Roger Stalder from Liechtenstein became infected with the ultratriathlon virus as a spectator at the first edition in Buchs. Since then, he has had the idea of participating himself. He already knows Ironman - but with the Quintuple he now tackles this distance in Buchs five times in a row.
Roger, why did you sign up for the Quintuple?
Roger Stalder: at the first swissultra Triathlon 2016 a former work colleague and running partner asked me just for fun whether I would like to take part in such a competition. At that time I had never competed in a triathlon and did not have a suitable bike - apart from a mountain bike, which I used for occasional alternative trainings. But the idea was born and I started to deal with triathlon. Participation in the Quintuple is the highlight of my two-year journey.
What is your motivation to take part in such a race?
I am fortunate that I am physically healthy and that I can even tackle such a project. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated by sounding out physical and mental boundaries. How far can I go with my body and mind? What goals can I achieve? On the way to answering these questions one inevitably ends up in the area of ultra events. My motivation is to achieve the goal I have set myself and at the same time to learn more about myself.
"I wanted to make my training sessions more varied in the future, and triathlon was an obvious choice!
In October 2013 you ran your first competition ever - a half marathon. How did your running career continue?
The half marathon awakened my fascination for running and I became more and more interested in training methods and running techniques. My second running season was the Jungfraumarathon, a marathon in the Swiss mountains. I had now finished the "obligatory marathon in life", but it was a mountain marathon. Since a "normal" marathon didn't appeal to me much, I decided in 2015 to compete in the 100-kilometre run in Biel. I missed my goal of staying below the 10-hour limit by a few minutes - but this experience aroused my fascination for ultra-distance.
And then you started with triathlon?
In the following year I had to give up the race in Biel due to injury. As a realization of this, I wanted to make my training sessions more varied in the future, and triathlon was the obvious choice! As an experienced runner I dared to run a medium and a long distance in 2017. In the 2018 season I used the middle distance as preparation for the swissultra. Fortunately, I was able to significantly improve my time compared to last year.
Roger Stalder at the Ironman 70.3 in Rapperswil (2018. (Photos: FinisherPix)
Speaking of performance: Did you set yourself a goal for the Quintuple?
In contrast to earlier competitions, the focus of the swissultra is on finishing. The total time is secondary for me. In order to get enough rest, I try to aim for a finishing time of about 13 hours per day. But if I need a little longer, I'm not sad either.
When did you start training for the Quintuple and how did you prepare yourself?
My preparation began in October 2017. In winter I did five running trainings a week as well as one cycling and one swimming unit each. When spring came, I moved my focus from running to cycling and swam two or three times a week. In order to be able to concentrate even better on training, I also took part in a training camp twice in Mallorca and once in Switzerland.
"I firmly believe that in life you should focus on your strengths instead of focusing too much on your weaknesses."
Was this kind of training a big change for you?
Since I have always done most of the training in the basic area, I didn't have to change the training content very much. However, one to two interval units per week were a varied addition and are quite good for the head. In contrast to the last few years, I have massively increased the scope of training in particular, added regular coupled training (cycling / running) and stopped training according to rigid plans. I still structured the training units, but I also adjusted them to my daily condition or the weather. This "lust and mood principle" had an enormously positive effect on my motivation. The joint training sessions with the Triathlon-Club Vaduz and Lauf-Treff Buchs were also enriching. Also with regard to the social aspect, which is often neglected.
You have come to triathlon by running and cycling. Do you also enjoy swimming?
Running and cycling are the two disciplines that suit me best. With the right trainer and many technical trainings I could improve my swimming significantly, but it will never become my strongest discipline. I am also firmly convinced that you should focus on your strengths in life - instead of concentrating too much on your weaknesses. If I shifted my training focus to swimming, I could certainly improve even more, but I would neglect cycling and running. Knowing yourself and being realistic is an important achievement - in life in general and especially in (ultra-)triathlon.
"With increasing activity, the release of dopamine and endorphins rises, which then leads to a real "synapse party" in the brain. So why not consider the whole project a multi-day party?"
Have you figured out a strategy to get through the five days yet?
I want to be fast enough to have as much recovery time as possible between each day. Nevertheless I wish myself much peace and patience, in order to get through the whole five days. Throughout the day, I want to consume as many calories as my body allows during exercise. My family looks after me during the swissultra and I am very much looking forward to it - as well as to the support of the spectators on the course. Many friends have already announced that they will join us.
Such a long race is also a mental challenge. How are you dealing with this?
Chemically speaking, physical effort is relatively easy to explain: With increasing activity, the release of dopamine and endorphins increases, which then leads to a real "synapse party" in the brain. So why not consider the whole project a multi-day party? No more joking: Of course, the mental attitude over these long distances is the decisive factor. This includes knowing yourself, trusting in your own strengths and accepting things that you cannot influence with the necessary composure. But you also grow into it. Over the last few months I have dealt so intensively with the swissultra that the idea of participating has become completely normal for me.
"Even if a sponsor is a financial support, this commitment is always accompanied by a certain expectation.
What are you most looking forward to at swissultra? And what do you have the greatest respect for?
I'm most looking forward to the start and generally to this new life experience. To go through all phases, to question yourself and hopefully be rewarded with a finish at the end. At first I had particular respect for swimming every morning. After my test runs lasting several days, however, I learned to appreciate the refreshment in the water very much. The daily marathon inspires me with respect, because the physical exhaustion during running is very high.
Ultratriathlon is an expensive sport - do you have sponsors to support you?
I have always played sports for myself and have never looked for a sponsor. Even if a sponsor represents financial support, this commitment always goes hand in hand with a certain expectation. I do not want to expose myself to this pressure. As the swissultra takes place on my doorstep, I do not have to pay any travel and accommodation costs, unlike most other participants. If I also consider that last year I spent about the same amount of starting fees and accommodation costs for two triathlon events and now I even get five days for my money, I would even call the swissultra a "bargain"!