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Van Life of a Pro Triathlete

Michael Arishita's van overlooking Lake Tahoe Image provided by Michael Arishita

The life of a pro triathlete can be amazing, but also very tough at times. I have been a pro triathlete for over 5 years now and have lived a very nomadic life for most of it. I typically spend about 3 months in one location then move to a different location, following the weather or races. I have lived with whatever I could fit in my bike bag or maybe my Ford Focus for the majority of it. While this life had been enjoyable, it had its tough parts.

So what was the answer? Van Life it. In the spring of 2020, after COVID cancelled all the races me and my girlfriend at the time decided to build out a van a Ford Transit Cargo van into a 80 square foot home! After about 8 weeks of nonstop work and with the help of some other friends, the ultimate triathlon mobile was complete!

The Van is solar + alternator powered and has a mini kitchen including smart oven, induction stove, instapot, and even a full size espresso machine! It has a 36 freshwater tank and inline water filter for the sink/outdoor shower, and a composting toilet. The elevated full-size bed creates a “garage” underneath it. The garage is accessible from the back with space for 2 bikes and lots of shoes. I even carry my giant bike bag in the back as well! With such limited space, anything that goes inside the van is of the utmost necessity and organization is key. I have a special spot for all my training nutrition as well as my AltRed and Immunity that I take every day.

Last year I trained for 3 months in the mountains of the Tahoe National Forest, fully off the grid at 6000 feet altitude. I swam in alpine lakes and had all the roads to ride or run that I needed. About every week the water tank would need filling, or some laundry done, but other than that, just train train train. My favorite memory in the van was parking at the top of Donner Pass and overlooking the lake at sunrise. Pictures don’t do justice! The hardest thing is probably getting used to sleeping at weird angles. Very rarely is the van ever perfectly level, so I try and park it so I end up sleeping with my legs elevated, but it get a bit awkward at times depending on where you park.

Many people see the van life and think “freedom”, however for me the van has been more about “stability”. I was already living a pretty “free” life, living abroad for part of the year or where ever in the country was ideal for training. But now I have the same pillow every night and I know where all of my stuff is. The Van has offered me consistency into a very variable and unexpected life. Also, without having to pay double rent somewhere in the US, I am free to live abroad for half the year following the races, (sadly cant bring the van though!)

The Van also has a wifi hotspot, which is perfect because I also coach a team of athletes, Mike Squad Coaching, and am in my online MBA. So even when off the grid, I am still able to connect with the world. Currently I am getting ready to go to Tucson, AZ to meet up with some other athletes and “driveway camp” (when you park the van at the camp house driveway). After Tucson who knows where I’ll go! Follow @swimmikerun for more van or training/racing updates!

Michael showing the bike storage in his van Image provided by Super League Triathlon

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