Ed. Note: signing season continues at Wattie Ink., and we are proud to announce that Sam Long, a great young hope for American triathlon, has signed with Wattie Ink. for the 2020 season. Jay Prasuhn checked in with the Boulder native to give us this report.

If you were part of a family of triplet siblings, and suffered a childhood being dressed like a minstrel team by your parents, what’s the first thing you’d want to do when you got older?

That’s right: break out. Stand out. Be you. Be unique.

Welcome to the world of Sam Long. The young prodigy stomped onto the scene a year ago, making a statement by winning both Ironman Chattanooga and Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga. This year, the expectations are rising. And for a guy who fought to break the stigma of triplet anonymity, he’s certainly stepping into the limelight.

Indeed, his youth was rife with comparisons with his brothers, Justin and Brian. As their older sister Dana stood back and laughed at her three amigos, each twin attempted to express his own identity. “It was always about being the same,” Long recalls. “And it was weird; while we always dressed the same, most triplets also pursue the same activities. The three of us couldn’t be much more different.” That would prove true as they grew up: Sam went headlong into sports, Justin would become a musician, and Brian a Wall Street investment banker.

So while his brothers dove into numbers or musical note as kids, Sam took his energies outside. It was soccer in the summer, football in the fall, basketball and downhill skiing in the winter. Anything to burn the wild energy. “I was switching sports every three months,” he remembers. “I was an ADD kid that way.”

While he had fun doing it all, his coaches could see a particular inclination toward endurance. “My sophomore year in high school, we were doing wind sprints and after three, the other guys were puking, while I was ready for more,” Long recalls. “My coach said, ‘I think your talent lies in endurance sports.’” High school saw him gravitate to track and field as he raced mountain bikes in the summer. All the while, he says, his dad tried to groom him for road bike racing after he finished on the podium at the famed Mount Evans Hillclimb.

Then, fate somewhat cruelly helped him narrow his focus; an MCL tear in 2014 while skiing his senior year of high school meant rehab on the bike and in the pool. Serendipitously, it was also the first year of Ironman Boulder. As a native Boulderite, born and bred, he knew he was going to have to try this challenge—four weeks after his surgery.

And so he did. Training was disguised as rehab, and as Long says, “it would be one of the dopest rites of passage for me. I was biking with this big knee brace and a pull buoy.” In the race, he decided to put a purpose on the table, and raised over $3,000 for Doctors Without Borders. He went on to finish at seventh amateur, winning his age group by over an hour.

“I loved every minute of it,” Long recalls. “I was 18 and had no clue what I was doing; lemonade and chia seeds was my nutrition. But after that, I was like ‘maybe I could do this as a professional.’” 

The transition to pro racing in 2017 has been equally jaw-dropping; after a few seasons of cutting his teeth, he truly broke through in 2019 by winning Ironman Chattanooga, Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga and Ironman 70.3 Victoria, and adding a Napa Valley Marathon crown to the mix for good measure. His 2019 campaign saw him part of a team environment, but in 2020 he chose to again break out of a group environment and stand alone, with his own support from ENVE and Argon 18, and his own signature Sam Long look and feel with Wattie Ink. It’s a move that, for Long, makes perfect sense.

“It all goes back to being a unique individual, having fun, and getting away from that Type A thing we see so much of in our sport,” Long says. “That’s the same with Wattie Ink. It’s totally counterculture, a total disrupter, and that’s how I see myself. I mean, I’m just 24 years old, have 15 Ironman races, I race on instinct and don’t follow a group mentality. I love to have fun, work my ass off and go out in the race and rip the thing. I’m not afraid to be different, and it’s clear that’s how Wattie sees this sport.”