Marko Albert is an ITU triathlete from Estonia who just recently returned from his second Olympics. He talked to Slowtwitch.com about his Olympic experience in Beijing, his training and what he is up to next.
ST: Marko, can you tell us about your Beijing Olympics experience in general and how it compared to the last Olympics in Athens?
Marko: 2004 Athens games were my first experience with Olympics and the first impression is always the one that counts the most. I was overwhelmed and proud to represent Estonia, to be the first Estonian triathlete in the Olympics. I didn’t think about the result I was just out there and fighting with everything I had on that day. This time I already knew what to expect and I didn’t even enter the Olympic Village before the race. That might have been the mistake because I was totally away from the Olympic spirit. You have to take in count that Olympic Village is a messy place and it takes away a lot of energy but it also gives you something that can not be found anywhere else….the special Olympic feeling!
And race and result, well they were more important this time…..
ST: Walk us through your race if you don’t mind.
Marko: My race started with mediocre start and first 100m. I could not swim my way out from there. I usually have the power but a small food poisoning took that away. I was in the middle of the pack most of the swim and finished somewhere close to the front. On the bike I tried to put on some pressure couple of times but it never worked. Just the time I was taking a small break in the pack two of my good friends Dirk Bockel from Luxemburg and Axel Zeebroek from Belgium took off and nobody started to chase them. On the bike I felt the heat already, I ran out of water so I cooled myself with sports drink…. Once on the run I never found my rhythm and power. It was just not there.
ST: The air conditions in Beijing were discussed quite frequently leading up to the Olympics. How was the air when your race came around?
Marko: I remember having some trouble with breathing in 2005 Beijing World Cup but not this time around. The weather was quite ok for the last days before the race and there was certainly enough air to breath during the race! I believe that the measures that Chinese took to take down the pollution made an impact.
ST: Do you feel that you are at a disadvantage as you are not having a strong team like for example the Germans, Spaniards or Canadian have?
Marko: In a way I feel there is a disadvantage but I can also see the positive side. My performance will depend only on one thing, and that’s my abilities on that certain day.
ST: What is next for you?
Marko: I will race three races for my French club Poissy and in the beginning of October I’ll pull the plug for this year. After that I’ll try to fix all my health problems to start the new season with full health!
ST: What is your athletic background and who or what inspired you to race triathlons?
Marko: I used to be a swimmer in high school and started doing triathlon after in my university freshman year. To tell you honestly I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I always swam the hard stuff like 200 butterfly or 400 medley. I actually improved my 1500 PB when I started with specific triathlon training. My last swimming coach Liina Oks was the one who told me to give triathlon a real Go. As she trusted my triathlon coach Jyri Kaen she knew that I’ll be in good hands. My biggest role model in sports has been my father. He used to do cross-county skiing. In triathlon I follow all the greats, how they train what they eat and is there something in for me as well?!
ST: Please describe a typical hard training week for us.
Marko: I’m a hard trainer (not as hard as my good friend Terenzo Bozzone) but hard enough. As a formal swimmer I don’t swim more than 30km per week, bike around 500-600km and run 100-130km plus gym and some conditioning work. That usually comes around up to 36h per week.
ST: What do you do to overcome a disappointing race?
Marko: This time around (after Beijing) it is very hard. I usually try to look for the positive things I learnt in the race. What can I do to make it better next time around? Friends and family are always important and I know they will be there for me any day.
ST: Have you thought about racing longer distance triathlons?
Marko: Yes I have. I think I’ll make my Ironman 70,3 debut next year. Ironman itself has to wait a little but I want to finish my career in Hawaii as a PRO.
ST: How are things going for you in terms of sponsorship?
Marko: All the small things together give a bigger picture. I have some personal sponsors like Estonian Defense Forces, BCS Itera (economical software), Skinfit (triathlon and free time wear from Austria), Blue Seventy, New Balance, French club Poissy (with its sponsors like MBK bikes), GNLD products. There is also the government side. As I already mentioned the Defense Forces support is very important as it gives me social security and a small salary. The Estonian Olympic Committee supports me through my federation and for the last two years I have had IOC Solidarity scholarship, which helped me a lot!
ST: How do you typically spend the off-season?
Marko: The longest I have ever taken off from training is two weeks. That happened in 2006 for my wedding and honeymoon. I will usually spent my off-season at home and do most of the things I have to do anyway. Meet my supporters, sponsors, friends and family. I will also do things like going to the movies in the middle of the day to see the movie I know that my wife doesn’t want to see. Sometimes include more cultural activities like theater, concerts etc.
ST: Can you tell us more about your family?
Marko: My father is a 15 time Estonian Champion in cross-country skiing and 4th in Soviet Union Champs one time. He never got the chance to race outside Soviet Union because he was from Estonia. So now when I have every possibility to fulfill my sport goals he supports me 100%. My mother has taken the sports side pretty easy doing some athletics and gymnastics at the time. My little sister is a swimmer. She lives in Finland trains and races there. She was pretty close getting into Beijing team which would have been fantastic! I can still kick her ass in training…….
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Marko: I love to follow sports. My flaw is that I want to do it all the time. That means hours of time in front of the computer checking out all the latest sports news. Off course I follow closer the sports that other Estonians are in: like Track and Field (we have an Olympic Champion in Discuss throw), cross-country skiing, and biathlon. Most of them are individual sports.
ST: Can you share with us some of your food likes and dislikes?
Marko: Everything boils in my engine. My favorite food is home cooked meals. I like to cook so you can find me in the kitchen pretty often. And I love sushi off course. Dislikes, at the moment I’m not going to eat in Chinese restaurant for a while!
ST: What about music? Anything you listen to more often?
Marko: I’m an old school rock lover. Just put on the R.E.M (they are in Estonia on the 11th of September), Live, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and I’m rocking along! There are a few Estonian rock bands I really like but they are unknown to the rest of the world.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Marko: I’m reading Dostoyevsky “Idiot” at the moment and I finished with Sten Nadolny’s “Discovering the slowness” just before the games. (Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit).
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Marko: At the age of 34 … well I can say that I’ll probably be connected to triathlon in some way. Will it be racing, coaching or something else I really don’t know at the moment.
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Marko: If I can I’ll eat chocolate cake for breakfast!
Marko Albert's site is marko.ee