon Series and the Frozen & Filthy Winter Trail Run Series. I spoke with Evans to learn more about the newly launched company and the factors that will set their events apart.

Triathlete.com: What was the original inspiration behind the series?

Evans: After the ITU Cross World Championships last year [where Evans finished second], Conrad and I spent a lot of time talking to a bunch of other pros. We talked about the benefits of that style of race, where you have multiple laps, and also the importance of getting people’s families more involved and having a real festival atmosphere. Later I had the same conversation with my friend (and now business partner) Clifton Duhon and basically we agreed we should start our own race series. Since then it’s been two and a half months of chaos on top of what I already do for a living and being a dad and husband! But it’s always been that way with me – my hands are always in multiple avenues. My passion is for this sport and I really want to be involved not only in racing but also in doing everything I can to create great race experiences.

Triathlete.com: Give us a run down of what the BEast of the Southeast weekend will look like.

Evans: Friday night will be a super sprint race, sort of like the prologue in the Tour. It’s a pro race but we’re hoping to have a resume option for amateurs, where if we approve them based on past results they’ll be able to race up with the pros. It will be a 200-yard swim, a 5-mile criterium style mountain bike and a 1-mile run. Afterward we’ll have a big pro panel dinner to get age-groupers involved with all the pros, not just a few of them. In Tennessee we’re working closely with lifechurch.tv and they’ve offered up their huge space. They built a church inside of a movie theater, so we’ll have the dinner there with all the pros up on stage.

First thing Saturday morning will be the pro women’s race – an off-road tri, roughly the Olympic distance. We’re still determining the exact course but we’re looking at around a two- to two-and-a-half-hour race. I sent out a survey to all the pros I’ve had contact with over the past several years and asked whether they liked the separate men’s and women’s races at the ITU Cross World Championships and it was an overwhelming response. Everyone loved being able to watch each other, so all our races are designed that way. After the women’s race finishes the men will go off. Then after the men we’ll immediately have awards and start the kids’ triathlon. It will be a bike, a run and then a sprinkler or Slip-n-Slide finish!

After the kids’ race we’ll have the amateur short track, which is 20 minutes plus one lap on a short track mountain bike course. We’ll do the women’s, then the men’s, then bring back the pro men and the pro women. We’re hoping by the end of the weekend the pros won’t have raced just one race, but instead they’ll be saying, “I raced every race I possibly could and I’m broken now!”

On Sunday morning we’re hoping to have an ITU-style sprint road triathlon. It will be open to anyone, but we’ll cap the field at 100. The bike leg is really technical, so it will definitely be a road bike course, not a TT course. As soon as that’s over we’ll start the amateur off-road triathlon – the women first and then the men, so we’ll separate them again. That will wrap up the triathlon events but later that evening we’ll do the After Dark 5k Trail Run, ending in a section of town with a bunch of really cool bars. The next day is Memorial Day, so with the holiday people will be able to stay out and celebrate!

Triathlete.com: What are some other highlights that we can expect from Breakthrough Endurance events?

Evans: One cool thing is that we’ll have a kids’ zone with first aid certified babysitters. It will be a place where kids can play, make signs for their parents and that sort of thing, but also stay safely if mom and dad both want to race. We’ll create a valuable opportunity for our event partners and vendors with the racecourses going right through “Expo Alley”. We’re also planning to partner with a non-profit organization – we’re in the final stages right now of deciding which one. The Tennessee venue is a great example of how we’ll work with local communities. Actually our Beast of the Southeast event and the Xterra Lock 4 Blast Triathlon [which Evans has won the past 10 years and has now taken over as race director under the Breakthrough Endurance umbrella] will be in the exact same location, so the city of Gallatin has really gotten behind the series and we’re committed to working together to make this a huge success. In terms of the races themselves, the separate men’s and women’s races and the fact that all the courses will be circuit-style will help keep our events spectator-friendly and a great family environment.

Triathlete.com: You’re putting up a $16,000 prize purse, a significant sum in off-road triathlon. What’s the motivation behind the money?

Evans: I still think it’s low. I mean no one that races off-road triathlon in the U.S. as a pro makes a full-time living at the sport. So our goal is to offer more money. This is just year one – next year I hope we can offer even more. If this thing goes off right I want it to be huge! Our three-year plan would be to have a five or six race series with a national championship, and then every year our championship venue will change. Personally, I’m tired of racing a national championship every year at altitude. It’s really unfair to athletes like me that that live at sea level!

Triathlete.com: I imagine a lot of folks might view your series as an attempt to go head-to-head in competition with Xterra. Do you see it that way?

Evans: We’re trying to help grow the sport. We may do that by having the pros and elites race one course and then also a have a novice course where beginners get exposed to triathlon, as well as creating a family friendly atmosphere that makes it easier for people to be involved in the entire weekend. So the short answer is we’re definitely not competing. The goal is to get more people exposed to playing in the dirt!

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Craig and Cliff sat down with Chad Nikazy to discuss why BE is the Future of Endurance Racing 

1/2/2013

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate

I sat down recently with professional off-road triathlete Craig Evans and his nutrition coach Cliff Duhon of Breakthrough Nutrition. I’ve known Craig for several years, as our paths occasionally cross at the pool or at local races.

Craig said they had something they wanted to talk to me about. He mentioned a new business venture that included himself and Cliff with 6 x World Champion Conrad Stoltz serving as a special race course development consultant. My interest was piqued.

I met the guys at Lock 4 Park in Gallatin, TN. I arrived just as the state Cyclo-cross championships were ending. Skinny guys with big legs and scruffy chins loaded bikes onto their car racks as an announcer thanked everyone for coming. I sat on the truck tailgate for a minute looking around for Craig. I was out of place somehow among the cross guys.

I texted Craig.

“I’m here, where are you guys?”

“Come to the pavilion by the lake,” he replied. “We’re in the woods.”

Not exactly the response I expected, but I figured Craig may have been getting in a workout. I made my way over to the nearby pavilion and sat down at a picnic table.

A minute later I heard someone yell my name from the woods. Craig Evans stepped from a freshly cut trail in work gloves. His two kids followed him. We shook hands and he introduced me again to his kids. A minute later Cliff Duhon emerged, obviously from also working on the trail. I had a feeling I had walked right into the middle of their business venture.

We spent a few minutes talking about offseason fat (mine) and the race that Craig was preparing for (The Bone Island half ironman in January). After catching up and getting to know Cliff we settled into a conversation about what they’re up to.

These guys have big plans that could change the face of endurance events across the world: The Breakthrough Endurance race series. We spent the afternoon talking about their plans, why they’re doing it, and what athletes can expect.

**********

Chad: Why another race series?

Craig: We saw a need for more of a festival atmosphere in the endurance racing community, particularly with the off-road crowd. If you want to do off-road triathlon it’s going to be Xterra. Nothing wrong with Xterra; they put on great events. But there are other needs not being met with just one race series. As a dad I’m always looking for races that are family friendly. Something that provides great races for the athletes and is a blast for my family to be a part of. That’s one of our goals with BE.”

To read the rest of this article follow this link over to TriFatherhood.com

 

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