Interview with Andy Karall

27.04.2009 | Interview with Andy Karall (Austria) by Harn-Wei Kua

Andy, how did you start in triathlon and ultra triathlon in particular?
After my "fat and lazy period" (working, family) 1993-1997 I started running on January 1st, 1998. Had to stop after 2km with a heart rate of 180 and blisters, but was able to manage my first marathon four months later in 3:58 (no knowledge, no training plan, no test run). The same happened in 1999 with 8 months no sports in between. Starting in spring 2000 I took it more seriously and a friend talked me into our first olympic distance ever on my 33rd birthday in July 2000. Only able to swim breaststroke, I borrowed a wetsuit from a 1.90m guy for the 16 degree cold water and came out of the water last. My bike was my old one from around 1979 (60cm frame, never used since 1987, with the original tubes!), so I finished the whole thing in something like 2:50.

In 2002 I did my first Ironman (Austria, 11:38). Many followed –with a personal best on the long distance 9:15 in 2005. My friend, then trainer and ultratriathlete himself - Felix Bergmeister –did the Deca in Hawaii that year and that inspired me to try a double in 2006. I finished third in Moosburg in exreme heat (start was afternoon, so we had to run during the day) in 23:50. The rest is history. I did the World Championship 2006 in Ecuador, coming in 2nd place 19 minutes behind Wildpanner, marathon year in 2007 (personal best London in 2:41) and the incredible year 2008 with the "Ironman pyramid": Single in Malaysia (20th, Qualification for Kona), Double-World Championship in Levis (2nd), Triple in Lensahn, my win at the Double in Bonyhad and Single in Kona.

Congratulation on your many wins last year and your achievement in the IUTA World Cup ranking for 2008. What are your main goals for this year?
Thanks, this year will be quite different as I will do at least three half distances. After Singapore, there is the national championship in May and another one in May here in Vienna where I will match with Luc van Lierde, Ironman World Record holder, with a personal best of 7:50h in Roth. Highlight will be the Double in Bonyhad in June. After that I will decide if I do the Powerman series in Austria and Malaysia (and Singapore?), a half or long distance, let´s see. But I will definitely doing only one ultra this year. Well, I said that last year as well and ended up doing three races.

We know you have a training base in Thailand. How is training there better than training in Vienna, where you spend most of your time in the year?
You know as my wife is Thai we love to spend some time back "home" during the lousy weather season here in Europe. I love the heat and hate cold weather, that is why it does not make sense for me to start at the double here in Austria in May, I simply bring no power on the bike in cold temperatures. Biking in Thailand is OK, the traffic on remote roads is not that bad at all, only running is really hard with the heat and millions of stray dogs.

Are you doing anything different this season, in terms of training and racing?
My races will be different as mentioned before. Probably my long break at the end of last year added to my form on the bike this year where my strength is comparable to my running, so my swim is still the weakest discipline where I gave up hope to qualify for the 100m free style in London 2012... Training itself is slightly different because I try to prepare both for the half distance and the ultra. So instead of slow long sessions for the ultra or fast short sessions for the half distance I try experiment a little and doing long sessions fast. :-)

So, can we expect to see Andy Karall in the decatriathlon one day?
Deca-what? Never ever. At least not in the forseeable future, but definetely not last year. I think with ultratriathletes, it is the same as with politicians. They forget what they said yesterday, never believe in any promises! As you know I would love to try the 10xIronman (10 Ironman in 10 days) but the Deca is primarily driven by avoiding injury, pain and sleep. Not my strength, I even slept for seven hours in the triple.