Ironman Italy – Race report
4.30am Buongiorno with 2 espresso
The morning breeze brings a scent of Lambrusco bubbles and warm piadine, local specialties served to the platina blonded girls and weight lifting men that spent their summer here in Cervia. Ive been told the founder of Technogym is born in this region and that he created a market for ‘party & pump’ holidays. It paved the road for Ironman and its IM weirdos like me, to go for the ‘carb & crawl’ variation.
5.30am – at the transition park.
I put my bottles of self made nutrition on my bike and pump up the tubes without any issues . Splendid!! I think I’ve got a degree in valve extenders, cartridges and DYI by now but I lost a ‘rib out of my ribcage’ on new Continental tubes and tyres cause I forgot to let the air out during the flight .
It’s 6.30am when I find myself -charmingly- smearing some sudocrem on the lower-area when a more elegant and model looking woman in a wetsuit taps me on the shoulder, she smiles and wants to know my height. If one of my Italian friends wouldnt have been an Insta addict and just showed me the Insta profile of this woman, I wouldnt know she indeed is a model and one of my pro competitors. Personally, I only ask for someone’s height when I feel threatened in my iso line/tall girls zone so after a short chat about basketball etc I ask her to close the zip on my back so she would could see again that I am much taller (…as if she cares). At that point I didnt know I’d get a another friendly tap from her, 7 hours later.
The deejay manages to get our heart rates up with Ombelico del Mondo (I still have the song in my head https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZY3bm93Wk4) and all I can do is smile, nervously dance a bit and enjoy this moment.
Boooooom! We are gone!
The 200m run into the shallow water is the only point in triathlon where you benefit from being huge so I take the lead. But it still surprises me so much that I forget to put my head down when I dive into the water and make a face plant hereby swallowing so much salty water that I covered my electrolyte intake for the rest of the day… Obviously my lead doesnt last long (but it were some great 25 meters) and I manage to stay in the second group. Fully focused on an efficient stroke and rhythm I only got distracted from:
1) the huge jellyfish that I am suddenly grabbing with my hand, hereby screaming out loud and swallowing a liter of air that I carried with me in my stomach until I finally burped it out at km 40 on the bike.
and 2) the kick in the face of a girl, spreading my mascara over the entire left half of my goggles. Thank God there was an austrialian exit (fyi: a small run on the beach before we start on the second lap) to wipe it clean. I’ll never wear mascara again.
After the swim we make it to the Guinness Book of Records with a 1.2km long carpet run (fyi: this is extremely long for a tri and for running bare foot and kills your finish time). But luckily it is the only “baby disease” of this inaugurational IM in Italia, and everyone needs to do it so who cares.
In transition 1 an agegrouper passes me. This implies three things:
1) her swim is 10min faster (they started later)
2) she can run faster (she took over whilst already carrying with her bike, I was running without)
3) she hasn’t got the balls to compete at pro level so I can ignore her .
I try to see how many pro bike bags haven’t been picked up yet. It seems like there are 6 left, implying I’m positioned 10th.
My adrenaline/serotonine levels make it feel as if there are thousands of people cheering along the endless blue carpet. It is more likely that there are just a dozen. Anyhow, if you don’t feel like a star you can’t perform like one.
The bike course takes us through the Cervia Salina, salterns where seawater is evaporated over a series of ponds to harvest NaCl. It looks exactly like the Dutch landscape, making me think of my family, that was supporting me online and not alongside the course for the first time. Instead, there were a bunch of flamingo’s making noise and waving at me. They did quite well as supporters, albeit they were a bit distracting as I was under the impression that they looked a bit pale. Or was I confusing them with silver herons? I looked again and now I saw both types of birds simultaneoulsy. Great! This means I didn’t started hallucinating yet.
Just when I’m trying to come up with a hypothesis why they are so white, f.e. due to lack of shrimps as food source, a jet-fighter with “Camilla – Sweden” on her bib passes me.
I decide to follow her. She looked like a bobble head dog on a dashboard, bending her neck all the time, like they do at the at the finish of a cycle sprint. Is she over-shooting or is this what they mean with aero position?
As she was much more powerful than me, I assumed she knew best so I started imitating her turtle neck. OMG this areo pose totally blocks your view on the road 🙅. Kaboom! I miss a pot hole and loose a bottle. Fortunately, its just a water bottle and not my magic ‘carb and crawl’ holiday mix.
We enter the first village where someone screams “otto!!” So we must be positioned 8th and 9th. I had in my mind to reach top 6, and I know there are some fast runners in this field so we need to ‘put some pepe verde in our culo’.
We continue. At the only mediterranean scenic part and climb of the course I notice my helmet strap isn’t closed (see pic). Its too steep to cycle with no hands, but I refuse to stop. A fata morgana of my family appeared when I was about to start descending with 70km/h. Just on time I manage to close it firmly 👌.
After 90km in zone ‘blowing up your legs’ I decide to let Camilla go. Emo feelings kick in after 140km, and when I pass the only 75+ yrs old competitor and an athlete carrying a disabled boy behind him (see pic) I drop a little tear (not a joke). I’m also worried that my friend Luca Prosperi has been crashed as he didn’t pass me yet. Is he still alive? This moment of tired- and sadness is all standard operating procedure. Fortunately, a better emotional state takes over when I finally pass some pro women, bringing me on 6th place.
1.43pm transition 2
I jump off the bike and feel instant pain in my sciatic nerve caused by tensed muscle around both my glutes/hamstrings. I had blocked all thoughts about this weird injury I got after Zell am See 70.3 until now. Preliminar worrying has never helped getting a gold medal (fair enough, listening to your body earlier may have…).
I know exactly how much this pain impacts my neuro musculair control/motor patterns, but also that technically seen I can run slowly with it without making this injury worse (its nerve pain, not a damaged tendon or so).
You dont need to be a senior McK consultant to make the cost-benefit analysis for the 2 possible options:
1) Dont even start the marathon. Pros: You can get some piadine and lambrusco earlier. Cons: it will become an option too next race and I spent 1200€ for a DNF.
2) Approach it like a long training run and enjoy it as much as you can. Cons: It will look like an episode of walking death. Pros: maybe all the girls in front of my pass out and I can still win it.
So off I went for this mindfullness challenge. It went fine: I didn’t mind the tap on my back from the not-as-tall-as-me pro super model when she passes me at 25km, nor the fact I fell back to position 10: I was going to finish this. The slower pace allowed me to pay a bit more attention to the scenery and to gratefully thank the brilliant audience and volunteers. Interestingly, it was my first marathon where the last 12k were less painful than the first 30 . (The tensed muscle started to fatigue at a certain point, releasing the pain.)
5.28pm Finished in 9h53 placed 10th