In advance of Saturday’s second annual Laguna Lang Co Triathlon in historic Hue Province, Vietnam, we spoke to a few of the pros readying to race. One such athlete is Till Schramm of Cologne, Germany.
Hailing from a cycling background, Schramm was on two wheels from the age of two and a half, first racing mountain bikes, then testing triathlon at age 17, then turning to road bike racing until the age of 23–Schramm eventually followed in the footsteps of two of his countrymen, Ironman icons Faris Al Sultan and Jurgen Zack. Under the mentorship of these two friends, Schramm made multi-sport his main focus and set to work climbing the triathlon ranks. Now 28, his top results to date including three runner-up finishes at European iron-distance events (the Cologne Triathlon Weekend in 2012 and 2013 and Ostseeman in 2013) and a victory at the half-distance Hückeswagen Triathlon in 2011 (one of the oldest triathlons in Europe). He also has his hands full off of the racecourse; Schramm and wife Lisa welcomed baby Theo on Dec. 31, 2013, joining big brother Henry who is one and a half years old.
Below, Schramm shares his tips for tackling tough bike courses, as well as his best advice for balancing sport and travel with family life. Schramm also opens up about his experience with alcohol–something he recognizes as an unhealthy option for him–and his reasons for returning to race in Asia.
Hone Your Handling Skills For A Hard Course
Given Schramm’s experience as a mountain bike racer, he’s less intimidated than most by the bike courses in Asia–courses that are often fairly technical, with steep winding climbs and descents and oftentimes bumpy roads. “I love the type of courses that you find in Asia,” says Schramm. “As Macca said after Challenge Philippines, ‘I can ride downhill like crazy!’ The most important things to remember to ride these courses with speed and safety are bike handling and gear. You need to make sure that you stay centered in the middle of the bike on the downhills and you need to learn to use the brakes right. Seventy percent of the bike’s braking power is out of the front brake, so learning how to use it is a big benefit. Go fast until shortly before the corner and brake rapidly–don’t brake in the corner–and look out of the corner in the direction you want to go after you get halfway through. On the uphills, ride very conservatively. Do not over-pace in the beginning, because peaking will cost your legs on the next downhills and flats.”
“The second thing I mentioned is the right gear–it’s really important on bumpy roads. Check all the screws of your bike the night before the race. Fill your tubes with puncture milk, even if it makes the rolling a bit worse. You won’t regret the lost speed when you have a puncture! And don’t use bottle racks behind the seat–you will suffer after you lose your drinks and the guy riding behind you will have a hard time after crashing because of your bottle bouncing out!”
On The Road, Keep In Touch Through Technology
Frequent travel–whether as a pro triathlete or as an age group globetrotter–can take a toll on family connectivity. Fortunately, technology helps bridge the distance gap. “Our generation of work travelers is so lucky with Skype and chat apps like Whatsapp. I can call and provide my family with pictures whenever I like. This makes it much easier compared to when my dad was away on work trips. I remember it was quite hard sometimes,” says Schramm.
At Home, Keep Triathlon In Check
As he’s adapted to fatherhood, Schramm has reconfigured his training schedule to keep the at-home focus on family time. “When I’m home I try to avoid too much of our family life revolving around my sport and I love to spend time with my family without any triathlon topics. After a long chat with Greg and Laura Bennett I actually changed my whole routine,” says Schramm. “Now I go to bed much earlier so I do the first major training in the morning before my kids and Lisa wake up. This gives me a better focus and it is also perfect training for my big weakness–the early race starts! But still Lisa helps me a lot during the day, and I try to help her with the kids and the household when I have spare time. We are what I would call a perfect team!”
Recognize Your Demons–And Deal With Them
Schramm stopped drinking alcohol two years ago–in conjunction with becoming a father and approaching his professional career with greater discipline. For him, alcohol was an ugly and somewhat uncontrollable beast. “I have some serious problems with alcohol and I started it much too early. I do really nasty things when drunk which means I get really aggressive,” says Schramm. “I needed to decide if I wanted to stay with Lisa, have a family and be able to achieve my goals, or if I wanted to end up in jail lonely! I made the right decision. I have two awesome kids and a wonderful wife and, by the way, I am much faster since I stopped drinking! Think about all of the important endurance hormones produced in the kidney and liver. Of course the hormone production goes rapidly down when you task the body with absorbing alcohol on a frequent level. Even if most people can control this drug, it is still the drug with the highest mortality rate–no better then heroin or something!”
Keep Fun And Curiosity Front And Center
Schramm is rapidly becoming a regular on the Asia racing scene. He raced Challenge Laguna Phuket in December 2013 and Challenge Philippines in February 2014, and following Saturday’s Laguna Lang Co Triathlon he’ll toe the line at Challenge Taiwan in April. The draw to Asia is all about the overall race and travel experience for Schramm. “I signed on to race Phuket for a sponsor in January 2013, before we knew that we would have a second baby. When we learned this wonderful fact in May, I knew that we could not stay in our flat like it was and that I needed to do a full renovation at the end of my European season. This took me out of any training for about seven weeks, and I went to Phuket overweight and out of shape! But even if the race was not ideal for me, I fell totally in love with the lifestyle, the region and the professional way of Asian race organizations. The way they treat athletes is the way it should be! And as a pro you feel like some kind of rock star compared to Europe, where it is all about the result and not about the fun,” says Schramm. He’s eager to explore the world, and triathlon provides that avenue. “I’m interested in everything! In Southeast Asia especially, many things that happened in history you can’t understand just from reading a schoolbook– you need to feel and explore them. Also I did not like school at all–and so I don’t really know too much from the books. I need to discover more!”