PHUKET: Thomas and Sonja Baumgartner may be two among thousands of athletes who competed in this year’s Laguna Phuket Triathlon, but their story is an inspiring one nonetheless.
Hailing from snowy Switzerland, the couple are regular vacationers to Phuket. Although of an active and sporty disposition, they had never thought about taking part in a triathlon event until their daughter brought it to their attention more than 15 years ago. Since then, they have participated in several competitions.
Sonja’s first triathlon in Thailand was the 2009 Laguna Phuket Triathlon. She came back the next year and took part in the Ironman 70.3.
“Due to our busy schedules, we train extra hard to make these events worth our while,” says Sonja, who works as a specialized physical therapist.
“We try to take our vacations in hotter countries when it’s snowing and raining back home,” adds Thomas. “This year, we landed in Chiang Mai to take part in a biking tour to conquer Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. While we were there, we heard about the triathlon and came here.”
Thomas and Sonja feel there are no limitations as to who can participate in these events – anyone who’s serious enough about it can do it.
“First, you need to set yourself some goals. Start with shorter distances that you can easily achieve. For example, it’s foolish to think that you can build endurance in just a couple of weeks. Along with realistic goals, you also need to maintain a healthy diet,” says Thomas.
“If you’re a complete novice, start running and swimming once a week, and riding a bicycle (even a basic mountain bike will do) twice a week. Do this on a weekly basis and over the next few months you will begin to develop stamina and strength to go longer and faster,” says Sonja. “About two years is a good time to be ready for a triathlon.”
They also suggest that the first time anyone takes part in something like the LPT, the goal should not be to win.
“It’s important to simply have fun and go at your own pace. Take in the experience and enjoy it. The goal should be to finish it and not succumb to any pressures of winning the race. Your second attempt will definitely be easier,” says Thomas.
Although the pair may not be able to participate next year, they are excited for the 25th anniversary race in two years time.
“This is more than an event; it’s a lifestyle. We know many people here. If you are part of this community, you meet like-minded people along the way,” says Sonja.
— Zohaib Sikander