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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