Best of Both Worlds: Dan Dixon on the Connection That Led Him to America – Elite News – Natural Self Esteem

Dan Dixon is one of the next generation of elite British triathletes trying to emulate the success that the likes of the Brownlee brothers, Alex Yee and company have delivered over the past decade and more.

He may only be 19 but he’s had his fair share of high points – he was first at the Elite British Championship in 2021 – but now has his sights set on international success for the Under-23s and seniors.

With three races already under his belt (and three podiums) in 2022, it’s been a great start to the season for the Northumberland youngster, who spent much of the first quarter of practice in the United States. After his recent podium success in Quarteira, he made an unplanned return across the pond.

Why did a 19-year-old Brit decide to team up with an American coach in Tucson, Arizona? That’s the subject of Dan’s latest column below.

(You can catch up on part one here).

How did I end up here…again!

I was asked the question on a recent podcast, “How did I end up here?” It wasn’t specific to America, although I think I’ve thought about it a lot during my time out here in the States. A very unusual place to come from a small rural Northumberland village with a very well-trodden British system already laid out for me.

There are, of course, a number of reasons and decisions that prompted me to be back in Tucson unplanned this year for the second time after spending seven weeks in America not too long ago. I guess sometimes I just go with the flow and see where it takes me.

Credit: Tommy Zaferes

Coach Ryan

It will also be difficult to write about the USA and a camp here without talking about one of the most important factors in the decision, my coach Ryan Bolton. Ryan and I started working together in early 2021; This was a really big decision for me as I knew this relationship would take me through some of the key early stages of my career as a senior and beyond and help me transition from junior to senior racing.

I’m often asked, “Why Ryan?” and how did our connection come about as he is a US based coach, works at USAT and has a strong focus on endurance athletes like Ben Hoffman, Sam Long and Andre Lopes. Interestingly, he and I came into contact through the Greg Bennett Podcast, a show I’ve been listening to for a while, and when Ryan showed up he just seemed to click in my head with what he was talking about. From his aspiration to only work with people who want to be the best to his training philosophy and experience as an athlete within the sport.

Sam Long, Ryan Bolton and Dan Dixon
Coach Ryan Bolton (centre) with Sam Long and Dan Dixon
(Image credit: Andy Shepard / @andywearspink)

Looking at it from the outside it seems very far from the generic British way, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work. It seemed fresh and a new challenge for me, so it fitted perfectly with where I was in my life at that point. It’s been a very interesting process ever since, constantly learning and challenging my body in different ways than ever before. It has given me the foundation and confidence that will ultimately bring me consistent results and a stable environment in which to grow. I should probably say he’s a top guy too!

Come to America

So it seemed only a matter of time before I would leave for America to train. The original idea came up very early in 2021, but didn’t materialize until early 2022, mainly due to the global pandemic. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have to come to America; I could still have trained at home if I wanted to, but at this point in my life I am in a position of exceptional flexibility.

The opportunity to travel, see new places and train with some of the best athletes in the world was very tempting… that and getting away from the harsh Northumberland winter stress! Luck is something that drives my decisions and is critical to my success, and so I kind of go with the flow, although the direction I take always has to have a purpose.

Daniel Dixon wins the 2021 British Triathlon Grand Final, Mallory Park 2021 (Photo: British Triathlon)
Daniel Dixon wins British Triathlon Grand Final 2021, Mallory Park 2021
(Image credit: British Triathlon)

There is quite a bit of planning and time going into decisions like coming to America. Logistics, finance, housing, weather, environment are all taken into account and require even more effort if you do it yourself, but as mentioned above I try to stick to my basic principles. A trip like this is great, but without the right planning, it can get boring pretty quickly and go in a different direction that deviates from the purpose.

A really important factor for athletes is consistency, and paying attention to it in all aspects of the word is crucial. Coming to the States, I knew that simple things like a comfortable bed, local athletes to train with, and coffee shops were all there. What’s more, I had a well-balanced training schedule that I could jump right into and Ryan was finally there in person.

Invest in yourself

Another core principle of mine is to invest in yourself, and I first heard that from Greg Bennett. It doesn’t always have to be money, it can be as simple as taking time to relax or taking a walk to switch off from the world. But in my case it was about financial investments… America is expensive. I eat a lot of food which costs a lot and together with this good accommodation, flights and special equipment everything is expensive and for a self funded athlete this is a hit.

Some people would see this as a risk or downside of such a long journey, but for me I had a clear purpose that ultimately made me happy to take the risk. The goal when I came to America was that when camp was over I would win back enough prize money (at Clermont and Sarasota) to fund the whole thing, and that’s what happened.

Daniel Dixon Clermont draft legal challenge 2022
Daniel Dixon Clermont Draft Legal Challenge 2022 (Image credit: Tommy Zaferes)

Some things don’t change and my mindset has always been to give it your all, but I prefer my dad’s saying, “If you want to do something, you might as well do it right”. I will say some pros are guaranteed if you come to the states as the weather is phenomenal and challenging, currently up to 34 degrees daily! I get a great tan, which is always an advantage.

Tuscon for the win

But the biggest perk of being in Tucson is being surrounded by people who not only train full-time, but live here and are some of the best in the world. That creates this extraordinary community of like-minded people, that’s something very special and on a scale I’ve never experienced before. Basically come to Tucson.

YouTube video

Training (and racing!) with the likes of Sam Long is one of the perks of Dan’s American adventures

Live up to expectations? Well I came out again and I think that pretty much says it all. I definitely don’t want people to think that I’m going to be in the US all the time, living in the sun with an American coach, outside the British system. I will always be from a small rural village in Northumberland, a place that keeps me exceptionally grounded and balanced. In addition, the British system has made me the athlete I am and I am very grateful for that and for the support British Triathlon gives me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t like America. The lifestyle here is great, love it! People are generally very chilled, you can have great coffee on almost every street, the weather is great, the views are even better and the athletes here top it off for me. Tucson in particular is a place I will return to for a long time, a very cool part of the world.

Dan Dixon, Sam Long and Tucson Crowd 5k Run TT
Fun and hard work in Tucson
(Image credit: Andy Shepard / @andywearspink)

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