German age grouper Lukas Krämer won the M30-34 age group at the 2014 GoPro Ironman World Championships and he surely had the coolest or maybe better said most distinctive race kit on the Big Island. He is now back to his firefighting job in Munich, Germany and we had a few words with him.
Slowtwitch: Thanks for the chat Lukas.
Lukas Krämer: You're welcome.
ST: I assume you are busy with being a firefighter as we speak.
Lukas: Yes, I work as a firefighter in Munich and I like this job very much. I have been doing this since 2011.
ST: How much time do you have to train with this job?
Lukas: As we always work in 24 hours shifts, that gives me free days in between, which I can completely use to train. That means I am very flexible and can thus easily do long rides, or several sessions in a day. I think all added up I average about 20 hours of training a week.
ST: Does your girlfriend not require any time from you?
Lukas: Yes of course. But during the week she has a regular workday and thus I am pretty much alone during the day. I thus can go work out as I need, and fortunately she is also passionately involved in sport and being fit and that means some sessions can be combined. During my intensive training phases there is however often little time for other things and that means some stuff just can’t get done.
ST: How much time did you spend in Kona?
Lukas: I arrived in Kona 10 days before the race and we left the Big Island four days after the event. But there are twelve hours time difference between Germany and Hawaii and I think it was two or three days short for a perfect preparation.
ST: Many folks have trouble to take that much time off. Was it a big circus for you to get it done?
Lukas: I had the advantage that I qualified for Kona in the previous year and could thus plan my vacation right away to fit around Hawaii. Thus it was not much of a problem.
ST: In the United States many folks only have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation for the whole year. And for them it is not only about planning ahead, but also about actually having enough days to take off.
Lukas: Ok, that is very tough and fortunately in Germany we have it better along those lines. Plus my employers were very kind to give me 2 additional days, plus my vacation requests are usually and approved unless there is a conflict. Maybe in the States folks should get more union support. Because the law required minimum 4 weeks in Germany was not simply handed to us.
ST: That is a completely different can of worms actually, but back to you. How proud were your fellow firefighters about your success in Kona?
Lukas: Most of my co-workers actually spent the night in front of the live ticker and TV to follow the Ironman race. Additionally a few friends, family members and co-workers organized a huge welcome for me at the airport in Munich. They were there with 3 fire engines, huge banners and there was even an announcement over the PA system. That kind of effort and passion was very surprising to me, and all of it was very overwhelming.
ST: What did the PA system announce?
Lukas: Unfortunately I can’t remember the exact words, as I was completely surprised and overwhelmed. But it went along the lines that the airport and the airport firefighters, plus the professional firefighters of the city of Munich congratulated me to my World Championship title and welcomed me home.
ST: Do you think other travelers were possibly concerned with all these fire engines parked at the airport?
Lukas: As they were outside the main check-in building and not on the landing strip I would think that wasn’t the case.
ST: I have to admit, in my view you had the most amazing race kit in Kona. When did you get that one and how long did it take to put it together?
Lukas: It took quite a long time. I already had the idea at the beginning of the year, but I didn't really know how I could make it happen. Through the great support from my Sponsor Forever Living, who took over the technical part, and a colleague of mine who developed the design, it became possible. But it took more time than we thought and finally I got it only two days before departure.
ST: Were you at all worried the kit might not arrive at all?
Lukas: Yes, I was concerned, and was quite relieved when I finally had the race kit in my hands, and it was just as I had wanted it to be. After all, we only had one attempt.
ST: Did other competitors make comments about it?
Lukas: Of course not during the race, but I got a lot of support from the spectators along the course and I often heard “Oh, look the Bavarian guy!”
ST: Do you wear Lederhosen more often otherwise?
Lukas: Usually only for certain events and on special occasions, and I guess I consider the Ironman in Hawaii to be one. But I do not run around in Lederhosen on a daily basis.
ST: Talk about the race itself and how it went in your view.
Lukas: Die race is not easy to describe - as both weeks and the race itself were an emotional rollercoaster for me. When I arrived on the island I first had to deal with the time change and the heat. On top of that I noted all day how completely fit male and female athletes were running full throttle up and down Ali’i Drive – making it look easy. That was psychologically tougher for me than I liked and had expected.
The swim itself was an endless fistfight. That kind of stuff is typically not so bad, but when there was no light at the end of the tunnel at the turnaround point, the fun starts to go away. The first 30km on the bike were not much better. Because of all the traffic it was almost impossible to actually ride and to settle into your own rhythm. But when strong side winds came upon us on the Queen K some of the big groups were ripped into pieces and thus everyone had to ride their own race. I felt good and was able to move up quite a few spots in the race. I also felt very good during the run and was well positioned until 25km. I then got some serious side stitches and they just did not want to stop. That was frustrating because it cost me a lot of time despite feeling in great shape and with all muscles working well. Fortunately though I think the guys behind me were not feeling much better and thus I was able to defend my lead to the finish.
ST: When did you start passing the first Pros?
Lukas: I can’t say it exactly, because I could not differentiate between the Pros and the age group athletes during the race. The first Pro whom I identified was Andreas Raelert - in the Energy Lap section.
ST: Was it surprising to you to catch Raelert and when you did, did you say anything?
Lukas: Under normal conditions and if he had not had such problems it would not have been possible for me [to catch him.] I have to be honest with myself. I was thus less surprised but felt bad for him that he could not have the race and power he wanted. I said nothing to him though. During the race I try to concentrate on my thing.
ST: Did you know how you were doing in your age group?
Lukas: Not at the beginning of the run - because early on I got different splits from the spectators. But on the way back from the Energy Lap I finally got the more reliable information and so I was pretty sure.
ST: I think you qualified in Cozumel, but that was only your second long course race.
Lukas: Yes, that is right.
ST: How did you get started in triathlon?
Lukas: When I was younger I always played hockey. But when we moved I had to give it up and started to run and ride my bike. Things then fell into place and I registered for a small triathlon in the next town, which I then happened to win. I was then approached by another race participant who suggested that I ought to race for his team, and that is how it got started.
ST: What about the jump to long course?
Lukas: It was actually clear from the beginning that longer distances suit me better than the short fast ones. Additionally the roots of triathlon are in the long course and it is just very attractive [to me].
ST: So 3 long course starts and 3 wins. That is not bad.
Lukas: Yes, it’s amazing and I can’t belief it myself.
ST: You have won both in Kona and in Roth. How do these 2 races compare in your view?
Lukas: On the whole both are really great races and in my opinion it is not possible to say which one is better. The organization and everything around the races is perfect both times. But Hawaii is just the birthplace of Triathlon. You can feel it if you are on the island and no other race can copy it, whether you call it Challenge, Ironman or something else.
ST: So what is next for you?
Lukas: I’m not sure yet. Our team moved up into the first German Triathlon league and I would start for one or two races there. But I have to improve my swimming before I can really think about it. Furthermore I would like to defend my title in Kona, of course and at the moment I have to check a few details, like financing or get vacation before I can say if it is really possible. So I will think about it for the next few weeks and talk with my coach and after it we decide what we really want to do next year.
ST: What is team you compete for and who is your coach?
Lukas: I am racing for the TriTeam Schongau, and Schongau is a small town about 90 kilometers Southwest of Munich. My coach is Wolfgang Ahrens, who also is the head of the team. He accidentally was present when I did my first triathlon and we started to talk after. He then offered to write my first triathlon specific training plans and we have been working together since.
ST: Is there anything else we should know?
Lukas: I don’t know, but at the moment nothing comes to mind.