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2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno is off to a smashing start in his new long-distance career. After retiring from Olympic-distance ITU racing—and its itinerant lifestyle—in 2013 after winning a gold medal for Germany’s mixed relay team at the ITU World Championships, he finished second in the 2013 Ironman 70.3 European Championship in Weisbaden, Germany, then won both the 2014 Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship in Auckland in January as well as Ironman 70.3 California Oceanside in March. Earlier this month he finished third at his Ironman debut in Frankfurt. Though he grew up in Germany and South Africa, he and his wife, fellow 2008 Olympic gold medalist Emma Snowsill of Australia, recently relocated to Girona, Spain, as a training hub. The man called “Frodissimo” has his sights ultimately set on the Big Island. (Editor’s note: This interview took place before Ironman Frankfurt)
After many years of training in Germany and now moving to the long distances I needed to find a place where the cycling was so motivating that every day I’d want to do 30K extra. Emma and I went to the south of Switzerland, Italy, the south of France and then Girona—which was recommended by a friend. We found a place that I think is unparalleled in the world in terms of training. It’s obviously known for cycling, but I think the running is better and the swimming is great. So it seems like a fantastic hub.
Initially my coffee addiction started because I saw one of those all-in-one espresso machines that grinds up the beans and looks authentic, and I thought, ‘Wow, my kitchen has got to have one of these things.’ It was five days out from the European champs in 2005. I wanted the machine so badly that I went and got it to kind of put the pressure on me to earn the prize money! I got fifth, which was my greatest result up to then, and that sort of paid for it double or triple.
The team manager from Sram and I sat down to look at what we could do as a marketing gag and created Frodissimo, which is a nickname given to me by the 2007 world champion, Daniel Unger. We thought, ‘Oh, that’s a really cool name for a coffee bean as well!’ So we started trying out different coffee beans, thereby creating Frodissimo [coffee]. My love for coffee goes for three times a day, every day. I’ll test my way around and try different beans, but yeah—three espressos a day.
I’m generally pretty active. I love it when I get a chance to surf or to be on a standup paddleboard. I love mountain biking, and apart from the sporty thing, I really love cooking and of course eating. Which is probably one of the coolest things about going long! I no longer have to diet. I love it. I reckon that could be part of the secret recipe to my success. I don’t have to diet anymore so I’m a happy guy.
You see a lot of long-course guys come from short course, so they obviously take what they’ve learned with them, and as much as everybody complains about federations, the organization and the science that they bring into training are things that benefit everybody. And I definitely think that since I’ve just changed from that system I bring a lot of that knowledge that’s been passed on to me from the national coaches and the program: whether it’s training to power, or the science of how to break down the run. Whereas for many long-course guys—at least that I know over the years—they just go, ‘Today’s Sunday, so let’s go for a long ride,’ rather than listening to your body more and adapting the training to what could be right for you on the day.
I wanted to race my first full-distance at home, in front of the home crowd, because that always helps. I just believe in going to the bigger races so you know where you stand. You get a realistic idea of where this whole thing can go, rather than going to some event at the end of the year that’s not really on the radar. I think Frankfurt is definitely one of the bigger ones apart from Kona, so it’ll be a good gauge.
Will I miss ITU racing? Totally. You make a lot of friends, and the whole organization of it, the whole professionalism around the races I’m definitely going to miss. It starts off with the podium—it is properly cool. You get the champagne and everybody’s there and it’s a party, whereas that usually doesn’t happen at the 70.3 races. Not the ones I’ve been to. Just a lot of small things.
I certainly love the bike part of triathlon. That’s something that with the time-trial positioning I’ve really come to enjoy. But when you have a good day running there’s nothing more beautiful than floating along for 20K or whatever it is. Which actually doesn’t happen all that often, even to the best of us! And the swimming, which I downright used to hate, I’ve found a really good swim school now and it’s turned out to be great. It goes from a chore to something I enjoy.
It’s really good to have a soul mate who understands what your job and what your life is all about. All traveling sounds great for a bit—but you’re on the road for pretty much 10 months of the year, and living out of a bag the whole time loses the romantic factor quite soon. It’s great to have somebody who knows what our life is about. And to share it with.