Lukas Verzbicas is a four minute miler (3:59.1 to be exact), an ITU World Champion, and nineteen years old. 

Little more than a year ago Lukas decided to focus on triathlon exclusively. He left the University of Oregon and moved to Colorado Springs where he trained to become a professional triathlete. He started his professional career a little rocky, but as he gained experience in the professional field he began competing with the best of them, and finally in June, won the Banyoles World Cup in Barcelona. 

But, in late July of 2012 he was in a bike accident where he suffered several injuries including a broken collarbone, a collasped lung, fractured vertebra, and some temporary loss of motor function in his leg. 

Sounds pretty hopeless right? Not to Lukas. Here is what he has to say:

Stephanie Hutson: First, how is the recovery coming along?
Lukas Vezbicas: My recovery has gone very smoothly and faster than first expected. I am already back up and training!
SH: Do you have any come back races you are aiming for? 
LV: I want to make sure I am fully back in shape when I first race again. My first planned race back is the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge March 9th.
SH: Has your accident and process of recovery changed you at all in your outlook as an athlete or, in a broader sense, as a person?
LV: Of course! What I went through laying in that hospital bed not really knowing wether I'd even walk again has provided me with the kind of  experience I would have never gone through and learned by just training and racing. I realized that life itself has the most to teach us and in even the worst of experiences there is always an opportunity. For me it was to understand that life can be very short and I shouldn't get caught up in the small things like winning races and to notice the more meaningful broad spectrum of life like relationships with not just other people but spiritually with my inner self as well. The accident has brought me closer to God, I now notice that I am nicer to everyone else and have much more appreciation in my life. I have also gained strength that no kind of training could have provided me, learning to not just run but walk all over again was harder than anything else I've done in the past and through it the training now, no matter what it might be, feels effortless
SH: Many people knew you first as the really fast high school runner who wound up breaking four minutes, and then they found out how talented you were as a triathlete. How much swimming and biking did you do before you started triathlon?
LV: I was a full time triathlete growing up from winter to fall taking just the autumn months to fully concentrate on running. I'd do 20,000 yards of swimming per week along with couple hundred miles on the bike. Sometimes I'd end up swimming per week more than running. This has given me an insurmountable base so that when it came time to just run all I needed was to sharpen up my speed and I was set. 
SH: In the US, most of the triathletes people know about are in their mid to late twenties and in their thirties. How does it feel to be the first of a generation of younger triathletes to make a real impression on the sport?
LV: I'm honored to be competing with the very best in the world while still in my teens. They are the athletes I still look up to even now and have taught me so much already wanting only the best for me so that when I am their age I could be the very best there ever was. I also want to make everyday people more aware of triathlon and have them pursue the healthy lifestyle that the sport brings; I think having a younger generation athlete competing with the older ones gives something for people to get excited about what I'll do in the future and see me as an under dog kind of story. 
SH: When you chose to leave Oregon to pursue triathlon you made waves in both the running community and the triathlon community. Now that it has been a year, how do you feel about your decision?
LV: I feel that I made the best decision for my athletic success, I don't think I'd be at a level close to where I am as a triathlete in distance running. Of course I also realize I made a rash decision to leave so soon probably not giving it enough time to get settled in and it seems karma has a funny way of working on us... 
SH: Which athletes most inspire you?
LV: I have always admired running legend Steve Prefontaine as it was one of the primary reasons I chose to go to University of Oregon. Out in the triathlon world I really enjoy following Chris McCormack and Javier Gomez. 
SH: Outside of the bare minimums, what is something on race day that you can't live with out?
LV: Caffeine. I withdraw from it while training and feel the need for it to get that extra boost on race day. 
SH: When you have had a bad race, or a bad workout, what sorts of things do you do or say to yourself to help you get through it?
LV: I see what went wrong and follow it up in my training to fix it.
SH: What is your favorite recovery meal? recovery workout?
LV: Chipotle burrito bowl. Best way for me to recover is to go an a very slow jog without a watch for however long my body feels like it.
SH: Rio 2016, do you see yourself there?
LV: Loud and clear 
SH: And Finally, do you have any words of wisdom or advice for triathletes everywhere?
LV: I would say to dream big and not give up on your dreams. No matter what happens you can overcome it and once  you do you will be back stronger than ever!

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks Lukas!

Happy New Year everyone! Don't be afraid to Tri!


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