Ironman 70.3 made in Moldova

What is a carbohydrate bomb, and what are its consequences? Does an “ironman” rust in the rain? Energy gels or sausage sandwiches? What was I waving with at the finish line, and why was I beaten at the start?

A year ago I decided to become an Ironman.   What is an Ironman? Ironman – is a distance in triathlon, during which the sportsman must swim 3,8 km, ride 180 km on the bike and run 42 km. The participant must cover this distance in less than 17 hours. Overall, a sportsman covers a distance of 226 km.

The Ironman has a motto: “Swim 3.8, ride 180, run the marathon, and be proud of it the rest of your life.”

When I first found out about the Ironman, my first thought was: “Holy shit, this is unreal!” Therefore, I immediately bought my first pair of sneakers and started training.

Besides the full distance, organizers of the competition offer the athletes a possibility to cover the shortened version – half Ironman. Absolutely the same stages (swimming, biking and running), but the distance is cut in half. And that was exactly the “half” I was planning to overcome in Austria.

A year passed since the start of preparations. Since then, many calories and kilometers have passed.

310 trainings for  335 hours, distance –  2.885 km,  calories burned  – 175 000.

Total: running – 1.648 km,  swimming – 135 km,  biking – 832 km,  walking – 115 km.

I ran the half marathon in Barcelona, the marathon in Paris, swam over the Bosphorus and participated at a few local races. And here came the time for the half Ironman in Zell am See.

Zell am See

On September 1st, the cozy Austrian town happily accepted all the people willing to participate  at the half IRONMAN (1.9 km swimming, 90 km biking and 21.1 km running).

A support group of friends accompanied me to the event. As it turned out, participation to Ironman is a contagious thing and furthermore it’s airborne. Without wanting it (I’m lying, I wanted it), I dragged them to jog and train with me. And it seems that next year they will try their hand in this competition. Meanwhile, they came to investigate their “scope of work” and support me.

The weather was wonderful, as it is at the beginning of all Disney movies. But we all remember well what happens when the main character takes the most difficult test… Long story short, everything was according to the best traditions of Hollywood.

One day before…

After eating boiled potatoes with onion (we made our full for 4 days on carbohydrates in the nearest supermarket), with our happy flock headed to registration. There I got  my happy number and a backpack with various goodies.

Then we walked to the Expo – there were several sales and you could buy  triathlon clothing and footwear with an 80% discount. Fantastic! It was a pity I already bought everything  earlier, but my friends bought stuff for all their money.

Afterwards we went to the pasta party, where we ate really well. I did not have beer. But the  next time, I will definitely have. Beer before the competition is good! One beer!

By the way, note to cyclists: I bought there a special container for pumping wheels (2-2,5 euro). The ones who had siphons at home, during their childhood, might remember those small bottles used to carbonate water. So this container is one in one similar to that one. We tried it out at the hotel, flatten the wheel and were watching how long it’ll take to pump it back. Two seconds! Cool! The perfect thing for pumping a wheel in emergency situations.

I prepared all my things, placed them in bags of different colors, prepared my energetic – isotonic drinks for the race and pumped the wheels of my iron horse.

Then I moved all these goods to the transit zone, together with my bike. The other bags  that were already there were sealed/knotted. Strange. I didn’t want to complicate myself and just left them hanging there, a decision I regretted later. 


I went to bed at 12. Was calm, at least so I thought. But judging from the fact that I lay in bed for 2 hours and could not fall asleep – my subcortex did not think everything was ok, and that we could go to sleep. On top of that, it started raining.

And then it hit me – that’s why people sealed their transit bags with a knot! I could already imagine how things in my bag were floating in water, and woke up fully.  In short, I had plenty of food for thought, and after sleeping for one hour, I woke up before the sunrise.


Misty morning, gray morning…

Damn it, it was so sunny and funny yesterday, and today it is raining, cloudy and windy. The temperature outside is 13ᴼC . Fun. For swimming and running – it’s not bad, but for biking… And I suck  at biking, and here you have a wet, slippery road and cold.

I had my Loperamid – I take it during all competitions. It closes you for at least one day from all unexpected events. I recommend it!

We had pasta with condensed milk – a proven carbohydrate bomb, and went towards the transit point.

The transit was in full motion – a crowd of people, no way of getting through; got into the transit, checked the bags –  and indeed everything was wet. Oh, well, that’s ok! Either way they would have gotten wet – it’s raining, no? I checked  everything, kissed my iron horse and proceeded to put on my hydro suit.

Swimming 1.9 km   

Warm up in the water, aiming for the buoys and where to swim to, check-up of watches and…

Ta-dam!!! We started!

I didn’t make a strategic estimation of the best place to position myself during the start, because I was ready to start from any position. Swimming is the most contact engaging stage of the triathlon, and you understand this well when hits start falling on you from everywhere. Someone will swim over you, you will swim over somebody, someone will grab your foot, and then you’ll hit someone in the face with your foot. I don’t know about the others, but I was not stressed by this confusion, rather amused – it reminded childhood and swimming with my friends in the sea  

Ten minutes later everything ended, everyone was on their positions and started working. Tic, tic, tic –  breath… tic, tic, tic – breath. One turn, the second – and here’s the shore. Got out, I was grabbed, pushed and ran further…

I had a lot of fun on this stage, was not tired at all, and only warmed up.

I pull my hydro suit to my waist. Damn it, my watch is in one hand, goggles and cap – in the other. No other  free hands, and they’d come in so handy… damn. I was later taught my kind ironmen that the goggles and cap must be pushed through the sleeve and left inside the hydro suit . But this happen only afterwards, and in the meantime I ran up to my bike bag and start dumbing out.

My hands are busy – how do I get the bag down? I started taking it with my hand with the watch, the watch fell down; while recovering the watch, I took the bag off the hook, put the cap in for some reason, a minutes passed, and ran to the tent!  I threw out everything on the floor, take off the hydro suit, put on the helmet, the glasses, gloves,  wet socks, bike shoes, number… seems like everything is on… I put the suit in the bag, forget to drink  my isotonic and fly out of the tent. Run to my bike – aha, here it is, take it and run with it to the exit.

There are a lot of bikes there. For the first transit this is good news, but for  the second…. But everything at its time.

Bike 90 km

At the exit, I manage to get on my bike after the third trial – people are looking at  me biwildered. I didn’t know then that these views will follow me the entire biking stage.

In short, I started! It’s raining, windy, brass monkey weather…

My biking background is very short. I rode the bike barefooted when I was a child and for other three months before the race. This is my entire biking career.

And the bike I had was a ordinary, inexpensive shosser, without sunbeds and super wheels. In short, my average speed was a bit over 27 km/h, and this fact was bewildering every 10th participant who surpassed me.

An interesting fact – during the three hours of the bike race I was surpassed by 1.500 people. I did not surpass  any. Not one. Not even women and children. Not even elderly. Disabled.. No, I’m lying, I did surpass one – he was standing on the sidewalk with a flat tire.

Uphills were the most difficult. While I groaned in the lightest gear, other bikers were flying by me , showering me with the waters of neighboring puddles. I still can’t  understand how can they manage to go so fast?

I had three gels on the road. The last one didn’t go well. Grossly sweet…I had trouble sending it down.

I decided I won’t have gels anymore. I will better take a sandwitch with ham with me – at least  some kind of satisfaction from the snack.

And here I am, all frozen, dirty, with a burning butt and wooden fingers, biking and singing  out loud:



People overrunning me are bewildered, while I seem to gain a third breathe from this song. When I  feel bad during a race, I always sing this song – it helps pull myself together…

The bike didn’t disappoint, his wheels didn’t go flat, I didn’t fall, didn’t get in any rubble and, somehow with a creaky worn saddle, I got to the second transit…

After the competition, the guys were telling I was in some sorts of coma state – did not react to anyone and to anything. My excuse was, I was very concentrated. But in reality, I was probably shocked. I’ve never rode more than 50 km by bike before

By the way, the movement of the participants can be checked on the internet. Each athlete has a transmitter that transmits the signal f his whereabouts, while the audience can watch the signal from their hotel rooms, and not get wet under the rain (like in our situation), and see when the athlete was getting to the check point   Something like “Oh, he’s gonna be here anytime soon, let’s go out!”. Get out, support the participant with cheers as if they’ve been there waiting for him the entire time, and then run back to their hotel rooms.

So, I’m at the second transit. Well, there were … a lot of bicycles there. This means almost everyone got there already and that I would have to reach them during running (the third triathlon stage). I parked the bike, ran to fetch my bag, tent, bike shoes away, sneakers on, water, and run.

Running 21.1 km

And I can finally get warm! I can feel the warmth, my joints are recovering feeling, toes are coming back to life; in short, the body came back from an unusual load and started working. I’m running… Running well, pace 4:40 minutes for a kilometer. Beauty around, I’m smiling to my ears, surpassing others. And I think to myself, this is my ace card – running. I know for sure here how things are working.

This is what I was thinking the first 20 minutes.

Then something went wrong with my pace. It started falling for some reason. First 5 , then 5:15, then 5:30. At the same time, the heart rate was stable – 155. I tried to accelerate  – didn’t work, once again – failed again. I have experienced for the first time a situation in which I still have a heart rate tolerance margin  (I usually run at 165 – 170), but my legs won’t run faster.

And now, it’s not me, but others are surpassing me. I’m “lightly” puzzled by my pace and general  state, which reminds me more of the last meters during a marathon. And I still have  10 km to go. Oh, normal food! Bananas! Thanks to the organizers!

Food points are located quite closely – at about every 3 km, and I’m having a banana at each of them. This is how  I run, from point to point, slowing more and more. Truth be told, I’m not the only one slowing down – sometimes  I’m overrunning those I’ve already met on the path.

Pace fell below 6 minutes. My Asics are now made of some super-heavy  pluton isotop – legs go up with great difficulty. Quitting was not an option.

Now my goal was to finish running, without walking. Three kilometers before finish, at a pace below  6:30, I decide it’s time to cheer up and shake fatigue off, pull myself together, accelerate and … nothing happens.  It probably looked funny from the side – a man with furrowed eyebrows shakes  his head, wipes off sweat, and concentrates, accelerates and… 10 meters later is still running like a turtle.

I realized I will not manage to accelerate during this race, so I slowly proceeded to the finish. One  kilometer left to the finish, I was afraid of only one thing: may my watches not register  a jewish (7:40) pace – this is how my friends and I call the pace of grandmothers, grandfathers,  overweight running compagnons.

And here’s the finish, friends hand me the flag, I shut down my brain and run the finish line under the crowd cheers and shouts!

Hurray, Dimon, you’re half ironman now!

Medal, photos, friends, soup, beer, again some food, hotel, transit, bike, stuff, party with Russian non-drinking friends, hotel, bed, pillow, hrr – hrr…

The following morning my legs refuse to fulfill their functions. Why should they?

We celebrated all this stuff in an institution where waiters were drinking together with the guests. We offered them Moldovan cognac, to which they said in German something that sounded very much like “Wow, this is the best cognac we ever had in our lives!”. In return, they offered us schnapps.


Distance: 113 km (1.9 km swimming, 90 km biking, 21.1 km running)

Time: 6:15:25 h

Swimming: 0:36 h

Biking: 3:18 h

Running: 2:07 h

Changed clothes: 13:08 min

Calories burned: 4043

Place in overall ranking: 1372

P.S.: this competition is the last step towards my goal – complete the full distance Ironman (3,8 swimming, 180 km cycling, 42,2 km running). During the next year, I plan to walk, swim, run, ride 2000 km and will be ready to meet face to face with the full ironman.

If I would say I passed the half iron man easily, I’d be lying. Therefore, I congratulate all the participants of this competition.

Friends teased me, and were saying something like – Dima, even a person with prosthetic legs finished earlier than you! These are iron people indeed, respect!

So things don’t depend on circumstances, everything depends on your will only.

And a video for dessert:

Moldovans on Mont Blanc

Moldovans on Mont Blanc

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39 seconds in Amsterdam

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