Fighting for Five: Conrad Stoltz on the hunt for his next XTERRA World Championship
He has the resting heart rate of a bear in hibernation but the VO2 max to rival any elite athlete. He’s run, swam and pedaled through more (and more gruesome) injuries than he can remember. But he’s not Superman â€“ he’s the Caveman. 39-year-old Conrad Stoltz is one of the most recognized and decorated triathletes there is â€“ and with good reason.
With 20-plus years of racing experience as a professional, he has 50 XTERRA career wins and is a four-time XTERRA World Champion. He also has three ITU Cross Tri World Titles and is a two-time Olympic triathlete.
â€œThe first year I did the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, I won it by 10 minutes,â€ says Stoltz. â€œIt felt so easy, I told myself I was going to win this thing five times in a row.â€
That was in 2001. Since then, the Suunto ambassador and South African athlete has had many trials and tribulations in his quest for 5 World titles on this course littered with sharp lava rocks and Kiawe thorns: flat tires, mechanicals and crashes turned the ‘five titles in a row’ into four very very tough XTERRA Championship wins.
Born and raised in South Africa, Stoltz started his racing career at age eight when he raced track and field and BMX. By age 14, he had raced his first triathlon and subsequently turned pro upon graduating from high school.
His early years as a pro athlete were far from glamorous. â€œI slept on benches and in a Police station (willingly) before a race and I’ve won races on cheap, borrowed bikes.â€
TRIATHLON BOILS DOWN TO HOW MUCH PAIN YOU CAN TAKE. WITH XTERRA YOU GET A LOT OF ADRENALINE
It’s this hand-to-mouth lifestyle combined with a reputation for being hard on equipment that earned him the nickname ‘the Caveman’. He got into XTERRA after the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
â€œAfter Sydney I was a bit burnt out and thought I’d just do one or two just to clear my head for fun. But I fell in love after my first race. â€œI’d been racing tri since 1988 and it boils down to how much pain you can take â€” you just go as fast as possible. But with XTERRA there’s a whole lot more to it. For a start the courses vary hugely, from volcanic beaches in Hawaii to the mountains of the Alps to the forests of Brazil.
â€That adds a new strategy to it, from your suspension set-up to what tires you select. Some courses take 4-5 rides to memorize. But the technical aspect is what makes it interesting. Along with the lactic acid you get a lot of adrenaline and that’s what makes it fun.â€
Stoltz continued to compete at both disciplines for a few years but after participating in the Athens Olympics he chose to focus on XTERRA.
So far, that self-promised fifth title looks tantalisingly in sight. â€It’s been a great season,â€œ says Stoltz.
However, it didn’t start out that way. Although famous for his ability to ride through pain, he suffered an injury that nearly derailed his plans.
â€œI cut my hand when I crashed in a dry river bed at the first XTERRA in Las Vegas,â€ he says. â€œI kept on racing, even though I was bleeding like crazy.â€
Five stitches later and the tough triathlete was good to go, right? Not quite.
â€œThe next week I raced the Cross Country and Short Track at Sea Otter Cycling festival and I simply couldn’t hold the bar properly. So I was sitting to one side, favoring a leg. The sacroiliac joint seized up, causing a severe calf injury at XTERRA Alabama. I should have stopped right away, but I ran three miles like that, worsening the injury even more.â€
Eventually, however, the Caveman realized it was in his best long-term interest to throw in the towel. Pulling up was tough for Stoltz, who has been the US National XTERRA champion 10 times over the last twelve years. But it was the right decision.
He bounced back even stronger to win XTERRA Brazil, the ITU cross Tri World Title in Holland â€” the third time in a row â€” and in late July he won XTERRA Italy.
â€œBrazil was an extremely tough course,â€ he says. â€œThere were some long sections where you had to carry your bike up 25% climbs and then there were 36% drops but it was a pretty comfortable win. In Holland I had a one minute lead coming off the bike and in the last 2km of the run I could ease up and enjoy the moment. But Italy was very tough for me. It was a very painful experience. I went into it a little wary of the other athletes but I pushed myself hard and in the end, I won by four minutes.â€
All focus is now on this year’s XTERRA World Championships in Maui. To get there Stoltz has been following a vigorous training regime devised by his coach, Ian Rodger, which he follows with the help of the Suunto Ambit2 S GPS watch.
â€œIt’s crucial that he’s able to monitor all my training from my swimming lap times to running pace so being able to see all my training on Movescount.com is vital.
â€œIt’s also Caveman proof,â€ he jokes. â€œSome of my training takes place is some pretty wild places. Mud, salt water, crashes and bumps are routine.â€
However he does it, Stoltz knows he has some serious preparation to do for his appointment with Maui. â€œThe course is all about everything I’m not good at,â€ he says. â€œThat means I’ve got to work even harder.â€
NATIONALITY: SOUTH AFRICAN
DOB: 23 Oct 1973
HEIGHT: 6′ 2ft / 188cm
RESTING PULSE: 34
Stoltz trains for approximately 23 hours a week but it’s all about the quality, not quantity. Here’s an example of some of his training sessions.
20x 100m @ 1’10 with 20 sec rest.
â€œIt’s about 3.5km including warm up and warm down.â€
warm up 15 mins @120bpm
45mins @ tempo 150-155bpm
10min cool down
â€œThis work out is very beneficial to me.â€
10x 5min hill repeats at 470w: 2.5-3hrs work-out in total.
â€œIt’s a hard session.â€
Ironman World Championship: Europeans Dominate and Records Fall
European dominance of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona has continued but not as the pre-race script had been written.
While Switzerland’s “Angry Bird” Daniela Ryf made it three Kona victories, it was not defending champion Jan Frodeno’s day, with the men’s championship title transferring to fellow countryman Patrick Lange.
Coming from a nine-minute deficit off the bike, Lange revelled in near perfect conditions to write himself into the IRONMAN history books to destroy the course record set in 2011 by Australian Craig Alexander, with a 2:39:59 marathon that helped deliver a total race time of 8:01:40.
In a record-breaking day, Aussie Cameron Wurf won the battle of the bikers taking control of the race at the 110km mark and leading into the bike/run transition to set a new bike course record of 4:12:54, more than five minutes faster than Normann Stadler’s 2006 record.
Wurf surrendered his lead early on in the run, as Lionel Sanders (CAN and Sebastian Kienle (GER) made their presence felt, but very quickly all eyes turned to a charging Patrick Lange who had moved into third at 21km of the marathon intent on reducing the six-minute deficit to the leading Sanders.
Lange was on a mission and keen to improve on his third place last year and with 5km to go on the run he flew past Sanders, heading for town and the adoring crowd lining the run course and the finish line on Ali’i Drive.
“It’s everything I ever dreamed of. Oh, my god, I cannot believe it,” Lange said. “I always, always, always since I was a child dreamed of having this crown. From time to time you think someone is hitting with a baseball beneath your knees and you just want to drop out. I had to fight, I had to fight so hard,” Lange said at the finish line.
A fading Sanders managed to hold off the hard-charging David McNamee (GBR) for second with Kienle and James Cunnama (ZAF) crossing the finish to take fourth and fifth.
Swiss miss Daniela Ryf joined an exclusive club at the IRONMAN World Championships, recording her third win in Kona with a very skilful and strategic victory that while remarkably effective, lacked her usual flair and total dominance.
Ryf didn’t have it all her way, with Lucy Charles dominating the swim and majority of the bike before Ryf decided that enough was enough. Ryf wrestled the lead off the Brit and charged home with the fastest run of the day, putting a nine-minute gap to her chasers by the end of the 42.2km run.
“It was the hardest I had to ever fight for the win. I’m so happy to turn it around today,” a more emotional than usual Ryf said at the finish line.
Ironman World Championship: Patrick Lange Smashes Course Record and Daniela Ryf Earns Third Straight Win
Patrick Lange (DEU) and Daniela Ryf (CHE) earned championship titles with momentous performances today at the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i. Lange passed Lionel Sanders (CAN) in the final three miles, clocking in at 8:01:40 and establishing a new course record (formerly 8:03:56 by Craig Alexander, 2011). Ryf earned her third consecutive crown with a time of 8:50:47, joining an exclusive “three-peat” winners’ circle alongside the newest IRONMAN Hall of Fame inductee Chrissie Wellington and Natascha Badmann, Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser and Mark Allen. Over 2,350 athletes from 66 countries, regions and territories on six continents started the IRONMAN World Championship race on the Island of Hawai`i in the toughest one-day endurance event in the world.
Lange, who raced in only his fourth IRONMAN to-date, had an incredible ascension after having been 17th out of the swim in today’s race. Shortly after the swim, a pack of strong cyclists including Sanders, Sebastian Kienle (GER) and Cameron Wurf (AUS) broke away from the group. Wurf would sail into T2, shattering the 2006 bike course record held by Normann Stadler (4:18:23) with a 4:12:54 split. Sanders and Kienle also smashed the record with 4:14:19 and 4:14:57 split times, respectively. On the run, Sanders took a quick lead as Kienle fell into second. Meanwhile, Lange moved from 11th place to a steady third-place position by the half-marathon marker. Lange then made a decisive pass at mile 23 on the run, as he moved ahead of Sanders to take a hold of the lead, finishing strong in first place. With a 2:39:59 run split, he was only 14 seconds away from breaking the run course record he set last year (2:39:45).
Sanders hung on for second place, ultimately concluding his race with a time of 8:04:07. David McNamee (GBR), Kienle and James Cunnama (ZAF) rounded out the top five.
McNamee had the second fastest run split of the race with 2:45:30, helping him clinch a third-place podium finish by more than two minutes ahead of Kienle.
Defending champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno dug deep after back spasms slowed him first to a complete stop and then run/walk pace, mustering enough strength to finish the race.
Lucy Charles (GBR) led the professional women out of the water with a 48:48 split, missing the course record by only five seconds. After a speedy transition, Charles took the lead on the bike and had an approximately a five-and-a-half-minute lead over defending champ Daniela Ryf (CHE), Sarah Crowley (AUS) and Annabel Luxford (AUS). This pace remained consistent down the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway until Ryf attacked, making up over five minutes over the final 25 miles of the bike, which positioned her at the front of the pack. Ryf then greatly extended her lead on the run, with Charles, Crowley and Heather Jackson (USA), fighting for the remaining podium positions.
Ryf took first at 8:50:47, almost exactly four minutes off of her own 2016 course record time of 8:46:46. Calling on her epic running abilities, the Swiss star claimed her third successive IRONMAN World Championship victory.
Charles, a Kona rookie, maintained her second-place position throughout most of the run and ultimately to the finish. Crowley rounded out the top three in her second-ever appearance at the IRONMAN World Championship, finishing her race exactly two minutes behind Charles. Jackson and Kaisa Sali (FIN) rounded out the top five women.
Ironman World Championship: The Best Run Images from Kona 2017
It’s never an easy day out when racing any Ironman race let alone the World Championship. Then add in some hot and humid weather and you really have a very tough set of conditions.
Here are some of the amazing images that were captured during today’s race.
Ironman World Championship: The Best Bike Images from Kona 2017
With the backdrop of the most infamous course in the world, the Ironman World Championship bike course never misses by the providing the most amazing landscapes for the bike course. This year was nothing short of spectacular.
Ironman World Championship: Patrick Lange Beats Sanders by a Hair for the Win & New Record
The results are in. The 2015 and 2016 winner of the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, Jan Frodeno, suffered an injury early in the run today. This is when the world turned its eyes to Lionel Sanders of Canada, who led most of the race. That is, until the final few kilometres, when Germany’s Patrick Lange took the lead, setting a new world record of 8:01:39.
Lange came in 3rd place in the 2016 championship, following Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle, both from Germany.
As of this writing, 2015 and 2016 women’s winner Daniela Ryf is leading the women with 14km to go with Britain’s Lucy Charles behind her. This is Charles’ first Kona championship as a professional.
Sanders came in 14th and 29th place in the 2015 and 2016 races, respectively. Today was his first time making the top 10 in Kona. Earlier this year, Sanders announced that he would not compete in Kona. Later, he had a change of heart.
2017 has been a good year for Sanders. He competed in August’s International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship, and a few Ironman 70.3’s. He won every race except the St. George 70.3, where he came in 2nd place.
Trizone predicted that Sanders would do well this year. After losing Kona in 2016, he decided to take this year’s championship very seriously. Sanders has been the wild card of the race.
Congratulations to Lange and Ryf, and to Sanders for his unexpected near-win.
Ironman World Championship: Are We Stuck with Jan Frodeno & Daniela Ryf in Hawaii Again?
It’s time again for another Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The triathletes have already arrived on the Big Island, and sports news sites are speculating about who’s going to interrupt the winning streaks of Germany’s Jan Frodeno and Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf.
Frodeno & Ryf Are Each Going for their 3rd Consecutive Kona Win
Both Frodeno and Ryf were the winners of the 2015 and 2016 races. Frodeno pulled ahead of Germany’s Sebastian Kienle by 3:32 in 2016 and Andreas Raelert, also from Germany, by 3:03 in 2015. In the 2016 women’s race, Ryf led Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae by 23:44. She beat Britain’s Rachel Joyce by 13:02 in 2015.
Most of Ryf’s Rivals Dropped Out
Many of Ryf’s past competitors are not competing this year. Carfrae has a newborn baby. Canada’s Heather Wurtele, who opted out of this race, came in 3rd place in the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, leaving Ryf in 4th. The winner of that race was Holly Lawrence of Britain, who is also not competing this year.
Ryf’s Competition Could Still Be Fierce
The three rivals for Ryf to look out for are Heather Jackson of the USA, Rachel Joyce of Britain, and Melissa Hauschildt of Australia. Hauschildt made 2nd place in the 2016 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, and Ryf finished behind her by 3:00 to land 4th Place.
In the 2013 70.3, Jackson won 2nd place, losing to Hauschildt by 5:12. Ryf came in 6th, finishing 3:27 behind Jackson.
Who Should Frodeno Be Afraid Of?
The conversation around Jan Frodeno centres around two other German guys, Sebastian Kienle and Patrick Lange. Kienle won the 2014 Hawaii championship. Frodeno settled for 3rd place and followed behind Kienle with 8:20:32 vs 8:14:18. USA’s Ben Hoffman came in 2nd place.
These are the guys Frodeno has to worry about most.
Frodeno’s Possible Wild Card Nemesis
Another contender who could give Frodeno a run for his money is Lionel Sanders of Canada. He won 11 out of 11 races in 2013 and has won a lot of them since. Sanders, who almost skipped this year in favour of the 70.3 World Championship, missed the top 10 in Kona for the past two years in a row. He said he did not take the championship seriously in 2016, and he vows to do better this year.
Sanders is known for rapid improvement and the ability to surprise people with wins in the races he truly sets his mind to winning. He’s also known for performing below expectations now and then. Rest assured, he’s serious about Kona this time. He would not have signed up otherwise.
This May Not Be Totally Boring After All
Well, this is the data. We can leave it up to the reader to decide who will win Hawaii’s Ironman.
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