Peter Kronberger – Challenges

750m swimming – hm – that should be doable. Although, that are 15 lanes in a 50m pool and even 30 lanes in a 25m pool. That can’t be that difficult and I still have 4 months. That was more or less what I was thinking mid April 2014 at 2am before I signed up for my first sprint triathlon. How did that happen?

Well. I was in the middle of my studies and wanted to explore something new. Change. To get the body in form, the mind should be already fit from studying. 

It was during the easter holidays where I was studying for an exam and in the middle of the night I remembered about a triathlon in the city I grew up. Coincidentally, I sometimes saw that event as a kid, but never really gave that more interest. I was just impressed with the speed some athletes rushed through the transition. Back then I had no clue that this was a sprint triathlon and that there are other distances. However, all that changed in the night in April 2014, where I learned all the basics. 

5km running – doable. 20km cycling – should not be a problem. 750m swimming – I could not remember when I was the last time in a pool actively swimming – maybe back in school? I simply don’t know anymore. Nevertheless, as mentioned I signed up for the race, and that is how it all began. 

The next day I went straight to the indoor pool – I could not swim freestyle at all, but that can’t be that hard, right? Tried it right away and after 10m, I was choking on the side of the pool and got pretty nervous. I had great doubts about the decision from the night before. However, 4 months were left in order to learn freestyle swimming with a ton of Youtube clips. I did not want to go to a swimming coach – simply because I felt too ashamed and insecure. I can’t do 10m freestyle and want to do triathlon in 4 months, they will just laugh at me – more or less these were my thoughts back then. Therefore, I spent more or less each and every evening in the indoor pool to learn freestyle swimming, beside that some running and cycling. 

On the 17th of August 2014 I finally stood – or floated – nervous and full of anticipation at the swim start. Starting shot – and the field went off! This event was for me the beginning of my triathlon journey. I was happy with my performance. It was great fun and position wise I was somewhere in the middle of all finishers. After the event I just trained further on. It was a relief from studying as well as great fun for me. Swimming, cycing and running – each individual discipline had its own unique fascination for me – and in combination even more. 

The next year I raced Ironman 70.3 St.Pölten, also with that I was fairly happy, except the swim. I felt like I got a bit of panic in the water from the whole washing machine I was caught into. It was my first swim that year in swimsuit as the temperature was not really pool like 😀 However, the whole experience as such was amazing. The differences between – let’s say a “village” triathlon – and an Ironman event was for me a super exciting experience I realized the first time.

After that I was further racing in some smaller (smaller means for me sprint triathlons) triathlons, before a friend of mine and me signed up in February 2016 for a relay for the Race Around Austria (RAA) Challenge. The RAA Challenge is more or less the small sibling of the Race Around Austria – a 2200km non-stop ultracycling event following the borders of Austria. The RAA Challenge consists of 560km and around 6500m elevation – quite something, however, in a team it should be doable. Therefore, my project for 2016, and that was really a project with all the organization around. As for such a race a pace car, with a driver, somebody for navigation and so on, is required. 

Race day came closer and closer and my training kilometers got more and more, when suddenly two weeks before the race my friend called me that he was just hit by a car – luckily nothing really serious happened to him – but he was not able anymore to take part in the race. However, it was not that easy to find a replacement for him, so we decided that I will try it solo. In short: after 300km the race was done for me and I needed to call it a day. My right knee hurt extremely and simply said I was just not prepared enough for such a solo ride. Anyway, it felt like I got defeated, and I still could not accept and leave it after months, as it felt like an open chapter that needed to be closed. Therefore, I signed up as a solo rider the year after. Back then I lived in The Hague, which makes training for the 6500m elevation a bit tricky. The biggest hill around was a 10m high dam. However, during that preparation I started the first time to learn and tried to understand the basics of structured training and tried as good as I could (and understood) to execute it. In August 2017 finally the time was come, and I was able to finish the RAA Challenge in 22hrs and 43mins. I tell you; I was happy.

The months after that I did not do any bigger events – just some smaller local running races and cycling events. Until I realized, I am just not getting better with how I train. Still, I had a lot of fun, but I makes even more fun getting faster and seeing progress. Therefore, I decided to give it a try to work with a coach – now, I can say that was a great decision, why?

I dare to say that as an ambitious athlete one tends to possibly train too much or too hard sometimes, and I definitely did that. Or one has a lot of questions about why certain training sessions are helpful or not and what they are good for. For all of those things support is key!

I know for me I like to compete. I really like the feeling standing on a starting line, seconds before the gun goes off, be it a local half marathon, triathlon or cycling race. The mix between excitement, being nervous and anticipation. However, what I learned for me, what I like even more than competitions, is the training itself. I usually don’t have issues motivating myself, if there isn’t a goal defined yet. Of course, there are days being more tired or stressed than others, but I like it to have day in and day out smaller (with Flo sometimes a bit bigger 😀 ) challenges.

A Stronger Tomorrow

The sun is shining, it’s 77 degrees Fahrenheit outside, I have the whole day off and my bike is ready. Here we go! Or maybe not. My hip is sore and I have an appointment with the doctor. He examines me thoroughly, does his movement tests and immediately sends me to the MRI. The same afternoon he calls me and announces that my sacral joint (my ass) is suffering from a stress fracture AGAIN. As if that wasn’t enough, he expresses concerns that something more than just overloading could be the cause. I am sent to take a blood sample and get an appointment with the rheumatologist …

As the German saying goes: The hardest agony is showing you what you can’t have. In a way, this blog is a second part of the “The Struggle in Me” post. I want to show you why I look positively into the future and how I came to this point of view.

We all go through ups and downs. You only really become aware of this when you see that the whole world is going through a low or a hard time, like this year. Whether you get destroyed through such a time or come out stronger is up to you. I’ve always been fascinated by how hard fates make certain people stronger. But that doesn’t happen automatically. It is easy to say “hey, you will come back stronger!” But how is that supposed to work? And what does that “stronger” mean, anyway?

How we react to bad news is very individual and depends on many factors. Regardless of the starting position you are in (optimist, pessimist etc.) you can work on your point of view. My home was shaped by both perspectives. Often a lot of things were just shit and there was a lot of talk about tomorrow will be better. But none of that prepared me for life. We learn most when we experience things ourselves. Now I could leave it that way and say, “go out there, make mistakes and get better”. But we often experience things that don’t have a positive ending. How am I supposed to get better from this?

Feel the difference – negativity won’t get you anywhere!

I had my hip pain for the first time when I was 18. Nobody knew what I had and everyone just sent me on. “It’ll be fine, here are some painkillers.” But it didn’t get better. Training was canceled and I let my head down. I fell into a negative spiral and started using various coping mechanisms to distract myself. Did that move me forward in that moment? No, but it distracted me and I was able to suppress things. The basic tenor was still negative.

A few years later I was back in training and pain free. I had read some books by now and heard more stories from other people. The pain started again. The first thought went to the coping mechanisms. The first steps into the negative spiral have been taken. This time, however, I remembered the words of my ma: “Kick until it becomes butter”. That means it’s tough, but if we don’t give up it gets better. Okay pain I’ll look you in the eye! Unimpressed, he continued to make my life a living hell. So I went to the doctor and got a couple of injections. It got better and I could breathe a sigh of relief for a couple of years and move on to qualify for Kona. The difference? I had learned that self-pity and negativity would do NOTHING for me. On the contrary, it only make things worse. That flipped the switch for me and changed everything.

I’ve started to question my views and my approach to life. That sounds more complex than it is. But I think the following question is fundamental to dealing with bad events, negativity, and failures. How do i want to live my life? Do I want to be trapped or do I want to live independently? Surrendering to negativity and coping mechanisms is like relinquishing control of your life. All hopes, dreams and wishes are put on hold. Who would want that? I’m not saying we should all be pink unicorns who dance all day. But I know with a positive attitude we create new worlds and move forward. And that’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing at the end of the day! We have to keep moving because that’s the only way we can overcome things. Stopping on a mountain or rolling down again. That doesn’t help us. We never get over the top and into the next village like that.

With this attitude I managed to get rid of my recurring pain and problems quite successfully. Well sometimes successful, sometimes less successful. As described in the last blog, I haven’t been spared from bouts of depression, but I’m still positive about the future. Everyone has a bad day, month, year or a life event that throws you off track. It is crucial that we understand that it depends on how we react and what power that has over the future.

I’ve been injured so often in the past 3 years that I can hardly count it anymore. Piriformis left, piriformis right, 2x sacral joints broken. Absolutely strange to see that I am going into my 4th year as a professional and have only finished 4 races. At least these were podium finishes, but none of this is fun. Am I Too Prone To Injury To Be Pro? What’s happening? I train less than before I got pro and still it hits again and again. The latest stress fracture occurred in the pre phase with relatively low training volume. Something is not right. My doctor sent me to see a rheumatologist for a reason. The suspicion is based on some autoimmune disease affecting my hipbone. We’ll see if that’s true. I could sit in the corner crying and say crap. 6 weeks break and possibly an awful illness. But no, I’m sitting here full of hope. I’ll finally find out what’s going on and why I’ve been dealing with it again and again for the last 12 years. I look forward to it all and have several plans in my pocket, if I have to change the course.

That doesn’t mean that I never have negative thoughts, but I realize that the less time I waste on negative stuff, the more quality of life I have. So the attitude towards problems is what makes the difference. Think more positively and your life will become more positive. I could now hang out drunk in the bar in Frankfurt / Oder, but no, I live in America, have a great wife, my own successful coaching business and we move to Hawaii. I am happy and love my life. Life is what you make of it. Think positively and learn from difficult situations. I hope that we can all apply this to this time and come out more positively together. You have it in your hands!

Flo

Offseason

2020 sucks a lot of energy! Some have had a few races or have a few more races and some have preferred not to start. What we all have in common is struggling with this year’s uncertainty. Usually Kona is seen as the end of the LD triathlon season, and around this time many people take their season break and switch off. At least those who have already made the mistake of shooting through and not taking a break.

What does offseason mean?

Ignore all training plans, social media posts from other athletes or training tips for at least 2-3 weeks and take some distance from sport. Especially this year is mentally very stressful and it doesn’t matter whether you pulled it off really hard or took everything a little easier. The offseason serves as a reset button for your athletic existence. Don’t force yourself to sit hard on the sofa all the time. It’s about bringing body and mind back into balance and recharging your batteries for the new season. Go out and hike a bit or read a book, go to the spa, ride a little mountain bike. No matter what you do, do it without compulsion and let your body decide what it wants. Use the time to give something back to yourself. With all the training in addition to the stress of everyday life, you demand a lot from yourself.

Why? I’m just losing my whole shape!

As I said, you shouldn’t just lie on the sofa. Move as you like. A classic among the training studies (Effects of detraining Coyle: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3944049/) describes very nicely the biggest problem of “training off” in relation to the cardiovascular system: The loss of performance occurs because of the Decrease in total blood volume. That means after 2 weeks of inactivity the blood volume decreased and thus the performance decreased. One saw a low Vo2 and a higher heart rate with the same load in the cf. before the 2-week inactivity. This is also often what you perceive as a loss of form: “Phew at the same speed I suddenly have to work a lot more.” With less blood volume, the heart has to work harder to distribute the blood. So if you move a little in your offseason, you don’t lose quite as much blood volume. And your joints and tendons won’t rust. And don’t worry, you will regain your level in a few weeks after starting your training.

So why should you do an offseason?

The alpha animal endurance athlete often only knows how to flee forwards. That’s good, but stress doesn’t make you grow. The train of thought for many is: the greater the stimulus, the better the adaptation. YES NO. We only adapt when we can process the stimulus. So it’s about finding the optimal point at which we develop enough stress for an adaptation and can also process the stress. This is where the point comes into play that many ignore or at least underestimate: Our everyday life also causes stress and not too little! So always consider training + life = total stress. This applies on a small scale per day, per week and also on a large scale per year, per season etc. See the offseason as a growth potential. The season was tough, even if it was probably. not physically like others with a lot of races, but she was 100% mentally tough. Corona has put us all in a stressful situation. We deserve to switch off and grow!

Be good to yourself and treat yourself to the offseason. In the end, you’ll end up stronger than if you just pull through!

Stress + recovery = growth

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me: info@konaendurance.com

Flo