IM Hamburg -Stephanie Wunderle: Teaching, Motherhood, and 8:57h Ironman Success

From dominating every triathlon she entered last year, including clinching the 70.3 AG World title, to challenging herself among the pros this year, Stephanie’s journey is nothing short of inspirational.

With the mindset that if you don’t try, you’ll never find out what it’s like we decided to give the pro card a go. She likes to pushed her limits and what better way to do this when you race the best athletes in the sport. 

Balancing her roles as a teacher, a mother of three, wife and a semi professional athlete over the last 6 months was challenging yet a lot of fun. When other athletes can travel to warm weather training camps Steffi trained at home during the winter. Control the controllables. That’s actually what we did.

Maximizing her training availability and optimizing her training workouts. 

Stephanie completed her first Ironman in an incredible 8:57 hours. She joined the elite ranks of athletes who have completed an Ironman in under 9 hours on their debut. This achievement is rare and highlights her extraordinary capabilities.

However, the race was not without its challenges. The bike course was notably technical, filled with numerous turns and suboptimal road conditions both within and outside the city limits. Despite these obstacles, Stephanie managed to complete the 112-mile (180 km) bike segment in 4:29 hours, averaging a speed of 40 kph. Impressively, her average power output was 30-40 watts below her LT1 (lactate threshold 1) watts, demonstrating her improved endurance and strength.

Despite this phenomenal bike split she knows there is room for more because our data.

Progress and Performance 

Since 2022, Stephanie’s VO2 max and LT1 have seen significant improvements. Her current LT1, which can be sustained for around 5 hours after adequate training, has improved by 120 watts. LT1 is a crucial physiological metric, indicating aerobic efficiency, which is particularly important for long endurance events like Ironman races. Ironman performances are often sustained around LT1 levels, underscoring its significance.

In addition, Stephanie’s LT2 (anaerobic threshold) power and VO2 max power have both increased by 40 watts since last summer (2023). An increased LT2 can suggest improvements in fat utilization for energy, VO2 max, and lactate shuttling ability. Additionally, her max glycolytic power has dropped, typically low in top endurance athletes (0.3-0.5 mmol/L/sec), which is often associated with a decreased tendency to use fat for fuel. This progress reflects a comprehensive enhancement of her metabolic profile and endurance capabilities.

Her marathon performance (3:15h) was inconsistent considering 4 week break from running due to a muscle issue. The first hour was at a 2:59h marathon pace, pretty much on target, but unsustainable due to a lack of running training miles & muscular fatigue resistance. Her pace decoupled, and she jogged the last hour with her legs feeling exhausted. We’re not complaining, though. 

Finding balance

Balancing her demanding training schedule with her responsibilities as a teacher and a mother is no small feat. Stephanie manages to train half-days from Monday to Friday, splitting her time between teaching and training. On weekends, she limits her training to no more than two hours to spend quality time with her family. This delicate balance is a testament to her time management skills and unwavering commitment to her sport and family.

Challenge Roth 

With Ironman Hamburg behind her, Stephanie’s focus now shifts to Challenge Roth, another prestigious triathlon over the Ironman distance, scheduled for July 7th. As she prepares for this next challenge, her performance in Hamburg will undoubtedly serve as both a confidence booster and a learning experience, propelling her to even greater heights.

Congratulations Stephanie Wunderle. I’m proud of you!