The three-time Ironman world champion talks about his new life as a pilot in Victoria, the balance he’s enjoying with his family and the thrill he got from watching his former training partner, Ryder Hesjedal, snatch Canada’s first Grand Tour win at the Giro d’Italia. Read Inside Triathlon’s feature on Reid from 2009.
If you get Peter Reid on the phone these days—who has happily relocated to Victoria, Canada, his hometown during the heart of his professional triathlon career where he racked up 10 victories at the Ironman distance including three Ironman World Championships in Kona—you might not first guess what it is the 43-year-old Canadian wants most to talk about in regards to sports. The coming Olympics? Not really. Lance Armstrong? No way.
“Let’s talk about Ryder winning the Giro!” Reid said. “I have done a ton of long rides with that boy.”
Reid was of course talking about Ryder Hesjedal’s recent victory at the Giro d’Italia, the first Grand Tour victory ever for Canada.
“It’s the biggest cycling achievement ever by a Canadian,” Reid said of the Garmin-Barracuda rider. “He’s a Grand Tour champion and a lot of us saw it coming. In 2010 he finished 6th in the Tour de France. I thought last year was going to be his breakout year. But 2012 is the year where he has 100% of the team behind him.”
In the cycling world Hesjedal has long been known for an unforgiving work ethic and exceptional toughness. Before going pro as a road racer with The Discovery Channel team in 2005, Hesjedal had found success as a mountain biker, winning a silver medal in the U23 category at the world championships and competing for Canada in the 2004 Olympics.
Reid believes that part of Hesjedal’s success is due to the unorthodox training program he had as a youth, building an aerobic base while riding and racing through his teen years and being restricted from higher levels of threshold training. Reid also believes there was some family support for the eventual career choice. “His name is Ryder for a reason,” Reid said. “His dad named him that because he wanted him to become a cyclist.”
Reid recalled the impression Hesjedal made on him during seven-hour rides early in Hesjedal’s pro cycling career.
(“Let me make this clear,” Reid started as sort of an aside. “It wasn’t like I was riding with them the way someone might normally ride with a group. I just got in there and hung on their wheels all day.”)
“Ryder was so committed,” Reid said. “He approached it like a job. We’d start riding at 9am and then when the clock read 10:30, he’d say, ‘coffee break,’ and that’s what we did, we took a break for coffee just as if you were on your break at work. Same went for lunch. There was nothing glamorous about cycling for him. It was definitely a blue-collar attitude of, ‘This is my job and this is what I do 40 hours a week.’”
“I got a lot out of seeing that but for me it could be a little frustrating,” Reid added. “They’d be punching out at the end of the 7-hour ride and I still had a transition run to do.”
Reid also got to see the little extras that went into making a champion at the Giro.
“I remember riding with him in wintertime in Victoria. It was so bloody cold out there but Ryder wouldn’t wear gloves. He said, ‘I need to toughen up.’ What he was doing was getting ready for mental toughness required at the spring classics.”
The descriptions of Hesjedal’s approach to cycling sounded familiar: They sounded a lot like the manner in which Reid approached his triathlon career. Always known for his single-minded dedication to the sport, Reid’s hunger was legendary and his ascent to greatness at the Ironman has always helped make the point that top pro triathletes are made, not born, and if Reid made any mistakes in his career they seemed to be the times when he pushed himself onto thin ice in bouts of severe overtraining. After he retired from triathlon in 2006, Reid eventually re-channeled his capacity for focus and work into becoming a pilot. As depicted in Inside Triathlon in 2008, Reid had all but disappeared from triathlon in order to pursue a vision of one day being a commercial pilot. At the time of the Inside Triathlon story, Reid was netting his initial flight hours for a float plane company, Nootka Air, in Gold River, a small logging town in British Columbia.
Once again, the steady work has paid off for Reid.
“When I got into flying my dream was always to work for Harbour Air and being back in Victoria. I approached the goal like I was training for the Ironman.”
Reid now has accumulated more than 4,000 hours of flight time, much of it in difficult take-off and landing circumstances that require exceptional skill.
“I love flying in Victoria,” he said. “It’s close to the ocean and it’s a tight landing strip. It’s fun.”
Completing the picture for Reid has been his long-term relationship with Malaika Ulmi, who has relocated with Reid to their new home in Victoria. In May of 2011 the two announced the birth of their baby boy, Waymouth. The overall stability has allowed Reid to resume his love for biking and running, and he reports that he’s even getting in some good training.
“It’s been a long long time searching for little balance in my life,” Reid said. “I work four days on with three days off. I walk to work, spend time with my family and get to do some running and biking. It’s a balance I never had in triathlon.”