Friday, February 19, 2010

Tobias Frenz: Triathlon’s Teutonic Triple Threat (Part 2)

I will preface the second part of Tobias’s interview with Harn Wei’s essay about that stratosphere of über-athletes who yearn and live for that title of ‘ultra’. - Enrico
The Ultra-Sports Fraternity
By Dr Kua Harn Wei
All too often, especially within the sports media fraternity, we place too much attention on the 'absolute' at the expense of the significance of the 'relative'. Oftentimes, appreciating the 'relative' teaches us much more about the true meaning of sport than the 'absolute'.

Think about it, how many times have we read news articles idolizing the absolutely fastest, furthest or highest achieved mostly by professional athletes? And how many times have we read the same about elite age-groupers who may even be better than the professionals 'pound-for-pound' (as in, if these age-groupers were to have as much time to train as the professionals)? Elite age-groupers, like Tobias Frenz, face the daily challenge to juggle work with training; yet some of them can achieve results as good as some professionals. On relative terms, in my view, they achieve more and can teach us much more about the perseverance needed to excel in a tough sport such as ironman and ultra triathlons. It is a pity that no one seems to be very interested in these potentially-rich storylines, which once again reminds us of how we prefer to idolize the fastest and carelessly neglect the potentially richer life lessons elite age-groupers can teach us.

Tobias achieved many things that not many people - sadly speaking, including those in our fraternity - can really appreciate. Besides acing the Ironman distance and qualifying for the Hawaii World Championship many times, he went on to record phenomenal back-to-back wins in the triple Ironman in UAE. That is, he won the Ironman distance race on the first day (in an amazing 9:20 plus!), followed by the double Ironman the next day in another impressive time of 21:50 plus hours! These wins, alongside his pleasant personality, tremendous talent and dedication to the sport, opened the eyes of the international ultra triathlon community to a strong contender and rising star in ultra distance racing.

In fact, around the same time, the ultra triathlon community began to see a few other 'ironman crossovers' taking the double and triple ironman races by storm. To our delight, we interpreted this as the specialized sport coming to age. However, sadly, not many of them chose to stay on. This is understandable. In ultra triathlon, age-groupers compete with the professionals, even though professional ultra triathletes are far and in between. Even these professionals don't typically enjoy the relatively more lucrative rewards opened to professional ironman athletes. Given that not many people can appreciate the true beauty of ultra triathlon and the achievements of elite age-groupers, it is no surprise that not many great athletes stay on to compete after a few seasons. Perhaps the real reason is not that they have grown tired of competing over long and arduous distances; to a degree, it has to do with how we choose to write a piece of sporting story, guided by a sense of taste and conditioned by social norms that do not encourage deeper appreciation for life's meaning beyond the obvious. - DKHW


UltraTri said...

Hello, great post from Harn. He's a great friend! As an ultra-triathlete from the U.S. I look forward to the opportunity to meet you a a future race on the IUTA circuit

Wayne Kurtz

Enrico Varella said...

Thank you for writing, Wayne. You are a grand addition to this blog.

Harn Wei describes Wayne as: 'He is also a fellow ultra triathlete, a CFO in his company based in Philly and also completed his first Deca-Ironman last year on fifth position. Solid! He will be doing the conventional deca this year. Nice guy, hands down!'

All the best in your Deca, Wayne! Feel free to participate in our Triathlon Tribe!