Daniel Bretscher - Pro

Daniel Bretscher – Pro

27/01/2011 in General

Andrew – Daniel Bretscher, of all the places to start, let’s talk 2007. You were the man in 2007, a year out of collegiate running at DePauw, you tore up the triathlon scene. I mean you won everything. You nearly won Memphis in May Overall including the pros, talk about 2007. What were the keys that brought you immediate success as a triathlete after collegiate running?

Daniel – One word comes to mind, motivation. In the spring of 2006, my final semester of college, I made the decision that I was going to put off pursuing a career or grad school like everyone else and dedicate 1-2 years solely towards seeing what I could be as a triathlete. The goal was simply to see how good I could be when I had nothing on my plate besides training and racing. I had dabbled around in triathlons enough in the summertime of high school and college to know that it was the activity I enjoyed training and racing the most and was also where I seemed to be the most talented. I wanted to see just how good I could be as a triathlete and if I possibly had it in me to race as a professional. I had no clue if that was even possible, but I had to find out. I knew that I would never have piece of mind with myself if I jumped straight into a fulltime job out of college and never gave myself the opportunity to see what I could be as a triathlete, I would always wonder. I would be just as happy today racing as an age grouper with a fulltime job if I hadn’t been able to make it as a pro. But the key was I had to give myself the opportunity to see what I could be. So back to the question. Upon graduating college in May 2006 I just finished my senior track season and immediately began life as a triathlete. June 2006 was the first time I swam or rode a bike in three years. I spent the summer primarily training but did three races along the way and by the last week of August I had gotten myself fit enough that I went 1:56 for an olympic on a 22 pound steel bike. That race just fueled the fire and made me even more motivated. I went into that offseason more motivated than I’ve ever been towards anything in my entire life. The training block I put in from December 2006 through April 2007 is still likely the best five months of training I’ve ever done. It was all fueled by my motivation to try to make it big as a triathlete. My mind was focused on one thing and if anything got in the way I just steamrolled it. Anyway I entered the 2007 race season levels more fit than I had ever been in my entire life, that fitness and motivation pretty much carried me through the entire race season and the results speak for themselves. I won 10 out of 13 races overall that year including HyVee, Chicago, Dallas US Open, and the USAT Long Course National Championship. Probably my only regret from 2007 is not racing the Age Group National Championship. It was out in Oregon that year and I simply didn’t want to pay for the trip out west.

Andrew – It seems that the fire was still burning hot in 2008 when you turned professional earning USAT Rookie of the Year honors. What was the biggest difference for you between racing age group and pro?

Daniel – To be completely honest, I’ve never found there to be much difference between racing age group versus pro. Racing is racing whether the person you’re going head to head with is an olympian or a fellow age grouper in the 45-49 age group, it’s all the same if you ask me. The battles and rivals within the age group ranks are every bit as competitive and heated as they are between the best in the world, that’s one of the great things about our sport. Not everyone will get to compete in an olympics or World Championship but everyone can experience a Dave Scott/Mark Allen head to head battle. To answer the question though I would say the biggest difference between the two is that the swim is so much more important in a pro race versus AG. Coming out of the water within striking distance in a Pro race is everything, especially as more and more non-draft races become sorta non-draft races.
Andrew – The 2009 & 2010 seasons have been physically and emotionally frustrating. After being in the spotlight and a USAT poster boy what events have occured that have set you back?

Daniel – …I like to say that I became “unbalanced” in ’09-’10. Looking back on things now, I think my problems really started right out of college in 2006 through 2008 when I was having tons of success, but the problems didn’t fully manifest until 2009. Basically, I had a one track mind. Triathlon was everything, it was the way I defined myself as a person, and the way my workouts and races went dictated my moods. It was a very unhealthy mindset and way to live, but I’m positive a whole lot of other elite athletes are living this same way right now. I’m not married, but if I was during that time period there’s no way the marriage would have been successful, everything in my mind was about me and my racing, completely one-sided. But I got away with it and put up very successful results for two years. This is because everything seemed to go my way in 2007-2008, nothing bad happened and I became a very spoiled triathlete, pro triathlon seemed like the easiest job in the world. Looking back on it now I can’t believe that I went two full years without a single setback. Then in 2009 the reality of professional triathlon finally caught up with me and I had some setbacks. An injury in the preseason of 2009 and a couple months later a bike wreck with minor injury. Typical setbacks that every triathlete experiences at some point but this was the first time I had experienced any sort of setbacks and mentally I was not prepared whatsoever. I basically just panicked when things started to not go according to plan and caused those minor setbacks to become so much worse than they were and snowball out of control until nearly all of 2009 was a wipeout. 2010 had a few more setbacks, and wasn’t my greatest year, but I spent a lot of time looking inward at my mindset, who I was, what I was doing, and what I wanted out of triathlon….

I’m very proud of the way I finished the second half of the year in 2010 as I was a bit of a mental wreck in July and was very close to reliving 2009 all over again. But I picked myself up, refocused, got into great shape, and finished strong. I like to think that this was the start of a new, balanced Daniel Bretscher, one with a healthier outlook on life and where triathlon belongs in his life. Truth is though, I can’t be 100% certain that I have overcome all my hurdles just yet, only time will tell.
Andrew – Daniel, why did you choose to go long? From your collegiate running prowess, why not the ITU circuit?

Daniel – … I did put some thought into pursuing ITU racing. But that form of racing just has never appealed to me, it’s never done it for me. I’ve never gotten excited thinking about competing in ITU. I have nothing against that form of racing, I think it’s great, in fact I think that for the most part the best athletes in all of triathlon are the ITU racers. It just doesn’t do it for me personally…

I think it’s because I grew up in awe of the Hawaii Ironman. My father placed 69th overall at Kona in 1987 and some of my earliest memories are his races. We still have the VHS recordings of the ABC broadcasts from the old days of Kona. I grew up watching those races, still do sometimes. How many times have I envisioned myself running the last quarter mile to win Kona? Thousands. How many times have I envisioned myself sprinting for the olympic gold? Hardly ever. Ever since my first triathlon at the age of 12 the ultimate goal has been Kona.
Andrew – You have started coaching quite a few athletes. Are you getting more satisfaction out of coaching or racing these days? I know you also coach yourself, why?

Daniel – I’ve always enjoyed creating, modifying, executing, and analyzing training plans. I’ve kept a training log with every single workout recorded since the age of 12, I could tell you what workout I performed on December 13 1996 if you asked me. I can tell you that I’ve run 26,285 miles since 1995, I just enjoy the numbers. The way I got into coaching triathlon was three years ago I was approached by two athletes who asked if I’d like to coach them. I did, really enjoyed it, they had breakthrough success and I’m still coaching those two today. From there things have just spread through word of mouth, I haven’t spent one dime on marketing myself as a coach. I really enjoy it and enjoy working with people, everything’s been positive thus far. I can’t say if I enjoy coaching or racing more but I hope to make coaching into a full time gig once my pro triathlon days are finished. As far as coaching for myself, I’ve weighed the pros and cons of hiring a coach a few times, but like I said before, I really enjoy sitting down and planning out my training year, months, weeks, and individual days. And I’m confident I know what I need to do in order to get into peak race shape, it’s just a matter of doing it. Everytime I’ve followed the plan I’ve written out for myself I’ve had great results. Every time I’ve been disappointed with my results I wasn’t following the plan I laid out for myself.

So on the subject of doing more than racing for a living, I’m curious about you. If Catepillar, or some similar company, was to approach you next week and offer you a job that was on par with what you previously did, would you accept it? Or are you confident enough, based on the success you’ve had the previous two years, in your ability to ‘make it’ solely as a triathlete?

Andrew – No…Right now I am living a dream that was born on a severance package from the corporate combine, and once it runs out, I will fade into the darkness of the sport as hundreds have.

Can I make a sustainable income as a triathlete? Not yet, but God I am trying. The thing is, this opportunity is a once in a lifetime. I can work into real old age, but to have the gift, the talent, just the ability to race is bliss. I find it so interesting that people are so quick to question one’s decision to sacrifice it all and go for it as a professional, and these same people will go back and relive sporting accomplisments from when they were in high school. I do have those moments, but my real moments are yet to come. I am living those days right now. Living frugally and racing hard.

Daniel – But do you ever think about when you’re 38 years old, your days as a pro are ending and now you’re going to have to go back to ‘real life’ and your work experience is very dated?….I just think more young pros need to understand what they’re getting into, and be realistic about where they stand, their chances of making it big, and have a plan for if triathlon doesn’t work. I’m not trying to throw you under the bus because, personally, I think you’re going to land your first major win anytime now, I’m just trying to bring light to this topic as I feel it is a major problem and a trap that a lot of pros fall into.
Andrew – Daniel, personally I have seen the other side, not much to write home about. Put it this way, marketing yourself and trying to earn sponsors is the hardest thing I have ever done….
If not triathlon, and you could do anything for a living, what would it be?

Daniel – I would have to time travel for my ultimate dream job, it would be to be a member of a world famous 1970s rock n roll band. Secondly, I would be a Formula 1 race car driver. Third would a pro golfer on the PGA tour. One final question for you, Andrew. How many different ways have you seen your last name spelled or pronounced over the years?
Andrew – I know it’s me when I hear Andrew Sssssss…at that point I stop listening. I will laugh and lose focus, the Americanized version is really easy. Star ko wits or the real way Starry ko vitch (where you roll the rr).
Mr Bretscher, I really liked your insight, and I apologize for having to cut so much text from our conversation out, because it sparks a lot of great debate about where the sport is and where it is going. One thing is for sure, you are one talented, smart, and motivated young man. I look forward to racing with a healthy and fit DB in 2011.
Train Safe,
  • JP Severin 17:14h, 27 January Reply

    LOVE the interviews

  • Ron 15:40h, 03 February Reply

    Great interview…As one of one of the athletes being coached by Daniel, I’m proud of him and his ability to look inward and see/find what’s important. He’s one smart cookie for a kid in his mid 20’s.

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