The following interview is brought to you by the support of The Right Stuff – Serious Hydration for Serious Athletes.
Every athlete has a story. Some overcome adversity, others battle tough decisions and make constant sacrifices, the list goes on and on. While all can be interesting, some are a bit more intriguing than others. The tale of former professional triathlete, Craig Evans, from Nashville, Tennessee is one that will leave you astounded at how any person could handle that type of load and still reach the level of success that he did.
Over the years, one thing has remained constant for Craig Evans; he has always been a family man and an incredibly hard worker. In college he was an outstanding swimmer, nearly qualifying for the Olympic trials. When he jumped into his first XTERRA Triathlon in 2002, he was referred to as “the fat guy”, weighing in at 215 pounds, but that nickname didn’t stick and Evans quickly took form as a multisport athlete. An absolute beast of a competitor, he dove head first into off-road triathlon and in 2005, the year his daughter Haley was born, he won the USA National title in the 25-29 age group. The following year, he and his wife Holly had their second child, Tyler, Evans turned pro, and he continued to work 40+ hour work weeks, all while doing his “ninja training” each night. Ninja training consisted of going about a full day of family and work, then at night, head to the basement and hammer out intense workout sessions solo.
Any normal human would only be able to maintain that type of schedule for short time, but not Craig. That was just the norm for him. He continued to improve as an athlete, climbed the corporate ladder year after year, earned the #1 ranking in the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series mid-season in 2008, and regularly placed top 5 in major U.S. XTERRA races. One of the high points in his elite career saw him claim a silver medal at the 2012 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships, second behind only the great Conrad Stoltz.
In 2014, he and his family decided that Craig should go at racing “full time”. Evans left his 60+ hour work week to pour himself into the sport completely. His results showed the efforts, continuously grabbing podium finishes. This was his final push as a professional triathlete, and after a decade of racing at the top level of the sport, Evans felt that it was time for his career to come to a close.
After the XTERRA East Championship in Richmond, VA in 2015, Evans retired and stepped away from the sport as an elite. Through the support of one of his former sponsors, The Right Stuff, we caught up with Craig to see what the former “hardest working man in XTERRA” has been up to. Please enjoy our brief interview with Craig “Beast of the Southeast” Evans.
DirtTRI: How have you made the mental shift of stepping away from full time racing?
Craig Evans: The mental shift was pretty easy for me. Instead of focusing on my personal fitness and goals, I turned it onto my family and work/life balance, like when I was younger. I actually get very competitive in selling situations, similar to my racing days, but I am learning to stay more calm in meetings these days.
DirtTRI: Do you still train or race? If so, in what capacity?
Craig Evans: I literally took an entire year off, I needed a break from the sport and daily PRO grind of pushing my body to it’s limits day in and day out. I rode my bike a little, ran with my boss a few times and stayed as far from a 25 yard pool as I could. That blue/black line definitely does not change from pool to pool, so I needed a big break! I jumped in 1 local XTERRA and 1 mountain bike race for fun this year, but just didn’t feel the deep competitive drive that I lived for since I was 4 years old. I lost the fire and really have just enjoyed playing and being social for a year.
DirtTRI: What was a realization you had about yourself or the sport in your last year of racing?
Craig Evans: The realization, you could say, I really noticed was I always had been putting my personal endeavors in front of everything else that I needed to be concentrating on like family, work and spiritually. This honestly, deep down inside, was a large smack in the face and pretty difficult to even talk about to anyone. Life is really good, so why not enjoy all of it.
DirtTRI: Since you were always one of the top swimmers in the sport, and an obvious guru in the water, could you give us a basic tip for getting faster in the water?
Craig Evans: Stop reading books :). Its quite funny to hear athletes, when I coach them one-on-one in my spare time, ask “What books taught you to swim faster”? With my sense of humor its really difficult to me not to laugh out loud. I am not trying to be mean, but you can’t swim faster reading books, you swim faster with cleaner water that you are pulling from point A to B with less strokes. Deep hands is a perfect start to swimming faster. I really love the simplistic art of swimming, I just hate staring at the black line and T on the bottom of the pool.
DirtTRI: Immediately following your retirement, you and Canadian Elite, Karsten Madsen founded Dynamic Coaching. How is that going?
Craig Evans: I have taken on some large opportunities and promotions with my company and I stopped coaching athletes all together. I want to give to the sport, but I felt like I was letting my athletes down by not giving them full attention during their weekly schedules. I do a few swim clinics here and there for friends who need help, but I am done coaching.
DirtTRI: How did you handle your training nutrition while you were doing your “ninja training”? Any advice for others in a similar situation?
Craig Evans: No one should do ninja training, it’s awful! I am not a nutritionist so I might not be the best person to ask, but if I was hungry I just chose the best options in between the operating room, workouts and sleep. Staying hydrated was always really important, especially living in a humid climate. The Right Stuff was always in my kitchen cabinet. Ninja training worked for me but it was brutal. There is just no way to sugar coat that one. I don’t recommend it.
DirtTRI: Are your bikes still your “toys” or have you found new things to fill the garage with?
Craig Evans: I have lots of toys in my garage, too many actually. My bikes will always be my toys, I am buying a new one and am going to race some road/mtb races next year for a team in Nashville (kinda pumped to be honest), yes I am getting back in some good shape so watch out. I think my favorite toy currently is my 1971 Fiat 124 sport convertible. It has taken me two years to rebuild her and she is a blast to drop the top and push that little five speed to the limit. My 1994 lifted Jeep Wrangler and my two 4 stroke turbo jet skis make me smile as well, just saying.
DirtTRI: Any general life advice you’d like to bestow upon us?