By Sanjay Sharma, 48 years old, entrepreneur and freelance model. Sanjay’s fitness journey began with a yoga class in 2010, and has gone on to complete 7 Half Marathons, 2 Full Marathons, Sprint & Olympic Triathlons, 1 Iron Distance Triathlon and now the Ironman 70.3.
The experience was wonderful, exhilarating and a different high. I was attempting India’s first-ever Ironman 70.3 and that too, in Goa! Organised on Miramar Beach, it included 1.9km swimming in the Arabian sea, 90km of cycling, and a final 21km run to Dona Paula Circle and back to Miramar Circle; a total of 70.3 miles, which is why the name – Ironman 70.3.
When I reached, I found the locality around Miramar Circle transformed into an athletes’ village. Sportspeople in tri-suits were training on the roads all day and one would invariably bump into someone or the other at the local café.
RACE DAY – GOA IRONMAN 70.3
20th Oct 2019
An overcast sky, more than 700 athletes in blue swim caps, and one thought – “Hope it does not rain…” And the hooters went off .. batches of 5 athletes were let go in gaps of 3 seconds.
Despite the staggered start, the currents ensured that the swimmers got bunched up and thrown here and there. However, Drishti – the local coast guards took care of our safety as we somehow steered back on course. They had speed boats, and people on surfboards all around the course to keep an eye on us. Whenever I looked up there was a life-guard or buoy within 25 metres of myself.
The swim course that day I came to know later, was “one of the five most difficult swim courses in the world” according to six-time Ironman champion Natascha Badmann from Switzerland.
And yet I managed to swim through it at a steady pace and was out in 47minutes; pretty ahead of most and for once making a place in the leaderboard for my age category!
Got into T1 Transition. Swim to Bike.
The transition area was well laid out and ensured minimal time wastage. I put a Tegaderm patch on my ankle injury (from a training accident), got on my helmet, gloves, sunscreen and I got on my bike.
The Ride course, which went through Miramar Circle to the casinos, all the way on the Mandovi River Causeway and back to Dona Paula till the AIR station, was scenic, and for a good part flat or had a shallow incline. The only exception was the Dona Paula Circle incline, which was a killer with a 7.3% grade! (11m over 150mtrs)
A big motivator was the love and the frenzied enthusiasm of the locals who thronged at both sides of the cycle track with hooters, clappers, bells, placards and what not.
Each time as we zipped past them, especially at the Miramar Circle, there was a loud wave of cheer from some 100-200 people which gave us the much-required thrust to carry on ahead and take on the deadly inclines awaiting us!
The inclines, flats and then downhill were going pretty well till around 60km when my quads began to cramp up. Before that, I had skipped refilling my water from the last aid station and as a result, here I was, at 60km, thighs cramping and no water in the bottle and my mind going into overdrive thinking where to get water from in the middle of the course.
I was keeping an eye on all the spectators, trying to spot anyone with water. Luckily I saw a spectator with a bottle and she was gracious enough to let me empty all of her water into my bottle, which gave me the required calmness and power to move on and push till I finished the ride at 3hrs 25mins.
Entered the T2 Transition. Bike to Run.
The Run Course went from the Miramar Circle all the way to the Governor’s Residence and back; a mix of 20% inclines and 80% flat terrain.
The aid stations, at every 2-2.5km, were very well stocked, the volunteers were super enthusiastic and happy to see us! We were pepped up time and again with sponges, ice, cold water, biscuits, salt tabs, oranges, water, electrolytes, gels, Coca Cola and Red Bull.
And then there were the people cheering from the sidelines. As I passed, they were shouting cheers with my name (it was on my bib) …
Go Sanjay Go,
You rock it Sanjay,
You doing great Sanjay …
And if just cheering was not enough, we had a solo lady break into a coordinated dance… doing Zumba steps on the sidelines, with locals getting their portable speakers for music, and at another spot a family playing loud music from the car with all the 5 doors open!
The cheering had never been so impactful for me in the last 5 years of running events. But here every person infused new energy in me. As I looped, I looked forward to passing it all again .. the car, the dance and aid stations. The Goans just stole my heart. My run was a bit slow but fun!
I ran to finish the last 200 metres, zipping past the outstretched hands and on to the Red Ironman carpet that I had always visualised, breaking into my signature speed sprint past the finish line, joyous, happy and energetic; happy to hear “Sanjay Sharma from India, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”
And these were the words, which were my “Why” of doing the Ironman!
Preparations for the Ironman were huge. This event is not about 3 sports, but 5 … the 4th being Nutrition and the 5th… Mental Make-up.
It took me about 6 months to prepare; get gear, equipment, nutrition (GU gels etc), train the body and develop the mind-frame for the discipline and endurance needed.
I increased the run, swim and ride distances gradually while keeping a check on the overall body conditioning. Very soon, my usual day began to start, at 4:30am and I’d be out swimming, running or cycling. and then handle the routine day of work and Delhi traffic!
Between the three sports, training for the rides was the toughest as I had to balance between leaving early to avoid traffic, and leaving late to avoid very empty, lonely, dark stretches, lest we get mugged … and one of us did get mugged!
And then there was the looming fear of being run over or falling, which also happened. 3 weeks short of the race, on one of my speed training drills, I skidded off the bike and bruised my entire ankle, calf, forearm and elbow. What followed was a frantic ‘get well’ regimen of applying anything and everything that would dry the wound in good time.
And the other major challenge was SLEEP.
While we trained and the training duration increased, life also had to go on, festivals had to come and so did commitments and social life. Between all of that and waking up early, getting 8 hours of sleep was sheer luxury.
The Ironman 140.6 is a goal for sure now, with double the distances, but before that, I plan to do a few more Full Marathons, some Brevets and maybe a couple of Ironman 70.3. But I’m there for the IronMan70.3 Goa 2020 for sure.
For the participants of the Goa Ironman 70.3, I’d say it’s a nice and fun course if you are well prepared. Train for:
And be ready to be blown over by Goan Hospitality & cheer!