The Life: Joe Kawkabani, an investment banker, explains what motivates him to compete in triathlons, races and Ironman competitions.
On his bike — from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Joe Kawkabani is a managing partner at Willow Impact Investors. In his spare time he trains for and competes in triathlons, foot races and Ironman competitions.
I hear you have a crazy bike hobby and you cycle from Dubai to Abu Dhabi on the weekends?
I do. I go via Bab Al Shams on the back roads. It's a beautiful road in the middle of the desert. I used to do it very frequently last year but this year they have built a new cycling track in Dubai.
Do you still do this in the summer?
I try. I swim, bike, run; summer, winter - it doesn't matter. I try to base myself out of Dubai in the hottest months. Five years ago, I was stuck here and I was training for a race and I needed to do some hill training so I drove to Hatta. If you are going to ride for five hours you've got to finish before 9am, because after 9am in July it's unbearable. So I'd wake at 2.30am to get my bike out, have a quick breakfast and go. I was waking up on a Thursday night - because I do these big rides on Fridays - and leaving my apartment, going down in the elevator while people are coming back from clubs all dressed up.
That's pretty intense. Why do you do it?
I can't really put my finger on it. I train here because I feel good, and because it allows me to do interesting stuff when I have time - like cycling from Geneva to Nice; like cycling across California; or doing interesting events - adventure races etc.
How did you get into this?
There was a team - two ladies - one was a good swimmer, one was a good runner and they wanted a cyclist. They wanted to do a sprint triathlon as a team. I did it and it was exciting. Then I wanted to do an Olympic distance on my own. The day I did it I was very sick and had a very bad time, but crossing the finishing line that day was great. Then I was like, what's next? And my timing started getting better and then I wanted to do more distances. At the beginning I thought I couldn't do Ironman and that ultras were crazy.
Have you ever played out a professional rivalry on the sports field?
You don't do these sports if you don't have this competitive drive. You want to achieve something, you want to beat someone but ... you want to beat him properly. There is cycling etiquette: If someone falls off the bike and you are racing, you stop. Also, if you are really competitive you hate to lose. I hate to lose. As I get older there are always going to be younger, faster guys that are probably not into private equity who don't travel as much, so they are going to beat me. Now I have it programmed in my head that I am competing against myself.
Does being ultra-competitive help in business?
When I am interviewing people, partnering up with people … if they are competitive, if they are disciplined, if they are committed these are good qualities as well for work.