Chicago Athlete: How did your triathlon journey begin?
Stephen Ban: I was not an athlete growing up, I was a singer and an actor, and played a little tennis and hockey, but became an athlete in college. In 1985, I ended up rooming with a kid in Chicago who was a world class rower and we started running together. We then read about the Bud Light Triathlon Series and thought, “that’s so dumb, we have to do it.” Now he’s done about three triathlons, and I’ve done 106.
CA: What is your biggest accomplishment in the sport so far?
SB: First, in 2001 I made the incredibly bad decision to register for my first Ironman after the birth of our first child. I think it was the first Ironman post 9/11, too. It was a little hokey, because we all felt like if we didn’t race, the terrorists won. It was my only overall win I ever had which was in Cleveland where I grew up, but I missed the awards ceremony because we had to feed the baby.
The second is last year at the ITU World Championships in Oklahoma City, because I had been trying to qualify for the longest time. It was unquestionably the hardest race I had ever done, and I almost gave up, but then I remembered “Team USA” was written on my chest and I couldn’t. So I walked a lot, but I finished.
CA: What are your short- and long-term goals?
SB: It’s my first year in the 55-59 age group, but my short-term goal is the same as it has been the last 15 years: to stop sucking on my run and pace myself better on my bike. Longer term, I am increasingly excited about the work the USA Triathlon Foundation is doing with organizations like Dare2Tri … one of the things I hope to do as I get deep into my tri career is to guide an athlete who has a disability. The idea of helping people who never thought they’d get across a finish line is so exciting to me.
CA: What advice do you give to triathletes?
SB: The first piece is remembering that 100 meters into the swim, you’re going to panic, and that you need to prepare for the notion that its coming and welcome it when it comes so you can accept it and relax. That’s where people quit because it’s very intimidating.
Also to practice nutrition and transitions, basic stuff, but the most important thing is to remember you’re doing this for fun. You need to smile for the finish camera; pain is temporary but results and photographs are forever.