By Balazs Csoke, Klean Team USA Ambassador – Sponsored Athlete
After a great 2013 season, including an eventful trip to the IRONMAN® World Championships, and a restful off-season it was great to reconnect with Klean Team USA pro, Balazs Csoke. The Hungarian native, dished with us on his off-season, ramp up training and first events of this season. Anyone who may follow, probably knows 2014 hasn’t kicked off quite as planned for Balazs. But as the saying goes, he continues to ‘Keep (mostly) Calm and Carry On’.
After Kona, and what felt like a really long season Balazs said he really felt like he needed a break. After his return from the Big Island, he took 3 weeks completely off and was soon able to enjoy the holidays with his family in his hometown in Hungary. Like all of us, family and friend were a priority during that and he really spent his time relaxing with occasional light training.
Shortly after the New Year, Csoke dove back into training for the quickly approaching IRONMAN® New Zealand, his 2014 debut race. After 8 weeks of intense training, it was race time. “I felt absolutely ready and excited! New Zealand is one of my favorite races,” he explained, “ It is such a small, local community that is really behind the athletes and the race.” When we asked if traveling and staying in a foreign country effected his nutrition, he said “It really doesn’t effect my eating, especially in New Zealand. My home stay family was great, it is a great place to eat with lots of organic foods and there are tons of triathletes in town for the event.” His favorite New Zealand dish, FISH, on fish, on fish, on fish. With the pristine lake surround the town we see why it’s a local favorite! “I’m also really diligent with the [Klean] Isolate and [Klean] Probiotic, its been really helpful, especially with the gels and high energy foods I intake.”
So with training and nutrition on point we were curious, what was he concerned with? The field. The race was filled with world-class athlete and Olympic medalists. He knew he was race ready but the competition would be thick!
IRONMAN® New Zealand ended up being a tough race for Balazs. It is pretty far south and the weather is often unpredictable. Historically the swim has been cancelled a few times and it is usually cold – weather is a major factor. The morning of the race was chilly, high 30s and the was water was around high 60s. Csoke reported, “I didn’t even consider the it, I’ve competed in cold temperatures before. I had a really good swim (46 minutes), on the bike I though the feeling was normal and kept hoping it would go away.” After about 20-30 minutes he began to really shiver, but maintain some control at about 2 hours it was uncontrollable and frightening. He was picked up by the medic, wrapped in a foil blanket and camped in the ambulance for a while. It turned out Balazs had a case of Hypothermia! After some recovery time he was able to join the spectators and cheer everyone on. “It was a really, really difficult thing to do because I felt fine and disappointed that I wasn’t out there. I was pissed. It was absolutely not fun to DNF.”
With his first race of the season a DNF and IRONMAN® Melbourne only a few weeks away Csoke had to really persevere. The doctors told him it would take about 7-10 days to recover after serious hypothermia and that he had to be extremely cautious with his training. “It really took a toll on my body,” he told us, “I had to turn around after 20 minutes on the bike the next day.”
And then came IRONMAN® Melbourne, the Asia-Pacific World Championships and as you can imagine this was another race with an incredibly competitive field and everyone wants points. The hypothermia had derailed Balazs’s strategy for Melbourne and he felt his fitness wasn’t where it needed to be. He told us, “95% is not enough for a race like this. You need to be at 110% and race day I was really just unlucky.”
The swim started his unlucky streak. He explained that at first it was okay in and then abruptly it was shallow again, all of sudden, everyone started running and then they were gone and he was stuck in the back of the pack, though not alone he was hanging back with Craig Alexander. “I tell my athletes, settle in. In the beginning it’s get in and go as fast as you can. Not the case for me this time!” Balazs said.
At first the bike was great, at mile 30 he had to slow down and back off of the group a bit. He felt it wasn’t a maintainable pace and just because you lead the ride doesn’t mean you win the race! He told us, “I had to ride my own race and to stay alone for 90 miles isn’t easy, its really hard.”
In the end, Balazs explained that he never found the strength to run and he still isn’t sure why and he possibly felt weak from the very beginning of the day. He knew he wasn’t going to get big points from the day but with all of the people behind him and supporting him, he was going to finish. “It is part of the sport,” he said, “I’m there because I love the sport.” He ran and walked finishing at what he considers an unacceptable time of 9:07.
When we asked him what the most challenging part of his first two races were he politely replied, “Melbourne definitely made me stronger. You put your body and mind in a position where it hates you. When I have a good day, its going to be all the sweeter. No athlete will tell you that they always have a good race, it hurts mentally but another race build up is starting soon.”
Tried and true Balazs will continue to train with the same format he executed for IRONMAN® New Zealand which consists of gym time, core training and really listening to his body. Balazs commented, “If I don’t feel good, I cut back or don’t go. What I do must always be at 100%.”
His next race is only a few weeks away at his home course Memorial Hermann IRONMAN® Texas. Although familiar with the course (and the heat and humidity) he told us, “It is the athletes and the competition that make any race, not the course.” Though he is looking forward to sleeping in his own bed and not packing up his bike, and most importantly really excited to compete around all of the people who he trains with and support him. For them to see him compete rather than just following is really special for him!
There is a lot to be learned from an athlete with such character. We look forward to cheering him on in Texas!