Inside the mind of Maik Twelsiek

Maik Twelsiek has been one of the fastest cyclists at Ironman Hawaii the last few years. But while he loves to ride his bike hard, he wants to close out that big race and other ones like it equally fast. Not that finishing in the top 15 is too shabby.

We had a few words with the Pro who some folks know as "Cat."

Slowtwitch: Are you finally done with traveling for the year, or is traveling just part of the game?

Maik: Almost done, almost… I think for Hillary and me it is part of the game! But we are really almost done--just one little drive back home to Tucson after Christmas with her family in Los Angeles. We have been a little bit tired of traveling and decided that driving would be more fun and easier with all the luggage and bikes.

ST: You are currently spending Christmas with Hillary and her family. Will it be with your family next year?

Maik: I really hope we will have Christmas once in Germany as well, but it is always a long and expensive way home and the weather during this time of the year is also not the best for riding the bike outside in Germany. Right now they already have a really bad winter with a lot of snow.

ST: Do friends and family in Tucson and Los Angeles think it is strange that you could have a White Christmas in Germany, but you stay here instead?

Maik: Yeah, this year would be definitely a white Christmas at home, very white. I just spoke to me mum, she wanted to visit my grandmother but could not drive with the car to her and had to walk the last hill up to her house--2 km!! She also told me that there would be no chance to get a run done in the forest. Also, I hope that Hillary´s folks here in Los Angeles are happy to have me and their daughter here as well.

ST: Having been with Hillary at Ultraman, does it tickle you to do an event like that or do you think no way?

Maik: Oh yes, I got infected. I really like the first two days of the event and could imagine to do this pretty soon - 10 km swim followed by 90 miles bike and next day the 172 miles on the bike. Just to run all the way after these hard two days from Hawi down to the old airport in Kailua-Kona is nothing I could imagine to do so soon. Everybody who has ridden the bike back from Hawi knows how long it is and to run all the way back into town can be a long jog. But I definitely have it on my to do list and would like to do it once, but not so soon.

ST: Is it pretty rare that you and Hillary are at the same race where actually just one of you actually races?

Maik: Yes, I guess it has been, just because Hillary likes to race a lot, so if we are traveling to a race, she usually thinks she may as well be racing instead of just watching. It looks like things might change a bit next year though.

ST: Is that changing a bit next year because you’ll do less races, or Hillary?

Maik: Looks like Madame is going to race a little bit less. She has a new coach and he doesn't want her to race as much as she did in the past. I also think this is a good call...

ST: Talking about racing less, you actually had planned to race Ironman Arizona, is that correct?

Maik: I was thinking to add one race after Hawaii to earn some points up for the new season and thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to keep the shape from Hawaii for a few weeks. Plus, from Tucson it is also not far to drive there. But it wasn’t so easy for me to do what I was thinking I needed to do; Hawaii and the season has already been long for me. I was done and needed a break.

ST: Looking back at Kona this year, how do you feel about your day there?

Maik: I am pretty happy with the result. I have been now for 3 years in row in the best 15 (14, 12,12) in the world. It was a great day for me, and I can say for sure that I gave all I had. I had a great swim and felt awesome on my new Scott Plasma 3. It was just fun to ride it and an awesome feeling to turn first at Hawi and to be the leader of the race… I am still getting goose bumps thinking about it.

ST: I would say in 2009 a lot of people wondered about that German guy riding hard up front in Kona, but that most likely is no longer the case.

Maik: Well, two years in a row now, I came second off the bike, after Chris Lieto--this year even closer than in 2009. I am not known as a fast runner, but I love to ride my bike and enjoy it to ride hard. Does it hurt? Yes, but to do 180 km easy in the saddle hurts as well, so I think, "Lets do it fast, make some time, and have some fun…."

ST: What do you think needs to happen in 2011 so you won't record a third 12th place finish? Not that 12th is too shabby.

Maik: I definitely need to work on my run. With a sub-3 Marathon I would be in the Top 10 for sure, a sub-2:55 would bring me to the podium area and think I am capable of running this someday. Just thinking isn’t enough: I need to show it. This summer we did a training camp in Kona and I think it helped me a lot to get used to the special conditions out there. It was a good call and I am planning to return this season for another camp.

ST: Talk about your 2010 season in general.

Maik: I had 4 big races on my schedule for 2010: Abu Dhabi, IM Lanzarote, IM Lake Placid, and IM Hawaii. In all events, I was at least once for a while (mostly on the bike and than sometimes in the beginning of the run) in the lead. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to close the deal as I wanted, but finished twice on podium and 12th at Hawaii. I can’t say that it was a bad season, but I see potential for improvement and hope to reach the next level in 2011.

ST: What do you consider the highlight?

Maik: The highlight this year was for sure the big question I popped out to Madame, the ‘do you want to’ question… Ok, let’s better say the combination between question and answer, because if she would have given me a "no" answer, this wouldn’t be standing here as my highlight of the year. But it is all good.

ST: Did you get any advice from friends about popping the question?

Maik: No, unfortunately not, as I think I did everything wrong that I could do. It is a little bit different in Germany and I had no idea, but in the end it worked out and I got it all sorted out.

ST: What do you mean by "everything wrong," and did you get any credit for having a different cultural upbringing?

Maik: I definitely got some credit, that's for sure. But I had not asked her dad yet for permission, so there was still a phone call to make. Ok, it would have been better to do it in person, but we were still in Hawaii and flew out the next day to Placid.

I also did not get down on one knee and had no ring yet, as I proposed with an empty box. But this is something I would do again, as Madame is really happy about her present and prefers to have some control over what she is getting.

ST: Let us talk about your team. Is there anyone specific on the Commerzbank team you are closer to?

Maik: I am fine with all of them and we have always fun hanging out together. They are all great guys!! I have known Jan (Raphael) for the longest time as we both used to race against each other at German Bundesliga races back in the days. He also lives in Hanover, which is pretty close to my hometown and we sometimes catch up for some training session. Also, I have spent a couple of long training camps living with Mathias (Hecht)—many months in San Diego (before Hawaii in 08) and in Noosa, Australia, his second home. This makes both of these buddies from our team little bit closer for me.

ST: How did you get connected with the team in the first place?

Maik: The Team was founded in 2007 and in the beginning it was just Normann, Markus and Jan. But I read that they were thinking to make the team little bit bigger and were searching for new young guys. In that year I won my first Ironman race in Wisconsin and asked after if I would fit in the team….

ST: You are training and racing with a powermeter, and have done so for quite some time. Is that a correct description?

Maik: Oh yes! And I do not want to miss it. We are very happy to have SRM as a team sponsor on board. It is an awesome tool, tells you straight what’s going on and brings the training, especially when you do intervals, to a new level. Back in the days I used a heart rate monitor to control the intervals; this just isn't a consistent measurement. With the SRM I can be in the zone from the first second of the interval and stay there until the last one. It is so much easier to control the session and hey, I am from Germany: we love the machines :-)

ST: Is it surprising to you that some pros in the top 20 in Kona aren't using a powermeter?

Maik: Yes and no. I like to use it and to see what I am doing. Sometimes it feels really hard in races, you check your computer and see that it isn’t as much power coming down on the pedals and you had better go little bit harder. Or in another case, it feels not so fast, you check and see that there is enough power, and reason is likely surface, wind, uphill –then you know you should not go harder… But I understand it when people don’t want to use it, especially in Hawaii. Their goal is to have a fast marathon; they trust in their running strength and want to stay in the big group on the bike regardless of what this means in terms of wattage.

ST: Hmm, regarding wanting to run a fast marathon, don’t you think people should look more on their power meter and not less?

Maik: Yes, I think so. Just I also think it is much easier to ride in the big group and when this is your race strategy you really do not need the power meter.

ST: What is going on in terms of sponsorship?

Maik: I am happy to be continuing with the Commerzbank Triathlon Team in the coming season. It is a great sponsor, a great team and we have great team partners. They do all a fantastic job for us and I am very thankful for their support.

ST: Tell us about your diet.

Maik: Looks like my diet will have to start back in Tucson, as right now Hillary’s mum is taking care of the food situation and this means really good stuff, unlimited homemade 7-layer bars . . . they are so good! Otherwise in normal life, Hillary and I try to eat as healthy as possible, like the vegan idea and run the system without meat.

ST: What music do you like?

Maik: There is no specific kind or band that I am crazy about. I do like hip hop, as I was listening to it in the past and Madame found old Snoop CDs in my apartment; he definitely rocks. Otherwise I usually like whatever is in the charts and on the radio, but nothing particular.

ST: What was the last book you read?

Maik: It was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I read the whole Millennium Trilogy and must say that I am pretty sad that there isn’t a book 4!

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Maik: I like to cook and was thinking to become a chef after school. I really love to ride my Scott bike. My nicknames are "GCM" and "Cat" but I also answer to "PetCat."

ST: Why the nickname cat?

Maik: Someone decided that I behave like one and started calling me so.

ST: On that note, thanks for the chat.