I became an IronMan September the 22nd 2018; running on that soft red carpet before the Finish Line, I eventually knew that race, that voice screaming -You are an IronMan!- before my name, was in fact the icing on the cake of a long physical, relational and most of all, mental, journey.
80 kilos, I drink 2 glasses of wine a day, more in the weekend, I can't run more than 5-6 km and swim two tubs. I've never had a racing bicycle. My mountain bike is hanging in my garage getting the rust during the last 10 years.
68 kilos, I don't drink alcoholics since January, I can swim flowlessly (slowly) 4 km in open waters. I can ride 150 km or run 30 km at a steady pace.
Maybe that's still not enough. The queen of triathlon distances is right in front of me. I have to cover more distance than I'm used to manage in every discipline, moreover facing all of them in the same day, one by one.
Swimming: 3.8 KM
Bike: 180 Km
Running: 42 Km
I arrive in Cervia on Friday, the energy inside the IronMan race zone is palpable.
I came back the day before from Istanbul, where I was for work...
I was so busy with business meetings and relating in different languages that I couldn't think that’s much about the race in the previous days...
While I line up to collectthe race pack and a guy helps me wearing the official red wristband, I truly realize what is going on: it's like a knock in the head, I start feeling a lump in my throat and my eyes start to water.
The briefing is clear, but I'm afraid of all the rules and itinerary peculiarities to keep in mind...
A lot of infos and too many variables for me.
Then I go on the beach to see the swimming route, which I couldn't understand completely.
Thanks to the help of some kind english athletes, I manage to get an idea of the course, which scares me more than a little.
Moreover, there seems to be a lot of jellyfishes in the water which temperature seems too high to wear the wetsuit. Very bad news folks.
Friday afternoon elapses for chech-in the bike, preparating the bags for the transition, and stomach ache due to performance anxiety…
Same feeling I had right before a university exam...
I go to bed not so early, but I sleep unexpectedly well for 5-6 hours.
Early breakfast, on my back the last thigs to bring, I'm already at the start.
Little good news: judges put their hand on their heart and, considering the limited numer of ambulances available, they decided to make the wetsuit optional for the amateurs, while for the pros will be forbidden.
There's a multitude of athletes and supporters, the music is loud, with AC/DC inspiring everyone...time for the "rolling start"...very impressive: IronMan logo becomes a kind of traffic light switching light from red to green every 5 seconds, setting off 6 atlethes per "go".
I managed to place myself between 1h20’ and 1h30’ in the swimming starting gates, hoping I can keep up in that position, knowing that my performances over 3.8 km swing between the upper limit of the gate.
In a blink of an eye it's my turn to start.
I start walking, in Cervia the sea is not deep for some dozens meters before it goes offshore.
Finally I can swim! I feel light, my movements are smooth.
The scuffle is violent.
I usually try to step away from the group so I can swim alone, but here it's impossible. Too many athletes are surrounding me.
No matter how, I make my way, sometimes creating some space pushing here and there.
Soon I realize that I'm going faster than the others around me, so I manage to gain some places.
The first swimming part, 2.2 km, ends rapidly.
We get out and then return back in the water for the second part of the swimming race.
Here, right before turning the point going and entering the final part, the impossible happens: water starts to get filleedup with bubbles and we find ouselves swimming in a drove of jellyfishes...
They're everywhere, the bigger ones under us, the smaller are all around us...it's an unreal situation, we can't swim relaxed.
I have to get one of those big jellyfishes out of the way, which was more aggressive than others, another one, smaller, brushes agaist my face, but luckily I have a grown beard that prevent me from feeling pain…
Finally I leave behind the jellyfishes and make my way to the finish… I get out the sea just below 1h and 20', my Garmin will tell me I've swam about 4km below step 2 to 100, for me an unreal time!
I walk down the long changing zone and I prepare myself for the bike leg.
I start biking with the crowd supporting everyone, what a good feeling!
I try to get myself in the Chrono position, but it's difficoult...my heart is still not beating slow enough in the first kilometers, it will take me several minutes to find the right "heartbeat zone" in which I should remain for the rest of the race.
I'm struggling to remain out of the stream, expecially in the beginning, there are to many cyclists.
The landscape is incredible, Cervia's salt mines filled with flamingos are just stunning. After some kilometers something unreal happens: we end up cycling on a highway which is deserted, a part from thousand bikes like mine...and here there's the first break point: they're distributing water and salts in red bottles over an highway without any car but covered of bikes...it pulls me a laug.
But I need to focus, the race is still long. Heat is increasing: there are 30 celsius degrees. The first lap out of two easily passes, I'm just about to start the second one, heat is high, but I hold on and try to maintain a good pace, which in the end will be 28 km/h.
Halfway through the second lap, I notice that many athletes seems very tired...one of them even gets off the bike, drops it and falls with it in a little moach on the side of the road.
Moment after an ambulance came to rescue him.
In the last 20 kilometers i overlap many cyclists who look really in trouble... I got the feeling that especially the foreing amateurs (who are the 75% of the participants) weren't so well prepared for the fatigue they were going to face.
I reach T2 quite well, now I just have to run a marathon, so to speak...
As soon as I wear my running shoes I understand that my legs are not working the way I was expecting...instead of 5.30 min/km I start at 7! It will be very challenging...I get slower and slower, until right before the last 15km I meet Claudio, after we met various times During the bike le.
He's really struggling too, so we decide to continue the race together, sometimes running, but most of the time walking and chatting about our lives.
We work up our courage together, Claudio is more deluded than me for his marathon...but it's time to get ready for the finish line...I incite him to go on and enjoy the magic of the red carpet...I run for the last 200 meters...and all of a sudden...I become a hero.
I pass through two sides of the crowd and I feel like I'm flying, I'm running like I never did today and I open my arms like two wings. The speaker screams my name loud and I cross the finish line, yes... nowI'm an IronMan!