TriDot Check-In: Yu Hsiao - Part One

What is your athletic background?

I’ve dabbled in many sports, including soccer and aggressive inline, but I also swam, cycled, and ran throughout middle and high school. I also spent most of my childhood playing badminton and cycling with my dad. 

I fell in love with cross country running during high school, where I ran the famous hills in Fremont Older of California. There was something magical and alluring about a long, 10-mile run out in the trails and hills by myself that I just couldn’t get enough of. With cross country, that led to cycling with my varsity teammates, doing century rides from Cupertino to San Francisco and other endless epic rides. In college, I combined my two favorite sports, running and cycling, with swimming, a sport I enjoyed in my childhood, and my triathlon career had begun.

How many triathlons have you competed in and what is your favorite races and distance?

I’ve lost count but I believe I’ve competed in more than 40 triathlons (including 25 half IRONMANS and one full IRONMAN). My favorite races are the Vineman 70.3 and the Wildflower Half IRONMAN, neither which are still run. I’ve been fortunate enough to have competed in both for six times each. I grew up in the hills of Cupertino, California, and both races reminded me a lot of my home roads and trails. Wildflower is the race where I turned pro and I’ve scored two career best results with back-to-back 10th place finishes in 2014 and 2015 at Vineman.

What is the greatest challenge you face in triathlon training/racing?

The greatest challenge for me early on in my triathlon career (college) was managing the stress of being a full-time engineering student while being able to get in 20 hours of consistent training week after week. I’ve become pretty good at squeezing work outs here and there and also making training a priority. Frankly, it’s all about just doing everything quickly and efficiently.

Lately the challenge is holding myself back and not pushing myself too hard. I’m prone to over train and overdo it because I feel that what I lack in talent I can make up for with pure hard work.

What brings you the greatest achievement/sense of satisfaction in triathlon?

My greatest sense of satisfaction is the opportunity to perform to my ability and my potential at races. It’s not that easy with triathlons because many things can go wrong. I may be sick on race day, or my body may not be right, or I may have a mechanical mishap that takes me out of the game. But I cherish every race where I can push my body to the limit and not hold back at all from start to finish.

After racing pro for a couple years, I’ve learned to become very technical with getting every little detail right. This can range from starting with the right group of swimmers so I get the right draft, to making the right racing decision during the bike to go with the right group, to simply getting the right nutrition at the right time. It’s very satisfying if I can get just 70% of the execution right on race day, making the right decisions, and racing as hard as I can. There’s a lot of hard work and countless hours that go into just preparing for one race.

How do you mentally handle pain during training or at a race?

I’ve learned to break up training/race into pieces. I have the toughest time with bike intervals, where I have to hold my threshold power for 15 minutes and one min feels like an hour sometimes. So I break up a 15-minute segment into three five-minute segments and worry about each 5-minute interval as it comes.

It’s cliché but focusing on the moment has helped me deal with pain during racing. I was brought up by an old-school cross country coach who preached Steve Prefontaine’s philosophy. Steve had a famous quote “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Every time I race I remind myself that I’m lucky to be doing what I love and it’s the least I can do to push myself to my limits and do my best.

It’s also amazing how much the human mind can take in terms of pain. I think it’s mostly a choice because ultimately it’s not the pain that stops us but our mind. There is a physical limit where we can’t take anymore, but I am surprised sometimes to see how long I sustained a suicidal effort just to keep with a friend for egos. Knowing that also helps to deal with the pain because I know I can handle much more than I think I can.

Who or what has inspired you the most in your triathlon journey?

Without a doubt, Brady O’Bryan. He’s the 2011 Collegiate National Champion and champion at life. He led the way for us at the UCLA triathlon club by turning pro and winning numerous races and also destroying us at many work outs. He has inspired me to pursue excellence in triathlon and has continued to mentor me to this day. All the days of training with him and hanging out with him has shown me how much hard work it takes to be a pro and to be so good at something. His work ethic has influenced me greatly.

He was recently involved in a bad accident at a half IRONMAN in Florida where a car T-boned him. He almost lost his life but he’s come back strong, swimming, biking, and running again. He’s currently coaching the UCLA triathlon team and has led them to two women’s team National Collegiate Championships.

YU HSIAO is a professional triathlete who has completed more than 40 races in his short career, including several top ten finishes and overall wins. He has a personal best of 4:01 in the half IRONMAN and 8:49 in the full IRONMAN. Having earned the reputation of being a “beast” because of his tenacity and heart, his goal is to qualify for Kona this year as a professional. When not training and racing, he is an engineer in Silicon Valley.

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