Since the Paris marathon which I did on January 6th this year I decided to focus entirely on triathlons. Despite my coach’s concerns in regards to racing frequency, I set myself ambitious goal to do 5 IRONMAN Races this year. Four of them are 70.3 and one full distance, to close the season.
4 months I’ve been training specifically for the first race of the season – IRONMAN 70.3 Marbella. It’s also my very first IRONMAN Race.
Pre race 1-2 days:
This crazy trip didn’t allow me properly eat prior to the race. However I am really happy that I was thoughtful enough to bring three lunch boxes with food. No problems with security checks at the airports. Just make sure there is no meat and it’s secure in transparent container.
Night before the race I went nuts and really overate going to bed stuffed like a pig. The reason of such overeating is partially due to my exhaustion from the trip. It was really, really stressful and I used the food to comfort myself. Guilty of that.
I had a lot of oatmeal (250-300g) + 1/2 cantaloupe +3 bananas + 2 sweet potatoes. 1 scoop of protein and some BCAAs to sprinkle onto the oats. Listening to my friend’s suggestion, I totally eliminated any sort of meat or fish.
Oatmeal before the race is a good choice. You can find it at any grocery store around the world. I actually like the way it tastes. It doesn’t spike your blood sugar; slow burning carbs. It fuels you with glycogen and does not cause diarrhea or any GI problems. The only issue I see with it is that because of high fiber concentration it takes a while to leave the body. Don’t eat too much of it right before the race or exercise.
Try not to overeat, especially before the bed, especially the night before the race.
Have a gel 10-15 minutes before the swim.
Take at least 2-3 lunch boxes with you on a trip. Plane and airport foods are horrible. You will thank yourself later.
Don’t leave your nutrition in transition area, you will have access to it in the morning. You can then throw all extra stuff into transition bags and setup bike water bottles.
Coke might cause the liver to spasm. Drink, but be careful. Not a bad choice for the last 5 km.
15 Minutes before the swim found 1 gel laying on the sand. Ate it =)
Overall pretty happy with the swim.
Right from the beginning felt strong, however remembered Renee’s guidelines and pulled myself back from going too hard.
The crowd was crazy. Got hit in the head 3-4 times. Some people were literally pulling me back by the ankles. Drank a bit of salty water, however didn’t panic and stayed calm throughout the entire swim. Didn’t sight at all on the beginning, however began to close to the end. The ocean was cold, so my feet almost cramped 2-3 times… reduced kicking, focused more on a stroke. I found it to be really hard to keep good technique in such crazy environment.
Came out of water feeling strong. Got pleasantly surprised with the time. No dizziness or fatigue.
Don’t swim in the middle, stick to one of the outer sides.
Blue Nike googles are good, don’t switch them. Wear them under the swim cap.
Have a gel 10-15 minutes before.
Don’t underestimate your swim time and instead of 40, go into 30 minutes swim wave.
If the water is cold – less kicking, so you don’t cramp.
The course was absolutely amazing. Views from the top are outstanding.
A lot of climbing. A LOT. In addition, strong head facing and side winds made the bike part a real challenge.
Dropped one of my water bottles right on the beginning. I was surprised of myself that didn’t get upset or mad and simply let it go a second later. In fact, loosing a bottle was not such a bad thing. Isotonic drinks at the aid stations were pretty good and I had an empty bottle holder to carry them in. Also they didn’t taste like they had any calories in them.
Found myself being pretty good climbing the hills. I was rarely passed while going up, however I felt like I could’ve used a higher gear on the downhills and flat segments. Fighting the hills I was constantly passing guys on fancy aero bikes, catching their eyes on me. However when the downhill time came they would fly by, leaving me in th dust.
I didn’t eat as much as planned, however it didn’t affect the performance. I stopped once just to pee. I also saw some guys pee on a bike, right in front of me. Because of the winds urine would fly right on the people behind. Disgusting.
Last 20 km were really fast, all downhill. Trying to be as aero as possible I was even passing folks of carbon bikes. Strong side winds and sharp turns made it pretty dangerous to ride at such high speeds. By the end of the ride I felt pretty fatigued, however not too much.
Expensive, carbon/aero bikes are worthless on a hilly course. Hold on to buying a new bike.
Take only one bottle on the bike. Keep the room for on course hydration.
Adjust the speeds on your bike so you can switch the highest gear.
Wear the race belt right away, underneath the wetsuit. Less hustle putting it on while transitioning into the run.
Bike position felt good. No need to change anything.
Right off the bike felt a bit dizzy.
First 5-7 km were a struggle. Wasn’t feeling strong and the distance ahead of me set the fascination in my mind. I did not feel like I could do it.
I was surprised that I didn’t have any GI problems up until half way through. Even when I did stop to use the bathroom, it wasn’t bad. It’s just the amount of food I ate days prior. Right after the bathroom use, the second breath opened up. I felt stronger and wasn’t struggling that much anymore. In fact 30-40 minutes into the run is when I began feeling better. Remaining half of the run I got to truly enjoy it. Loved it! Towards the end had some liver spasms, but nothing too painful.
Increased my pace for the last 4-5 km. Finished strong.
The course along the beach was fantastic. It was really, really cool and I got a lot of joy running through it.
Right off the bike you might feel dizzy. That’s normal.
First 30-40 minutes you will feel like crap. Push through, you will feel better as the time goes on. Focus on technique and pace. Visualize the finish and appreciate a chance to do what you do and to be where you are.
Update (May 13):
I’ve had some time to think and this are the thoughts & conclusions I came up with…
Is it so much about the race and accomplishment or about the experience? Is it about the medal 🏅 or the person you’ve become to get the medal?
It’s about the lifestyle you’ve created to achieve your goal.
Training for triathlon makes me better not just in one but three spots: swimming, running and cycling. What other sport develops the athletes so broadly? How about the mental training I get during the process? How about invaluable lessons I learn from this sport that applicable to my work, business, life and relationships? Only so many people gained access to this knowledge and you can connect with them through the sport.
I know I won’t be doing triathlons for the rest of my life. However, when I decide no longer continue with the sport I will have a solid foundation of endurance, strength and health to bring into another pursuits I will choose to follow in future. Just think of all the adventures you can go on with your skills and fitness. You can follow a swimming path, and challenge yourself to do a cross lakes swimming or something that makes you excited.
You can go on multi days or weeks of ultra endurance running trough the beautiful forests of Canada or USA. You’ve got cycling fitness that will allow you to become professional cyclist or go on a crazy adventurous cycling trip across the state or country.
Essentially, triathlon opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me. It give me options to choose from.
You are doing triathlons because YOU CHOSE TO, not because you have to. Don’t forget that.
No one forces you to train every damn day. No one, besides your ego or whatever motivation you have. You do it because you chose to do it.
You can quit anytime you want. No one gives a fuck!
It’s your life, it’s your decisions. Don’t forget that!
I sit on steps of my house, tighten laces on my sneakers. A big trip is ahead of me and it begins right now. The phone buzzes in my pocket – a message from Airbnb. The owner is asking me where am I and how soon will I arrive to his place today. Wait, today?!
I realized the mistake I made: I didn’t encounter the time zone difference and the fact that it’s overnight flight ✈️. I reserved my stay from 25th, however I won’t arrive to Spain till noon of 26th. Overpaid for extra day at hotel.
Lesson Learned: Pay more attention to the dates when booking hotel. Lesson Price: $33
Instant Karma or How I saved and lost $100 within one minute
Take out extra weight from your oversized luggage right before checking it in.
Put it somewhere to the side, where no one will steal it.
Put your suitcase (bike box) on check-in scales ⚖️. (most airlines limit is 23 kg). See 1 kg overweigh.
Smile and be extra nice to airline employee behind the desk.
She allows you to get away with it, which saves you $100.
Window of opportunity: Airline employee checks you in, prints the boarding pass and sends you to oversized luggage department. This is you window of opportunity. On a way there you have a chance to sneak the stuff you previously took out, back in. Oversized luggage guy does not re-weight your bag. His job is to make sure you don’t have a bomb in it, so he only scans it through x-ray machine. (Note: If your box/luggage doesn’t fit into the scanner, you have to open it for inspection).
Pre story: Plane tickets I purchased through “AirLingus” were the cheapest economy and did not allow any luggage besides the carry on. Few weeks before departure I called the travel agent and requested a quote for adding an extra piece of luggage: “sports equipment”. The quote was $140 for round trip. Rip off! I thought to myself. I’ll risk at try to check my bike box at the airport as a regular piece of luggage. I bet it would be cheaper. Wrong.
Since I purchased the cheapest ticket, adding just one piece of luggage costed me $100.
“How are you going to pay, Sir?”
Ughhh I am mad… Travel agent quoted me for spots equipment $140. I thought it’s too much and decided to try my luck. I tried, I lost.
Lesson Learned: Don’t mess with airline baggage policies. Play by the rules and pay the price. Check in your luggage online, prior to departure. Check the weight requirements to make sure you don’t overweight. Lesson Price: CAD $600
Now that I payed the money, lady at the register looks at my Ukrainian passport and with expression of confusion on her face asks me:
“Sir, where is your VISA to Spain?” You must be kidding me, I thought to myself.
“Ukraine is part of European Union, as well as Spain. I don’t need a VISA to travel within EU countries.”
15 minutes later she confirmed my statement and printed the boarding pass. This is all good mental training Sasha…
Called the travel agent to get a refund. No luck. Also the agent kindly notified me that I have only two hours layover in Dublin, before my second flight to a final destination. If I miss it, I won’t get reimbursed. Okay…
What’s on a line if I miss my flight:
I loose the money I payed for the ticket. I don’t get reimbursed. I loose the money buying another plane ticket.
I get late to the race expo which closes at 5 pm. I don’t race the IRONMAN, which is the whole purpose of this trip. I loose a shit load of money.
This is all good mental training. Stay calm…
Question: I’m flying back the same way I got here. Where am I supposed to get Irish VISA and can I get it in 2 days? Fuck I’m so mad and tired…
How surprised I was to discover at the Dublin airport that I am not permitted to Ireland without VISA. The officer told me that neither Russians or Ukrainians can travel to Ireland without a VISA. And he has the right to refuse me from entering and send me back to Toronto. Instead I’ve been give a warning and a stamp in my passport. The stamp gives me the right to legally be on a land of Ireland for 24 hours so I can catch my connecting flight to Spain. He said this is on my file now and if next time I come to Ireland without VISA, I will be sent back to where I came from.
With my oversized luggage I’ve been sent to the back of the terminal. It’s dead silent there. Me and one more guy are the only two guys how are brave enough to fly with our bikes internationally. Looking at the watch – 6:08 am. The gate closes at 7:10 am.
In this one hour I need to:
Collect my luggage.
Go through the customs 🛃.
Find my way to another terminal.
Check myself and the bike in. Get the boarding pass.
Drop off my oversized luggage at the special place at the airport.
Go through security check in again
Locate and get to departure gate before it closes.
Even if I already got my bike, I highly doubt I could make it… Baggage carousel doesn’t move, the guy that was waiting with me left. I’m standing there by myself thinking of how deeply in shit I am. I’m desperate.
Can I do anything right now to change my circumstances? No I can’t make my bike box suddenly appear here. I can’t claim express line to the plane. At this point I can only control myself. Watch your breath Sasha. Deep breath in, slow breath out. You have the tools, you know what to do, you’ve been training for this.
It’s all good mental training…
Carousel make a horrible noise and began moving. Please, let it be my bike, please. I turned away from the carousel so I don’t die from burning anticipation. Baaam! something heavy landed. That’s my bike. Now, RUN!
Made it to the check in. Only few people are in the line, I’m second. Young girl at the desk, good. This time I’m not going to mess around, trying to save myself some euros 💶. I was ready to pay almost any money to just get to Spain. Approaching the scale I put a stupid smile on my face.
“What’s this?”, she asked.
“Sports equipment”. Saying it felt like pleading guilty in front of the judge, who’s about to announce the price I have to pay.
“Put on scales ⚖️” 25.5 kg = 75 euros 💶
“Sir. How are you going to pay?”
Paid the price, but didn’t feel bad. I was ready for it. She looks at my passport, flips few pages, turn around to her coworker and shouts:
“Nina, Ukraine to Spain ok?”,my heart dropped.
“Yes…”, Nina responded.
Thank fucking God!
The girl hangs me over the passport with boarding pass and with a cute smile on her face says:
“The Gate closes in 20 minutes. You better hurry up if you don’t want to miss your flight ✈️.”
And I run, again.
Dropped my luggage at oversized luggage area in 2 minutes. The guy was nice enough to help me lift it up. Ran up to security check. Dammit! The line is huge! Came up to security guy:
“Pardon Sir. I’ve got a flight in 15 minutes”, pointing to my boarding pass. Without any extra questions he said: “Follow me”. He let me through priority line, cutting in front of all the people. I felt myself like a rock star 🌟
Made it through security in 5 minutes. Made it to the gate in another 10. Breathe out Sasha. Great job!
Shuttle bus took me straight to the car rental place. It’s a 15 minutes drive from the airport. The line was huge… waited for an hour for sure. Starting to get worried if I can make it to the race expo before registration closes at 5 pm.
Lady at the register looked at my drivers license and notified me that they can’t rent me the car with this license. It has to be international.
You must be kidding!
Eva Marquez is the girls name looked at me and said to wait. She went to her boss and few minutes later came back with great news. They will make an exception and allow me to rent the car even without having a proper license. Thank God!! However she repeated few times that if the Polizei stops me, and checks my documents – I’m in deep shit.
I also mentioned to her that I’ve got a huge piece of luggage that I would try to fit into the car before I sign the docs. We headed to the parking lot and without even opening the trunk it became clear that there is no way that my “Thule” bike box will fit into Fiat 500cc (if you know what I’m talking about =))
Icing on the cake was that Eva upgraded with with a bigger car (4 door Toyota Yaris) for no extra cost. Am I a lucky one?
Exhausted but grateful I’m on my way to Marbella (50 km driving)…
Lesson Learned: to rent the car in Europe you need to have International DL. Regardless to how tired you are, smile and be nice to the people you interact with. Being a dushbag won’t help you at all, but being nice can make your life easier.
Highlights of the Trip
The race is officially over, however my mind and body are still racing. Trying to slow down, however the brake pedal fell through the floor. Maybe I can’t slow down, but I can stir, so I get out the house for an easy ride on my bike. I need to keep my body moving, otherwise I’ll just fall apart by the evening.
Sun rise began around 7:30, just at the time I left the hotel. Streets are empty, all tourists are still asleep – perfect!
Mornings in Marbella are chill. It’s 13 Celsius, however cold breezy winds from the sea make make me shiver every time the wind blows. Keeping the cadence high to stay warm.
I didn’t have any particular route in mind so the sea line was my only guidance. Riding towards the sea I could not stop enjoying all smells and sounds. Every block and every neighborhood has its own smell and set of colors. So many flowers and trees… Absolutely gorgeous place to be in.
The walking/cycling path goes along the beach line. The sand is clean and the water is clear. Hundreds of fancy restaurants stretch along the path making my eyes wonder through the windows. I got so much joy from this early ride. I think I am falling in love with this place.
Old Town, Marbella
Later in a day I headed off to the “Old Town”. Got myself a cute German guide who took me around the best places in the city center. I was already amazed by the beauty I’ve seen in the morning. I would be hard to impress me now… wrong.
I got aesthetically overdosed just after first 10 minutes walking around the Old Town. Every corner, every building, every shop or restaurant is unbelievably beautiful. Where are the filming crews? I felt myself as I’m in some sort of movie. Unbelievable! I couldn’t stop taking pictures… Beautiful place, beautiful people!
Today I am headed to Malaga, which is about an hour drive east from Marbella. Parked the car, grabbed my backpack and went on to adventure.
Bazar. Mercado Central de Atarazanas
I love farmers markets and this is the place I had to go to. Loved it! Everything is fresh, everything is clean and nicely decorated. Perfectionist in me was amazed and fulfilled joy from seeing how fruits and vegetables are not just stacked on the shelves, but perfectly aligned one to another. How much time does it take the seller to setup his shop in the morning, handpicking each strawberry. Bravo!
Payed 3.50 euro for a can of olives and headed towards the beach. I got so much joy from just walking through the street. I realized how few words I operate with to describe the beauty around. Magnificent! Manifique! That is for sure now – I am in love.
Cathedral de la Encarnación de Málaga
Certainly a beautiful sight-seen, but nothing more than that. Maybe because I am not a religious person, I didn’t have any butterflies in my stomach or experienced feeling blessed from being there. At such places I usually like to meditate, which is what I did and shortly left the cathedral.
There are two admission tickets options: just the inside: 6 euro (4 student) or the inside + tour around the roof 10 euro (7 student). I explored both the roof and the interior and did not regret. If you find yourself in Malaga, it’s one of the places you must see.
It is located right on top of the mountain, at the city center. The word “alcazaba” means “citadel,” and the one in Málaga is best preserved example of a Moorish citadel in Spain. It’s about 15 minutes walk up the stairs which will bring your heart rate up quite a bit. Once on top, you will have to pay the admission fee of 3.50 euro per person and it’s CASH ONLY. I didn’t have any cash on me. Lady at the gate apologized and with regret told me that they don’t accept cards and I would have to go all the way down stair and find ATM. I went through all of my pockets, however all I’ve found was 75 cents. I turned around to exit the line… A second later, girl that was standing behind me in line handed over the ticket. It was really nice of her and I could not be more grateful for such a gift at that moment. Gracias Madam!
The views from the fortress are outstanding. There is also a cute little cafeteria inside, where you can enjoy some coffee or a drink, hiding in a shadows of the trees.
Oh, almost forgot! All beaches are nude beaches =) I’ve been to the beaches in Marbella and Malaga and found that so many girls sunbathe top less. Absolutely with no shame or the slightest sign of concern they take off their bra and let the boobs free. Kids, teenagers, young and old people around get a chance to witness what the nature gifted the girls with.
Do you want to get rich?
What is it that makes one man rich and another barely survive from paycheck to paycheck? It’s all about mindset.
How is the mindset of the the owner of this McLaren or any of the yachts parked in the port different from mine?
What does he think about when he wakes up in the morning or goes to bed?
What’s does he talk about with himself, his wife or friends?
What is he afraid of?
What makes him excited and happy?
How does it feel to be standing on your own multimillion dollar yacht and finding absolutely no one else around in the opened ocean?
How does it feel to have your Lamborghini parked right by the entrance to the most expensive restaurant in the city?
What is it like to be welcomed as the most important person in the world anywhere you go?
What does people wish you on your birthday? How they look at you?
So many questions running through my head…
Since the childhood I’ve been raised to hate rich people. I’ve been programmed to believe that the only way to acquire wealth is to steal, to jump over other people’s heads. That’s not true.
It made me feel bad every time I desired more money. It automatically put me into the “asshole” category of people. I felt embarrassed to tell people what I truly wanted, I even felt ashamed to think about getting rich.
That’s a total bullshit!
I want to get rich! I want to see what’s on the other side. I want make so much money that I won’t be able to spend through my lifetime. I want to be respected by the most impactful and wealthy man of this world. I to be the founder of one of the richest families in the world, the dynasty of Tereshchuk. I want to leave my kids with a legacy. I want my reputation to go ahead of me and my name to be recognized all over the world.
I want…. shut the fuck up and go back to work! You’re not that kind of breed. Forgot where you’re coming from, village boy?
The way back home
The trip back home promise to be as fun as it was flying to Spain. Getting back is the entire process that consists of a lot of steps and variables that I don’t have influence on. The fact that I’m flying to Ireland without VISA makes me feel nervous.
Stay calm Sasha…
First, I need to return the rental car. If I do it before 7 am I’ll be charged €40 because it’s outside of opened hours. The gate closes at 7:10 am and the flight departs at 7:40 am. I am not going to pay!!! Let’s see if I can return the car at 7 and make it to my flight on time. Airport is 15 away from car rental place by shuttle bus.
To make it happen I went to the airport at 6 am to check in my bike and print my boarding pass.
Second, I need to get permission from airline stuff to get on board to fly to Dublin. Airlines are being penalized for letting people fly without visas and the penalty is $30,000 per person. Because of that they can easily refuse to print my boarding pass as I don’t have any documents that would allow me to enter the Ireland.
Checking in with Ryanair was a nightmare. Come here, go there. Show me your boarding pass. You need to check in online. You don’t need to check in online. Pay €75 for your bike. Show me your passport, show me your tickets, show me your Canadian documents. You don’t have VISA. Bring your bike there, go back pay here…
I’m getting angry 😡 Stay calm Sasha.
7 am – returned the car. Can’t believe it costed €5.60 to rent the car for 5 days.
7:10 am – the gate has closed
7:15 am – arrived to the airport. RUN !🏃
7:20 am – security check. Problems with the lunch I packed 🥗. Take everything out; put it all back in. RUN !🏃
7:25 am – passport control. Passed😁 RUN !🏃
7:30 am – in the plane ✈️
Holly smokes I can’t believe I MADE IT!
In fact the bike saved me. Arriving to the gate the first question I was asked if I am the one who have the bike checked in?
“YES! That’s me!”
“Ok let him in”, lady at the desk told security person to open the door and escort me to the plane.
Being greedy, proactive and fast saved me €40. While running to the gate I lost my jacket with headphones in the pocket. I would appraise this loss in €20. Plus it costed me a hell of a stress which is hard to quantify.
Net gain €20. Did it worth it? No sure.
Notes: Self-awareness I developed with meditation allows me to recognize the moment I get angry or frustrated. It gives me a chance to choose my responses to situations and people. Self-confidence helps me to stay calm under pressure. I know that no matter what happens I’ll find a way, I always did. In tough situations my brain fires up on all cylinders and it will take me out of the craziest places with minimal losses.
My fears in regards to not being permitted to enter to Ireland 🇮🇪 did not come true. Visa officers in Dublin were really nice flying in and out. My passport got another hit with the stamp and I crossed the border.
“Just make sure you have the visa next time you come. Safe travels Sir!”
I felt relieved. Last push and I’m back in Canada 🇨🇦.
This was a hell of a trip. Few days worth a lifetime… There are so many things I am grateful for, that I feel the need to list each of them.
I am Grateful for:
My buddy Kelly, who was nice enough to host mr. Blake for a week.
Airline employee at Toronto airport that let me board the plane without Irish VISA. Without her mistake my journey would end without starting.
The money that bought me the experience of traveling and racing in Spain.
Irish immigration officers that let me into the county without VISA twice. They had the legal right to turn me around, so my trip would end very short.
Making it to the connecting flight to Spain on time and all the airport stuff that helped me to cut the lines and make it happen.
Getting to the race expo on time, before the registration closed.
Eva Marquez, the rental car employee who not only let me rent the car without international drivers license, but also upgraded me with a bigger car for the same price.
A great deal on car rental. It costed me 5.60 euro to rent the car for a week plus 35 euro for gas. Up until I dropped the car, I couldn’t believe I would actually be charged 5.60 total haha.
Airlines not loosing or damaging my luggage and having my bike in proper working condition for the race.
The opportunity to stay comfortably at the really nice hotel and not a shithole.
Completing the race safe and without injury.
Extremely grateful for MY BODY that allow me to experience the Ironman. It didn’t fail on me during the race and took all the beating.
My coach Renee, who not only prepared me for this challenge, but was always supporting me mentally along the way.
All those few people who expressed their support and words of encouragement.
Endlessly grateful for my father. The support I got from himand his wife Nadia. I am also grateful for the support from my brother Stepan.
Meeting Kira. And a chance to explore the city together. Grateful to have like minded person next to me and a chance to share thoughts and emotions with one another.
All the free parking spots I have found while traveling by car.
For the girl that payed my admission fee at the Fortress Alcazaba.
Being a good driver and not getting into the car accident or scratching the vehicle as I opted to insurance.
For making it back to the airport on time and catching the flight.
For all the people that gifted me their smiles and helped me along the way.
Last but not least.
Money Lessons Learned:
Luggage fees ate 95% of my money. By taking the risk and trying to save I lost €300. If you fly with extra piece of luggage, check it in before the trip. Don’t do it at the airport.
Withdraw enough cash while at home, from your bank to avoid ATM fees.
Shopping at the grocery stores and cooking your own foods saves A LOT of money.
Parking in big cities is expensive. I would rather get myself a coffee instead of paying the parking fee. Make yourself a rule: free parking spot = cup of coffee.