A vegan athlete who did his first Ironman triathlon 22 weeks ago is now ranked number one in the world in his age group over the 70.3 distance.
Australian sportsman Vlad Ixel had been successfully competing as a trail ultradistance runner for some years before recently taking up cycling and swimming.
On March 25 this year, he was one of 1257 athletes who started the Davao, Philippines 70.3 Ironman, consisting of a 1900m swim, 90 km cycle and half marathon (13m) run - adding up to 70.3 miles. He finished the course in 4:41, earning him 26th place overall and a win in his age group.
In May Ixel competed in Cebu (Phillipines) over the same distance, crossing the line just seconds outside 4:30, again winning his age group. Next stop saw him competing in Bintan, Indonesia.
Another strong performance saw him coming in at 4:41:27, another age group win.
The triathlon successes follow victories in racing - he won 21km and 23km races in the Perth Trail race series as well as clinching victory in The North Face 100 Ultra in April.
Storming the rankings
Speaking to Great Vegan Athletes, Ixel said: "It's been a great few months of racing with age group wins in the last three 70.3 Ironman events and being ranked number one in the world in the age group is definitely nice.
"I moved a little towards triathlons to change things up for a while - get outside my comfort zone and learn new skills. I also have to be smart about the amount of running I'm doing if I would like to keep racing for a long time. I have run about 140-160km almost every single week for the past five years, and without the running base of years of running as a kid that most runners have, that's a lot.
"Training for three sports rather than one is definitely much harder, but I think it's part of the challenge, and I will keep cycling and swimming even though I'm about to start my trail running season."
Ixel has a number of major events coming up in the near future, including a 100-mile trail race in 2019, and three or four triathlon races during the year. He said: "I will definitely do a full Ironman in the future but it might be the year after as 2019 might be a little more about trail running."
Speaking about his progress in recent months, he said: "One year ago I couldn’t swim more than 25m without stopping and I didn't own a bike. One year ago just finishing a 1.9km swim, 90km ride and after all that running half a marathon would have seen crazy to me. But I just showed up to training sessions, when it was cold, when it was raining, when it was hot, when I was tried, after long working days, when it was dark, when it was late, when it was early I just kept on showing up.
"And to people who think I have any special abilities - yes I have a special ability, and it's called showing up. Day after day, session after session I was there doing the hard work, and I assure you at times it wasn't fun or wasn't easy and a suffered a lot. But it's our struggles that determine our success!
He has also spoken out about how he powers himself effectively through his vegan diet - which he's been following since 2012.
Writing on social media, he said: "Two of the best things I have ever done for myself and my body was starting running and becoming vegan. My life is full of goals and joys and it's all thanks to a healthy vegan diet. Sometimes I ask myself how come not everyone is vegan?
"How come I never knew how good it is being vegan? I wish everyone just gave it a go for few days/weeks and see the difference for themselves."