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Is there no stopping the ‘Caveman’ Conrad Stoltz on the hunt for his next XTERRA World Championship

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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 – he’s the Caveman. 39-year-old Conrad Stoltz is one of the most recognized and decorated triathletes there is – and with good reason.

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

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.

“The first year I did the XTERRA World Championships in Maui, I won it by 10 minutes,” says Stoltz. “It felt so easy, I told myself I was going to win this thing five times in a row.”

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. “I slept on benches and in a Police station (willingly) before a race and I’ve won races on cheap, borrowed bikes.”

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.

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

“After 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. “I’d been racing tri since 1988 and it boils down to how much pain you can take — 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.

”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.”

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. ”It’s been a great season,“ 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.

“I cut my hand when I crashed in a dry river bed at the first XTERRA in Las Vegas,” he says. “I kept on racing, even though I was bleeding like crazy.”

Five stitches later and the tough triathlete was good to go, right? Not quite.

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

Photo Credit: zooom.at / Markus Berger

“The 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.”

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 — the third time in a row — and in late July he won XTERRA Italy.

“Brazil was an extremely tough course,” he says. “There 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.”

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.

“It’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.
“It’s also Caveman proof,” he jokes. “Some of my training takes place is some pretty wild places. Mud, salt water, crashes and bumps are routine.”

However he does it, Stoltz knows he has some serious preparation to do for his appointment with Maui. “The course is all about everything I’m not good at,” he says. “That means I’ve got to work even harder.”

VITAL STATS

NATIONALITY: SOUTH AFRICAN
DOB: 23 Oct 1973
HEIGHT: 6′ 2ft / 188cm
WEIGHT: 83kg
VO2: 76
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.

Swim:
20x 100m @ 1’10 with 20 sec rest.
“It’s about 3.5km including warm up and warm down.”

Run:
warm up 15 mins @120bpm
45mins @ tempo 150-155bpm
10min cool down
“This work out is very beneficial to me.”

Bike:
10x 5min hill repeats at 470w: 2.5-3hrs work-out in total.
“It’s a hard session.”

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Training

How to Improve Your Running Drills

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Want to improve your run drills? The real benefits of drills are a result of how they are applied to training, writes Graeme Turner.

Coaches love drills. The Internet, magazines and books are all full of drills and every coach has their favourites. Drills are an important way for people who are learning how to run properly to develop the correct skills to run efficiently and avoid injury. As a coach, I use drills as part of the warm-up for my track sessions. I’ll share two of my favourites later.

Practising a skill develops the muscle memory to execute the technique. In the case of football, repeatedly passing the ball develops the correct technique to accurately deliver the ball to a teammate. In the case of running, drills develop correct run technique; for example, lifting the knee rather than pushing through the calves.

However, what football coaches ascertained is that a player doesn’t just stand there and pass the ball. They may be doing that while running at full speed. And they may be passing the ball running at full speed with a 100-kilogram opponent running at them at full speed.

3 stages of acquiring a skill

  1. Learn the core skill.
  2. Learn the core skill at speed.
  3. Learn the core skill at speed under game (or race) conditions.

You may notice now that if you watch a football practice session the drills are performed not standing in a line but with trainers running at them with padding trying to knock them over.

Most football players at the top level typically already have the core skill – they need to hone that skill under the intense pace and pressure of top-grade football. This is something that has changed over the last decade as coaches have learnt the criticality of developing skills under game pressure; however, in many ways running is still at stage 1 – Learn the core skill.

Incorporate the drill into a run

Running drills are typically practised during a session and then the run component of the session is executed. The assumption is that the skill will develop the muscle memory and this will then, via some form of osmosis, translate into actual running. However, the drills, like the old football sessions, are performed statically (in place) and not under pressure. Over time this skill may translate to the athlete’s run but, at best, this will take a great deal of time.

By adopting a football-style approach, the outcome of the drill can be reached more quickly and the skill becomes more resilient to the pressures of a race. Rather than practising a drill and then running, try incorporating the drill into a run.

Here’s what I do during running sessions

Run 100 metres starting at an easy pace. Once you reach the 50-metre mark, build up pace so that by the end of the run you are at about 85 percent of full pace. Note, for sprinters, the end pace may be closer to 100 per cent.

Now, do the same build but at the 50-metre mark start focusing on a key skill. For example, focus on lifting the knee rather than pushing off the ground. Keep this focus while building up the pace to the end of the interval. Performed statically, this is the traditional ‘marching drill’; however, we are focusing on the skill while running and progressively adding more pressure (pace).

Don’t expect to ‘get’ this straight away. It may take a few run-throughs to develop the skill. I actually do this when racing – focus on a drill for a while in a run as a way of not only ensuring good technique but also as a means of distraction.

Many other drills, such as ‘tunnels’ (keeping the head level), can also be practised this way, even the traditional ‘butt kick’ drill – probably the most commonly incorrectly performed drill – can be performed this way. Curiously, performing butt kicks while running typically means the runner performs this drill correctly with their knee pointed forward rather than straight down.

Two of my favourite drills

Hot Tin Roof

Ground contact represents deceleration. The greater the ground contact time, the greater the loss of momentum and energy. Picture the running track as a hot tin roof. As your foot is about to hit the hot tin roof, focus on pulling the foot up so that it spends the minimum amount of time being ‘burnt’.

Ninjas

A common mistake runners (and coaches) make is focusing on the drill and not the outcome. Butt kicks are a great example of how focusing on the drill itself can create the wrong outcome. ‘Ninjas’ is an example of a drill where the focus is on the outcome, which ultimately is what every runner seeks. At the 50-metre point, focus on running silently – like a ninja trying to sneak up on somebody. This is a great drill to do with a partner as you can compete to see who can make the least noise. Like the hot tin roof drill, this facilitates a much shorter and lighter ground contact time and also tends to mean the runner becomes less flat footed. I could call this running quietly, but ninjas sounds much cooler.

Rather than make drills a separate part of your session, incorporate them into the run itself. Not only will you learn the skill faster but the skill becomes less likely to break down under race conditions.

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Training

Strength Training for Age-Group Triathletes

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Strength is important for endurance athletes and takes time to generate, but there are a few tricks, that will help you maximise your training time.

I drive my coach crazy asking to train more, but I am slowly learning that training smarter is better than training harder. There are many days when the body just isn’t up to the task of training, and sitting at your local cafe will be of more benefit than flogging a dead horse, so to speak.

For the majority of age-group triathletes who have full-time jobs and a family, it is important to make the most of any training time. While it is important to do long, slow sessions to build endurance, there are a few tricks of the trade’ that I have picked up over the years to build strength endurance without having to swim endless laps of the pool, ride for hundreds of kilometres and run for hours on end. Here are a few for your consideration.

Swim

Swimming strength is important, as, come race day, it will allow you to combat choppy seas and the whitewater of a mass swim start. A big part of my swimming involves using a band to hold my ankles together with a pull buoy and hand paddles to build strength. Doing a one-kilometre swim of 10 times 100-metre efforts with just five seconds rest will give you the same strength workout as swimming 1.5 kilometres.

Bike

Long rides are great to build up strength and muscular endurance; however, for those wanting to improve, big-gear hill repeats can also replicate the aforementioned training effects. Triathletes have been using this type of session for years, as doing seated climbing in a big gear (usually 60-to-70 cadence) helps to build leg strength, which usually only comes from long hours out riding.

Run

A great way to get more out of your run is to add interval repeats. These are great to do on the treadmill and help to improve your speed and leg turnover. A simple speed session of 10 times one-minute on and 30 seconds off at just over race pace speed will help you to run faster come race day.

Recovery

The biggest part of endurance sports training is doing the right recovery. Your ability to recover plays a big role in injury prevention and how well you can back up for your next session. Stretching, sleeping and hydration are the key points to focus on. If you are feeling particularly tired, then often a simple stretch session will be much more beneficial for you than a training session on an already tired and fatigued body. Often the hardest thing for any triathlete is knowing that you might just need a day or two off in order to help the body recover and refocus.

The important message is that more is not always better. If you can learn to train smarter and make the most out of every session, then you will see big gains. After all, everyone can do the work but it is those who train smarter who see the biggest improvement.

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News & Racing

Challenge Family Announce Details Of The Championship 2018 Live Stream

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With THE CHAMPIONSHIP 2018 fast-approaching, CHALLENGEFAMILY is excited to announce that the exhilarating race, taking place on the 3rd June, will once again be live-streamed on the official CHALLENGEFAMILY website. This exclusive stream will allow triathlon fans from around the world to be a part of THECHAMPIONSHIP and follow the action live as it unfolds.

CEO of CHALLENGEFAMILY, Zibi Szlufcik, said: “CHALLENGEFAMILY has always championed the support of triathlon fans worldwide, and our live stream of THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 gives those who cannot make it to Samorin, the chance to follow the pro athletes and AG athletes live as they compete.”

THECHAMPIONSHIP race, now in its second iteration, will again be held at the spectacular x-bionic® sphere in Samorin, Slovakia, and host an outstanding line-up of pro athletes including returning champions, Lionel Sanders and Lucy Charles.

Lionel Sanders of Canada celebrates winning The Championship Challenge Triathlon on June 3, 2017 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for Challenge Triathlon)

In addition to enforcing the 20 metre no drafting rule on the bike leg, THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 also operates staggered race starts to ensure both the professional and and age group athletes have a fair race. THECHAMPIONSHIP will also play host to a number of family-friendly side events set to captivate the entire family into the triathlon spirit.

“Live streaming the race not only highlights the remarkable athletes racing, but also showcases the incredible venue, in addition to the wonderful electric atmosphere of THECHAMPIONSHIP 2018 as a whole. The inaugural event was watched by a global audience of 100,000, so we are confident that this year’s race will surpass this figure and set a new standard in triathlon.”

The course of the middle-distance race (1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run) has been meticulously designed so that the start, transition and finishing stages of the race each give spectators outstanding views of the x-bionic® sphere.

To follow all the action as it happens please visit: www.challenge-family.com/live/

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Gear & Tech

HUUB release third version of Aegis wetsuits

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Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

The Aegis was HUUB’s first mid-range wetsuit family to take inspiration and key features from the brands’ top-end names such as Aerious and Archimedes, making it a best seller, always offering both performance and value for money, and therefore commanding the market at that price point.

HUUB’s founder and owner Dean Jackson, commented, “The Aegis family of suits offer much more than the price would suggest, with features descending from our flagship Archimedes it has created a price point defining suit that delivers more than expectations.” 

So what do you get for the Aegis///’s price tag of £299.99? The brands exclusive X-O Skeleton™ for exceptional alignment and stroke efficiency, superior panel patterns offer Rotational Freedom™ and ease of stroke, plus a Breakawy Zipper™ delivering the fastest transition. The wetsuit provides you with HUUB’s exclusive buoyancy levels of 3:5 for men and 3:3 for women. A sleeveless version is also available.  

Explicitly designed for triathletes, the Aegis /// is perfect for the beginner to the serious or expert triathlete who want both comfort and performance on race day.

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News & Racing

Ironman Announces First Full Distance Event In Ireland

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Ironman announced today the addition of its first full distance event in Ireland, Ironman Ireland, Cork. The inaugural race will take place on June 23, 2019.

“Ironman is an incredibly prestigious sporting competition held in locations throughout the world. Now, for the first time in Ireland, Cork will host a full-distance Ironman competition starting in 2019. Youghal will be centre stage for the next three years as we showcase our beautiful beaches, historic towns and world-renowned hospitality to a world-wide audience. I am delighted to welcome Ironman to Cork,” said Cllr Declan Hurley, Mayor of the County of Cork.

The race will be held in Youghal, Co. Cork which is located approximately 45 minutes west of Cork city and Cork International Airport. Youghal is a coastal fishing town on the southern coast of Ireland and a fortified seaport since the fifth century. It is also Ireland’s second oldest town. Cork International Airport offers direct transatlantic services in addition to its extensive European access routes, along with modern motorway access from Ireland’s capital city, Dublin (2-hour drive). Youghal is perfectly situated to stage an iconic triathlon.

The race will get underway with a 3.8km (2.4-mile) swim with a rolling start from the golden and sandy, Claycastle beach in Youghal Bay, that gently shelves into the Celtic Sea. This is within walking distance of Youghal Town.

A two-lap 180km (112-mile) bike course is next. Starting off through the centre of Youghal town, a climb of the famous Windmill Hill awaits the cyclists as a first challenge, which undoubtedly will also become a spectator hotspot. The cyclists will then encounter a combination of flat country roads and undulating coastal roads with magnificent sea views of Youghal Bay, Ballycotton Island and Cork Harbour. This breathtaking course goes around County Cork, into the town of Midleton (home to the famous Jameson Distillery) and will rise to a max elevation of 190m above Midleton before a technical drop back into Youghal.

The 42km (26.2-mile) run course will be the highlight of this event. This will be a flat four-lap run course through the centre of the historical town of Youghal, taking in Youghal Harbour and the famous Clock Gate Tower. Athletes will run under the arch of the Clock Gate Tower in the centre of town during each lap before finally running under the Ironman finishing arch in Market Square.

Speaking about the event, Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council said: “Cork County Council is especially proud to join forces with Ironman which will bring an economic boost estimated to be over seven million Euro to the local economy. But the impact is much more than that; we have the opportunity to promote East Cork but go even further into all that Cork has to offer. We will showcase sport but most importantly of all, we will showcase community spirit. This will be an event that invests in both people and place and I look forward to what will be an amazing experience.”

“It has always been our goal to establish a full-distance event in Ireland. Now, building on the success of Ironman 70.3 Dún Laoghaire we are excited to add Ironman Ireland, Cork,” said Oliver Schieck, Regional Director Ironman UK & Ireland. “This race is a remarkable combination of a stunning race course with a beautiful landscape as a backdrop. We are looking forward to welcoming Irish and international athletes to the inaugural edition in June 2019.”

Ironman Ireland, Cork will be a qualifier for the 2019 Ironman World Championship being held in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

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News & Racing

Elite Field Of Professional Triathletes Set To Compete In 2018 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon

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The pro field for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon set to take place on Sunday, June 3. The line-up includes 2016 Rio Olympian Ben Kanute, Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker (USA), Olympian Ryan Fisher (AUS), Olympian Paula Findlay (CAN), 2018 Surf City Escape Triathlon winner Jason West and more.

The new official coach of the Escape Triathlon Series Andy Potts will also be competing. Potts represented the United States in the 2004 Olympics, is a seven-time IRONMAN champion, 28-time IRONMAN 70.3 champion, and a six-time Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon champion.

“I am super excited about my new role as the Escape Triathlon Series coach and look forward to competing this year and supporting all levels of participants as they work to accomplish their goals,” said Potts.

The pros will join 2,000 amateur triathletes for the 38th year of this annual event. Athletes have qualified to race through the newly-formed Escape Triathlon Series. 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Champions Ben Kanute and Lauren Goss will attempt to defend their titles. The full list of professional triathletes set to compete in the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon includes:

Men

  • Kevin Collington (USA)
  • Brian Duffy Jr. (USA)
  • Robbie Deckard (USA)
  • Cameron Dye (USA)
  • Ryan Fisher (AUS)
  • Ben Kanute (USA)
  • Eric Lagerstrom (USA)
  • Garrick Loewen (CAN)
  • Andy Potts (USA)
  • Jarrod Shoemaker (USA)
  • Jason West (USA)
  • Timothy Winslow (USA)
  • Matthew Wisthoff (USA)

Women

  • Liz Baugher (USA)
  • Paula Findlay (CAN)
  • Lauren Goss (USA)
  • Sarah Haskins (USA)
  • Alicia Kaye (CAN)
  • Caroline Shannon (USA)
  • Erin Storie (USA)
  • Lindsey Jerdonek (USA)

Top triathletes from around the world will take over the streets and waters of San Francisco for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on a course showcasing the beauty of the city. Triathletes will hit the water at 7:30 a.m. to embark on a challenging 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shoreline of Marina Green, an 18-mile twisting bike ride through the Presidio, and an 8-mile trail run out to Baker Beach and up the infamous 400-plus step Sand Ladder. To finish the race, triathletes will follow a path back under the Golden Gate Bridge, pass Crissy Field, and finish on the grass at Marina Green. Fans can experience the excitement at Marina Green, where the swim exit, athlete transition area and finish line are easily visible.

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