Captain America Matt Russell


One of the best things with going to races abroad is that you often meet new interesting people. On the trip to Ironman Cozumel I was fortunate to get to know professional triathlete Matt Russell from USA. As we were both traveling without families and staying in the same hotel, we started to chat during a breakfast and over the course of the stay we spent some time talking about training and racing. When his amazing story unraveled I just had to ask if I could write about this and share it here, on my Runners World Triathlon Blog. 

Matt Russel at Ironman World Championships 2016 

For those who don’t know about Matt, he placed second in Ironman Cozumel this year with the impressive time of 08:04:24. With a background on the college team in track and field, specializing in 3 000 meter steeplechase and more recently Duathlon, Matt found triathlon in 2010. Lacking a swimming background (as many of us do) he had to do the hard yards and learn to become an efficient swimmer and is still making improvements in this discipline. Matt raced professional for the first year in 2011 and has since then completed close to 40 full distance Ironman races winning Ironman Canada and finishing top two and three in a substantial number Ironman races (Matt Russlell’s web page, FaceBook)

Matt is the kind of person that proves the hypothesis “The better and disciplined the athlete – the more humble, approachable and non-bragging person they are”. It took several days until he shared some of the extraordinary training values that he is capable of – or what do you think of a resting heartrate of 30bpm, max HR on the bike around 182bpm and an ability to produce 269W average (not normalized) over 2 hours with a heartrate of only 119bpm. 

One thing that I found amazing is that Matt does up to 9 Ironman races as well as several 70.3 per year and quite often they are not very far apart – twice in 2016 he did Ironman races that were no more than two weeks apart. The shortest time in between two Ironman races was one week and Matt feels that he often has a much better second race if they are close together, for example this year he raced Ironman Chattanooga and placed third just two weeks prior to Kona where he finished 12th overall. How is that even possible?

Matt says that he has a very fast recovery and that he found his ideal way of preparing is quite opposite to the traditional several days of complete rest during a tapering period and rather prefers to continue with a rather high trainload all the way up to race day. For example, the week leading up to Ironman Cozumel Matt did over 20 hours training. He found his training formula almost by accident – when he entered a half ironman race in the middle of a hard training and racing period and had a great feeling in the race as well as great results.

Over the years Matt worked with different coaches and have tried many ways of periodization, training and tapering that are common in the sport. He has found that following his intuition and listening to his body was a better alternative and now prefers to take planning into his own hands and to continue to experiment to find what works best for him.

 

Matt Russel at Ironman World Championships 2016 

Another interesting aspect is that Matt does all his bike training on an indoor trainer which seems to becoming more and more common for high performing Pro’s (same with Canadian Pro Triathlete Lionel Sanders). Main reasons are the fact that spending time on the trainer is more safe and provides the optimal environment to better focus on power levels, form and actual training rather than traffic situation and trying to staying out of accidents. Even in Cozumel Matt had his indoor trainer with him and did the bike training in his room. This might be hard to imagine for many age-groupers but is undoubtedly the best way to get the max out of your training time. 

Most of his training has been endurance/distance but before Ironman Cozumel Matt added a 4-week period of more intensity, VO2 max and speed, which obviously worked well and resulted in a personal best improvement with ten minutes.

It’s interesting and inspiring to meet people who chose a different path, who are eager to test new training methods and explore boundaries. Also, it’s fascinating to meet an athlete who’s willing to undertake the challenge to train on the indoor trainer to that extent.

Matt says; “It’s great when you finally get to race day and can unleash the speed and the feeling of going fast again outside – that’s the reward that makes all those hours on the trainer worthwhile”. He also points to the fact that enduring so many hours on the indoor trainer (and treadmill) builds his mental strength and prepares him to dig deeper than most are capable of.

Enjoying a few days off after the race Ironman Cozumel.

Truly a remarkable athlete. I’m not sure what is most impressive, his physical capabilities and talent or his relentless training and racing discipline, one thing is for sure – it’s inspiring! Meeting with Matt and getting this inspiration came at the best of times possible – during the cold and dark Swedish winter. We are still at least another three to four months away from the possibility to ride safe and comfortable outside again – at least for a sunshine cyclists like me.  

Happy Holidays on the trainer !

//Magnus


Race Report – Ironman Cozumel


I expected a paradise when I flew in to Cozumel International Airport and a paradise it was – in every aspect. Cozumel is a small island, just outside the Yucatan peninsula. It has a somewhat overcommercialized 1km waterfront with cruiseship tourists that visit the island every day. As soon as you leave the Starbucks and Hooter’s polluted downtown area and explore other parts of the city and island you find a genuine and welcoming culture and beautiful nature.

Down town waterfront – part of the run course

Pre-race week: A shuttle bus/taxi took me to the hotel that I had booked near the city center and as soon as I had checked in I went out for a run, assembled the bike – rode a quick test loop and had a beatuiful evening ocean swim. I got stung by jelly fish on both arms, chest and legs but I had started taking antihistamine to reduce the effects I get from the stings (as I am allergic) so I didn’t care much about it.

Next coming days I got to know some really great people that stayed in the hotel and had done the race several times before; Matt Russell from USA who placed third overall last year and Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto who often is the fastest overall amateur in this race. I must say that I was plesantly surprized to find that there still are people in the big races that have the passion and attitude that I know from times of the past.

 

Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto, Matt Russell and a Oldman (from left to right) at the bike check-in.

Over the next few days we did several more ocean swims and I got stung even more by jelly fish but told myself that “it’s probably good to get the body used to the stings as I will have more during the race. By Friday it was getting bad and I felt sensitive to heat – almost like I had a fever and talked to my coach Teresa at Uperform about it. The last session I decided to swim in the pool instead as I didn’t feel that good anymore.

 

Itchy & Scratchy – Perhaps I should get a ”Burkini” for next years race?

Swim: Raceday morning came and we took off into a crystal-clear water. In Cozumel, you walk out on a pier and at the end of it there is a timing device that pick-up your chip and start your time as you walk over it – this is excellent as you can only walk 4-6 at the time over it and creates a steady stream of people going into the water and spreads out the competitors. The swim course starts 3,850 meters north of T1 so all participants are driven by busses up to the start area. I started in the fastest group (<60min) did my own relaxed swim and was pleasantly surprised with time of 54:54 as the current was a bit all over the place and quite strong at times – it felt like I swam for much longer.

 

The Pro heading in for their swim start (which was a water start)

T1:Quite a long run to the bikes and up to the road – along a fantastic cheering crowd.

Bike: The bike course runs south along the west coast all the way down to the most Sothern point of the island in lush tropical vegetation on decent closed roads. Then it turns north along the east coast along the beautiful beach with some rather noticeable headwinds. After the beautiful ride right by the ocean it shoots straight accross the island again back to the west coast. I was positivly surprised to find that there was no packs or drafting and only saw a few people on the last loop that was a bit close.

 

East coast – riding close to the ocean

Followed my plan and started the first loop (of 3) at sub 5 hour pace. After 30min on the bike I started to have difficulty to keep the energy and water down – it came up in smaller volumes that I still could swallow back down again. Second loop the situation got worse and the volumes that was coming up can better be described as “cascades” that erupted over my bike and body, now I started to have difficulty to keep decent speed. By the third loop even attempting to keep something down was impossible and I showered in water to cool down as I couldn’t drink anything. I was quickly becoming dehydrated had cramps in the stomach and the cycling was transformed from ”race pace” to ”transportation to the transition area pace”. Finished the bike in a dissapointing 5:23.

T2: As I arrived to T2 I could hardly stand up – standing straight was out of the question. I entered the tent in a haze, walking like a folding knife that can’t be folded out anymore. Sat down and the cramp would not stop. Put on my socks, shoes, sun-visor and sun glasses, stuffed my Isostar gels in my back pockets and tried to stand up. That didn’t go to well. I laid down and tried to release the cramp through controlled breathing which didn’t work. After what felt like an eternity I decided  to try to run anyway (against the advice of the concerned looking medical staff).

Exited the tent, ran half folded for 200meters and the cramp brought me down on the ground again. The medical team seamed to expect what happen as they came within seconds and wheeled me off in a wheelchair to the medical tent. Apparently, I had high blood pressure, dehydration, fever (?) and they hooked me up to a couple of pints of IV. After an hour, I was better and released and could shuffle my crooked body out to pick up bike and bags and head back to the hotel in dispair.

Well that kind of sucked…. It is frustrating to DNF but I didn’t have much of a choise. Not sure about the reasons for the cramp – I have had stomach issues and vomited in races before – but never so bad that I had to stop. After the race, I talked with my very supportive and encouraging coach who had followed the race on Ironman She had googled “allergy against jelly fish & effects when stung” after I told her about the situation earlier in the week and apparently, you can get nausea and vomiting if you are sensitive. Being the smart coach that she is – she didn’t tell me about her findings BEFORE the race to get me worried.

Most likely I had accumulated quite a bit of poison in my system and when trying to race, and putting an increased load on my body, the symptoms broke out. Many people had problems with the stomach that day and the medical tent was much more frequented than previous years. There are of course other possible reasons; we got bottled water but was the ice made from tap water or botteled water if so – is the tap water on the island ok, was the bottles new or stored from last year and not cleaned properly? Can it be a combination – who knows.       

Either way – I was really happy to later hear the news that Matt finished second overall just a minute and a half after Fredrik Van Lierde, Toni placed third in his age group and our Swedish Pro K-J Danielsson was eights with a really strong finishing time of 08:23:01 – so good considering his pre-race uncertanty about racing in really hot humid conditions.

 

Getting to know new friends (left to right): Guilerme – Brazil, Ruth – Costa Rica, Tales – Brazil, Christina – Mexico, Rae – USA, Toni – Brazil, Dalibor – Swizerland, Matt – USA and me.

What now: Thankfully; my happiness is not dependent on results and getting a place on the podium. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great reward (and addictive feeling) to win and achieve good results, but I separate my happiness from results and take a setback as fuel for the fire of motivation.

I don’t view my preparations for the race as ”lost” or ”waisted” – I love my training in all intensity and condition, I don’t mind long hours on the indoor trainer and refuse to relate or refere to training as a “sacrifice” or worse – be overbearing and marginalize the types of training that I find more challagning than other. 

For me, training for long distance triathlon, is not only a physical undertaking but an opportunity to build and develop mental strength and cultivating emotions. A possibility to learn to enjoy something that I perhaps initially disliked, dreaded or even feared (like +5 hour rides on the trainer).

Now I am back in training again after my seasonal break (which was Monday, as Coach Teresa sais – there is no ”Off-Season” :-). I feel fully recovered from the race (both physically and mentally) and looking forward to train hard.  Most of all, I look forward to go back to Ironman Cozumel next year as it is my ideal location, course and climate. 

My goal remains – to become faster at +50 than I was at +30 and I must admit that deep down I’m kind of relifed that I didn’t achieve my goal this time – then I would have to ask myself that difficult question – “what’s next?”. 

//Maggi


The road less traveled


Training for a long-distance triathlon in the Swedish weather this time of year builds character, but it’s probably not something that I will do again for several reasons. For the past month, I have done almost all biking indoors and due to massive snow fall, I even had to do many of my runs on the ”dreadmill”. November is also the month when most people get their first winter cold and stomach flu and that was no different in our family, everyone took turns but I have been fortunate enough to stay rather healthy.

Spending 10-15hrs on the trainer per week have not only given me a crouch of steel and further hardened my mental strength, but also given me opportunity to catch up on some documentaries that I have wanted to watch for a long time. One of those were “Berkley Marathons” (Netflix).

Berkley Marathons is a +100miles running race in so difficult terrain that it took several years before any participant finished it. To apply for Barkley’s, you must somehow find the address and send in your application – by post – the address is not on the web or Facebook and it’s a mystery how you get hold of it. After you have submitted your application along with 1,60USD (non-refundable) you might be selected to participate (only 30-40 people/year) if you are selected – you will get a letter of “condolences” and further instructions.

First time participants must bring an entry fee in the form of a vehicle number plate from their country or state and a clothing item that the organizer has need for that year. It might be a white shirt, socks or a flannel shirt – all depends on what the fonder/organizer needs.

You won’t get a timing-chip, you won’t even get to know ahead of the race at what time of the day the race will start. To make sure that you completed the course you will need to find books that are hidden along the course and rip out the page that correspond to your race number. Pages will be checked at each of the 5 loops and you get a new race number for each loop. The course in unmarked but you get a map and compass. It’s mad.

When I saw the comradery between the participants, the passion of the fonder/organizer it’s hard not to think about how it must have been back in 1978-1980 when John Collins and team put on the first Ironman race on Oahu. It was an adventure – it was unchartered territory it was wild and so remote from what we now know as the Ironman ™ theme park.

The documentary put words on my own experience that I get in smaller races. It seems that the smaller “extreme” races attract people who are passionate, who want to explore and experience something different and not just qualify for Hawaii. I have meet amazing people at the small races and many of them share my experience of racing Ironman ™ and Hawaii – they prefer to remember it as it was.

My view is that Ironman™ nowadays is like a fast food chain – you know what you will get independent where in the world you are, from excellent aid stations and the fantastic volunteers – to the crappy backpack that will break before you reach your hotel after prerace-registration. It’s convenient, predictable and safe.

As I write this, I am seated on the second of three flights to Ironman™ Cozumel, November 27th. Skimming through the “Athletes guide” for the event I must admit that I look forward too many aspects of it – even if it’s a theme park race. I look forward to race in Mexico for the first time, to swim in crystal clear warm waters and to be back in hot humid conditions.

Ironman™ Cozumel will however (probably) be my last Ironman™ race. When I signed up for it, I was thinking that I just might pay for a Kona slot if I have a good race and win my age-group. I thought that “after all – it’s been almost 20 years since I raced Kona and it would be fun to go back”. But, after seeing what has happened with the unavoidable drafting situation in Kona (due to the dramatic increase in number of participants) I changed my mind. I don’t want to pay 950USD to participate in a race where the main interest of the organizers is to squeeze in as many participants as possible rather than make it possible for athletes to obey the race rules. I think It’s a bad joke to call that “World Championships” for age groupers. I will wait until more people start to ”vote with their feet” and the organizers clean it up before I go back. 

 For 2017 I am instead looking at some more adventuress races like:

–       Astroman – Japanese Championships (full distance)

–       ICON Levigno Extreme Triathlon – Italy (full distance + some extra)

–       Podersdorf – Austria (full distance, did it together with some friends from SPIF back in 1995 and it would be fun to go back and do it again – if they are up for it).

–       Lapponia – Gällivare, Sweden (full distance, a bit too cold for me – but perhaps)

–       ITU races – long distance?

Hopefully I will get the possibility to say no to a Kona slot at Ironman™ Cozumel as that would mean that I placed top 3 in my age-group and for that I would be extremely grateful and happy. One week to go and I am looking forward to swim/bike/run outdoors again and hopefully be in peak shape by Sunday morning.

Viva Mexico!

//Juan Pelota


Eating an elephant – Addressing the draft situation


There is a saying that “if you are to eat an elephant – you do it in pieces”. It’s a good saying that I think applies to the situation we have in the sport right now with regards to drafting.

My honest and open reactions to what has happened to long distance triathlon during my 18year break has engaged, disturbed and even made some people wake up and realize that there is a problem. That’s great! I’m afraid that I lack the capacity to just accept that the sport I love is becoming some kind of mixture between a theme park ride and a marathon.

I am really happy with the fact that so many share my concern, people who spend far too much time on the bike training hard to accept that this can go on. 

So to drafting; it has always been a problem but in the past it was a little baby elephant. At Ironman Mallorca I could not believe my eyes how big it had become and naively wrote – “the reason I really love Hawaii is that there is no drafting – at least back in my days”.

Then I saw the pictures from Kona in more recent years and started to understand that it’s out of control – which makes sense with the number of participants starting simultaneously (now close to double compared to back when I raced before year 2000).    

 

So what to do – well obviously just stating “we have an elephant in the room” is a first and important step – to ensure that other people sees it and that there is a desire for change from other athletes as well. That seems to be the case – even if the problem is percived differently depending on your point of reference and experience in the sport. People who was born with a fully grown elephant in the room probably can’t even imagine how little a baby elephant is.  

It’s great to see so many passionate triathletes coming up with ideas of new rules and technologies to be able to (eventually) provide a safe and fair race for everyone. To implement change and eliminate drafting is not rocket science and there is plenty of technology as well as alternative starting processes (for example waves) – that’s not the issue.

But that is probably a later step – once a speaking partner from the organizers is identified.

And here is the crux of the situation – what if there is no real interest from the organizers. After trying to contact one of the two large organizers of long distance events, I’m starting to realize that I am not the first with the request and not the last – to get no response.

I started to contact anti-draft organizations that I could find that have interest to stop drafting – only to find that they have had the exact same experience. There seems to be very little interest from the large organizers to REALLY do something significant about it. 

Perhaps because it has not been presented as a demand from a larger group or organization? Perhaps it’s because they still sell out the races without the necessary changes and make bucket loads of money.

There is no quick fix solution to drive the changes necessary, it will take time and effort. The more people we are who are really passionate about change and are ready to take a stand (rather than a selfi), the bigger possibility to do something about the situation. I encourage you who have a passion for the sport to at least go to saynotodrafting.org on Facebook and “like” and “share”. There are only 3,200 so far which is far too few. A good start is to get a substantial number of people who can represent a demand from the athlete’s side.

Given the fact that 60% of participants in an Ironman distance race will only do one race puts more responsibility on us who intend to stay in the game until we reach the +95 age group.

Personally have nightmares about my upcomming race in Cozumel – not about the distance, heat, course or race as such – but about the high likelihood that there will be drafting. I don’t know if I can witness what I saw in Mallorca again. I just want to be able to race ALONE, I don’t want to ride 180km again sprinting to get past big groups or sit back and see the packs go past.    

To those who took offence – I am really sorry that I’m putting a big spotlight on the elephant. I just can’t live with a elephant in the middle of the room and not say that it’s there. I can’t glorify events and organizers that don’t want to develop and deliver a fair and safe race as the sport gets bigger – that would not only be stupid, it would be ignorant. 

”Mobilizing to be heard” will take big effort and I hope that many will participate – hopefully ITU/ETU will have this as an important topic on their agenda moving forward. I intend to find out. Perhaps it’s even their elephant?

Have a great week-end,

Maggi


Never Ending Season


I really love training and rarely have problem with motivation but right now, when most triathletes are either taking their seasonal break or restarting their training after a break, I can’t help but to think that it would be really nice to have a month off, to not follow a program and just do a few hours training per week. 

In the past I used to start my training up in December. Then build toward the first short distance races to get speed in April – May and an Ironman (to qualify) typically in June – July. A little rest after qualification and then the preparation for Hawaii. When October came around (and it was starting to get cold) it was such a relief to go to Kona and enjoy the heat and the last race of the year.

This past 1,5 year has been very different. It all started with an injury in May 2015 which forced me to take a month off from training. As I had signed up for Ironman Mallorca I decided to give it a try and trained for the 4-6 weeks that was left before the race. The injury and lack of preparation made it impossible to really go hard/fast in Mallorca so I could start my training back up the day after the race.

From September 2015 to February 2016 I focused on building back a good base with a lot of lower intensity training as well as strength training.

In March I signed up with Uperform.dk and Teresa basically changed everything in the way I was training. Much more quality, intervals and no more garbage miles.

I did a half Ironman race in Italy in April which went well but then I got sick for 10 days in May and that put me back in training and racing. Had to cancel Laponia and shorter  distance races in Sweden and delay Ironman distance racing to later in the summer.

By June I was training ok again and did SLOVAKMAN226 in August. By then I was in decent shape but conditions on the day was far from optimal and the run course (6x7km) was partly done on a muddy field (2-3km/loop) which made the run times slow.

So, as soon as I had come back to Sweden from SLOVAKMAN226 I wanted to race in normal conditions and started to look for races in the near future. Preferably a smaller race, but given the fact that I had now raced two races where you basically have to navigate and find your way on your own – I thought I could be ok to race an Ironman™ again. Well organized, closed roads etc.

Florida was full and is also infamous for drafting so it’s out of the question.

Ironman Cozumel is what I ended up with and that race is 27th of November.

Warm water – cristal clear. Really looking forward to this!

18 months since I had a break. I have five more weeks of hard training to do before I fly out to Mexico. After that – I will really enjoy a break. But now – it’s cloudy, 5°C but it’s not raining outside – perfect time for a long ride with some good Danish intervals.   

Bike Course at Ironman Cozumel – Looks promissing. Hopefully draft free with Mexican Marshalls that shoot first and ask questions later.

I am not really that keen to race Hawaii again, but if I do a decent race and win my age group in Cozumel – perhaps I would re-consider it. More likely is that I will continue to explore exotic races. Perhaps Astroman 2017? Never raced in Japan but I heard that this should be a amazing race with ”seaweed” as an alternative to Gels in the aid stations.  

Viva Mexico! 

//Juan Pelota


Long way back


How could I be thinking that getting back in shape and achieving decent results would be easy at 50. They say that a bit of naivety is good when you embark on mad journeys and perhaps I would never have made it if I would have known how hard it would turn out to be. But I like it….

SLOVAKMAN226 – interesting run course….

Last year, after what I though a decent preparation – I really had miserable results and one of my club friends described it well – “you had been out of triathlon so long that you didn’t even remember if the bike was before the swim”. He’s right – I’d been on the bench for way to long.

It was like trying to race a rusty old vintage car with the V8 engine ripped out and replaced with one of those battery engines you have in electric tooth brushes – a lot of vibration and friction but very little effect.

This year I still race the rusty old vintage car but there has been an engine upgrade. Perhaps not with a V8 but at least a V6. The chassis still looks old and shitty with rust, dings and dents – but now it’s starting to move forward at decent speed again. And that is all that really matters.

So how and what did I do in the past year, getting my old body from a 10:30 to a comfortable 9:40 Ironman. Bellow I have listed the main reasons for the improvement – an improvement journey that is far from completed.

Training:

After careful consideration I decided to get a coach again and since Jean is no longer coaching I evaluated other alternatives and finally chose Teresa at Uperform.dk. I didn’t expect too much change to what I was doing and at first I was surprised with how little training she prescribed compared to the comfortable low intensity 15-20hours / week that I had now started to get used to.

That was until I started to do the sessions. It was really hard – and I like that!

For someone who has done old school triathlon training with fewer intervals – it has been a very sobering experience – well worth the pain when I now see the results.

In hindsight, and now knowing that Teresa has been coaching Patrik Nilsson to a new Swedish and Nordic Ironman Record of 7:49:18 – reducing 12min on an already amazing bike split and 2 min on a 2:45 marathon proves that her strategy works and that she knows her stuff.

It is highly likely that the years with old school training has built a solid base and after a good 18 years of rest and recovery (….) it’s now time to add the quality sessions to get speed and strength. Who knows, we will see if I can cut another 50 minutes of my Ironman time, in a DRAFT FREE race – now that would really be something to write about!

Nutrition:

Instead of listening to the latest fad from self-proclaimed LCHF experts (without education on the subject) I have chosen to listen to Teresa who is educated as a nutritionist.

This has led to some small adjustments in my nutrition.

  • I now bring the correct amount of energy on all training sessions to be able to train hard. Typically; that would be 300cKal/hour 3xIsostar Gels or one bottle of sports drink.  
  • By using Isostar both in training and racing (and never having any stomach problem with that brand, like I had with many other brands) I am now able to race the whole distance purely on fluids and that is such an improvement in efficiency compared to trying to open and chew sticky bars that I used to do in the past.
  • I have started to take Isostar recovery drink (that includes both protein and carbohydrates) after hard sessions and in the cases I have a second session later the same day.

I have noticed that I recover much faster when I do this and as I can train much harder the “after burn” still keeps me reasonable lean. It’s really quite logical that if you make sure to fuel your body during and after you recover faster. 

Materials:

I am still almost unable to understand and fully grasp the phenomenal improvements that has been made on the ARGON18 E-119 compared to the E-118. To compare what we were riding 20 years ago with today’s is not even possible and I still can’t understand how we could be do those times on the crap we rode back then.

It’s a complete dream to ride the ARGON18 119 and I would easily credit 30min on the bike split to the ARGON18 compared to the old aluminum that we rode back in the 90ties.  

I am thankful to be able to do 9:40 in the conditions we had at SLOVAKMAN but think that with better conditions I can do better already this year. 9:40 at 50 is ok considering I did 9:38 in Hawaii at 30 but the project was to become FASTER – not AS fast. So there will be another race this year. Then – I am done (at least for 2016).

Have a good one !

Magz   


Amedeo Bonfanti – The Italian SoulTrain


Last year when I raced Ironman Mallorca I was surprised that there were so many first timers and people who really didn’t seem to have a genuine interest or passion for the sport. Perhaps it’s due to that impression, that I was so happy when I meet a truly passionate Italian triathlete two days before the race in Slovakia.

After talking with Amadeo and his friend Valentino for over an hour and hearing his story, I realized that I just have to share the story of this amazing athlete. I think Amedeo’s philosophy is an inspiration and gives a different perspective on what is achivable and why we race.  

How about finishing 99 marathons under 3 hours. All I can say; ”some talk the talk, some go and do it”. Clearly Amedeo have done it and I hope you will enjoy the read and find inspiration from his amazing achivements. 

”100 km del Passatore” 2016 (foto: Francesca Soli) in memory of his friend Simone Grassi.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I live in Brianza, a green and hilly area in northern Italy not far from Lake Como. The climbs are not lacking but I prefer to avoid them :-). In October, I will be 51 years old and have done different sports all my life.

After twenty years of playing football and other sports, in 1996 I decided to make a change. I had a predisposition for running and after a course of swimming, I bought a bike. This was the start of a desire to try the three disciplines together.

I decided to try this experience and to grow with it, but not for competitive purposes.

I still remember when I came to the headquarter of the Triathlon Lecco (my first triclub), and meeting with the president. I still remember the astonished expression of my mother when I tried to explain triathlon.

My favorite food is pizza, pasta, polenta, fish, vegetables, fruits and I have a sweet tooth and love cakes and ice cream.

How many races have you done since you started in triathlon 1996?

The first spint race I did was in Vignola in May 1996. This debut will forever remain in my memory. I still remember the traumatic swimming in a pool, I was being passed by everyone and left to my fate ……. Anyway, I was not demoralized and arrived happy at the finish line.

After a couple of hours I was already thinking about the next race. I never expected to arrive at 50 years and still be able to compete in the Ironman distance races. Now I’ve finished 94 Ironman distance races and I was able, with great satisfaction, to enter the Jubilee Club at Powerman Zofingen (finished 10 times). In running I have finished 36 ultramarathons, 106 marathons (99 under 3h) at least 80 half marathons.

Amedeo in Ironman Lanzarote 2016 (19th time finishing Ironman Lanzarote)

WHAT? – How many races do you do per year?

I do an average of 5 Ironman every year and I split the season into two parts: from May to the end of September I compete in triathlons while from November to March I dedicate to running. A triathlete to me is not an ironman, but a human being with his own weaknesses and great determination that trains himself to get energy to realize his dream. When I meet athletes who ask me the final time that I would get, I say; time is made up of numbers that you will forget as opposed to the feelings that will remain forever in your mind.

My motto is: ”I run for fun and share sporting moments, because there are no athletes to beat.” My biggest obstacle is my difficulty to swim, it’s always hard for me in the water. The greatest joys are, at the end of a race, in which you have suffered beyond measure, but you managed to defeat your doubts regardless of your finishing time. 

Each race gives me satisfaction and different emotions depending on the time in which it takes place. I often remember a friend in my races, a very strong runner, who died of lung cancer and I feel that I can honor his memory by continuing to race. Racing is a way to celebrate life and remember those who are not with us anymore or can’t race any longer.

Elbaman 2015 Amedeo’s 90th Ironman distance race

How does a typical training week look for you?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I don’t love training and I use the races to train. I’m aware that I‘m not an example to follow. However, I have experienced that I recover remarkably fast and can compete often. I think it’s because I like to share the sports event with other athletes and friends and that gives me energy.

I have never used heart rate monitors and power meters but I have always listened to my body. But they are recommended to those who want to improve their performance or is followed by a coach. Between an Ironman and the next, during the week, I just try to do the maintenance of the physical condition with about 8 hours of sport. I alternate the three sports to avoid boredom.

 With so many races done, which are your favorite races and which are your worst races?

My favorite races are:

1-     Ironman Lanzarote 

2-     Elbaman

3-     Ironman Austria

4-     Challenge Roth

All races in which I participated have given me the opportunity to learn and experience new countries. I don’t like to mention races that have not been well organized as often it can be as a consequence of limited budgets from the organizers rather than negligence.

 Have you done Hawaii?

I went to Hawaii through Legacy Program urged by a friend; Alberto Fazi who qualified several times for Kona. He told me it was the only race that I had missed. I was not convinced that they would accept me and when I got the news of being able to go to Kona I was undecided what to do. 

I didn’t think it was right to go without having qualified in a race. In the end I accepted and it was a great experience although I much prefer going to Lanzaraote, my favorite race in the world. A few days before the race I went to ride on the Queen K and I met Chrissie Wellington. Pedaling alongside with her I asked, ”but the bike is all so boring?”. She said yes, adding that it took a lot of mental strength. 

 What is the strangest thing that ever happened to you in a race? 

I once raced an ironman in curlers and once I did Klagenfurt with a blonde wig and my mother’s skirt 🙂

It was an honor to share the race experiance with Amedeo in Slovakia at SLOVAKMAN226 and I look forward to see him in future races accross Europe – it will not be to difficult as he is doing so many of them :-). 

// Magnus


Results matters – Back on the right side of 10hours


Ok, I have played down the importance of results, perhaps as I’m deep down a “result addict” and fear failure. Perhaps because I fear that I have set my goals so high level that it’s impossible to achieve them. So, I confess – results are not only a bonus – they are also what I bring home as a souvenir of achievement or failure. As the memory of the moments of pleasure and pain subsides my “scores on the board” remains. At least in my mind.

I am not a really talented triathlete so my ambitions are modest. I don’t think I can ever break 9hours as +50 – even if I will keep trying. For me the “limit” is to be under 10 hours on the ironman distance. This weekend I finally came back to the right side of MY personal limit of what I think is OK for ME and what I at the end of the day measure my performance against.     

This ”realization” (….) came to me after the Ironman distance race in Slovakia this weekend. It was a really, really hard race with conditions that I would never EVER have raced in – if I had not traveled with the whole family across Europe to the race.

Finish area being built in great weather 2 days before the race – warm and sunny – just the way I like it. 

Race morning 17°C rain and thunder storm – perhaps that’s the reason there was not so many bikes (apart from my ARGON18 Beast) checked in at 06:00. 

During the race I did as planned. Watched my pace/heart rate and paid no attention to place or time as the focus on result and other competitors during a race often can have a contradictory effect on performance/results. 

When I came out of the water I noticed briefly that all bikes except for some pro’s where all still on the rack, when I came back in – all bikes except a few pro’s (6) where still out. So I figured that I was having a pretty OK day. 

Heading out on the 6x30km loop (or as it tured out – 6x15km intervall straight against the worst wind I have ever experianced in any race – Hawaii 96, 97, 98 included).

1/3 of every 6x7km loop was on a trail by the water, then up into a park with paved road. Not easy on broken legs……   

Breaking the finish line in 09:40 came as a positive surprise. It feels good to have achieved a decent result again and it balances the post-race pain I now have and that I had almost forgotten.

 

Best feeling – to have my family meeting me at the finishline!  

It’s really magic when you can turn a true shit day into a great result – just by focusing on the here and now – do your best and embrace the moment.

First prize for agegroup 50-55 – a bag full of beer (that’s the reason for the big smile). Award cermony Slovakian style at 23:00 race night ! I like!!

I will write more about the race and try to put together a more complete race report for those who are interested in a really cool race, but now – I got to get some results to my customers 😉 

// DerDino


Last Hard Week


One of the challenges with the race season is that it is very hard to know what will happen 6-9months before it starts. You might get sick, your bike might get crushed by the airline, you might get hit by a car, etc, etc. My season was somewhat planned out with Trapaniman (1/2) in April to check the form, IM Lanzarote in May to get back on a hard course and then finish with Laponia IM distance in the north of Sweden in July. This did not work out. Except for Trapaniman I have not raced at all this season – that’s life.

On the way back to Sweden from Italy and Trapaniman my bike got crushed by Norwegian Airlines and more or less straight after that I got The Man Cold. I had to do some serious adjustments to my plans. 

Instead of racing in May and June I had to focus on trying to get back in shape and build up for an ironman distance race later in the season. I ended up only having two weekends where I could race a full distance, one in July and one in August. So the choices ended up being between Ironman Maastricht or a small local Slovakian race called “Slovakman 226” that I found on www.trimapper.com.

If you have read any of my earlier blog’s, I am sure that you can guess which one I am going with.

Small races mean no crowds – small crowds mean no drafting. Quite simple mathematics. Also, I prefer paying money to local clubs and passionate organizers. Sixth of August I will finally race again in “Slovakman 226”.

This past week has been the last hard week before the race and for all of you whom have done multiple Ironman’s, you know what’s it like – It’s the weeks when the training load is so high that you feel like you are on the point of breakdown. It’s also the week when you can’t help but to question yourself if this is really healthy, not to mention – “is it worth it”.

Doing 500km/week in aero position at 50 is quite interesting. Hearing guys who have not even turned 40 talking about how difficulty recovery is “when you are older” just makes me smile and think about what they will say at 50. Hell, Mark Allen won Hawaii at 37 and set the run record that still stands today.  

For the next eight days leading up to the race I know how it will be – been there many times before and have to remind myself what it’s like; fatigue, heavy legs and body, feeling swollen, constant hunger that I have to resist to feed as I’m not burning the 4-5,000kcal/day that I have for the past 4-6 weeks. Possibly a feeling of power and speed 2-3 days before race day when the body is getting close to completely recovered. Or no feeling of power – at all. Worry that I have trained to much, too hard, too little or too slow. Concern that I will have problems with injuries that inevitably surfaces now – in the final weeks before the race. Doubts, fear of failure, fear of the physical pain, concern of my ability to go a little harder than what is really possible for the full distance – instead of playing it safe.  

Those are thoughts that I think most of us go through and it’s all part of the race experience. Deep down, I am happy to be able to be in this situation again and look forward to the challenging day as well as the days leading up to it.

With regards to splits, watts, and finishing place – I don’t know.

On the evening of the 6th I will know.

My goal is to go as fast as I can for the whole duration, remain focused and in a positive flow and that typically leads to as good results as one are able to achieve. The reward is when you can look yourself in the mirror after the race and know that you did your absolut best, you raced honest and clean and you looked the devil deep in the eyes and came out alive.

Good luck to everyone else who’s about to race! Go Hard, Go Deep and Be Happy!

// Der Böse Schwede 


Cars are hard but some triathletes are HARDER


Shit happens. It happens to all of us – sooner or later. The way we deal with it is what defines us. We all have a choice to either ventilate your misfortune in social medias and play victims or just shut up and use the misfortune as an opportunity to build even stronger character.

A few weeks ago a friend from SPIF was hit by a car on one of his final rides getting ready for the Swedish Championships in Vansbro. I called him up as soon as I heard about the accident to cheer him on and to let him know that anyone who spends substantial time on the bike will eventually get into accidents – it’s just statistics.

He was very disappointed with the situation and the fact that he would not be able to race in Vansbro. but he has the right spirit – brushed himself off and got back up again.

It’s strange that accidents always seem to happens right around 10 days before the race – when you are doing your final hard sessions and your legs are jumpy. I have crashed at least 3 times around 10 days before an Ironman race and have even had stiches removed from my neck on race morning in Kalmar 1994.

Kristian is a dedicated, humble and very talented young man and it only took days until he was out running again – with his arm in a cast! He adjusted his plans and got on with it. I am sure that he will have a killer Ironman race this year – a little later than the planned Kalmar, but most likely with even better results. I hope that he will make it to Kona 2017. 

Go Hard Kristian!


The ManCold


God created man and woman equal with regards to resistance to suffering and pain. Women received the gift of a high pain threshold to be able to handle the (for a man) unimaginable pain at child birth, men got the almost supernatural ability – to surviving one of the most horrific illnesses known to mankind – The ManCold. A deadly synndrome that no woman can comprehend.

Sometimes The ManCold is scrutinized by women and belittled and called a ”normal” cold. That is not nice.

It has been many years since I last had a ManCold, maybe 15years or more – I have been so fortunate, but now the deadly sickness almost took my life. In fact I am still unsure if I made it.

To celebrate my 50th birthday I didn’t want to have a big party and speeches and junk, most of my really close frineds would not be able to make it to Sweden anyway. We decided to spend it family only – and have plenty of possibility to (swim/bike/run). So we took a quick trip down to Mallorca and arrived in perfect time to perfect weather.

We landed on Saturday and I managed to get a quickie out to Formeltor. On Sunday I felt odd so instead of doing 120km in the hills I did 90km flat. Monday was my birthday and that has always to be done in style (but I promised my family not to do more than 4,5hrs so I cut it short), 3,500m OW swim, 90km Hard&Hilly repeats followed by a 7km fast brick run. Felt perfect – mentally – but physically something was not right.

Tuesday I was going for the mountains again – but had sore lungs, coughing and heavy head. Did 120klm flat instead and came back. That night it hit and it hit hard. Rest of the trip I had fever, coughing my lungs out and was stuck in the hotel room. Flew back on Saturday, still sick as a dog. Monday no better, Tuesday I finally went to a doctor. The doctor just shook her head when she received the X-rays and test-results back. “So you have been training with this infection in your system?.  Antibiotics next and 10 days later (after two full weeks completely knocked out) I manage to do my first easy 30 min jog on Bambi legs.

”Who the hell are you?”

”I am the Death”

”Ah, that explains the darkness”

”Yup”

So what can we learn from this? The obvious is “Don’t train when you are sick!” which is as effective to say to a passionate triathlete in Mallorca as to say to an alcoholic “Don’t drink” when he is in an open bar and thirsty like a destert dog.

I think we need to be a little more flexible here.

What I have learned (and obviously didn’t practice on myself this time) is following general advice that I got from coaches and doctors over the years: 

  1. “Bellow the neck” – when you feel a cold coming on above the neck you can often continue with easy training (if not fever etc). If you feel a cold coming on that is affecting your chest and respiratory system rest a few days. If you neglect this and still train when you have a real ManCold – it is very likely that it will hit you really hard. 
  2. If you just have runny nose and sore throat – it can be allergy rather than a cold (depending on time of the year of course). My wife reminded me about this for the first 15 years of our marriage, when I was saying that I was getting a cold in May – every May. Symptoms are almost identical.
  3. Ease back into it – give yourself a week to build back into your program if you have been out for two weeks with antibiotics. If you are only out for 3-5 days and feel you can jump straight back into hard training – you probably just needed a break and some downtime and were not really sick. 
  4. When in doubt – see a Medical Doctor.

NOTE1: All above is based on my own experience only and has not been verified in any study that I know of. However, I know that there is significant funding and on-going research on The ManCold and it is likely to become listed by WHO as one of the most dangerous illnesses know to man, alongside with Ebola.     

NOTE2: Obviously the comparison of pain and suffering between giving birth and The ManCold is a joke. Women get epidural and “laughing gas” but when you get The ManCold you are lucky to get an aspirin, a pat on the head by your wife and you are on you own.

// ManCold Surviver 


The Big FiveO – Progress update


I set out to become faster at 50 than 30 around two years ago. Now I feel an obligation to report back on status. Last week was the Big Day and I have now officially passed over to the “death half of life”, as one of my friends encouragingly describes the transition from 49 to 50. 

When I saw one of the photos from Trapaniman a few weeks ago (rigth) I saw some similarities to a pix from Ironman Lanzarote 1997 (left). 

To structure the update into something that makes sense and minimizes the risk of incoherent, unwrought nonsense – I have tried to summarize my findings below.

Swim: As a birthday present to myself I started the day with a 3,450meter open water swim in Alcudia bay. Freestyle, some back and not really pushing – did it in around 55 min with some of the 100rds in 1;15 pace. Ok, I was using my ORCA Predator wetsuit which basically is so fast it’s like swimming with a outboard motor attached to your rear. Anyway, swimming it seems, I’m as fast now (or as slow – depending on your point of reference) as I was 20 years ago. If I train swimming 2-3 days a week I can do 55min IM swim. If I train 4-5 days probably around 50min again.   

Bike: Never trained or raced with power meters and all the tools that we have today so it’s hard to compare current values to past values other than race times and distance. I’m tracking somewhere around 4,500km year to date, much less that I’d like, but outdoor season just started so I will catch up. As I do much more high intensity indoors now than before – total kilometers will be less.   

Trapaniman half IM bike landed at a 2;35 bike split doesn’t say much as it was a mad 4 x through downtown with the worst road conditions imaginable on open roads, but as it’s all I got, so perhaps 5:00-5:20 on the IM distance? Should gain a few minutes if I put on a pair of race-wheels, instead of trainer-wheels, in the next race.

Run: Feels good and have been putting in decent km’s this year around 850km year to date. As I have built a solid base over the past two years, there has been no injuries even after shifting over to more high intensity training this spring. Never focused much on splits and zones in the past so very little to compare with, but my first ever 5km run test landed around 18:30 and my 1km repeats are in the 3:20-3:30 range.

Trapaniman half IM run landed at 1;34 which I think is ok for an old-non-tapered-man. Don’t know, but that could probably put me at around a 3;15-3;30 IM marathon? Who knows – ”anything is possible” – I might slip on a banana peel or have the run of my life. 

Revised target: 9:12 is my PB from 1996 in Roth. 9:30 seems possible, 9;15 not unachievable so my target for the season is 8;59 – why not?

As I recently chose to be coached by Uperform.dk – I’m not as sure about what times I can expect in races. We have changed a lot in my program and so far I am really pleasantly surprised of how quick I have made huge improvements.      

Race venue and time of year – To Be Done. Most likely not Laponia as planned due to the ”airline negligence broke my bike situation”. Maybe Mastricht, Vischy, Podersdorf or Almere.  

Other reflections: The best thing and the real bonus is that my happiness is not depending on if I make <9hrs or not, my life would not change if I did. I would not make more money so I could buy things I don’t want or need. My self-perception would not change. My kids would not love me more. My wife couldn’t care less if I did 8;45 or 14;45 (just be pissed-off too have to wait). In fact, it might be hard to imagine, but the world as we know it would actually remain pretty much unchanged independently of what finishing times I do (or anyone else for that matter).      

In the process of this little project I have found my way to real joy and peace-of-mind though training and racing again. I have come to realize more and more that my first well-defined (traditional) goals in hours and minutes have matured into goals of how I like to feel and live for the rest of my life.

 

Conclusion: We are all different and chose different paths in life – and it’s all good!

Some work to be able to live.

Some live to work with a purpose and something that makes a differance.

Some don’t even think about why they do what… 

Some train to….

…. race and make money

…..look fit and flex their muscles  

…. race to beat others

…. race to beat themselves(up)

…..race so they can justify all the fun training 

I’m sure there are hundreds of combinations, for me the last example works best with regards to training …race so I can justify all the fun training. 

There is no contradiction between fun and results, rather the opposite, I train harder and more disciplined than most I’ve ever met and I race like if the devil is chasing me – because I love it. I don’t check the watch for time anymore when I race. I only look at it for information on heartrate and speed, to make sure I’m in the right zone (and don’t blow-up). But I dissconnect my results from my emotions and don’t beat myself up.

Perhaps I will not be faster at 50 than at 30 – perhaps I will. Independent of which; the journey has physically and mentaly brought me back to a happier self that I thought I lost, I really apprechiate that and finishing times are now just numbers!    

I realize that this became a long post and appreciate you taking the time to read it. Hope that it gave you something to think about and/or laugh at and perhaps even be inspired by.

 

In a few years I will compare photos of my old self again – hopefully it will take another 20 years before I run as the older version of my ”potential future self” (right). But it really dosn’t matter – as long as I am having fun!

I bid you farewell and wish you a happy and safe training and racing!

// Juan Pelota