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A minimalist approach to maximum distance

A conversation with Fernando Lopez, Ultraman World Championship podium finisher and age group champion.

Peter Foster, USA Triathlon certified coach. Jan 2024.

PF: Fernando, congratulations on your finish at Ultraman World Championships in Kona Hawaii, second male finisher, fourth overall and winner of the men’s 50-55 division.

FL: Thanks, it was a super race, one of the best experiences of my life.

PF: For the newbies out there, can you describe the Ultraman event?

FL: Of course. It’s approximately a triple ironman distance over three days, traversing the wonderful landscape of the Big Island of Hawaii, with its sun, wind and lava fields.

PF: And how does it break down on each day?

FL: Day one is a 6-mile swim and 90-mile bike. Day two is a monster 171-mile bike ride, then we finish on day 3 with a double marathon of 52 miles. There were about 30 athletes participating this year.

PF: That is some serious mileage. But you are no stranger to endurance events.

FL: True, I have been building my endurance resume for over a decade. Beginning with mountain biking, off-road Xterra triathlons, and then 70.3, ironman and most recently extreme triathlons.

PF: And not just being a participant but reaching world championship level in those disciplines.

FL: Yes, it’s been an honor and privilege to compete at the highest levels.

PF: You describe a minimalist approach that would be a surprise to a lot of athletes.

FL: That’s true! And I don’t necessarily recommend it.

PF: So please describe your nutrition for an event like Ultraman.

FL: Well, for example, on the marathon and longer runs, I survive on a few sips of water and maybe 1 or 2 gels.

PF: That’s all?!

FL: Yes, and sometimes that’s too much and I throw it up.

PF: What about on the bike?

FL: That’s more of a picnic. I like to have egg, rice, tuna, chicken – you know, regular food.

PF: And during the 6-mile swim?

FL: Just a sip of water.

PF: That’s contrary to so much conventional coaching advice about race nutrition.

FL: Yes and no. Because it shows that I take onboard what is entirely suitable to me, it’s not a formulaic approach that requires I consume so many calories per hour and so many liters of fluid.

PF: Good point.

FL: And I love to have a full dinner, with a glass of wine, every night!

PF: There's nothing wrong with that. What’s next for you?

FL: I am heading out tomorrow for the Brazos Bend 100 miler.

PF: Good luck!

FL: Thanks.

[Postscript: of course, Fernando topped the podium, winning the event in a time of 18hrs 13 minutes. More on that in the future.]


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