You´re approaching an old stony gateway leading out of the town. Inside, the streets were lined with people cheering you on, tall buildings shielded you from the afternoon sun, and most importantly, it was all new and exiting.
Once you pass through to the other side the sun hits you with full force, crowds disappear and it all suddenly sinks in – it was a long and though 14 km lap, you´re getting really tired, and you´ll need to do it twice more to finish the marathon.
Actually, it had been a long and though morning even before starting the run, swimming 3,8 km in open water and biking 180 km, half of which to a pretty formidable headwind. Up until now you´ve been keeping careful track on your race pace making sure you´ll hit your target time but right there it all changes. A doubt steps in – am I able to finish this at all?
I was never much into sports and especially endurance sports was something beyond my comprehension. Why would someone want to spend their time by watching 50km cross country skiing races or several hour marathons on television? Even less training for or participating one?
My 20´s were spent doing anything else but physical exercise. After turning 30, I had been able to bring up a habit of visiting gym 2-3 times a week but my aerobic fitness was close to zero. I was barely able to run the 5 min gym warm up sessions on the treadmill and typically ended up skipping them and heading straight to the bench.
One day, a friend offered me an opportunity for a free of charge participation to a local triathlon competition 6 months ahead. It was early spring, and I seriously pondered whether I would be able to finish the shortest “sprint” distance by the autumn if I spent the upcoming months training viciously. And more importantly – do I even want to? Back then, I had no idea how to swim freestyle, I owned no bike and the maximum running distance I was able to do was close to 1 km. For some strange reason I still don´t understand I decided to go for it!
I started the training by cross-country skiing and switched to running when the snow melt down. I bought a road bike (back then I wasn´t aware that triathlon / time trial bikes existed) and started doing short rides. I found a 40€ wetsuit from the local sports store and trained breast stroke swimming with my head above the water so I knew where I was going.
When I eventually made it to the starting line I was surrounded by athletes. Their wetsuits covered legs and arms all the way, they looked fit and focused, and sprinted to water right when the gun went off. I was one of the last swimmers crawling back to the shore after a swim that felt like ages.
The bike wasn´t much different. People kept passing my brand new road bike with bikes looking like they were borrowed from their grandparents. It didn´t even look like it was difficult for them. When I started the run, most of the others had already sprinted to the finish line and the celebration was on.
When I finally finished my run, I wanted to hang out at the finish line as long as possible and soak it in. I was so proud – at the age of 34 I had finished my first triathlon! Driving back home I already knew I wanted more of it. I made a firm decision I´d be an Ironman before I turn 40. I had no idea where it would take me but looking back at it now, it was one of the best decisions of my life.
I stopped the car, took the bike out the trunk and went for a ride. My Ironman training had begun.
Since that day, I´ve learned to swim freestyle and enjoyed countless sunrises at quiet countryside lakes. I´ve grown to enjoy the 5AM wake ups for hard bike intervals through windy fields. I´ve found myself loving the long runs on rainy forest paths with no one else around and planning to sing up for runs longer than marathons. I´ve grown to find peace in the nature and realized there was something there that I had missed since my childhood. My training started to steer off from the paved roads and city centers towards the solitude of forests.
I became an Ironman four years after my first triathlon finish and realized it was only the beginning. Follow along!