Everything, even steel, melts at a certain temperature, so it’s not surprising I was ecstatic when I finally reached the finish line after unexpectedly beautiful swim in the lake Gyékénes, too long cycle to and around hot Nagyatád and run through the center of this tiny, cute town – in a record time…
After my first Ironman in Nice, second one in Barcelona where I was on pills, there was a year long break before on July 29 this year I did my first long triathlon, Extrememan Nagyatád in Hungary. Hungary really offered a lot, good, bad and the ugly, but first things first.
We were swimming in the lake Gyékénes and that was absolutely all I knew before the race itself. As I had quite a few supporters on the starting line with me, I didn’t really overthink anything and I simply enjoyed fantastic atmosphere around us. Chilled crowd, great music and cheerful environment, all culminating with the truly inspirational Conquest of Paradise song from Ridley Scott’s movie (one of the worst ones, if you ask me 😛 ), just to finish the wait with firing the cannon which marked the official start of the race.
Although it has been quite a while since my last real mass start, I knew I had to be closer to the first row than usual due to many slower swimmers who are trying to get up-front hoping to save time by starting few seconds earlier, but even though I was starting behind something like only 30% of the swimmers, throughout the whole first lap I had to put up with beating like never before (some would say I deserve that… 🙂 ). The thing is, as this race obviously attracts many triathletes for whom this was their first long distance race in their life, whenever most swimmers felt insecure (and most triathletes, including myself, do feel “insecure” throughout the whole swim part of the race) they would simply switch to breaststroke, which, though most often wasn’t much slower, usually resulted in much stronger and more frequent blows to surrounding swimmers. Happy days!!!
So, during the first lap I got myself a nice collection of kicks to my chest, although the worst came towards the very end of the lap when one of these “jolly fellows” did a really good job kicking me in the belly to the extent that I thought something has moved in there. Thankfully, obviously, it hasn’t. Despite of everything, I finished my first lap after 40 minutes or so and used short exit from the lake to finally get rid of the crowd and set off on my way for the remaining part of the swim section.
Getting away from others soon proved to be a smart decision since most of them went too far to the right while I was swimming with just a few “wise men” as straight as possible, similarly to our first lap. The same happened after our last turn and even though the second lap was somewhat slower, after getting out of the water I felt unexpectedly full of energy and ready to continue!
It took me 1:22:48 hours (for 4.1 km if you ask my Garmin) which is just a few minutes slower than what I swam in Barcelona in 2015, but since this time we were swimming in the lake (and not the sea) and wetsuits weren’t allowed, I was quite happy with it. Also, I should mention that, despite the fact that we were swimming in the lake, this swim was exceptionally and totally unexpectedly comfortable. The temperature was around almost ideal 25 degrees while the water itself was extremely clean. Later my friends taught me that the reason was the fact that bottom of the lake was made of gravel, so there was nothing like that typical, rather odorous taste in my mouth which gets stuck there almost every time I race in lakes.
After quite fast transition and a short high five with the supporters who were there cheering for me, I went on a 75 km long cycle towards Nagyatád where the remaining 105 km waited for us in the form of three equally long laps around the already mentioned village. The first part of the route didn’t provide anything exciting and apart from the fact I was able to hold pace between 30-35 km/h there is only one thing worth to be mentioned. Somewhere around 20th km I heard a noise around my rear wheel and few meters later finally noticed that one of the holders of my speed/cadence meter was gone so I had to stop for a few seconds to get it completely removed and avoid any serious issues. I had to do the rest of the bike course without my cadence meter while smart Garmin 910xt immediately switched to GPS to continue displaying correct speed/distance.
Thanks to my cheesecake-taste fuel I managed to continue pushing until I reached my supporters to grab new fuel bottle, this time with the taste of banana and chocolate, already prepared for the 2nd part of the race. Mmmmmmmmmm. First of three remaining 35 km long laps went without any particular issues other than usual short “crises”. I was mostly trying to “learn” what were the parts with strongest wind, but after 110 km I noticed that my stomach was slowly, but progressively refusing fuel. This resulted with 20 km long fight during which my brain was acting as a parent while stomach was a crying kid who didn’t want to swallow spinach. Unfortunately, situation was getting worse and worse so, as usual, “kid” won and I decided to go with the plan B and after around 130 km I threw the bottle and decided to do the rest of the cycle with what was offered to me along the way – in other words, water, little bit of isotonic and even less bananas and energy bars.
Whenever I tried to eat/drink anything that wasn’t water or isotonic my stomach started complaining while getting down to aero bars would become mission impossible (unfortunately, I’m not Tom Cruise…). In addition to all those issues I started having mild headache as well, just so things would be a bit more interesting, so a good portion of the second and basically whole third lap were quite “fun”. As expected, with less fuel intake (which means less salt intake) my legs became heavier and heavier, so to keep up with the desired pace I came up with an interesting game called “catch the cyclist in front of you”.
Since kids lose their focus quite fast, it’s not strange that it was not too long before I completely lost interest in my new game, but towards the end of the bike section crowd around Nagyatád helped me to overcome my problems and 5:52:56 hours after start I was done with cycling part of the race, which is 10 minutes faster than my record time from Barcelona. Considering all the issues and rather high temperature (above 30 degrees in the shade) for a guy who mostly trains in (perfect) Irish conditions, there is no room for complaints. I did my 2nd transition in “T1 style” and while running next to my loud supporters I just stopped for a moment to take the painkillers for my headache (which got quite worse) before I continued towards the completion of the last obstacle of the day – hot Hungarian marathon!
As expected, regardless of the heat that didn’t really fit me, the run didn’t bring any big surprises, just few minor “problems”. Since I had eaten significantly less of my miracle-food during the bike section of the race which resulted in issues already towards the end of the cycle, my basic plan was to keep the 4-hour pace for the marathon during the first half marathon, after which I would slightly slowdown in the next 10 km, aiming for breaking my Ironman race record. Only then, if the cramps don’t show up, I would speed-up again and last 12 km do as fast as I felt I could.
Although my legs seemed to have gotten better after 15 km and my heart rate dropped significantly, I didn’t want to overdo it, so I decided to stick to the plan. Around 25th km my brother joined me for 10-ish km which definitely helped as I finally got to talk a bit after full 10 hours of silence (everyone who knows me knows how much this meant to me)! Unfortunately, around 26th-27th km my fears proved to be justified – every few minutes two distinct places in both of my legs started cramping to the point that for first few times I thought some dogs got me and wouldn’t let go.
Although cramps weren’t that persistent or strong that I would need to stop, I did elect to increase salt intake through various salty sticks and cookies which got me in much better state 30-ish minutes later. Few kilometers before the end I said goodbye to my bro, speeded up a bit and happily crossed the finish line after 4:01:10 hours of running.
It wasn’t under four hours, but that wasn’t really important for my final time so I didn’t really push for it either. With the 13th fastest run time in my category (category from which overall winner came from) I can’t say I was unhappy and considering the fact that I recovered from this marathon faster than from any other before gives me great confidence boost in my running which still wasn’t used to its maximum. Obviously, with faster recovery I was able to get back to my trainings much faster than expected which is also a big plus ahead of the last big races this season.
My new Ironman record is set at 11:23:57 hours, which means that initial goal for the race has been accomplished, especially considering that I wasn’t sure if I’d even survive non-wetsuit swim or if Hungarian sun would do a “sunny side up” egg of my body. Also, since few things went a bit differently than planned, I have to admit that I have learned a lot during this race, which will surely come in handy in my future adventures.
Although I’m happy with the result, after last year’s break from full distance triathlon and choosing a race which didn’t suit me because of quite a few reasons for this year, I think it’s time to finally get back to the race that suits my strengths and, perhaps even more importantly, conditions I’m more used to. In any case, this was a great experience that only motivated me to continue to test my own limits.
Just two weeks before my next big race, Ironman 70.3 Pula, which is scheduled for September 2, I’m going to do a charity Olympic distance triathlon – Sporting Proud Triathlon – as part of which we’re raising funds for LauraLynn, hospice for children with life-limiting conditions and residential care for young adults with disabilities. Since The Stars Group, my employer, is going to double all the donations we get, I hereby warmly invite you all to join the action (by clicking and donating HERE) and help the kids that really can’t help themselves.
After the preparation and Ironman 70.3 Pula which would be the second most important race of this season I still have one to go because last asphalt run in 2017 will be done as part of TCS Amsterdam marathon where I’ll be part of the group of first time official marathon runners. With that behind my back I think it’ll be perfect time for a well-deserved holiday in one of the most beautiful European cities.