A triathlon is a three disciplines competition: swimming, cycling and running. Competitions are held at different distances, from the sprint (750m/20km/5km – swim/bike/run, respectively, to the crown of the sport – Ironman, 3.8km/180km/42.2km). The change between disciplines within the competition is minute.
Athletes, running out of the water, on the move reset wetsuits (if the judges allow that day such equipment – depends on the water temperature), put on helmets and, rolling the bike out of the transit area, jump on it in the safe zone. At the end of the bicycle race they jump off the bike and, pushing their carbon horse by hand, put it in the stall, hang it on the strut, take off their cycling shoes, put on their running shoes and go for a run.
Of all the sports, why did I choose triathlon? It’s very simple: I was very inspired by the story of an athlete Julia Moss, an American student, who was going for first place in Ironman Hawaii. A few kilometers before the finish line, she fainted, but when she came to, refused help, continued to the finish line… on her knees. And she got a silver medal!
And I thought, “Wow! What fortitude this girl has! That’s exactly what I needed!”.
Beginning of training
My own first experience with triathlon was in 2010, in a sports club. I have a close friend who has already completed IronMan three times (and he has completed them all the way to the finish line), together with whom I went to group cycling classes. He was the one who encouraged me to do triathlons: “Ryan, you can pedal fast, you can probably swim, and you can run a little bit”.
It was about participating in a mini-triathlon as part of the intra-club Olympics, 450m in open water, 10km on a mountain bike and a 3km run around the stadium.
“Nonsense,” I thought. – “It’s no big deal, I’m a former athlete. Well, what’s the big deal? We’ll swim or crawl…” How cruelly wrong I was…
After drinking too much water from the river, falling off my bike at one of the sharp turns, and being severely bruised, I reached the finish line in a half fainting state from the 30-degree heat. My place was 17 out of 100. Considering my age handicap (I was 43), that wasn’t bad, but why not in the medals?
I bit my bones, started getting interested in this subject, bought Triathletes Training Bible (in my opinion, the best book on triathlon of all time), a bike (first a road bike, then a special bike for triathlon – for a split start, it differs in seating geometry and many other things), good running shoes, and a wetsuit.
In general, this part for any enthusiastic mature man is a separate topic, we are like children, we always want new toys – more, newer, better, cooler… Modern technologies used in the sports industry – automatic gearboxes for bicycles, carbon fiber superlight wheels and frames, wetsuits with nanocoating, bicycle and wrist computers, running form, which you want a lot and different… It’s very hard to stop. Beware, future triathletes!
Participation in Ironman
I am a life nerd – if I am interested in something, I have to get to the level of decomposition of the object of interest into atoms and its reassembly. The purchase was followed by lessons with a trainer in the pool and on the bike track, as well as technique training. A year of preparation resulted in several short races in different countries – Olympic distance 1.5/40/10km and 2 times half Ironman 1.9/90/21.1.
Another year of preparation, another dozen of performances and here it is – Ironman Sweden (the competitions are held in different countries, you have to register in advance, the most popular ones sell out online in minutes, and we’re talking about a thousand or more slots!).
I was flying to the small town of Calmar in the south of Sweden with two connections – and the airline lost my luggage, my bike case and all my gear. I’m in a state of preinfarction, running around the airport. They tell me – my luggage will definitely be found and brought to me, but when? I have 48 hours to start, but to collect the bike, check it, register for the race, get a number, GPS-tracking bracelet – everyone has their own, to know the exact time of finish, and to find the body if the triathlete drowns in the sea joke :), but the joke – only partly pass the technical inspection and submit the bike to the transit zone must tomorrow until 17.00!
Trying to rent some kind of bike in the morning. They forget that it will be a comfortable bike (a bike has to be adjusted perfectly “to you” – it takes weeks, like fitting a man’s suit in a good atelier). Naturally, there are no bikes, and I, almost crying, am introduced to a guy, a Swede, who “can solve any issue”.
A quick questioning: “where did you fly from, what airlines, what did the case look like”, a few calls and “I found your bike, it’ll be brought to the next city on the next flight and we’ll bring it to your room today at 3pm and you can drop it off in transit until 9pm, just say I said it’s okay”.
I was speechless, hugged him and shook his hand. It turned out to be Thomas Gustavson, the legendary Swedish triathlete, multiple Ironman participant and the organizer of the first full-distance Ironman in Swedish history.
As for the competition itself. I did well, with a total time of 10.33.45. During the run, about the tenth kilometer of the marathon, I started rubbing my fingers with my new running shoes, and I came to the finish line with four loose toenails and bloody socks. I was satisfied with the result – second place among my country in my age group. I only lost to one guy, but then it turned out that he was the national triathlon coach.
A few statistics: to cover the distance it took me 10 hours 23 minutes and 35 seconds, about 3.5 liters of fluid (isotonic, non-carbonated cola, energy gels diluted in water), 9 energy bars, 4 gels, 100 g raisins, weight loss – about 3 kg, energy expenditure – 11500 kcal.
A fair question arises: Why do I need all this?
I will divide my motivation into several components:
1. I just love it. Triathlon is like a drug for me!
I love the feeling of a well-run workout, the elasticity in my muscles, the adrenaline from preparing for the start, the race itself. I like gathering and checking my equipment for the road, when I lovingly wipe and lubricate my bike, stow my nutrition and equipment.
2. It’s good for my health
I can already hear exclamations: “Yeah, it’s very useful to run around in a semi-conscious state for 13 hours non-stop”.
I agree. Not useful. But if you approach the training process correctly, be mentally prepared for the race, clearly know your medical limits, calculate your strength, prepare your body before the race and recover after it – everything will be fine. The body’s resources, its ability to withstand negative things, psychosomatic – all this goes to a qualitatively different level after several years of training and competition.
3. Connecting with interesting people
Triathlon, unlike many more prestigious, more pompous, glossy sports like golf, polo, heli-skiing, yachting, requires several years of serious training just to reach the finish line and several more years to compete in the upper echelon of its group, commitment, and work not only the muscles but also the head. It is necessary to know in detail the types of muscles, to know your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds, the limit values of heart rate, etc. Otherwise there will be unpredictable consequences for your body, offensive DNF (did not finish) and injuries.
Therefore, triathlon eliminates upstarts and people who want to “be in the mainstream” very quickly. A new circle of communication is formed with very interesting people who are already established in something. Only the REAL people are left. It’s worth a lot.
4. Travelling around the world
When else will you have to run through the traffic-closed, and filled with fans chanting your name, center of New York, Zurich, Las Vegas? It’s the emotions for all lifetime!
5. I became a role model for my family and children
My kids really like what I do, they’re terribly proud of my accomplishments, and they brag to their classmates: “My dad’s an Ironman!”.
I have two sons, ages 9 and 13. They often accompany me in my competitions. Very soon I am planning to run the legendary London Marathon. My eldest son will be there to support me and cheer me on.
6. My passion for triathlon helps me develop my business
I am a restaurateur and own a chain of catering establishments with more than 1,000 employees. Managing such large business is not easy, the stream of tasks is very intensive. Nevertheless, I manage to do everything and I even have time for my family and Ironman training 3-5 days a week. How do I do it?
Triathlon, like any serious sport, is a competition not only of physical strength, but also of mental strength and the ability to concentrate on a clearly defined goal.
When you are seriously diving into triathlon, you notice that you sleep less and better, you go to social networks only when necessary, you no longer need TV at all. As for business, your mind works more clearly and is better focused, you distribute responsibilities better, you control the execution of orders more clearly.
7. Triathlon hardens my spirit
One of my idols, the famous cyclist Lance Armstrong, once said: “Pain can last a minute, an hour, a day, or a year. But sooner or later something will come in place of the pain and make it go away. The main thing is to wait for that moment. Because if you don’t wait for it and give up before then, your pain will be eternal.” And I absolutely agree with him.
In triathlon, as in any other serious sport, whether in training or in a race, at some point pain comes to you. It covers you like a blanket or stings like a wasp. It’s always different, you can’t get used to it, you have to wait for it, endure it, respect it, and be with it to the end. It’s a hard challenge, but it toughens you up and makes you stronger. You’re not an Ironman if you can’t endure your pain.
Triathlon toughens people’s spirit. And it doesn’t matter how old they are or what they do.
Personally, I noticed that after training it became easier for me to negotiate, to bear the pain of business failures, betrayal and aggression from other people. I became less irritable and learned to wait. I stopped being impatient and it had a positive effect on my business. Triathlon taught me to be calmer and wiser. I now understand that life is also a marathon, not a sprint, and sometimes it is better to lose a battle to win a war.