Thomas Friedrich Interview – Project Preparation X-Alps
Tommy Friedrich is having a good year. Despite the lack of racing due to Corona, he’s been working hard and looking to the future. We caught up with him after his impressive joint 3rd place in this year’s Eigertour hike&fly race to ask him a few questions.
What kind of training are you doing at the moment?
Well, I’m flying cross country a lot and I’m working on my stamina. For endurance, I train 5 to 6 days a week, running, riding and hiking with my glider. I bought a turbo trainer before the corona shutdown, which was good timing, but I prefer to ride outdoors. At the moment, I’m probably doing about 50% on foot, 50% on my road bike. I also have a programme of interval training and always train using a heart rate monitor. It kind of depends though, because when the weather is good I try to get as many hours in the air as possible. In the winter, I do a lot of ski touring.
Who do you train with?
I like training with friends – it’s good for motivation. I train with Simon Oberrauner, my friend and Salewa teammate who I supported at the last Red Bull race. However, I also train a lot alone – I like the silence.
Tommy, you once said that your biggest dream was to compete in the Red Bull X-Alps. We know that you’re now hoping for a place in the 2021 edition. How do you feel about next year’s race?
Yes, that’s right. The announcement comes at the end of August. The X-Alps is the biggest hike&fly race going. There’s nothing comparable, so for sure, it makes you feel nervous. There are so many different tactical factors involved, like how you asses the weather conditions and decide on your take-off points. You just never know how it’s going to work out.
What inspires you most at the moment?
For me, it’s definitely meeting people and flying in new places. I’m big fan of what Kílian Jornet is doing. I love coming to the Dolomites to fly, especially in autumn. It’s an amazing playground. Recently, I was lucky enough to recently go on a trip to Chamonix. We hiked up Mont Blanc to 3,800 metres and then flew back down – which was cool. We were already acclimatized from a few tours we’d done previously.
What about competitions?
The Eigertour went well. I had many beautiful moments, although at certain points the conditions were really challenging – I packed and unpacked my glider so many times. Next up, I’m really excited about the 7-day Dolomiti Superfly race. After the Dolomiti Superfly, come the team events, like the Dolomitenmann in Liez or the Rise&Fall in Mayrhofen.
Where is your favourite place to fly?
My favourite place to fly is Schöckl, a mountain in Austria about 15 kilometres north of Graz where I grew up. It’s kind of my backyard. In Austria, we say “dahoam is holt dahoam” (home will always be home).
What is your preferred wing set-up at present?
I fly an ultra-lightweight high-performance D-class Skywalk X-Alps4 glider.
Is there any other equipment you particularly like to have with you in the mountains?
I’m a bit of a gear junkie and I like to have good equipment that is as light as possible. Currently, my favourite jacket is the Pedroc TirolWool® Responsive® Jacket because it’s warm and very lightweight and packable. And the Pedroc Polartec® Power Grid™ Full-Zip Hoody which makes a really good midlayer, although I sometimes wear it next to skin – it’s that comfortable. And I always pack a thin beanie that will fit under my helmet. My favourite pack is definitely the SALEWA Hike X-Alps Backpack, designed Paul Guschlbauer.
How heavy is your pack?
When I’m training, my pack with wing and clothes weighs around 7 kilos. In the X-Alps, you have to carry a specified list of safety equipment and your pack usually weighs around 10 kilos.
What kind of food do you carry in the mountains?
I normally take bars and gels, but if I’m out for longer I also like to cook or pre-cook something at home. Most of the time it’s pasta. I love pasta.
What shoe do you prefer for hike&fly?
My favourite shoe is the Ultra Train. It’s light, but it offers good cushioning and support.
What role does risk management play for you?
In paragliding, as in many outdoor sports, it plays a really big role. There’s always a very fine line between pushing to get better and pushing it too much.
How do you deal with anxiety?
I think it´s really important to recognise fear so you understand when you are pushing too hard. However, being too scared can stop you being focused. During a bad situation in the air, there is no place for fear. You just have to focus. It’s better to go back to it afterwards to consider what you did wrong.
What role does your family play?
My family is really important for me. They’re behind me the whole time and this gives me a lot of strength and energy.