In 2018, Ironman racing will celebrate its 40th birthday: the first ever race took place on 18 February 1978.
In Darmstadt, Germany, two six-year-old children called Lothar and Nicole were just learning to swim and ride their bikes in 1978. Years later, they would marry, have a daughter, and both become multiple Ironman winners in races across three continents. Both have been German national triathlon champions.
For students of Ironman history, Lothar holds a special place in the sport’s folklore: he was the first athlete to break the eight-hour mark, at Roth in 1996. ‘It was the race of my lifetime,’ he says. ‘You just have one day like this in your career.’
This April the BEST Centre in Mallorca welcomed Lothar and Nicole once again as they trained a new generation of triathletes. They kindly made time to speak poolside.
“We’ve been coming to Mallorca for 30 years, but in those days there were virtually no pools,” says Lothar. Now they come to the BEST Centre four or five times a year, bringing mixed age and ability groups and loving the atmosphere of the place, with its quiet, traffic-free roads ideal for cycling.
“The spirit here is great, it’s really good for training young kids, age group people, families: there’s a motivating spirit here, it’s really special,” says Nicole. “You just want to jump in the water!” After winning 11 long distance races between them, including several Roth events, Ironman Brazil, Malaysia and Korea, both Lothar and Nicole have retired from racing and now coach together.
From absolute beginners learning to swim breaststroke for the first time, to talented athletes competing at Challenge Roth, they remain enthused and energised by the sport.
For most people who take up triathlon, swimming is the hardest element to grasp. “It’s difficult to learn technique when you start at an older age,” says Lothar. He advises such age groupers to use pull buoys, paddles and fins to improve their technique and build strength. “Paddles and pull buoys for 70 per cent of your swim training,” he recommends. “It’s power that you need. Start with small paddles and just do short reps.”
Nicole particularly enjoys nurturing young people into triathlon: “We have been training a 20-year-old blind woman who can recognise the end of the pool by the sound of underwater echoes,” says Nicole. “Then she rides tandem and runs with her mother. It gives you a whole new perspective on sport.”
Thanks for choosing the BEST Centre for your camps, Lothar and Nicole. It’s great to have you here.