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The Evolution of Twinkle Toes

by: Coach Scott DeFilippis





Adriano Engelhardt, A.K.A, Twinkle Toes came to KIS Coaching during the summer of 2019 when Coach Carrie, former KIS Pro Manu Kung and I were training in Leysin, Switzerland. Adriano was in the process of attempting to move across from elite running to elite triathlon. While he showed great promise, he had a long road ahead. After that summer came to an end, Adriano set off on his own path while the 3 amigos flew West to the US to finish off the year of racing.


During 2020 I followed Adriano’s progress and it was pretty apparent that he was rushing the process. I could recognize the symptoms as I found myself in a similar situation in my late 20’s when I came into the sport for a second time, after exhausting my potential as a runner. It wasn’t until I ran into legendary coach, Brett Sutton, who explained to me that while I was quick on 2 feet, I was exhausting myself in the swim and had the strength of a boy on the bike…Much like Adriano, I needed time to develop and no amount of hope or wishing was going to suddenly give me the skills and strength needed to finally access the run off the bike I always knew I was capable of. Much like Adriano needed, I needed 3 years of training in order to be ready to compete at the world class level. 


If you have followed Adriano’s results the past 2 seasons you will have seen him slowly chipping away, while navigating life and setbacks that come with the sport.  Last November it appeared that he finally arrived at the place he always dreamt he could get to after winning Los Cabos 70.3Twinkle didn’t win the race on the run, he rode away from the competition and hung on for dear life on the run. After Los Cabos we sent him into his first IRONMAN in Arizona to see if he had the guts to race the distance. I knew he did not have the miles in his body to compete for the podium, but certainly a top 10 or even top 5 was possible. In the end, he finished 11th falling back from 7th in the final few miles,but he proved what I believed all along, that one day he will not just race the IRONMAN World Champs, but he will be in the mix.


Fast forward 5 months and here we are at the start of the 2023 season. After a long lonely winter, Adriano opened up his season at the very competitive Challenge Gran Canaria. At first glance, one would look at the result and think, meh, 10th place…But when you look under the surface, this may have been Adriano’s best result to date.


You see, life has changed greatly for Twinkle Toes since we first met him in 2019. He now has a beautiful little girl named Lucia. Adriano has had to learn to navigate a new sea, finding a balance that allows him to finish the journey he set out, without neglecting his new family. The days of legs up all day in between training sessions while in training camp are over. 

At the end of last season we sat down with the hopes of charting out a map that would help him bridge the gap through the long off season. We needed to find a way for him to earn some money while there was no racing and we needed to come up with a program that would keep him stimulated, seeing as there was no possibility of escaping to San Diego to train with us or even putting in a few short weeks in the Canaria Islands. As the old Doc, Brett Sutton would say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”


Luckily, his long time sponsor K-Forma was able to come with some cash for him for this season. He has started coaching here at KIS and has returned to part time teaching during the cold Swiss winter months. 


Lastly, in terms of training, we decided it was time to turn our attention back to his first love, running. While still quick on his feet despite being a full time pro triathlete for 3 years now, it has become rather apparent that the run splits are getting faster and faster, and if Twinkle wants to compete with the best, we needed to get his level of running back to where it was, before he was a triathlete. Lucky for me, Adriano is the kind of athlete that lets me use my instinct, at times he reminds me of Coach Brad Williams who trusted my judgment no matter what. 


Well, spring has sprung and Adriano has found his way ashore after another long winter, when no doubt at times, he had demons in his mind questioning his will. Over the past 5 months we made the run training a priority while maintaining the swim and bike. He twice ran 30:30 for 10km with wind and rain slowing him in his second attempt at breaking 30 minutes. Believes he is currently in sub 30 shape, but that target will have to wait till next year.


So on Saturday he stepped to the line against a world class field…Just like the off-season, he held the line in the swim and bike, and popped the fastest run of the day with a blistering 1:06 on a slightly short 20km run course finishing 10th place. In my eyes one of, if not, his best performance yet.


The reason I decided to write this blog is because the sport is trending even more towards people selling gimmicks and quick fixes. Gadgets to test your sleep, your lactate, your oxygen levels, your carb utilization head hurts just thinking about how someone could make it through the day without having a panic attack with all the beeping going off on the smart devices. 


My point is, this sport is tough enough as it is, don’t make it even tougher on yourself. Look at our in-house Pro Adriano, he is just like the rest of us, trying to navigate work, life and sport balance. What matters most if you want to be the best you can be is having a will, being patient, and accepting setbacks as simply little waves in the sea, which, if you ride will get you to shore safe and sound.


Please join me in wishing Adriano all the best with the rest of his 2023 season. It’s now time to turn his attention to the bike…No doubt there will be setbacks, but if he continues on the path we have set out for him, there is no doubt we will see him ripping down the Queen K at the front of the race in the years to come.


Yours In Sport!

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