An interview with Ventouxman winner Scott DeFilippis
At the risk of starting a game of 'The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon', Scott DeFilippis is fellow Team PH athlete Carrie Lester's partner/coach and he also coaches 2016 Ironman 70.3 Chungju Champion - and Team PH Captain - Brad Williams.
His Ironman PR is 08:09 and he's climbed the podium at a number of Ironman and Challenge Family events. Earlier this year he also won the renowned Ventouxman event.
As a coach, he's helped dozens of athletes qualify for Kona and the 70.3 Worlds and he coached the 70.3 Female 40-44 category World Champion.
Brad caught up with him recently after a successful Summer racing what he called "The Tour De France of Triathlon" to discuss that challenge, who influenced him as a coach and plenty more...
So, Scott, this summer you completed the “Tour de France of Triathlon" (Ventouxman, IM France, Alpe d’Huez and Embrunman). Why?
Honestly, we're based in Switzerland for the Summer and so we look for races that we can drive to rather than fly and all four races were within driving distance! Sorry it's not more poetic than that!
Both Ventouxman and Alpe d'Huez were used as training races for IM France and Embrunman. They fit perfectly on the calendar and both have very challenging bike courses, with two iconic mountain top finishes in Mount Ventoux and Alpe d' Huez, so it worked out perfectly.
Talk us through each of those races?
Ventouxman starts in a small village called Orange. You swim in a beautiful lake on a garlic farm, then roll through the valley for 60kms or so before hitting Mount Ventoux, then its up, up, up.
Once you get to the top there's a short 6km descent to a very small ski field where the run takes places on a 4 lap circuit going in and out of the forest. It's a very special race and it was even more special to win it on the same day as my partner Carrie (Lester).
Ironman France was a bit of missed opportunity for me as a podium finish was well within reach! After a sub-par swim and bike, I managed to come good on the run, finishing 9th with a 2:45 marathon. I was pleased with how I fought on the day.
Alpe d'Huez was great! We spent a week there training in preparation for Embrunman. In total we rode 30 hours over 6 days, with nearly 50,000 feet of climbing, so to finish 5th and post the fastest run after a week like that was very encouraging! I was hoping for a Top 3, but against such a strong field it was a good finish!
So, if you had to pick one and only one of these races to do, which one would it be and why?
That's a really hard question to answer because I loved all four of them for different reasons!
In my opinion, Alpe d'Huez is the greatest triathlon festival in the world, I loved the week we spent there.
But if I had to pick one it would maybe be Ironman France, simply because I don't like to be cold and the other three races have an outside chance of having cold, wet weather, whereas in Nice you're pretty much guaranteed nice and warm conditions!
How accessible are these races for athletes outside of Europe?
Having spent 8 Summers in Switzerland now, we've made many friends that have helped make doing these events easier along the way. I know the roads in and out of the Alps like the back of my hand, so it's pretty simply now, but there was certainly a learning curve.
Nowadays with the internet and GPS it's pretty easy to find your way, but if anyone out there has any questions I'd be more then happy to help! I'm actually mulling over an idea for post retirement where we'd run trips to events like this, so stay tuned...
While racing is your primary focus, you also coach. You've coached your partner Carrie Lester to some amazing results over the past few seasons. As a coach, what's your proudest moment to date?
Yeah a lot of people have reached out lately complimenting both Carrie and I on our Coach/Partner relationship. It certainly has its moments but we seem to be getting better and better as we age, so I guess that bodes well for our future life post retirement huh?
I'm very lucky to have some amazing athletes that have become like family to me. Some coaches think you can't - or shouldn't - be friends with your athletes but I don't agree with that at all! Some of the coaches that have influenced me were like brothers/fathers to me (and I already have a pretty rad Real Dad...).
So for me, the results are secondary to the relationships I build with my athletes. I'm most proud of bringing some amazing people into our lives and then introducing them to our Keep It Simple Family, then watching them all become great friends. The culture we are creating at KIS is what I'm most proud of!
Who has mentored/sculpted you into the coach you are today?
I've been so lucky to have been influenced by some incredible coaches in my nearly 25 years in endurance sport.
It started with my brother Rob. He introduced me to running, my first love! If not for him I don't know where my life would be right now. It's very cool to see him as one of the top high school track coaches in the U.S. these days.
I ran at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. George Watts was my coach and he's an absolute legend! Anyone who knows distance running would be familiar with the mark G.W. has left, coaching Olympians like Toney Cosey, Todd Williams, Anthony Famigliettie - as well as dozens of All Americans.
G.W. was probably the first to open my eyes to the real world of training and the amount of work that's required to be the best you can be.
After college I tried my hand at short course racing and was introduced to Ric Rosenkranz at the USAT Development Program. Ric was a great mentor during a tough/scary time in my life. I'll never forget all Ric and his wife Sarah did for me.
After a brief stint trying to race short course, I returned to distance running and Dr. Jack Daniels helped me for 2 years. What a human being he is! Jack showed me the path towards Marathon Training and I reference his influence to this day!
Once I started training for Ironman, I caught a flyer and was lucky enough to be a part of Team TBB, where for 5 years Brett Sutton was my coach and mentor. I'll never be able to repay Brett for all he did for me.
There was a time when he was like a best friend, brother, and father all wrapped into one! He also introduced me to my Carrie, how can you repay/thank someone who has affected your life that much?!
Then Siri Lindley took Carrie and I under her wing. She took us into her camp at a time when we were lost, drowning in the world of Professional Triathlon. Siri provided a safe place where we were able to get grounded and look towards the future. The biggest take away from Siri was to not be afraid of rest - and also how to show gratitude.
Nowadays Coach Gerry Rodriguez of Tower 26 has come into my life to help with my swim. Gerry and his program has been unbelievable and - in some ways - taken over where Brett left off...
I'm also currently working with Matt Bottrill on the bike. Matt has given my career one last gasp of air! I turned to Matt after 2 years of hammering myself into the ground on the bike simply trying to prove to myself that I was tough.
I was watching Matt for a year or so as he did some brilliant work with my old teammate Dan Halksworth and he was kind enough to make me on with one goal in mind, to win an Ironman before I retire. This year was all about getting me back to chasing podiums, which we've done. Now we go for the big one...
That's one hell of a list of mentors! Ok, last one, if you could choose one place to train in the world, where would that be and why?
Well, I absolutely love our time in Switzerland and France every summer. It's heaven on earth for a cyclist.
But, San Diego is our home and I'd have to say it's the best place in the world that I've trained. Yes, it's expensive and yes there are lots of people and traffic, but we have everything there. Plenty of pools, the ocean, mountains to ride in, Fiesta Island and Camp Pendleton for time trials, amazing running trails, and near perfect weather.
But most importantly, we have balance in our lives in San Diego and if you want to have a long career, you have to have balance...