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

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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