German Malte Bruns is a newbie to triathlon but was the top age grouper at the 2015 GoPro Ironman World Championships, and here is your chance to meet this talented young athlete.
Malte Bruns competed in his first triathlon in 2014 and has since been also the top age grouper at the Tri122 Teguise International Triathlon, Ironman Lanzarote and Challenge Roth. In Kona Bruns swam 57:05, biked 4:46:39 and ran 3:02:21 for a total time of 8:52:30 and that meant 24th place overall. More importantly though he broke the M18-24 course record by more than two minutes.
Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Malte.
Malte Bruns: Well thanks for the opportunity to be here and do this.
ST: Has that big win in Kona already sunk in?
Malte: Yeah, at some point on my flight back home I got quite a rush of endorphins realizing what I did - not just in this race, but also during the whole year.
ST: Were you wearing your finisher’s shirt and the orange Kona wristband on that flight?
Malte: Nah. The wristband came off after the awards dinner, and the finisher's shirt was somewhere in my suitcase.
ST: How many days did you spend in Kona after the race?
Malte: Just 4 days before I had to catch my flight back home. But the semester already started on Monday after the race, so I had to get back a lot sooner than I would have liked.
ST: I guess that means you are back at the university now.
Malte: Sort of. I just started my masters degree. I'd say it's about 50/50 studying and training at the moment.
ST: Prior to Kona you were the overall age group champion in 3 other races this year, with the biggest one of those being at Challenge Roth. But you are pretty young and very new to the sport.
Malte: That's right, I just started out doing sprint distance races last year, mostly to get some triathlon experience before doing the long distance [events]. In Lanzarote I raced my first half distance in March and my first long distance in May.
ST: Why did you race in Roth when Kona was looming large in the future?
Malte: When I made plans for 2015, Kona was never really on my agenda. Roth was the race where I wanted to post a good time, so that was already paid for. Also the time in between all those races was more than sufficient for me.
ST: I believe in 2013 you had a thoracic vertebrae fracture. What had happened?
Malte: I was out skiing off-piste and wanted to get down a narrow chute. I took off my skis and started climbing down - facing forward! On the first step I slipped and fell some 15 feet, landing on my butt. Then I got the full treatment, helicopter rescue, hospital and rehab.
ST: How long did that injury take you out of commission?
Malte: About four months. I had to start with Nordic walking for quite some time before gradually being able to run again. I also had to switch to fore-/mid-foot running to reduce the stress on my back.
ST: You then jumped hard into the sport of triathlon, inspired by a race you happened to watch in 2009.
Malte: We were in a school in Barcelona, staying some miles north of town. One morning on the train commute we passed Calella. People were swimming and the first [athletes] were on the bike. In the evening we walked by the run course to our hotel and I loved the atmosphere, cheered random people running by, and was fascinated by such a crazy endurance race!
ST: What was your first race?
Malte: That was the City Triathlon in Munich in 2014 as part of a Bavarian triathlon league team.
ST: Why did it take so long from that day in Spain watching a triathlon before you finally participated yourself?
Malte: At that time I ran the 1500m on the track and 5k cross and road races. I thought [about triathlon], one of those at some point in the future plans. Also, the initial cost of getting into road biking stopped me from doing it at that point - even though I always loved cycling.
ST: You finished your bachelor engineering degree in Munich and then took a year off to train. Is that correct?
Malte: Yes. I decided that I wanted to do an Ironman once in my life, and I wanted to do it right the first time to be content with it. This seemed to be the right time, before other 'obligations' like a job or family make such a thing even harder.
ST: Well, you did an Ironman now and did it right. Does that mean you are done and can move on to something else?
Malte: That was the plan. But I had so much fun this year and great results, so I decided to give racing as a pro a try next season.
ST: I read somewhere that you swam 650k, biked 15,500k, and then ran 2,300k in that first half of 2015. Is that all you could handle?
Malte: I know, I'm kind of a lazy slacker. [laughs]
ST: 50 hours is likely more training time than most pros put in.
Malte: Yeah, most pros tell me I'm crazy when I tell them about it - which is kind of true. Then again, the intensity I train at is quite low. When I train it's always as much about having fun and enjoying being outside as anything else. I train at a steady pace and don't even do any speed work.
ST: But you currently have no coach.
Malte: My training approach is so simple that the idea never really came to my mind when I started. I just do whatever feels good and right for my body. I had no idea how well this would work out for me. But I hope to find a good coach for next year, because I know that there is so much room for improvement in my performance.
ST: What sports did you do growing up and did your parents inspire you?
Malte: My family is quite active, we spent a lot of weekends and holidays cycling and hiking. All my life the bike has been the preferred means of transportation for me. I started swimming when I was 3, but never did that really competitively. I picked up traveling by bike in 2006, when a teacher from my school offered a trip through France and Germany by bike. My dad inspired me to do such trips on my own again in 2010 and 2012, he did these himself when he was a student. During a high school exchange in Michigan in 2007 I started running when I joined the cross country team there, and haven't stopped since.
ST: You arrived in Kona very early to get ready. Was the island as you had expected?
Malte: It is a lot hillier than I expected. I don't really know where I got the idea, maybe because the course is rather flat. When I first drove south on Highway 11 I was in for a big surprise! I knew about heat and humidity, but the pure intensity of the sun blew my socks off. Otherwise, the people here are amazing, but the days are rather short. [laughs]
ST: Did you train with other folks there?
Malte: I joined the Kona Aquatics swim club and trained about four times a week with them. That gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of cool people for ocean swims, as well as Bree Wee, the local pro. I went for some rides and swims with her. One day I caught up with Joe Skipper on Queen K. We ended up doing a lot of rides and a few swims together.
ST: Had you known Joe Skipper before?
Malte: Nope. After I met him that one day, I read up on him on the internet. I was kind of scared to go out riding with him when he asked me the next day, considering what he's able to ride. But it ended up working pretty good and he did great rides.
ST: As the race day came closer, did you feel good?
Malte: I felt good about my swimming and biking but not so much about my running, as I had a lot of trouble with my Achilles tendons. I had a few weeks with barely any running, then I started aqua jogging. Over time it got better, but I felt the missing miles. About the race itself I felt amazingly good and calm. I didn't really taper, so I was psychically perfectly in balance - tapering just makes me mad.
ST: What was your expectation going in?
Malte: None. [laughs] I just hoped that my tendons would work on the run.
ST: Talk about the race.
Malte: The start was crazy, but luckily I managed to avoid the worst of the turmoil. Going up to the first turn point on Kuakini Highway I was in 12th place, way better than I ever thought! I took the lead for some time around mile 20, but got passed by some great riders. I rode alone almost all the time. Getting into T2 I felt good, and when I ran out my tendons and legs felt great. But I then struggled a lot on the first third of the marathon. I just felt horrible at first. And some point I think I had enough water back in me and ice in the back to cool me down. I managed to pull myself together, and after that the rest was a bit easier. Still incredibly hot, but the aid stations and the volunteers kept me going strong.
ST: You ran with a camelback or similar water backpack. What was in it?
Malte: I had some electrolyte tabs with caffeine in it - to stay hydrated and prevent cramping.
ST: Do you ride with a power meter?
Malte: No, but I hope to get one next year so I can make my bike training more efficient and improve my performance.
ST: Did anyone challenge you during the run?
Malte: I took the lead the first time at mile 3, but got passed by Daniel Stubleski at mile 5 and he took off. At some point out on Queen K I realized that he couldn't pull away from me, even though I walked and refueled in all the aid stations, so I decided to kick it and catch him. After I got him I managed to stay ahead for the rest of the race.
ST: What went through your mind as you ran down Ali’i on the way to the finish?
Malte: I dreamed about breaking the age group course record from 1994 before the race. I got some information about my total time on the run, but on my watch I just had my run time, so I couldn't be certain where I was standing. Also my lead going into Palani was just 40 seconds, so I did a flat out sprint on the last mile to not lose the thing on the last meters. There wasn't much room for thoughts. [laughs]
ST: How did you celebrate?
Malte: We had a great BBQ with my host family and my family in the evening and a chilled bottle of champagne.
ST: How had you connected with that host family in the first place?
Malte: A colleague of my mum's cousin did Ultraman last year and a couple of Ironman events before that. He stayed with the family and got me in contact with them after I qualified in Lanzarote. That really made this whole thing possible!
ST: That sounds like a very wonderful host family.
Malte: For sure! The dad was into triathlon as well, and the kids were swimmers. They showed me a lot of the island and we did field trips to loads of cool places.
ST: Talk about your goatee.
Malte: That was a kind of random idea. My beard grew so long that I fiddled around with it all the time. I saw a movie with a guy wearing a similar dreadlock beard. I couldn't manage to get one like that, so I settled for this. It's great - all kinds of people recognize me!
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Malte: Well, if anybody out there wants to sponsor me, train me or wants me on their team, just get in touch. [laughs]