Up Close with Luke Ehgoetz

Canadian age grouper Luke Ehgoetz has found new challenges to tackle during COVID19 and we had a chat with him about about adapting, life, family, training and more.

Slowtwitch: Thank you for your time Luke.

Luke Ehgoetz: No problem Herbert. It seems like most of us have a bit more time on our hands this summer with the lack of races going on. That doesn’t mean we still can’t get out there and have some fun with our training friends.

ST: What are you actually up to as we speak?

Luke: Since March, I’ve been working from home like a lot of other people. I work for a Canadian financial services company, and they fairly quickly figured out it was not that difficult for everyone to transition to working from home using tools like Zoom, etc. I’ve actually quite enjoyed it during the summer, as I can get my work done while sitting out on my back deck if it’s nice and sunny. Training wise, I’ve kept up a fairly consistent routine and have been able to keep some structure in my workouts as well. The lack of races this year has led to lot of flexibility to do other things like bike packing, which I’ve done a couple of times this summer.

ST: Like most good Canadians you played hockey growing up. What made that not stick?

Luke: To be honest, I just wasn’t that good. I just played for fun really until the end of high school at which point it mostly just fell off when I got focused on other things and had less time. I still play occasionally in a “beer league” in my home town in the winters.

ST: Explain the beer league thing to those unfamiliar with it.

Luke: Beer league is just term for pick-up hockey for fun. Usually no referees and quite often there is no score keeping. It usually wraps up with a drink or two in the locker room after the game.

ST: In 1997 you and your wife moved to Bermuda and during the time there you crossed paths with Tyler Butterfield and Flora Duffy. Can you take us back to that time?

Luke: This was a great opportunity for us. We were young and mostly fresh out of school and the opportunity for sunshine and tax fee US dollars was hard to pass up when I was just starting my career as a professional accountant. I did the standard 2-year work permit with a professional accounting firm in Bermuda, but like many others who go down there, two years turned into five and I spent another 3 years as the corporate office controller for Tyco International. It was in Bermuda where I first got into running for exercise and completed many different running races from 5K to the Bermuda Day half marathon as well as the International race weekend 10K and half marathon. Back then, Tyler was already a very established and fast athlete. Flora was younger (like 12-14 or so) and I think I beat her in a few running races. That obviously would not happen anymore. I recall one Bermuda Day race where Tyler did the cycling event which takes place first, cycling from one end of the island into Hamilton (the main city) and at the end of the bike race, he got on a boat and ripped across the island back to the start of the half marathon running race, which he then did and finished quite well. It was cool seeing those two grow up and become the champions they are today.

ST: Would either of them remember you today?

Luke: I would say definitely not. We really didn’t hang out much when I lived in Bermuda!

ST: In 2006 you found triathlon, or maybe better said triathlon found you. What race was that and what about it did you enjoy?

Luke: It was a local sprint triathlon at Sherkston Shores near Niagara Falls. I had zero swim background growing up, so when I first started swimming, it was a challenge. In that first race, I asked to be put in the last wave since I was terrified of having other swimmers swim over top or around me. But once out of the water and onto the bike I started having a ton of fun passing people and making up a lot of ground. I was hooked once I crossed that finish line. The next year I signed up for all the races in one of the local series and did them all and that’s what kicked off my progression in triathlon.

ST: Is that Sherkston Shores sprint triathlon still around? And when was the last time you have done a sprint?

Luke: Actually, that race was a one and done event. I’m not sure why, but it only took place in 2006. It’s too bad, because it was actually a pretty cool venue for a triathlon. The last sprint triathlon I did was in 2016 in Woodstock, Ontario. Lionel Sanders won that race oddly enough!!

ST: You qualified for Kona a few times and also for 70.3 Worlds. Of these bigger events was there one that is more meaningful to you?

Luke: Definitely the first time going to Kona in 2012. By then, I’d watched the race for many years so knew a lot about it. Arriving on the island for the first time and seeing all the familiar sites in person previously only seen on TV was really cool. For anyone that has never been, it really is as awesome as you read or see during race week and the lead up to the race.

ST: What was your favorite part?

Luke: I honestly can’t pick one favorite part. All the race week events like the underpants run, the expo, the coffee boat, the kids races and the banquets were all super fun. Visiting and touring the island with the family, both before and after the race was also very memorable. It would have been a lot easier to answer what my least favorite part was, and it would have been the last 15K of the run. That was very hard but making my way down the finisher chute and crossing the line made it all worthwhile! Such an amazing finish line!

ST: In 2018 you earned a Kona slot but turned it down. Why is that and now with COVID19 throwing everything in disarray, do you regret that decision now?

Luke: Honestly, when I qualified in Maryland in 2018, I didn’t know what I was going to do if I did get a slot. Going into the race, I really just wanted to put together the best race I could and whatever happens, happens. I did pretty well finishing 12th overall and 2nd in my AG, but after the race, I pretty much knew right away I wasn’t going to take my slot. I also did Kona in 2014 and with the kids more grown up and one in high school, it wasn’t going to be as easy for all of us to go again, so that was my main reason. As you likely know, it’s also pretty expensive for the whole family to fly and stay in Hawaii for a week or two and having been to Kona twice and Maui once with the family, it was a pretty easy decision.

ST: Does that mean you are done with Kona for good?

Luke: Never say never as they say. If I had a good reason to train for and try to qualify again, I’d definitely consider it. Right now though, I think there are enough events that I’d rather focus on. In the immediate term would be qualify for the 70.3 Worlds in St. George. Hopefully Muskoka will be a go next summer, and that is where I’d look to qualify.

ST: Along those lines, without Muskoka this year what will you do?

Luke: Well, not much really. Along with everyone else, this seems to be the year of taking on new adventures or doing virtual or socially distant challenges. Back in June, my running club, Health and Performance put on Solo Virtual Endurance Challenge (SVEC). It was a couple of running events and a bike TT. You had 48 hours to do all of them, but of course I did the 5 km run, 39 km bike and 21.1 km run all back to back, much like a real race. In addition, another friend of mine created something called the 50in24 challenge. It was basically 50K of running broken down into 6 runs of 8.33 km every 4 hours starting at 7pm on a Friday night. I think you did something similar recently Herbert. Finally, at the end of this month, another friend of mine is putting on a 70.3 type of event where about 10-15 of us will do the distance of a Half Ironman and then enjoy some socially distant drinks and food. I’ll treat it like a real race and try to give it my best effort with whatever fitness I have at this point.

ST: Recently finished the Grand Nith Ramble, an event most of our readers here are likely unfamiliar with. Can you explain what it is and what made you decide to do it?

Luke: For sure. This summer seems to be the year a lot of people, myself included, have taken on some unique challenges and events. Whether it be Everesting or some crazy bike packing route, this is the summer to make it happen. I actually did my first bike packing route called the Cannonball back on Canada Day, July 1st (aka the Canada Day Cannonball). It was a 310 km route along a lot of rail trail and quiet roads and bike paths in Southwestern Ontario. There were 6 of us who did that in about 11 and half hours. The Grand Nith Ramble (aka GNR) was a longer route of about 360 km that meandered along a couple major rivers in the area, the Nith and the Grand. Unlike the Cannonball, where many will actually do it in one day, most people break the GNR route down into a couple of days, and that is what myself and the two other people did. The route is almost entirely gravel roads, single track and double track trails, as well as some rail trail and the pace is significantly slower than typical road riding due to the terrain. There were also a few hills that had us off our bike and pushing and in some instances carrying them. Day 1 was 162 km that took 7 hours and 42 minutes and day 2 was 201 km that took 9 hours and 21 minutes. It was a heck of an adventure, but totally fun!!

The website can be seen here: http://www.bt700.ca/gnr-bikepacking-route.html

ST: I have seen you plenty times on Zwift, and maybe you can explain how much time you spend on that platform versus training outside?

Luke: Well, with it being summer in Southern Ontario, I don’t spend much time at all on it anymore. Even the basement is so much warmer and humid compared to the winter, so it’s a huge sweaty mess, even with several fans going. When the days get shorter and the weather less pleasant in the fall, I will start riding and running on Zwift a whole lot more. It’s a great platform and I can’t wait to try out the new Paris and France routes soon. I also hope to connect with yourself again for another fast 5K on Zwift!

ST: Talk about your training setup at home.

Luke: I have everything I need to work out indoors when I need to. I got a NordicTrack C1750 treadmill a little over a year ago. As well, I have an older version Wahoo Kickr on a DIY rocker plate that I made. I run Zwift on an MSI gaming laptop that I connect to either a 40” tilted TV in front of my bike or a 28” monitor in front of the treadmill. I have a handful of badges still to get on Zwift which I plan on finishing this winter. I’ve also connected with a good group of guys for regular Zwift meetups, and they often turn into some pretty intense rides!

ST: What about bikes? How many do you have and are you much of a bike geek?

Luke: I have a decent collection! My triathlon bike is an older Argon18 E118 with original Di2 from 2012. Many have asked why I haven’t upgraded, but I really do like that bike. It’s pretty fast and has served me well over time. I also have two road bikes, two cross bikes and two mountain bikes. You know, N+1 right? I have a Garneau Gennix A1 road bike and a BMC Pro Road Machine that spends a lot of time on the trainer in the winter. For cross, I have a Scott Addict with Dura Ace di2 that I bought second hand off of pro Geoff Kabush that I totally love and a backup Giant TCX SLR. I also have a Scott Scale 29r mountain bike that I bought from Karsten Madsen who I think actually got from Geoff Kabush also. My backup mountain bike is a Rocky Mountain. Both Scotts have Geoff’s name it! I’m by no means a bike geek, but can certainly handle basic repairs, etc. myself. When I need something more complex done, I’ll take it my local bike shop.

ST: You are a very strong runner, but what do you consider to be your biggest prowess in triathlon?

Luke: When it comes to triathlon, I think my strength is my bike. In recent years, I usually come off the bike in first place in my AG or at least close to the front. My running is solid and consistent, but nothing outstanding. I’ve done a few sub 40 Olympic runs and a few sub 1:30 half ironman runs. I like to think of myself as a jack of all trades when it comes to triathlon. I’m not great in any one discipline, but when you put all three together, I do pretty well.

ST: What have you done to improve your swimming?

Luke: I’d say the number one thing is simply consistent training. Since I started in triathlon, I’ve never really taken any significant breaks from swimming. Maybe for a few weeks at the end of the season in the fall, but other than that, I have just been able to stick with it. Around 8 years ago a small group of us who used to swim together got together and hired a swim coach who provided us with workouts and the occasional in-person feedback sessions. That helped a lot and I still continue to do many of the workouts he prescribed, although he no longer coaches us.

ST: What about swimming right now?

Luke: I’m pretty lucky in that I have a SwimSpa at home. I’ve had it for about 8 years, but never used it much as a serious training tool, because well, its super boring and less effective I find. If anyone thinks treadmill running is boring, SwimSpa or endless pool swimming is much worse. You really don’t know how far or fast you’re swimming. Back in March when all the pools around here closed, I opened up our SwimSpa earlier than normal. There were even a few sessions where I had to clean the snow off the cover first. Since March, I’ve been swimming in it about 3x per week, 20 minutes at a time. I break it down into 4 different sets of 5 minutes and perform different strokes and use different pool toys like a pull buoy or paddles. As well, I always swim with a snorkel because the rushing water coming at your makes it much harder to breath than normal swimming. I know I’m not really gaining much swim fitness, but rather, just trying to keep a feel for the water and the losses to a minimum.

ST: What else is on your bucket list in terms of challenges or events?

Luke: There is one more unique bike ride I want to do. It’s called the G2G Rail Trail Experience. It’s a scenic, 127 km rail trail route from Guelph to Goderich. There are a few of us that are likely to tackle the route in August going both ways for about a 240 km round trip. It won’t be nearly as epic as the GNR, but should still be pretty fun. There are some other great bike packing routes in the area, but some would require more overnight gear to really make it work. I haven’t yet taken that next step. I’m also contemplating an Everest attempt with some other people, but nothing has been planned yet.

ST: With no triathlon on that bucket list, do you think that you will even return to triathlon?

Luke: Absolutely! I love racing triathlons. It’s so much fun, but I see no harm in using this season as a time to do different things. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still been riding my TT bike and doing some brick runs but being able to focus on some of these other adventures has actually been quite refreshing. Whether or not I do an Ironman again is a better question though. I certainly enjoy the 70.3 distance much more. It’s long enough, but doesn’t require massive long training sessions that leave you exhausted for the rest of the day.

I really enjoy doing other things after the triathlon season is over. I usually do a couple of cross races each fall and will also try to get out on my mountain bike a bit more. It’s too bad there aren’t any XTERRA races close to where I live, as those are really fun to do also. I would actually like to try and get back to Maui for the world championship again, because the year I did it, it was such a mess with all of the mud.

ST: Well, will you do another Ironman?

Luke: Like I said, never say never. I’d like to think I still have a long career in triathlon ahead of me, but I don’t have any immediate urge to do a full Ironman in the near future. If I had a training buddy locally that I could train with, I’d consider it for sure. The 5-6 hour solo training rides and long runs don’t have the appeal like they used to.

ST: How do you like to spend those 5-6 hours these days?

Luke: Well, I like to spend about half of those hours still training or doing some other fun events. With Covid-19 this spring/summer, I was able to catch up on a lot of projects around the house that we have been planning on getting to but had put off because of a general lack of time.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Luke: I may be a triathlete, but I certainly don't think we need to restrict ourselves to simply swimming, riding our triathlon bikes, and running. I really enjoy getting out and doing different things. XTERRA was a fantastic focus for a couple of seasons, and I really enjoy getting out and doing some group cycle road rides, cyclocross racing, mountain bike riding, and some pure road running. All of these individual sports pay big dividends when it comes to triathlon, so don't be afraid to try different things. It also helps keep things fresh and interesting year after year.