Category Archives: Triathlon Reports

Mt. Kilimanjaro, September 2017

At the time of writing this post I am still overflowing  with joy and wonder brought back home from the Kilimanjaro ascent. It was legendary, mentally and physically demanding… but so fulfilling, touching the core…I just can not find the words to describe it. Since the beginning of the year 2017 we had a black and white picture of Mt. Kilimanjaro  on our refrigerator waiting to see it in colors…and on September 8th when the plane took off heading for Istanbul and therefrom to Kilimanjaro International Airport we felt  excitement accompanied by some doubts, adrenaline and, to be honest, some fear too.  Mt. Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa and it rises 5895  meters above sea level.  It was first summited by Meyer and  Purtscheller way back in 1889…

It was 1.00 AM and warm night with light breeze at Kilimanjaro International Airport at the time of arrival. Despite the promising name of the airport it is actually a small building with 2 terminals…and a runway somewhere in between the fields, but obviously enough to land an extended version of Boeing 737. After bureaucratic procedures we left the building in hope to find our prearranged transportation to Moshi town where we should sleep for the rest of the night until our guide would come in the morning to pick us up. But there was no one waiting for us so we made a call and the guy said he would be a bit late. It turned out that a bit meant 1,5h. When he finally came we packed our things in a van and drove outside the airport facilities into the night. We got a first sense of Tanzania, no traffic lights by the road, bumpy roads and dangerous ultrafast drivers who like to overtake into scissors. But the overall energy felt in the air was somehow nostalgic,  like we had been there once before. And after all the inconvenience with the delay, the driver still had the guts to ask for a tip.

After two hours of sleeping we were prepared to meet our local guide. He was a professional with several years of experience in climbing Kilimanjaro. We collected the staff and made an one hour drive up to the rainy forest where the journey had started. The Marangu gate, an entry point into Kilimanjaro and the start of the Marangu hiking trail. We started walking through the rainy forest and the humidity was extreme. We were soaked and the nature was amazing as we passed many waterfalls. After 4-5 hours we reached the Mandara hut where we spent the first night.  Some pumpkin soup and popcorn for dinner. We unfolded the sleeping bags in the hut and went to sleep. The night was really cold and in the morning we woke up covered in morning dew. I undressed all the additional layers of clothes and we were ready to eat some breakfast (fruit soup). We started the journey towards 3700 m.a.s.l., the Horombo hut. The path lead us up through the habitat called moorland and is characterized by low-growing vegetation.  When getting to high altitudes you can see a plant called Dendrosenecio kilimanjari and can only be seen on Kilimanjaro-a pretty amazing plant to see.  We walked for 6-7 hours and the tropical sun was starting to get really strong so we got sunburned  on some forgotten exposed parts of the skin. The night at Horombo hut was cold and clear.  The hut we stayed in was small and had four mattresses and therefore we shared the room with a couple from South Korea. The morning came early and I got a weird nausea feeling in my stomach and I had no real appetite for breakfast. So we kept on walking for 8 hours through the Alpine desert in which we felt like Martians.

The previous evening we had a prolonged conversation with our guide who proposed that we skip the acclimatization day meaning we skip a day at high altitude 3700 m.a.s.l. and go directly to 4700 m.a.s.l. He said that our general condition is good and staying long at hight altitude might decrease the options for successful last ascent. We knew that that there was a lot at risk but we decided to go for it. So we reached the Kibo hut at 4700 m.a.s.l. in the evening and after a short dinner we had a few hours of sleep until 2 a.m. in the night. It was time to go for the final ascent.  I slept for one hour, again it was too cold to sleep and when waking up I felt my heart bumping at 100 beats per minute while adapting to altitude and low partial pressure of oxygen.  My stomach was not in the mood for eating so we started the ascent at -20°C as soon as possible. It was an incredible night and those memories have no value in money… while ascending up the steep mountain slope in slow zig-zag movement we had an opportunity to see the night sky over Equatorial Africa… billions of Milky Way stars. The most astonishing night sky ever. At the dawn the temperature was even lower and the strong wind started blowing uphill. At the sunrise we reached the Gilman`s point at 5700 m.a.s.l. And from there we had an app. 1 hour of ascent left to the Uhuru peah. So we kept on fighting. The sun was coming out of the night and as we passed the first glaciers we saw some people turning around and going back down… a young woman needed an oxygen supply and another one was lying on the ground vomiting. They were all headed back down… as they should. The helicopter rescue was available at 3700 m.a.s.l. and I had nothing to help with in that specific situation. The Uhuru peak was seen in distance together with glaciers and volcanic crater. After passing the Stella point there were only ten minutes to the top.  We walked slowly and when reaching the Uhuru peak there was an immense amount of adrenaline flushing through the veins. By getting too excited you could easily feel the lack of oxygen so we took the pictures in hypoxic euphoria and saved some last memories from the Uhuru peak… some paths in life will probably never be walked again.

It was time to get back down again and it took us about 5 hours to reach the 3700 m.a.s.l., the Horombo hut. It would be dangerous to sleep at Kibo hut because of the high altitude, so despite the tiredness we kept on walking. When reaching the Horombo we could get some sleep and despite the cold I did not wake up the whole night. The next day we did the last part of the descent back to the entry point… and it was time to board a plane for our next stop, Zanzibar…

Kilimanjaro… in one sentence…It was an experience of a lifetime!

 

 

Ford Challenge Prague, 29.7. 2017

It was a challenging triathlon in the center and on the outskirts of the, so called, the most beautiful city in the hearth of Europe. On the race morning, the sun was already high in the sky and was announcing one hot day in the city. The temperatures were rising and the race was due to start at noon. We tried to get some good sleep the previous night but we had some loud Chinese neighbors who were very talkative in the morning hours. After breakfast we prepared our bikes and took a one mile stroll down to the center.

Swim start in Vltava (source: Challenge Prague)

The swim was held in the Vltava river with refreshing 17 degrees. The first impression was amazing though the water is not clean and there is some rubbish swimming allover. Anyway, through my goggles I was able to see nothing, not even my hand in front of me. The swim start was explosive and it took me by surprise while I was still polishing my goggles. It was time to start swimming. We took two U-turns and swam under two bridges. First part of the swim was against the flow and it felt harder than the other part going in the opposite direction.

Swim start in Vltava (source: Challenge Prague)

After coming out of the muddy river bank, we were getting ready for the bike part. The transition was busy and you had to took the stairs up on the bridge to get your bicycle. Cycling was held on the highways and country roads outside Prague. There were two laps to be ridden and the heat was already taking its toll. We tried to drink a lot and one big banana was my energy provider.  It was nice but I could not wait for the run to start because I did not manage to get the optimal cycling training distance in the previous months. I was counting on some experience from the past three years.

The cycling part (Source: Challenge Prague)

Finally, the running part. It is a part when you can relax knowing that somehow you will probably manage to get to the finish line. I enjoyed running and whenever there was a chance I took some watermelon for refreshment. The evening was approaching and it was time to pass the finish line. I always get emotional when this happens because you never know when your last amazing triathlon finish line will be passed. Therefore, not even one should be taken for granted.

My darling”s legendary picture. Dušan and I were too fast to be caught on tape… 🙂 (Source: Challenge Prague)

Afterwards… pizza, salmon, salad and a glass of local beer. It was a mild beer with a gentle taste, especially appropriate for women. 🙂 Though I rarely drink it and I am not really familiar with European beers. For dessert… an ice cream and one long, deep sleep. I guess we finally deserved it… the Chinese were quiet.

Finisher medals (Source: Challenge Prague)

Challenge Šamorin, Slovakia, 21.8. 2016

On 21. of August we took part in an inagural Challenge Samorin, Slovakia. It was a 1,9 km swim, 90 km bike and a half-marathon run… Swimming took part in the Donau river, which had pleasant 19 degrees. Though it was only an up and down route with no obvious turns to the left or right, it was a particulary special swim because of the current. Anyway, on the bike it started raining like a shower.  I was kind of a “deja vu”…like Iceland… again cold and wet bike ride.

Swim start (source: Challenge Šamorin)
Swim start (source: Challenge Šamorin)

Well, once we managed to get to the running part it was all OK. It was a really lovely run on the banks of the Donau river, the rain stopped and we started enjoying the countdown to the finish line. Through the rice I have been feeling rather tired and sleepy, a long season behind has started to take its toll. But still, we had a really nice time in Slovakia and the race was just a relaxation during the weekend.

Now, that is it for this season. 1 Ironman and 4 half-Ironman distances this year. I am really satisfied with the 2016 season. 🙂 Now it is time for autumn and winter… and indulging into activities other than triathlon.

Challenge Iceland, 23. 7. 2016

On Saturday, 23.7. 2016, we were a part of an amazing, inaugural Challenge Iceland, half Iron distance triathlon. The name says it all and all three of us agree that this was the most fascinating, adventurous triathlon we have ever done. An unforgettable experience in the land of the Vikings.

Swim start (source; Challenge Iceland)
Swim start (source; Challenge Iceland)

The swim start took place on Saturday morning in a 10.000 years old glacier lake situated 40 km from Reykjavik. It was a rainy morning with outside temperatures approximately 12°C. The water in the lake was said to have 15°C but in fact this was only true for the shallow part on the entry into the lake… as you went further, the water became colder and colder. We dressed up our swim suits in a nearby tent because the rain was pouring from the sky. The tent was already crowded with athletes and it seemed like we all knew that going into that lake will take some craziness. The scenery behind the lake was a picturesque mountain and hills covered with snowy patches and we also noticed a waterfall which was probably providing all this cold water into our lake. It was time to get in. We did not think much; we got wet as fast as possible and once you swam a few metres the water temperature seemed bearable. We were laughing and shaking, waiting for the start signal.

Swim start (source: Challenge Iceland)
Swim start (source: Challenge Iceland)

Swimming started and the first few hundred meters were actually OK, like swimming in a »normal« lake. The water was crystally clear and the first problem we have encountered was its unequal depth. Therefore, we had to walk for a few meters in the middle of the lake until we could swim again. The time went by, I could feel my finger tips freezing and after swimming for 40 minutes the coordination of limbs was awfully bad…I got the feeling that I came into the coldest part of the lake. It took another 5 minutes to swim to the exit on the shore and a few minutes to get out into the transition zone. The conditions really prolonged our swimming times.

Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)
Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)

Iztok and Dušan were already starting the bike ride, when I entered the transition zone and dressed up my bike gear in a whole-body-shaking condition. As a doctor, I would of course totally disencourage anyone to perform swimming in a cold, glacier lake… I was thinking of our kidneys, our heart pumps and all the organs who had to perform their functions despite our morning glacier bathing. But on the other hand, we will never walk this road again and I knew we were well prepared and fit enough to do this without consequences. The cold water took its toll, some of the athletes had to finish their race during or after the swim…medical professionals had much work to do; from mild hypothermia to cramps. Luckily, nothing serious.

Bike ride-Dušan (source: Challenge Iceland)
Bike ride-Dušan (source: Challenge Iceland)

I took my bike and ran to the bike start area. I almost dropped it as I was getting on it. In the second attempt I managed to start biking, rain was still pouring from the sky. »Nice and easy« said someone from the surrounding crowd… and we took his advice, we did the 90 km bike ride considering all the safety precautions; careful use of brakes, slow turning. I was afraid to speed up since the road was slippery and I do not have a lot of experience with racing in the rain. All the events so far were in tropical conditions in comparison to this event. I was happy with the scenery I was able to see during the bike course. Astonishing. The road was actually traffic-free and as you were riding in the middle of the road with cliffs and shore on one side, mighty hills on another side it felt like living on another planet. The hills seemed like being there forever, long before the human invasion of this planet and they were the silent witness of our bike ride on that vintage day. From Vikings to Challenge Iceland, those hills can manage all as long as you leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories.

Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)
Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)

The bike course was going up and down with app. 1000 m of ascent. This warmed my fingertips, the rain stopped pouring and after 90 km it was time to do the 21 km run-a half marathon. The run took its place around the lake, two 10,5 km laps. I was so hungry when getting off the bike, I could not wait for that chocolate bar in the transition zone. I must have underestimated the conditions on the bike and took only one small bar with me on the bike… obviously not enough. I changed my clothes and started running. The run was sitauted in a lovely scenery beside the lake, there were some aid stations with chocolate and bananas. The sun was already shinning and it was time to get to the finish line. Passing the line I stopped and took a few deep breaths.

Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)
Bike ride (source: Challenge Iceland)

There was a hot, spicy pumpkin soup in the finish area. We ate several cups of it, and a lot of fruit, it was delicious! And all the volunteers with cool, big Icelandic hearts were there to help us through the day. We did well in competition and our highest rankings in our age groups brought us entry slots for the Challenge World Championship 2017 in Šamorin. For all the rest, I will let the pictures do the talking…

Moraviaman,18.6. 2016

It was a sunny Thursday afernoon when we packed our things and hit the road to Czech Republic, more accurately to Otrokovice town. Moraviaman triathlon is a part of Czech national triathlon championship but it is also open for foreign athletes. We arrived in the late evening and of course all the restaurants were closed. So we took a look into the nearest restaurant with lights on (later we foud out that it was actually a Texas country style bar) which served us heated deep-frozen pizzas and, of course, Staropramen beer. It looked like we were the most complex guests in the last few years since they had to brush the dust from the menu. Well, we were satisfied anyway.

The following day was dedicated to “carbo-loading”…it is that sweet part of the preparations when you have to do “all you can eat” thing. Boiled potatoes, lots of bread, pizza (from the night before), pasta (in the days before) and some muffins. I must say that the last year I was actually tired of eating so much, but this year I ate smarter: less, but with more complex carbohydrates. I was really satisfied with how I felt: strong and full of OH. In another words, ready to make a lot of ATP molecules on the Ironman day.

Dušan and I went to do the registration on Friday. Iztok was our indispensable companion since he had to skip this Ironman because of some unpredictable health issues. Luckily, he shall be ready for Challenge Iceland since it was not easy for him to skip this emotional, amazing racing day.

Transition zone
Transition zone

Saturday. The swim start was at 7 AM, so we set our clocks at 5 AM. It was a sunny, promising morning. The sun was already up and we had to prepare our things and check in the bikes. I had prepared all the accessories on the desk the night before: swimming googles, swim suit, clothes, helmet, cycling shoes, running shoes, … For breakfast we had some croissants with no filling: this always works for the first  hours.

Swim start in the morning
Swim start in the morning

And there it was…a swim start in the nearby lake. Dušan was already dressed up in his swimming suit, I had to dress up too. My thoughts were already in the evening, I had that weird dumpling in my stomach, I was trying to look calm but inside I was really tense …it was that exciting fear of the unknown, that feeling you get when you are coping with a challenge far greater that yourself. I was trying to visualize the finish line, the adrenaline that will flush me in the last kilometres of running and that deep pride inside.

As they say, the swim start in the Ironman can not be felt, it can only be lived. When the gun goes off, it is a war. A 3,8 km swim started violently, people were trying to swim over each other. I managed to make my way through the crowds. There were approximately 400 athletes and it was hard to swim for the first few minutes. The water was dark but it somehow did not bother me too much… I fell into my swimming speed and the time was flying by. We had to do three laps and in between I could see the dark clouds gathering above the lake… After approximately 1h 20 min I was getting out of the lake, the sun was shinning again and I was encouraged for the next distance: 180 km cycling.

Cycling hours - Dušan
Cycling hours – Dušan

I changed my clothes in the transition zone, that took me approximately 3 minutes. I put a banana in my pocket, took my bike and ran to the start of a long, challenging bike ride. We had to do 4 laps, each lap 45 km long. The first part of a lap was somehow boring, heading up the main road, but the second part was abundant with green scenery, with ascents and descents… altogether 800m of ascent. The winds were not helpful and so I can say that the bike course was challenging. I was cycling in a steady pace and I let my mind wander off… in the future, in the past, in imaginary worlds and then back to reality. One moment I felt so happy and fulfilled… indescribable thing. I was doing good until a weird cramp in my gastrocnemicus muscle spoiled that mental harmony… I poured some cold water on it from the bottle on the bike. It was ok then and I ignored the pain since I knew that some salt from the iso drink in the transition zone after the bike ride will save this problem. I was such a relief to get off the bike after more than six hours…

Getting off the bike
Getting off the bike

I was really relieved when the run started. 42,2 km, a marathon under the hot sun. We really tried to wash off all the salt that was left on the skin. During the run I reset my watch because I was somehow interested in the distance… and it is mentally encouraging to count down the kilometres. The runnig course was really beautiful, but not flat. There were many ups and downs and in that steep parts my running pace was slower. I tried to drink as much as I could… iso every 20 minutes. After three hours of running the tiredness was coming to the surface. The sun was already going down, loosing its power and when I took my last 10 km lap it was all so full of nostalgie, running in the middle of the wheat fields swaying in the evening breeze. I could easily cry of happiness and relief because the finish line was in the reach.

A marathon
A marathon

And there was the finish line in the evening after 13h and 12 min….  A gift for all evenings in the last months spent in preparations for this day.  I took a glass of champaign in the finisher arena. It was again an amazing day, like in the last year”s Ironman. There are many priceless moments in life, those are one of them… We achieved two third places and this was a memorable award for all of us.

Ocean Lava Race Celje-Logarska Valley, Slovenia

On 28. 5. 2016 we were racing the only half iron distance (1,9-90-21) triathlon in Slovenia. This year it was included into the Ocean Lava Series but it has already existed since 2013.

Swim start
Swim start

The weather this year and general conditions were excellent.  The swim start was in Šmartinsko lake near Celje. The water was surprisingly not cold, but this lake is known for its large inhabitants (catfish 2 metres long etc.). Therefore we had an additional motivation to swim fast and near the group of other swimmers. It is not a lovely feeling to stay behind knowing that you might be a tempting stranger for those creatures below.  Luckily, I did not see a thing.

A beautiful forest run (Iztok and co-runner)
A beautiful forest run (Iztok and co-runner)

Bike course was 90 km long, with the last 30 km ascent to the valley. Winds were upfront, so all this together made it a quite difficult ride to T2 location. But it went fast since the nature was so astonishing you could easily forget the conditions you were in.

Mountain scenery
Mountain scenery (Dušan on the go)

The run was actually one of the most beautiful ones. There were two 10, 5 km laps and the course was going up and down in the forest. The last part, and the most memorable part, was headed to the meadow and then turning onto the soft grass with the mountain scenery in the back. Since the sun was really strong, we all got sunburned (in up-to-the knee-fashion).  Anyway, it was a nice saturday and a really beautiful triathlon in the nature.

Award ceremony (2nd place)
Award ceremony (2nd place)

Austrian 1/2 Iron Triathlon Mureck

It was a 1,9k/90k/21k half Iron distance triathlon in Mureck, Austria on 7.5. 2016. In the morning it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day, not like a week before when we had snow in the last days of April. Therefore we had a reason to expect that the water in the Rocksee lake is about to be cold. The start for the women was at 9.15 AM  and at 10 AM for the men and the sun had just began to warmen the atmosphere. When I first put my soles into the lake, I was positively surprised… it was not so cold afterall. The water had 18°C but I was ok with it for that 40 min swim.

Rocksee, 7.5. 2016
Rocksee, 7.5. 2016

There was one slight problem in transition 1, getting out of the water and on the bike, because I had some problems with taking off my swim suit. It just did not want to go off! And it took me more than three minutes to get out out T1 zone with my bike. I was already on the bike for 15 minutes when Iztok and Dušan started their race in the second wave-men start.

Rocksee, 7.5. 2016
Rocksee, 7.5. 2016

There were two 45km bike laps and it took me 2h and 53 min for both laps, taking into account the two hilly passages in the middle of the lap. The bike course was windy most of the time and it took a lot of effort to cycle against it. Transition 2, from bike to the run, was much faster, taking a little bit more than one minute.

Rocksee, 7.5.2016
Rocksee, 7.5.2016

The run was very beautiful, two laps around the lake and into the forest. On the run the sun was already hot and many of us took some seconds to drink cola in between running. It really felt good. Rushing against the 21st kilometer of running I was already seeing the finish line and passed it after 5h 16 minutes and 51 seconds. And that is my recors for this distance. Not to mention, I achieved the firts place and a voucher for shopping in Giga Sport. It was worth sweating for. 🙂 After the race, there was an award ceremony and we took the chance to meet and make a photo with Marino Wanhoenacker,  a Belgian triathlete who broke the world record for the full Ironman triathlon at Klagenfurt in Austria, finishing after 7 hours, 45 minutes and 58 seconds.

Rocksee, 7.5. 2016
Rocksee, 7.5. 2016

At the end of the day, we went for a tasty dinner and this was the best possible ending of that perfect day.  Anyway, the trainings contiune, there is 5 weeks until the full Ironman distance.

It all starts with a plan

And it is good to have one, I agree. In a sport field we have a few self-challeging goals for this season. If you set up a goal, it is of course easier to commit to it, not looking right or left but going straightforward to the finish line. The best part of this journey is the journey itself. And all the time you have invested enriches your album of experience, your personality. Therefore, never regret the time invested in reaching your goals… the fact is that the time will pass anyway. And it is not about the results, it is about getting to the finish line feeling satisfied with your race against yourself. It is an art to combine your full-time working responsibilities and training and therefore I really respect the older athletes, being successful in their career, having two or three happy kids (who can not wait to pass the finish line with their parents) and a family and doing the Ironman. And not to mention that those were the one of the most positive, inspiring people we have ever met.

Vir: www.pinterest.com
Vir: www.pinterest.com

In April we are running an Ultramarathon in Istria, in May the first half-iron distance triathlon this year. Then comes June and an a fulfilling full Iron distance triathlon in Czech Republic. I know all the excitement will be as rich as the first time last year… leaving the comfort zone and looking forward to it. Then in August again one half-Iron distance in Slovakia. For autumn we do not have a plan yet, but working/professional responsibilities always come first so sport will  have to step aside in autumn in order to commit fully to other projects.

Now, I have it written!

I will probably often return to this post when searcing for motivation, inspiration for another afternoon training sesson (the problem is that before the Iron day the long endurance bike rides all become the same). But the passion for life felt on a racing day will pay off all the efforts and I will forever know I did not miss an opportunity to feel it and that I gave great memmories, created with my loved-one, a chance to happen. And that is the spirit of the Ironman triathlon.

Zeltweg ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships, 14.2.2016

A winter triathlon event in Austria on Sunday which consisted of running, mountain biking and cross-country skiing. The start was at the forecourt of the Zeltweg hall. The run course was flat and lead through the whole area of the sports center. Well, still there were many curves and short climbs on different substrates like snow and rocky sand.

After the transition area, the bike course went along the main road…but not on the road. It was a dirty, wet and muddy course for about 500 metres. Then the trail lead through a hall and then into a blocking terrain where there were many ascents and descents. Luckily, the path back to the transition area was flat.

The cross-country route ran in clokwise direction, it was flat and not so fast because of the artificial snow. There were two to three snow hills to break the rhythm on the cross-country ski route.

And a few graphic pictures…

Night trainings with ŠPT Pro Tek

Night training runs were “invented” by ŠPT Pro Tek and its leader Gorazd Jordan. So far both of us with Iztok have participated in five such events. This are three hour runs (desired distance app. 30 km) usually starting at 10 PM or at midnight. 🙂

We started in January 2014 with “Polnočna 31ka”. It was a lovely run starting at midnight in front of Mercator center Pobrežje. There were seven of us and we started a few minutes after midnight. It was a flat course in the city and on the outskirts, after 20 km our pace really started deteriorating since it was already 2 AM. One of the coldest runs in my lifetime was “Jacob”s Ladder” in February. ThoIMG_20151206_142109ugh we started at 10 PM it was freezing -15 degrees and a clear winter night with stars on the sky. After three hours of running in winter conditions, we were stone hard, tired… and happy that we finished, A few days ago we started training for the following season and the run was called “3 urni Betnava helikopter”. Why? We did three hours of 2,5 km circles in Betnava. As always, we were awarded with a chocolate medal and a pack of coffe this time.

The following day we went on a short mountain bike training ride on Pohorje and again we were awarded with this spectacular fog view on Maribor. 🙂 We already have a few Ironman distance triathlons in mind to race the following year and in combination with this view the training motivation is only rising. If you try it once, you want to do it again and again. 🙂