A strong run leg kept Hunter Kemper in the running for the $50,000 Toyota Triple Crown prize. We chatted with him after his big win in the big city to talk about equalizers, Rio, and teaching his son to “tri.”
How many times have you raced this course?
That’s a great question. I would say six times, as far back as 2000, so I’m familiar with the area, the course, the whole thing. I’ve raced it the past three years in a row, and have won the last two. Life Time Tri Chicago is very much a city kind of race. They can’t close the course, so there are all kinds of people out on the streets, doing their thing. It’s very fun.
That finishing sprint between you and Alicia (because of the 11-minute equalizer) was pretty action-packed. Were you surprised to have it come down to that?
In those kinds of races when you have an equalizer the ultimate goal is still to be the top in your category and win your race. For me, I just make sure to race hard, and I don’t worry about the equalizer. But on Sunday I was curious about where Alicia was. Actually, I don’t know how, but I missed her on the turnaround. I saw the second place girl and got word that Alicia was two minutes up. Then I saw her right there as you go under the bridge and onto the main road. You probably have fewer than 100 meters once you hit the main road. So I was about 250 to 300 meters behind when I realized I was close enough to try to catch her. I don’t think I had too big of an advantage coming from behind. I actually didn’t feel like I had any info at all until I saw her right there. We were in the finishing chute when I passed her.
What do you think of the “Man vs. Woman” twist on the championship? How does it add to the Toyota Triple Crown excitement?
Last year I lost by nine seconds to Sarah Haskins. It was definitely exciting. Those have to be two of the closest equalizer finishes in history. It was cool. I didn’t make any extra money on Sunday; it was just more about the Toyota Triple Crown. A handful of us get after it and attempt it. It will be very interesting to see what happens in Oceanside because that has never been done as a pro race. I don’t know what time standards they are going to go on (for formulating the equalizer), and it will be very difficult to get it as close as they want to. There will definitely be more intention about where the girls are with $50,000 on the line.
You took the win due to your run time, even though it had really heated up. How did your body react to yesterday’s temps?
Normally I do pretty well in the heat. I’m typically a good hot-weather racer, but I was caught off guard with how hot it was that day. I don’t know if I had enough water on the bike. The heat got me more than it usually does and I suffered a bit. I’ll just know better next time.
I’m not 100 percent sure right now about Dallas. Definitely 100 percent Tempe and Oceanside. Dallas depends on Tempe — I’m taking it one race at a time. I had planned to do the first five Life Time Tri races and see how they go. The Life Time Tri Series is a great series. I love racing it.
Long term, you’re already looking toward the Olympics in Rio in 2016?
I’m definitely putting it out there. It’s three years away, but it’s on my radar for sure. Right now I’m not doing the things I need to do to qualify, because I’m not doing ITU events, things that get you world-ranking points. I’ll mix in a little ITU next year to go for those world-ranking points. Ultimately I will keep saying I’m going to do it until my heart says no, or until I get pushed out by other athletes.
I’m definitely pushing the envelope — I will just turn 40 when the Rio games roll around. At 40 it’s about doing long stuff. Olympic racing at 40 is tough because you lose that quickness and that speed as you get older. But it would be great to go and make history, and to be the first triathlete to do five Olympics. It would be a fun journey. Next year it will start to become more of a reality, and then 2015 will definitely be the crucial year: Are you in or out? How committed are you? I’ll have to get into the top 25 in the world, which shouldn’t be that difficult for me to do, but it can also can be a guessing game as I’m getting older. If I can get into the race, though, I’ll have lot of confidence because of my experience. What I’ll lack in youth, I can make up for in experience, right? That’s what I should keep telling myself.
Your oldest, Davis, raced his first triathlon in July. Who do you think was more nervous: you or him?
I think he was fine. I was more nervous for him. He’s learning to swim, to breathe, and is figuring it all out. He’s six and a half and is in the junior division, so he got to watch the seniors go and race first, then he got to race. I think it was good for him to see other kids out there his age. He’s a big kid and a strong kid. My wife is 6’2’, so he looks nine, not six. His transitions were really good. He practiced those. I told him to just enjoy it. He’s going to race this weekend (at Hy-Vee), and so we’re going to race the same weekend. It’s kind of a fun thing getting to race together now because I don’t have many more years of racing — 2016 will be it.
At the same time, I won’t push him toward doing triathlon. It’s just fun. I don’t want to put any pressure on him or push the idea that he has to win. It just happened that he actually won his first race. But if he decides he wants to do baseball or tennis or music or art, or whatever his passion ends up being, we’ll help him cultivate and pursue it. I just want him to find something that he will love and enjoy.