The Magic of XTRI World Tour
At TRIQ we love to hear from other brands that also go where no one else has gone before. We were lucky enough to talk to Sampo Lenzi, one of the co-founders of XTRI World Tour and Swissman. Sampo was also so kind as to put us in touch with the successful XTRI athlete Flora Colledge, with whom we speak in the second half of this interview.
XTRI World Tour is a new take on triathlon, it’s tough, fun, dynamic and creates lifelong memories that are unsurpassed. The immersive nature brings new networks and friendships, cool images and exciting films – it’s a sport where fulfilment comes before rules and where environment trumps rigid distances. It’s a lifestyle as much as a sport.
Getting ready for such awesome and extreme full-distance triathlons takes thought and preparation. With TRIQ, we aim to supply people who truly want to be 100% ready to go come race day with an indispensible, time-saving tool that integrates recovery directly into their training.
Part 1 With XTRI World Tour Co-Founder Sampo Lenzi
TRIQ: What makes XTRI different from other long distance triathlon events?
XTRI: XTRI is a much more immersive, adventurous sport. While our events are based on the full distance triathlon, they are each challenging and unique in a special way and therefore often become a great journey of self-discovery and international travel. The events are set in inspiring locations that offer wonderful, cool and exciting images. They are life experiences, much more than traditional triathlon events, because they involve a crew to support each participant. XTRI memories are therefore very emotional and always shared among more than only the athlete.
TRIQ: Who takes part in XTRI events?
XTRI: It’s often long-distance triathletes who have been part of a good amount of triathlon races and then wonder: What can I do to top this? We also see multisport athletes from mountain biking, trail running and adventure racing. But we’re also happy about usually welcoming several athletes tackling their first long distance or maybe even their first triathlon.
TRIQ: How did XTRI start?
XTRI: In 2003, Norseman was founded, years later in 2012 and 2013 Celtman and SWISSMAN followed. Both with the same concept and of course the permission from the ultimate XTRI, the Norseman. The three of us worked very closely to ensure the highest level of quality. And it soon became clear to us that there was a lot more potential around the world for these kinds of events. However, it also became obvious that the very high standards we had set regarding safety, organizational detail and exclusivity weren’t a given. That’s why we created very detailed guidelines to try to protect that level of quality and together with organizers from all over the world the XTRI world tour started to grow.
TRIQ: At TRIQ we have a lot of athletes training for 70.3s or Full Distance triathlons and many of them want to either improve their time or finish in general. Can you describe the personality of those that will at some point say ”Now I am going to push myself even further for an XTRI event“? Do you think some XTRI participants really only train for the extreme courses and don’t do other triathlons?
XTRI: XTRI athletes are looking for something extra, they do not want repetitive courses or loops or out-and-backs. They want adventure and therefore we see them as being outgoing, inquisitive, and driven. This means they will take both their training and chosen races to the next level of difficulty. They are not scared of being uncomfortable. Improving your time and competing isn’t the central focus at our races. Everyone who has finished an XTRI event was part of something amazing. Of course, we know who comes in first and Norseman is still our “XTRI World Championship” that you can qualify for via other races. But other than that, each event is so unique based on so many aspects. Comparing finishing times is very low on our list of priorities.
TRIQ: Can you tell us a little bit more about how XTRI World Tour came to be, how new courses are chosen and developed, and what the key aspects are that you look at when planning a new event?
XTRI: As I mentioned before, XTRI came from the vision of Norwegian athlete who wanted the sport to return to its true origins, those of the free spirit, and his vision was born in 2003. The tour stands to maintain the quality and retain ownership for the original concept and is co-owned by the pioneers in Norway, Scotland and Switzerland. The Tour has now expanded successfully to 17 countries. New events apply to get a prospect status. Their course needs to have a unique aspect to it, and they really need to take our safety measures and other important guidelines to heart. If the organizers manage to apply the XTRI standards, their event can become a permanent stop of the XTRI World Tour.
TRIQ: You said each event needs to have unique aspects. What makes an event unique or hard in comparison to the other events? Which one is the hardest XTRI event?
XTRI: That’s getting more and more tough to say and is also a very individual affair.
All events present unique challenges in terms of altitude, temperature, humidity, wind, weather, or the structure of the turf. Each race has its unique challenges and putting a finger on which one is “the hardest” is not only kind of impossible…it also kind of doesn’t matter. Each presents an incomparable, tough and rewarding experience.
TRIQ: Why are the participant numbers limited?
XTRI: There are many reasons for this. For us, it’s all about the experience of the athletes and their team. Our events are in places that might be hard to reach. We also aim for a more delicate setting rather than a mass event. This goes as far as not having any food/beverage stops which has multiple effects we really appreciate: The racers don’t come alone. They bring supporters, friends and family to assist them on the course, follow them, meet them, motivate them and share their experience. This is a whole unique organizational aspect of our events, and also requires careful planning to make it a great experience for everyone. Additionally, not having food stops also just keeps the setting more natural, rawer, exactly the way we intend it.
TRIQ: What is the maximum number of participants for each event?
XTRI: In general, our maximum is no more than 250. But there are exceptions. Some events might be able to allow 300 because of the setting. Some events might only be able to host 100 because of infrastructure like limited available hotel and overnight staying options, for example.
TRIQ: Does the Tour have dedicated, loyal followers?
XTRI: Yes, there are a group of people who follow the races, as they want to experience them all, and many who choose to return to the same ones over and over. But more and more, we see fresh blood, and this is where we aim to be…with new athletes and loyal followers to increase the size of our “family”. There are a lot of brands that might use that term, but at XTRI events the support of your team, the other racers, the staff…the appreciation we have for experiencing something so great together really creates a very familiar atmosphere.
Part 2 With XTRI Athlete Flora Colledge (2x SWISSMAN Winner, Patagonman Winner, XTRI World Championships/Norseman 2nd Place)**
TRIQ: Injury seems to be something that ends up preventing quite a few participants from taking part in the XTRI event that they trained so hard for. Integrating recovery into the training prescription is something we value highly at TRIQ. How did you approach and monitor recovery in your preparation?
FLORA: I am good at being honest with myself about how recovered I am in terms of sleep and life stress. The key for me is never training to hit certain paces – everything is on feel. “Hard” on a day when you’re tired might not be fast, but you’ll get injured quickly if you’re always chasing paces that just might not be realistic on some days. Also, as soon as I feel a niggle that I can tell is not just normal soreness, I stop immediately. I think many people push on because they believe a truly dedicated athlete would never give in! But in the long term, I never lose more than 30 minutes of a session when I do this… the next day I’m fine, while those who push through face a six-week injury. Never be afraid to say “This feels wrong, I will wait until my body is ready.”
TRIQ: XTRI events involve dealing with many extremes, not only physically and regarding your surroundings, but also mentally. Were there any mental hurdles you had to overcome? Did you actively train yourself or get outside assistance to address them?
FLORA: Daily training is the biggest help in getting ready for these races – the days when you push on even though you’re tired, you can remember those in races and know that you have what it takes to keep going. I also got assistance from a sports psychologist to build confidence in my first year as a professional.
TRIQ: Many XTRI events involve high altitudes. If you’ve taken part in one, how did you prepare for racing in high altitudes in training?
FLORA: So far I have never taken part in a race that goes above approx. 2300 m. [7550 f.]. I did no special preparation for that – you are only at the higher points of the course for a fairly brief time, and I do not think that any acclimatization is needed. For the race in Nepal, which involves ascending to approx. 4500 m. [14,760 f.], I would consider an altitude training camp or doing certain sessions in an altitude chamber. Altitude camps bring their own challenges, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for the majority of races.
TRIQ: Water currents and cold temperatures in the sea are also present in several of the XTRI events. How did you prepare and integrate this into your training and how well did it prepare you for the actual experience on race day?
FLORA: I had tested my neoprene and wetsuit setup in cold water and knew that I felt comfortable enough. The absolute key for me is being ready to dress warmly after the swim, as that is when you will really feel the cold. So I put on plenty of warm clothing (long sleeve shirt, jacket, gloves, hat) over my wet trisuit in T1, if I know the air temps will be low. I don’t really worry about currents, they’re the same for everyone on race day, and I’m not sure I would know how to advise people to prepare for them safely.
TRIQ: Have you taken part in extremely hot XTRI events? If so, how did you prepare during training and how did it work out in the end?
FLORA: No, I prefer to avoid heat! If I did, I would probably be sure to calculate the amount of isotonic drink I was taking in carefully (also for the run, not just switching to drinking coke) and have a packet of table salt with me to take in extra easily digestible salt if needed. I would also wear as much white as possible and keep the fabric wet.
TRIQ: Food and hydration are a crucial part of Full Distance triathlons especially for extreme events. How do you approach sufficient hydration and nutrition on race day?
FLORA: You have to think in terms of hours, not kilometers – your typical IM nutrition plan will likely not be enough. Calculate 1g carbs per kilo of bodyweight per hour, and eat things you like – or you just won't eat! I eat sandwiches on the bike and have never had any problems. Also, don't stop drinking if it's cold, because you'll likely be missing crucial calories and salts – many people in Patagonia, one of the colder races, got dehydrated! Most likely, they just didn't take in their fluids due to the cold, but you have to stay on schedule – every 15 minutes, I eat or drink.
TRIQ: How did you convince friends, family and significant others to become part of your journey and support you on race day in the mountains or desert somewhere?
FLORA: You need to find people who think these races are cool and share your passion for the adventure, even if they're not athletes themselves. Also, it's much better having someone you don't know so well who really cares about the race than a family member who doesn't really want to go but feels they "have to". Find people on the XTRI community forums or through the race organizers if you don't know anyone…but showing friends and family the videos in advance is usually enough!
TRIQ: Can you take us through your preparation and selection process regarding gear and equipment you used for your XTRI event(s)? What did you get, what worked, what didn’t work and what was the most important thing you brought?
FLORA: Some XTRIs require a neoprene vest and hood, gloves and socks as well as a wetsuit for the colder swims. This is essential as the temps can get very low, and unlike at an IRONMAN they won't just cancel the swim if it gets a bit chilly. On the bike you often need lights, so find a way to mount those securely on a TT bike if you are riding one. I use a TT bike on all XTRI courses and believe it's the fastest approach. You probably also need to have your phone with you, so store that safely. For the run, all the races have different rules, but usually you need a good running backpack at some point, and specific gear in there. I don't use trail shoes, and wear the same trisuit throughout the whole race. Depending on the race, having warm extra clothes to put on for cycling descents and waterproof socks would be important; also, a warm base layer when leaving T1 if necessary. Classic "XTRI-specific" purchases include rescue blankets, waterproof jackets, headlamps, high-vis vests – and lots of food to fuel the crew in the car during the day! Don't forget to fuel the crew, or they won't make it up the mountains with you!
TRIQ: What XTRI event that you have taken part in stands out to you? Do you have a favorite memory?
FLORA: They are all extremely special in different ways, mainly because of the scenery and the great camaraderie. The run course in Patagonia will always stand out as one of the most stunning settings I’ve ever seen.
TRIQ: What is the next XTRI event you plan to attend and how is your preparation going? How many hours per week will you be training at the peak?
FLORA: Norseman 2021, followed by Black Lake, Canadaman and Patagonman. Training between 20 and 25 hours per week.
TRIQ: Thanks a lot for all these detailed insights!