Jan Frodeno - More Than Meets the Eye
Coffee lover, dog lover, mountain bike, and greasy food lover. There’s more to reigning Ironman World Champ Jan Frodeno than meets the eye. We sat down with Jan ahead of the Ironman® 70.3 Oceanside race to get to know him better and talk about his training, equipment, and passions outside of triathlon.
Last year you were awarded the Laureus “Action Sportsperson of the Year” award. What did that mean for you to win such a prestigious award?
That was pretty special. I mean, the awards that come after a race, you really have no influence on it. All you have an influence on is your performance on race day and that’s up to someone else to decide if you are worthy of receiving… of quantifying that effort basically. It was obviously super cool to be named as one of the nominees first and foremost. The Laureus is kind of a bit like the Oscar of sports, and then to actually get the prize was pretty humbling actually.
Now that you have three World Championships, an Olympic gold medal, and the world record for the fastest Ironman, what’s left for you? What’s next?
I’ve really decided to put all my beans in the bag and that means the Kona bag this year. So every year I’ve focused very much on the midsummer race, which was Frankfurt 2015 and then Roth last year. When you go out and you shout out loud that you want to get a world record that’s something that takes a lot of stress. It puts a few bricks in the backpack and really this year I’m just going to really go through the motions this summer and really try to nail the race the second weekend of October.
Where do you see triathlon going in the future?
It’s on a pretty crazy curve it’s taking at the moment. It’s becoming super popular all around. In Germany we’ve had a discussion of late with the Olympics. There was a public vote and the Olympics were basically turned down by the public. And there was a big discussion of sports not being wanted in society anymore and yet the number of triathletes in Germany has doubled in the last years and it’s just crazy how the sport is growing. It’s booming in popularity because it’s very modern. The idea of finishing is something that’s been cherished in triathlon forever. The whole finishing thought and getting there is, for one, an experience that you can’t buy because you have to go through the motions yourself, but actually being awarded just for completing the task rather than being first, second, or third is something that I think is—the right word would be, modern. And it’s super cool to be a part of the sport at this time.
You’ve been training a lot with Nick Kastelein. How does working with Nick help you to achieve your training goals?
Nick’s a great guy and just a super hard worker and the good thing about Nick is that he doesn’t care. He does not care how many interviews I’ve given, he does not care how many sponsor obligations I’ve gone too, he doesn’t care about anything but the training program. When I get there if I’m off my “A” game, he’ll show me. He’ll let me know, and it’s very important to have someone like that to gauge off of and I definitely owe a lot to him for the success in the past two years. But yeah, to keep things honest, he did miss his flight here. That’s why he’s not here. He slept in for three hours and I do want to make sure that it’s on the official story. [laughs] Nick Kastelein keeping me honest… I’m keeping you honest! Get up when you go to catch your flight! [laughs]
Jan's mechanic Dan Stefiuk makes some final tweaks to Jan's bike before Oceanside.
You were an early test rider for SRAM RED eTap and the Zipp NSW series. What was your involvement during the testing process?
That was a cool phase, changing bike sponsors and having an electronic only compatible bike forced me into that situation early on, which I was really happy and proud to be a part of. But it’s a lot more romantic than it is to actually be a part of. Products actually do get tested and it’s a long phase until something is good enough to go to market. It was really interesting to be a part of it and obviously good to have the support still because that’s when I really needed it. The early prototype, when it started raining I had to turn home. I had to go to the garage and ride indoors because it wasn’t waterproof yet! It was really cool to see the evolution of it, of how it comes apart because you are usually handed a box of perfect product and I’ve been a pro for 15 years now and you kind of get a bit numb to it all. Just, alright here’s a new groupset, get on with it. But sort of making that step from mechanical to electronic actually being a little part of the code was something that was really cool and I’m grateful.
You’ve been riding eTap longer than any other pro triathlete, what advantages do you feel it provides?
The whole electronic system, it’s something that splits minds a little bit. You know many old school guys question, ‘Why would you ever change?’ I think the distinct advantage that it definitely has in triathlons is that it gives you two access points for shifting. You’ve got the bar ends, the aero extensions and you’ve got on your brakes a chance to shift, which I feel is definitely a big advantage, and to me that’s the biggest advantage to going electronic.
What are your thoughts on Zipp 808 NSW wheels?
I was really amazed by the change of wheels. I tested them for the first time in Austria 2015 70.3 Worlds. There was a lot of talk about them being better in crosswinds and there happened to be a major stretch of the race with a crosswind and I was amazed at the stability that came from this new change to the profile, which to the naked eye is indistinguishable, made a huge difference. Living in the Pyrenees [in Girona] the longest straight we have is probably 200 meters, and the braking performance on the NSW rim is just out of this world compared to anything else I’ve ever had that was carbon. So I’m very happy with that.
Have they contributed to your confidence on the bike?
Yeah. Obviously it’s good to brake a little bit later than everyone else and really get yourself out of trouble. I’m known to take risks on down hills and do love the actual cycling component of triathlon, not just on a time trial bike but also on a road bike. You know we have a few professionals staying in town and it’s always good fun taking it up with them so when you have an advantage on your braking point it’s definitely good fun to get to play with it a little more.
What role does power measurement have in your training and racing?
It really has become something that I can’t go without anymore. It really cracks me if I don’t have it. Even on a mountain bike I don’t know where… I can’t gauge my effort, not just during the ride, but afterwards I want to know the numbers. I want to know where I’ve been and how far I’ve gone, and how many watts I’ve pushed, and all of this, and really it’s become a deciding factor in my training. My coach is a scientist and we look at the numbers and there is rarely a time when I do 30 minutes of the same thing. It’s always intervals, it’s always very much interval-driven training and that lives by direct power feedback.
Do you mountain bike much?
I do. I used to a lot more. These days I’m a little bit worried. I’m turning 35. I don’t know how much longer my career is going to be so I don’t want to end it stupidly, but it’s something I definitely love doing in the off season. It’s just that my nature does get me into trouble a little bit on the bike. I push the edge a little too much sometimes I think.
Will you be following the Tour de France this year with its start in Germany?
Yeah, I will be. I try to follow it a little every now and then knowing a few guys on the tour, and I do love the romance of cycling even though when you are in cycling it’s not that romantic, but it’s an awesome sport to watch and the Tour is the pinnacle of it and I look forward to seeing the boys battle it out.
I understand you enjoy drinking coffee once in a while.
Occasionally. [Jan is a huge fan of coffee]
Do you have a favorite coffee shop or are you a strict homebrew type?
No, I love exploring. Whenever I go to places finding a coffee shop is a high priority on the list. You know I just really enjoy coffee on a daily basis. The process of making coffee—I make an effort into making it. It’s a kind of calming routine that I have, but when I’m out and about I’m happy to go and find a good coffee somewhere. It’s not always easy to do but you know it’s even more joyful when you find a good one.
How did you come across your dog, Duke? What can you tell us about him? Does he do any special tricks?
Duke comes from the pound. He’s a (rescue) dog. He’s the last of eight. We basically saved him from a sure death more or less and he’s been that kind of dog. It’s almost as though he knew. He’s grateful. He’s super social. His tricks—he can shake hands, and that kind of stuff, but he’s just generally a social dude that loves to hang out. Ironically he doesn’t love running! [laughs] He’s not a big runner at all but he’s that dog that everyone knows in town. Even the cops in Girona, they know Duke because he always comes out. It’s pretty funny when you see a traffic officer standing somewhere and he calls for Duke while you are out at the shops! It’s cool. He’s a cool dog.
What’s your favorite food to eat after an Ironman?
After an Ironman I can’t do sweet for weeks. I just have a sweet overload from all the gels and all the sugary drinks and that’s why I do salty, greasy. It doesn’t have to be that classic unhealthy food. But to be honest I just love food, and love good food, so a burger—yes, but I love finding a good burger. I don’t like going to any of the big chains. It’s still about getting awesome flavors and fresh flavors and I try to do that after a race, something as spicy and oily as I can.
All photos of Jan on course are courtesy of Jay Prasuhn.