Before explaining to you how the Antalya Triathlon went, I want to talk a little bit about the reasons why I starting doing triathlons in 2016. As you know after the Lycian Way Ultra Marathon last October I suffered from a stress fracture. In order to not lose my condition, while injured, I start to swim. Swimming did a lot of good for me both physically and mentally. When running I was constantly thinking about something and trying to find new ideas but when swimming I didn’t have a chance to think. If you know me, you know that I always think about things, so swimming did good for me, my mind could stop thinking for a while :)
In my childhood in Switzerland I always swam breaststroke. When I started swimming twice a week in November, I could at maximum swim 150 meters freestyle. I was struggling but at the same time I started to have a lot of fun. Learning something new and struggling is good to the people.
“Cora, why aren’t you starting triathlon?”
In this period, my friends were asking me: “Cora, why aren’t you doing triathlons?” Yes, why? Right, so I started to swim. But to do a triathlon, I needed a bike. I wanted to have a road bike for a long time. I really, really wanted it.
In January, I sent my sponsoring request to some bike brands. I got a positive answer from Accell Bisiklet, located in Manisa near Izmir, who is one of the biggest bike factories in Europe and for this reason my birthday in February this year was unforgettable. Four days later, I went to Manisa to Accell Bisiklet Factory to receive the Carraro bike they custom made for me. At the same time Accell Bisiklet announced that they will be my bike sponsor for the year of 2016. A new adventure was starting for me.
My first try: Izmir Duathlon
In March, I participated for the first time in a duathlon race: 5 km running, 20 km biking and 2.5 km running. I really had a lot of fun and even if it was a completely new experience for me I took the 4rd rank. After the duathlon, I was doing running and biking training irregularly and swimming twice a week with Yüzmemania. I realized that without getting ideas and a training program from someone, it would be very difficult for me to prepare my first triathlon.
How did I train?
I decided to work with Andrea Gabba, the head trainer of the Turkish Triathlon national team. On April, 17th I ran 89 km at Iznik Ultra. The next day, I found in my mailbox Andrea’s training program. There were exactly four weeks left until Antalya Triathlon. No need to say that after having ran 90 km my body was tired and I really didn’t want to run. If I wouldn’t have received a program from someone, I am sure that I wouldn’t have trained at least for one week after Iznik Ultra. But because I had a program to follow, I didn’t question anything and I did what was written. You can find an article and a video about my first week’s training on this page: Road to Antalya Triathlon – 1st week (18-24.04.2016)
To prepare for the running I made interval training and also bike training, interval training too or I was riding for at least two hours. Since I was swimming with Yüzmemania, I was following the swimming program prepared by the coach Taha Engin. In general, we were swimming freestyle, but sometimes we were also making breaststroke and backstroke drills.
Until three weeks before the race, my swimming wasn’t going too bad. I was swimming a bit slow but except that I wasn’t having any problem. But one day, during a training session, I started not to be able to breathe correctly while swimming. I was a bit ill and I was coughing a lot but I think that there was a psychological reason, too: I was starting to be afraid about the race. During the month of May, after each swimming training I was leaving the pool almost crying and I repeated many times to myself and my close friends: “I decided to start doing triathlon, but it was a big mistake, I guessed I could do it but see, I can’t to it.” In general after the swimming trainings, on the next days, I had bike training very early in the morning. So I was waking up very early. My morale was still bad. I was putting my helmet on and without thinking anything I started riding my bike. I love riding so much that it had a good effect on my morale and I was forgetting that the swimming training went so bad.
Two weeks left before the triathlon of Antalya, I participated in an Aquathlon organized by Cahit Burak Korel and for the first time I swam 1000 meters freestyle in open water and directly afterwards I ran 5 km. Interestingly, I did not experience any problems, I could swim but the next week in the pool, the same problems continued: I was continuously out of breathe. Thanks to the advices of the Yuzmemania coaches and some voiced hints of a long distance friend, I started to correct small things. On Tuesday during the last training before the triathlon coach Taha asked me to swim alone in a separate line. I swam at my own pace and I didn’t experience any problems and it made me gain some self-confidence. I understood then that I was most probably out of breathe when swimming too fast.
Last preparations and my travel
On Thursday I wrapped up my bike; like every time Gürsel Akay Bisiklet helped me. On Friday very early in the morning I took the road to the airport. Traveling with a 10 day-bag and my bike wrapped up in a package was a bit epic. I left my home and a middle-aged man appeared at the corner of my street and helped me to carry my bike to the bus stop. The day was starting in the perfect way : )
As soon as I arrived at the airport, I went to Turkish Airlines desk and learned that they won’t make any extra charge for the transportation of my bike. The good news was continuing! I checked-in, boarded the plane and one hour later I was in Antalya. I was feeling very tired. The night before I prepared my luggage and I almost didn’t sleep. I really could sleep standing up. At 10 AM I was in my hotel. I switched off my phone and slept for three, four hours. In the afternoon I swam for 30 minutes in the sea and directly after it I ran for 20 minutes. To be exact I tried to swim. There were waves, I was still feeling very tired and during my 30 minutes swim I swam at least 15 min breaststroke. In short it didn’t go very well.
My bike was still in the package. Yigit from Antalyaspor Triathlon team came to my hotel and we assembled my bike together. I more or less know how to do it but making it together with someone else was much easier : ) On the next day, we rode together and Antalyaspor triathlon team for 50 minutes.
I didn’t explain it to too many people but when riding the bike with them something strange happened. We started to ride on the Konyaalti seaside way. In front of us there were big mountains. Eight years ago I was sitting in a taxi in the same way and I was going to Kas for what I thought being three months. When I was in the taxi going to Kaş and being on this same road, I was surprised and said to myself “wooow, in the South of Turkey there are such high mountains”. At this time I couldn’t imagine that eight years later I will be riding a bike on the same road. For me this bike training turned out to be a bit emotional too.
As soon as I returned to the hotel, I met with my room mate Deniz and we spent the day together. In the evening we participated in the technical meeting. It was very crowded: in total 506 participants. I started to feel the excitement growing. I was really afraid about the swimming. In the evening, before sleeping, I made some breathing exercise and tried to visualize the race. I especially tried to see myself breathing correctly while swimming. And after I feel asleep.
On Sunday, I tried to wake up late and we went for breakfast at 9:45 AM: omelet with parsley and oat. My friend Neval gave me some advice about nutrition during the last two weeks before the race. For long weeks, I had almost cut out all the carbohydrates. Thanks to her, I started to eat some chickpea, lentil and pasta again and it gave me enough energy to be able to complete my training sessions in the best way. Without her advices I think that I would have been without energy two weeks before the race.
The start of the men’s age category race was at 1 PM and the one for the women was at 1:15 PM. I arrived at 11:30 AM to the start area. I met with Samed and Mahmut from my bike sponsor Carraro. Seeing them gave me huge motivation! We took some pictures and slowly I went to the transition area. I prepared my box: XLC bike shoes, Asics Noosa 11 running shoes, one gel for the run, the half of a banana for after the swimming. On my bike, I hung my Kask helmet and my Cratoni sunglasses. I went a last time to the WC and it was the start time.
The men entered the water at 1 PM. After they started swimming, I entered into the water and swam for 1-2 minutes to warm-up, I went out of the water and the judges decided not to wait until 1:15 PM to give us the start but they decided that we would take the start already three-four minutes later.
The swimming course was a two times a triangle. First 250 meters straight, then turning right and 150 meters straight and again turning and finally 350 meters to the seaside; the third buoy was on the beach, so before starting the second tour of swimming we had to come out of the water completely.
Because the judges decided to give the start earlier then planned I didn’t have the chance to enter into stress. Gunshot and I was in the water. I started to swim freestyle and it wasn’t going too badly. After the first 200 meters I swam a little breaststroke, I just felt that I needed to calm down. And I then continued freestyle again. I reached the first buoy, turned and continued. And I again swam a bit breaststroke. And after I turned back to freestyle. Until then I was swimming three strokes. I switched two strokes and during one-two minutes more I swam thinking constantly, turn the head, breathe in, pull your arm, breathe out, pull your other arm, continue to breathe out, turn the head, breath in, etc… but suddenly it became automatic. I finished the first tour, I went out on the beach, looked at my watch: 17 minutes. Before the race I wanted to finish the swimming part under 45 minutes. It meant that if I could continue with the same speed, I could finish the swimming in 35 or 36 minutes. I started the second tour and I finished it without any problems. Being able to write that is I think the biggest success of the race. Because I was really afraid of swimming and as I wrote above in November I was able to swim at longest 150 meters freestyle and on the race day I was swimming the longest distance in open water in my life. I completed the 1500 meters swimming in 36 minutes. As soon as I was outside of the water, I took out my swimming cap and my swimming glasses and I ran to the transition area.
I found my bike put on my socks and my bike shoes, put on my helmet and my sunglasses, took my bike and flew out. After a 200 meters slope, I reached the bike course. To complete the 40 km bike, we had to make 8 rounds of 5 km. Almost all the men participants were already turning on the bike course.
In the races organized by the Turkish Triathlon Federation, drafting is allowed but only with participants from the same sex, which means that we women can only draft with other women. During one or two tours, I have rode alone and after that we cooperated with Gulsen. I found the biking part easy. I was careful in the turn-backs and after them I always put a big gear and standing immediately to get some speed.
As a result I completed the 40 km bike in 1 hours and 12 minutes. Before the race I calculated that I can at best finish the bike in 1 hours 15 minutes. I entered again into the transition area. I took off my bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses (it was starting to rain) and I put on my running shoes and my visor and I started to run. My T2 lasted only 57 seconds.
I was wondering how I will be able to run because during my trainings I never made any running training directly after having riding my bike. Don’t get me wrong, in my training program there were two or three combined trainings but due to logistics organization and being too busy I couldn’t complete them. Furthermore, at the Izmir Duathlon in March, I really suffered during the running part after biking. But on Sunday, when I started to run my legs were good and strong. I looked at my Garmin Fenix 3 watch and I saw a 5:00 pace. According to my plan (starting with a 5:30 pace), I was going much faster. I tried to slow down but I finished the first kilometre in 5 minutes and 8 seconds. To complete the running course, we had to run four times the 2.5 km course.
I didn’t encounter any problem when finishing the first round (2.5 km) but at the end of the second round, my legs really didn’t want to continue to run. During the first two rounds, I passed 2 or 3 women. For this reason, I really didn’t want to slow down. My pace went down (I ran the 6th km with a 5:43 pace). Without entering into psychological stress, I continued at this speed. I passed some men, which gave me some good motivation. At the end of the third round, I drank an energy gel and I tried to make my best (8th km pace 5:29, 9th km pace 5:20 and 10th km pace 5:22). During the last tour, I didn’t think about anything. I half closed my eyes and put all my concentration on keeping a good pace. Suddenly it was the last 150 meters of the race, I was running between the barriers and I passed the finish line.
I was happy. I just had finished my first triathlon without any injuries or any problems. I looked at my watch: 2 hours 43 minutes. I couldn’t believe it because before the race I had made a small calculation and I was thinking to finish in 2 hours 52 minutes.
I went to the transition area to pick up my stuff. I changed my clothes. And after that I went with Samed from Carraro to see the race results. I was thinking to be among the first five. When I saw that I finished third in my age category I can’t actually not really explained what I felt. Yes I was so happy. In one second all the stress disappeared, my fear too. My eyes were full for two-three seconds. In February when Carraro trusted me with their bike and this even if at that time I never joined any triathlon. Training for a triathlon was much more difficult that I first thought. In the last three week, I really felt very tired. I even suspected that I was suffering from overtraining. But despite every thing, I never gave up; I never canceled any training after my own way. I trained with discipline. Until today this is the first time that I prepared a race with such a discipline.
But it goes without saying that I have to work a lot more. And they are missing things. First of all, I need to swim faster, secondly to run faster and be stronger when running I need to make more brick training. In general, I want to lose 3 or 4 kg. Being lighter, my speed will increase. My next triathlon is on July 16th in Iznik.
I also want to thank Andrea Gabba, who prepared my training program and for his support. I am already looking forward to preparing together for my next race, Iznik triathlon.
I also want to thank Yigit Ufler who organized my accommodation in Antalya, helped me to assemble my bike and who has been supported me at distance for weeks. Thank you to my room mate Deniz Salpar that I met on Saturday. I think that we made a great team and I believe that we can be good triathlon friends for the 2016 season.
As you know, after Antalya triathlon I didn’t go back to Istanbul but I went to Marmaris to participate to the International Short Course Aquamasters Swimming Championship. Needless to say that I didn’t want to take my bike with me. Thank you to Selcuk Akar from Osmanli Transport who arranged in two minutes the transportation of my bike.
The remaining thanks go to Esref, who is a triathlete himself and to his wife Sylvie. After the triathlon and before the Aquamasters swimming championship I stay with them in Kaş and thanks to them I could recharge my batteries.
Thank you to Sanem Sever and Soner Sezgun for Turkish story amendments and Susie Caseley for English amendments.
To finish, I want to thank you, you my blog readers and dear followers. I am not always answering each of your comments or messages but I am reading all of them. Glad to have you.