South African Bradley Weiss was fully dedicated to XTERRA racing the last 5 years, but now he has his eyes on the 70.3 World Championships in France. But that will not mean completely walking away from XTERRA and similar events.
Slowtwitch: Thank you very much for your time.
Bradley Weiss: My pleasure! It’s an honor to be interviewed on slowtwitch.
ST: Have you somewhat recovered from that 70.3 South Africa effort?
Bradley: I feel I am bouncing back quicker with each race over this distance. Coming from an XTERRA background I am a lot more familiar with a 2-hour high intensity effort as apposed to the grueling 4 hours required to complete an Ironman 70.3 event. This being said I am feeling pretty good but that could just be thanks to the post race win endorphins!
ST: From 2011 to 2013 you also competed in a few road triathlons. But then you seemed to fully focus on XTERRA until you started at 70.3 Philippines last April. Is that correct?
Bradley: Yes this is mostly correct. Starting my career in the on road non drafting Olympic distance format of triathlon racing I then switched completely to off road XTERRA racing through until the beginning of 2018 when I signed myself up for that years edition of the Ironman 70.3 South African Championships. It was a fantastic return to on road racing after my 2017 XTERRA World Title and definitely reignited my passion for the Time Trial.
ST: Maybe at home in South Africa it is a different story, but when you show up at a random road triathlon in other places around the world, do you get weird looks from fellow pros or do they know who you are?
Bradley: The triathlon community is a pretty close nit group of like-minded individuals and I must say I have had a very warm welcome amongst the on road professional field. Mostly I believe they know who I am and I always get many XTERRA related questions from curious on lookers who are contemplating taking on an XTERRA but terrified of injury.
ST: And how much do you know about them?
Bradley: Deep down I think most of us are triathlon junkies and I will happily admit that I keep a pretty close eye on the who’s who of triathlon racing and who are the ones making waves and setting trends.
ST: At last weekend’s 70.3 South Africa the swim was apparently shortened because of rough waters. How rough was it and should at least the Pros have swum the full distance?
Bradley: In my opinion we as the professional field could easily have done the full length swim as the water was rough due to the strong easterly wind but not dangerous or life threatening to a competent swimmer. There was also indication of a large school of jellyfish just off shore so to avoid them the swim had to be shortened. I was admittedly very disappointed hearing news of the shortened swim but once entering the choppy seas I was actually pretty relieved we only had to be bounced around for 1000 meters as apposed to 1.9 kilometers.
ST: At an XTERRA race would it have been the same call?
Bradley: Likely not. At the XTERRA world championships in Maui, Hawaii we have raced in massive swell with deadly shore breaks where I will admit to pausing on occasion to assess my route back to shore in an effort not to be completely pummeled by the next set of waves. But XTERRA athletes are generally more thrill seeking adrenaline junkies so I guess it’s a fitting start to a world championship race.
ST: As a Specialized sponsored pro I guess you had no problem getting a fast TT bike, but did you have to brush off the cobwebs before you took that Shiv to the race venue in East London?
Bradley: Yes I was lucky enough to get my hands onto the Specialized SHIV, which I have thoroughly enjoyed training and racing on. My triathlon career began on the time trial bike so in many ways it felt like a return to my routes, however daunting a prospect it may have been at the time. I had proven myself a competent off road triathlete at this point but the road scene was a massive unknown and I found myself on multiple occasions questioning my sanity and what I was trying to prove returning to the road. In hindsight it was a great decision and in many ways reignited my passion for the sport.
ST: Can you compare the efforts of racing bikes in an XTERRA versus a 70.3?
Bradley: To me it almost feels like completely different sports! XTERRA is a maximal effort exertion with many peaks throughout. Flat out up the climbs and recover on the technical descents. 70.3 is a steady state ITT trying to maintain a constant power output throughout the day and not fading towards the end by going out to quickly. Admittedly I really struggled with this pacing to begin with and it felt more like a management of pain than a race. Mentally 70.3 is not very stimulating with long sections of dead straight roads and not much to distract you from the pain you are putting your body through. Mountain biking keeps you very focused navigating technical rock gardens or steep, loose and rocky climbs. This distraction from the pain was very important to me, and something I really missed when switching over to the 70.3 distance.
ST: How did your state of mind on race morning compare to the race morning before an XTERRA race?
Bradley: The pre race routine is very similar baring the bike you are setting up in transition. A few small changes such as tire pressures and race equipment differ but mostly you are preparing to swim bike run in some or other format. I will admit there is an air of confidence when preparing for an XTERRA in comparison to a much more humble approach to an Ironman 70.3 event. I think this confidence will build over time and wins such as this weekend will no doubt have a massive boost in my mental attitude when entering the next race of this distance.
ST: How is your Shiv set up in terms of components?
Bradley: At Ironman South Africa I raced on the small Specialized SHIV with SRAM RED 11-speed mechanical shifting, Shimano Dura-ace 4iiii power crank (55/42 gear ratio), ROVAL Disc rear wheel and ROVAL 64 front wheel, Specialized Turbo Cotton tires and an XLAB Vulcan hydration system.
ST: Talk about the race.
Bradley: After a shortened swim I exited the water in 4th position only seconds off the lead but a mere 30 second lead on Matt Trautman who was the defending champion and pre race favorite! After a sloppy transition Matt had all but closed the gap and we turned onto the first climb together. For those who know the course East London boasts a pretty epic bike route heading inland on our countries second larges highway, the N2. For 45 km you are faced with relentless rollers each seemingly steeper than the previous. The Easterly wind had now picked up nicely and afforded us athletes a gentle helping hand up the endless rollers ahead. As a smaller athlete I knew I had to take advantage of these climbs and my strategy was simple, build up as big a lead as possible on the way up and try to survive back down into a stiffening easterly! The strategy paid off and coming into T2 I had a lead of roughly 2 minutes on a group including Matt Trautman and James Cunnama about a further minute adrift. My run legs were strong but not amazing. I am still struggling to back up a really hard ride with a solid half marathon but definitely improving with each race is encouraging. The defending champ was on an absolute mission and at the 8 km mark he had closed the gap and we were now running stride for stride. I was sure Matt could not hold this pace and thankfully entering the second lap of the run his early efforts began to take their toll and slowly the gap started opening again. Crossing the line I was over the moon with my maiden 70.3 victory and punching my ticket to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships was the cherry on top!
ST: During the run, did you look over your shoulders or could you hear the footsteps or the breathing of Matt Trautman?
Bradley: I never looked back and just held a steady tempo hoping he would eventually fade. For two kilometers Matt ran on my shoulder, his breathing evident of the hard pace he had set early on. I breathed a massive sigh of release when his pace began to slow and the gap began to open again!
ST: At what point did you think the title was yours?
Bradley: In 2018 I was comfortably in 3rd place and closing in on second only to be struck with severe hamstring cramps bringing me to a complete stop and resulting in a 4th place finish. I was acutely aware of this fate a year prior so I was doing all I could to nurse myself to the finish line and avoid any late onset of cramps! Only once entering the finishing shoot did I believe the victory was mine!
ST: What does your weekly training load look like these days?
Bradley: With a shift to 70.3 racing my training volume has increased slightly and the intensity level has been slightly reduced allowing me to focus on the longer steady state efforts required over this distance of racing! I do not want to completely lose my ability to sustain these high intensity intervals as I will still be competing in off road events throughout the year so at this time we are working closely with my coaches to find a happy balance between volume and intensity. I believe I have a massive advantage over the long course athletes with my ability to sustain high intensity efforts and I don’t want to lose this competitive advantage!
ST: Can you describe one of your harder swim workouts in the pool?
Bradley: A session I really enjoy doing in the pool in race week is a pretty high intensity swim finishing above my planned race pace. It goes as follows:
1000m mixed warm
main set: (no rest between sets, keep rolling through the session)
4 x 100 leaving time 1:30
4 x 100 leaving time 1:25
4 x 100 leaving time 1:20
4 x 100 leaving time 1:15
400m time trial (beginning straight after the final 100m and trying to sustain the speed in the final set of 100s) – I usually come in on 4:40 for the 400
500m easy cool down
ST: Your shoe sponsor Puma is not very common among triathletes. Which model of theirs do you race in, and which one do you use for training?
Bradley: I have been with Puma for 6 years now and have absolutely loved their shoes. The development in their running shoes over the past few years has been fantastic and gives me a real competitive advantage not to mention some super trendy fashion statements. I am currently racing in the PUMA Speed Racer 300, which is a super lightweight running shoe, but with adequate support and cushioning to get through the half marathon comfortably. I have always preferred a more minimalist approach to my running shoes and the Speed Racer 300 provides just that so I tend to do a lot of my training in this shoe as well. For the longer runs I have also been using the PUMA Speed 600 ignite which provides slightly more cushioning and advanced ignite foam technology ensuring a super comfortable long run and protecting the body from potential injury inherent with longer distance runs.
ST: So what is next?
Bradley: Securing a World Championships start in Nice, France was my main goal for the season. Ticking this box so early has certainly opened the season up nicely and my plan will now be to expose myself to some higher quality fields and try to improve on my weaknesses building up to the September show down. I am under no illusions that a podium finish at the world championships is an extremely tall order but if I am on that start line I might as well aim for the stars!
ST: What about XTERRA racing this year?
Bradley: My focus is certainly shifting towards the 70.3 format of triathlon racing but I will absolutely continue racing off road. My early season XTERRA goal will be the Asia Pacific XTERRA Championships in Taiwan followed by the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships taking place in Pontevedra, Spain at the end of April. Focus will then shift to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in September and I will finish my season in Maui, Hawaii at the XTERRA World Championships.
ST: And by the way I love that black kit of yours.
Bradley: Many will not know this but it is actually a Specialized skin suit used by individual time trial and track cycling athletes. Surprisingly it doubles up perfectly as a triathlon suit allowing a very aero cycling suit yet comfortable and breathable on the run.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Bradley: I think we have covered most of it! Thanks so much
Images 1 and 3 by Johan Badenhorst (Specialized), images 2 and 6 by Romy Louise, and image 4 by David Sullivan