Julia Gajer is ready for Ironman Frankfurt

June 29, 2015 by · 1 Comment
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JuliaRun

One of the surprises in the women’s Top 10 in Kona 2014 was a relatively unknown German: Julia Gajer. Julia has had some great results in Roth, but waited until September 2013 to race her first “official” Ironman in Wales. She followed that up with her first IM win at IM Arizona in November 2013 (running down Meredith Kessler). She raced Kona for the first time in 2014 and finished her first World Championships in a great 6th place. Read more about where she is coming from, how she developed to the level she is at now and how she wants to get even better. Julia is definitely one of the women to watch for in Frankfurt on July 5th and later in the year in Kona. (Full Profile)

Ironman Coeur d’Alene 2015 – Analyzing Results

June 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Race Conditions

If there was one thing the 2015 edition of “CdA” will be remembered for, it was the heat. Temperatures well over 100°F (38°C) lead to a discussion of shortening the race before deciding on an earlier start, a non-wetsuit swim, a high DNF rate and some spectacular struggles (though no serious issues as far as I have heard). While the swim and bike were pretty normal, the run was very slow for CdA (adjustment of -4:54), and the overall adjustment of -8:24 leads to a new course rating of -0:02.

Male Race Results

Andy Potts made it clear from the start that he was focused on winning this race – he didn’t want to waste any energy and Barrett Brandon was first out of the water. After that Andy quickly took control of the race, he had a great race posting both the fastest bike and run, winning by more than 20 minutes. He was followed by Callum Millward who proved to be a tough competitor in tough conditions in only his second Ironman race. The surprise third finisher was Stephen Kilshaw who edged out countryman Trevor Wurtele for the final spot on the podium.

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Andy Potts USA 00:50:30 04:33:13 02:53:25 08:20:35 -14:27 US$ 20000
2 Callum Millward NZL 00:51:47 04:44:07 03:00:34 08:41:12 06:04 US$ 10000
3 Stephen Kilshaw CAN 00:54:45 04:43:37 03:00:05 08:43:04 -48:16 US$ 6500
4 Trevor Wurtele CAN 00:56:42 04:41:30 03:04:40 08:46:38 -13:07 US$ 4000
5 Barrett Brandon USA 00:50:23 04:53:45 03:00:02 08:47:29 -01:52 US$ 3000
6 Trevor Delsaut FRA 00:55:15 04:48:47 03:00:21 08:47:49 -09:02 US$ 2000
7 Pedro Gomes POR 00:54:46 04:48:52 03:06:03 08:53:15 03:02 US$ 1500
8 Matthew Russell USA 00:57:03 04:46:00 03:09:24 08:57:34 -01:00 US$ 1250
9 Derek Garcia USA 00:54:52 04:47:07 03:12:07 08:58:55 -12:47 US$ 1000
10 Jonathan Shearon USA 00:57:06 04:46:01 03:14:28 09:02:01 04:20 US$ 750
11 Patrick Evoe USA 00:58:46 04:49:04 03:28:28 09:20:27 16:14
12 Maik Twelsiek GER 00:54:50 04:36:39 03:51:26 09:27:11 43:07
13 Douglas MacLean USA 01:00:38 05:20:04 03:21:34 09:48:28 21:58
14 Michael Starkey USA 01:00:48 05:12:34 03:34:44 09:52:12 32:30
15 Andrew Fast USA 01:01:27 05:15:45 04:07:00 10:27:39 xx:-21:50
16 Yu Shinozaki JPN 01:00:40 05:02:55 04:27:57 10:35:49 36:14
17 Terry Casey USA 01:01:35 05:32:55 04:21:39 11:02:17 n/a
18 Dan Brown PHI 01:12:36 06:52:10 07:56:45 16:16:54 1:57:33
Paul Matthews AUS 00:50:26 04:46:56 DNF
Matt Lieto USA 00:55:19 04:43:53 DNF
Leon Griffin AUS 00:54:47 04:58:26 DNF
Matthew Sheeks USA 01:16:09 05:04:23 DNF
Jim Lubinski USA 01:11:55 05:28:18 DNF
Eric Reid USA 00:59:34 DNF
Dantley Young USA 01:16:46 DNF

Female Race Results

After making up the swim deficit to super-swimmer Amanda Stevens, Heather Jackson took the lead by mile 65 on the bike and went on to posted the fastest marathon by far. Similar to Andy, Heather had a huge winning margin. Only four weeks after IM Brasil, Amanda Stevens finished second; both Heather and Amanda have enough points for a July Kona slot. The final spot on the podium went to Kim Schwabenbauer.

The only DNF in the women’s pro field was Dede Griesbauer who was mowed down by a truck illegally entering the race course. She was banged up pretty badly, but was allowed to leave the hospital after a few x-rays. She did not have a chance to score the points she still needed for a Kona slot, I hope she recovers quickly for another chance!

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Heather Jackson USA 01:02:00 05:08:31 03:08:54 09:23:27 -21:53 US$ 20000
2 Amanda Stevens USA 00:54:14 05:19:51 03:22:20 09:40:16 -02:34 US$ 10000
3 Kim Schwabenbauer USA 01:07:03 05:16:01 03:23:07 09:50:19 01:56 US$ 6500
4 Amber Ferreira USA 01:01:59 05:20:43 03:31:55 09:58:53 -00:05 US$ 4000
5 Katy Blakemore USA 00:56:03 05:24:10 03:35:01 09:59:18 14:32 US$ 3000
6 Leslie DiMichele Miller USA 01:01:59 05:28:40 03:27:20 10:02:29 n/a US$ 2000
7 Tamara Kozulina UKR 01:07:08 05:25:27 03:32:27 10:09:29 17:04 US$ 1500
8 Sarah Graves USA 01:21:15 05:24:36 03:26:12 10:18:18 05:41 US$ 1250
9 Alyssa Godesky USA 01:04:47 05:28:05 03:41:08 10:18:38 -23:35 US$ 1000
10 Anne Basso FRA 01:04:59 05:39:15 03:30:50 10:21:24 02:18 US$ 750
11 Haley Cooper-Scott USA 01:05:00 05:26:02 03:46:39 10:21:28 09:44
12 Sarah Jarvis USA 01:05:02 05:33:35 03:47:01 10:29:25 03:41
13 Laura Siddall GBR 01:01:57 05:29:17 03:57:40 10:34:06 48:09
14 Olesya Prystayko UKR 01:06:50 05:53:15 04:04:40 11:09:19 43:24
15 Michelle Mighdoll USA 01:07:20 05:44:27 04:13:37 11:11:29 n/a
16 Jen Annett CAN 01:07:11 05:21:09 04:40:29 11:12:52 59:41
Dede Griesbauer USA 00:59:25 DNF

Ironman Austria 2015 – Analyzing Results

June 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Race Conditions

As usual, IM Austria was fast, but we’ve seen a lot of faster adjustments than this year’s 16:45. All three legs were slower than last year.

Male Race Results

Marino Vanhoenacker had another fantastic race in Austria: He was in the front group on the swim, then posted a new bike course record and finished the day off with a 2:45 marathon.

AustriaMarino

He was probably going for his 7:45 course record from 2011 but came up just short. Still a fantastic result for him, and there will be some speculation now about another Kona start for him.

With a gap of almost 20 minutes he was followed by Michael Weiss and Ivan Rana who once more posted the fastest marathon but was too far back after loosing time on the bike.

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Marino Vanhoenacker BEL 00:46:40 04:11:47 02:45:53 07:48:45 -18:54 US$ 15000
2 Michael Weiss AUT 00:51:52 04:20:57 02:48:18 08:06:59 -03:56 US$ 7500
3 Ivan Rana ESP 00:46:36 04:32:55 02:44:27 08:08:25 -01:37 US$ 5000
4 David Plese SLO 00:50:24 04:35:51 02:46:25 08:17:54 -06:24 US$ 3000
5 Massimo Cigana ITA 00:55:58 04:35:55 02:48:30 08:25:20 -10:08 US$ 2500
6 Miguel Fidalgo ESP 00:46:39 04:43:54 02:51:03 08:26:41 01:35 US$ 2000
7 Matic Modic SLO 00:51:47 04:41:37 02:58:46 08:37:12 -25:27 US$ 1500
8 Dejan Patrcevic CRO 00:51:50 04:45:24 02:57:08 08:39:38 05:37 US$ 1000
9 Christian Birngruber AUT 00:49:32 04:37:44 03:16:46 08:49:06 07:16
10 David Jilek CZE 00:55:50 04:53:49 03:17:49 09:13:04 -10:26
11 Vincent Depuiset FRA 01:02:28 04:58:34 03:11:13 09:18:09 -23:21
12 Matthew Smith CZE 00:59:55 05:13:58 03:13:34 09:35:16 -13:22
13 Lukas Polan CZE 00:57:52 05:14:40 03:23:46 09:42:53 22:42
14 Marco Marini ITA 00:55:59 05:24:17 03:26:01 09:52:37 n/a
15 Thomas Angerer AUT 00:56:39 05:07:50 03:45:37 09:57:13 n/a
16 Daniel Beynon GBR 00:50:21 04:56:38 04:11:08 10:03:26 n/a
17 Michal Jalovecky CZE 00:57:59 05:43:41 03:18:46 10:06:54 n/a
18 Josef Svoboda CZE 01:08:08 05:34:21 04:01:03 10:53:33 -40:52
19 Marek Nemcik SVK 01:04:40 05:32:26 04:25:18 11:13:19 -25:02
20 Valentin Zasypkin RUS 01:04:42 05:21:54 04:41:27 11:18:08 1:15:49
Andreas Giglmayr AUT 00:46:29 04:36:46 DNF
Daniel Niederreiter AUT 00:49:30 04:48:25 DNF
James Brown GBR 01:00:21 04:57:50 DNF
Luca Cozza ITA 00:56:03 05:08:31 DNF
Reinaldo Oliveira BRA 00:56:06 05:49:43 DNF
Frank Souza BRA 00:47:37 DNF
Daniel Herlbauer AUT 00:50:20 DNF
Markus Mlinar AUT 00:54:11 DNF
Rodrigo Acevedo COL 00:54:45 DNF
Gilian Oriet SUI 00:56:04 DNF
Robert Pingitzer AUT 00:56:46 DNF
Roman Thuerauer AUT 00:57:56 DNF

Female Race Results

Eva Wutti had a fantastic day to win her home Ironman: 8:45 was close to the course record, and her 2:54:42 is the fastest 2015 marathon so far. With the 2000 points for the win she also secured a July Kona slot.

AustriaEva

Lisa Huetthaler finished in second place, she was almost run down by Sarah Piampiano who was probably hoping for a faster bike but finished with a great marathon and new PRs.

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Eva Wutti AUT 00:52:39 04:53:57 02:54:42 08:45:37 -12:01 US$ 15000
2 Lisa Huetthaler AUT 00:52:45 04:53:41 03:11:43 09:02:46 01:56 US$ 7500
3 Sarah Piampiano USA 00:56:59 05:00:09 03:00:12 09:03:10 -20:11 US$ 5000
4 Elisabeth Gruber AUT 01:00:32 05:02:16 03:01:51 09:10:10 -10:54 US$ 3000
5 Martina Dogana ITA 00:53:53 05:11:02 03:08:41 09:18:50 -16:07 US$ 2500
6 Erika Csomor HUN 00:57:07 05:07:59 03:13:58 09:24:38 11:12 US$ 2000
7 Kamila Polak AUT 00:56:51 05:08:15 03:17:46 09:28:28 -01:28 US$ 1500
8 Christina Jackson USA 00:48:33 05:14:32 03:26:59 09:35:40 -03:30 US$ 1000
9 Bianca Steurer AUT 00:53:57 05:20:46 03:19:39 09:39:55 00:03
10 Michaela Rudolf AUT 01:01:24 05:17:16 03:21:30 09:45:43 08:47
11 Cindy Lewis CAN 01:00:35 05:29:33 03:40:25 10:17:00 20:09
12 Cori Burnett USA 00:53:52 05:50:07 03:56:53 10:51:35 n/a
Nicole Woysch GER 00:53:56 05:15:07 DNF
Michi Herlbauer AUT 00:52:47 DNF

Photo Credit: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images and Alex Caparros/Getty Images for Ironman

Ironman France 2015 – Analyzing Results

June 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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Race Conditions

Compared to the course rating of 4:42, conditions were pretty slow with an adjustment of -0:58, especially the bike was hard with an adjustment of -6:11. As usual, the run was pretty quick, and we saw two low-2:40s for the men and two sub-3:00 runs for the women.

Male Race Results

Boris Stein won his second Ironman race after IM Switzerland last year.

FranceBoris

It took a second best bike to make up most of the deficit he had after the swim, but he was still eight minutes behind Frenchman Romain Guillaume. But Boris’ second best marathon was more than 15 minutes better than Romain’s and he took the lead after 28k. By then he was only threatened by Victor Del Corral who had the best marathon and kept the pressure on, but Boris won by 2 1/2 minutes in front of Victor and Romain.

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Boris Stein GER 00:56:58 04:41:18 02:44:20 08:27:32 -10:59 US$ 15000
2 Victor Del Corral ESP 00:58:11 04:44:40 02:42:04 08:30:00 -05:16 US$ 7500
3 Romain Guillaume FRA 00:50:46 04:39:01 03:00:01 08:34:44 -10:54 US$ 5000
4 Sylvain Sudrie FRA 00:50:36 04:51:59 03:00:30 08:48:02 n/a US$ 3000
5 Jeremy Jurkiewicz FRA 00:50:37 04:58:39 03:02:35 08:57:19 20:50 US$ 2500
6 Tomas Mika CZE 00:55:07 05:02:08 02:57:44 09:00:47 -05:26 US$ 2000
7 Patrick Jaberg SUI 00:55:00 04:56:49 03:08:22 09:05:52 05:15 US$ 1500
8 Mike Schifferle SUI 01:00:36 05:01:28 02:56:22 09:07:09 02:30 US$ 1000
9 Herve Banti MEX 00:52:45 04:53:17 03:16:33 09:08:12 -13:07
10 Rinus Holvoet BEL 00:54:29 05:02:54 03:13:29 09:18:29 07:41
11 Mauro Baertsch SUI 00:55:53 05:09:20 03:08:46 09:20:22 25:16
12 Leonardo Simoncini ITA 00:57:44 05:11:10 03:14:27 09:28:58 01:14
13 Joerie Vansteelant BEL 01:00:27 04:56:25 03:35:47 09:39:51 50:48
14 Rafael Espinar Puig ESP 01:04:04 05:25:15 03:05:45 09:42:47 09:22
15 Anthony Pannier FRA 00:50:37 04:55:14 04:06:21 09:57:38 37:03
16 Ivan Jezko SVK 01:00:31 05:10:26 03:49:12 10:07:31 40:11
17 Drew Scott USA 00:50:39 04:49:22 05:28:31 11:13:25 n/a
18 Alexander Wulff DEN 01:11:23 05:54:00 04:00:39 11:20:29 n/a
19 Frederik Flagstad GRL 01:19:39 08:17:27 05:44:31 15:32:38 n/a
Bertrand Billard FRA 00:50:44 04:47:59 DNF
Remmert Wielinga NED 01:05:14 04:44:24 DNF
Frederic Schaffner FRA 00:57:47 04:57:47 DNF
Remy Vasseur NED 00:56:09 05:18:50 DNF
Christian Funk GER 01:19:00 05:59:48 DNF
Guillaume Jeannin FRA 00:55:01 DNF
Cedric Lassonde FRA 00:55:23 DNF
Dan McGuigan AUS 01:05:04 DNF

Female Race Results

Jeanne Collonge was leading the race into T2, but she quickly struggled to run well in the heat and was forced to DNF. By then Cait Snow had taken the lead with a 1:27 half marathon, but Lisa Roberts had run a 1:25 half and was slowly eating into the lead. In the end Cait Snow posted a 2:58 marathon, holding on to 70 seconds of her lead for an emotional win.

FranceCait

Lisa posted a 2:54 to finish second. Third place was taken by Emma Pooley who had a great 5:16 bike leg wich she was able to follow with a solid 3:12 marathon.

Rank Name Nation Swim Bike Run Time Diff to expected Prize Money
1 Caitlin Snow USA 00:57:43 05:21:59 02:58:26 09:24:50 -06:01 US$ 15000
2 Lisa Roberts USA 01:03:40 05:21:07 02:54:45 09:26:00 -10:55 US$ 7500
3 Emma Pooley GBR 01:06:40 05:16:34 03:12:35 09:43:48 08:02 US$ 5000
4 Stephanie Reymond FRA 01:05:46 05:26:01 03:22:12 10:01:21 n/a US$ 3000
5 Anna Rovira Garrido ESP 01:11:17 05:34:51 03:29:03 10:21:44 -27:03 US$ 2500
6 Nina Pekerman ISR 01:00:34 05:49:57 03:25:46 10:23:58 11:28 US$ 2000
Jeanne Collonge FRA 00:57:50 05:17:47 DNF

Photo Credit: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman

Julia Gajer: Ready for Ironman Frankfurt

June 29, 2015 by · 1 Comment
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Intro

One of the surprises in the women’s Top 10 in Kona 2014 was a relatively unknown German: Julia Gajer. Julia has had some great results in Roth, but waited until September 2013 to race her first “official” Ironman in Wales. She followed that up with her first IM win at IM Arizona in November 2013 (running down Meredith Kessler). She raced Kona for the first time in 2014 and finished her first World Championships in a great 6th place. We’ve had a few chats about where she is coming from, how she developed to the level she is at now and how she wants to get even better. Julia is definitely one of the women to watch for in Frankfurt on July 5th and later in the year in Kona.

Getting into Triathlon

Julia got interested in Triathlon during her time at University: “I grew up being a swimmer but didn’t have the talent to qualify for German or International Championships. During my time at university (I studied Pharmacy) I had a few years of not doing any sports before I started to run by myself just once or twice a week. I then ran with a group of other students. Some of them were triathletes and when I mentioned my swimming background they talked me into my first triathlon.” Her father Werner adds: “When she had registered for her first tri, she borrowed my race bike to try it out and a few days later got her first bike off eBay.” Julia still remembers her first triathlon in 2008 well: “The race was a big adventure. The swim was without a problem but on the bike there was a thunderstorm and it started hailing. I wasn’t sure if I should look for a dry place, but I went on. The run was a really muddy affair after all the rain!” Werner also remembers that she was so fast that the announcer had to be notified by spectators that the first woman was approaching!

After that first race, she was hooked: “In 2009/10 I raced Olympic distance races in the Baden-Württemberg Liga, some half distances (70.3 Wiesbaden 2010, 5th place) and Powerman Zofingen 2009 (4th place), while working full time in a lab on my PhD thesis.” She also ran two good stand-alone marathons in 2:47, winning Luzern Marathon in 2010 and finishing 2nd in the Munich Marathon 2011. “I wasn’t focused on Ironman-distance Triathlon at that point, I was just trying out a few things. The marathons really hurt and I thought I’d never be able to do that after 180k on the bike. But in an Ironman the marathon is hard in a completely different way.”

Julia was racing as an Elite almost from the start and worked on creating a more professional environment. “In 2011 I became part of the Team Erdinger Alkoholfrei Junior team, which helped me quite a lot to develop as an athlete. We got the chance to train with the professional team and pick up a lot of stuff. In 2011 I did my first long distance race in Roth. I didn’t think about placing somewhere close to the front, I was still working full-time and hadn’t thought about doing triathlon as a true professional. I was just going there to finish, have a good race and see where I would end up. I was fourth coming off the bike and totally happy. Then I was able to overtake Belinda Granger who is a legend in Roth. It was my first start over the long distance, I couldn’t believe I was third. Then I heard that Rebekah Keat was having problems and I might have a chance to catch her. I think it was at 37k where I manage to move into second place [eventually finishing in 8:56]. At the end of 2011 I was able to successfully complete my PhD, turned full-time Pro and became a member of the Team Erdinger Alkoholfrei Professional team.”

Julia is one of a large number of female professionals that have a strong background outside of the sport. (There is a large number of PhDs, MDs, MBAs and lawyers in the Kona WPRO field.) Some say that this doesn’t make you quite as hungry to do well in triathlon, but she views this as a plus: “I love to race with a all I have. Being able to return into a decent paying job takes a bit of pressure away as I have a long term alternative. But it doesn’t change anything short term – I might be able to have a more stable income in the pharmaceutical industry, but it won’t be as interesting or exciting.”

Early Pro Years 2012/13

After her impressive Ironman-distance debut and switch to being a full-time Pro, Julia extended her streak of good results in 2012: A couple of wins in 70.3 races, another sub-9 in Roth (this time 3rd in 8:57), a 3rd in the European 70.3 Championships in Wiesbaden and an 8th place at 70.3 World in Henderson, Nevada.

JuliaRoth

But she already had her sights set on Kona: “After my first IM-distance finish in Roth 2011, I was thinking about racing in Kona. I was able to fly over to watch the race and explore the course in 2012 which was really important. From the first glimpse on television, it doesn’t look too hard. But if you are on the course yourself it really is tough and honest, a real World Championship course. The heat and the wind make it even more challenging, especially on the run. I think that you really need to be ready to race well Kona. I wanted to be in shape for a Top10 finish, but I also needed to be mentally ready to deal with the heat, the wind and the strong field. When I flew over in 2012, my plan was to qualify for 2013, but when I watched the race with palms swaying in the wind and after training on the course, I felt that my mind and body were not yet ready for the race. I decided not to try to qualify for 2013 and to wait another year. I’m sure I would have been able to finish, but I would have struggled on the bike. It costs a lot of money to get there, and finishing 35th doesn’t help you or your sponsors.”

In 2013, she was focusing more and more on races with strong fields, racing 70.3s in Oceanside and St. George. In the summer, she finished her third Challenge Roth, again in 3rd place and with a new PR of 8:51:04. At this point, she had finished (and won) a large number of 70.3s and had three sub-9 finishes in Roth. The Erdinger Alkoholfrei Team provided a professional environment allowing her to focus on training and racing. She also has the support of her whole family on and off the course: Husband Markus, mother Astrid, father Werner, brother Moritz and sister Katja are her biggest fans. She now felt ready for the next step in her career: Racing the Ironman World Championships in Kona.

Qualifying for Kona 2014

But before she was able to race in Kona, she first had to qualify. The first step was to race Ironman Wales in September 2013. “I wanted to start with an early race so I had the option to do another Ironman in 2013. IM Lake Tahoe would have been an alternative, but I had zero experience racing at altitude so Wales seemed the safer route.

“Compared to Roth, Wales is a completely different race. Roth is a very fast course, but the bike course in Wales is very challenging. I think it might be even harder than Lanzarote, there are no long ascents as up to Mirador del Rio but a lot of shorter, steeper climbs and the road surface is pretty rough. And the run course isn’t flat either, running through the village it’s all uphill. But I knew that beforehand, and I believe that hard bike courses are good for me as I’ve always raced well when there are hilly bike courses. But I’ve had two flats and had to wait 20 minutes for tech support to get me a new wheel. I was really cold by then, still finished fourth, but it wasn’t a good start for my Hawaii qualifying.”

Only two months later, she was back on the start line of another Ironman race, this time in Arizona. She didn’t have any problems on the bike this time but was still ten minutes behind race leader Meredith Kessler in T2. She then went on to have a the best marathon of the day (3:02), moved into 2nd place by the half marathon mark and finally took the lead 3k before the finish line. Her first Ironman win gave her enough Kona qualifying points to make getting to Kona a reasonable goal. But with 2.960 points she was still well short of the projected 4.800 points cutoff for July, and it was obvious she needed another big result to be able to qualify.

After taking a break and a new build period, she settled on another US race: Ironman Texas in May. This time she was the one taking the lead on the bike and being hunted on the run. She didn’t quite have the run legs as in Arizona (her Texas run split was 3:09), and Kelly Williamson had a fantastic 2:54 marathon to win the race. Julia had to settle for second place, finishing in 9:00:51 and barely missing the 9 hour mark. This 2nd place improved her KPR score to 4.560, so she still needed a few more points.

She was able to get these last remaining points at one of her home races. The organizers of “Challenge Kraichgau” were bought by WTC. After a long and heated discussion between everyone involved it was decided that Kraichgau would still be a Challenge race in 2014 (the race would be re-branded as 70.3 Kraichgau in 2015) but also offer KPR points. (To the best of my knowledge, this is the only time this ever happened.) Just four weeks after Texas, Julia won Kraichgau with a very strong performance on the run, beating Gina Crawford and Yvonne Van Vlerken. She finally had enough points for a July slot!

This allowed her to race once more in Roth. Celebrating the 30th anniversary, Roth had assembled a great field, including Mirinda Carfrae, Rachel Joyce, Caroline Steffen and Yvonne Van Vlerken. After a good swim (exiting right behind Caroline and in front of Rachel), she struggled a bit on the bike, but a good run allowed her to finish fifth behind the other four. She was hoping to mix it up with the “Big 4″ so the race was not what she was looking for, but it showed her that she could have a good result even if she doesn’t have the perfect day.

Kona 2014

Going into Kona 2014, there wasn’t too much of a spotlight on Julia. Of course she was interviewed by the German magazines and sites, but her obligations in the days before the race were limited. “I was pretty much in my own world, looking forward to have a really good race and see where I would end up. I’ve said to a few people that I thought on a good day a Top 10 was possible for me, but the pressure I felt was mainly from my own expectations. Also it was my first start in Kona, and there’s a lot you can’t learn from watching a race, you don’t really have an idea what it’s like until you’re in the race.

“I was pretty optimistic for a non-wetsuit swim. I ended up in a pretty big group, and I couldn’t manage to swim away from them. I wasn’t swimming hard, just being dragged along in the group. I didn’t really have any feel for the water. Maybe it was because the conditions changed the day before the race. Until then there was hardly any wind and we had a flat ocean with no waves. On race day there was a pretty big swell. In Roth I was three minutes ahead of Mirinda, but in Kona we came out at the same time.

JuliaKonaRun
“So it wasn’t a good start but other than in Roth I kept focused on my own race. I didn’t really try to pace off anyone, I was just focused on riding the watts that I had trained for. The longer the race was going on, the better things were going for me. Maybe for the first time ever, I had good legs in the last 60k on the bike.

“At the start of the marathon I was 9th. It felt relatively cool and I started to think who was in front of me and how far back the good runners behind me were.” Julia was able to run well: She didn’t loose any spots on the run and ran down Meredith Kessler and Heather Wurtele. Shortly after mile 22 she also overtook Mary Beth Ellis and moved into 6th place, running a 3:04 marathon and finishing her first Kona Ironman in 9:16.

She was happy with the result, but her assessment is typical for her: “Kona was good, but not perfect.” In a different context she said “I am someone who thinks a lot, going through everything five times over and sometimes being a bit critical.” To me, this is one of her strengths: Because she questions everything, she is very well prepared for almost every situation. While she clearly sees where she can improve, she also knows her strengths in comparison to others and rarely looses her head in the heat of a race. Her father Werner puts it this way: “Her motto is that the race isn’t over until the finish line. She trusts herself and her strengths to let other go on the bike and then manage the difference.”

2015 Season: Switching Coaches and Building towards Frankfurt

After her great result in Kona, Julia made a big change: She switched coaches. Basically since she started Triathlon, she was working with Jochen Frech, the long time head coach of her triathlon club, AST Süßen. Jochen helped her develop from the rookie on the AST Süßen team to a world class long distance triathlete. Nonetheless, she decided to work with Wolfram Bott after Kona. Wolfram has been working as a national coach for the German and Luxemburg federations and he is also coaching a number of successful long-course athletes such as Christian Brader, the Raelert Brothers, or Nils Frommhold.

“There were a number of reasons for switching coaches: I wanted to continue to develop as an athlete and I also think I needed some changes in my training. I was also looking for a more professional environment – including personal presence – at races and for important training sessions.”

When she explains these reasons, it’s obvious that Julia has though long and hard about making this change. When speaking to her in May, she seems glad to have made the change: “I think I’ve already made a few steps forward. In the spring I was able to have three training camps with Wolfram’s group. It was very motivating to train in a group, it’s much easier to get through a hard block as a group. Wolfram was able to see me on a daily basis, so we were able to better adjust my training than via phone or email. Even when training in a group, he makes sure to have time for everyone. He tries to organize sessions so he is able to attend everyone’s key session. I don’t think he has much time off when we’re in a camp. But he lives for the sport and puts all his energy into it. You can call him day and night if you have a problem.

“My training changed a lot, I’ve done a lot of short hard work with some Olympic Distance athletes but we also upped the volume. There were also long brick sessions that I hadn’t done before.”

JuliaBike

Wolfram adds some details: “There aren’t too many female athletes that can run around three hours on a regular basis, but she needs another ten minutes or so on the bike. So if Julia has any weakness then it’s on the bike and that’s where we put our focus. We’ve increased the frequency of her bike session, so now she’s riding four or five times a week. She wasn’t used to doing multiple sessions a day, now she’s often doing two or three sessions per day and her overall volume increased as well. We’ve also started to work on her bike position. She has a more aggressive setup now, but she says she’s still pretty comfortable.”

Both Julia and Wolfram are taking on a long term view. Julia say, “Such a change always includes risks. It might take a while before the body is able to handle the volume, so I might end up taking a step backwards for a bit. But I believe that working with Wolfram is an important step towards my dream of a Kona podium.” Wolfram adds “When you change the training it usually takes a while before the body adapts to it. I’d be happy if she’s racing on the same level as in the previous years. But I expect a step forward in 2016.”

Julia’s first race of the 2015 season was 70.3 Mallorca: “I had to work hard all day. I was really looking forward to the climb up to Lluc Monastery. I have done a lot of training sessions there but it was so hard going up there in the race. The run didn’t feel much better, maybe I just needed to clear the cobwebs in my first race of the season.” This assessment is typical Julia, she actually finished 2nd behind Daniela Ryf and was in front of athletes such as Yvonne van Vlerken, Tine Deckers, Michelle Vesterby or Kristin Möller. She finished her next race – the “home race” 70.3 Kraichgau – in 2nd place as well. This time Camilla Pedersen was faster, but Julia felt better about the race: She improved her bike split by four minutes compared to last year where she won the race. Everything went really well in her 3rd race, 70.3 Luxembourg. She posted the fastest times in all three legs and won her first race of the season.

Outlook

Julia appears to be on a good progression towards her first big race of the season, the European Championships in Frankfurt on July 5th. After her Kona result, she is in a comfortable position for Kona qualifying; she only needs to finish the race for a July slot. However, she has bigger goals for the race: “Frankfurt is my first A race for the season, and it’s definitely not a race I just want to finish for my Kona slot. My goal is to finish on the podium.” She’s the main German contender in the field headlined by the “showdown” of the two Swiss athletes Daniela Ryf and Caroline Steffen. But she’s not content with 3rd place: “Over the 70.3 distance Daniela was in another league, but an Ironman is a different thing. I’m pretty sure that Daniela will shoot for a new bike course record [currently 4:44 by Natascha Badmann] and also the overall record [8:51:24 by Chrissie Wellington]. The last few years there were a few times I was close to Caroline. If I have a good race, maybe I can tease them a bit. Maybe I can post a new personal best over the Ironman distance [currently 8:51:04] and I’m also targeting to run sub-3. But the run course in Frankfurt is pretty slow, all the bridge ramps will hurt in the third and fourth loop.”

The field in the Regional Championships is always deep, and she’s aware she can easily finish further behind: “There are going to be a lot of fast girls, and beating them won’t be easy.” Among these athletes are Kristin Möller, Sonja Tajsich or Astrid Ganzow (Stienen) that would love to be the top German finisher. There’s also a big group looking for a good result to qualify for Kona including Michelle Vesterby, Tine Deckers, or Ruth Brennan-Morrey.

She hasn’t decided how her final Kona prep will look like. “In 2014 I was training at home and flew to Kona two weeks before the race. This year I’ll probably join Wolfram’s group [last year they prepared in Clearmont, Florida after the 70.3 Worlds], but we’ll figure out the details after Frankfurt.”

Obviously, the focus of her season is Kona. “I want to have my best and strongest 2015 race in Kona. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to do, there is so much changing in the female races! Last year most of the pressure came from me, this year it’ll be a different story. A lot would have to happen for me to finish on the podium, my main goal is to have another focused and mentally strong race. I’ll be satisfied if I have given everything, even if I end up in 8th or 10th place. Things are so close between 6th and 15th place and a few minutes can make a big difference.

“Looking beyond 2015 .. the Kona podium is a big goal, and winning the race would be an absolute dream. After this year I’ll have a better picture if I have the confidence to go for it.”

PhotoCredits: Privatbrauerei ERDINGER Weißbräu (Roth Finish), Markus Gajer (Kona Run), Wolfram Bott (Training on the bike)

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