The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Triathlete Fabio Spiteri attempts to compete in 5 Ironman distance triathlons in 5 days

Maria Vella--Galea Sunday, 25 August 2019, 13:20 Last update: about 7 months ago

Triathlete Fabio Spiteri attempts to go where no Maltese triathlete has been at the Swiss Ultra Triathlon. Spiteri to compete in 5 Ironman distance triathlons in 5 days.

Triathlete Fabio Spiteri is no stranger to endurance racing.  An athlete with over 23 years of competitive experience, in recent years Spiteri has switched his focus to gruelling long distance events.  Spiteri is the only Maltese to have completed a Triple Ironman - a triathlon consisting of an 11.4 kilometre swim, a 540 kilometre bike ride and a 126.6 kilometre run - all done in quick succession with no time to pause for breath.

Now, 45-year-old ultra-triathlete Fabio Spiteri embarks on yet another ultra-distance triathlon challenge, the Swiss Ultra Triathlon.  Whilst for most triathletes, the Ironman Triathlon (3.8km swim 180km cycle, 42.2km run) is the ultimate goal, the pinnacle of their racing career,  a race that goes beyond physical endurance,   Spiteri is taking that to another level. The Quintuple covers a total distance of 1130 kilometers. Spiteri will be required to complete one ultra-triathlon each day for 5 consecutive days: 3.8 kilometers swim, 180 kilometers bike and 42.2 kilometers run. Each race has to be completed within the set cut-off of 20 hours, per day.  

This is the first time a Maltese triathlete will be attempting to undertake such a task, however Spiteri, who has been involved in competitive sports for over twenty-three years, is not daunted.  Spiteri explained that besides being competitive with himself, he is very curious when it comes to the limits a human being can withstand when competing in endurance events. Spiteri switched to ultra-distances in the past two years.

Always one to be honest, Spiteri explains that age was a determining factor for this switch. "With age I just could not get faster, so I decided to go longer. This race will be my longest race so far!"

Naturally preparation is key. Fabio explains that since the race requires him to undertake an Ironman distance, every day, for five days, his training schedule had to be changed and was completely different to the training programme undertaking for the Triple Ironman This time round training consisted in a 5-day bulk training schedule followed by complete rest.  

"It is all about adaptation. Just to put one in the picture, I started a 5-day training block which saw me run 21km every day. This would be followed by another 5 days of cycling 100km every day, followed by another 5 days  of swimming 3.8km and 100km cycling. This would progress into another five-day block consisting of covering a half ironman distance (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21km run ) every day and so on. Each block would see me increase the volume of training."

An occasional Ironman distance was also tackled to gauge the level of fitness. The last long session in preparation for the Swiss Ultra was the record-breaking Run-Swim-Run challenge that saw Spiteri cross the length of Gozo, swim the Gozo Channel and run the length of Malta. Battling jellyfish infesting waters, choppy seas and heat, this feat consisted of a 15km across Gozo, swim 6.3km to Malta after which he ran 30 km to Birżebbuġa. A new record time of 5hrs and 36 minutes was registered in the process.

For a challenge that requires three sports to be undertaken, one is bound to think that there might be a particular discipline in which Spiteri feels stronger or weaker. Spiteri is unequivocal - his strongest discipline is his mindset. In such competitions, even if the running segment is one's forte,  in these long races there will be instances when one stops to walk.  For Spiteri, his determination to reach is target will be his strongest attribute.

Being mentally prepared is key for such challenges and Spiteri, has added this part of training into his programme. In fact as part of this training, Spiteri ran several marathons on a treadmill and inside a 400m track.

An passionate animal lover, Spiteri has always combined such events to raise awareness towards NGOs that provide shelter and care for animals. The recent Challenge saw him reach is target of €2000 which were donated towards RMJ Horse Rescue.  In future he plans to raise more funds towards the Association for Abandoned Animals. 

"As we are now in the final preparation stages for the Swiss Ultra, I must express my gratitude towards a number of organisations who have supported this initiative. So big thanks go to Garmin Malta, Attrans Ltd, 24/7 Fitness Club, Wheel Wizard, Go & Fun, Eurosport Malta, Uncle Matt's Kitchen, Lawrence Sofa Cleaning, Millenium Physiotherapy Clinic and Yes Energy Bars - these companies have enabled me to prepared for this race as best as I can possibly be"

Spiteri will be undertaking the Swiss Ultra Triathlon between the 27th and 31st August 2019, with the first race starting at 7am on Tuesday 27th August.

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