XTERRA maven Conrad Stoltz

After some bad luck in 2005 and 2006, Conrad Stoltz came back with a vengeance in 2007 and won the XTERRA World Championships and a few other XTERRA events. He talked to Slowtwitch about racing, training and his simple life in South Africa.

ST: Conrad, congrats on your 2007 XTERRA World Champion title. Can you tell us about your 2007 season?

Conrad: It went better than I could imagine in my wildest dreams. Apart from 1 flat tire, I won all the XTERRA races I did. After 2005's long list of random freak accidents, it was a nice change. Everything flowed so effortlessly, the training, the racing, it was almost as if I didn’t even have to try. Maybe that’s the key!

Also I was really determined to prove to my self and everyone who wrote me off, that I didn’t "go" anywhere, I just had bad things happen at the wrong times.

I rested longer through the off-season (was in a back brace) and trained easier, but my Coach Libby Burrell did the periodization perfectly and I arrived at the end of the season with a lot of motivation and energy.

What was also great was seeing how many people were honestly glad for me to "be back".

ST: What is on schedule for you for 2008?

Conrad: My goal for 2008 is to win the XTERRA USA and XTERRA European Series. That is 4 and 5 races for points respectively. I can’t afford a single bad race or mechanical. Of course I would like to Worlds again.

ST: Will we see you do any road triathlons this year?

Conrad: I don’t think so. During June/July I will do 5 XTERRA races in 5 weeks in 4 different countries on 2 continents, so there won't be any energy left over for my usual fun road tris like Chicago.

ST: Can you describe a typical mid season training week for you?

Conrad: 28 hours, 16 sessions, 6 days on and 1day off.

About 13 hrs of biking of which about 1/3rd is MTB, the rest road. I ride the Power Cranks about 2x a week. Long road ride of 4 hrs, long MTB ride of about 3h30, and the rest is all hills.

Run about 5 -6 hours. Hill repeats (1h20 session) and long run (1h30) are the key sessions.

Swim: After 20 years of trying everything I have found that less is more. YAY! I don’t even count my yardage anymore. I swim 4 times a week for 45 minutes to a little over an hour. Most of it is easy swimming, but I spend a lot of time and energy working on a good stroke. (Which gets under water videotaped every now and then.)

I also do Pilates and Movement Prep before most training sessions.

ST: Do you have an off-season at all, and if so, what do you do during that time?

Conrad: I’m currently building a one lane 25m swimming pool on my parent’s farm with sand bags, which I’ll line with a big vinyl sheet. We don’t have electricity, so the pool won’t have the normal filter and chlorine. A nearby stream will run through the pool to keep it clean.

I’m a big believer in a good off-season. Last year when I broke my wrist and back I did nothing for 10 weeks, and I had my best year thereafter. It is late January and I have been doing very little formal training since Worlds, Oct 28. I swam once, ran about 7 times and rode the MTB with my dad a bit. Otherwise I do a lot of manual labor like plowing fields, herding cattle and helping my mom with our renovation/construction business.

I also bought a dirt bike. I promised myself one for my retirement, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I grew up on dirt bikes and rode on the farm from 8 to 16 years old, and then sold my bike to buy a serious road bicycle, and since then haven’t twisted a throttle. Till this year! It’s a Honda 450 CRF with 38 Kilowatts and yes, I already had my 1st crash. I tried to do a slight wheelie through thick mud at slow speed and of course took a dive in the mud. I don’t think I take big risks, and I have a lot of respect for the bike. And off course a bag full of skills from mountain biking.

ST: How many bikes do you have in you garage with engines and of course without? Plus would you mind listing what they are?

In Reno: (soon to be Bend, OR again)
- Specialized Carbon Epic 2009 prototype, which I won Worlds on.
- Back up frame same as above.
-Specialized Stumpjumper 29er prototype. (Love this bike! Would love to race the big wheels sometime soon)
- Specialized Carbon Epic 2006 for training.
-Specialized Carbon Transition TT bike. Yes, the slick one!
- Specialized E5 (aluminum) from about 2002 I use for training. It had the heaviest wheels I could find, heavy, 28mm wide tires I ride at about 60psi (feels really slow) and it has 2 rolls of handlebar tape (for comfort) and a set of Power Cranks that pushes the weight up to about 30lbs! (It feels like anyway)
1x two door 1987 Nissan Sentra I bought for $700 in 2001. No radio, no AC, no gas gauge, often flat battery (push start) and front fender is kept up with bungee cord. Also has a hula doll on the dash and MTB tire tracks over hood and roof.

In Stellenbosch:
Specialized Carbon Epic
Specialized Tarmac with Power Cranks
1x Toyota Cressida sedan (brown) my dad bought new in 1988 (when I did my 1st triathlon, so it has lots of sentimental value) Let's just say (as with the Nissan in USA): "It does NOT pull the chicks!"

On the Farm near Lydenburg:
Specialized Carbon Epic
Honda 450 CRF
Nissan Hard Body 4x4 Pick-up my mom uses when I'm not here. Yes, it is a model from this century!

ST: What sports did you take part when you grew up?

Conrad: Everything! I played 1st team rugby and cricket. Raced BMX, ran XC and track, played tennis (hated it- no sense of adventure) and Judo and rode dirt bikes on the farm.

ST: What or who inspired you to race triathlons?

Conrad: Saw a picture in the newspaper when I was 14. For my birthday my mom signed me in for a year's worth of Triathlete Mag (not available in SA) and I studied it letter for letter. As me anything about Mark Allen, the 3 Scotts and Kenny Souza. ☺

ST: What is your favorite race and why?

Conrad: Umm. Sydney Olympics was pretty amazing. Transition was on the steps of the Opera House, the course was amazing and looped through that park downtown with views of Harbour Bridge etc, of course the 350 000 spectators were amazing, as Aussies are very knowledgeable about triathlon. Waiting for the start I lay on my back next to my bike and counted 8 TV choppers hovering in the air. Of course my race was fun and a mind-blowing experience. (Broke away on the bike with Marceau and led for a long time)

I think XTERRA Richmond is my favorite XTERRA. Its very technical, fun, fast, in down town Richmond, its green and lush, it was my 1st ever XTERRA and of course its not a hilly suffer fest like Maui!

ST: What is going on for you in terms of sponsorships?

Conrad: It's going really well actually. The big hitters are back with a vengeance:
- Balega socks of course. Amazing company and people. Kudos to Balega for taking that risk and bailing me out after my big crash end of 2005.
- Specialized. The bikes are simply the best out there.

New is Suunto, which I'm very excited about. The company really has get go and is eager to work with the athlete to build a brand.

I have to say though; every year there is that company that grabs the arm when offered the hand. I do my own management, and sometimes make a gentlemen's agreements by offering pro bono logos for future salary. And of course they take the free year and when it comes to putting some money down they pull out. Guess its part of the game. South Africans are generally very trusting people, so its probably my own fault.

ST: Do you follow any other sports?

Conrad: We don’t have TV (or electricity) on the farm, so following other sports isn’t easy. I like Paris to Dakar Rally but this year a few Taliban in Mauritania caused the race to be cancelled. I'll follow friends through the Internet. Christoph Sauser on the MTB side, Dan Hugo from Stellenbosch doing multi sport, but that's about it.

It is nice to get away from it all and live a simple life on the farm. It makes you appreciate the good things. We sit and talk, tell stories or read. I grind good Hawaiian coffee beans in an old maize grinding stone we found in the field. We braai (BBQ) outside and do traditional Sunday lunch. I am learning to play the guitar. I go to bed at 9 or 8!

TV, Internet and those things eats time and complicates life.

ST: What is your favorite and least favorite food?

Conrad: My mom roasts a great smoked pork neck with glazed sweet potato.
I also like good strong coffee.
Least fave: Umm lets just say I don’t do Twinkies, Ho Hos or Ding Dongs.

ST: Do you have a favorite band or artist?

Conrad: I really like Afrikaans alternative / rock at the moment. Brixton Moord and Roof is a great band, and they sing about things I really can relate to. There are some samples on my .mac blog.

ST: Where do you think you'll be in 5 years?

Conrad: Here on the farm. But I will spend part of the summers in the US, riding fun trails, hopefully putting something back into triathlon (maybe designing killer XTERRA courses). I also like to go to Mozambique (spear fish and dive lobster and camp on beach)
I bought cheap property here in South Africa when the economy was really bad. The Rand/Dollar was 1$=R12. Now it is $1=R6.50 and everyone is on the property band wagon, so it’s a lot more expensive now, which means my rentals are doing well.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Conrad: I'm late for our trip to Kruger Park!

Conrad working hard on his very unique pool

Giving a helping hand to a local man

What a background in Kruger National Park

Race pics courtesy: richcruse.com