Do you think your education or your career has helped to prepare you mentally for racing?
I totally do! My career in athletics was primarily focused around wrestling. Throughout my career in that sport, I had learned strict discipline and hard work. My college education was a major in Exercise Science/Sports Medicine and I have learned a lot that I go through day in and day out from nutrition to mental psychology and everything in between.
Have you been an athlete all your life or did you have some sort of epiphany that got you into it?
I have been in sports my whole life. Primarily wrestling, baseball and football. I started running during the summer after my first year in college and did my first triathlon during my second year and from then on, I was hooked!
What do you do when you're not training or racing?
I keep busy doing tasks on me and my wife’s house. I’m quite handy with my hands so I do most of the remodeling to our house.
Do you behave differently in your life compared to during a race?
I feel that I have the same mentality while racing and in life. It’s important to be able to keep a level head in racing like I do in daily life as well as being diligent in real life like you would be in a race.
How do you normally feel before the start of a race?
I’m quite nervous. Nerves are good, because if you are not nervous, you don’t care if you lose. I handle them quite well. I embrace the nerves and use them to my advantage.
What's the most rewarding feeling you have ever had on a race?
Winning IM Mont Tremblant! The crowd at the finish line and leading up to the end of the run with everyone cheering me on was incredible!
What's been your worst moment in a race? How did you overcome this?
I have pulled out of one race in my life and it was because I was sick with Mono. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do but it was necessary and it will become my goal for it to never happen again as long as I’m racing. I overcame that issue by finding the underlining reason to the issue and solving that, then getting back on the bike and getting back into training. I then started hitting my numbers again and rebounding back.
What does concentration mean for you? What role does it play when you train or compete?
Concentration is important. If you don’t focus on each session and concentrate on why you are doing what you are doing, then you are not getting the full benefit of your session. There’s more to training than just hitting your numbers, you need that capability to understand your session and concentrate on the overall plan of your day, week, or season.
What structure does a race have in terms of the level of sensations? What do you start with, what do you end with, and what do you experience along the way?
A race starts with nerves, then the nerves turn to adrenaline, the adrenaline continues and pain ensues. The pain never goes away until the sensation of victory takes over as you cross the finish line.
What is your greatest enemy in a competition? What do you want to defeat?
My greatest enemy is myself. When you are racing the full distance, you tend to go through a lot of mental battles that you need to overcome in order to defeat your competition. I want to defeat all of the best: Frodo, Kienle, Gomez, Lionel, O’Donnell, Hoffman, Don, etc…
Do you have thoughts of escape during a competition? Can you describe them?
I feel everyone does, I know I do. It’s easy to quit... It’s easy to say you have a cramp or fake a bike mechanical. But it’s the mentally strong that carry on and persist. And it’s the ones who continually break those barriers of escape during their training and racing that succeed in this sport. We all wake up every day and want to hit that snooze button but getting up and working harder and smarter than your opponent gets you to that finish line faster than the rest.
When you feel you can't go any further, when you want to give up, what goes through your mind? What does your body tell you and what does your mind come back with?
I first think of my wife and family. None of them are quitters and neither am I. I wasn’t raised to drop out and my wife would be disappointed. I think of them all and the embarrassment that I would go through after I had pulled out. It is then that I find the right mindset to continue and find another gear. My body tells me a lot of things whether it is a stomach issue, muscle fatigue or lack of energy, I have learned the cues that come to my mind from my body. At this point in my career I feel I know what to do in response to those situations.
Tell us the main differences you see between physical and mental strength.
In the hierarchy of strength, mental reigns over physical. There are the obvious differences between the two, but the psychosomatic communication between the two is controlled by the mind. You can be as strong as an ox but if you cannot endure the pain created by your physical strength, then you cannot benefit from it. However, if you can mentally embrace the physical pain you create, then you will go further and faster than those who can’t.
What is your mental strength?
My best mental strength is knowing my limits. I know not to put myself in a situation where I bury myself and cannot get back out. Knowing when to push, when to sit back, and then when to push again. Lots of strategy in triathlon…
In triathlon is it necessary to have inner strength? Be made of iron maybe?
Of course it is necessary to have inner strength. Physical strength does not win races alone. You need to have the whole package and you have many battles with yourself all throughout a race and having the inner strength helps you get through them all.
- Chris Leiferman
- United States
Winner Ironman Boulder 2018
Winner Ironman 70.3 Austin
2nd Ironman 70.3 Oceanside 2017