Interview with: Pedro Gomes

Sunrise on the bike, lunch at the pool and afternoon runs. Pedro Gomes is the new guy in town. This professional triathlete, two-times IRONMAN champion and one of the top long distance triathletes in the World, has recently moved across from Phoenix, Arizona to the Middle East and has now picked Dubai as a base for the winter. Without the typical youth sports background and a light spirit, he jokes that his sports career started in ’94 with the video game World Cup ’94 for Super Nintendo. While his high school cooper test (12-min run) might be far from impressive, his performances at IRONMAN aren’t far short from impressive and he strives to become a leading triathlete in the Middle East and (really) World Wide.

How did you overcome a sedentary childhood to become one of the World’s top athletes in such a grueling endurance sport as the Triathlon?
Well, I started triathlon precisely because I was such a sedentary child. In my teens my dad started to challenge me to do some races, I believe he wanted me to have something physically exciting and challenging so obesity wouldn´t strike later on in life. It was the perfect master plan, as addicting as the sport is, I quickly become excited for new goals. However, as everyone else I began with slow performances. Even after I decided this was what I wanted to do with my life, it took me years of persistency and work to move up the rankings. The biggest handicap was definitely the swim as it’s a very technical sport. At the end of the day, the lack of a sports background was a hurdle I had to overcome, but if you want achieve higher goals you always have to be willing to make sacrifices and persevere.

Why have you chosen Dubai, UAE, to be based?
Dubai offers a great combo for the practice of triathlon and it’s weather during the winter makes it a top-notch location for the normal, northern hemisphere, winter – I’ve been to many cities, especially in the US and Europe, and there’s very few that can match the weather, the infrastructures and the growth of the triathlon community in the region. In Dubai, you can bike outdoors most of the year, have running routes to explore on your run and some of the coolest and extravagant pools. Besides, Dubai’s location is perfect to access races in Asia which is a part of the World I’m yet to explore. Also, you really can’t beat the weather it offers – having the ability to train outdoors in January or December is something truly valuable for a triathlete. There are other cities I could pick where you do get the same type of conditions but I do like Dubai as a city, it’s quite exciting to wake up to the Sunrise behind the tall buildings and run along some amazing infrastructures. The ultimate decision came from the fact that I knew a few people in Dubai and they love living here.

What does your normal training week look like?
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to make triathlon my full-time job. So my weekly hours of training range between 25 and 35 hours. I take advantage of the weekly group rides that take place in the city and really enjoy swimming with the Dubai Masters Swim Club. I love to start my rides before sunrise because it’s more peaceful and quiet, so every day, at 4 or 5am you will see me heading to Al Qudra or to the mountains and ride as the sun wakes up. Sometimes I try to get a run right off the bike or head in the morning as well to the pool to catch an early morning session. On some days, I will go out again to ride in the afternoon at NAS cycle track or head to the pool for a dip. There’s really no difference between week days, weekends or holidays, every day is a training day whereas some will be hard, long days and others will be short, recovery ones.

What do you do in your free time?
I don’t have that much free time – as recovery is almost as important as training hard – but I do have a wife to keep happy and athletes to manage! I’ve started coaching triathletes for a few years now and have taken two coaching certifications to learn how to lead one from coach to Ironman. Going over their sessions and keeping track of what they do everyday is a full time job by itself which I enjoy doing and have the fortune to do it at my own pace and on the hours that I’m on my recovery bouts or as I do lunch/dinner. I also feel like triathlon is my life and I’m always looking to produce content to not only inspire others but also to keep my sponsors happy. Having said that, I’ve embraced photography and writing as a relaxation activity and will go out with my camera if there’s a race nearby or will put to words what I have experienced recently.

Did you always wanted to be a professional triathlete?
Honestly, no. It never crossed my mind to be a professional athlete, let alone a sport that involves three different disciplines of which I had no experience when I was a kid. I feel like Triathlon does reward hard work over talent, and while I’ve never felt like I had the natural talent, I’ve been always disciplined and very committed to training and so turning this into a profession was something I achieved before I even realized. I grew up wanting to be a vet, as probably half the kids that love animals, and always had a fascination for the life on air (like an air pilot or flight attendant) but never really pursued any of these careers.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to still be racing and hopefully very close to my peak. 5 years is probably what I still need to achieve that level of performance I feel like I’m capable of and while the past 2-3 years have been plagued with injuries and misfortunes, I still feel like I’m getting wiser and stronger by the year. If you ask me where I see myself in 10 years then maybe triathlon is not my full-time job anymore and my golden years have passed. I do wish to pursue triathlon coaching after my racing years and have this dream of building a year around training house in a cool location, where I can mix my ability and knowledge with my wife’s (who is a pastry chef) love for cooking and welcoming people. We would build a 5-6 bedroom triathlon house with everything you need to do the sport and we would welcome people 365 days a year, with prep meals and SAG for every training session. While this is just a dream, if it happens, it would close my full circle of life! ■