Triathlon legend Javier Gómez Noya has credentials that speak for themselves: Five-time ITU World Champion, two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion, Xterra World Champion, four-time ITU European Champion, Olympic medalist. Always on the lookout for the next challenge, Javi now heads into the unknown over full Ironman distance.
On athlete Javi Gomez lives for a challenge. With a standout record in Olympic-distance triathlon (0.9 miles (1.5 km) swimming, 24.8 miles (40 km) cycling and 6.2 miles (10 km) running), he could have continued dominating the field. But that’s not Javi’s way. First he headed off road in Xterra triathlon and became the best in the world. Next, he stepped up to Ironman 70.3 distance. That’s a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run. Same result: world champion. Twice.
Now, he heads into uncharted territory yet again to take on the full iron distance – 2.4 miles (3.8 km) swimming, 112 miles (180 km) on the bike, and a 26.2 mile (42.2 km) marathon run. Here, Javi tells us why, when it seems he’s conquered every limit, he always finds one more.
Get exclusive insight into Javi’s Kona preparations in our interview series:
– Go behind the scenes with Javi’s fiancee, pro triathlete Anneke Jenkins.
– Hear how Javi keeps finding new limits from his coach Carlos Prieto.
– Discover the unknown in sport and business with On co-founder Olivier Bernhard.
Javi, after all you’ve won, why enter a new unknown by taking on full Ironman distance?
I guess it was the natural step after so many years racing at Olympic distance, luckily with a lot of success. I thought it was about time to look for different goals, different challenges. Staying at Olympic distance would’ve been the easy option because I know I can perform well there. But I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try a new challenge.
It's been exciting but very different – suddenly I was a rookie again. Even after so many years of triathlon, I had so many things to learn. It's been a great journey and I'm enjoying seeing the results.
Is it a big mental challenge to be a “rookie” again?
It's a good thing. Returning to rookie status means you have to refocus. You go back in time to when you were younger, when you had a lot of things to learn. Triathlon requires a lot of training, a lot of hard work, and you do it to face challenges. And at this point in my career, I just needed a new challenge.
What’s going through your head on the start line of an Ironman race?
On the start line I try to be focused on what I have to do in the next eight hours. One of the few advantages of long distance over Olympic distance is that there's not so much pressure on the start. In Olympic distance, if you have a bad start, it can cost you the race. Whereas in an eight-hour race, you have time to recover from an early mistake. It's not so important to get in the top five by the first buoy. It's a bit of a different style of racing. But at the same time, you have to think of so many things – not only your rival's tactics, and how you're feeling, but fueling for the longer distance.
For some people it might seem boring to race for eight hours, but you have to think so much that you don't have time to get bored.
When you up the challenge over a new distance, do you ever doubt your ability to compete?
No. I just make it work. Once I decide something I don't look back, and I give 100%. I think that’s the right attitude, also before a race.
When you are on a start line no one cares about the races you won in the past, how many times you were a world champion. Because if you want to win that race you have to prove it on that day, at that time.
At an event like the Ironman World Championships, you know your main rivals are. How much attention do you pay to competitors when you race?
You have to think about the competition for sure. But the experience I have in Ironman is still limited, and I also have to make sure I run my best possible marathon. That includes not missing any aid stations and not starting too fast because you want to catch the other guys up too early – that will cost you in the final few kilometers. So even though it's a competition and you have to think of the others, it’s important to focus on your race.
Based on what you’ve learned so far, what advice would you give to someone looking to take on their first Ironman?
Ironman is a very long day. Be patient. I think being patient is pretty good advice for a race like that, especially for an amateur. For professionals it’s different because you probably have to take more risks, but you train more for it as well. So you're better prepared. Either way, I would say be patient. An Ironman really only starts after five hours, so you shouldn't stress too much at the beginning.
Finally, why On?
Simply because I tried the shoes and liked the feeling. I thought they could help me at being more efficient on my run and probably reduce the risk of injury, due to the Cloudtec® technology.
Hear Javi discuss the mindset that enables his success, and all things high-performance, with world-renowned sports psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais, on the Finding Mastery podcast