Athlete's Corner 2: Thomas Huwiler (ENGLISH)
Triathlon is a lifestyle. That’s what Swiss professional Triathlete Thomas Huwiler tells us of his career as a professional long distance triathlete, read on below to find out more about how he lives his passion and how he came to discover it through injury and heartbreak as a young runner.
Thomas turned to Triathlon after suffering numerous injury setbacks as a runner, “As a junior I was Swiss Champion over 1500m on the track,” he explains, “and when I tried to increase my training load and follow Julien Wanders to Kenya I probably overdid it as I was trying to combine it with my studies and I ended up with a stress fracture in my ankle that required and operation. After the operation I turned to swimming and biking as an alternative to keep fit, and soon did my first triathlons later that year.” Thomas’s first season in Triathlon was quite promising as he finished 2nd overall at the Ironman 70.3 in Turkey as an amateur, behind Jonas Schomburg (who is now a Top-10 WTS athlete).
“Triathlon became a great alternative after stopping middle distance running,” he continues to explain, “as an endurance sport it was already in my domain, and I couldn’t imagine leaving behind the adrenaline rush that you feel when racing and competing.” His progression was impressive the following season with victories at both the Geneva and Vallée de Joux Triathlons.
Talking about objectives in triathlon, Thomas clearly defines his short term and long term goals, “this year I’d love to have a good race at 70.3 Sables d’Olonne and then a good performance at the Ventouxman in October as it’s a course that suits me better.”
“Looking more long term I’d say my aim is to perform well at the Ironman distance and try and win a Half Ironman race in the pro field. If I am able to qualify that way for the World Championships, I would see it as a great achievement. I know that it’s going to take a lot of work though to get to that level.”
When we ask Thomas for any tips he may have for triathletes thinking of going pro he proves quite philosophical and clearly encourages people to pursue their goals, “you have to dare to dream big!” he says, “you have to dare to adjust your timetable and your working schedule to give yourself time to train, and try not to worry about what other people will say or think. You should live your passion and follow your own path.”
“My biggest challenge turning pro was clearly the swim,” he adds, “in the Pro Field I often find myself swimming alone and getting onto the bike with a big deficit. At my first Pro Race I took a real hit to my morale as I was used to having people to pick off, but instead I was riding totally alone for hours. I ended up throwing in the towel in Aix, but when I lined up in Barcelona a week later I promised myself I would race to the end and not give up. Low and behold I found myself riding back into the race after a couple hours and managed to run my way into the top 10.”
“I think everyone faces their own challenges in their first season as a pro,” he concludes, “but you need to trust yourself and your abilities, and put in the work over time to progress as an athlete and make up those differences.”
In parallel to his career as a professional triathlete, Thomas continues to work as physical education teacher in Geneva, “it’s essential have a source of income to pay my rent and my food, there aren’t many triathletes who are able to pay all their bills without a job on the side, particularly in Switzerland !” Thomas adds that he has adjusted his working hours to have a part time job so as to ensure that he has the time to train and recover properly so as not to compromise his ability to progress.
Clearly, COVID-19 came and disrupted Thomas’s plans this season, and he admits the year has been full of different challenges, “COVID completely turned my year on its head,” he explains, “I’ve found myself adapting and doing specific preparation for a variety of different races that have all been cancelled, and when Embrunman got called off at the last minute I took it quite hard and wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of the year. The only plausible objective that suits my strengths is the Ventouxman in October.”
“I kept my motivation by continuing to sign up to the races that hadn’t yet been cancelled,” he continues, “and I made the most of the extra free time to do a bike trip and different adventures with some of my friends.” When we ask him if he uses Strava he smiles back and says, “Yes, and it was a great tool to race some of my friends on different segments to see who could get the KOM. It was a fun way to test your limits without a real start line being involved.”
To conclude our conversation, we turned the subject to his why; why does Thomas continue to train and race, and what is his reason for pursuing Triathlon as a professional? His answer sums him up quite well, and you can tell he truly loves what he does, “For me, Triathlon is a great excuse to live some incredible experiences with my friends, to be outside, to ride my bike and to discover some beautiful places. I love being outside in the nature, taking care of my body and finding ways to become a better athlete.”
“It’s the lifestyle that motivates me and drives me,” he concludes, “it’s the process of training and performing and the connexion of your mind with your body and your soul. Triathlon is just the icing on the cake!”