>To many Americans, he’s known best for the racing kit he wears. In reality, Faris Al-Sultan is a fierce competitor, a cycling stud, and an Ironman champion. Faris was instrumental in the forming of the Abu Dhabi Triathlon team, and played a pivotal role in inagural Abu Dhabi International Triathlon.
Recently, Tri Madness sat down with Faris to talk about his performance at Kona, the Abu Dhabi team, and training in the United Arab Emirates. And, yes, we asked about the Speedo…
Enjoy this week’s version of “Ten Questions With…Faris Al-Sultan”.
TM; You finished 10th at Kona for the second year in a row this yer, and were right in the thick of it the whole time. Would you break down your performance – what you thought went well and what didn’t go so well?
FAS: Let’s be honest since 2006, where I was third a performance I actually treasure more than my win, I wasn’t physically on the level I used to be. Several things came together that lead to loosing some of my run and swim speed. This year, after a really bad year in 09, I tried to work the weaknesses and get back but after Abu Dhabi I got a stress fracture and knew that it would be a so-so season yet again. In Kona my swim and run were exactly what I expected them to be, my riding unfortunately wasn’t good I was riding slower than at IM Regensburg earlier this year and that wasn’t my best ride.
TM: In an interview with Competitor Radio earlier this month, Chris McCormick talked about how he used to “chase” you and Normann Stadler around the world to race you and that he used to pick on you a lot as part of a psychological ploy. How big a rivalry did you have with Macca a few years ago, and is it still at the same level?
FAS: That’s simply Macca bla-bla. Look at the races we’ve met at, Kona and Roth (04, 06). Races, where any first-class pro should be found because this is where prestige and money are. There was a well paid encounter in Dubai too, I did a ton of other races he wasn’t at. So I doubt that theory.
TM: Earlier this year, you won the inaugural IM Regensburg. How satisfying was it for you to win in your homeland?
FAS: Extremely, although I know how to rate my performance, I was good but not superb.
TM: Tell us about the Abu Dhabi Triathlon Team. How do you form a true team concept out of athletes that participate in an individual sport like triathlon?
FAS: Triathlon is not a team sport. But that doesn’t mean you can’t work together on a universal goal, get more popularity for the sport, represent your sponsors well and most important get faster. I had that dream of having a triathlon team in my mind but as always if a dream turns into reality it eventually means work.
TM: What are your most and least favorite memories from your racing career so far?
FAS: Well the worst were always when I was helpless at a race, when I was in such a bad shape that I couldn’t fight, the best were when I fought hard. One of my best races was a south Bavarian cross running championship, a truly important 🙂 race you can imagine, where after 300m into it turned into a two man show me and a former German mountain running champ. At the last ascent I knew I could run safe and be second or risk exploding and win. I won.
TM: You’ve been involved with the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon – both as an advisor and as a participant. You additionally train part of the year in the emirate. How does the racing &/or training environment in the emirate differ from other places where you have raced and trained?
FAS: I train in the UAE, in Al-Ain to be more precise, for more than ten years. So besides Munich, my hometown, it is the area I spend more training time than at any other place. The roads are wide the weather is very nice December till May. Hotels became expensive with the rapid growth of the UAE, but life is still very interesting there with so many different nations living together.
TM: What are your favorite swim, bike & run workouts?
FAS: Every triathlete enjoys long rides in the mountains.
TM: What do you like to do in your “non-triathlon” time? What are your other hobbies?
FAS: Meet my non-triathlete friends, yes I do have those, play cards (Schafkopf Bavarian game), go to the movies, play basketball.
TM: What advice would you have for an age-grouper, first time Ironman athlete?
FAS: Take it easy. Don’t sign up for your first IM to early give your body a few years to adapt to the training, depends on your athletic background of course.
TM: I’m sure many fans (certainly many of my female readers) will want to know the background on your preference to race in a Speedo and singlet versus a one-piece tri kit.
FAS: When I started triathlon that was the kit you were supposed to wear, look at Hellriegel in 95,96,97, I just stuck to it as this is the clothing I’m most comfortable with. As I have a swimming background being in a Speedo isn’t awkward for me at all and doesn’t implicate anything sexy.