An Afternoon with Sebastian Kienle

Once upon a time…

This story borders on the such-ancient-history-who-cares-anymore…but after witnessing a spectacular race in Kona, I wanted to revive it, jog my own memory, and share a few pictures I promised so long ago.

Sebi mile 1

April 1, seven months ago, I received a forwarded e-mail from Jordan Rapp soliciting “Extras Needed for *APRIL 2* Photo Shoot in Malibu with 70.3 World Champ Sebastian Kienle.” The extras would pose at Kienle’s training partners, be paid $100, and get to spend the day with the Champ –who two days prior had finished 3rd at Oceanside 70.3 to Jan Frodeno and Andy Potts.

Sebi finish

Yeah, sure, OK!

Living in California is pretty surreal. Just in case it wasn’t an April Fool’s prank, I replied, citing my flexible schedule as my primary credential. I hoped it wouldn’t matter that I don’t look like much of an athlete, let alone one capable of being best bike buddies with The Heavy Favorite for every race he enters. No matter: I was simply told when and where to meet up, and to bring “swim bike and run gear [sic].” ??? I packed up two bikes, wetsuits and swimskins, a few changes of kits and shirts and shorts, and booked through the Santa Monica Mountains to Leo Carillo State Park.

goofballI had no idea what to expect, didn’t do my homework, and never really know what sporty people look like in plainclothes. I basically only know that “Sebi” is a German, and a super athlete, therefore assumed this would be a long, humorless day. When I arrived at the designated parking lot (20 minutes late, as is my way), I found this dude with a huge smile and crazy ass sweat and chlorine-fried hair goofing off and telling jokes. He happily answered dumb questions about his race the prior weekend and his upcoming season, and admitted that as much as he liked traveling and meeting people and fulfilling obligations to his generous sponsors, photo shoots are the pits. He was committed to making it fun, but warned us.

The photographer arrived very much late, and full of questions about what triathlon is –what order do you do the sports in? (He didn’t do his homework either.) We talked a bit about the goals of the shoot (get pictures of Sebastian n’ friends swimming, biking, and running for the German version of a Men’s Health type magazine). I did my best to convince him that throwing us in the 50-something degree Pacific first thing wasn’t really necessary, we could do the sports “out of order,” and according to what locations and lighting conditions were most ideal. Preferably without getting too wet/cold. Young Aussie age grouper Eddy Roche, my fast swimteammate (and general badass on all forms of bike) Eric Marnoch, and Team Timex professional triathlete Matthew Russell also arrived for the shoot. So I was the only girl, which is fine, but I felt like a pile next to these guys.

We started off near Point Mugu for some running shots along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Then we moved up to Deer Creek Road –which has an AVERAGE grade of 10% over 7 miles– for a few more running and biking shots. Very dramatic, but I can’t say you’d catch any of us running or biking up and down something like this, even for a hill workout.

Sebi runs up

sebi runs down

Sebi Matt Eddie run down

We then busted out our bikes, and got a few pictures of the five of us riding down the middle of the road.

I just don’t have the skills necessary to pose (or, look like I’m not struggling for long enough), slow, turn on a steep narrow road that drops into the ocean, then head uphill and clip in to pose again, turn again, etc. At one point we waited for a car to pass before heading back uphill. I fully tipped over, low side, smashing my leg and hip and drive train in a pretty glorious, embarrassing heap.

waiting for the next take

I picked myself up in time to coast further downhill where we paused and let the photogs set up for the next shoot up the road. Immediately after the moment pictured above, we shoved off to head back up the hill. I didn’t realize that my rear derailleur had inserted itself into my spokes, so tipped over AGAIN.

I believe the triathlete version of the Walk of Shame is having to hike up Deer Creek Road in your cleats, bike over your shoulder, while the 70.3 Champion asks if you’re OK. (I seriously thought I broke my hand catching my fall. Bruises for days.)


Sebi, meanwhile, was doing track stands and pulling off multiple takes without ever unclipping.

checking out the damage to my bike, offering a new derailleur hanger, if needed...

He inspected my bike for damage and offered to have someone at Scott (his sponsor) fix it or provide whatever replacement parts I may need.

playing dead

SOOOOO, after the boys got some great shots on the bike, including one where Sebi played dead, we headed to the beach.

It took a while for everyone to get into their wetsuits, and for the photographer to get his camera into a waterproof case. Sebi entertained himself (and us) while trying to keep warm.

figure 8

I get the feeling he can’t stand still for long.

still going

Audi sponsorship, anyoneataudi?


Matt and Sebastian, mostly, practiced a few beach starts and exits for the camera. The photographer got a few shots of them swimming, then we all joined in for a few splashy running shots and swim exits.

group shot

Sebastian had to turn around and drive to Tucson that night, so we bid adieu when the sun set. I honestly don’t know what became of the pictures we shot that day –Sebi said he would send us copies of the magazine (published in Germany) when it came out, but WHO KNOWS?

At any rate, it was really fun getting to know his fantastic personality. He was genuine and forthright, but funny and a total goofball. I don’t intend to overstate how well I got to know Sebi in one afternoon (not well at all), but he’s like the spazzy little brother I never had –a total delight to be around.

sebi at mile 9

While I’m sure he has forgotten all about this day in Malibu, I was proud to cheer him on to victory in Kona. I think he’ll make a fantastic Champion (I mean he already has, but let’s face it: the Ironman World Champion is a bigger crown than the Half Ironman World Champion) and ambassador over the next year, before he attempts to defend his title in Kona.



HUGE congratulations to Sebastian Kienle, Ironman World Champion!


3 thoughts on “An Afternoon with Sebastian Kienle

  1. So cool you got to hang with the world champ for a day! And I hear you on the walk of shame…I did one in front of Jonny Moseley when I caught my edge, couldn’t recover and then slid halfway down the mountain. Glad I’m not alone 😉

    1. AGH, totally. So embarrassing! And then you feel like you have to explain “I’m not THAT bad at this. It totally wouldn’t have happened on a normal day… it’s just that you were watching me….”

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