Aerodynamic-superbike-drafting ?

10min into the ride at Ironman Mallorca, a few weeks back, I was passed by a peleton of 9-10 riders. At the back of the peleton was a fellow Swede who shouted – “Go Stockholmspolisen”. I was quite confused – I have never seen anybody cheating and cheering at the same time.

According to the rules – I fell back 10meter behind the Peleton and let them continue away. I tried to stay focused and positive and though to myself  – a lot of people came out of the water at the same time – people are doing this race individually and know the rules – this was a “one off”.

10minutes later the next peleton comes by… this time there is a Norwegian shouting “Go Magnus” – he is so close that he can read the name on my race number. Now I get pissed off. I fall back 10meters and keep looking at the Norwegian who is freewheeling at the back of the pack. I launch forward, pass the whole group informing them about the 10meter rule. No-one reacts to the fact that I am shouting to them – they just look away.

I push hard and stay 20meters ahead of the group until we come out on the flat and a slight headwind. They overtake me again using the advantage of working as a group.

I fall back, charge and again pass them this time I convey a more “direct message” in a language that for many would be considered explicit and perhaps even insulting (to say the least) – but interestingly enough no-one seams to understand what I am saying this time either.

Finally I see marshals on motorcycles and point at the peleton behind me – they make a sign to the group to “break up” and then drive away. The group remains and passes me again.

We do this 6 times until 80km into the race. At this point we hit the road going back towards Alcudia, my legs are fried from the intervals passing the group and we now have a long straight into the headwind. The peleton has grown even bigger and I am alone 20-30 meters behind. To my amazement the group is not breaking up even as they go into the city, it seems that they’re not ashamed of their obvious cheating not even the fact that the spectators will see them coming into the city as a pack.

Photo from last years Ironman Mallorca 2014 (not Tour de France!!) – sure hope these guys are proud of themselves when they cross the finish line.  

How can people look themselves in the mirror after a race like this? Can you enjoy a fast bike split and when you know that you have broken the rules? Can you argue convincingly to yourself  – “everyone else did it”, “I was not alone in the peleton”? Can you enjoy a qualification to Hawaii if you drafted and really did not earn the place?

In this race, for the first time in my life, my motivation, drive and passion sank like a stone. I was starting to think that perhaps the sport has changed and it’s not about a fair race against yourself and the clock anymore. Perhaps I am living in the past when there was pride riding it alone.

Perhaps the new ironmen plan their race well in a different way; get a good ride in the pack, take some risks at the first half – enjoy the shade and rest in the recovery area (also called “penalty box”….) if they get caught, they make sure to be more careful when the second half of the group ride.  I don’t know – personally I would get so embarrassed and humiliated if I ever had a single yellow card or a warning that I would probably quit the sport.

This finally brings me to the question: Why do people spend >8 000€ on super aerodynamic bikes, wheels and helmet when they are drafting? It would be safer for them if they used normal road bikes. That would also free up cash so that they could buy illegal performance enhancing drugs (if they are not already using that as well to cheat…) and really maximize their time?

My motivation to get the best bike on the market ARGON 18 E-118 was to get every possible advantage to be able to go as fast as possible using less energy against the wind- ALONE.  I’m really amazed with the development of bikes that has happened since I last raced in 1998 and the way the E-118 really cuts through the wind compared to the clunky bikes of the 90thies.    

Speaking to the Ironman Europe Managing Director, Paul Huddle after the race made me realize that when we raced, in the 90ties, races were much smaller and fewer. This obviously made it possible to get competitors spread out easier but also the “informal marshaling” was simpler – it was to a large degree the same guys racing in the handful of Ironman races across the world and we all knew if someone was a cheater and those who did got a reputation (not a positive one…)

For the future – I hope that Ironman Corporation will come up with a way to make the races fair. It would not take a rocket scientist to come up with a device that similar to the RFID chip around our ankle, can be mounted on the bike to monitor your proximity to other riders. If they do it smart they can even equip it with GPS so that you can follow riders remotely on the web – and see who are sitting in packs and who are fighting alone, like you are supposed to.

Until then – I will train harder on the swim to get further ahead of the packs and get back into a better bike shape that I have ever been. From now on I will only do races that are extremely hilly and windy where cheating wheel suckers have less of advantage. Hello again Lanzarote! – It seams that I’ll be coming back. I know I promised never to return (after the two IV’s after the finish 1997) all is forgotten, all is forgiven and at least the run is not up on the motorway anymore!


This is why I love Ironman Hawaii (at least back in my days)!  The Marshalls did hell of a good job – it was really an individual race! Perhaps that is why so many don’t have bike splits anywhere near their qualification times….

Stay honest!

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Fire, Ready, Aim – Setting goals

There are different schools of thought with regards to setting goals. Some set achievable short-term goals to be able to celebrate each victory along the way and not overreach. Some aim really high to extend and push themselves beyond what is possible. Some do both.  

When I told family and friends that I intended to race Ironman again at 50, I could see the happiness and support in their eyes when they realized that I was going back to do something that I really love. 

When I told them that I was going to try to become faster than I was at the age of 32 – the happiness in many eyes turned into a glare that seemed to say “he has completely lost it”. 

I typically set my goals rather high, but have I lost it?

Perhaps, but I rather think that I have found it – again.

18 months ago, I decided that rather than to sit and hold on to the false sense of security at a corporate job, I started up my own company again and now work fewer hours per week to be able to spend more time with my family and train more.  Being an interim/ consultant is perfect for a performance junky like me. Get in – deliver results – get out.

This change in lifestyle for the past year has given me the possibility to rebuild a decent fitness base and soon it’s time to start with “the real” training again.

After the 18 years break from competing in triathlon, getting married, having 2 children, high pace corporate jobs on 3 different continents with too much work related travel associated with it; I think I’ve found my way back to the happiness you only get when you’re in physical motion.

The goal of my training is bigger than to just reach a certain time or personal best time. It’s also to never again take another break and to even further develop the apprechiation of  every training session in decades to come. But I have also set some measurable goals.

Goal definition:

Saying that I want to be “faster at 50 than at 32” gives some room for interpretation

In 1997 I had my best Ironman Hawaii race finishing 74th overall at 9hr 34 min. I also had my best Olympic non-drafting race finishing second overall at 1hr 59min in Chievres, Belgium.

To improve those results will be serious challenge at 50 – I might have to revise my goal to  “faster at 50+ than 32” and give myself a few years to get there…

Getting there:

The main areas that I will focus on and utilize to my advantage in the journey to improving my speed and performance at +50 are the following (note: not in order of importance as I can not judge that yet). 

1.     Improvements in materials: There has been a tremendous advancement in materials used in triathlon. By using the best materials and technology available I hope to gain a few minutes advantage over “my old self” with regards to performance. I will write about the materials that I try out and provide my view if the material has significant advantage compared to what we used in the past (if at all available in the Jurassic Period, when I used to race).

Version 2

(I had to smile coming out of the water – What an incredible difference with todays wetsuits! Comfortable, not restricting your movement, floating through the 3,850m IM Mallorca swim like a torpedo in 56min without even pushing it)       

2.     +10,000hr principle: Several studies of optimal performance, not only in sports but also arts and music, have shown that it takes 10,000hrs to become truly efficient in something. So far I ’ve put approximately 6,500-7,000hrs into triathlon. There is plenty of room to become more efficient as the 10k hours actually will be calculated for each sport…. With current yearly training volume I will reach 10k hours for the combined sport of triathlon in 5 years.

3.     More research and knowledge about training: Over the past 20 years some of the methods and thoughts about training we utilized in the past remain, but there has also emerged new research and conclusions that I will build into my training. In future blog-posts I will write about what worked for me and what didn’t. 

4.     Improved technic by consulting the best trainers: During my last attempt to become fast (96-98) I had the benefit of being coached by twice, top ten Ironman Hawaii finisher, Jean Moureau from Belgium. From one year to the next I improved my personal best with over an hour on the same course (IM Roth from 10:17 in 1995 to 09:12 in 1996). I will not be able to go back to the volume of those times unfortunately. I will need to become more efficient in all three sports and I will consult the best trainers/instructors to ensure that I don’t waste energy, time and resources.   

5.     “Nailing it” – The perfect race: So far I have started in 11 Ironman races and finished 10. Only one of them has been anywhere close to perfect race – IM Kona 1997. Perhaps the distance in itself and the time you spend doing it makes a “perfect race” impossible. There are so many things that can go wrong over the 226km that you are traveling – not to mention the 2,2600km that you have done the year leading up to the race in preparation and that either makes you extremely ready or injured or burnt out.… 

A goal is not really a goal if it’s too easy. A real goal should be so difficult that it is almost unattainable – ”aim for the stars, get to the treetops”. Just don’t forget to enjoy yourself on the way there; the goal is just a destination – it’s the journey that counts. 

Stay safe on the roads and enjoy your training!

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Act your age?

In a few months I’m turning 50. Most people who have turned 50 tell you “nothing really changes”. I guess that for most people the fact that the body has started to decompose for quite a few years at 50 isn’t noticed. I have now spent the better part of a year starting to build back some level of base – this would have taken me 3 months in the past.

Having an old mans body is like operating a 25-year-old outboard motor. First you have to use all the battery to get it to start (getting up in the morning is fine – it’s the getting out of bed that sucks). Then, it finally comes to life – gets completely out of control as the “idle” is out of tune (this is the part when you think that you are young again and go out at a pace that you would have 20 years ago). The fumes are awful as the carburetor is not set right either (this part I will leave to your imagination…). But once it’s going it’s runs like a charm – until you turn it off and try to restart again.         

There is however hope – I have been led to believe. In the book “Fast after 50”, Joe Friel compares results in several different sports (one of them being triathlon), times and performances for age groupers. It’s interesting and motivating to see that performance doesn’t drop drastically until after 70 for those who stay active. The hypothesis is that people who started training hard and racing in there twenties – and stay active – can maintain a high performance. For us who have not – well, we will see….

Good news for all you “Young Guns” out there who are 30 something – you have a chance to maintain the speed and performance you have now well into your seventies and perhaps even further!

For us who rise from the dead (death by PowerPoint and endless meetings) and have rediscovered our need for speed – well, the jury is still out on that one and might be out for a long time given the recovery time you need at this respectable age… 

Please, don’t come talking about “you’re getting old” when you are 35-39! Mark Allen won Hawaii when he was 37, Dave Scott finished second in 1994 when he was 40 and fifth when he was 42 – in 1996. I am sure that when Dave finally returns to Kona again he will place top 50 overall – likely with very few minutes behind the “9hr”.

Set your goals for the long term so you can enjoy a long, fast and healthy life. Don’t set your goal to do one Ironman just to qualify for Hawaii – do other races and learn to love it.

Stay safe on the roads!

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