Clint Kimmins is less adrenaline junkie, more disciplined explorer. The surfer come-triathlete is up training before dawn nearly every day. Clint’s passion for the sport stems from its rigorous self-discipline and the constant besting of pain that it requires.
CONVICTS caught up with Clint on the West Coast recently. Not only were we stunned by Clint’s commitment to early rising, but we got his word on the self-discipline mandated by the sport of triathlon, it’s strange dichotomy of pleasure and pain, and the constant pull of temptation.
What’s happening Clint? To start, can you tell us what goes through your head when you wake up?
First thing that goes through my head when I wake up is, “Why on earth do I wanna jump on a bike when it’s dark or raining and go out and torture myself for four hours?”
What do you see and feel when you’re up at the crack of dawn each day?
You see people at a coffee shop sitting there in the sun and it makes you cringe. You feel like you want to cry, but then after the session you go past people that are sitting in a coffee shop just doing nothing with their day and you’ve gone out and achieved stuff.
What are the morning rituals you go through before a training session? Are there rituals?
There are definitely rituals. I like to get everything organized the night before because it eliminates any excuse to not get on the bike or be out when you’re supposed to. I’ll have everything laid out and ready so I can just get out of bed and just go through the motions. Put the coffee on, put your gear on and just go!
What’s going though your head at the beginning of, say, a two hour ride?
It’s pretty much a lucky dip. Sometimes you create all this negativity in your head and then you feel amazing. Other times, you feel amazing and ready to crush it and you just go backwards. So you have to reevaluate.
Talk about the repetition. Is that one of the most difficult components?
Repetition and consistency are the things that make you a great athlete, but at the same time they’re the things that mentally break you. I try to change my sessions up as much as possible but when you’re on a twelve or thirteen week structure, that’s the thing you have to stick to. That’s where discipline comes into play. You really have to keep grinding and trust in the process.
Can you speak a little about that discipline?
For me, discipline is all about self evaluation. I’m not doing it for anyone else but myself. When the sun goes down at the end of the day, I look back and judge myself. Discipline means consecutive, like consecutive early mornings, five days a week, 4:30 AM, watching your diet, watching your intake, obsessing about health, obsessing about your body. Temptation is always going to be there but it’s all about sticking to the routine, sticking to the plan. Discipline is just the rule. It’s the minimum buy in for the sport that I’ve chosen. If you’re not disciplined you might as well not even start. If you don’t have self-control, you might as well not even do it. Go get a normal job.
What tempts you away from that discipline?
I get tempted by everything. It’s so easy to sleep in, so easy to not hurt yourself, so easy to slow down. At the same time I enjoy that challenge. It’s either sink or swim and you’ve got two very simple options.
What is that hurts the most when you’re on the bike?
It all hurts really, but that’s the thing I enjoy about it. The pain is something that keeps me going. For me, it’s all about discovering your pain threshold. What is pain? Is it a feeling, is it an emotion? Is it made up in your head? It’s something that I like learning about.
Interesting thought. Switching gears a bit, what are some of the things you get to see out in the world that other people might not?
I really like that about endurance sports. Some of the sunrises I’ve seen, some of the sunsets, some the things I’ve seen under water that happen for an instant that no one else gets to see. Some days I’ll be descending down a hill and I’ll look through the trees and the light will be reflecting off a cliff or a house or I might see some wild animals. For me, it’s the most beautiful thing ever. You’ve propelled yourself to that place to witness that moment, you haven’t paid for a tour guide, you haven’t paid money. You’ve just gone out and done something.
Is pride a factor in your relationship with endurance sports?
Pride is a big part of the addiction. On days that I haven’t gone out the door training, I can be the worst person to be around. I’m just angry, upset at myself. But when you hit those good days and you’ve done everything you can, you feel superior, you feel like you’re He-Man, like you just achieved everything when it was just a Wednesday of training. That’s what I’m addicted to: the feeling of ticking the those boxes at the end of the day.
Talk about pushing yourself and the contrast of training vs. race day. What is it on race day that goes through your brain and your body to kind of push yourself as hard as you possibly can?
Race Day is a celebration of your fitness and what you’ve had to go through to get to that point. People always ask me if I feel good, but the truth is I don’t because I’m always tired and sore. You’re only feeling good a couple days before race day and even then, you’re so nervous about what’s to come, about what you’re about to put your body through, you don’t get to enjoy that. But on race day, that’s what you’re there for: that’s why you got up at 4AM, that’s why you’re in the pool in the dark, that’s why you’re riding in the rain, getting yelled at by cars and crossing the finish line knowing what you’ve gone through. It’s one of the best feelings on earth. I often get really emotional and behind my sunglasses there’s always tears in my eyes.
Talk some more about the emotional aspect of your sport?
My best sessions have come when I don’t listen to music and I’m out by myself. When you’re not training with anyone else, you fall into a rhythm with yourself, with your mind and your body, your breath. It might be the gravel crunching underneath your feet when you’re running or the sound of the tires flying down the road, but when you’re feeling fit and strong and all those elements come together, it’s a euphoric feeling. It makes you happy although you’re in so much pain at the same time.
After you finish are race, are you thinking about the next one or do you just check out?
It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it because there are so many emotions that flow through your body. It’s just the greatest feeling of accomplishment that I have ever experienced, crossing the line at the end of an Ironman. The pain that you’ve gone through, the suffering, the good parts, the bad parts — it’s pretty hard to put all the feelings that run through your body into words. All you want to do is just lay down. I don’t think it really hits you until about 24 hours later. You’re just so high on emotion, yet your entire body is completely exhausted. I definitely don’t think it’s natural to push your body to that extent. It’s something very unique, that’s for sure.
Would you call yourself an obsessive person?
I have become an obsessive person. When I started this sport it was all just for fun and a laugh and just something new to do. Now my obsession has pretty much taken over and I’m at a point where I can’t stop, even if I wanted to. It’s a sport where you can always find another second or a minute. Until my body quits on me, I’ll keep searching for those seconds.
Do you still face self-doubt?
Well you doubt yourself everyday and that’s the beauty of it. We all have self doubt, no matter what we go through in life. But with this sport, you’ve got a very simple way of beating self-doubt: you just get up and go. You do what’s on the board. When the clock strikes twelve, you go. If your alarm goes off at 4AM, you get up. If the session says four hours, you do the four hours. You just follow the program. Stick to the structure.
That’s such brutal discipline. What is it that drives you to keep doing this?
I’ll keep going because I can’t stop. I’m totally addicted to it and completely obsessed.
Right on Clint. Thanks for the chat.