Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon – Before you sign up

There are Triathlons and there are long distance Ultra Distance Triathlons. And somewhere in between there are Extreme Triathlons. But what makes these Extreme Triathlons like Celtman unique and different? First, the weather conditions as well as the course is on the extreme end. Secondly these are self supported races. They are built to make you suffer in more ways than one. And in this suffering alongside other athletes and support crew, you not only become a part of a family but also live though some of the most memorable moments in your life. I got introduced to these crazy races while doing a research on my first IRONMAN Triathlon. For someone who was then struggling to swim 100 mtrs without a break, the thought of doing an extreme triathlon should have been scary. It indeed was, but it just gave me goosebumps and at some level got me excited. Maybe that was a sign enough for me to take the plunge. But of course I wasn’t ready for it then. How the journey unfolded warrants another blog entry, so in this one I will purely focus on highlighting what you are up for, if you are considering Celtman Extreme Scottish Triathlon.

DISTANCE

Before dwelling into other facets, here is brief snapshot of what Celtman entails:

SWIM: 3.4 kms in Loch Sheildaig (temp around 11-13 degrees) infested with jellyfish

CYCLE: Bike through a distance of 202 kms (approx 2000m elevation) across sections of rolling hills in cold and mostly rainy conditions

RUN: Last but not the least, the run takes you on a beautiful, yet brutal course of 42.2 kms across munros before ending at the community hall in Torridon village.

ENTRY INTO CELTMAN

The ballot for Celtman opens every year around November. The application process is fairly simple and self-explanatory. There is no limit to the number of entries the organisers accept, but yes, as the title suggests, it’s a ballot and there are fixed number of entries which get accepted every year. And this is not on first come first serve basis, which means, unlike black Friday sales in US, you don’t have to sacrifice your sleep for getting a foot inside the door. There is a deadline for submitting the entries. The shortlisted candidates will receive a confirmation via email on the pre-decided date. If you have received a confirmation, you will be asked to submit the race fee within a week or so. In case you decide not to go ahead with the race owing to your personal reasons, you can always decline and there will be a wait-list as well.

ACCOMODATION

I am bringing this upfront as this is the part which gave me sleepless nights. I waited for my confirmation before even doing any research on stay and had to shoot out atleast 60 emails to different B&B, Hotels within 10kms radius before I managed to get a confirmation. However, later when I met other athletes, I learned that most folks tend to block a place even before the shortlist is announced. Worst case scenario, you lose out on a small deposit, but definitely save yourself from the hassle of finding an accommodation later. This part of the highlands predominantly has Bed and Breakfast setups or you can also book a cottage. The budget of course varies basis the location, size and amenities. The other option that you can look at are camping sites for campervans in and around Torridon. There is one 3 mins walk from the Torridon Community hall – the venue for the expo, race briefing and also the end point for the race. If you are not comfortable or don’t have an experience of camping in the past, then it is not advisable. Owing to the heavy winds on the day before the race briefing, one of the athletes had to manage the tent almost flying off the ground.

Most of the B&B setups will have their independent sites, listings such as Steve Carter, FB groups etc. Not many AirBnb options were available when we checked. While the race will start in Sheildaig and there are some options available right outside the starting point. This takes care of your start point and T1 access. T2 this time around was in Kinlochewe and as luck would have it, it was just 2-3 mins run from where our cottage was. The race ends at Torridon, which is like a 15 min drive. You can search for places to stay in Torridon, Sheildaig, Loch Carron, Kinlochewe, Lower Diabaig or Strathcarron. For race briefing and registration, it won’t be a challenge to even drive down for an hour, but remember that you will have to report in early on race day in Sheildaig Church Hall between 3 am to 4 am.

SUPPORT CREW

Your life line through Celtman. Your support crew can make or break things for you. You are free to choose the number of people you want in your support crew. But remember that only one of them will be permitted to assist you in T1. It is mandatory to have one support runner accompany you beyond T2A (18 km mark in run). Goes without saying, he or she has to be an experienced runner. In my case, I had checked with a close friend to club the race with a vacation, but owing to his schedule it couldn’t work out. Even though he was kind enough to fly in only for the race, I thought it might be too much to ask. It is another coincidence and story how I found my support runner. A local resident of Loch Carron, fantastic person, familiar with mountain routes and a good runner himself. He was familiar with the entire route and more than that, he made our entire journey and experience memorable.

ACCLIMATIZE

If you live in a country where the weather is nowhere close to what Scottish Highlands have to offer, then I would suggest that you come in a few days earlier. It will help you settle down and also explore the route and decide on the game plan along with your support crew. Do a few short rides, runs and definitely swims to say hello to jellyfish

EXPO

It opens up two days in advance. A schedule will be shared with you. Some of the equipment that you need for your race day, right from neoprene hood to show cover to rain proof jackets are up for sale during the expo – only until the stocks last. You have the chance to also purchase Celtman merchandise – Tees, Jackets, Jerseys, Kilts etc. There are two briefing slots basis your bib number as there is limited space to accommodate everyone at the same time. Please pay attention to the briefing. You and your support runner will also have to get your respective mandatory kits checked at the expo before you get your bibs

Race Briefing at Torridon Community Hall

RACE DAY

Unlike IM events, you don’t have to put your bikes on the rack a day before. You have to carry it on the race day morning and place all your T1 gear next to it. Only one person from your support crew wearing the Celtman Support Tee will be allowed to assist you in T1. You can also carry a foldable chair to sit at ease and change.

SWIM

From Sheildaig, you will board a bus to the starting point of the race. This is when you might get anxious or tenses. But the sound of bagpiper and the drums gets you charged up for the race. The water is really cold, especially for athletes who do not have access to water bodies in such temperatures. I chose comfort over drag – covered myself from head to toe in neoprene suit, booties, gloves and hat. The cold temperature will hit you as though thousand needles have been pierced into your face.  The water temp can go as low as 11 degrees. Ensure that you do 2-3 short swims in the lake prior to race day to create a game plan to deal with this. There will be fields of jellyfish and you will have to swim through them. Of course, you need to keep calm, there is no way you can simulate this in your pool. Once out of the water, you might feel slightly disoriented. So be careful when you are getting out from the rocky pavement. Keep a warm cover in T1 to cover yourself for the short span while you change. Have some warm coffee if that helps to relieve yourself of the cold temperature.

Swim Start by Kai-Otto Melau

Group photo before the swim start by Kai-Otto Melau

Entering the loch by Kai-Otto Melau

 

BIKE

The course is nothing but absolutely beautiful! Enjoy every bit of spectacular view that you come across as there will never be a dull moment. The course won’t kill you, but the weather can definitely catch you by surprise. I saw riders in multiple layers and I saw some brave hearts in sleeveless through the entire bike course. There is one clear mantra to survive it – Stay warm and focus on comfort over being aero. If you get wet in the rain, then chances of catching cold are higher as you pass through the open fields. Avoid that situation as that will set you back on the course, like it did in my case. You support crew can meet you at any given point post the first stretch until Kinlochewe. The road until this point is pretty narrow and this rule is to avoid traffic jam or chaos. But don’t worry, you generally don’t need your support crew for the first 10-12 kms, unless there is an emergency. If you can, keep some warm team or coffee with your support crew – it can help to battle the cold.

Bike Course profile and route for Celtman 2018

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Steve Ashworth

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

Bike Course by Kai-Otto Melau

 

RUN

For flatlanders, this is nothing short of brutal. If you are not into trail running, you will definitely find this tough to deal with. Barring the first 5kms, between 16-18kms mark and the last 5-7kms, there is nothing which you can call fairly flat and even. You will absolutely need to know how to read a map or have a support crew who knows it well. I was lucky to have a support runner who dint need a map at all for this course. T2A is at 18km mark and if you make the cut off time, you get to go on the high level course. The rest have to cover the low level course. Don’t get fooled by the term “low level”, it is not easy by any means. Both have enough and more sections where you possibly cannot run and will have to hike. In order to qualify for the lower course, you still need to make it to the cut off.

There is a list of mandatory gears that you need for the run section, please do not take it lightly. The weather on these munros can really change within minutes. The temperature can drop down to as low as 5 degrees on top of these mountains. The mandatory kit for you and your support runner will be  checked again at T2A. The Celtman organisers will also asses your health at this point. If you are a flatlander, you are in for a big surprise on this run course. One thing you need to add to your kit is a pair of light hiking poles. Trust me they really help and provide the support you need when your legs are all beaten up.

Getting towards T2A by Kai-Otto Melau

Going for the high level course by Kai-Otto Melau

Navigating through the hilly course by Steve Ashworth

Technical descends by by Steve Ashworth

The section where you descend from high level course

Getting back to flatland by Steve Ashworth

 

AFTER PARTY

Dont forget to relish the beer at the finish line of Cetlman, it will be the hardest you would have worked for one in your life. The T-shirt distribution and group photo is captured the next day at Torridon community hall. This is the time you also get to interact with the other athletes. As the organisers rightly pointed out, irrespective of how rough the weather is on race day, but on the day of the group photo, there is a clear weather for a nice picture. They also throw a small party in the evening at the Torridon Community Hall. You get to learn some Scottish / Irish dance moves and definitely works well as your recovery workout.

NOTE: When a Scott says that’s its easy, you must brace yourself for a storm that’s coming your way. The idea of this summary is just to give you a sense of what you can expect at Celtman. And what are the key things you should keep into account if you are considering this race. Of course, for the locals and residents of countries which offer similar course or weather conditions for training, this might not be very useful.

A quick look at some memories from Celtman 2018 in a short film by Erik Putsep and Paul Lockhart

The film from Celtman 2015, which really got me excited about the format and race gives you a a very brief insight into what it entails:

Another interesting documentary “A Race for Lords” by PeigneeVerticale about French athlete Jean-Sébastien Rolin who has taken part in Celtman Extreme Triathlon 2018, in Scotland. Not my story but loved how it has been beautifully captured

And of course, Scotland is a beautiful country to explore. You must take some time out post your race to relish the beauty of this wonderful country. Check this fantastic video from John Duncan –  it will make you fall in love with Scotland.

You can also refer to the Celtman 2018 Race Manual for more details. Stay tuned for my race experience in the subsequent race report. I have kept the blog really brief, but if you want more details, feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or drop me an email on siddhant.chauhan@gmail.com

Ironman Triathlon – An IronWife’s perspective

Dedicated to my IronMan and all the IronSpouses around the world

Ironman Triathlon

Sid at Ironman Nice

Exactly 2 months ago my husband earned the title of his first Ironman at Nice, France. Meet my husband Siddhant – a wonderful man of few words with a crazy sense of humor and works as a corporate communications professional.

If you are wondering, aIronman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order.

Yes, it’s extreme and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I could have never imagined Sid to ever consider something like this. Though he used to play basketball for his state during school days, pursuing triathlons was not something on his radar. But now this is his way of life, his passion, his dream and my household is mixed with new fitness goals, crazy diet, and endless training hours week after week!

Having zero idea about what a Triathlon is, let alone the devastating effect the training part will bring about in our relationship, I was up for a big surprise.

So if you are a Ironman’s Spouse, Hi-five! I feel you and I understand that keeping our house together was never such a big question, until now. Today I have a love hate relationship with a Triathlon for taking our spouses away from us for hours, but let’s face it – we are proud Ironwives!

Ironman - an Ironwife's perpective

Specially printed to support the Ironman!

 

While everyone focuses on the pride, sense of accomplishment and joy triathlons bring, there is another side that rarely gets the due attention

The husband is Tri but wife Tries harder!!

Triathlons, like other endurance races, have a structured training regime and it eats up a lot of time an athlete that he could otherwise spend with his family. Especially training for an Ironman event can take up 12-20 hours in a week, where you can be spending 4-6 hours on a bike and 3-4 hours long run and and hour or two in the pool. Pre-race peak weeks are the worst!

To be honest there was a point when I almost felt abandoned in a funny way. I hardly saw Sid or had a chance to talk to him, as he would be just too exhausted. I would often joke – Looks like this isn’t your house but a PG for you. We never had so many arguments and I would often feel like a single parent managing a baby, 2 dogs, and a house alone! And then I read this.

Triathlon has been called the “divorce sport” because the commitment it takes to complete one of these run-bike-swim events can leave the non-competitive partner feeling neglected, and perhaps even abandoned

The unexpected shock

Sid’s journey began in 2013 with an outdoor fitness group, where with some practice he decided to participate in a half marathon in 2014. One thing led to another. Soon he bought a MTB (Mountain Training Bike) and was training on this new cycle, participating in races, events and what not. Meanwhile, we were blessed with a baby girl in June, 2015.

He had an interest in triathlon but didn’t have the confidence to do one as running was his weak spot. But post his second half marathon in 2015, he finally made up his mind that he should stat training for one. He would talk endlessly about triathlons and show me videos and honestly, it looked very inspiring to me. It’s funny that I actually thought he was joking then. Nope. Sid – who didn’t step into the pool for 20 years since his school days, now got his swimming pass made to practice in the society pool! Face Palm!

Ironman Triathlon

IronBaby supporting her dad!

Triathlon training and relationships

His regime only got stronger and difficult. Little did I know that our weekends would mean a missing husband at 4-5 am, only to return too tired to enjoy the leftover hours of the day with family. I was too busy with a little baby, so somehow I made peace with it. We hardly got any time together over the days, weeks and months. Slowly I broke apart. I stopped talking or trying to talk. But it made it worse for me. I had never felt this lonely for the longest time in my married life.

Initially, I had loved his new found craze for fitness but now somewhere I was resenting this whole new concept of how it was taking more of his “family “time. Don’t get me wrong, I was very proud of him always. I think he didn’t realize it for the longest time that I was just trying to work around his schedule waiting for a window when he was available – and – was not ‘tired with training’ or stressed with his ‘full-time corporate job’. Nonetheless, I continued to support him, like he always supported me to pursue my dreams. Maybe I thought it will get better? But I had no clue how to make it better.

Finally, in 2016 August Sid completed his first Ironman 70.3 at Bintan and went on to finish his full Ironman at Nice this year! I am super proud of him and I can brag about it for years to come. And as I write this I can’t wait for him to better his timing in his next attempt!

Let’s make this work!

Lets face it. Marriage is hard work. It more than just love. It means sacrifice, selflessness and takes a lot more effort to trudge two individuals with different life goals along, trying to do a lifetime together. Being side by side in the good and bad is harder than just talks. There are difficult talks and times and some outbursts and cries. But in the end, it’s all worth it!

I wish we had talked about this whole concept of training and how it would affect our family life. I have learned and accepted this new life with him. The training. The fatigue. The time away from us. It will continue as he signs up for his next event to get closer to his goals, which he had very clearly chalked out before getting into it. All we have done is, changed our perspectives to help each other to handle it maturely and look forward to a new Ironman adventure!

My expectations are now practical. If he has long workouts, I plan play dates with my friends or we go out. We try and spare an hour to watch our favorite series once miss K is asleep or chat up at dinner about what’s new. Our social life is limited but the first chance we get to go out, we grab it! We have come a long way.

But then there are cookie points. We have been able to enjoy 2 international trips where we clubbed the event with a small vacation. This was a fabulous way to celebrate the Ironman event as a family and also enjoy some much-needed family time! Time to check the map to see where we can go next!

Ironman Triathlon

Triathlon training can make marriage as tough as an Ironman event

What is new? A new healthy lifestyle, that Sid has inspired me to take up. I did my first 3 km run at Pinkathon (more on that later) and trust me I hate running! but I did it! I love that I am already on a weight loss journey and quite close to a pre-pregnancy weight 😀

So to all the spouses out there. Let you’re your husband’s pursue their dreams and hobbies.  It’s their outlet – to release all the stress and workload. Being a mom is tough but so is being a husband and daddy. It’s hard, it’s never-ending, it’s tough! So encourage your man if he finds his dream or a hobby and push him over the edge. As long as we keep the sensitivity to the timing and family it will all end well. Nothing like having role models for your kids right at home!

I am taking My Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter

 

Ironman Nice 2017 – Mind Over Body

Why did I chose Ironman France for my first Ironman distance event?

Completing Ironman 70.3 Bintan in August, 2016 was the first step towards accomplishing a long term objective with which I began my triathlon journey. Post discussing my development plan with my coach Deepak, I meticulously started identifying the next Ironman Challenge for 2017. My first priority was Ironman Malaysia as it made sense financially. But till then there were no signs of registrations opening up anytime soon and most of the other courses I was looking at in Europe were sold out. Ironman South Africa was another option, but it was too close and would not allow me sufficient time to prepare. Keeping parameters such as timing, logistics, cost and destination that can be clubbed with family holiday into account, I narrowed down on Ironman France and Ironman Wales.

Ironman Nice 2017

Honestly, looking at the run course for IM Wales, I din’t have the balls to sign up for it as my first Ironman event. On the other hand, IM France has one of the toughest bike course with almost 2000 meters elevation gain, but it is equally spectacular. Not to forget the beautiful swim in the Mediterranean and flat run course in along the beach in Cot d’Azur. Coach put me in touch with Gael Couturier who had done this course 7 times and had registered again for 2017. I spoke to him and dint take too long before signing up for it towards the end of December, 2016.

Challenging training period

For me, the Ironman  challenge began from the day 1. The training period brought with it a host of challenges at all fronts. Despite doing things the right way, something or the other continued to go wrong. And then I had another bike accident (the one I have no recollection of till date), caught severe cold post a 200 km brevet and stomach infection closer to the event: in all setting me back by 2.5 months. Moreover the only pool functional in the city during winters was almost 25 kms away and the time slot available conflicted with m office hours. So the months of Jan and Feb went without a single swim session and managed to squeeze in two sessions in the month of March. On numerous occasions I tried to make a plan to visit the hill stations over a weekend to get used to a hilly terrain, but it dint materialize.

Majority of my training blocks were done during the peak summer months in Delhi. After the accident, I restricted my rides to an Indoor trainer and for swim I relied on the 21 meters pool in the residential complex. The only condition was to access it during the first slot in the morning at 6:00 a.m. to avoid the feeling of a fish market. For my runs, I found the 2 kms loop of my residential complex quite convenient. It used to get boring to run in loops during odd hours in the afternoon or late night after coming back from office. But it allowed me to simulate my hydration and nutrition for Ironman by keeping the supply at the starting point and accessing it again after every loop.

YOSKA Triathlon Academy

Some of the insights from Deepak and Allan during the YOSKA Triathlon workshop really helped

I had moved my job in September 2016 and was spending more time traveling; not because my office was far, but owing to the crazy traffic. Lil Kenisha was turning 2 and everyone who has met her has a sense of how active she is and can’t be left alone even for a few seconds. While Karuna and I were getting accustomed to this change in our life, the weather conditions in the city were at an extreme end – swinging between 37-45 degrees on any given day. I had to find time to train at some odd hours to ensure my work and personal life doesn’t get impacted. Even if that meant starting my rides or runs at 9:00 / 10:00 p.m. in the night, leaving me with the option of having dinner at midnight. But I ensured I spend enough time with my family over the weekends after my longer workouts. To get an idea of my training volume, you can check my log on Strava here

It ain’t over till it’s over

The hurdles kept popping up time and again till the last minute. To an extent, that I felt jinxed! Despite all odds, we finally landed up at our Airbnb apartment in Nice on the eve of 19th July. Got my registration done at the Ironman expo, which was another story and with help from my friends I managed to secure the medical certificate for a single day license. The Ironman France Expo had most of the triathlon brands with their collection and I picked a few accessories, salt tablets and an Ironman Hippo for Kenisha. I met another Yoska club athlete and a fantastic runner, Mahesh at the expo. We got along pretty well and especially Kenisha, who became very fond of him.

Lil monkey and YOSKA tri-club partner Mahesh

Next morning, I took my bike out for a spin and my wheel got stuck in a gap between the road and rail track and I landed up on my tail bone. Took me a few minutes to get over the terrible pain. Stepped aside, sat down on the bench for few minutes, fixed my handlebar and continued the ride. I wasn’t sure of the directions and there was enough traffic on the main road by then. Not to forget the left hand drive which took a while to get accustomed to. I decided not to venture out too far as the idea was just to do a short ride and to ensure if the bike required any further tuning post assembling it.

I Love Nice

In the afternoon I went with Mahesh for a short swim, but I guess the timing was wrong. There were strong waves and the water was extremely choppy, as compared to how calm it was during the morning hours. A short run was something which I skipped completely, but ensured I followed my short core routine as per the plan.

Final check before hitting the bed

Day prior to the race, packed my transition bags and special needs, spoke to my coach Deepak and then hit the bed around 9:00 p.m. But just couldn’t get any sleep and hardly managed to sleep for an hour. Woke up at 3:00 a.m. and got ready. The only people on the streets at that hour were either the participants and their supporters or people who were returning home from night long parties. The thought of not getting enough sleep was bothering me, but once inside the transition area, I put it all aside.

Swim – Complete Bliss

Despite not having experience of swimming in open water (except during the previous Ironman 70.3 Bintan event) I was not very bothered or hassled about it. Swimming in wetsuit was a different experience and I ensured I did a full distance simulation in the pool a few days before the event. As one of my friend and Ironman triathlete Gaurav joked, people around must be wondering who this batman is, dressed in a wetsuit doing 91 laps of the pool in this heat. I think I was just short of burning and wanted to squeeze myself into the freezer.

The start setup was energizing and there was a small tribute paid to the people who lost their lives last year during a rampage at Promenade Des Anglais. I popped in a gel 20 mins prior to the start, cleared my head, did a short stretch of swim in the sea and moved towards the starting lineup. The water was not very cold and not very choppy. Two loops of different lengths and I managed to come out in 1 hr 21 mins with just one punch and kick in my face. Went a little off course on two occasions before realizing it. Unzipped the wetsuit and ran towards the transition. There was a fair amount of distance to be covered on foot before reaching the bike and I decided not to wear my cleats before reaching the end point to avoid looking like a flapping penguin. But I ended up losing time in transition while taking off the wetsuit.

Bike – Death of the flatlander 

“Keep calm and slow down … it’s a long day ahead” I kept telling myself. Ignored everyone who zipped past me in the flat stretch right at the beginning, but I eventually caught up with them. At the 20km mark, could see the hills and the ascent was not too far. Then came a sharp left turn with steep uphill climb of 13% gradient. It looked like a wall and everyone was off their saddles and running out of gears. If you stopped, you would fall and won’t be able to get back on the saddle until you have good amount of experience in such elevations. People on either sides kept cheering as they knew what we were in for. Kept pushing hard until I covered 3/4th of the climb and then decided to pull a Froome. Unclipped a cleat while pedaling, moved to the side, signaled the rider behind me and got off the bike. No shame in doing that, I told myself and ran a few meters till the top of the climb to turn around and see some more riders following the suit.

Ironman France 2017 - Bike Course profile

Terrain for the Ironman France bike course there after went through numerous serene and beautiful villages like like Gourdon, Gréolières, Bouyon, Saint-Jeannet and Gattières. Soon enough a rider came from behind and initiated a conversation with me. It went like:

Rider: Hey mate! Which part of India are you from?

Me: Delhi. Are you familiar with the place?

Rider: Yeah! I know couple of triathletes there. You know Ingit?

Me: Yep, he is a part of our tri club but I have never met him.

Rider: I know him well from my days back in Ahmedabad

Me: Ah ok (wait a minute) Then you might also be knowing Gael. He has done this route couple of times

Rider: That’s me! I am Gael mate

[I leaned back to read his bib]

Me: It’s me, Siddhant! Remember?

What a funny way to finally meet him. We chatted up for a while and he sounded amused that all my training was on an indoor trainer for this course, as there were no hills in NCR region. Since I was taking it easy, it was difficult to keep up with him. I asked him about the climb and he was extremely generous to say that he will give me company for the climb and then we can take off at our own pace. However, I saw him slow down so that I could catch up with him. I dint find it fair for him and told him that I dint want to slow him down. And off he went like he was riding on a flat terrain. As the GSP tracker hit the 50km mark, the road took a turn and then began the never ending climb. I just moved to the easiest gear, maintained a cadence of 80+ cadence and keep the effort anywhere between 60-70%. I stopped by at all water stations from this point on and by the time I hit 73km mark, I threw up and my body refused to accept any solids. My food pipe was literally burning, I could feel my mouth dry up, my feet and back began to hurt. There came a point, when I decided that I can’t do this on anymore. Stopped my bike on the side and sat down for a few minutes.

The grilling climb finally opened up to a short flat section

Then the thought of all the hard work I had put in during all these months and the hurdles I had to overcome to reach this point would go in vain hit me hard. I remembered what coach Deepak and Allan Pitman had spoken about during the conversation a weekend prior … “Focus on the process and go one minute at a time”. Got back on saddle and continued to focus on 1 min at a time. At the 100 km mark aid station, I was surprised to see Gael. He had a flat tire which he had just managed to fix. I asked him how the climbs were for the rest of the journey. He said “Mate, the tough part is gone. You just have very short climbs now and then begins the downhill”. Somehow the short chat with him got me pepped up and I decided that I was not giving up at any cost. After another 25 kms, I looked at my watch and did the math to realise that if I dint push myself now, I might not be able to make it to the cut off despite completing the run. I changed gears, not literally, and pushed myself hard for the remaining ride on just bananas and water. By the time I completed the ride, I crossed lots of athletes who were already finishing off their first or second loop.

Run – On an empty tank

Met Karuna and Kenisha at the transition who were excited to see me. I had zero energy left for the run but they cheered me up. They were surprised that I took this long for my ride but were equally. Took it easy in the transition, stretched myself and then with whatever was left in my body, mustered all my courage and began my run. I deliberately started much slower than my usual brick run as I knew that the real run would only begin after hitting the 30 kms mark.

Ironman Nice 2017

4 loops of the flat run course on Promenade des Anglais

Through the run, I kept a watch at my HR and every time it crossed 155, I would start walking and bring it down to 127-130 before running again. The sprinkler showers on the route were quite tempting, but I avoided them to keep my shoes and feet dry. At every aid station, I began having 1:1 portions of coke and water in a small cup to keep going and one salt capsule every hour. Clearly, this was not sufficient to keep me going but I had no choice. I was disappointed looking at my pathetic pace andchanged the screen on my Garmin watch to show only distance, total and HR. Everyone I came across by the end of first loop had 3 bands, which meant that they were finishing their final round. It was quite demotivating, but I kept moving. With every loop, the number of athletes on the track kept dropping exponentially.

Ironman Nice 2017

On the way to complete the 2nd loop

After completing my 2nd loop I stopped at the aid station and started chatting up with the support crew to divert my attention. I asked him the time left and did the backward calculation. I realized that I would have to maintain this pace for the remaining 10 km blocks to finish within the cut off time and I could not afford to slow down further. Did just that, put my head down and focused on the process. And there it was, my last loop when there was no daylight and the u-turn point at the 36 kms mark looked like a secluded dark ally. The crowd was very encouraging and as I got closer to the finish line, I knew I had finally overcome all the hurdles that came my way in not just those 15+ odd hours, but the months building up to the event.

Ironmom and Ironbaby 😀

Race Summary (nothing great)

SWIM – 01:21:05

T1 – 00:11:39

BIKE – 08:18:01

T2 – 00:15:33

RUN – 05:38:51

TOTAL – 15:45:06

I am pretty satisfied with the time I clocked for the swim. Ride was a disappointment but definitely gives me a fair amount of idea on what to expect during such elevations. The time for run was nowhere close to decent, but the fact that I dint quit on a bad day and finished my Ironman is the only thing that makes me content. It was purely a battle of mind over body.

You can’t do it alone

Promenade Des Anglais

A lot of people to thank for helping me to accomplish this – Karuna and Kenisha for bearing with my training schedule, Moose and Cherry for being good companions during indoor rides on trainer. My folks and sisters who always encouraged me. Deepak Raj for being a mentor and coach through this journey. YOSKA for providing a good training platform. VeloGCR riding buddies for always being around to help and guide, Sorav for helping me get the wetsuit from UK, KPS Oberoi for offering me the new rear wheel cassette, Aman for helping me get some nutrition for training, Jatin for getting me the compression gear from US, Rama for getting me the new helmet and gps watch from US, Yogesh for carrying some accessories from UK, Vijay for helping me with the indoor trainer and Mark for lending me his bike case again. And there are a lot more people who were always supportive and around for offering their help – right from the IM Swim Group buddies to some of my friends who have been very supportive through the journey.

The beauty of the Ironman France course and the experience of the event cannot be truly captured only in images. But I loved some of these shots taken by Activ’images which have just done that.

Resisting the temptation – Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2016

Considered and termed by numerous runners as the Mega Carnival of running in the capital region, where you run as much as you socialize, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is one event that almost all Delhi/NCR runners look forward to. Scheduled in the month of November, right at the onset of the beautiful winter season, it offers a flat running course which passes through the historic India Gate.
Unpleasant past experience
 
I was stepping into this event with some bad track record:
2014 – This was my first HM and I got major cramp in my thighs at the 18 km mark. It was a painful walk/run through the remaining distance and just after crossing the finish line, I went and crashed in the recovery zone
2015 – despite clocking 2:10 during the recce run, I completely drained myself out on D-day at the 13 kms mark. Remaining run wasn’t all that fun, but I did not pass out at the finish line 🙂
2016 – This would be the 3rdHM distance I would be doing in 2016. The first one being SCMM FM (5:17) and second one being at Ironman 70.3 Bintan (2:34); both of them weren’t great in terms of timing.
For the last two and a half months I was generously recovering from my last event and fixing my lower back ache. During this period, I was mostly doing short intervals and some bike rides to stay active. Though I was not nervous about the event this time, I was also not aiming to clock any fantastic time; anything under 2:15 would have made me happy. And more than timing, I was aiming at finishing stronger rather than fading away towards the end.
Meeting the pros at the expo PC: Garima
Finally a D-day without any anxiety
 
I couldn’t get enough rest on the day prior to the race. Somehow managed to put myself to sleep by 9:30 p.m. and woke up by 3:00 a.m. I was happy to receive an audio message on my phone from coach Deepak wishing me luck and sharing some key points I must remember for the race ahead. Had 400 ml water, a toast with peanut butter and then packed my gels. Just when I was stepping our, I decided to carry my own electrolyte (Fast&UP Reload) instead of relying on the one arranged by organizers and it really paid off. The energy of fellow BootCampYellow runners was encouraging as we boarded the bus that was arranged for the journey to avoid the hassle of parking. I had the opportunity to sit next to a fellow runner, who was a climate change scientist and had worked closely with the Government of India. Call it coincidence but with the recent reports on increasing pollution levels in Delhi/NCR, it was quite an engaging and enlightening conversation all the way up to the venue.
We decided to take this group pic before the race, rather than at finish line 🙂
This time, the organizers had equipped the security volunteers at the entrance with handheld scanners which displayed the photo of the runner the moment they scanned their bibs. It was a smart way to ensure people do not pass on their bibs to someone else to participate. Some easy warm up followed by meeting and greeting few familiar faces while moving towards the holding area for section C.
First half of the battle
 
Like every year the energy levels were quite high as runners dashed out of JLN stadium. “Ok calm down Sid, no need to rush in the first 2 kms” I kept telling myself. Saw a lot of familiar faces and lot more people overtake me in the first 2-3kms but I resisted the temptation to pick up my pace. Between 4th and 6th km, I saw the 2:05 bus catch up and I tried to match upto their pace but then reminded myself that this wasn’t a 10k run. And I kept telling myself to maintain a consistent pace until the 10 km mark. Had half my gel at the 5 km mark and the remaining as I reached the 7.5 km mark.
At the 7 km mark  PC: Anjali
Time to step up
 
I always find the stretch between 10 km and 16 km the deciding point for my HM distance runs. Now that I was over the 10 km mark, I decided to pick my pace and maintain it until the 15 km mark. Had another half gel at 11 km mark and popped the remaining around 15 kms. I kept my electrolyte conserved for second half of the race and it was time to consume it at equal time intervals. At 15 km mark, I saw my watch and it was 1:25. Did a quick math in my head and realized that I could manage a sub 2, but did not let this get me excited. But yes, I did continue to gradually pick up my pace.
At 15.5 km mark PC: Ajit
By 16km, I could a feel slight tension in my right calf muscle. For a moment, I thought that this might get aggravated over the next 2-3 kms, but luckily it did not. By now lot of runners were slowing down and the moment we took a turn towards Lodhi road at the 19 km mark, I decided to give it a final push. By the 20 km mark, I realized I fired a little too early but tried not to lose the momentum for the last 1.1 km. Finally crossed the finish line and saw my watch read 1:59 and I tried to contain my excitement before the official time was published. The good part was I dint have to crawl upto the recovery zone. Felt absolutely fine and had enough energy to do another slow and easy 10k run.

Warning: Before you decide to rest your bum on the tarmac after crossing the finish line, please be sure that the surface is wet because of water from the bottles and not someone’s puke 😐

Post Run
 
Met with fellow runners, picked my medal, food packet and few bottles of water. Did some stretches before walking another 2-3 kms to reach our bus and head back home.
Someone has grown up between the two ADHMs 🙂
Post Race Analysis
 
Some things which went well:
  • Pre-race and during race nutrition strategy. Dint try anything new on race day
  • One thing I have learnt early on during my tri training is to conserve my energy for the end. The idea is not to phase out, but to finish stronger as you approach the finish line

What could have worked better:
  • I gained 2-3 kgs in 2.5 months training period and I should have been a little sharper
  • Need to get to my target season weight for the run next year
  • I wish the organizers move the expo back to JLN stadium, more space and less chaotic location
Official Data from Timing Technologies
Garmin Data
Final Result
 
Net Time: 1:59:24
Avg. Pace: 5:40 min/km
Avg. Speed: 10.6 kmph
Rank: 1650 / 7726
Cat Rank: 264 / 1345
Gender Rank: 1569 / 6773
Going by the pattern, I should be clocking the next ADHM in 1:46. Will I or will I not – lets wait and watch.

Preparing for my first triathlon and Ironman event – Ironman 70.3 Bintan 2016

Ironman 70.3 Bintan will always be a special for me. Not only was it my first Ironman event, but also my first triathlon and maiden open water swimming experience. When I finally decided to sign up for my first triathlon, it wasn’t very difficult to zero down on an event from the numerous options available year round. The two deciding factors were – proximity to my base location (New Delhi/NCR) and the timeline. Based on this I shortlisted IM 70.3 Bintan (Aug) and IM 70.3 Phuket (Nov). I personally think Phuket is a better location and could be clubbed with a short post event vacation, but the event was almost 11 months away. So I went ahead with Bintan, only to eventually learn about some other factors which I should have kept into account while selecting an event. My next post will focus on this area. However, this account is purely from a first timer amateur’s perspective.
One size does not fit all
 
Running was something I never enjoyed. Hence I spent some months over a course of two years to get comfortable with running a half marathon distance. In the process, I also ended up doing a full marathon to understand where I stood in terms of fitness. I had started cycling a year before, but this was on an MTB with most of my saddle time on roads compared to trails. Found a good deal on a carbon road bike 2-3 months before signing up for the event. Sold off my MTB and picked up the road bike and eventually started getting used to the aggressive riding position. Coming to swimming, the last time I had jumped in a pool was almost 20 years ago during my school days. But this was something which dint make me uncomfortable and I was confident that I will pick it up during the course of training. Well, this misconception dint last more than 5 minutes into the pool when I began gasping for air in merely 20 meters. And as I began clocking more time in the pool, I started feeling dizzy after swimming in the pool for 25 mins. There was no turning back, I told myself and eventually managed to fix this. My training ground for the entire period was limited to 17-22 meter pools with max depth of 5 feet.
Searching for training programs online, I realized that they did not offer the kind of flexibility that I was looking for and most of them were meant for triathletes with a certain fitness level. I realized that one size doesn’t fit all. I needed a program which would factor in my existing work and personal life routine. With a daughter less than a year old, me and my wife were already trying to settle down with this new development in our life. That’s when I approached Deepak and had a long conversation where he tried to understand my objectives and current fitness level. He helped me chalk out a customized plan and reviewed the progress on a weekly basis. It’s an absolute must to get the right coach to help you achieve your goals.
The Unexpected
 
Two months prior to the event, I had a road accident during one of the training rides but managed to survive it without any major injury. The bike did take some beating but it could have been worse. To mitigate any further risks, I decided to do all my remaining rides till the event on an indoor trainer – be it a 45 min interval training or 3.5 hours aerobic ride.
And when I was just getting better with my running, an old lower back injury surfaced again a month prior to the event. In the past, a week’s rest would help me get back on track, but this time around it continued to linger on. It did not hamper my cycling and swimming workouts, but made it difficult for me to run post 30 mins. A sports physio did an extensive investigation and in lieu of the event, gave me a go ahead only if I resumed the follow up treatment once I was back. Since I was already hitting the taper cycle, coach threw in a few more core training workouts which helped me feel better. Deepak helped me battle the apprehensions and uncertainties in my head during this phase.
Arriving at the destination
 
Despite sufficient hydration and nutrition support arranged by the organizers, I stuck by the thumb rule of not experimenting with anything new on the race day. The only change I made was replacing electrol with Fast and Up Reload tablets. I had planned to arrive at the destination a few days in advance to get comfortable with the weather conditions and to avoid any last minute contingencies. After a long journey to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur, we were finally glad to board the ferry to Bintan Islands. Throughout the journey, I ensured I kept a close watch on my hydration and calorie intake.
First day went by just settling down and recovering from the long travel. Did a quick recce of Nirwana Resort and got myself familiar with logistic arrangements for athletes to commute between the resort and race venue.
I ensured that I attend the swim, bike and run recce scheduled two days prior by the organizers. And during this course, I also managed to squeeze in a 15 min swim session in open water. The bike recce was extremely helpful as it gave me a good view into the route which looked more than rolling for a larger section. A team of mechanics was setting up their service station at the venue towards the end of the day. To avoid the rush which would have built up at the expo on the following day, I decided to ride down to the venue to get the final bike tuning done post assembling it. I wrapped up the day with a light dinner – a decent mix of carbs, protein and fiber.
Pre-Race – keeping calm
 
I went for a short spin in the morning with a friend after a decent 7 hours sleep. Post breakfast, decided to drop the bike at the venue and discovered that there was a pinch puncture in the rear wheel. The spare tube came handy even before the race had started. Dropped the bike in the transition area and collected the athlete kit from the expo. Though there was a carbo loading dinner organized at the venue the same night, I decided to skip that and head back to the hotel to prepare for the next morning. Had a light early dinner and packed up everything on the checklist for T1 and T2 transitions. Hit the bed by 8:30 p.m. but woke up at 1 a.m. with an uneasy feeling, but managed to sleep off again in 20 mins.
Woke up at 3:00 a.m. on the race day, had some water and got ready to head out with my transition bags. Luckily, no gut issues and that was such a huge relief. Enough sleep ensured that I don’t feel tired or lethargic. There was a special early morning breakfast organized by the resort for the participants at 4:00 a.m. on race day. I had two slices of bread with peanut butter and some black coffee. There was some anxiety in the air but it immediately felt lighter as other athletes started pouring in. I boarded the first shuttle out at 4:30 a.m. and on reaching the venue, immediately rushed to the transition area for setting up the gear. The energy level at the event was infectious and also encouraging. Applied vaseline around the tri suit lining to avoid chaffing and ensured I remember the instruction from my coach to wear swimming glasses over the cap. I went for a small dip into the cold water and then 20 minutes before my wave was scheduled at 6:13 a.m., I consumed a pack of gel.
Swimming – The moment of truth
 
I was advised to stay away from the innermost lane and not to be right ahead in the starting line-up. Not only did I forget who said this, but also forgot to follow this advice. Before I could realise, I had already walked a few meters towards the starting line-up in the water for our age category. In a few seconds, I heard the horn to mark the start of our category. The next thing I remember is bodies slamming, bubbles, salty water, current drifting you away; in short – complete chaos as people tried to cross over or push you aside or behind. Felt claustrophobic, but kept telling myself not to panic.
The aim for the first 200 meters was to get into a lane and only make an attempt to look ahead after atleast 20-30 strokes. Post 200 meters, I found my rhythm and without going overboard I ensured I maintained the pace and breathing pattern. Approaching the 500 meters mark, I spotted some orange caps (25-29 age category). I had to pick my pace at this sharp left turn as I could see some swimmers take an aggressive stance while approaching the corner. A few meters ahead, I spotted some jelly fish. Picked up the pace and tried to keep my eyes shut every time I dipped my head into the water to avoid panicking. Another 400 meters and there was another sharp left turn. In between, I ended up gulping large amount of salt water while pulling my head out to breath. Had to slow down to clear my throat and continue. For the next 300 meters stretch, the strong current kept drifting me to the outermost lane and I had to frequently make the course correction. All along, I had no reference point for distance and time, unlike the huge analog watch outside the small society pool I used to practice in. Finally, we were taking a turn back towards the starting point at the 1200 meters mark and I began to pace myself with a few strong swimmers. This was the longest stretch of around 550 meters before we reached the right turn to make an exit towards the beach.
Relieved that I was done with the first part of the triathlon, I had absolutely no idea of the time I had clocked for this part of the race. Since my personal best in the pool was approx 52 minutes, I was hoping that I managed it under an hour. Tried to make a quick transition and head out.
Bike – Don’t get over excited
 
The sudden fresh air felt really good and I was tempted to speed off. However, resisted the temptation and remembered the wise words from my coach after the bike recce. Amongst the three disciplines in a triathlon, cycling is what I enjoy the most. Maintaining a cadence of 85+, I moved to the smaller chain ring on climbs. The first 4-5 kms were rolling with two or three short climbs, but the section between 14 kms to 30 kms mark threw in some good climbs. From there on, until the 50 kms mark, the terrain was relatively flat followed by some climbs until the 60 kms mark. This section also was cutting through the local community establishments and there were enough residents out on the streets cheering for the riders. 60km to 70km stretch was along the coast line and at the 77 kms, we were headed back to the race venue covering the same climbs which we tackled during the first quarter of the ride.
I consumed electrolyte every 10-15 mins during the ride and granola bars every 20 mins for the first 2 hours. I had skipped the first hydration station and began refilling my sippers from the subsequent stations without getting off. Around the 65 kms mark, I could feel some cramps in my thighs and I tried to increase the amount of electrolyte. Just 15 minutes before the end of the bike leg, I consumed a pack of gel. But by the time I reached the finish line and got off the bike, I could feel cramps in my thighs. I slowly walked towards the transition area and sat down on the ground for sometime. It was already 10:30 a.m. by the time I did some stretches and picked up my running gear, I had lost almost 8 mins in the transition area. The humidity levels were high and I knew the final run leg won’t be quite pleasant.
Run – The deciding moments
 
Similar to all my brick workouts, I had a tendency to start at a faster pace after getting off the saddle. But today wasn’t a training day. The route for the run comprised of 3 loops of a 7 kms track around an artificial lake. There were aid stations at every mile and I maintained a slow and steady pace of around 6:30 mins in the first lap. The second lap felt really long but I kept pushing myself. In the last loop, I decided to walk at every aid station but had already made a mistake of consuming different stuff like watermelon, coke and electrolyte apart from my gels in the previous lap. I could literally feel water juggling inside my tummy and by now I was moving at a pace of 7:20. Since I wasn’t aware of the time I had clocked during the swim, I was hoping to finish my run within 2.5 hour for a sub-7 hours finish. I was a little disappointed that I could not finish this under 2:30 but I was close to the finish line and I just tried to push myself for the final stretch. Crossing the finish line was an exciting moment; all the hard work put in the last few months had finally paid off. I was happy that I dint crash or crawl to the finish line. And what made me happier was the fact that I wrapped up my first half ironman distance triathlon in 6:43. I could not work out the math and was curious to know the time I clocked in swimming. It was 44 minutes and that took me a while to digest.

Results – Hard work paid off
 

SWIM – 1.9 kms
Final Time: 44:21
Division Rank: 71
Overall Rank: 366

BIKE – 90 kms

Final Time: 3:11:02
Division Rank: 75
Overall Rank: 364
Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/691587419

RUN – 21.1 kms

Final Time: 2:34:18
Division Rank: 60
Overall Rank: 303
Strava – https://www.strava.com/activities/691587469 (forgot to switch off Garmin after crossing the finish line)

T1 – 5:21
T2 – 8:13

RACE SUMMARY

Overall: 6:43:15
Division Rank: 60
Overall Rank: 348
Details – https://goo.gl/SyB6w0 

The recovery zone had cold water tubs, massage centers, hydration drinks like coconut water and buffet lunch for the athletes. Met with my family and friends and it was time to finally sit back, relax and celebrate. If I objectively analyse the results, I was happy about:

  •  Following the right nutrition plan building up to the race day. Helped me show up fresh and energetic at the starting line up
  • Surprising myself during the swim leg. Considering where I started a few months ago and the available infrastructure for training, I think I managed a decent time
  • Not pushing myself hard during the bike leg. Even though I got some cramps, I still managed to conserve energy for the last leg
  • The back injury not creating any hurdle during my run. It was good to reach the finish line on two feet
  • Category rank of 60 and overall rank of 348 for my first triathlon

But there were also somethings where I could have worked better and made me unhappy:

  • The last loop during the run could have been better had I not mixed up my nutrition intake
  • The transitions could have been faster
  • These two could have easily saved me atleast 15 mins in my overall timing
Gratitude

      A lot of people to thank for helping me to accomplish this – Karuna and Kenisha for bearing with my training schedule, Moose and Cherry for being good companions during indoor rides on trainer, Folks and sis for encouraging me, Deepak Raj for the training and positive encouragement throughout the journey, VeloGCR riding buddies for helping me get inducted into road riding, PK for the rear wheel, Ranjit for multiple accessories, Shiv for helping me select the road bike, Puru for delivering my tri suit in UK, Ankush for helping me source training accessories from US, Abhi for helping me the multisport watch, Vijay for helping me with the indoor trainer and Mark for lending me his bike case. And there are a lot more people who were always supportive and around for offering their help.