Learnings from Ironman Maastricht 2017


I have never achieved much only by luck so far and I knew that if I had to achieve crossing the ironman finish line, I had to work hard for it! There was no two way about it.
I started working on it about two years ago and when I completed 70.3 in Vichy last year I knew that it was going to be be brutal preparing and doing the full. And it was!
I have been swimming for 30 years now and I have done endurance, speed work pretty much everything in swimming which is a huge positive for me. But I took up cycling fairly recently (about 3-4 years ago) and although I have been running for many years now but since i started focusing on triathlons, my running performance went down. And this was a huge concern for me going into this one. I had achieved a half marathon time of 1:47 (Infosys marathon which was short by 500-600 metres) but all this tri practice made it very hard even to do a sub 2 half!  I sucked at the mumbai full this year and came in at 5:15 wherein i was so disappointed because in practice I had done a 40k long run in 4:30 two months prior to mumbai! Just poor execution on taper and on race day resulted in a 5:15.

This is what I did between last year and this year 

  1. I gained more muscle by going medieval on Strength. My muscles ached for two days post workout every time. I knew I was doing enough.
  2. I swam upto 5 kms.  Focussed much less on swimming because of my background.
  3. I biked upto 300 kms.
  4. I ran upto 60 kms in two days (38 + 22).
  5. I did brick workouts lasting 8, 10 and 14 hours.

Even after doing all this, was I feeling confident! Well my friends and well wishers were, but I realized that I am going to be very close to the cutoff (16 hours 15 minutes in Maastricht). It was primarily because of my snail pace runs at the end of brick workouts!

Pre race anxiety

I just lay there on my hotel bed and watched serial after serial of ‘Inside Edge’, ‘ Seinfield’ and stand up comedies that are posted. It really took my mind off the reason I was there in Maastricht. This is one of the things that I did well.


Race day morning

Stuffed myself with food at 4:30 AM. Really heavy breakfast. It was tough because the entire week and month had been eating on the normal or higher side and tapering. I wanted to make sure I had a full stomach when i start my swim because i really didnt want to feel hungry when I am swimming.

Played some motivational videos and my favorite aarti…Sukhkarta dukhharta…played this over and over again before heading out. So that it plays in my mind during the event.

Yes I had trained well but there are always surprises on race day and this was no exception.

It was cold

As soon as I had stepped out of the hotel which was about a km from swim start, felt really cold although i was well covered. Did not buy a wetsuit because that was primarily the reason we had chosen this ironman. It was not wetsuit mandatory but only wetsuit allowed! and I thought who cares. Once I start swimming, i would be fine.

The problem was we got out of hotel at 5:45 am and I got into the water at 7:22 am. This was roughly one and a half hours!!! I was already cold when I jumped in and heart started racing faster!

Water was cold


I tried to calm myself by standing still, not thinking about much. There was not enough room to warmup and rotate your arms.  As soon as i jumped in the water, i felt cold. I thought its only a matter of swimming 100 metres or so and I will be fine. The cold went away because i am used to swimming in cold but had a sharp pain on left shoulder. I tried to focus on form…but it sucked. I really felt stuck between 1500 swimmers who came from all sides. There was no way to get out. I thought oh my god how will I swim 4 kms in this crowd and my shoulder paining. If I cant, then everyone will think I posted fake workouts in swimming! It was terrible swimming to the 1600 metre point where we had to do an ‘australian exit’ and walk over the timing mat. I checked my watch

35 minutes for 1600 metres

It was terrible for me. I do 1600 in about 24-25 minutes. How can I be pushing hard so much and still be this terrible. Something was wrong! And then it occurred to me!!

There was a strong underwater current

We were all swimming against the tide and now it was our time to swim with the tide. And we all floated…each arm action took us far…it was super swimming back. But only till 3500 metres. After that another U turn and we had to turn back and swim against the tide for 300 metres. It was not bad. Coming out of the water I checked my watch – 1:14 …Wuhuuuuuuuu right on dot. Well my dream time would have been 1:08 but I was fine doing a 1:14. I was one of the first non wetsuit swimmers to come out of the water and the guy on the microphone announced it. Felt great. Thanked god for ‘izzat bachane ke liye …pani se nikalne ke liye…’


Transition 1


It was a very long jog between swim end and transition area which contributed to long transition times. However I was not worried. I had a plan. Take it easy in Transitions. You have the whole day ahead of you. Whats the hurry. I realized that they did not have enough filling and salty food enroute so my transition bags had bread butter and bananas which I had. Changed nicely into dry cycling jerseyes etc. and took off on the first 90 km loop. 16 minutes in T1. Not proud of it but the heart rate was  completely under control. I was completely aware of the surroundings which was big for me.

Loop 1 – 90kms

Started feeling cold as soon as I started riding my bike. it was about 18 degrees. I had double jerseys on for cold but still. It had rained the previous night. Roads were narrow and wet. It was WINDY….whatever I did i could not get the anxiety and heart rate down. I felt very powerless. I thought perhaps i had not done the best taper.

Fall around the 10th km

If you zoom into the picture you will see my wounds. I was so stupid that I cant believe it. All I had to do was complete the first round in 3:30 and the next in 3:45…but the wind and the rolling hills and narrow roads kept making sure I was anxious. and made a rookie mistake at the 10th km and fell down.
Did not realize at once but after about a km, when i tried changing the gear, i realized that the wire is broken and the front gear was locked in the smaller gear position! There was 170 more kms to go!
I thought of taking help from service engineers however there were rolling hills till 60 kms so i thought why dont i just get over the hills and then take help.

Two CO2 cylinders fell down

And again I was so stupid not to stop and just pick them. Clearly the race anxiety was getting to me and i was doing stupid stuff. I noticed them fall down and I could stop, waste 1-2 minutes and pick them but I decided to ride on. And then pray that omg, i hope there are no punctures. Just silly stuff you do when you are anxious.


A hill of 12.5 degrees at the 40 km mark

It was a lavasa type hill but not that long. it was probably a km long but really steep. and the most unexpected thing happened.  As soon as I worked all my muscles to get over that hill, I finally felt strong!!!

I was like wow… I have all this energy in me now. I started talking to myself and told me that i had only done 4 kms swim and about 50 km bike ride. what the hell are you so worried about!!

It was finally sunshine

They had taken us through forests and apple orchards into Belgium. Narrow roads and wind had made it chilly. But it was time for the sun to come out. And as I crossed the 50k mark and hit the sun, i was finally settled on the bike and i focused on form and hydration and nutrition and what not.

I got done with loop 1 in 3:42

This was over my estimate by only 12 minutes. And I thought…wow that is not to0 bad….

Loop 2 – 90 kms

I thought of Hiren for a split second and wondered where he was and that he wanted to go for the bike tour few days ago so that he knew the route..and i thought oh Loop 1 was the bike tour…now i know the route..and it really helped. Loop 2 was uneventful! so glad it was.

Total bike time was 7:47 which was 47 minutes over my estimated time. It mostly happened because of the fall and the gear thing but also because of the head wind which was bad in some places. But in a circular loop, if you had head wind, you are also going to get tail wind. Next day I checked garmin to see if the elevation was really 1040 like the organizers said repeatedly.

The bike route elevation was 1340 according to garmin. 300 metres more than what organizers said. And it was also one of the reasons why my bike time prediction was not accurate.

Transition 2

A little anxious getting into transition 2 because my total time stood at 9:20 and cutoff was 10 hours. I was not too happy that i did not build on my cutoff advantage in cycling. I had hoped to get out of transition 2 by 9 hours and here i was entering transition 2 over by 20 minutes.

Listen to yourself you morone. God saved you from getting out in the swim part as well as the bike part. You should be jumping with joy, you jackass.

Took 10 minutes or so to stock up on salty food, banana and dry running gear. and headed off to the run area.

9 hours 30 minutes out of transition 2.

I was worried because I knew I was a snail pace runner and I had 6 hours 45 minute  remaining.


Running – Four loops of 10.5 kms

I had discussed with Hiren that I go ultra conservative in running so that I can always complete while remaining alive! But then he said why hold off if you are feeling good.

And thankfully I remembered what he had said. I just went as fast as I could while still being consistent in the first loop. I remember completing 10kms in 1:08 and I was thinking wow…is this really me running.


1st loop – 1:13

Anirban – if you can do the second loop also in the same time…you would have enough time left. Go for it. Pushed really hard

2nd loop – 1:15

Yuhuuuuu half marathon in 2:28….I used to take 3 hours and 8 minutes to do half marathons in brick…and I did it in 2:28…I was elated. happy. I had 4 hours and 15 minutes to complete two more loops and I could walk that. And thats what I started off doing.

3rd loop – started walking..i thought why to wear the body down more..i had seen too many people being taken away…through the day because of exhaustion and everything and i didnt want to be one. so walk is great. did walk runs till 24.5….when Hiren finally came from behind and overtook me. This was a huge morale booster for me. We had discussed that he may overtake me in loop 1 and in my mind, I was hoping that he atleast does it in loop2 and here i was in the middle of loop 3…

It reminded me why the hell am I walking..when i am feeling good. started running again.

3rd loop – 1:30…

4th loop – I was pumped..my cadence was awesome. The weather was awesome. the crowd support was phenomenal. I had a niggling cramp on left thigh but i controlled it with salt, slow speed etc.

4th loop – 1:24

Wuhu…full marathon in 5:26! I had exceeded my wildest dream…End of the day completing a full marathon in 5:26 and finishing strong was awesome for me.

Total Time 14 hours 56 minutes….Dream time for me! I had hoped for 16 hours and here I was!




1. Keep yourself warm going into swim start. If wetsuit is allowed, wear one.
2. Drink a lot during biking. You Should feel like peeing. Notice the color of the pee. Make sure it’s whitish. If not drink more.
3. Don’t forget salt tabs in both hot and cold conditions. I felt something like a cramp during biking and I reminded myself that i should be taking salt even thought its cold.
4 Wear compression socks even for cycling. It’s going to keep you warm.
5. Keep praying, don’t get over confident until the finish line is crossed
6. Don’t loose confidence because most people are ahead of you. You are running for yourself and against yourself.
7. Shikhar’s race day advise – Don’t think too far ahead. Focus on your form all the time and try to listen to what your body is saying as well as push a little bit.
8. Train harder than necessary and on race day dont keep a time goal. Keep changing your internal goal according to what’s happening. Make it like a training tri. Measure yourself.
9. Details details details…more details. Be detail oriented.   Eg. How to keep feet warm when you will walk towards swim start. Eg. Wetsuit allowed and not compulsory so should I wear one! Yes!  If swimming in river is there a current.
10. Visualize your race – What to do in case of a fall…just get up rest and go… what to do if you feel like giving up- just rest for a while and then decide.
11. When nature is with you, you fly. Underwater current will make you fly if you are swimming with it. Tailwind will make you fly. Perfect weather will make you run faster. If you are in a group then you can achieve way more than you can imagine.
12.  Get in the habit of doing things by yourself. And not leave everything for the coach or team members. This attitude will help. Organize something for others. At least do a self supported tri.
13. Pros and cons of BRMs – my 300k brm really boosted my confidence. However you still are left to work on your speed especially if you are weak in Swimming. Which is the case with many folks. Otherwise you are always close to cutoff. BRM increases endurance but is a speed killer I think. And speed is important. Swim cutoff is 2 hours 20 minutes  and By 2 pm you are supposed to end loop one of 90k bike and within 10 hours you are supposed to end 180k biking. If you are a slow swimmer and even an ok cyclist then you are still too close to the cutoff which is irritating.

My biggest learning

There are too many things to learn from a tri. Tassalli is one of them. If you have fallen down all you need to do is rest, get up and start again. Don’t wind up your day because of that. Days go from bad to worse to good to bad…to whatever all the time. It’s a circle not a straight line. It can go from bad to good as well. Keep at it.
Many people said you worked hard so results had to follow. Nothing of that sort. You still have to do the right taper, the right thing on d day! A lot of planning, execution and luck is needed for the same.

I am so thankful to so many people

  1. All my Recreational triathlete friends. They constantly cheer me up on a day to day basis and it is so good to be part of that team. Sharada, Zarir, Anuj, Ashish, Ishaan, Naveen, Nilesh, Sukhbir, Ankush, Charzal, Divyesh, Venu, Prem, Mihir, Leena, Dr. Yogesh, Dr Sandesh, Kedar, Mayura, Nandakumar, Nitin, Parmeshwar, Rajesh, Ram, Ravi, Samiir, Shamoil, Shounak, Shriganesh, Mohit, Swapnil, Ozgur….Was so proud of wearing the RT jersey that I pulled it out so that the camera can take a good picture…and it did.
  2. Super thankful to my family and friends…Papa, Bhai, Chotu, Bunnu, Bunntu, Sushma, Prashant, Ajay, Rajeev….who gave me everything I needed to make this happen.
  3. Very thankful to Dr. Anand Patil for his tips on nutrition, Atul and Kaustubh for their encouragement. And Prithviraj and Abhishek. Their presence helps. It feels like help is just a call away.
  4. I could go and do this peacefully only because of my miniOrange colleagues who took over all my responsibilities. Super thankful to them. Especially to Krishna, Anupriya, Nikhil, Swati, Rajshree, Kalpesh, Gaurav and Pratish.
  5. Super thankful to Hiren for pushing me to tag along for this race. and to Prithviraj, Charzal, Ozgur, Hiren and Sriganesh for tagging me along in numerous long brick workouts.
  6. And really thankful to Nishit for making me aware of such a thing called Ironman many years ago! Which actually made me start on this journey.
  7. And above all my mom! She is definitely looking out for me from above. I think she made me fall on the 10th km so that I save my legs until the marathon. You may call me emotional right now but whats an Ironman without some emotions!

Love you all