“…life’s too short for one sport …”
Kristian Fesel @krisfees
Kristian is the Managing Director of SMART TRI, a proud husband, and father of two amazing children.
I met Kristian at a time I desperately(…I’m not exaggerating I swear!) needed to be exposed to open water swimming. His general demeanour when you first meet him is one of “welcome to the family”. He instantly makes you feel at ease and that you can overcome any obstacle.
When not training for a triathlon or his next big marathon, Kristian is a very sociable person who loves his beer, is an avid Manchester City fan and has an intense dislike for being the first to leave any party! On the odd occasion, you may find him chasing a small white ball around the local greens, but he won’t be making a living from it anytime soon
Be inspired …
EKL is me
KF is the endurance athlete, husband, dad of two and businessman
EKL – Why did you decide to become a triathlete?
KF – I used to be a swimmer as part of a relay team made up of mates, that took part in the 5FM Energade Series. We were very social about it though, and used to braai and drink beer at every race. I was normally one of the last 5 swimmers to complete this leg of the triathlon, but ALWAYS first to the cooler box to smash a beer! We used to go down with 3 or 4 teams.
EKL – How long have you been competing?
KF – In the early 90’s we started doing the team events at the Energade TRI-Series as a fun thing to do in summer when it wasn’t soccer season I have taken it seriously now for about 12 years.
EKL – As a triathlete, I understand that you recently ticked a few items off your bucket list e.g. Compete in and completed the Challenge Roth, crossing the finish line with your wife (you have previously crossed the finish line with both your children). What is the ultimate goal you hope to achieve in your Triathlon career?
KF – I would like to grow the Triathlon sport in South Africa. We have perfect weather for it, and South African’s are very fit and healthy in general. I was lucky enough to go to Kona, in Hawaii. The Kona Challenge is a race I definitely want to do again! My other goal is to be the only one that has completed all Ironman races in South Africa.
There are currently 15 of us that have completed all 11 races so far. Crossing the finish line in three different Ironman distance races with three different members of my family is priceless! IronmanSA in 2008 with Madison(daughter), IronmanSA in 2010 with Aiden(son) and now Challenge Roth with Renate(wife), where we cycled the last 55kms together and ran the marathon side by side, to me .. these are priceless moments I will cherish forever!
EKL – How do you prepare for a race, a Triathlon from a training and nutrition point of view?
KF – Consistency is key! I am generally focused after a break over winter. My wife, Renate and I have a spreadsheet on the fridge with a training schedule. This way we both know who is doing what and when. It is important to have structure.
Where nutrition is concerned I go through stages of being disciplined, because I like all the bad foods. I could be a lot more focused to be honest .. and lighter… if I was stricter with my diet
EKL – Of the three disciplines swimming, cycling and running which one do you enjoy the most?
KF – There is nothing like the joy of riding a bicycle, to be honest (and it is my strongest discipline)!!
EKL – Which triathlete inspires you and why?
KF – Anybody, that has overcome adversity and is slogging their way through a triathlon is a star in my eyes. I go down to watch the last 2 hours of every Ironman I have done, to support the 15-17 hour finishers
EKL – I’ve heard that the transition zone in a triathlon can be as overwhelming as your first open water swim. How would you advise a novice to approach this crucial element of a triathlon?
KF – The best piece of advice I can give, is to get a coach, join a club or just chat to an experienced triathlete to pick up some tips. It is also advisable to practice your transitions a couple of times before your first race.
EKL – Socks or no socks? Why?
KF – It’s all down to personal choice. I prefer no socks on the bike at IM as my feet stay cool, but definitely, wear socks on the run. I have seen a friend’s feet after he never wore socks and there were blisters and blood everywhere.
EKL – As a sport do you believe that triathlon is growing in popularity in South Africa?
KF – 100%, you just need to look at the numbers at the 70.3 and Ironman events, the numbers speak for themselves. There were only 640 finishers at my first Ironman in 2005!
EKL – Who started their triathlon journey first, you or your wife? Do you see any of your children following in your footsteps where triathlons are concerned?
KF – It was me, a way for me to also grab the opportunity to chat her(wife) up and get to know her better Our kids have grown up in a swim-bike-run house, they can’t wait to start taking part. I believe that kids should be active and be outdoors and we doing our best to set a good example to them.
EKL – You will soon be participating in the New York Marathon, I’m guessing it’s another bucket list item? Is running another passion of yours?
KF – Life is all about bucket lists for us, especially after my brain tumour in April this year (2015). Comrades Marathon was the first item on my bucket list, and I actually stopped playing soccer to run it. I got sidetracked along the way and ended up falling in love with Ironman, but still managed to complete 3 Comrades! We’re hoping to get into the London Marathon one day. I love running, but let’s be real .. life is too short for one sport
EKL – Kris, you recently were diagnosed with a brain tumour. How did you feel the first time you heard the news, knowing the Challenge Roth was only a few months away?
KF – The first thing I asked the neurosurgeon when he told me he needed to operate, was if I would be ok to race in July. He asked what race and I said a triathlon that was Ironman distance and he just shook his head. Crazy to think that I didn’t ask about dying, but asked about racing lol! I was very blasé about the whole situation.
EKL – I know that the support from family, friends across the globe was in abundance and their support is so important at times like these. I believe though, that ultimately it is up to the individual living the challenge to survive the moment. In your quiet moments before and post operation, how did you keep your spirits up?
KF – I never really had any quiet times. There was somebody at my bedside all the time. The support I had from friends and family was amazing, I was gobsmacked by the support I received. At one stage we had over 70% of the coffee shop at the hospital taken over! My doctor was so confident there was never a doubt in my mind. My wife, on the other hand, had spoken to the doctor privately. He was concerned that I could come out of the operation either paralysed or worse case scenario not make it out of the ER. She only told me this a month after the operation. The experience really hit home, it’s scary to think about what I have been through. My wife has had a rollercoaster experience the last few months and has been my strength throughout. She is such a strong individual.
EKL – Were there times post op, when you questioned if you would participate in the Roth Challenge?
KF – No! Although, the training was demoralising when I was allowed to train again. It was a slog and the toughest day of my life was after 7km on the marathon leg. Luckily Renate took every step along the 42kms with me. She is the reason I finished Challenge Roth
EKL – What would be your advice to someone reading your feature on Feature Friday, that may be going through something similar (brain tumour, chemotherapy… etc), to get them through their challenge?
KF – The mind is a powerful thing. You have to stay positive throughout, no matter how low you feeling. You have to believe that you will recover!
EKL – You’ve recently accepted to ride for CHOC in the 94.7 Cycle Challenge, have you ridden the 94.7 Cycle Challenge before?
KF – Yes, I have done 11 Cycle Challenges.
EKL – What is your reason for riding for CHOC?
KF – I was invited to give a talk to the CHOC Cows about my experience, then the CHOC organisers personally invited me to ride with the Apocalypse Cows who do a double lap of the 94.7 Cycle Challenge. They do various fundraisers throughout the year and give their time and money to help kids with cancer. It is heartbreaking to see sick kids, so this is a fantastic initiative. I am blessed with two healthy children, so it is the least I can do.
EKL – I understand that through you riding for CHOC, you’re also raising funds for this cause? If someone wanted to donate in support of your efforts in the 94.7 Cycle Challenge Ride for a Purpose, how could they go about it?
KF – To be an Apocalypse Cow you need to raise a minimum amount of R15 000. I was under no obligation to raise money, but have offered to try anyway. If people would like to donate they can follow this link: https://different.org/projects/choc/choc-cows/kristian_fesel/
EKL – Has your recent hospitalisation and the treatment, as well as the medication, changed how you approach competing, your nutrition and supplementation regimen?
KF – No, I have pretty much gone back to what worked for me before the operation. I try to live a healthy lifestyle but have my vices too. Life is too short to cut out all the nice stuff
EKL – Would you change anything about your triathlon career or life in general, knowing now that it could all change so quickly in the blink of an eye?
KF – My wife and I live a fulfilled life already, and we have been lucky enough to be able to tick things off our bucket list so it hasn’t changed our lives that drastically. I do tell people to live life to the fullest. Make a bucket list and do epic shit! Don’t put off anything until tomorrow, that you can do today. Tomorrow might never come