Helle Skyping with us while at training camp in Mallorca, Spain.
ZEALIOS: So, you’re home is now in Denmark. Have you been spending most of your time there these days?
HELLE FREDERIKSEN: Yes, I’m now living back in Denmark. We still have a home in Florida, but my husband works in Denmark so that’s now home.
Right now, I’m actually at a training camp in Mallorca, Spain.
Side note: Helle has already made it to Kona and enjoying her first Kona sunrise
She’s also nursing a foot injury, she shares the story on her Instagram page here.
Z: That’s sounds like nice hot training weather...
HF: Yeah, it’s really really hot here. Like 32-36 degrees celsius with humidity.
I’ve had my fair share of meltdowns already! The humidity is tough, it just runs off your face. It is great training and better to be ready than be shocked on race day.
Z: How has your season been?
HF: I’ve had a good season. I won the ITU long course World Championship title, which was pretty neat and it was in Denmark. I had a brilliant race. Good all around performance and fast run. I was really happy with that.
Photo credit @honza_zak_photo
Z: That was an amazing race. Congratulations, that’s such a big accomplishment.
Z: Your first full distance Ironman was last November at Ironman Arizona, where you had a great race and placed 2nd. How many other full distances races have you done since?
HF: None, but it was originally in the plan to do more. However, I could see that I received great points from the 70.3 Worlds last year then Ironman Arizona and the 70.3 Europeans. So suddenly with one Ironman and 2 halves, I was qualified.
I really wanted to do ITU Worlds in Denmark and it was important to me to be ready for that. It was in mid July which was the same timeframe I wanted to do a full Ironman.
I was really happy I could qualify for Kona with so few races. Obviously, it leaves me with very little Ironman experience, but I would also say that I’m one of the most experience athletes racing wise. So I hope that’s enough and that I’m good in the heat.
Sometimes it’s good not knowing what you’re getting into and you go head first and see what happens.
Z: So after ITU, did your coach tell you can accept the medal, but to then get back on your bike and go for another ride?
HF: Ha! Good news is, I coach myself. So my coach was very happy that day!
Z: So she gave you some time off…
HF: Yep, she was very good to me that day.
Helle in her home gym
Z: With one full Ironman under your belt, what do you see as the biggest difference in racing the full distances vs the half?
HF: It’s definitely the length of the bike and then the marathon.
While it’s not a problem to ride the bike for 5 hours, it’s the running after the bike. You’re more beat up and tight because you’ve been sitting in that position for 5 hours and not 2 hours.
In Arizona, I remember coming off the bike and feeling the absolute worse. I really really felt bad.Then there’s the marathon, which they say the last 12km is where the race starts, but at the same time I also think you can’t be afraid of it and have too much respect. I would much prefer to just try and go instead of being conservative. So the bike and marathon for sure.
Also nutrition is a different. At Ironman Arizona it went pretty well for me as well as at ITU. I take notes on what I’m doing and try to replicate. Obviously, the humidity in Kona will be a big factor. I’m trying to learn now in training what I’m doing right and wrong.
I have absolute meltdowns when training. I say, “I’m fine I don’t have to take much in, I’m only on a training ride…”. Nope that’s not the case… ha!
Z: Do you have any advice for triathletes thinking about making the jump from half distance to full?
HF: Racing wise for a 70.3 race, you’re still training for a lot of hours you can use for the full. It’s important that you get in a handful of long rides. Just so you know what it feels like to be on a long ride and then trying to run off of the bike.
At the same time, it’s important to know you don’t have to do it all. You have a good base from 70.3 training, don’t do everything. If you do, you’ll often get hurt.
Training for Ironman Arizona I wanted to do everything leading up to the race. I wanted to do the long runs and long rides. And it was too much for me. I was over trained. You don’t have to do everything to race a full distance well.
So for Kona, I’m not going to go out and do long BRICKS or runs. The 30km I did at ITU long is going to be it. I’m not going to be running longer than that. That’s what I've learned, don’t try and check all the boxes.
You really want to be well prepared, but if you over train it takes a long time to get your body and systems back to be fresh for race day.
In 2013, I started competing in non-track and half distance races. 2013 and 2014 were amazing years for me. Want the run down on bricks & how to add them to your training? Head over to TrainingPeaks for a few brick workouts.
Z: And now you’re headed to the Ironman World Championships in Kona for the first time! Have you ever been to Hawaii?
HF: No. I’m a complete newbie!
Z: What better way to experience Hawaii than to go and race in the World Championships.
HF: I know, I’ve been a professional athlete for 10 years and have never been.
Z: Well, it isn’t the easiest or shortest travel for you coming from Denmark...
HF: It is a long way, but it seems I’ve been racing late in the year and Kona wasn’t aligning with my training blocks. You really have to respect the travel and how it breaks up your training.
Z: You started triathlon in 2004 and then turned pro in 2008, has Kona always been a goal for you or did it turn into one as your career progressed?
HF: Definitely not.
For me it was the Olympics and trying for Beijing. But I was very young in the sport at that time. We went at it too quick and I got injured. I actually suffered a herniated disc that I’m still living with. We pushed too many buttons and I still needed time to mature as an athlete. Because I came from a national swimmer’s level I had a big motor, but the structures, bones and tendons weren’t strong enough for that yet.
I did make the London Olympics and that was a big goal.
It wasn’t until Spring of 2017, my husband Ben said I think you could do well in Kona. I was like “Umm… double the distance I usually do?” I don’t know. And I didn’t want to do a distance I didn’t feel I could do well in.
But it planted a seed in my head early last year. I said okay, if I’m healthy through the summer then we should do a late season Ironman because it won’t mess up the rest of the season.
So I did Ironman Arizona and it got me hungry and excited. It was a new chapter in my career and something completely new to me. It was a huge challenge for me. In the 70.3 distance I’ve accomplished so much and know the “recipe” to that race. But I definitely don’t know the recipe for the full distance yet.
Z: Wow, amazing your husband planted that seed and that it’s come to fruition so soon!
Z: There are many things that go into racing in Kona. Travel being one of them. You are coming from Denmark which is a long way (roughly 11,500 km and a 12 hr time difference). What is your plan to combat the long travel and time difference?
HF: I will arrive 2.5 weeks out from the race. We fly to San Francisco and spend the night there. Sleep in a bed and move our legs around. I can’t sleep on planes so this will help me break the trip up. I think I’ll be able to do some solid work during that 2.5 weeks before the race.
Helle in full traveling mode to Kona, Hawaii for the 2018 Ironman World Championships
Z: Overall, how is planning going? Do you feel that there is added stress because it is Kona or does it just feel like another race?
HF: Of course there’s some added stress somehow. But as I mentioned, I don’t know what I’m getting into. We’re going to stay a bit out of Kona because I like to be away from all the hype.
I want to prepare as much as possible but not make it into too much of a big deal. You can put too much pressure on yourself. Of course it’s the World Championships, but you still have to do what you do and give it your all. It’s important to calm yourself down and know it’s the not the biggest thing on the planet.
Z: Are you looking forward to taking it all in and appreciating the moment?
HF: Taking in the moment will have to be after. It will be too hard on the body to be walking around in the heat and humidity. I will limit my time in Kona for sure. I will check everything out before the hype starts and check out the course.
It’s a job. It would be great to take it all in, but that’s not what I’m here for.
Z: There is a lot that goes into racing in Kona - the lava fields, heat, competition and being your first time, are there any elements that worry you?.
HF: It would be great to know, yeh? Ha!
I really don’t know. The heat and humidity and getting your nutrition right is a big task. You see so many athletes get it wrong when they’ve got it right other years. And the small details like do you cover up your skin from the sun exposure? What’s your heat strategy on the run? Ice cubes? And where do you put them?
Having a plan on how you’re going to keeping your core temperature down is key. If your core temperature gets too high, it’s game over.
Z: You’re totally right, you do see top athletes struggling with the heat every year.
HF: I also think I don’t have any demons there (in Kona) to fight. I do not know how crazy hot it is there. I can’t remember anything because I don’t know!
Z: The demons is an interesting element. Having the mental strength is such a big part of racing.
Z: Do you have any plans for after race? Maybe stay in Hawaii for some well earned rest and relaxation?
HF: We’re going to stay until Tuesday. So we’ll have 3 weeks total. Unfortunately, my husband has get back to Denmark for work.
I’m thinking maybe a few races in Asia because I’ve never raced there. It all depends on how Kona goes and listening to what my body is telling me. I really just focused on doing Kona really well.
I really enjoy racing and if I feel fresh, I might throw in a few more races and take advantage of the good shape I’m in.
Z: We can’t wait for the big day to cheer you on!
Z: Last, but not least, tell us your favorite Zealios product and why?
HF: Definitely, Betwixt chamois cream. It works so well and the consistency is great. It doesn’t have a strong smell either. I’ve tried other creams and the smell is so strong I can’t get it out of my actual chamois.
I even use it if I’m only riding an hour!
Z: Awesome! Betwixt is good stuff.
Z: Thank you for sitting down with us. We’re very excited to cheer you on and watch the Kona battle. We wish you the best of luck and hope you have a relaxing few days post race with a Mai Tai or two.