The Lederhosen Man 7 Years Later

As an age grouper Lukas Kraemer was almost invincible in long course racing and grabbed this age group title in Kona in 2014 wearing a distinctive Lederhosen outfit. He then grabbed the overall age group title in Kona in 2016 and after that he pulled a pro card. We now had a chat with him 7 years after that initial Fast Man in Lederhosen interview to see how things are now.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Lukas.

Lukas Kraemer: You are very welcome.

ST: We last spoke in December of 2014 after you won the M30-34 title in Kona that year wearing that super cool Lederhosen outfit in a time of 9:03:37. Does that seem forever ago?

Lukas: Yes indeed, I get reminded here and there about that race, and some situations from that day come up again, but mostly it really seems an eternity back.

ST: Malte Bruns captured the overall age group title in Kona in 2015 and you finished in 9:09:56 that year. Not shabby by any means but the limelight that year wasn’t on you.

Lukas: I had big plans for that year and then much went wrong. It was my first long distance race where I did not win my age group. I think I went into the race without enough respect and thus sort of got what I deserved. Looking back - it was a valuable lesson though and I thought about it much and made changes, which I think was good for my development. In all reality a 4th place in my age group in Hawaii despite working full time as a firefighter isn’t too shabby, and I should have been happy. But that also was something I had to learn.

ST: But in 2016 you won the overall age group title in Kona in a time of 8:55:24. And I believe that is your fastest time to date there.

Lukas: Correct. My 2016 race was not perfect by any means and especially during the bike segment I had some difficult moments and some mental struggles. But I would say that during that time I was physically and psychologically in the best shape to date and am thus very happy with the way the race went, and obviously the final race result. I would say that the experiences from 2015 partially helped me to get there.

ST: I know you work full time as a fire fighter in Munich, but at what point did you decide to pull a pro card and what made you go down that path?

Lukas: The decision was a process after I won the overall age group title in 2016. Initially I was just happy that I automatically re-qualified for the 2017 IRONMAN Hawaii World Championships, and really wanted to defend my title, but noticed quickly that it would be difficult in terms of motivation. I had won every single long-distance race in my age group other than Kona 2015, and often also was the top overall amateur. And winning the overall age group title in Kona in 2016 already was the biggest success an amateur triathlete could have. Thus moving forward I could either repeat that title or lose it.

Plus I always had compared my performances with those of the professional athletes, and wanted to see what that actually looked like when competing directly with the professionals. That made it clear that I no longer had the drive to compete with the amateurs and I wanted to test myself as a professional. I also changed my workload as a firefighter to 70% so I could focus more on the sport.

ST: It has often been said that being a firefighter is as close to a perfect job for someone who likes to train a decent amount. Is that a fair statement and is that true for you?

Lukas: Yes and no. On one hand there is a lot of time available because of the 24-hour shifts and that helps in a sport like triathlon, but there is also the flip side of not getting enough rest the night before, or standing for hours in bitter cold or super-hot conditions outside, and dealing with physically demanding work. That surely then impacts recovery.

ST: What has been your biggest success since?

Lukas: That might not be easy to answer. Emotionally It surely was winning my first long distance race as a professional at the 2017 Challenge Venice. A victory is always something special and is never far from your mind. Plus it was proof for me that my decision to turn professional was indeed the right one.

I should also mention my Hawaii qualification as a professional in 2019. To manage being among the top 60 in the world and making it to the World Championships surely is something special.

ST: What are some of the hardest things you had to deal with since you pulled the pro card?

Lukas: I would say it is the pressure I put on myself when I got that pro card. I had made the decision to turn professional and then hoped to really deliver. That all came to a head in Kona in 2019 when I really wasn’t able to mentally cope with that World Championship situation and lost the race in my head likely already before I started it.

ST: And then COVID19 hit, how did you handle the time with no races?

Lukas: I would say that there was very little impact on me. I was aware right away that there are much bigger problems in the world and not being able to race is not the worst. I also tried to see the positive in all of it. I thus could finally in peace and without stress deal with small injuries and work on other weaknesses. Plus I had time for other items that usually had to take a backseat.

ST: Did you try any other challenges or adventures?

Lukas: Not really. I spent some more time on my mountain bike and also attempted to grab various Strava KOM segments. Basically, I did things for which there is little time during a structured training week, but I did not do anything extraordinary.

ST: I believe you ride a Trek SpeedConcept. Which version do you have and how is it set up?

Lukas: Yes indeed, I currently ride a 2019 Trek SpeedConcept and I am still very happy with it. Plus I think that looking at the technical data it is still one of the best bikes out there.

ST: When will you get a 2022 one?

Lukas: If it were up to me, I would say right now. I have however not even seen it in person yet but everything I have heard and read about it sounds like Trek really stepped it up again.

I am currently in talks with Trek but can’t currently say more about it. But really hope that sometime I can call one of these beauties my own.

ST: How much of your training is done indoors versus outdoors?

Lukas: That varies depending on the seasons and the sport. Swimming is done about 95% indoors, while I do pretty much all running outside. The cycling really depends on the weather. If the conditions are acceptable - I much prefer to ride outside, but because I don’t like to freeze many units in Germany have to be done on the trainer.

ST: When you do ride indoors, which app do you use or are you simply riding?

Lukas: I am not using any specific apps but just ride the programs written up by my coach. I usually use that time to watch in peace some TV series, documentaries, or sport shows. That is something I often do not have time for.

ST: Can you describe how much you train during the week and how it is broken down?

Lukas: That changes depending on my shifts and is thus varies quite a bit. When I have to work a lot, I might have to give up some longer bike efforts, and then I focus on swimming, running and strength training. But when I go to a training camp, I reduce running and strength training, to avoid orthopedic strain during high volume weeks.

ST: How often and then how long do you go to a training camp?

Lukas: My goal this winter is to have two or possibly three training blocks in the South – usually Fuerteventura. I usually try to go at least 2-3 weeks each time, otherwise the packing and travel stress is not in a good proportion. I’ll also try to add a few shorter cross-country skiing camps in this region.

ST: What does your racing kit look like now?

ST: I stopped using that Lederhosen outfit in 2019 and started to race in a regular Endless Local triathlon suit. Financially and time wise it made little sense to annually create these one of the kind outfits. It is a bit sad, but I am happy and thankful about the great support from Endless Local. And who knows, maybe one day that option comes up again.

ST: Tell us about Endless Local.

Lukas: The contact to Endless Local happened somewhat accidentally but we immediately matched up nicely, and we agreed quickly. They are a regional manufacturer of sports and triathlon apparel and very focused on quality and durability. These are all important points for me too, plus I like their designs very much.

ST: Any big plans for the rest of the winter?

Lukas: Primarily I have a few more training camps with Hannes Hawaii Tours coming up. The goal is after a 3-week training break because of a COVID19 infection to get fully back in shape, allowing me to start racing in the spring in the best possible form.
ST: COVID infection? How do you think you got it and are you vaccinated? And what are the requirements along those lines at your job?

Lukas: I am quite certain I got it from my wife, and we were and are both vaccinated. The problem was that despite having symptoms, all her quick tests were negative - and we thus did not keep more distance.

The whole COVID19 situation is especially challenging at work. When you work in such a field it is quite an effort to keep everything fully desinfected and clean. Plus in our case weather we are on standby, in the vehicle or in action, it is not always easy to keep proper distances from each other. And we can’t just hang out in a home office.

Lukas Kraemer can be found on Instagram via @Lukas_Kraemer_Triathlon