My first IRONMAN

By Mihir in Experiences
Updated 21:47 IST Aug 24, 2022

Views » 454 | 5 min read

Ironman is the toughest single day triathlon in the world. With all the variables to tackle in this race, it has the potential to humble the best of athletes. Anyone training for Ironman needs patience and grit to follow a strict regime of workouts, nutrition, strength training and focus on recovery. Completing this triathlon and earning the title of 'ironman' became a dream of mine. I joined RadStrong Coaching to train under Kaustubh Radkar to achieve this personal goal.During one of my discussions with Kaustubh, he suggested I sign up for Ironman Tallinn but given the time frame I was hesitant. Kaustubh as a coach has been spot on with assessment of his athletes and I have personally witnessed the results he predicts. So when he said 'You will be ready for IRONMAN Estonia' I was convinced to sign up for the race.Training with the whole team was immensely beneficial. We supported each other through the highs and lows of training. Inspite of the high intensity and volume I have never had more fun with workouts. Our group travelled to Tallinn well prepared for our race.The week leading up to the race was to get acclimatized to the weather and assemble the bike(& repair what broke in transit). In that week we kept any physical activities to a minimum. Physically we were well rested but the pre-race jitters had kicked in.

Bike check-in
Athletes need to check in their cycles and the transition bags(gear needed between each of the three disciplines) a day prior to the race. The bags had to be packed meticulously as every small detail could make or break your race. Needless to say, we checked our bags at least 10 times before submitting them to the race officials.

Race day
The athletes are allowed to make last minute tweaks to the cycle and place any nutrition on the bike needed for the day. With nerves dialled to 11, we wore our wetsuits and made our way to the swim start. The athletes were expected to self seed based on the time they estimated to finish their swim. The race was flagged off at 630am, with 6 athletes entering the lake at 5 second intervals thereafter.The swim course was marked with 7 buoys leading to the entry of T1(transition area between swim and bike leg). My swim strategy was simple: focus only on the upcoming buoy not thinking of the distance to be covered nor the pace. In the first kilometre of the swim, negotiating through the pack was a challenge. There was an exchange of unintentional hits and kicks between the athletes. This only became worse around the buoys. In the second half of the swim, the wind picked up making the water choppy. With a few moughtfuls of water, it was a matter of keeping calm and powering through. After 88mins, my 3.8km swim came to an end. It was 10 min slower than I expected but I could not delve on it. A 'mere' 180km(2 loops of 90km) bike ride awaited.Getting in a cycling position after swimming for more than an hour is always difficult. The first 5kms were slow as expected. Just as I got into a rhythm, a heavy downpour with strong winds added to the difficulty. The headwinds drastically reduced the speed while the crosswinds made it hard to control the bike. The shoes filled up with water numbing the feet from the cold. Inspite of the chill we had to stock up on electrolytes and stick to our nutrition schedule. The first signs of fatigue raised its head 80kms from the finish. The cold had sapped more energy from me than anticipated and I had to consume all remaining nutrition I had carried to keep up the tempo. Before the nutrition could provide me with energy, my right thigh started hurting. To make matters worse, I missed stocking up on Gatorade and gels at the third aid station. I would have to cycle 33km before i made it to the next aid station. I tried cruising to give my right leg a break from time to time and I made it to the next aid station without incident. It was a big mistake but I got off easy. The reprieve I took and the nutrition I consumed eased the pain. I could push again and after 6 hours 44 mins the 180kms of cycling came to an end. With 9 hours left for the final cut off, the marathon was all that was left between me and the title of Ironman.Running with my training partners Ashutosh Ajay Soman  and Yohaan Kudtarkar made the marathon slightly easier. We pushed each other and made sure none of us slacked. At no given point were we more than 50 meters apart.With ample time left on the clock and unexpected struggle during the bike leg, our coach asked us (coach did his 31st Ironman alongside us) to go easy on the run. We walked on the slopes and ran on the flat sections. This helped avoid possible cramps or injuries while conserving energy. At the start of the run, it was sunny and we had to pour water on ourselves to stay cool. The nutrition strategy had to be adapted to the change in weather conditions. However, after 2 of the 4 loops, the sky became overcast and the wind picked up. At a flick of a switch, the weather was cold again.Going easy for the first two laps helped conserve the legs and we pushed harder for the last two laps. It took me 4 hours 52 mins to complete the full marathon. Though not a representative time, this was the first time I completed a marathon distance run.This race threw everything at us. But our training, coach's pre-race and on course advice helped us tackle this race. After a gruelling 13 hours and 17 minutes I heard my name at the finish line followed by the magic words every triathlete dreams to hear: 'You are an Ironman!'

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