1997 World Deca-Ironman Championships

Avant-propos

Ceci est une version copiée/collée du compte-rendu de Bob Brown au deca-Ironman de Monterrey, 1997. Ce document semble avoir disparu, au moins il est difficile à trouver, alors j'ai pris la liberté de le recopier ici. J'espère que Bob ne m'en voudra pas.

Foreword

This is a copy/pasted version of the race report of Bob Brown at the deca-Ironman in Monterrey, 1997. The document seems to have disappeared or at least be hard to find, so I took the liberty to copy it here. Hope it's OK.

The race report

Location: Monterrey, Mexico, Central America Distances: 24 mile swim, 1120 mile bike, 262 mile run (non-stop!)

Why?: Why not?

This is the ultimate test of endurance, the toughest race on the planet. To finish a race like this you need to be extremely fit and tough- both physically and mentally. I wanted to test my mental and physical levels of endurance to the ABSOLUTE LIMIT. Too many people in life don’t reach their full potential. I never want to have regrets at the end of my life that I have not been the best I can be.The Deca-Ironman is the ultimate test. I wanted to be part of it. Simple.

Training prior to the race: It is impossible to be fully prepared for such a race. You can only do so much physical training. I tried to focus on training my mind to prepare it for such a hard race.

These are some of the things I did:

- I knew that the maximum amount of sleep I was going to get in one go during the race would be 1 hour. So to get used to sleeping for an hour I used to go to bed at night say at 10pm and set my alarm for 11pm. When I woke up at 11pm I used to set my alarm for 12pm, wake up at 12pm and then set my alarm for 1am. I would then do this all night until it was time for me to get up. After 6 weeks of doing this I didn’t even need an alarm. My body clock had adjusted itself to sleeping for exactly 1 hour at a time.

-Once a week I would ride my indoor bike trainer all night right through the night and then go straight to work. Your body acts in strange ways when it is deprived of sleep and I needed to get used to it.

-I devised mind games to play during the race to keep my brain occupied. These included doing my multiplication time’s tables to whatever number I could. Believe me, when you reach your 89 times table it becomes very difficult and also makes you forget about the pain and boredom you are experiencing!

-I did lots of 7 hour training swims in my local swimming pool to get used to the boredom of just swimming up and down…and up and down…and …(all the lifeguards thought I was mad!)

-One week I stayed awake for 60 hours straight to see how my body (and mind) reacted to it

-Physical training- most days I trained for about 5 hours. I didn’t want to do too much as I had have a very hard year in 1997 with lots of long, tough races.

-In the last 2 weeks before the race I did NO training. I wanted to be as rested as possible before ‘the big one’.

The week before the race I flew out to Monterrey with Antonio Fusaro, a bicycle courier by trade, who was the only other Briton besides myself competing in the deca. He shared the same personal traits as me - impatience, great energy and unbounding enthusiasm for the deca.

Our flight did not start well. We were delayed at Houston and when we finally got the connecting plane I found I had left my expensive, new walkman on the previous flight. Once at Monterrey we were met by the race organiser Jorge, who took us to the race hotel. Unfortunately, a lot of my luggage had not arrived with me in Monterrey. However, there was a week until the start of the race, so I was not overly worried at this stage. Jorge drove us the 20km to the hotel, in the the middle of Monterrey. I knew it to be an industrial city, and that the mountains that surrounded it served to trap the pollution. I had heard that during the previous decatriathlon the pollution had got so bad that the competitors suffered nose bleeds. Over the course of the next few days I tried to do as little as possible, watching TV and reading books. My sister Susan (who had agreed to act as my support crew) arrived on the Wednesday. But my luggage still had not. I was starting to get a little concerned. After a few phone calls we found out that the luggage was being held at customs and that we would have to pay $200 to get it. Reluctantly, we agreed to pay and eventually got our stuff.

With the race starting on the Saturday, Thursday and Friday were spent testing out bikes and getting all our equipment and food and drink transported to the race venue, a park called Parque Ninos Hereos. We also attended the pre-race party and press conference. By this stage I felt very bloated, having put on a good 10 pounds in the previous 2 weeks, due to my lack of training.

I was also starting to get very nervous about competing in the toughest endurance race in the world. But I was also extremely excited to be doing something so totally unique and difficult. The night before the race I slept soundly. I knew it would be the last decent sleep for a while.

RACE DAY D-day had arrived. I pulled back the curtains to see the weather continued to be cold and wet. The race did not start until midday, so there was time for a bit of breakfast before getting on the coach to take us to the swimming pool. When we arrived there we had to undergo a medical. Everything was perfect. After getting changed into my wetsuit I had about 15 minutes before the start. I took this time to sit on my own, put my music on, and thought about the race. I thought about my family who had sacrificed so much for me. I thought about my beloved dog Daisy, who had died the day before I flew out to Mexico. I also thought about how privileged I was to be fit enough to be able to attempt such a challenge as this. With tears streaming down my face, my sister came over and told me it was time to start. I was as ready as I could be.

The Swim (24 miles-or 1520 lengths of the 25 metre swimming pool!) And so, on the stroke of 12pm, Saturday November 15th we were off. 15 supremely fit athletes, each about to experience the challenge of a lifetime. But in some ways we had done the hardest part. We had made it to the starting line. It had been a huge struggle physically, mentally and financially to get there. But we had. And we were all determined that the sacrifices made would help us to that elusive finishing line.

I soon settled into my pre-race plan of swimming 450 metres front crawl followed by 50 metres breaststroke to use some different muscles. Every 3km I would stop for a drink and an energy bar.

Usually, I absolutely detest swimming. But I chose this day to have the best swim of my life. I imagined myself to being a dolphin, gliding through the water. It really helped. Also, to cope with the boredom, I did my times tables in my head. By 24km I was up to my 87 times table. It certainly helped pass the time! It was the longest swim of my life, equivalent to swimming the English Channel, but, amazingly I enjoyed it. The only thing that bothered me was the weather. I could hear the rain pelting down on the roof all through the swim, and was not looking forward to the prospect of soon having to cycle in it.

However, on and on I went. Soon I only had 200 lengths to go. I had thought the swim was going to be my worst nightmare, but in fact it turned out to be a wondrous dream.

After 13 hours 37 minutes, and looking like a shrivelled prune I jumped out of the water in 4th place, feeling mightily relieved. After a quick shower and change I began my cycle.

The cycle (1120 miles- or 980 laps of the circuit in the park!) The weather was atrocious. I decided to cycle for a couple of hours before having an hours sleep. After 2 freezing hours going around the circuit I came into my ‘base camp’ (a little shed on the side of the bike circuit) to try and sleep. But I found I was so hyped up from the swim that I did not sleep a wink. Soon all the other competitors had started cycling. As it was such a small circuit we would be passing each other regularly. Most seemed quite friendly and said ‘hi’, but Pavelka , the Czech athlete would not say anything.

By early afternoon I had my first crisis to deal with. Only 100 miles into the bike leg and I had seemingly ran out of energy. I pulled in for an emergency half hour break. Susan massaged my shoulders, fed me and picked my spirits up.

The rest seemed to the trick as I felt better once I had started cycling again. The weather was terrible still, but I figured it was the same for everyone. I put my walkman on to ease the boredom and to provide a source of motivation.

At 6pm I stopped for dinner. The organisers had provided a 24 hour restaurant on the circuit. I had pasta, chips, chocolate and some cakes. Sheer heaven!

At 9pm disaster happened. We heard there had been an explosion at a nearby factory and that the air had become dangerously polluted. A race marshall ushered us indoors and told us the race would be temporarily halted until the air quality improved. This was a real pain as I just wanted to get on with the race.

However, by 11pm the air quality was safe enough for us to continue. Through the night it was freezing and the rain hammered down. It is so difficult cycling at night, because it is then that you start to question yourself. Why cycle in the dark, cold and wet when you could be in a nice, warm bed. It is very easy to become negative and give in to the temptation of sleep. I managed to keep cycling all through the night. Daylight came and so I treated myself to a delicious breakfast. These little breaks weren’t just important physically, but mentally they gave me something short term to look forward to.

By lunchtime I was in trouble again. I was struggling in the cold and had also developed a terrible saddle sore on my bottom from having sat on my bike too long. It had soon become so painful that it was absolute agony to sit on the saddle. Not very good when I still had 800 miles left to ride!

But I soldiered on, my determination to finish the race far outweighing my natural reaction to quit. By evening time I was still in 4th place. The first 3 were cycling like men possessed. At 9pm I had my nightly medical. The doctor checked my weight, heart rate and blood pressure, to make sure it was safe for me to carry on. It was!

My plan had been to have a sleep between 4am and 5am every morning. However, I found that by 2am I could barely keep my eyes open. I decided to stop early for my sleep.

It did me the world of good as I powered on after my sleep until daylight. My spirits rose further when the weather finally cleared up. The mountains that surround Monterrey, which had been totally obscured by the low, rain clouds, suddenly and magnificently came into view. The sun came out and the temperature rose instantly. I felt 100 times better and for the next few hours I cycled along in a tremendous mood, buoyed by the dramatic change in the weather. I was actually starting to enjoy it!

However, my mood had changed by early evening. I had become tired of Pavelka ignoring me every time I said ‘hello’ to him. It culminated in me losing my temper with him, which is very unusual for me. Unfortunately, the next lap I was called in for my nightly medical. The argument had raised my blood pressure so much that I was not allowed to continue for 30 minutes, by which time it had returned to normal. I was furious at my enforced rest.

I had to have an early sleep again that night. I just could not keep my eyes open so had my precious 1 hour sleep at 2am. Again, it did the trick and I continued with renewed vigour after my rest.

After 3 days of cycling I had just over 300 miles to go. Sure I was tired from lack of sleep and the sheer physical effort of the race, my saddle sore was agony and I was losing weight. But I was hanging in there, taking each bit at a time. I never thought about the finish, just the time until my next break. It gave me something in the short term to look forward to.

I had to laugh when I saw Urbonas, the Lithuanian athlete cycling along with his eyes shut; such was the extent of his tiredness!

The day went quite well until about 9pm, when fatigue overwhelmed me and I was forced to go for an emergency sleep. The lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me. I couldn’t wait to get off the bike. I felt like I was a prisoner to it and, in my confused and tired state, began to hate it. But I continued on, as I knew my suffering on the bike would soon be over.

And sure enough, by sunrise I was told I only had 50 miles to go. I was still in 4th place but this did not bother me. I was concentrating just on myself.

The magical moment occurred at 12.23pm. I finished my last lap, to great applause and much relief from myself. As I got off the bike I felt very weird. I had not walked for over 4 days and I felt very wobbly.

After my compulsory medical I got changed into my running gear. Only 262 miles to go!

The run (262 miles- 223 laps of the bike course in the opposite direction!) The first few miles were great. The novelty of running after all that time on the bike helped me. However, after 15 miles I was in trouble. My Achilles tendon started to hurt, and the heat began to affect me. My feet had also swollen quite a bit. Susan decided to cut the toe-box out of my shoes to give my feet more room. It worked!

At 10.15pm I finished my 1st marathon. Only 9 more to go! Throughout the loneliness of the night I continued to run. I had planned to run until I had finished my 2nd marathon, but 7 miles short I was forced to rest, as my Achilles tendon was starting to become a worry. I got so stiff during my rest that on waking I had to walk a lap just to get going again, before breaking into a painful jog.

I kept the same strategy as I had had for the bike ride. Just keep going until the next break. It was my way of dealing with enormity of the race.

After a good morning and afternoon, as soon as nightfall came I ground to a painful halt, 5 laps short of my 4th marathon. I decided to sleep early and then told Susan I would walk the next marathon through the night, to give my Achilles tendon injury a bit of a rest. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I found it difficult to breathe and broke out into a cold sweat. My body was starting to rebel against the ludicrous demands I was placing on it. I found walking just as bad. By 6am I was in a real state again. I decided to have my first shower and shave in 6 days. Well, what a difference it made. I also put 3 pairs of socks on to give my feet extra support. I quickly polished off the 5th and 6th marathons in fine style. What a turnaround. My Achilles tendon had swollen a lot more, but apart from that I was OK (relatively speaking).

Towards the end of the 7th marathon I began to have major problems with my quadriceps muscles. The race leader Fabrice, from France, noticed I was in trouble. With a great act of sportsmanship he took time out to get a support he had from his shed to give to me. I was his rival, and I was gaining on him. But as a human being he saw another human being suffering and wanted to help. A supreme act of kindness. With 3 marathons to go I set off again into the darkness of the night. Poor Susan was as tired as me, and had done a superb job of looking after me.

In the early hours of the morning, again I ground to a halt, absolutely exhausted and barely able to move due to my Achilles tendon injury. I was nearly in tears. I just couldn’t see how I could make it to the finish. It seemed such a long way off. In desperation I took 6 ibuprofen (painkillers) and put on a much larger pair of trainers. My feet had swollen so much that they fitted like a glove!

By this stage I was also feeling dizzy and was suffering from blurred vision. I was also starting to take too many ibuprofen to cope with the pain.

I was still in 4th place, despite being ahead of world record schedule. Unless the others cracked I would stay in 4th. I had desperately wanted to win but barring a miracle, wasn’t going to. This depressed me a little.

During the course of the day I continued to take dangerous amounts of painkillers. I tried catching Pavelka in 3rd, but he was holding me. We did make up however. With 20 miles to go he stopped and gave me a hug. A very noble gesture.

After 8 days exactly, Fabrice crossed the line to finish in a new world record. Seeing him finish made me also think of my finish for the first time. Before, I had not allowed myself to contemplate the finish. It had been too far away.

However, by this stage it was staring me in the face. But it made me go funny in the head. I was confused, anxious and emotional. I just wanted it to be over. But I was in a desperate state. I was hardly moving and my body was racked with pain. I also started hallucinating. All the trees started to have faces and I also saw William Shakespeare’s face in the sky.

And then it happened. Fighting uncontrollable tears the bell sounded indicating I had 1 lap to go. With 1km to go I passed a telephone box. I called my mum and dad in England. But I was unable to talk. I was too overcome with emotion and felt on the verge of blacking out. I decided to walk the final km in an attempt to compose myself and try and comprehend what I was about to achieve.

With 200 metres to go Susan joined me and we walked to the finish holding hands.

Eventually, after 8 days, 6 hours and 14 minutes, I crossed the line to finish the toughest endurance race in the world. I had broken the old world record by 6 hours and set a new British record by some 20 hours.

As I stood there in tears, the crowd didn’t know whether to hug me or keep their distance. I didn’t know too. My mind was fuzzy with a deep routed fatigue. I could not think anymore. I could not move anymore. I had given everything. There was no more left to give.

I was eventually carried to my sleeping bag, where I instantly fell into the deepest sleep of my life. But I had done it. I really had.

Epilogue

It took me 2 years to recover from the race in Mexico. My health suffered from the supreme effort I had given and from the amount of painkillers I consumed. But, despite this I learnt a great deal about myself. I learnt how to keep going though great pain barriers. Too often in life people are scared to push themselves. They put up a barrier. However, it is once you break through that barrier that you discover yourself. Don’t be scared of breaking through that barrier in life. You never know what you might achieve.

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