Episode 13

The power of self belief: Ben Hoffman

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INTERVIEW TIME LINE* (not the whole episode)

0.00 Is triathlon as fun as it used to be at the start? 

Ben explains how he got into triathlon and how the things that are fun have changed but that he feels fortunate and grateful to able to be a professional triathlete.

2.00 What doesn’t excite him anymore? Ben admits the travel isn’t as fun as it used to be. “Now I have a family and now I’m 36 years old, I appreciate having my home environment which keeps me comfortable and dialled in when it comes to my training and as much as I love the culture and racing in different places, I love being home now. Something that didn’t excite me as much early on was probably the pursuit of sponsors and now it’s really cool and I look forward to having these conversations and how we can grow their brand as well as mine.

4.00 How he doesn’t want to put a number on when he will retire. “I think you have an idea in your mind and you see a lot of people fizzle out in their late 30s but a lot of it comes from a motivational stand point. Can you still get excited about getting out of the door for training and taking care of the little details off the bike for example. Five more years would be great, that would take me to 42 and if I could continue to get support and I still have the passion, I would love that. But seeing that end makes me more appreciative of all of the components.

5.45 Talks about Richie Cunningham and Chris Lee and how he trained a lot with them when he was in his early 30s and they were on the brink of retiring ‘overall the one message that I get from most people when they reach that stage is do this for as long as you can because we don’t always understand how great of a job it really is. That said, it can be a grind and it sometimes can be like any other job’

7.45 Do a lot of pro triathletes glorify it all on Instagram?

“I do think it would be nice if we were a little bit more open about the parts of it that weren’t so awesome all of the time but it’s about that line and how much you decide to let people into your life.”

We go on to talk about who does the posting on Instagram.  

11.15 What does ‘an attitude of gratitude’ mean to him?

Ben reflects on his big injury in 2018 ‘maybe the passion about why I do this had shifted and I felt quite blind-sided by this injury. And having it taken away from me really drove it home how much I want to be doing this. So entering the 2019 season, I looked at everything a bit differently and I could not be able to get on my bike, but I really want to do it and see good I can be and the window for a peak performance is closing and I really want to see what I can do” The attitude of gratitude extended to all aspects of my life and I felt like I was taking things for granted a little bit. But it is something I try to carry with me every day.

14.15 Self belief is the cornerstone of athletic performance. It’s one of the biggest limitations of athletes who don’t reach their potential. It’s a process.. You don’t just wake up one day and think ‘ok, I can win Kona now’ but your performance is a constant process of upping that self belief. I didn’t believe I could win Kona until I was 2nd there. It’s a delicate balance. If you have a really bad season, there is a lot of questioning that goes on and a lot of self doubt too. But it’s about having that mindset and self belief to overcome that, to push that down and that is critical for performance, it’s the number one thing, more than the training itself.

16.00 How do you turn around a lack of self-belief?

Putting the injury behind me, having my wife around me reminding me I’ve had to grind previously but as long as I put the work in, the results will come. But you have to concentrate on it a lot to raise that level of self-belief. I remember at that time being super worried ‘will I ever be back, will my sponsors leave me?’ Worry is your minds way into tricking you into believing you have control.

18.00 Was Ben a worrier? We talk about a fear of failure. “That’s always been a cornerstone for me. I want to win and there is a pressure/fear of failure that motivates me.”

19.30 Talks about becoming a dad in September 2019, a month before the 2019 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii and how they juggled the first month after their daughter was born. “we had a lot of support from our family who took care of so much stuff and I was able to sleep in a separate area and continue to train really hard. There was a different level of investment in that way and I really wanted to deliver in a different way and I wanted to make it all count.” 

22.30 Talks about putting out another big performance at Ironman Florida , just a few weeks after the Ironman World Championships, which saw him secure his start place in Kona in 2020 so he doesn’t have to focus on trying to qualify for Kona in the early part of 2020.

24.00 Talks about the appeal of Challenge Roth in 2020 and why it hasn’t worked for him previously and how he hopes to be racing in the Collins Cup

25.30 Talks about the Collins Cup and the PTO and why he wanted to be a part of it from the beginning “I was actually one of the people that signed up for and contributed money to the original Professional Triathletes Union. This is finally the moment where the pieces came together and we finally have a pretty cohesive group.   I want to see our sport improve. I’m not saying our vision is the best and right one, but we are an important voice in the sport. In my core, I want to have a legacy beyond just what my race results were. I would like to see the up and coming pros have more opportunities too. It’s something that will take time, but I do think that it has really good potential and Mike Moritz has our back and I think he looks at this as something that will take time and he is willing to support us.

29.00 What is Ben’s message to the athletes who have voiced their discontent who will not be involved this year?

“I think the initial effort was for people who were top ranked and I don’t think it’s perfect that not everyone was contact, but to me there is a component of sour grapes going on. They can still sign up to be part of the organisation and it undermines the bigger picture. The Collins Cup is not the only event we are doing. There is a lot more to this and we need people to be on board and committed to the longer term vision.

31.15 Bahrain 13 - Ben was on the team at the start, but wasn’t on it from 2019 “It was a mutual decision. They had put a lot of emphasis on the Olympics and Paralympics and I was basically like “I understand” and we just felt like we had 4 successful years with the team. But no bad blood.

32.15 Did the values of the team and the links with Bahrain ever bother you?

I did spend time doing my own investigations and there were things that were concerning to me at times, but overall I adopted the mindset that these people were willing to support us in our sporting goals. I understand peoples arguments that we were potentially aligning ourselves with people that had questionable behaviours, but I also asked myself if that was something you could uncover anywhere you and as an American, I know my country’s history and there is a lot of stuff that goes on that I am not proud of. There are problems everywhere in the world and you can focus on problems or you can focus on solutions and I felt like the team was focussed on creating solutions and bettering the lives of people in that country and I was proud of that effort.

34.15 We move on to doping and why he recently published his drug testing results

“There are a lot of misconceptions about what goes on the drug testing front.  I think as a PTO we have to prioritise a unique component of our sport, which is that unlike cycling, we are not tarnished by doping. I believe there are still people who still cheat in our sport, but overall, we have a pretty clean sport and I feel safe saying that. Talks about the exchange with Jan Frodeno and Uli Fluhme on social media.

37.15 – Would you like to see all athletes publish their results?

More than that, I would like to know about TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions).  That’s one thing I am not comfortable with. I have never had one, but if I had to guess, there are probably several athletes out there with them. If you want to be a fighter pilot in the US Army or Airforce, you have to have certain vision requirements and if you don’t have them, you can’t be a pilot, it’s that simple. So if your body has some sort of illness that can’t be overcome without some sort of heavy medication, that might have a side effect of being performance enhancing, then maybe you can’t be a professional triathlete. I know that sounds harsh, but we have seen in the past, especially in cycling that people abuse those TUEs and it would hold people a lot more accountable and less likely to abuse them if they had to publish that information. 

39.30 We talk about the Nike Next % and technology in running shoes.

“Do I believe it’s performing enhancing? Yes I do. I think it does increase my performance, I think it’s the foam which has really good energy return and when I do a marathon in them, I pull up better the next day. If the rules change and the shoes were to go away, I would adapt. It’s interesting with sponsors - I’ve heard a lot of people trying to modify shoes to look like other ones because they want to use this shoe too. Innovation is part of our sport and it moves everyone forward. The running industry was pretty stagnant for a while.”

44.00 What lessons has he learned twice? 

Don’t jump into a race and run as hard as you can at the very beginning of your training cycle.

Don’t make changes really close to a race.

46.45 What did he learn the most about himself after the Cape Epic race he did with Sebi Kienle?

I was a shell of a human after that. The level of suffering that I thought was my maximum was not at all and when things are really hard, I go back to that a lot. It’s pretty eye opening and it was a big step forward that way.

48.25 Patience “this time of year, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed and think “I am out of shape, I will never get back to that level again” and you question yourself and you have self doubt and you question how you will ever get back to that level and the answer is patience and consistency.   The lesson is this is in your body and your mind already and if you are patient about your body it will come out again.

50.00 What 3 things? Ben is really into welding, so I ask him what he would most like to weld! 

About the Podcast

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Inside Tri Show
Triathlon podcast from Helen Murray with awesome interviews

About your host

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Helen Murray

Helen has been working in triathlon for a decade as an athlete, coach and broadcaster.

Helen hosts the Inside Tri Show podcast bringing you awesome interviews from triathlon and beyond