The Countdown to Malbork – Part 2

In part 1 of this two-part interview, Garth Masters asked budding ironpeople Olga Kulyna, Alan Parsons, Mark Mulrainey, Igors Berkovics and Krystian Stefanski about why they signed up for an ironman distance race, their motivation, training and more.

Now here’s the long-awaited second and final part.

Question 5: WITC has many people who have never done any tri events. What advice would you give people wanting to get into triathlon?

Olga: Just TRI it!!!! Most likely you’ll get hooked. And don’t be afraid to take up the challenge, if you have two arms and two legs, with a little bit of training EVERYONE is capable of doing it. Three years ago I couldn’t swim. I don’t mean I had poor crawl technique, I was scared to float on the water. It cost a lot of time and effort but it’s doable :-)
Alan: Give it a “tri” and try to enjoy it. There is a great community here and you don’t have to train by yourself. And if you haven’t swum before, take some lessons – trust me it’s worth the investment.
Mark: Join the training events we organise, find other people that have the same goals and train! Start with a sprint distance tri. You will know if triathlon is for you by the end of it.
Igors: Sign-up a long time in advance. You’ll have time and motivation to prepare then
Krystian: Grab your swimming pants, prepare your bike and start running J Sign up for the distance that you think you will be comfortable with and go for it. It really isn’t as scary as you may think. If you can swim (even if it’s only on your back or classic “dead frog” style), pedal and walk you can do it!

Question 6: Sports people are traditionally superstitious, what are your pre-race rituals? Habits, foods, liquids?

Olga: No more than 3, sorry 2 beers before the race :-) Don’t have any special ones. Try to eat carbs, drink a lot of water to hydrate myself. That’s pretty much it. Oh no wait. After reading Crissie Wellington’s biography, I always buy a muffin to eat with a cup of coffee in the morning before the race (she always did it). It soothes my nerves before the race 😉
Alan: I don’t really have any superstitions. I like to have a coffee before a race, and take rice balls (a Scott Jurek invention) on long races. But more than anything I just try to relax during the event and take in the atmosphere, sights, hi-fives etc.
Mark: Vodka 😉 Joking (sort of) – I did do a marathon drunk once, it did involve lots of drunk training in order to complete it without dying, so I don’t think it is for everybody J Having progressed from that stage in my life, I now train properly J A key aspect to training and preparation for a big race is routine, especially a full ironman, it is important from what I understand to train with the same nutrition, supplements, liquids as you would do in the race, stomach problems, indigestion, toilet breaks all cost you time, and even possibly mean the end of the race for you. Pre race rituals, a nice relaxing sociable evening out, a few drinks (to help you sleep and not worry about the race) lots of carbs and a relatively early night. In the morning, allow plenty of time for a leisurely wake up, breakfast and sorting all your stuff, nothing worse than rushing right up to the start line.
Igors: Never take energy gels from Ken (sometimes the expiry day has passed, sometimes he gives you massage gel instead) 😉
Krystian: I’m totally different here. I have no ritual whatsoever. To this day I always forget something before every competition I have participated in. Sometimes I didn’t even eat breakfast because I woke up too late. So don’t listen to me how to prepare yourself for the day before the race or you will have a bad time 😀

Question 7: You are a WITC member, so clearly you are going to finish the race, that said it can’t be your only goal, what other goals do you have in this race or even after it?

Olga: A few months ago I felt some pressure to have a “good” time (I mean good for my level:) Now the feeling is gone. This race is the unknown, I don’t want to be done on the bike and walk the marathon. So will try to listen to my body and enjoy this experience. Everything after this race is tabula rasa 😉
Alan: Not to fall asleep within 5 mins of crossing the finish line (like I did in Mragowo last year 😉 But seriously this is such a big thing, I’ve had it on the horizon since December and have put so much time & energy and made so many sacrifices for this, like all of us have, that I want to make sure I enjoy it. Of course I may have a particular time in mind but I’ll keep that to myself for now 😉
Mark: As swimming is my weakest discipline, my first goal is to get out of the water alive J I have broken the race down into 3 manageable goals (hopefully) swim – 1.5hrs, cycle – 6hrs, run – 5hrs. Not having allowed anytime in my mind for transitions means I need to make sure I do 1 or all 3 in a faster time. With the swim if I do not drown, it is easily achieved in just over 1 hour (training) add in a few hundred people kicking and punching you 1.5 hrs or less would be nice. The cycle I have pushed hard in training to achieve average of 30km per hour over 180km, so as it is relatively flat and hopefully not much winds, 6 hrs is the best I will do on the bike. The run… I have never completed a marathon in more than 4 hours ( even the drunk one 3:48) so 5 hrs has a lot of padding in it for tired legs etc. After ironman… I like the idea of the Siberian marathon that is held each January. Also would like to do an ultra marathon.
Igors: Survive without permanent injury
Krystian: For this one it would be nice to finish it below 13h but I know it will be hard.

Question 8: WITC is like a big family, a big raucous, drinking, multi-lingual family. But how has being part of WITC affected your preparation for this event?

Olga: It has MASSIVELY! As I mentioned before, it would be really hard to prepare for this challenge alone. Thanks to the guys Alan, Igors and Mark for trainings, to Renia and Asia for their sincere support, to Ken for starting all this and all the sound advice. And last but not least to Cristina – I owe this girl triathlon.
Alan: It’s had a massively positive effect! Like I’ve already said having people to train with has been hugely motivating and meant I’ve rarely had to train on my own.
Mark: Witc is awesome! The support, the wealth of knowledge within the group that you can access for almost everything is fantastic. I posted on the wall a month ago, a question about diet supplements to support the training I was doing, within 10 minutes I had multiple suggestions, recommendations, links to products, links to suppliers etc. Awesome!! Unfortunately one thing I have found is that with training 6 days per week and having to complete specific distances, you tend to drift away from the regular witc training, not everybody is up for swimming 3km or cycling 160km, even if they are you need to coordinate your training time together. It is difficult enough to coordinate it around my own life/work/wife let alone someone else 😉
Igors: I would not even come to the decision to do an ironman if not for WITC, but company does help to motivate to train and not to be lazy.
Krystian: It affected me a lot. Probably, if not for WITC I wouldn’t even go to Malbork because I didn’t want to go there by myself. Our group trainings also helped me a lot to prepare for this race and not only this one (eg. Nieporęt or Gdynia). And it’s always nice to have someone you know next to you, that you can race with 😉

I can tri with a little help from my friends

I can tri with a little help from my friends

Question 9: Lastly you’ve worked really hard, so, when you head down the straight amongst the crowd of supporters towards that hard earned finishing line what song would you like to hear pumping out across the airwaves?

Olga: Haha Bon Jovi’s ‘Living on a prayer’ :-)
Alan: Wow, that’s a tough one. While part of me would love The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles to be blasting out, or the Rocky theme from when he does the running montage, I think it’d have to be Tri-town Funk, er I mean, Uptown Funk, for obvious reasons 😉
Mark: The Proclaimers 500 miles J I think it could be easily converted to “I would swim 3.8km and I would cycle 180km to run a marathon and fall down at your door” Also they are Scottish.
Igors: At the finish line I would love to hear Ode to Joy in my head, but for the first transition I would love to hear Queen – Bicycle Race and for the second transition “I Will Survive”by Gloria Gaynor.
Krystian: Maybe a strange choice but, I would pick one of my favourites of all time. Loreena McKennitt “The Mummers’ Dance” J

And I would swim/bike/run a loooooot of miles...

And I would swim/bike/run a loooooot of miles…

So, as you can see, if you want to do an Ironman, ask Mark for some punch or run a half Ironman with a sense of completion.
5 people, 5 countries all with different ideas and experiences, all part of a new resource of information for all of us for the future.
We are lucky to have such a group of crazies amongst us. Let’s wish them the best of luck, and let them help us motivate ourselves to achieve our own goals, whether that be next year’s Ironman, or even just to stay fit, social and happy. The goals don’t have to be extreme, as you can see, it is the story of getting there that is the best part.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ernest Hemmingway
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston S. Churchill
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” Albert Einstein
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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The Countdown to Malbork – Part 1

Interview by Garth Masters

Hey everyone! It is quiz time,

What costs 500pln, has 3.86km of water, two wheels doing 180km and 42.195km of pavement to pound?

Easy, it’s an Ironman distance event (or as the politically correct call it Ironperson).

Quick history:

  • First Ironman event was held in Kailua-Kona in Hawaii in 1978.
  • The time limit is a strict 17hours
  • The very first Ironman was finished in 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds
  • Craig Alexander has the Men’s course record of 8:03:56, Mirinda Carfrae the Women’s 8:52:14, both are from Australia.

Poland has only two Ironman distance events, one is in the historical Northern city of Malbork. Officially there is a limit of only 200 people who are allowed to compete in the full distance Ironman event and this year WITC has 5 of them:

Olga –              The Ukranian Bike Murderer (sometimes Saturday run leader)

Alan –              The British Minister of Silly Walks (Tuesday Night Run leader)

Mark –             The Scottish Poker faced Motivator (our Fun to Run leader)

Igors –             The Latvian James Bond (our co-functional leader)

Krystian –       The Olsztynianin Bloody Loop Energizer.

Let’s find out more about them with 9 questions about life.

Question 1: Can you remember when you realised you were insane? Sorry, I mean what made you chose to compete in an Ironman event?

The punch sure packed a punch...

The punch sure packed a punch…

Olga: Of course, at Julia and Mark’s party, after one two many servings of Mark’s punch – that’s where the bet was made. But seriously, this idea had crossed my mind a few times before, it was only the question of sealing it. It’s important to find yourself in the right place, at the right time and with crazy people :-)
Alan: Well I realised I was insane a while ago 😉 But I made the decision to do a full Ironman at a party, together with Igors, Olga & Mark back in December, maybe under the influence of some of Mark’s punch :-)
Mark: Unfortunately I do remember it (ish)… It was at a party in my apartment, I had made some very nice fruit punch (more alcohol than fruit) you know the one that tastes like fruit juice but sits you on your ass after a couple? While dishing some of this out to the guests, I stopped and was talking with Olga, Alan and Igors, somehow next I know is that we all agreed to do a full ironman event in Malbork in September. Sort of forgot about it that night, next day a photo of us shaking hands and the caption brought it all back!!
Igors: One cold evening in December when triathlon season seemed far far away I made a public announcement about my intent to do ironman. No way back after that.
Krystian: After my first triathlon ever – Herbalife IronMan ½. I really missed that other ½ 😉 so I could officially tell myself that I’m a true Ironman

Question 2: Some people are afraid of Ironman length events as they feel it is just too extreme. Before this, what was the most extreme thing you have achieved?

O: Half-Ironman, for which I was correspondingly half-prepared, I mean in terms of swimming/cycling distances :-) A marathon seemed a piece of cake in comparison to this.
A: Before this year the craziest thing I’d done was probably the half-ironman race in Mragowo last year. But this year my insanity hit new heights after taking on the Rzeznik ultramarathon (78km in the mountains) and of course the bloody, Bloody Loop.
M: Hmmmm I sort of like extreme :-) Last year at the end of December I completed a hardcore runmageddon event, which is 21km over obstacles, not that scary until you add the -7 degrees that day and a lot of it is through/in water.
I: Half Ironman
K: Definitely, the Bloody Loop also the UltraTrail Du Mont Blanc – TDS in 2014 + some other ultra running races like the Bieg Rzeźnika or Supermaraton Gór Stołowych.

The end of the bloody loop (finally!)

The end of the bloody loop!

Question 3: To do something like this you have to be really mentally strong, what or who motivates you to do all this training?

O: First of all, the deadline. I know the date will come when I have to toe the line, it’s not the case where you can count on your general fitness. Plus the people that I train with, it would really hard to do these crazy distances esp. cycling alone.
A:Hmm, motivation takes different forms. Signing up for something crazy like an ironman is good motivation in itself. I found that setting a massive target like this has motivated me to get out and do the training I need to do. Also having other friends in the same boat was really helpful as we often managed to do training together. And just getting in the habit of training 5-6 times a week helps – strangely the more you do it the easier it gets.
M: Success motivates me. If I commit to something I always try to see it through to the end, for me in my mind it is never a matter of will I finish, its more when I will finish. Earlier this year I ran the Warsaw half marathon, just after a bike accident in Spain on the WITC tri camp, it happened on the Wednesday, we flew home on the Saturday and on the Sunday I ran the ½ marathon with a buggered knee, shoulder and elbow. In my mind I would not even consider pulling out of the race, it was now an even bigger challenge J So I tightened up my arm sling and headed for the start. I was thinking that maybe after 5km I would settle my breathing into a rhythm, every step my mind kept telling me to stop, my body screamed stop but I kept going, unfortunately the sling was stopping my right lung from working fully, I gave it another 5km to see if it would make a difference, but it still felt like I was running a marathon at a sprint pace. I now realized that I was just under half way and 10km was nothing, so I pushed through, completing my slowest, most mentally challenging half marathon ever J But completed!!!
I: I don’t want to die at the race so I choose pain over prolonged period of time
K: “You just need to reach to the finish line you pussy” and that’s enough 😉 After that there is beer waiting so everything will be all right.

Mark fighting his way through the Warsaw 1/2

Mark fighting his way through the 2015 Warsaw 1/2

Question 4: Swimming, running, and cycling are all quite lonely and solo things to do, what have you learned about yourself while training and what has been the hardest part of training for such an event?

O: For me the phenomenon of will power and being able to push yourself to the limits is the most interesting. Despite what people might think, I am not a very tough person mentally, I hate pain and suffering which inevitably come with this type of training/racing. So what I hope I am learning, is to be able to go a little bit further every time, out of your comfort zone, ‘to dig deeper into that barrel of suffering’ and to be able to bear it. I want to be able to say: the body felt like quitting a thousand times but the mind persevered.
A: Like I just said, I’ve actually been lucky enough to do a lot of training with my fellow crazy future Ironmen/women. Even if we’re in the pool or the lake and still basically doing our own training, it helps to know there’s someone else you can talk to before & after, and just share the experience of training for this crazy challenge. But what have I personally learnt during training? That I can be very motivated when I set myself a goal, that early-morning training is actually amazing (once you take that first step and get out of bed) & that if you can learn/manage to enjoy training then that’s half the battle.
M: That training is bloody boring! I did a 180km bike ride last week while in Russia, when you spend 6 hours sat in the same position, doing the same thing, with nobody to talk to or take your mind off the monotony or pain it is BORING. On the plus side, I have learnt to visualise and compartmentalise my life while training. Imagine a big warehouse with a wall full of drawers, each drawer has a label relating to your life, work, home, relationships, friends etc. Pull out a drawer and see whats in it, maybe it needs to be moved to a different drawer. You also have your weekly drawers, to organise your week, training, events, work, diet etc You can lose yourself in your life for some time, unfortunately I have missed a couple of red lights and turns due to being quite involved in my thought process 😉
I: Regular training makes these distances look less scary
K: For sure that I’m not a fan of biking. Maybe because it takes so much time (bike training) or that I live in the middle of Warsaw and it takes a lot of time just to bike to the outskirts. So, this will be the hardest part of the race for me.

Read part 2 of the interview featuring race-day superstitions, the WITC-effect and finishing line music, here.

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WITC at Olsztyn and Piaseczno

WITC at Olsztyn and Piaseczno, May 2015

May traditionally sees the start of the triathlon season in Poland and WITC kicked off the 2015 season at Olsztyn and Piaseczno. We caught up with two first-time triathletes to talk about their experience. Simon, who did his first triathlon (a sprint distance) in Olsztyn, and Anastazja whose first tri was the 1/8 in Piaseczno.

Simon Van Hoeymissen – Olsztyn Elemental Triathlon, May 17th

The sprint seemed the logical distance to start with as I assume one’s first go at a new challenge is the hardest one. After that you are able to build on your experience. I was lucky enough to have a couple of WITC “veterans” there to point out the do’s and don’ts.

Simon with Pierre-Francois before the start of the swim

Simon (left) with Pierre-Francois before the start of the swim

First of all, when arriving at the venue it feels like a festival of sports. It can be a bit intimidating to see all those highly teched-up athletes there. A lot of bikes seem to be imported from the future and look like they need a manual for anyone to figure out how to ride them. But in the end you’re just there to have fun and give it your all and of course, you don’t need a EUR 10,000 bike for that. At the start of the swim I made sure to get some space, not to get too caught up in the chaos of the “washing machine”, which must be a hectic situation in the best of conditions… The weather in Olsztyn was quite bad with a lot of wind, waves and pretty cold water. It really felt completely different to swim in the open water compared to the swimming pool. You can’t see where you’re going or if you’re swimming straight, so you need to get your head out of the water every few strokes to see where you’re going, causing your legs to drop and drag. The cold water makes your feet a bit numb, making it harder to kick. And most importantly, the waves made it very problematic to breathe, which in combination with the adrenaline of the chaotic start, is quite disorientating and might even make you prone to panic. Occasionally swimming breaststroke for a moment to catch my breath while enjoying (and orientating on) the scenery helped a lot. Regarding the competition, I found it quite hard to gauge my position in relation to the pack. For the better part of the swim I had no idea if I was doing well or not. Also, if you find yourself swimming alone while another swimmer passes you heading 180 degrees in the other direction, chances are one of you is a bit lost. Luckily it wasn’t me.

11058566_10152948766173105_3684013342438045114_nAfter the swim it can be a bit messy with the transition. You really want to take things one step at a time in a logical order. I had a moment when I fetched my bike with the helmet placed on the saddle, which obviously fell, and things just got needlessly problematic, probably to the great amusement of the crowd :-) I imagine the biking must be very nice if your cycling skills are on par (or better) than your swim. I think most triathletes focus on their biking and running. In my case however, the swim is the best, and the bike is the worst of the three disciplines. So the biking leg proved to be agonizingly demotivating. I just tried to clamp on to the wheels of the droves of people that passed me, to no avail. Transition 2 is obviously quite straightforward if you’re biking with normal running shoes. So I can’t really share any useful info on this. Just remember where you finish the bike and where you start the run in the transition. It’s only a little effort which might save you some frustration during the race. That also holds true for the running: know the course. Usually you have to run several laps. In Olsztyn there was a clear sign at the end of the lap “finish” – “lap”.

To conclude, I think that the greatest thing about triathlon is the lifestyle that you adopt while training for the actual events. I’ve never felt healthier than during my training period. Everything you do for these events is good for you. Apart from the physical training and the mental confidence-boost you get while progressing, you also naturally change your diet for the better, and you just feel super! Thanks a lot to everybody at WITC to help me achieve this. I’ve never been super athletic, but with the right motivation and coaching I can now say I’m a triathlete. Next up: a quarter IM!

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The following week Simon also raced in Piaseczno (check out our photo album from Piaseczno here) which is where Anastazja took on her first triathlon:

Anastazja Zygmantowicz – Piaseczno Garmin Triathlon, May 24th

How does it feel to do a triathlon? I know some of you are thinking about doing triathlon for the first time and some are sure that you can’t do it.

For me it was at the same time more and less difficult than I thought.  It was more difficult because the preparations were very demanding. I had 5 months to learn how to swim almost from zero. Every time I went to the swimming pool, my hands were shaking and I could barely breathe. The best advice I can give for those of you who are not good swimmers is to get a swimming coach. Just couple of lessons and you will feel much more comfortable. If you didn’t try to swim in a lake, you have to be ready that it’s more difficult and less comfortable than in a swimming pool. I definitely underestimated that it is such a big difference, however it didn’t take too much time to get used. I quickly started to even love it 😉

I struggled to find time to train, because I constantly travel. I concentrated on swimming, I was cycling occasionally, running regularly and attending cross-fit every time I could.

Before the swim with Mark & Igors

Anastazja (right) before the swim with Mark & Igors

About triathlon itself: the swimming was difficult for me, I was changing styles to rest a bit, the water was very cold, there were lots of people around (nobody actually pushed or kicked me), the rescue boat came over twice to ask if I am ok, but I didn’t think to stop.
On the other hand, triathlons are easier than you think because of the atmosphere and amazing support. It has never been so easy to motivate myself. I remember two guys swimming next to me saying “Just a bit more, almost there!”, people clapping when I got out from the lake and was shocked that each step takes so much effort, children screaming ‘super!’, even though I was one of the very last on a bicycle. I remember fastest cyclists passing me on the road like bullets, it felt so cool to be close to them. At the end of cycling part I couldn’t dismount from my bicycle, because my legs didn’t listen and people started to cheer and laugh, so I was laughing too. I started to run and was very surprised to find out that despite my legs were dead I could run! 5k without a break! While running I’ve seen people fighting with themselves and truly admired everybody who decided to take part. When I finished I just fell down to the sand and 5 min later ate the tastiest watermelon in my life. It was totally worth it!

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Congratulations to both Anastazja and Simon and welcome to the wonderful world of triathlon! We look forward to seeing you at more triathlons in the future :-)

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Doing What We Do Best – StartLine and WITC combines to make a social impact…

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 7.38.20 PMClub WITC is now a part of StartLine Foundation. And that gives our community of international runners and triathletes a platform to make a big impact in Polish society. Please read about our latest initiatives by heading over to the StartLine website

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30 day streak – By Andy Mossop

Everyone’s favourite super-fast midget has just completed a 30 day challenge – of running every day! Here he tells us why and how he did it, and what he learnt through it – why not give it a try yourself?

Bieg-Noworoczny-2015-42

Taking on the Bieg Noworoczny in Park Skaryszewski (Andy’s the one on the left not wearing sunglasses ;))

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30 day streak – By Andy Mossop

It was dark, cold and late when Agata kicked me out of the car about a kilometer before we got home … and I thanked her for it!
It’s not that she was mad at me, or that I’m just extremely polite when losing an argument, but I’d actually asked her to do it. It was just one of the creative methods for running 1km every day for 30 days in the middle of the party season (Christmas holidays).
I sometimes find that hard and constrictive rules can sometimes inspire creativity and lateral thinking. Definitely this was the case with setting myself the challenge of running 30 days in a row.
The idea which came from Spanish runners world was intended to help keep trim through the holiday season when the norm is to overeat, oversleep and leave running trainers out of sight and out of mind.

Not only was I surprised that I managed to complete it, I was also surprised by how I did it. It changed the way I thought about running and broke me usual routine, so here’s some thoughts to share with other who might want to do the same or who are just looking for motivation to get out running when the desire isn’t there.

What changed?

Before challenge : After challenge
km per month –  75 (Jan – Nov) : 150 (Dec)
#times run home from work –  0 : 3
Endomondo_Dec2014

What did I learn?
1. Running home is faster than taking the bus home (25 minutes vs 45 minutes – dolina sluzewiecka is a nightmare).
2. My winter jacket fits nicely into my backpack.
3. The first half of the challenge was a lot tougher than the second half.
4. The bus stop, two stops before my flat is almost exactly 1km.
5. I can run in a straight line after 3 Guinness.
6. I can run ok without a GPS watch and it’s fun.
7. Adding runs to endomondo by drawing a route is really easy (especially when it’s under 2km).
8. I remembered that I used to run everywhere as a kid and think it was normal.
9. There’s always a way to find at least 5 minutes for exercise.
10. There are a LOT of parties in December.
11. If I make up my mind to do something and don’t even think about not doing it, I’ll always find a way.
12. I have a REALLY understanding & supportive girlfriend.
13. I don’t need to get changed into specialized running gear to be able to run.

What advice do I have?
1. It helps when you know that someone else is doing the same challenge (for me it was my Spanish work colleagues in Basel)
2. It helps to change your mindset from “I hope I can do this” or “I want to see how much I can do” to “How am I going to run 1km today?” makes it a lot easier – there’s ALWAYS a way to run 1km in a day.
3. Give it a try and find your own way of doing it!
4. It’ll be more fun than you think.

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WITC at the 2014 Warsaw Marathon

WITC at the Warsaw Marathon, 28th September 2014 – featuring Alex Hobley

This year’s Warsaw marathon was another record-breaking event for this city, with WITC was once again well represented. Amongst the competitors was Alex Hobley, a popular WITC’er who used to live in Warsaw and had come back, just one week after helping WITC win the Club Challenge, to take on the Warsaw marathon.

He explained to us why he travelled halfway across Europe to run here:

“Having attempted the Warsaw marathon once in 2011 and been very much humbled, I had wanted to come back and do it again, and it so happened that 2014 was the year I was ready to go. The long run training (which I previously ignored) was brutal. To fit in with other commitments once a week I would finish work around 5pm, take a 30 minute train ride to London’s biggest park and then do 3 large laps covering up to 20 miles on my own. This was followed by staggering back to the train station, eating 3 Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers for lack of other options – and taking 2 ibuprofen before going to bed. This wasn’t fun Saturday morning group training WITC style. After executing a 5 month training plan I got on the start line nervous as hell yet very excited! 

Of course everyone I told in the UK that I was doing Warsaw marathon thought I was crazy. Why of all the marathons in the world would you go and do Warsaw again (?) they asked. I explained that Warsaw has an amazing running club that I spent some time being a part of, with epic supporters, vibes, and aspiring athletes chasing their dreams and inspiring each other in the process. I knew there were immeasurable benefits for choosing to face the marathon challenge in the city I know so well.

WITC support crew

The WITC support crew

The first half I took cautiously. After 8km or so I saw the WITC support team. Out in force, cheering and doing what this club does best supporting one another. It was a great boost to see familiar, yet many new, faces all under the same WITC umbrella. At around the half-way mark I came across Marta Kazmierczak, we shared some words of encouragement and powered on.

10658830_10152741722594455_6508895810894144181_o

At the 30km my main man Alan Parsons joined me to pace me through my final 12km. Alan – having taken on the marathon himself – knew I would be struggling big time and offered to help me. The last 12km are a bit of a blur but he paced me like a trooper encouraging me and challenging me to work hard. It was like full circle as I first met Alan exactly 3 years before whilst I hobbled to the line.

As I approached the stadium I was so tired that I didn’t even register the women in scantily clad clothes in monster trucks. It was an incredible feeling to cross the line, register a pb and take in the phenomenal atmosphere that is the Warsaw marathon. A day I won’t ever forget.

 

Yes you Ken! Especially with this support :)

Yes you Ken! Especially with this support :)

Thanks for sharing that Alex, it was an honour to run with you! And well done to everyone who completed the race :)

You can view the full photo gallery of this amazing event here.

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3rd Annual Warsaw Club Challenge

3rd Annual Warsaw Club Challenge, 20th September 2014

The 3rd edition of the popular Warsaw Club Challenge saw the event reach new heights as it was expanded to include 4 teams and moved to a new location by La Playa. Reigning champions Ergo were back to defend their title, WITC were desperate to finally get their hands on the trophy, while newcomers MORT! and Accelerate were hoping to make their mark on this 10km race.

The race organisers did a great job!

Signed up and ready to go!

Like the previous two years, there was a ladies and men’s race, with points awarded based on the finishing positions. The course was a picturesque yet tough off-road route along the banks of the Vistula river, with all runners doing two 5km laps. Team Ergo were unfortunately weakened and missing their top runner Marcin, so in his absence Rafal from MORT! won the men’s race by some distance ahead of Alex and Andy from WITC, while WITC’s very own Marta beat the competition in the ladies’ race to finish first ahead of Elwira from Ergo and Beata from MORT!.

It was a tough race, but one held in a great atmosphere

It was a tough race, but a really great atmosphere

Once everyone had finished the scores were added up it was time for the winner to be announced. 4th place went to Accelerate, reigning champions Ergo were 3rd this time round, meaning that there would be a new club champion this year! As the tension was growing Ken Globerman called Alan and Radek, the captains of WITC and MORT! respectively, onto stage and then announced the winner of the 3rd Annual Warsaw Club Challenge ….. WITC!!

WITC’s speed demon Andy Mossop gave us his view about this year’s event: The last 2 years in a row had been close, but this year was going to be even tougher with Accelerate and MORT! joining in. It’s really fun racing against Ergo and it’s always good seeing them at races. MORT! I’ve known for a while and had a friendly rivalry with them at GP Warszawy so I knew racing them would be tough and Accelerate have a really strong group, but for me were the dark horses this time round. On the day of the race, Alan was captain and did a great job of organising and motivating us as well as making sure we ran strategically. Alex and myself had a bit of fun with him, making sure he’d be nervous about the two us forgetting the club part and just prove who’s the fastest in WITC!

Happy Hannibal

Happy Hannibal

The race itself … well if Alan was a character from the A-team he’d be Hannibal loving how the plan just came together. Rafal from MORT! smashed us (like we thought), the rest were close and Elwira from Ergo pushed our star Marta hard, but in the end we came through. It was a brilliant job by our whole club and it was great to see the other clubs pushing us hard.
As for my private rivalry with Alex … he got revenge for last year and we’ll just have to plan the next rematch.
This is definitely one of my favourite races of the year and reinforces what I love about the running community in Warsaw.
Finally, I’d just like to congratulate so many of the guys from MORT! breaking the magical 3 hour marathon mark recently and I’m looking forward to seeing them on another start line soon!”

Radek Selke, captain of MORT!, gave us his opinion on the race from his club’s perspective and is looking forward to next year: “Here at MORT! we’d known about this event for a while and wanted to take part last year in this end-of-summer 10km race, but the date clashed with other races we had planned. When Alan contacted me at the start of the summer about this year’s race my goal was to get as many runners from MORT! as possible to take part and to perform well.
As we’re a small running club, unlike the organisers WITC, it was hard for us to get over 20 people together for one race. So we decided that our goal would be to focus on quality over quantity. We entered our four sub-3h marathon runners and tried to get a some of our improving girls to join us too.
Four teams took part in the challenge. WITC, who had a large team that included Andy Mossop; Ergo led by Darek Knychas, although they were missing their strongest runner – Marcin Krysik. The third team was the somewhat depleted Accelerate, and the fourth was us – MORT!    

Rafal was in a league of his own

Rafal was in a league of his own

As we assessed our chances before the start, seeing who had shown up, everyone knew who was going to win the men’s race – our very own Rafal Budnicki. And that’s exactly what happened. Rafal finished first, nearly 2 minutes ahead of Alex from WITC, with Andy coming in third. In line with our goal of quality over quantity, we had four runners in the top six. Fourth place went to Sylwester Cichacki with Tomasz Kwiatek 5th, just a few seconds ahead of me. Michal Piedel also finished in the top ten. Unfortunately not everything went to plan as Jaroslaw Cibora was unable to finish the race.

Radek (left) and Alan (right) just after the winning team had been announced

Radek (left) and Alan (right) just after the winning team had been announced

After the race we had the awards ceremony. First of all the fastest ladies, with Beata Sieczko from MORT! finishing 3rd. Then the men, with Rafal picking up the top prize. All that remained was to find out which team had won. Fourth place went to Accelerate and Ergo came 3rd. Before announcing the winning team, Ken Globerman asked the team captains of WITC and MORT! up onto stage. Like a referee of a boxing match he held my hand and Alan’s hand. It was close … but the trophy went to our friends from WITC. Still, we can be really proud of what we achieved.
Next year we’ll be back with a bigger team and have a better chance of winning. In my opinion the Club Challenge was a very well organised running event. I think it could be the basis for a bigger event, something like a Warsaw championship between different running clubs. This would of course require more help with the organisation and we’d have to think about reducing the number of people required in the individual teams, as a lot of the clubs in Warsaw are quite small. On a scale of 1-6 (with 6 this highest and 1 the lowest) I’d give this event a 7. Not because I like the organisers but because it was so well organised. We need more events like this. After all, great things have to start somewhere :)

There was also great a finish line photo competition organised by Cristina, while you can view the event photo gallery here.

The individual results are also available here.

Great teamwork - WITC's first ever trophy!

Great teamwork – WITC’s first ever trophy!

Well done everyone who took part and a huge thanks to all the teams for making this such a great event! Here’s to an even better Warsaw Club Challenge next year!

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Running and Me: Our Long, Cyclical Relationship

Reflections by Ken Globerman

September 27, 2014 – One day before the 2014 Berlin Marathon

My relationship with running started later in life than most (discounting our brief teenage flirtation and occasional treadmill flings), and it’s hard to believe 12 years have passed since we had our first date; when I finally said, “enough is enough”, and took control of my health and wellness. But alas, the honeymoon period is firmly behind us. No longer do we experience personal bests together; we’ve tackled the greatest marathon in the greatest city in the world (4 times); we lost count of all the races we’ve done; we’ve gone international; god knows how many pairs of running shoes we’ve purchased, worn and thrown out over the years; and we’ve helped so many others face their doubts and enter the sport with confidence.

So last week, on my final long training run before the Berlin Marathon, which I will start in tomorrow, I had a long conversation with myself. Don’t worry all you negetivos, I wasn’t talking to myself aloud! While I listened to my playlist, I reflected on the last 13 years. I thought back to 2002. I remembered finishing graduate school and topping out the scale at 225 pounds (that’s ~100kg for my international friends). I remembered the book, “The Schwarzbein Principal”, and reading it with intense interest while waiting for Shakespeare in the Park tickets on Lafayette Street. I remembered the feeling after finishing my first half marathon in 2003, getting chosen by lottery for the NYC marathon that same autumn, and thinking, “Can I really do a full marathon that soon?” (Recall: just a few months previously, running 5 kilometers was a challenge). I remembered how I felt during that entire first marathon experience, and then the next (passing Jay-Z at about the 18th kilometer) in 2004, the next in 2008 (coming back after a short running hiatus in 2006-7), and the next in 2009 (my personal best), and the most recent two in 2011 (in Warsaw and then back in New York City).

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Picking up some fluids from friends on the marathon course, 2003

I reflected on all the people that have supported and encouraged me in different ways through the years. A totally random, 50+ year-old Dominican veteran marathon runner who back in 2003 took me for a run in Central Park and instilled confidence in a not-very-athletic-looking novice (I was so proud to share my marathon accomplishment with him less than 1 year later). The friend who lent me the book, “Healing Back Pain” and helped me through some of my early issues with knee pain (btw, no more knee pain!). All the WITC runners and triathletes, who have made amazing personal strides in fitness over the last three years and I am proud to call my friends. My New York Marathoner friends, you know who you are. My girlfriend, who gets to listen to me complain about my lack of fitness all the time. And of course my family and all other friends who’ve supported me during my training ups and downs and as spectators on race days.

2003 NYC Marathon with mom and friends at Central Park

At the finish of the 2003 NYC Marathon with mom and friends, Central Park

Yes I reflected on all of that and more. But on this particular day in September, there was something else. You see, running and I took some time off from each other over the past 18 months. Yeah it was tough, we sometimes met for a coffee (short run) or a casual lunch (occasional 10k) but the more involved meetings were absent. But on this day, I realized something was different. Maybe we can thank winning the Berlin Marathon entry lottery as the catalyst (we all need a little push sometimes). Due to that, running and I recently started making an effort see each other more regularly again. And on this particular Sunday, after 2 months, and 1 week before Berlin, I could tell: we were back!

I got so excited! I had an extra pep in my step. The emotion carried me through at least 5 kilometers. The rush of endorphins flowed through my veins. And I knew then, more than ever, our relationship would last a lifetime. Yes, the honeymoon period was over, but it’s been replaced by something else – a lasting, ever evolving, relationship. Suddenly, I stopped looking at our road as a linear one. I started recognizing the cyclicality of it all – compressed time frames, where at any given month, week, or even moment, we can strive to be the best that we can be. I started thinking about the “Lean Startup” philosophy towards management, breaking things down into smaller pieces. Stop stalling and lingering. Look forward, but live in thehear and now”. Relish in today’s success. Be the best you can be, today.

And then it hit me. I understood why I do it. The question I have asked so many people: “Why do you run?”

And here’s my answer: I Run To Live.

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At the Berlin Marathon expo the day before the big event. It’s hard to escape cues to NYC :)

That’s it. It’s that simple. I realized that when my relationship with running is in a good place, everything else starts to fall into place – health, frame of mind, fitness, and attitude. Reaching middle age, as I firmly have, I’ve started to accept my mortality. And with running (like everything else), we will one day end up right back in the same place we all started. So why not enjoy the journey? And during that journey, running helps me discover myself. I believe when you get down to it, that’s what all us human beings strive to do. And I’m no different.

So tomorrow, I will be on the start line of the Berlin Marathon. The comparisons to 2003 (marathon #1) are eerie. Eleven years older but similar weight (a bit on the heavy side). Similar level of fitness (not particularly great) and a similar dose of self-doubt. Tomorrow, I will discover myself, yet again…

September 29, 2014 – One day after the 2014 Berlin Marathon

“HEY DOUBT, IT WAS NICE SEEING YOU AGAIN. BUT YOU CAN TAKE A HIKE NOW, BECAUSE I DID IT!” Yes, I represented Warsaw International Triathlon Club at the 41st Berlin Marathon and completed the challenge. Today, my thighs are as stiff as boards and I spent the day walking around Berlin like Frankenstein, but otherwise I feel absolutely great! It was a perfect atmosphere on a perfect September day. Went out a little fast for my fitness (as I seem to always do in these events) and could feel the positive effects of my recent weeks of extra training. The first 25 kilometers were a breeze but kilometers 25 through 35 were the hardest 10k I could remember. However, I wasn’t giving in. As one t-shirt I read said, it was now, “WILL OVER WALL”. The support on the racecourse was absolutely awesome, and got better and better as the race neared its conclusion. My Austin Powers-like mojo started to return, as I moved through kilometers 35, then 36, and 37, 38, 39 and finally, 40! The last 2 kilometers were an ABSOLUTE CELEBRATION, and started to crescendo as I passed under Brandenburg Gate with just 200 meters to the finish line!

I completed the distance in 3:57:44. Fastest finishing time for 45-year old Ken and about 1 minute faster than my first marathon in New York back in 2003. And it must have been a perfect day, because not one but TWO men (Kenyans, of course) were faster than the previous world record (10th world record set at the Berlin Marathon) with the winner posting a time of 2:02:57!

Finding time to visit the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium the day after the marathon

Finding time to visit the Berlin Zoo and Aquarium the day after the marathon

You know, six months ago, I never would have been able to make this happen. And now it’s behind me. But the biggest thing of it all is, I feel motivated to continue eating healthier, training and building upon this accomplishment. That’s my trophy. The halo effect through life. And sure, it doesn’t hurt that my jeans fit better than 3 months previous. :)

So I’d recommend the Berlin Marathon (and running for that matter) to anyone and everyone. What a great feeling! And if you ever think you’re a little to old, or too heavy, or to weak – don’t ever let your inhibitions, fears or concerns get in the way.

Just get out there and do it!

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My “Rocky moment”! WITC at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

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Taking the plunge Part III – Olga Kulyna

Olga has been one of our star newbie triathletes this year. After telling us about her preparations for her first tri, including overcoming her swimming phobia, she must have enjoyed her experience in Nieporet so much that soon after she decided to sign up for the 1/2 Ironman distance in Mragowo at the end of August. Hers is an amazing story of overcoming the odds and how where there’s a will, there’s a way … or as they might say in this part of the world – Ukrainka potrafi 😉

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Taking the plunge Part III – By Olga Kulyna
or not doing things by halves!

Okay, this is the last one I promise :)

It was only +4 degrees yesterday morning…the season is definitely over :( It’s time to rest and contemplate…

What I was thinking about when I signed up for a half-ironman. I mean quite a few people from the club had done it, some were about to do the distance, Alan amongst others – so I decided to keep him company in Mragowo.

All calm and relaxed before the start

Forget this triathlon business, anyone for pool?

Something gives me the impression Olga's happy to have finished the swim ;)

Something gives me the impression Olga’s happy to have finished the swim ;)

This time the swim went smoothly – to be on the safe side I stayed away from people to avoid being touched and kicked. I can proudly say I’ve mastered floating after this one. The bike was tough with all that 800m elevation but manageable. I wasn’t very fast though – I guess those stupid sandwiches attached to the frame (Tristan’s advice) slowed me down :) Guess what? We made it to the finish line together [Ed. they were eaten by Alan after the race and were delicious :)]. And then came the run… I’d never expected I could hate running that much. Can’t even point a finger at what was the worst – I guess struggling with my mind to keep going every single minute of those 2 hours. And what a relief it was to see Cristina and Jay waiting to do the last meters with me! And all the club mates waiting at the finish line, cheering, giving me water and oranges…

Group hug!

Group hug!

So I crossed the finish line 2nd in my age category (out of 2), got a trophy, felt really awkward standing there on the podium… I should probably mention that the first girl beat me by almost 2 hours… :) A quarter was tough, but a half is a completely different level of suffering. I wonder what full feels like…

Anyway I would have never done it without the CLUB. Thank you Ken – for the concept and making it all work; Cristina – for forcing me into your wetsuit and into the lake (if it wasn’t for you I’d probably still be swimming in the pool close to the wall); Alan – for advice and support before and during the race, and exchanging understanding glances :); Ewa – for lending your brand-new bike; Pierre – for the lesson on how to replace a tube (what a surprise it was to me when I discovered that a tyre has an inner tube!); Philippe – for instilling confidence in me by saying I am crazy enough to go for half; Renata, Asia and Iwo, Jay and Iza, Kathi and Maciek for cheering me at the finish line, for the water and oranges! You are amazing and will always stay in my memories part of this incredible, unforgettable experience. I am so lucky to have met you all!

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And we’re lucky to have you Olga! Great story, thanks for sharing & once again congratulations! :)

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WITC at the Mragowo triathlon

WITC at the Volvo Mragowo triathlon, 31st August 2014

At the end of August, 10 WITC’ers headed up to the Masurian lakes to take on the 4th and final triathlon in the Volvo series, a group of races which also included the event in Nieporet back in July. This time the WITC’ers were spread over the 1/4 and 1/2 ironman distances. Olga, Alan & Katharina were all doing their first 1/2 IM races while Joanna, Iwo, Cristina, Jay, Iza, Pierre-Francois and Renata had signed up for the 1/4.

Mragowo is a picturesque town around 3-4 hours drive from Warsaw, and the group headed up on the Friday evening to enjoy the whole weekend up by the lakes.

Katharina & Joanna shared their thoughts of this great weekend with us

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W – I – T – C!!

Katharina: “After picking up my race pack on Saturday I still couldn’t believe that I was supposed to do a ½ IM. My first surprise on the day was: I wasn’t registered!! For a moment I considered this to be a sign and give up… but they offered my one of the last two spots and I got a race pack :) The rest of the day was spent buying goggles, going for a short run and swim (mainly to test the goggles), preparing the bike and checking I have everything necessary for the race. When dusk came I joined the best ever free pasta party at our hotel and then went for some nice cake with the rest of the WITC team at their rented house. All of us sitting together having some food, talking about race preparation and how we felt which really took the pressure off me even though it somehow still didn’t feel real.

Race day: had breakfast, prepared my own iso (water with honey and a hint of lemon), checked in my bike and then realized they gave me the wrong start number – I exchanged the start numbers and started all over again by attaching to the bike, helmet and race band. Then I had a coffee and finally got ready for the swim. I’m seriously nervous now… but luckily there is Maciek (my personal support during this whole weekend) as well as Alan and Olga (my co-competitors) who help me forget what is ahead …

Pre-1/2 photo - all smiles still

Pre-1/2 photo – all smiles still

One last picture and off we are into the water…trzy…dwa…jeden… go. The swim feels great after about 200m there is already no more “fighting” and I can just enjoy the swim. I try not to push too much and it feels much better than over a shorter distance. To my surprise my time is about the same even though it felt easier. Out of the water… and run to T1, where I consider putting on some warmer clothing for the ride but then I just take my bike and run out of T1 where I hear cheering and some status update on the race: great motivation! Four laps with around 200 of elevation. Each loop takes us through Mrągowo and then along some very scenic and slightly hilly landscape. Even though I can feel my legs more with every round I love the ride! On the first two I only see Alan and Olga then the rest of the team from the 1/4 joins and it is nice to say a hello here and there, I have a chat with Cristina and then Iwo who overtakes me… Actually I get a little sad on my last loop, it’s unbelievable the 90k is almost over.

10537145_10105666397580641_3750953149536082260_oInto T2, I’m feeling great but the hardest part of the race is about to start and I’m a bit afraid of the half marathon, but once I exit T2 and there are so many people cheering I forget about the fears and doubts. Again it’s four loops with a water station at the turn around points – always something to look forward to 😉 Half-way through my second round I have one more gel which makes it 5 gels in total and I feel I can do this. Also a lot of cheering on the run, some high fives (even with my direct competitor who I didn’t know before) and many motivating words make it somehow easy to keep on going. On the last round I can feel my legs getting really heavy there is a little pain but then there is first Alan with some motivation and then Olga so somehow I make it to the last turn around point where I refuel with a short walk and some grapefruit (best idea ever by the organizers) and even manage to sprint to the meta… red carpet and it’s over! All the WITCers are there to welcome me with a nice cold piwo J

So to sum up: a refreshing swim, breathtaking ride and “cheering” run! And not to forget a great after party!

Joanna:  On the swim, despite being a relatively weak zabka swimmer, I was able to actually catch some people from the previous couple of waves.  I must have kicked/punched at least 5-10 people in my half hour in the water.  I didn’t do it intentionally – you really can’t see them until its almost too late – but it was kind of funny to me each time it happened. It was because on previous tris I was last or almost last to come out the water and there was no-one around me at all.

So, 950 meters after the start, and after hearing Renata just behind me saying “Masakra” I was getting out of the water, and off to the most flowery transition to get ready for the bike.

Best transition picture ever!

Best transition picture ever!

T1 was actually simple: dry feet , fight with socks, get shoes on, helmet on, glasses on, number on, grab bike, go!

On the bike course I finally understood why people can actually not like cycling. The scenery was one of the best with beautiful views. There were no real problems to speak of aside from some wind or traffic, but some were inconsiderate in my view. I was expecting to have a nice new asphalt and an easy loop to beat my PB, but actually this was Crete-like surroundings. Hills! Once you reach the top thinking its all over, it only lasts until you look back up to see the next hill. I need to start loving them as they say the hills makes us strong but here the hills made me weak…

T2 was also simple: bike racked, shoes changed, belt turned, go!

mragowo2Hold on.. why am I running in my helmet and gloves? When running out of T2 I noticed some strange looks so I knew something was wrong. I forgot to take off my bike gear. Actually this is how to minimize your time in T2 to 1 min :) I had plenty of time to take it off while running. I throw away my helmet over transition fence on my first line and was running with the gloves and the shirt in my hand for the first 5km. These didn’t weigh much but I couldn’t loosen up and settle in at a good pace. I had a lot of time to think while running. I asked myself why I’m doing it.. and could not get the answer as I was still pissed off with the bike hills. Then I began to look around. The scenery was spectacular! Friends were giving hi-fives and waiving and I was moving towards the finish…

Congratulations to everyone!

Congratulations to everyone!

At the finish line, I’d never this tired before and decided that this would be the last TRI of the season. But this thought lasted only until the moment I was taking my bike out of the transition zone… The next day I signed up for the Barcelona Triathlon, Olympic distance with 1500m to swim. Now that will be a real challenge!:)

Sounds like a great way to finish off the triathlon season Joanna. Well done to everyone who completed this event and special thanks to the supporters Maciek and Marta!

You can view the full photo gallery here.

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