Branden Rakita is no stranger to competition. From a young age, he competed in soccer, road biking, mountain biking, swimming, track and skiing and now, he is a world-renowned off-road triathlete. Yep, that means he tackles not one but three sports in one race, all in the great outdoors where conditions are ever-changing and constantly challenging him. We were stoked to catch up with him as he preps (and competes!) for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. Here’s a sneak peek into a day in the life of superstar athlete Branden Rakita.
You’re gearing up for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. What makes this course so unique?
The XTERRA World Championship course is a unique beast; it is very physically demanding. An open ocean swim can be smooth or have pounding surf that can disorient you from the start. The bike takes place on an old pineapple plantation and golf course so you never know what you may run into. There is a lot of steep climbing plus heat and humidity, so it is always a challenge. The run is brutal, taking you straight uphill for the first 3 miles and then it bombs back down with you jumping over and ducking under logs with a zapping beach run before you get to enjoy the finish chute home.
What’s been the biggest challenge since making the switch from Olympic road triathlons to off-road triathlons?
The initial challenge was getting my mountain bike skills up to speed. I grew up mountain biking but had not ridden in a few years. It’s one of those skills that you don't lose but it definitely takes a few rides to get comfortable again. A road is a road, so not much changes besides the potholes. But on a mountain bike, the trails and dirt are different at each race and it takes different skills to go fast at each venue.
Let’s be honest: Triathlons are generally pretty intimidating, but you’ve been doing this awhile. Which part of the triathlon (swim, bike, run) comes easiest to you?
It depends on the day. I definitely revel in the days when one feels easy and things just click. You know you’re working hard but everything just flows smoothly. And I think there are days when nothing is easy and you just focus on doing everything to keep the arms moving in the water, the pedals going around on the bike and keeping one foot in front of the other on the run. Those are the days that you become more mentally tough.
Take us through a typical training day as you prep for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
A typical training day involves two sessions of some combination of swim, bike and run and I fit in some sort of core/strength training as well. I swim with the Pikes Peak Athletics Masters team 90% of the time and go for 1-1.5 hours, covering 3000-5000 meters (1.8 to 3.1 miles). My bike time depends on what race is coming up and the goal of the workout. I prefer to ride my mountain bike as much as possible, but do spend a decent amount of time on my road bike. If I’m doing a non-drafting road triathlon, I spend a good amount of time on my tri bike as well. Rides will be around 2-3 hours some with some long rides going as long as 6 hours. I run an average of 30-40 miles a week between a long run, an intense interval session, a steady run and a short run immediately following a bike ride.
Holy smokes! That routine is unbelievable! How does being a triathlete affect your grooming routine?
As a triathlete I spend a lot of time in chlorinated swimming pools and in the sun. After each swim I shower with Shampoo Three® and use The Conditioner™ which helps keep my hair from getting brittle. Since I’m training for three different sports and grooming always takes place after training, there is a very good chance that if I’m not looking my best, I am going to be putting myself through another session very soon!
What MITCH® grooming essentials are in your go-bag? Other important travel essentials?
MITCH Reformer® is always close at hand for styling purposes, but the new Matterial® may be taking its place a bit more. I always travel with the Tea Tree Lavender Mint Moisturizing Shampoo™ and Conditioner and the Tea Tree Shave Gel®.
And now for the tough questions: What are your vices? What goes down on your cheat days?
I have a pretty fine-tuned sweet tooth and any desserts with dark chocolate will be consumed. Gelato is a post-race staple food for me along with some fine craft beer.
How would you describe your personal style?
I definitely live to my own tune when it comes to style. I prefer a messy look when I have short hair which is always around races. If I am not racing then I let it grow and roll with some classic style.
Before we let you go, tell us: How do you live the life of a MITCH Man?
I live the life of a MITCH Man by taking responsibility for everything I do, making the most of every day and, with some help from MITCH products, always feeling good since I look my best.
And now the big question: how did you do in Maui?
I placed 23rd overall with a finish time of 02:57:06.
Congrats, Branden! For more on the Paul Mitchell athletes and sporting events, click here.