Get to know the story behind the athlete in our interview series with the newest members of the HOKA team. Find out what motivates our athletes, what their passions are outside of sport and what Time To Fly™ means to them.
GETTING TO KNOW:Daniela Bleymehl
Being fearless comes second nature to Daniela Bleymehl.
Daniela went to Ironman® Frankfurt in 2016 with no idea if she would even make it to the run let alone have the chance to attempt it. She had been injured in the eight weeks prior and committed to the race to try and qualify for her debut Ironman® World Championships. She achieved her dream and finished third.
Her bittersweet first outing in Kona later that year ended up with Daniela walking half the 42-kilometre run and having to dash to the hospital afterwards with suspected appendicitis. She banished her inner demons to return three years later to finish 9th.
Now, the three-time Ironman champion and latest member of the HOKA family is excitedly anticipating the arrival of her second child this summer.
While aware of the challenges of returning to elite level triathlon after pregnancy, Daniela is determined to continue defying expectations as she targets a return to competition in 2022.
“Challenges always make you stronger,” says Daniela. “I think you have to take every situation as it is and make the best out of it to learn for the future, even if that sometimes means taking a step back.
“I don’t think it would be healthy to force myself to come back as quickly as possible. As every mother knows, a life with a baby is never one in which you can plan too far ahead.”
Daniela joins HOKA athletes, including Aliphine Tuliamuk and Ironman champions Mirinda Carfrae, Chelsea Sodaro, Anja Ippach and Susie Cheetham, who have recently had or are expecting newborn babies.
Athletes around the world continue to prove that motherhood and performance can go hand in hand.
“Being a mother and staying a pro triathlete is my biggest achievement. During my first pregnancy, I stopped running early because it just didn’t feel good anymore,” recalls Daniela.
“However, I’m not worried about finding enough activity to do. You can really do a lot. Swimming, biking, cross-country skiing, aqua jogging, hiking, walking, yoga. After giving birth, I will give myself the time that it needs. I don’t want to make any plans but to see what the time will bring.”
Alongside triathlon, Daniela loves nature, winter sports and mountaineering. Last summer, along with her husband Moritz, she climbed two 4,000m summits in the Alps: the Dom in Switzerland and Mont Blanc in France.
Based in Darmstadt, southwest Germany, the circumstances were a little different when her first child, Marlon, arrived a little over 10 years ago. Daniela wasn’t yet a professional triathlete.
Studying as a physiotherapist at the time, with ambitions to qualify as an osteopath, the natural break due to pregnancy allowed Daniela to look at her future and follow her sporting passions. She hasn’t looked back.
“It is a great privilege to be a professional triathlete,” says the 2018 Challenge Roth winner. “Somehow, I am living my dream, and I’m really not sure if there is anything else that I would love doing as much.”
The journey through pregnancy and back to elite-level performance won’t be without its challenges. But in a year in which one of the big learning curves for everyone has been the need to adapt to change, expect Daniela to continue being fearless as she targets a return to competition in 2022.
GETTING TO KNOW:Jess Judd
At HOKA, we regard our team of world-class athletes as family, but for one of the newest members of the group, Jess Judd, running is literally a family affair.
The 26-year-old is one of the UK’s most versatile and successful athletes, competing with distinction on all surfaces. Jess first burst to prominence as a raw 18-year old in 2013 by winning the European Team Championships 800m on her senior Great Britain debut, having narrowly missed Olympic selection a year earlier.
It is not uncommon for prodigiously talented juniors to fail to progress through the senior ranks, but since that breakthrough eight years ago, Jess has consistently delivered on the biggest stage. This includes winning the World University 5000m title in the stifling heat of Naples in 2019, a performance that she regards as her greatest achievement to date. And her family has been with her every step of the way.
“My dad is my coach,” she explains, “he coached me from when I first started running when I was about nine, and he has done pretty much ever since.”
In addition to dad Mick, Jess’s step-mum Sally is also an athlete, as is her younger sister Jodie (“my biggest inspiration” says Jess), who is currently in the USA at Florida State University. Her stepsister, Khahisa Mhlanga, is one of the UK’s brightest young middle-distance talents and coincidentally has also just joined the HOKA family!
“I’m also lucky that my fiancé Rob is a runner,” she adds, “he keeps me focused on goals and targets, but also helps me switch off and stay calm before a race.
“My late Grandad Bob was always my biggest fan, he loved watching me race on TV, but my dad is the brains behind the operation. He maps out the training for the season, based on the aims we have set and the targets we need to hit, so I pretty much do as he says."
“He even used to tie my shoelaces before races for luck, but we stopped that when I turned 18, although even now I tie them in lots of knots, so they don’t come undone!”
Having a strong support team behind her is crucial for Jess.
“I had a couple of tough years,” she recalls, “when I wasn’t making teams and I overheard people thinking I was never going to get back to being the athlete I used to be. I just stopped worrying about what other people thought and worked really hard, only caring about what my own support team thought. They are the most important thing.”
“You should never stop believing in your own potential” is Jess’s advice for athletes when things get tough. “Find a support team that you know will stand by you when things go badly as well as when it goes to plan, and as long as you enjoy what you’re striving to achieve, you’ll have a great time chasing your dreams.”
Now based in Loughborough with Rob, Jess is combining chasing her Olympic dream with PhD studies in Regenerative Medicine at the local university, as well looking after her dog Bruce, plus two rabbits and a hamster.
“I would love to start travelling abroad for races again,” she says, “but I’m just taking one day at a time at the moment. I have used the lockdowns to get a big block of training in and would love to run PBs from 1500m to 10,000m. I would also love to make the British team for Tokyo, but I’m just excited to get back racing again.”
Hopefully it won’t be long before Jess is pulling on her HOKA vest and Carbon X 2 racing shoes competitively for the first time.
“I’m so happy to be part of HOKA” beams Jess. “I’m proud to be surrounded by so many great athletes who have such motivational and positive stories to share. It’s so nice to be part of a brand that has such a positive outlook on exercise and encouraging people of all abilities to find the joy in running and getting outdoors.”
Jess herself will be outdoors as usual this summer, putting in the miles with all roads pointing east, to Tokyo, but no matter where racing takes her, whether it’s hitting new heights on the track or eventually making her much anticipated debut over the half marathon on the roads, her all-important family will be with her every step of the way
“I love getting dinner the night of a race with my family, where we just talk about the day we’ve had!” says Jess. “It’s such a great feeling to be together when everything has gone well.”
GETTING TO KNOW:Lucy Hall
Most top triathletes graduate to the sport via other routes, such as swimming, cycling, running or even other competitive sports.
For Lucy Hall, the newest member of the HOKA family, she came straight into triathlon at the tender age of eight when her triathlete dad introduced her via a kid’s fun event. She has been there ever since.
It’s not that she didn’t try other sports, however.
“My dad was sports-mad, so I did everything – swimming, athletics, rugby, hockey, cricket,” she beams in the glorious autumnal sunshine in Roundhay Park, Leeds. “But it was always going to be triathlon for me.”
“At around age 16,” she continues, “I had to decide between swimming and triathlon and triathlon won. It was no contest!”
An outstanding junior, who won relay medals at the European Youth Championships and a bronze at the World Youth Games in Sydney in 2009, Lucy shot to fame in 2012 when she was selected to represent Great Britain at the London Olympic Games.
As a powerful swimmer, during her time competing for Brive Limousin in the French Grand Prix, her prowess in the water earned her the nickname ‘La Sirene’ or ‘The Mermaid’. As a strong cyclist, she was chosen as a domestique to help medal hope Helen Jenkins in the opening two disciplines. “Swim to bike is my greatest strength,” she confirms.
“The Olympics was such a buzz,” she recalls, “because it was a home Games and because I was so young, I think I was more excited than nervous. It was an incredible experience.”
Post-London, where she finished 33rd overall having posted the fastest swim leg, Lucy enjoyed a successful ITU career, including winning a World Championships gold medal in the mixed relay in 2014. She achieved several victories on the global circuit, though always harboured ambitions of moving to the longer distances.
“I did some physiology testing when I was about 16,” she explains, “and it was clear then that I had this huge engine which suggested I was really well suited to endurance racing. At that age the thought of competing for three or four hours was a bit daunting, but I always knew I would graduate to the 70.3 and maybe beyond in the future.”
“I started by setting long-term goals,” she says, describing the process of moving up the distance ladder. “I’ve then based my mid and short-term goals around them, usually in the form of specific races that I would look to target and peak for.”
2019 saw Lucy make her bow at the half-Ironman distance with a series of promising performances, culminating in a podium placing at Dun Laoghaire in August, where she finished runner-up to another HOKA athlete, Nikki Bartlett.
“2020 has been particularly tricky to plan and periodise,” Lucy says, “because we haven’t known which races might be going ahead and which won’t, so the PTO Championships at Challenge Daytona has become a big target.”
Lucy will be lacing up her favourite shoe, the Carbon X-Spe, on the famous Daytona racetrack on 6 December along with HOKA athletes including Nils Frommhold, George Goodwin, Tom Davis, Carolin Lehrieder and Nikki Bartlett. It is a race that has taken on even greater significance in a year when events have been decimated by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic.
Prior to the first lockdown, Lucy was visiting schools in the Leeds area promoting the benefits of health and fitness to the children, and since then has been working as a Covid tester of elite athletes. Now, the focus is entirely on the fast-looming competition.
“Prior to racing, I like to listen to music while visualising my race plan,” she says. “I go through my race check list to make sure I have all my equipment and so I can concentrate solely on the race.”
And then when the gun goes is it Time To Fly?
“Absolutely!” she agrees with a smile, “Time to give it some welly!”
GETTING TO KNOW:Hayley Carruthers
It takes a huge amount of mental strength to make it as an international marathon runner, and the latest team member of the HOKA team, Hayley Carruthers, has it in spades.
One of the most inspiring and enduring images of the 2019 London Marathon is of Hayley collapsing just metres from the finish and literally dragging herself over the line in a new personal best of 2:33:59. It was a time she subsequently improved to 2:32:42 in Valencia later in the year to emerge as a genuine contender for the Great Britain Olympic team.
“I knew what was coming because I had almost run a 10k personal best in the first 10k of the race,” Hayley recalls of that spring day in the UK capital when mass participation races were commonplace and the streets were thronged with spectators.
“I began to feel very strange around halfway and after that it became purely a matter of getting to the finish line. I genuinely couldn’t lift my legs, and the underpasses felt like mountains! I had no control over my limbs and remember tripping over my own feet at 22 miles and nearly falling into the drinks table!”
A qualified radiographer by profession, Hayley is a relative latecomer to running having only taken the sport up seriously in 2016.
“For the first two years I didn’t think I had the potential to get anywhere near the level I am at now,” she says. “However, now that I have experienced what an amazing lifestyle it is to be an international runner, it’s my desire to be the very best I can be.”
For many athletes, the truncated 2020 season and, in particular the cancellation of the Olympic Games, has been a disaster, but Hayley has turned the situation around to her advantage. She continues to build her endurance base with consistent 90-mile weeks and plenty of long sessions in her favourite shoe, the Rincon 2.
“They are great for long sessions,” she says with a smile. “I love anything with a rep longer than ten minutes, but 4 x 4 miles with one-mile float is my absolute favourite.”
“I genuinely feel this time has been a blessing in disguise,” she says. “It has allowed me to revisit the reasons why I love to run and has made me love the sport even more.”
“Postponing the Olympics was 100% an opportunity for me.” she continues before adding a word of caution.
“As I don’t have years of running in my legs, the extra year will benefit me massively in my chances to make the team. However, you never know what is around the corner and I have learned never to take training and racing for granted.”
For the next 12 months, making the team for Tokyo will be uppermost in the minds of Hayley and her coach, Dan Robinson, but afterwards Hayley’s thoughts might well turn to travel and having fun.
“I love to travel,” enthuses the self-confessed bookworm. “My partner and I have been all over the world and we actually met in South Africa, on a volunteering trip in 2014. When I am on a long run I like to make a list of the things I want to do in my next break, like trips to exotic places or activities I haven’t had a chance to do yet, like visiting a Total Ninja Adventure park!
“Travel and reading are my two passions in life. I always read before a session as it helps me relax and I always perform at my best when I’m relaxed.”
The original Japanese ninja used kuji-kiri to summon superhuman feats as long ago as the 14th century, and there can be no doubt Hayley will be trying everything she can to toe the line in a Great Britain vest in The Land of The Rising Sun come 7 August next year.
“I want to make sure I continue building a strong foundation, physically and mentally,” she says, “so that when I go into 2021, I am fit, healthy and ready to challenge myself in new ways. This might mean I make the Olympic team, but if don’t, I will know I have done my absolute best every day, and at the end of the day, that is all I can do.”
GETTING TO KNOW:Anne Reischmann
Injury. It’s the one word every sportsperson dreads. It can bring the most promising career juddering to a halt, it can wreak havoc with hopes and aspirations, and can even finish a career completely.
For some, however, like German triathlete Anne Reischmann, an injury can even become an opportunity to move in a fresh direction and move into a new sphere of sport altogether.
In her youth, growing up as one of a sports-mad family in Ravensburg, Southern Germany, Anne was a good enough runner to earn a scholarship at the University of Iowa, and represented her country internationally in the European Cross-Country Championships.
After finishing second in the National U23 Championships in 2013 over 5,000m, Anne’s future looked to be on the track or roads of the athletics circuit, but an injury in early 2016 changed all that.
“I was always more into track and field,’ explains the 28-year old, “but in 2016 I had a knee injury that kept me out for a couple of months and stopped me qualifying for the German championships. To stay fit I had to swim and bike a lot, and soon the idea of signing up to do a triathlon to keep motivated was not that far-fetched.
“I didn’t make the German track championships that summer, but after finishing my first triathlon I knew I wanted to do more, and with a win at the Ravensburger Triathlon, that season finished very well!”
Interestingly, that victory wasn’t Anne’s first experience of crossing the Ravensburger Tri finish line ahead of the rest of the field. “When I was a toddler I was allowed to cross the finish line arm in arm with the winner, my uncle Jens Lehnen, so to win it myself 22 years later was very special. It gave me a reason to say goodbye to athletics and to try something new.”
After completing her studies in Latin and Physical Education in 2018, Anne decided to “put it all on one card and race and live like a professional athlete.”
Since then, Anne has become a model of consistency over the half-IRONMAN distance, with a second-place finish at Les Sables D’Olonne 70.3 last year, supplemented by fourth place finishes at Weymouth, Switzerland and Pays d’Aix.
Being a fully-fledged professional finally hit home to Anne on the start line of last year’s 70.3 World Championships in Nice, where she finished a highly creditable 20th.
“I remember saying to myself a few seconds before the gun went off that’s it’s so cool to be racing on this stage,” she explains, “and this happiness stayed with me throughout the whole race and led to my best performance yet.”
As the truncated 2020 season gradually gets under way, Anne is dreaming of a top-10 place at the World 70.3 Championships in the future, but she knows that in triathlon, patience is a virtue.
“Often my goals are in my head, but more as dreams.” she says. “Nothing specific or realistic, but something I’m passionate about, and when the time is right, I turn them into goals. That means making a plan, thinking of immediate goals, and making a timeline.
“One thing I learned in my first year as a professional triathlete is that you have to be patient, and take one step at a time,” she continues, “especially in races. I like to listen to people and hear their advice, as it’s often very helpful to see a different or more objective perspective.
“A former coach once told me never to make big decisions on bad days. I like that because on bad days I can act emotionally and doubt myself. The next day or even just a couple of hours later, when I’m thinking straight again, I know this is nonsense and with that advice in mind I’m able to put away those negative thoughts and get through the rough times.”
Judging by the progress she has made since taking the plunge as a professional, the likelihood is Anne is going to enjoy more good times than rough as her career progresses.
GETTING TO KNOW:Sylvain Cachard
Professional trail running has long been regarded the domain of the older generation of athletes. Even among the HOKA ranks, Jim Walmsley hit the big ‘three-oh’ in January this year, Sage Canaday, Harry Jones and Audrey Tanguy are all into their 30s and legendary figures of the sport, like Mike Wardian and Ludo Pommeret, are beyond the age of 40.
But young French starlet Sylvain Cachard, who only turned 21 on Christmas Day last year, aims to change that as he takes his first tentative steps in the foothills of the pro ranks.
Trail running is a family affair for the Engineering student, who was born in Rouen, in the decidedly non-hilly region of Normandy in Northern France, but who headed to the more rugged landscapes further south with his parents when he was only three years old. It was here where he developed his love of running, ahead of mountain biking, in the mountains.
“I used to do lots of mountain biking with my parents on the trails near our home in Clermont l’Herault,” he recalls, before observing wryly “but unfortunately for me the trails are really technical. I was not a super rider and I remember carrying my bike on my back for a lot of the time…so that was the beginning of my mountain running career!”
“My parents, my little brother and I all started to run when I was about 10, and we joined the local athletics club” he continues. “It was there my parents fell in love with ultra races.”
It became a case of ‘how long can I run’ for the young Sylvain as he accompanied his parents on their long (“sometimes more than five hours!”) weekend training runs. A stint at a specialised track and field high school in Lozere, 150km from his home, followed, which helped develop his flat speed in order to make him better in the mountains.
Sylvain has enjoyed success in all forms of running so far in his fledgling career, including road and cross country, but it’s on the trails, where he won the French Junior title in 2017, that he is most at home.
“My favourite place to train is still the Cirque de Mourèze, near my parents’ home,” he says, adding, “for me, trail running is just about the time to fly as fast as we can in the mountains and age should not be a barrier to success.”
“I consider myself a trail runner at 21, so there is not an age issue in this type of physical activity,” he insists.
“This is something I try to show in my role as an ambassador for ‘L’Ecole du Trail’, which is an initiative for children from eight to 18 to introduce them to the sport of trail running in a natural environment.”
Sylvain does have huge respect for the knowledge which comes with experience, however, and he is keen to learn from top professionals like his HOKA ONE ONE teammate, Julien Rancon.
“Julien has been the main influence in my young career,” he is quick to acknowledge. “His advice is always really helpful, and I am now lucky to be able to call him my friend.”
Aside from his work with the Ecole du Trail initiative and his Engineering studies, Sylvain is also focusing on the big trail events beginning to come back into focus following lockdown, and he is eager to break out his Evo Jawz and get competing once again.
“My biggest dream is to become competitive in all the big mountain races,” he says. “I spent lockdown in the Alps with my girlfriend and two other mountain runners and we all supported each other during that difficult period. But now it’s almost over I am planning to train even harder and prepare for the races.
“Winning Sierre-Zinal and UTMB in the same year would be a perfect example of what I dream of and train for each day.”
GETTING TO KNOW:Lisa Norden
Some athletes crumble under pressure. Others, like the 2012 Olympic triathlon silver medallist, Lisa Norden, thrive on it.
“I enjoy the times when the pressure is high, like in an Olympic prep,” she says, “where I can put everything else to one side and focus 110% on one goal.
“I always ask myself, Lisa, do you really want to be here, would you rather be somewhere else? And the answer is always NO!”
“I want the pressure and I want to excel under it. Giving myself the option of not having to cope with pressure makes it much easier.”
Lisa has inherited her mental prowess from her mother, who she describes as “one of the strongest women I have ever met.”
“My upbringing taught me a lot that prepared me for life as well as elite sports, and she is one of the main reasons I got into triathlon”
Lisa needed every ounce of her famed mental strength at the London Olympics where, after almost two hours of the fiercest competition, only the thickness of a vest came between her and a coveted gold. Usain Bolt won the 100m by a bigger margin!
Simply making it to the start line in London represented one of the biggest challenges Lisa has ever had to overcome. A major injury the previous year had left her seriously underprepared and lacking in confidence as the Games loomed.
“All my competitors were deep in heavy training blocks and I was sidelined with a calf injury, not able to do any running at all,” she recalls. “We cut back all the ‘fluff’, only did specific running intervals and warmed up and down on the bike. That was it.”
Despite a further setback, Lisa refused to panic, and thanks to the modified regime, she made it by the skin of her teeth. The rest, as they say, is history.
“I think the cutback in volume and the hours I would normally do allowed me to get the extra speed and edge I needed to win that medal in London,” she concludes.
Lisa rode horses rather than bikes growing up in Kristianstad in Eastern Sweden and as a result, she was a late starter in triathlon.
“I spent all my time in the stables from the age of five,” she reveals, “My show-jumping horse, Milton, was my real hero and triathlon was a fun thing I started doing to keep fit and challenge myself.”
“I was a non-swimmer at first!” she admits. “I just really enjoyed the sport, but then I won the World U23 title in 2007 and began to train with my coach Dean Smith. He made me believe I could be world class and coached me not only physically but also mentally.”
Despite a long and storied career at the Olympic distance, the three-time Olympian is constantly seeking new challenges, hence her recent move to longer distances in HOKA shoes.
“Triathlon is my passion,” she says. “It is what I live and breathe for. What drives me is to see how far I can get. I thought I had peaked in my 20s but seeing how I am continuing to improve is fascinating and highly motivating.”
Lisa describes her quest to win three world titles at three different distances as the “last mission” of her stellar career. “The Sprint and Olympic are in the bag,” she says, “only the 70.3 remains on the ‘to-do’ list.”
It’s a tall order, but as she has shown time and again over the years, if there is one athlete with the mental strength to achieve it, it’s Lisa Norden.
“Pain is just weakness leaving the body,” she says. “Having spent so much time rebuilding myself and working my way back from injury, now is the time to fly!”
GETTING TO KNOW:Peter Van Der Zon
Great athletes are often a product of their environment, for example, many Alpine skiers are flying down the slopes almost as soon as they can walk, and Brazilian footballers learn their trade in the favelas of the cities where they grow up.
So, how does a Dutchman become one of the best mountain racers in the world when he comes from a country whose highest point is a mere 322m above sea level? Simple. He relocates.
“Once I got to win races or make podiums and become one of the best trail runners in Holland, I wanted to race more and faster,” explains 2019 Transgrancanaria 5th-place finisher and HOKA trail athlete, Peter van der Zon.
“One of the most inspiring pieces of advice I’ve ever been given is, ‘do what makes you happy!’”
“I knew I wanted mountains, so I looked at the English Lake District and Switzerland,” he continues. “First, I moved to some hills in Germany, and from there to Switzerland, where I got a coach, and that was the beginning of getting some good results and making the national team.”
“Running in the mountains means a lot to me, and it is my favourite place to train. You can concentrate on yourself and you see a lot of nature, and I love the feeling you get when you achieve your goal of a summit or a mountain pass. It’s there that you get to know your body pretty damn well!”
Having fun also plays an important part in Peter’s running life, which could be due to his early experiences at Circus School in Holland. “It was a lot of fun and playing games,” he recalls. “I did a lot of balance training and riding unicycles, maybe that helps me with my balance on the descents in races!”
Living in Switzerland, Peter is one of the lucky ones whose training has been less disrupted by the havoc wreaked throughout the world by coronavirus.
“We had restrictions around work,” says the part-time personal trainer and running coach, who is also a keen cook and baker. “I was only able to work three half-days a week at times, but that allowed me to put in a bit more training and get some better rest!”
Now, though, Peter is itching for things to get back to normal so he can get back out onto the trails in a competitive environment.
“I want to achieve a top-five placing in the Ultra-Trail World Tour,” he says, “as that will allow me to work less and be able to live off my hobby.”
“My biggest vice is I always wanting more,” he admits. “More work, more training, more racing, but going fully professional would mean a lot to me.
“I can see that if I can put other things aside and really work for it, I can achieve my goals. I will have time to fly to the places where I want to be and fly on my own strength to summits and other locations that are special to me.”
GETTING TO KNOW:Carolin Lehrieder
Professionals often arrive at triathlon via other sports, and that was certainly the case with the 2019 IRONMAN® Italy champion Carolin Lehrieder. Carolin spent most of her formative years charging up and down a basketball court rather than training for the final stretch along Alii Drive in Hawaii. Her hero then was Michael Jordan rather than Jan Frodeno.
While she loved the camaraderie of team sports, it was clear Carolin was better suited to endurance events than shooting hoops. After entering several local running races, she was persuaded by her triathlete father to give tri a try.
At 18 she bought herself a road bike and, after working her way up through 70.3, Carolin decided to enter IRONMAN Frankfurt in 2013. She promptly won her age group before going on to place 3rd in the 18-24 race in Kona just three months later.
It was clear this extraordinary talent from Würtzburg in western Bavaria was ready to give it a go in the professional ranks. Having completed her teacher training studies in Mathematics and PE, she took the plunge.
“I never actually dreamed of being a pro,” she admits. “It was more a kind of smooth development from being an ambitious age-group athlete to giving it a shot in the pro field."
“After I finished my final exams at university, I thought it was a good time to focus on racing for a year before starting work as a teacher. But then I decided to go ‘for one more year’ again and again, and here I am now, racing pro for my sixth year already!”
In those six years, triathlon has become more than just a job to Carolin. “It’s a lifestyle,” she says, “and I really enjoy it. We get to train and race in beautiful places all over the world, become friends with fellow athletes, and do what we love every day.”
There is pressure however: “Everything you do impacts your next training session or race,” she explains, “so I take confidence from the training I have done to feel ready and well-prepared. When I go back through my sessions, I realise I have done the homework and then all I try to do is be the best I can on race day.”
Carolin had clearly done her homework, and was undoubtedly at her best, in Emilia-Romagna last September when she took the IM Italy title by over eight minutes in 8:48:23. She became the fifth-fastest German woman of all time over the distance in the process.
“I was very confident in the days leading to the race.” she recalls. “I didn’t care about what the others were doing, I was just very focused on myself and my strength. During the race I went for it on my own from the gun and pushed myself to the very end – successfully!”
What made the win even more special was being able to present her biggest fan, her father Gerald, with his finisher’s medal after he crossed the finish line in 10:44:59.
“That was very cool. I’m really happy that my family is always there,” she told the Tri-Oracle podcast after her Italian triumph. “They believe in my dreams and try to make it possible. They supported me from the very beginning, when it was tough, and I think that’s the most important thing."
“With our tendency towards perfection, we easily lose sight of the fact there is more than just triathlon in this world. We sometimes need to allow ourselves a break and step back from the triathlon bubble.”
Those words are more relevant than ever at the moment, but when racing does recommence one thing is certain: Carolin will be shooting, not for baskets, but for the top step on the podium in triathlons around the world.
GETTING TO KNOW:TOBIAS DRACHLER
We are living in challenging times, but if there’s one thing German triathlete Tobias Drachler relishes, it’s a challenge.
At last year’s IRONMAN European Championships in Frankfurt, after a solid swim, Tobias jumped off the bike in eighth place but scythed through the field on the run.
Despite describing the third and fourth laps as being among the toughest tests he’s ever faced, Tobias finished fourth and completed a German clean sweep of the first four places, behind new HOKA ONE ONE teammates, Jan Frodeno and Franz Loeschke, and Sebastian Kienle.
“I would say that race, and qualifying for the World Championships in Kona, are my greatest achievements so far,” he says. “I felt I was the best prepared I could be, and my ‘supporters circle’ agreed.”
But, like all great athletes, Tobias was left wanting more.
In Kona, conditions were brutal, with little respite from the stifling heat and humidity, but Tobias battled the elements to complete his first IRONMAN World Championships in 31st place.
He was looking forward to progressing even further in 2020. That is, until Covid-19 intervened.
“My whole approach has been affected,” he says, before adding a positive spin. “Previously, I was so focused and ‘grim’ about getting better and reaching my goals, but the current situation has given me the opportunity to do what I love with more joy again.”
“The restrictions have affected my training in that I’m not able to swim at the moment, and I’m forced to train alone even more than normal,” he says “so we are working on my weaknesses, like running speed and posture. We’ve also introduced rope resistance work, with a focus on strength training in general.
Tobias has come a long way from the football fields of his hometown of Cologne in western Germany, but he feels he has the potential to go even further.
“I was a footballer from age six to 19,” he explains. “Then I stepped back from football and was asked by a triathlete friend of my dad if I would like to challenge myself in a sprint distance event. I took part and fell in love with the sport right away, and my dad is now my biggest fan!”
That was 2010. Since then, Tobias has gained his MSc in Exercise Science and Coaching, and become a part owner of ProAthletes UG in Cologne, a company specialising in coaching endurance athletes and providing performance diagnostics.
A decade on from his tri debut, however, and fuelled by the title of his favourite Kontra K rap song ‘Erfolg ist Kein Glück”, or ‘Success Is No Luck’, the fire to improve burns just as brightly.
“My biggest strength is my ambition, you can lie to everyone, but not to yourself.” he says, “My main goal is to make the podium at an IRONMAN event, maybe the European Championships in Frankfurt, qualify for Kona again and hopefully produce a better performance there than in 2019. I think I can make the top-15.”
“Before that though, I’m looking forward to the simple things again, like meeting and spending time with my family, and of course swimming and training with my friends before a very busy racing season to end 2020.”
GETTING TO KNOW:NIKKI BARTLETT
If, during the current restrictions, Spiderman happens to run past your front door in a pair of Carbon X, the chances are you live in Loughborough in the UK, and the person in the suit is none other than world-class triathlete Nikki Bartlett.
“In life, we’re all faced with challenges we must overcome, adapt to and work out ways of pushing through,” explains the winner of IRONMAN Lanzarote in 2019. “For me, a positive mindset is key.
“I tried a run dressed as Spiderman to put a smile on people’s faces and the response was epic. We need to use sport and physical activity right now to help uplift and provide purpose and joy in our day-to-day lives. I thought about doing all my runs dressed like that!”
Triathletes are facing an uncertain few months as they try and train for races they don’t know for sure will be happening, but Nikki relishes the challenge: “I see it as an opportunity to overcome, an opportunity to come out the other side a better person and a better athlete.”
A professional career wasn’t always the goal for the former international rower. It wasn’t until 2011 when injury curtailed her Olympic aspirations and ended her career in the boat that Nikki took to the water in a different way with a debut IM 70.3.
“I had absolutely no idea my life would be shaped this way,” she confesses. “I’ve gone through so many phases in my life – party kid, big drinker, multiple sports, pro triathlete – and I feel each chapter and step has shaped me into the person I am today.”
Despite having no previous background in the sport, and initially unable to swim, Nikki progressed rapidly after turning pro four years ago she has never looked back.
“In 2016 I felt I was ready,” she confirms. “I was winning my age-groups by 30, 40, 60-minute gaps in some races, and felt like I wanted to step up and perform on the biggest stage in the sport.”
This summer, the biggest stage ought to have been the realisation of her Olympic dream in Tokyo. In addition to her triathlon commitments, Nikki also guides visually impaired para-triathlete Alison Peasgood and the pair had high hopes of a medal in the PVTI class in Japan.
“Cancelling the Games is definitely the right call,” she says, philosophically. “Health always comes first, and the World isn’t a place to come together right now and celebrate athletic achievements.”
“I never knew how rewarding guiding would be,” she adds, “but as soon as I entered the ‘Guides for Gold’ campaign I was instantly motivated and passionate about being the best possible guide for Alison. To be able to connect with another athlete and have full confidence and trust in one another is something special”.
Even without the structure of an upcoming race schedule, Nikki maintains her discipline through meticulous planning.
“I love goals!” she exclaims, “weekly and daily process goals. At the beginning of every season, along with my coach Rob Cheetham (husband of fellow HOKA triathlete Susie) we write down where I would like to be, and we make a plan of how to get there, making sure we are realistic at the same time.”
“One of my biggest tips,” she advises, “is to make goals that excite you, not haunt you with pressure or unrealistic expectations. I could write a whole blog on this section alone!”
For now, Nikki is enjoying the freedom to be creative with her training, exploring the extensive countryside near her home and switching off from the pressures of global pandemics or global sporting festivals.
“I love connecting up routes and getting lost,” she says, “trying out different ways of training. For example, I did a cross-country season last winter, turning off my Garmin and just going by feel. I shared the whole process with people on social media, engaging and bringing communities together.”
At some point, sooner rather than later, it will be back to the serious business of pro triathlon for Nikki, and she can’t wait, particularly with the Olympics still on the horizon.
“How epic will it be to be a part of a sporting moment that could be so powerful that it brings us all back together again, healthy and fearless? Sport has the power to unite, celebrate and bring us together as one. It’s going to be even more special!”
Until that happens, however, you can be sure Spiderman in a pair of HOKA will be making further appearances around the running routes of the East Midlands.