Eric Lagerstrom capturing the life of triathlon outside of sport
Picking a favourite elite triathlete is a part of the sport. Whether it be based on home nation pride or is an athlete that has an entertaining racing style, fans of the sport get involved by selecting their favourite athletes and following how they do in competitions. Knowing about their race strengths, weaknesses and time results are all apart of ways that fans can connect to the sport.
But apart from race results and split times, there is a lot to each athlete that the general public does not get to see. While following an athlete on social medias can give a glimpse into the behind the scenes lives beyond the start line, there are still many aspects of athlete life that goes unseen. Some athletes have talents and passions outside of the sport that give them a whole new depth into what qualifies them for a fandom.
For instance, did you know that USA’s Eric Lagerstrom is a master videographer and also quite the handy man?
Lagerstrom is one of USA Triathlon’s potential superstars. It is no secret that over the last couple of years due to the success of Gwen Jorgensen, Katie Zaferes, Sarah True and others, USA has become one of the powerhouse nations for women’s triathlon. However, on the men’s side there still remains room for growth and it is because of the recent up and coming talent that the future is looking bright for the men’s program. There exists a group of men that are setting out to strengthen the field, and Lagerstrom is one of those talents.
Starting in the sport from a swimming background, Lagerstrom is successful in triathlon because he has the passion. He is one of those rare commodities that does what he does simply because he loves it. When it comes to triathlon, he is a purist. He simply just loves to swim, bike and run. So, when racing at the professional level it is his joy in the sport where he welcomes each event as a new challenge that excites him and propels him forward. An excitement the world is lucky enough to see through his videos.
Using mostly a GoPro camera, Lagerstrom captures his life in video through a series titled “Viking Life,” a title his agent Lars helped inspire from a nickname he gave Lagerstrom after his Super Sprint National Title victory.
“I hate it when people say, “Oh man, it would be great if someone did ____” And then no one ever ends up doing it. I felt like I heard dozens of conversations about “Someone should make videos about pros like in other sports.” and nothing ever came of it. So rather than wait for camera-toting companies to show up on my doorstep, I just borrowed a friend’s GoPro and a crappy laptop and went for it myself. The idea being, that if I could tell good enough stories, I could get the attention of bigger companies, (I was thinking Red Bull, honestly) that would think “hey! Triathlon is sweet, we need more videos about that!” Lagerstrom said of creating his web-series.
So “Viking Life” was born and now the companies that Lagerstrom sought to inspire have noticed. His dream of reaching Red Bull was achieved as he will have a Red Bull produced video coming out later this summer. But apart from potential sponsors, Lagerstrom’s goal was to help inspire future triathlon generations.
“That’s a big part of my mission with video. If we as professionals can give the sport some more attraction and build that culture, I think we’ll see more youth growing up wanting to be professional triathletes. And hopefully ITU athletes, not Ironman.”
While “Viking Life” shows the life of a professional athlete, such as how Lagerstrom has brought his audience alongside him on adventures, World Triathlon Series races and training sessions, what people do not realize is all the time, effort and money it takes to edit all of his videos.
While the life of a professional triathlete is hectic, busy and requires a lot of travel, Lagerstrom fits in every down minute he has in his schedule to editing and cutting film.
“When most athletes watch Netflix, I edit video. Something in my brain chemistry is most balanced when I’m being creative and working. I feel a little uncomfortable when I’m not being productive. Filming is typically not that difficult. I just carry a GoPro on rides and runs, and my nice camera when I feel inspired. I want everything to be as “raw” as possible, so planning doesn’t often fit into the equation.”
And as his passion continues to grow and his triathlon success continues to build, even all the minutes in between are not enough, so Lagerstrom is creating a production company to help with all the loose ends of his projects.
“Even with this style, I’ve found it pretty overwhelming at times, so I’ve actually started a “production company” you might call it, in order to hand off some of the responsibilities with website maintenance, conversations with sponsors, distribution, etc. I’ll also be able to help other aspiring athlete/producers get started without having quite the setup/growth time that I had. I’m really excited about that project. It’s called Transition Four.”
But the intrigue does not stop there for Lagerstrom. While being a professional athlete in and of itself is interesting enough, Lagerstrom takes it one step further and has brought the unconventional into his personal life. While racing nationally and internationally requires a lot of time away from home, an idea from Lagerstrom solved the problem of always leaving home to travel. His solution was to create a home that could travel.
So, his first project was in the form of a van.
“The van is something I’ve dreamed of since high school. It’s basically a clubhouse on wheels! The idea came from having to cram two people’s triathlon gear for three workouts into a hatchback and not being able to find things or even move in the car. It wasn’t easy to build, but it was a fun process. My Dad is incredibly handy, and I’ve helped him remodel parts of our houses over the years. He worked with me in the off-seasons, lending time and tools to build it out from an empty shell and I was stoked at the end result. I could listen to the Pioneer sound system on the way to the beach with four bikes on the back, drop the couch into a bed for a nap, get a cold Red Bull from the ice cooler, use the shower to clean up after the swim, and go for my run, and maybe just sleep at the beach if I felt like it. Ultimate flexibility and freedom is what the van represented.”
The comfort of home and flexibility of a moving lifestyle all wrapped into one, the van became a perfect companion for the triathlete always on the go. However, the van was recently sold.
So, his next project then took the form of a motor home.
The new mode of transportation is a work in progress, but ultimately will serve the same purpose – to fit the lifestyle of an athlete that is always leaving.
“While camping in St George, I relocated the spare tire to a hoist under the frame, and mounted a pair of steel storage boxes on the bumper, with bike racks on top. I added a motorcycle rack so I can get groceries and go swimming without moving the RV,” he said. “I’ve replaced two roof vents, some rotten wood ceiling, installed LED lighting, and I’ll be repairing the floor. My uncle helped me overhaul the generator, and at some point I’ll get solar panels installed to be eco-friendly.”
“It’ll be slow going this summer with WTS travel, and because I’m living in it, not just working on it. Additionally, my secondary motivation for this move was to practice patience. When I built out my van, I did it in a week of the off-season, working 12 hours a day. I’ve realized over the years that I’m obsessive, and while powerful, it’s not exactly healthy.”
So while video editing and motor home remodeling takes up a lot of Lagerstrom’s time, it all helps aid in the achieving of one overall goal – to become a better triathlete.
Lagerstrom trains out of San Diego, California with the Triathlon Squad, alongside other U.S. men. And while the road to becoming successful has been a long and tough journey, it was his decision to join the squad that has benefited him into becoming a better athlete.
“The Triathlon Squad really taught me what it meant to be fully committed to something. I had been “all in” on triathlon for a couple years prior, as I saved money to quit my bike shop job, but it’s different when you finally cut the security ropes and give yourself no option but to succeed. Being around Joe Maloy, Jason Pedersen, and Paulo Sousa those first few years, before we had any results of any kind, our shared vision kept each of us from backing out more than a couple of times. Joe, Jason, and I shared a single bedroom with mattresses on the ground, that were literally touching each other. That kind of setup keeps you hungry. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the grittiness of it though.”
In 2016 Lagerstrom stepped onto his first ITU World Cup podium in Montreal. He earned the bronze medal and a career milestone. Now he has set his sights on the WTS. His top WTS performance came in 2015 in Edmonton when he finished 17th, but after more successes Lagerstrom is aiming for the top ten.
“The next couple of years are going to be exciting for the men’s team. I believe it’s a longer development process for men to achieve WTS top-10 performances, and I think I’m almost there. We also have our first major talent in years, in the form of Matt McElroy, whom I train with. All of the guys like Joe (Maloy), Greg (Billington), Ben (Kanute) and myself, we were all pretty “un-talented” I would say, but we worked hard over the years and slowly improved. Matt already has the run, and is gaining ground surprisingly quickly on the swim. Really, for USA men to become a nationally competitive team, given the length of time needed to develop men, we need to strengthen our youth ranks, and keep kids in the sport rather than losing them to single-sport teams in college.”
And while development is key to growing a program, one of the most beneficial elements that young U.S. men could learn from Lagerstrom is to enjoy the sport the way he does.
Lagerstrom participates in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in California. An event that starts you off in the infamous Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. In 2015, he was the Escape Champion and since then a handful of other U.S. elite men have taken the title.
“I love it. As I said above, triathlon is just swimming, biking, and running. I don’t put much thought into which ones are the “main ones” vs the “extra ones” Those races are just another opportunity to use my skills in a different way. I’d love to see a future for triathlon without standard distances, rather than just the most exciting versions of swim-bike-run possible.”
So while Lagerstrom continues his journey of balancing triathlon with video production and home renovation, the triathlon fandom can only be excited for what is to come and of course be on the lookout for his next video project.
Credit: Eric Lagerstrom