Ken Glah is one of the most prolific triathletes in the world, having completed the illustrious Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii for 34 consecutive years. Setting him apart from the crowd, Glah has ten top 10 finishes and won third place in 1988. Sundried spent some time getting to know this Ironman legend and finding out more about what it takes to be such an incredible athlete.
How did it feel crossing the finish line at your first ever Ironman race?
Well, that was in 1984 so my memory is a little faded but it was a combination of pride, disappointment, relief and excitement/happiness all in a few seconds! I was having a good day and was only 20 years old but had just finished 4th at the World Championship in Nice, France behind 3 of the biggest names in the sport so I had big expectations for Kona. At mile 12 I was still in 9th place but a combination of sunburn, dehydration and too few calories caught up to me and I wound up falling apart with the last 14 miles taking me over 4 hours!
Have you always known you wanted to be an elite athlete?
Yes, as a child I had dreamed of being an elite runner but when triathlons came along the idea of being able to train for 4 to 8 hours a day without injury was a big draw as I love to train and my focus quickly switched to triathlons.
What was the toughest moment of your sporting career and how did you overcome it?
That would have been in one of the Ironman races I did in the mid to late 90s. Things started to really suffer in the Natural Energy Lab and every step hurt so much I just wanted to quit, but my daughter who was only 4 or 5 at the time had said that morning “Never give up daddy” and when that popped into my head I just pushed on and eventually 3 or 4 miles later I started feeling better and wound up with a nice finish.
What has been the highlight of your triathlon career?
I think I have had too many wonderful experiences in the last 36 years of racing triathlons to pick one. Some of those would have been races I won and some would have been tough days where I fought hard and got more out of my body than I ever expected and many of them were not in races but just in amazing days out training.
Which has been your favourite event over the years and why?
The Ironman World Championship is probably my favorite event when I was racing hard. It is such a tough course and everyone is there ready to give it their all. No one is looking past that race, that is the main focus for many months if not years. Kona is not the event I enjoy the most as that would be reserved for Ironman Brazil, Ironman New Zealand and Ironman 70.3 Pucon, Chile and St. Croix. Those events are like going home. I feel I am surrounded by family and it all feels so comfortable.
In your opinion, what makes Ironman triathlon such a special sport?
I think the commitment involved and the wide range of abilities, ages, backgrounds and cultures that the athletes come from. I think it has lost a little as there are now so many people doing Ironman as a 'one and done' bucket list event and not because they love the sport and whole environment.
Do you follow a specific diet or nutrition plan? If so, what/when do you eat?
No, not really. I try to eat a healthy balanced diet but I also don’t deprive myself of things I enjoy just because they are not that good for me. Those things I just try to eat occasionally as a special treat.
What do you do to relax in your spare time?
I like to work around the house doing small repair jobs and yard work. If I was home more I would love to have a veggie garden but with our travel business I am away too much for that. After events, if I am able to, I like to spend a few extra days after our clients have left just to relax and enjoy the local area. But really, the thing I like to do the most is to go out for long rides and runs. To me, that is relaxing.
What advice would you give to someone entering the world of Ironman triathlon for the first time?
Do so gradually. Don’t do a full Ironman in the first year or two of doing triathlons. Build up a nice base gradually so that you don’t have to turn your whole world upside down to become fit enough to finish the race. Make the sport part of your life, a lifestyle where triathlons and Ironman are a part of your life but not something that makes you push everything and everyone off to the side. If you do that you won’t enjoy it and you will most likely only do one or two before you and everyone around you resents the sport. Also, pick a really nice place to go and race, make it a reward for you and your supporters.
Please tell us more about Endurance Sports Travel
I started Endurance Sports Travel in 2002 as a way to make it easier for people to travel to and enjoy Ironman Brazil. I gradually expanded out to races all over the world. We take care of everything on the ground for athletes and their family so that everyone can have a great time. I think one of the coolest parts of our business is that we have clients from all over the world. So, when you go to a race you don’t just get to experience the culture of the place where you’re racing but you and your family get to mix with people from many different places. We have had some trips with clients from as many as 25 different countries so you may eat breakfast with someone from Brazil and Canada and then go on the shuttle to the expo with people from England, Chile, Mexico, Japan and New Zealand. Then at dinner you're sitting with people from Australia, Germany, the US and Israel. This cross-cultural experience is one of the things I like most about what we do.
If you are looking to do an Ironman abroad, visit the Endurance Sports Travel website for more information on the fantastic opportunities they have for triathletes and their families. Endurance Sports Travel do all the work so that all you have to do is turn up and race!