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

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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