2013 was your last year as a junior (12th at London), at that time you were really anxious to become U23 since we have seen a lot of emerging talents not making it in the past, can you tell us what was your objective at that time?
I would say it was mixed emotions, as I was both excited and nervous to make the transition to the U23 category and Olympic Distance racing. I wouldn’t say I set any specific goals in terms of racing, as much as I did for just advancing my fitness.
For 2014, you were anxious or excited? Did you have the feeling to be under some pressure since a lot of people were already seeing you as a future Olympian.
Entering the 2014 season, I was very optimistic about trying the new distance and level of racing. Coaches and others in the triathlon world have always told me that longer events would suit my strengths; but making the jump is no easy task, so I took those comments with a grain of salt.
So you decide to go abroad and train with the Hong Kong Squad, how was your experience?
Training with Patrick Kelly and the Hong Kong Squad was truly an amazing experience. I was not only able to escape the cold weather, but as well I had the opportunity to be immersed in a completely different culture. Not only did I learn a lot about being a full time triathlete, but also managing myself as it was my first long adventure away from home. I believe whether you are talking everyday living or training; a different culture really opens your eyes and gives you insight to how others approach life.
Did you believe that you needed to leave the country to reach another level? I mean, it’s a huge commitment leaving your family, friends and Gary Pallett, former Manitoba coach of you and Sarah Anne Brault.
I believe this is an individual choice for each and every athlete based on his or her daily training environment, and for myself it was the best move. I simply couldn’t train to my full potential given the Winnipeg weather. Last year, Winnipeg hit -52 degrees and was colder then the planet mars one day; not an ideal place for a triathlete to train over the coldest months. Gary does a great job of working his program around the weather, but at the longer distance you really need to be able to get outside more to run and bike.
In my first world cup of the year, I was caught in a pile up on the bike, which ended with a broken jaw and a few missing teeth. One never wants to end a race with an ambulance trip to the hospital; however if it is going to occur, New Zealand is the place to be. The medical system was amazing and the care I received was beyond expectations. I had surgery to place four screws in my mouth, to stabilize the jaw. The hospital staff, ITU, fellow athletes, Patrick Kelly and Libby really made those first few days endurable. Following the accident, I returned home to recover and spent four weeks on a liquid diet, succeeded by a few weeks of soft food. Anyone who knows me, knows my appreciation for food has only grown since the accident. Training was very limited during my recovery, as a broken jaw is an awkward injury that doesn’t allow for much movement. Towards the end of my recovery, the CSCM and Gary Pallett arranged for the use of an Alter G treadmill to get me up and running earlier. Once again, I must acknowledge the amazing support system I have.
I remember that everything was really dramatic and Libby Burrell (director HP) taking charge like a family member. With time, do you believe that this accident make you realize how people were believing in you (and not only your parents)?
Anytime a hospital visit is part of a trip, I think you can classify it as an unsuccessful and stressful trip. I know had Libby not been there to support me, my family would have flown to New Zealand at the drop of a hat. They were extremely grateful that Libby not only took care of me, but also found the time to keep them in the loop at home. Libby was my temporary mother and words can’t begin to describe how thankful I am. The experience was truly one of the toughest things I have had to go through, but it allowed me to realize how amazing the support behind me is.
A lot of effort has been done to put you on your feet again. Jamie Turner start to write your trainings and from my point of view… you were a new Tyler. With all the attention you got from Jamie and Libby, you were feeling that your place was with the bests.
I would say I was a ‘new’ Tyler as well. A few things attributed to the new me. I think the biggest was my hunger to be better after the accident. I wanted to prove to myself, that not only was I able to come back, but that I could step it up to the next level.
And you finally joined the Jamie Turner group with the some of the best Canadian athletes, as well as Gwen Jorgensen, Royle, Bailie… and the junior phenomenon Jake Birtwhistle. Can you tell us more about your experience?
A new place, new coach, and new training squad really flipped my world upside down. The new environment was exactly what I needed; I won’t go too deep but it changed my perspective on the sport and really opened my eyes. I’m grateful to have the chance to train with the best and call some of them really good friends.
Did it change your view on your future in triathlon? Not on your success but more your commitment and what it takes to success
I would say my commitment to the sport was always there. What this opportunity allowed was for me to fully commit; and eat/sleep/breathe the high performance lifestyle. I believe my daily performance environment is key to making me the best athlete I can be.
Like you start to race for Versailles in French grand Prix, do you like your experience? Do you think Canadians should be more presents in this race season?
I had the opportunity to race a fun relay format for Versailles in a FGP. I believe it is a great experience for any athlete. FGP’s really have the level of a WTS race without a lot of the normal stressors; you would carry with you into a race. I would highly recommend any athlete including fellow Canadians to race in the FGP series. It is an incredible development tool for high performance athletes to access.
So everything was rolling along; you were suppose to race in Liverpool, it got cancelled and you needed to fly back to Spain; what happened?
I could write a 10 page explanation of what happened; I will keep it short and sweet. I was in Liverpool to have one last hit out before world champs, it was to be a sprint distance. The race got cancelled due to terrible weather conditions, so the first disappointment was the lost race opportunity. When returning to Spain, I was stopped and detained in Belgium by mistake, due to a mix up with the 90 day policy in EU. I was transported away from the airport and put in a holding cell for the next 18 hours. I was given one phone call, which was a panicked one to mom at home. She originally thought I was joking. My mom along with Libby and Triathlon Canada, once again came to the rescue. After many long hours in the holding cell, I was told I was going to be on a flight back home to Canada. Not ideal news as my whole training squad was still based in Vitoria spain. So I said my goodbyes to my friendly Albanian roommates and parted ways. Unfortunately the bad luck wasn’t done. All my luggage including my bike was lost, I spent the most important training block of the year on a bike lent from the owner of Bikes and Beyond in Winnipeg. Fortunately he had planned to take a trip to Maui, so I was able to use his personal bike. Phil and the guys at Bikes and Beyond have always been a great support. I am truly grateful to Trek who managed to get me a new bike before World Champs that was shipped to me in Winnipeg for set up. Two days before heading to Worlds, my old bike surfaced, and I managed to squeeze a few sessions in on my ‘old’ bike, which had been fitted for me.
And you still managed to finish 8 at U23. While it was one of the best Canadian performance ever but you were disappointed about your race, feeling that it could be better…
Had you told me I would have gotten 8th and everything went according to plan, I would be happy. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically I left a lot of myself on the bike course, literally. Just as every athlete knows, the hardest part about sport is not being able to express your fitness on the day, because of extenuating circumstances like being sick. A few of the Canadians, including myself Alexander Hinton and Kirsten Sweetland had managed to pick up a flu virus right before the race.
What’s next for you?
That’s a better question for my boss.