Race plan 2017

I am not much for rearview mirror looking but perhaps a quick glance back is good this time of the year. 2016 was a great year with lots of training and trips around the world. No crashes, no big injuries but I think I did too few races in retrospect. This will change in 2017.

2016 Training:

Swim: Around 2-3 sessions per week, 324,000 meters, 107hrs.

Bike: Moderate total distance just over 12,000km, 416hrs. More quality work than 2015 as Coach Teresa likes quality.

Run: Not that great total distance just under 2,000km, 158hrs – but also here with more quality work than 2015.

Total training time: 681hrs a 13% increase in training time vs. 2015 and an average of 13hrs/week.

Injuries and sickness:

Not bad at all. A bad cold kind of disrupted the early season and another one after the last race of the season but otherwise OK.

Race and results:

Did not race as much as I would have liked to due to several reasons but was satisfied with two races out of three.

Trapaniman ½ ironman: 04:12:42, 1st in age-group, 13th overall.

Slovakman226 full Ironman: 09:40:57, 1st in age-group 10th overall.

Ironman Cozumel: DNF due to stomach problems / cramps.



Happy that I could spend so much time training and racing without sacrificing quality time with the family and still make ends meet. Awesome to get to know some great people all over the world. Also, good to do an Ironman distance race under 10 hours again and get one step on the way to the goal of “Faster at 50”.

Still not feeling my old strength on the bike – but considering that I have just restarted my training I am hoping that my bike legs will return. Running is gradually coming back and I am happy to be able to do multiple 25-30km runs at 4:30 – 4:35km pace with backpack on tired legs. 


Now it’s time to suit up and race more frequently than 2014 and 2015. It will be a busy schedule that will seriously test if the two years of preparation has made me ready to beat my old times. The first 7 months includes two Ironman races that I have sign up for and after those two I will revisit the plan and see if I will do two more this year or just one (Ironman Cozumel).

January – February: No racing.

March: Half Ironman, Half Marathon

April: Half Ironman and/or Olympic

May: Full distance #1 – Ironman Lanzarote (my old time from 1997 to beat – 10:08:16) 

June: Half Ironman and/or Olympic depending on how I feel after Lanzarote and how quick I recover.

July: Full distance #2- Challenge Roth (my old time from 1996 to beat – 09:12:23)

Aug: TBD

September: Possibly full distance #3- Austria Long Distance, Podersdorf

October: No race – Preparation for Ironman Cozumel.

November: Full distance #4 – Ironman Cozumel.

December: No race.

It’s a pretty ambitious plan but given the nature of the event I think it’s better to have multiple races lined up. Apart from the training and preparation all we can really do is to hope that the ”perfect day”, when everything works like it should, will happen on one of them.


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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 !


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?”. 


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,


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