3 Questions with Wolfgang Guembel
He returns to defend his Welland Half Iron title on Sunday.
1. You’ve been around this sport for a while but for those unfamiliar with your background, tell us how did you came into this sport, and some of your big accomplishments.
As a kid I was a swimmer, but got burnt out and quit as I entered high school. I did lots of high school sports but didn’t venture into any ‘club level’ or competitive sports, with the exception of sailing. I was even on the Ontario Junior Team (Laser class), but I’m not sure I was serious enough about it to understand the ‘athleticism’ part of it all. As a 19 year old sailor I was at the Beer Store more often than the gym.
Went to Waterloo for engineering and thought I might take varsity sports seriously, but found myself on academic probation (that calculus was so difficult) and lost varsity sport eligibility.
It wasn’t until my third year of undergrad, while on exchange in England, that I found triathlon.
By 4th year I was on the varsity swim team and cross-country running team and went to Cancun Mexico for the 2002 age-group World Championships. I had a great race that helped me get approved for my elite card. I applied to the National Training Centre in Victoria and to three teams in Europe. A team in Munich was the first to reply so I accepted and off I went. After a year in Europe filled with injury, wake up calls, and setbacks, I quit triathlon and went to Teacher’s College. After four months of ‘being a regular guy’ I found a brochure for Team Diabetes. You had to raise money and then go and do this thing called Ironman. Still with a valid pro card in my pocket I figured it couldn’t be that hard. Well, in honour of my little brother I raised the money and then successfully completed the hardest race of my life; ignorance really can be bliss.
They rest they say is history. I was hooked again on a different kind of elite racing, and my long-course career has taken me all over the world. I’ve won many Canadian races including the Muskoka Chase, and races like the Welland and the Peterborough Half. I won the Steelhead 70.3 and Strongman Japan. I’ve been in the top ten a number of times at Ironman with a 5th in 2009 and 7th in 2010 at Ironman Canada, and I’ve become a fast Ironman swimmer with several sub 47 minute swims. The biggest triathlon accomplishment of all was helping my parents discover, train for, positively change their lifestyle, and successfully complete half and full Ironman races.
2. How has the season/training being going so far?
So far my training has not been what I’d like it to be. I’m working more now than ever before which is taking a toll on my training efforts. This aside, I raced in Nevis in early April at the Tristar 111 event. I beat Macca out of the water and then watched him put on a clinic on bike riding and running. Finished 3rd, behind the only two guys I was worried about. I then returned to Japan to defend my Strongman Japan title at the end of April. Led all day with a swim course record, a personal best bike, and a spectacular run until the lights went out in the same spectacular fashion. I did ‘the shuffle’ to get home and watched nine other guys pass me in the final 7km of the marathon. So some good early season experience, but I hope some things start to come together soon.
3. What key races are on the schedule this year?
Outside of the Triple Race Challenge in the Recharge with Milk Triathlon Series, I’m very focused on Ironman Canada and Ironman Florida. My girlfriend, Barb, and my parents are each registered for Ironman Florida. It will be Barb’s and my Mom’s first Ironman. It will be a great goal race for the season to be racing with my family.