By Steve Breazeale
At 53 years old, Kevin Herbert is still outracing men half his age.
The accomplished distance runner, triathlete and Ironman has spent the last 17 years pushing his body to the limits and is showing no signs of slowing down. Herbert, a San Clemente resident, competed in the San Diego International Sprint Triathlon on June 25 and placed second overall in a field of 400 racers.
He has completed over 50 triathlons and seven Ironman races, including four trips to the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. In the world of swim, bike, run, Herbert is as seasoned as they come.
We caught up with Herbert to find out what it takes to finish a multi-discipline race, how he trains and what keeps him motivated.
SCT: What was it about triathlon racing that drew you to it?
Kevin Herbert: I like the fact that it’s three sports and it’s a challenge in that respect. It’s not like focusing on one thing and getting bored. When you have three there is always something different to do in training and you’re always trying to perfect one particular part of each sport, which isn’t easy. But therein lies the challenge.
What’s the hardest aspect to manage when training?
KH: You have to figure out how much time you’re going to put in to running, biking and swimming. Then you have to stretch and do strength training. That’s a lot.
Is it hard to enjoy yourself during such a grueling race, like an Ironman?
KH: Halfway through the run is when you start to think ‘this hurts.’ It’s hot, you’re thirsty and your body is cramping. But you’re still like ‘Wow, I’m out here doing this and it’s really cool.’ Once you finish, you’re tired but ecstatic.
Have you grown to like one discipline over another?
KH: I’m always behind on the swim, then I get on the bike and start to progress up the ladder and because the run is my strongest, that’s where I pass people in my age group. That’s the fun part. As the race progresses, my strengths are getting better and I’m passing people. That’s a neat part of the challenge.
Are you surprised by your success at 53 years old?
KH: I am. I thought I would continue to do well. My goal is to win my age group at races and I usually do. I’ve been beaten every now and then, which gives me a little incentive. To beat the 20 or 30-year-olds is pretty cool though.
Care to share some training secrets?
KH: I think with age I’ve learned to train smarter and not just go out and put in a bunch of training and think that it’s all going to come together. It’s structuring it and giving myself more rest. I listen to my body a lot more than I used to. I think those little things help.
Are you training for any big upcoming races?
KH: Now I just do the shorter ones. I’m married, I have a son and I just don’t have the time. Plus, I’m 53, I just can’t do Ironman races forever. I do the shorter ones because I don’t have to train as long and I have a life (laughs).