race report by Aditya Kaushik
1.9 kms swim
90 kms cycling
21 kms running
And 7-8 hours of pure suffering!
That’s what went down at the inaugural edition of Ironman 70.3 Goa,2019.
An Ironman Triathlon was always in the bucket, but I would never have guessed that the prestigious event would come to India. I still remember last December when I was about to register for another Ironman race somewhere abroad and Goa had just been announced. I felt it was destiny for the race to be announced at such a point of time, and what can be better to do your first half ironman in the first edition, which is was to be held in our home country. And In the blink of an eye the registration had been done and the preparations had begun.
Depending on an individual’s fitness it would take an average joe somewhere about 5-6 months of preparation time to complete the race within the stipulated time of 8 hrs 30 mins.
The Motiv8 Tri team began their training way back in February with the first major tri camp in March held at Kolhapur.
On a personal level, to be honest, my training was inconsistent, with exams coming in, some minor injuries, and on some days- just the lack of motivation to do so!
The race being held on Sunday, 20th October,2019, I landed in goa on Thursday, to get used to the weather and do a route check for all the 3 legs.
Being the month of October, it was assumed that the weather was going to be sunny with a lot of humidity given the race would go on till afternoon, but ALAS! It rained almost continuously from mid noon till late night everyday till race day. Our only worry was that if it did rain on race day, cycling would be a bit of a problem and most of the competitors only wished the swim got cancelled.
We did a good bike route check and an easy run thus making it a good brick workout On Friday Morning, post which we went to the expo and got our bibs collected. After that we got our bikes checked which had some minor issues and got done with our photo session.
On the 19th October, A swim session had been organised by the race organizers. It was a crucial session since we were doing a sea swim after quite a long gap hence getting used to the currents and other variable factors was an important part. For 80% of the participants, it was their first sea swim experience and hence there was quite a commotion going on with many participants screaming for help midway this swim session. I personally had my strategies down in my mind since I had done a couple of open water swim sessions previously.
But now, the stage was set and the time to train was done, all we had to do was to wait for the gun to go off!
D-Day/ The Race
To simplify things, I shall divide this segment into 3 parts -Swim, Run, Leg.
That morning, there were light showers to begin with, but they stopped as soon as we entered the transition area to set up our kits. The clouds cleared almost immediately. But then there was an announcement that the flag off was postponed from 7 am to 7:30 am for some reason.
Personally, I was always comfortable with swimming, whether it was a pool or a sea, the swim leg didn’t intimidate me much. Listening to the people around me, I knew most of the participants would stop midway their swim for recovery and sighting purposes. Hence it was important for me to stay ahead of the pack so that I can stay as far away from them as possible, to not interfere with my performance during this leg.
Our local swim instructor in Goa, gave us some crucial open water tips the night before, regarding sighting and other key aspects which would then prove to be helpful.
The swim flagged off with a rolling start with 5 participants being allowed every 6-10 seconds.
The one part that I always enjoyed about swimming is that there isn’t really much time to think during this leg. There is no space for other thoughts to enter your mind as you are always thinking about your form, your breathing and most importantly your swim sighting object. And as I had prepared, that’s exactly how it went. Being an Australian exit, we had to cover 2 laps of 950mtrs and before I knew I was already out of the water, ready to enter my second lap.
Post covering my second lap I was out of the water I looked at my Garmin and completed my swim in 42 mins which I expected exactly as per my training. Thus things were going very well up to this point.
The swim to bike transition, i.e., T1 was about 500m away from the swim exit. Yes 500 mtrs!!! So that required a good jogging recovery to get the breathing mechanism back to normal.
At T1 I realised I made a grave mistake. I realised I put my Numbered spectacles in another bag which had been dropped of with my parents and all I had was my plain sunglasses. I almost never did my bike rides without my specs since I always had a fear that I won’t be able to sight the potholes en-route and would always either crash or screw up my tyres due to bad road conditions. But now I had no option, I put on my sunglasses, remembered the lord and headed straight out T1 hoping not to get my tyre punctured.
The bike route consisted of 3 laps of a 30 kms route with one major incline of about 500 mtrs.
Into the first loop I realised that things weren’t all bad and the on-road support helped me cruise through the first loop with much ease without any sighting trouble.
The second loop was when things started to get a bit hazy when suddenly my lower back started to pain a bit, something which had happened to me several times before. To solve this issue, I joined yoga 3-4 months prior to get it sorted and to an extent it did help since this pain was at least bearable, unlike the previous rides where I had to stop my rides due to the excruciating pain. Thus, I got through the second loop and third round was when it became mental. Cramps started to kick in despite taking in the appropriate nutrition and the last 10kms seemed like a never-ending ride to eternity! But I got through it in a time of 3 hrs 30 mins, 15 mins slower than my desired time. So that was a bit of a disappointment, but I thought the run should help me achieve my target of sub 7 hrs.
Most of my training team knows that I hate running, mainly because its much of a mental game and an even tougher sport for a person who weighs 92 kilos!
I always tried to work towards this weight aspect but for some reason I’ve always failed and never received much success in this area, but now was no time to ponder upon this.
The run consisted of 3 laps of 3.5kms, out and back. I got into T2, got changed into my running shoes and got on the road, only to realise that my running legs were nowhere to be found, and for some reason even my brain decided to stop functioning, and for a brief period I was just a living “zombie” just walking on, with nothing going on in my mind. About 20 mins in, I decided I’ll be throwing in the towel as all my motivation to race had disappeared. Seeing my Sub 7 hrs dream go away I almost talked a volunteer into getting me back to the venue on his bike!
But then, an important thought struck my mind. The spirit of Ironman was all about finishing what you started. No matter how, no matter when, The aim was to finish.
More importantly the one question that kept ringing was,” Was it worth it to quit so easily after giving 9 months of time, money and energy to this race?”. The answer was a definitive NO. Hence, I decided to go with the flow, even if it meant walking the whole 21kms.
While all these thoughts kept going on, I realised I had already completed 7kms and was in my second round. And now it was obvious that there was NO GOING BACK. Hence one step at time I started jogging slowly and somehow survived the run. The weather surprisingly dint affect me much since the real heat came on after 230-3 pm. I kept hydrating at every aid station, pouring ice cold water on my head, face and legs to keep me going till the next aid station where I could repeat this same exact process. And the moments passed, and my third round was over, and I was heading down the last 200mtrs with the crowd cheering and roaring even after such a long time into the race.
I finally stepped on the iconic Ironman Red Carpet sprinting down, with my friends and family by the stand cheering on and I finally crossed the line after a 3 hr 24min Run, rather walk! Completing the event in 7 hrs 49 mins… a time far from my expectations
Although I was glad that I could finish the race, I was a bit disappointed that I could not complete the race a bit faster. But at the end, the race only gives you the result that you DESERVE and not DESIRE! The more important thing was that there were innumerable lessons that I learnt during the run. Most importantly it helped me realise that this race was, a bit more of a mental game than a physical one.
There is an infinite list of things that I must work on for my future races, but other than that there is a long list of people who I would like to thank. Firstly, our coach Atul Godbole, for all the guidance and training plans throughout this entire period. Secondly all our Team Motiv8 athletes who supported us throughout our training period. And last but not the least, my family who not only supported me financially but also emotionally ever since the start of this journey and always encouraged me to take up this race and for being there during the final moments of this Grand Celebration.
Taking all these invaluable lessons and moving on, there will hopefully be better races in the future.
But until next time…Happy Training!