This weekend's Challenge Mogan Gran Canaria is the 2018 race season starter for many athletes on Saturday (220n included), with the reigning Ironman world champion, Patrick Lange, the big name on the start list.
We caught up with the German tri star – who shot to prominence in 2016 when he won Ironman Texas and broke the Kona run course record in Hawaii, before smashing the overall Kona course record in 2017 – to hear why he nearly retired in 2015, the secrets of his run success and his key advice for middle-distance athletes.
ON… STARTING HIS SEASON IN GRAN CANARIA
This year can’t be much better than 2017 for me; it was an amazing and surprising adventure. But I’ve only done four Ironmans in my life overall, so I’ve lots to learn and there’s still room for improvement. I’m happy to kick-off my season at Challenge Gran Canaria and are looking forward to racing some of the best athletes in the world. It’s an awesome course that’s technical and should be super fun.
ON… KONA CHANGING HIS LIFE
I was fortunate enough to finish third in 2016 in Hawaii and that was a big shift in my life, so it was good to have this buffer between third and first in 2017. I don’t think I had the set-up in 2016 to handle first place in Kona. And now there a lot of appointments and commitments, so it’s been a further change in my life. But it’s a great one and something that I enjoy.
ON… NEARLY QUITTING TRI
I came close to retirement in 2015 as I was really struggling. I lost a major sponsor and I wasn’t so sure whether I should go back to working full-time as a physio or go to long-distance triathlon. I’ve always wanted to do the Ironman and, after the end of 2015, I started being coached by Faris Al Sultan. I got into Ironman Texas, and won it, and it’s gone from there.
ON… ONLY RACING FOUR IRONMANS
A lot of things have gone into my quick Ironman progress. I stopped working full-time as a physio, my private life changed, I moved house and I started working more with my club. And yet at the back of my mind, I was always thinking about Ironman. But I wanted to wait until I felt ready for it. And it took Faris to say, 'Okay, let’s do this'. And after a winter training with him, I had the feeling that I was ready to go. After Texas, I got the chance to start working with Canyon who set my bike up in the fastest and most stable way. The whole package changed a lot.
ON… THE IRONMAN VIRUS
I’m always been into sports. I raced mountain biking from 12-16 and then went to tri. My first coach had raced Kona six times and he had plenty of stories from Hawaii. It was that which set the Ironman virus in me. I did a lot of drafting and Olympic-distance stuff but I knew the longer distances suited me early on.
ON… THE ORIGINS OF HIS RUN SPEED
My parents weren’t runners so I'm not sure it's genetics, but I’ve been working with a run technique coach for five years now to improve my running style. I put plenty of time in working with him on my technique. There are a lot of Ironman athletes with the engine to run sub-2:40 in Hawaii, but they don’t have the engine or the chassis to handle it. The technique isn’t good enough to hold that speed.
ON… THE GERMAN M-DOT HERITAGE
The German greats of triathlon were a huge inspiration for me. I’ve raced against Normann Stadler, Faris, Timo Bracht... And you know if you wanted to beat them you had to up your game. There’s stacked competition in Germany in all the races, and if you wanted to win you knew you had to be fast. Each athlete there is inspired by Thomas Hellriegel, Stadler and Faris, and they put the sport of Ironman on the next level in Germany. And now I’m benefiting from the huge experience of Faris, and he’s seen everything in the sport.
ON… JAVIER GOMEZ IN IRONMAN
We’re all very interested to seeing how Javier Gomez performs at Ironman Cairns. A 2:30hr marathon for him is certainly possible. We’ll see how fast he can be but there have been really fast Olympic athletes who have found Kona a different beast.
ON… GOING SUB-8HRS IN HAWAII
My race season starts here in Gran Canaria, then it’s 70.3 in Kraichgau before the European Ironman Championships in Frankfurt. After that I’ll altitude train in St. Moritz and head to Texas and train there in the build-up to Hawaii, which I’ve done for the past two seasons. I like to keep things the same before Kona. And I want to win again in Hawaii, whether it’s 8:15 or 7:58. Breaking the sub-8hr barrier would be pretty cool, and that record will fall in the next few years. If I’m the guy who’s on it enough to break it, then I’ll be happy. But most important is to win the race.
ON… HIS KEY 70.3 RACING ADVICE
The main thing people forget these days is to have fun. I see a lot of angry faces on the start line! Too focussed and too stressed out. Everyone can be too much into their Garmins and ignoring their body’s advice. It’s a pleasure to compete in middle-distance triathlon and, while you need to focus and race well, it should be about having fun and that’s easy to forget.