What are we talking about?
“What are we talking about?” Eva asks eagerly. Okay, this is one fast lady. Obviously, we have to crank it up a notch. We were planning a GearTalk with two-time World Champion duathlete, triathlete and member of the Thule Adventure Team Eva Nyström. But it immediately turned out that Eva is not – unlike many other triathletes we know – a ‘gear freak’. “I don’t care” she says “I just want to go fast. The most important is that the gear is working for me”. ‘Seems’ like we’re talking to a winner here. Equipment is just a means to an end for Eva, “I’m not good with mechanics” she says. It doesn’t really matter what it looks like, it just has to function well and help her go-fast.
But guess what, we had an interesting GearTalk with this fast and humorous lady anyway. She told us about her personal preferences and favorite equipment for swimming, biking and running. We got training- and buying-advice for beginners, talked about food, and her involvement with product-development and -testing for her sponsors.
Wetsuits and Swim Goggles
For Eva it is key that – during a race – a wetsuit can be taken on- and off very fast and easily. Many athletes have problems with that. Even for a pro like Eva, unnecessary stress is something you want to avoid during a race. Obviously the suit should be comfortable to wear. Finally it’s important for her that she can close the wetsuit herself. She lives close to lakes where she swims a lot in the morning on her own.
Eva uses two kinds of goggles. For indoor-swimming the ones with small sockets and for open water ones with larger sockets. Most important is, obviously, that water stays out, but for open water, mirrored lenses are important, because of the direct sunlight and reflections off the water’s surface.
Eva had worn Blueseventy suits before. Last year Eva asked Blueseventy if they wanted to provide her with swim gear again, because she likes their wetsuits the best.
Choosing your sponsor, that’s a privilege only few can afford. Eva would never choose a sponsor if she didn’t know they had good products. “If I were to change sponsors, I would try the gear beforehand, so I know it´s okay for me. I don’t just say, okay, thank you, thank you. You have to test it before.”
This is Eva’s third year with Cresent, an old Swedish bike brand. This year she didn’t change her time trail bike because it is just perfect for her. Crescent did offer her a new bike, but she opted to use last years frame, “because it can be difficult to get the same height and length on a new frame”. Yes, we have to agree, bike-fitting can be a painstaking job.
As Eva told us at the start of this interview, that messing around with screwdrivers and fork wrenches is not her favorite pass-time. It doesn’t come as a surprise that she doesn’t change her bike set-up herself. But, she can feel minor differences when it comes to settings, so she knows exactly what she wants. And all that has to lead to feeling very safe. That feeling, and knowing what the bike does, adds to your self-confidence. In races with this bike and set-up, she was faster in the downhills then ever before.
Eva isn’t racing on racing shoes. [What?—red.] A while ago she had training issues with her achilles tendon on both legs and was afraid to get an injury fallback. Since then she runs on Skechers. They have quite thick soles and are heavier than racing shoes. On top of that, she has custom made inlay soles that also add some extra weight.
She thinks it’s a bit of a mind-game. But if these larger and heavier shoes make her feel good, why not wear them. And the results are there. She won with the Skechers: Swedisch championships, a world championship race, and in a race in Sweden she was “best Swedish girl, on training shoes, hahaha”.
When you’re competing, you need to focus on the race and not worry about injuries. It’s the same with socks. Most triathletes do not wear socks because it takes time to put them on. But Eva does, even in competition. She wears socks when she races because she easily develops big blisters. Once she had to have antibiotics after a problem with blisters. That’s another thing she wants to avoid. So for long distance; Olympic and longer, she uses socks, “But also in spring I use socks, even on short distances, because I don’t want blisters, I want to train, hahaha”.
Food & Fuel
Isostar sports drink is a favorite of her for the past 4 or 5 years, and she can’t imagine going without. It has saved her from stomach and bowel troubles. Eating and drinking is crucial during endurance sports like triathlon and adventure racing. Getting the right nutrients and staying hydrated is often a challenge. Eva confirms the fact that these isotonic drinks really help. “Yes, I can feel it, especially on the run if you do long distance or something.” Coffee flavor is her favorite: “I get the feeling of like; Wow! Hahaha!!”. She doesn’t take them on the biking stage but towards the end of the run. There is a big difference with a couple of years ago. Back then she didn’t take so many gels on the running section but now she takes 6 or 7 gels on a long distance race because she feels a very big difference; feeling better helps her think better. When you’re tired you tend to think you don’t need them, but she decided to take cola and water at one aid station and a gel and water at the next, so every other aid station she takes a gel.
During training sessions other munchies are on the menu: sandwiches, bananas or bars. When cycling and on long runs she mainly drinks water and carries just one gel for ’emergencies’, in case she gets tired for example.
Bad luck strikes the best of us. Not even top athletes can escape an occasional misfortune. Eva still remembers a loud tire blowout that occurred years ago during the Swedish championship on the Olympic distance. It forced her to quit because she did’t carry a spare tire that day. Why not? we asked. Well: “I thought that maybe I wouldn’t get any puncture, hahaha, but I did.” But normally on long distance races she carries a spare tube [like everybody else —red.]. Changing tubes fast was also part of the training in the beginning. Eva shares a small trick with us: At the side opposite to the valve she doesn’t glue the tube to the rim, so in case of a puncture, or blowout, it’s a little bit easier to remove the damaged tube. Unfortunately punctures ‘always’ happen to the rear wheel, which is a bit more of a hassle to change.
Eva thinks many people who take on triathlon spend too much money on gear in the beginning. They want to have the best wetsuit and the best bike … which can be quite expensive. It’s better to start with cheaper or secondhand gear, and then see if you want to train more.
Regarding training, her advice is to also practice the transitions from swimming to biking and from biking to running outside the races.
Furthermore it’s important to not just do a few races per year,. It’s better to do a lot of races. Not all races have to be triathlons, you can also do runs, road races, trail-triathlons, swim-runs etc.. To sum it up: The beginner has to do, to train, to practice, everything. When you do more than a couple of races you learn a lot, you gain a lot of experience. So don’t just have 2 races in one year, it’s better to do maybe 20 races, and then you may be more relaxed in your ‘big race’ because you have done it all before. Also you can try out your gear during these smaller or less important races.
Sponsors and top athletes work closely together. Athletes aren’t just walking billboards. They provide invaluable input to product development. Racing is serious business, but so is training. New products are thoroughly tested by athletes during training. Top athletes test their gear to the max. Eva: “If for example, you don’t think Gore-Tex is good, you haven’t tested it when you really need it, because it’s a very big difference.” Last winter Eva put rain jackets to the test while adventure racing in cold, dark and windy conditions. Eva has even endurance tested Thule baby strollers, with her son in it, for thousands of miles on regular training sessions in different weather conditions.
But also on products that are available in stores, Eva, when necessary gives feedback to the brand.
If the gear is good for a top athlete it should suffice the customer.
Eva has one more MacGyver improvisation for bikers about puncture prevention. Actually she stole it from her husband Martin Flinta, but that’s okay. They have used it in China while adventure racing. Mountainbikers should be familiar with the problem of not just running a flat, but also damaging your outer tire. On an adventure race you carry inner tires but not spare outer tires. So in order not to hurt your new inner tire, they use the empty packaging of the gels mentioned earlier as an extra layer of protection. The flexible plastic/metal laminate is put inside the outer tire over the hole and should hold for a while.
We say thanks! That’s the kind of GearHack we like!
The new bike transport case is Eva’s Thule Favorite. Eva likes it because it’s big, it’s wider and higher than usual, and therefor requires minimal disassembling of the bike.
The pedals and the saddle can stay on. She only has to take out the wheels, put the handlebar at the side: “so it’s perfect, it’s really perfect”
Thank you Eva, for the interview!!