In late 2019 I signed up for the introductory Ironman in Nur-Sultan. What happened in the meanwhile is well known. The 2020 competition got withdrawn and the 2021 version was a write-off as well. For security motives I had been swayed by dear friend Rob Cummins to sign up for the fabled Hardman Triathlon in the south of Ireland. A race that I have been following since a while in an area that I was training and racing in while living on the emerald island. As I organized my travels, I found out that a trip to Ireland is not possible without the second shot. A shot that I hadn’t been given back then. I wanted to race but i was not keen on travelling far, so that left me with three probable race-picks close to home – Tallinn, Copenhagen or Gdynia. The polish coastal city of Gdynia rapidly became the preferred destination due to the easy approachability from Stockholm. Four weeks prior to the competition I further ramped up the training and got myself physically and mentally polished up (…nice wordplay, right?!)
It is nice to have big Ironman events in a smallish towns like Gdynia. The entire place seemed to be behind the event and with some other races during Friday, Saturday and Sunday it was a great vibe in the whole city. The weather prediction looked wonderful. Rain and slight winds were on the outlook. Conditions that I prefer over warmth and sun. Sunday came and so did the race start by the local sand beach.
The rolling beach start is amazing: The first time that I experienced something like this. It took away a lot of stress and assisted me to a good start. I swam fairly hard until the first buoy that was placed about 400 meters out in the sea. Waves, little wind and slight rain weren’t too bad for me and my swimming capabilities. Also, the Australian exit after about 1.500 meter was enjoyable with the crowds lining up at the shore. Virtually all the course I swam by myself. When I finally exited the water, they told me that I’m 5th in my age group and 30th overall. As swimming is undoubtedly not my strongest part, I was highly stunned by myself. Hearing my actual swim time of little over 1 hour made it pretty apparent that the course was longer than the classic 3,8 kilometers. I played it cool and took my time in the transition zone. As more rain and heavier wind came up, I decided to go with a bike jersey and long gloves. Riding out of town I was by myself. One or two guys overtook me after a couple of minutes but then I was all by myself on the bike course.
Some really nice, newly paved roads and a couple of really bouncy polish country roads later, it began. Pulks of fellow triathletes overtook me. A lot of people had warned me, but to see it firsthand was quite unsatisfying. The drafting and group riding were intense, and I was astounded by all the activities. Swimming fast in an Ironman surely does not help when you ride a bike like I did. And that is the assumption from the second discipline of the day. I must ride harder and faster or stop swimming. I tried to stay optimistic, took in my nutrition and made sure to ride on. I was looking forward to the marathon and tried to use the gathered annoyance for the forthcoming marathon.
When I came back into Gdynia, the sun was out, and I was really looking forward to assembling the Gruppetto. Transition was unspectacular and the legs felt good. I tried to relax myself and find my rhythm. This went well until about kilometer 10. When I tried to take in another gel, my stomach closed down and cramped. I continued to fuel it, but I had to alter to walking mode. I entered the local park for a quick number two stop, but my stomach didn’t like that either. I jogwalked until the half marathon mark but when I couldn’t stand up anymore and I didn’t have the mental strength to walk home a marathon.
The race doctor was stunned by the severeness of my cramps and had to use two doses of drips to loosen up my lower body. It took me quite a while to get over this DNF. Not the first one due to stomach contractions. I felt like a fool after all the training and groundwork that I had been putting into this one.
This Ironman taught me many valuable lessons but primarily I need to get my stomach in check before I can plan on the next adventure.
Tune of the day: Baba Ali – Got An Idea