Ironman Portugal Cascais – Lefteris Tatakis

8.5 years ago I decided I wanted to do an Ironman. I was never really into sports as a kid, but in 2014 I had just dislocated my shoulders on a night out and I wanted the toughest challenge out there to prove to myself I was better than that low point. So my journey began with a lot of ups (OxfordTri) and downs (a DNF in IM Italy 2019).

Initially, I was planning to do Copenhagen but an injury in May changed the plan. However, skip all that and to Ironman Cascais: I decided to get to Cascais four days before to get to know the course a bit to manage my worries. I can’t believe I had never done a recce before. It helped calm the nerves during the race for sure.

Race morning comes before I knew it, up at 6 am. Porridge, vitamins and nitrates down me and off we go. Ironman Portugal has two events going on on the same day with the 70.3s starting the day. Once the 70.3s were in we went through quite quickly with a rolling start. The water was cold at 16.1 C but I knew what was coming and didn’t feel it too much. For the first 1.5km, I had to manoeuver myself through the water without being able to sight much as the sun was right in my eyes. On the way back, I could finally sight and it was less crowded.

Going through transition nice and steady, food, helmet, suntan cream (it was lovely sunny weather) and off we go. The bike is two loops up a mountain with a few ups and downs, around the Estoril F1 course (windy and hilly), out to Lisbon and back (in the headwind). The bike is my weakest point so before the race, Nathan had told me not to burn my legs by going over 200watts, to keep eating and keep hydrated. Usually, I focus on time and speed which has always caused my stress and belly issues. This time I just kept to the simple instruction and kept going, with no belly issues either (until I started stressing about the marathon). Beta fuel was the key nutrition I had throughout. It worked like a charm. I had it in a bottle, gel and chew form. Just kept munching it. With an occasional Gatorade and salts to keep me going.

The start of the bike was intense, as all the people racing overtook but by the end of lap one it was a lonely endeavour. “Just keep pedalling”, I said to myself, “keep spinning and looking at the awesome views and the sea”. I had a couple of low points on the bike, and a bit of panic with a puncture 10km before the finish of the bike. But managed to get through them and off to the run I go.

At transition I was quite stressed about how long I had to finish (my only goal), my mental maths is crap at the best of times. Gemma said almost 7 hours. That was a relief as I know that with purposeful walking (as Nathan calls it) it can be done in 6-6:30 hours. My legs felt good. I did not overdo it on the bike, so the shuffle started. As I was starting my first run lap Kate and Gemma cheered me on, and before I knew it Tim came past on his final lap, totally smashing his first Ironman!I did the half marathon with a pace between 7-8 minutes per km. Having a gel every 5-8km and coke and water at each aid station.

Kilometres 25-29 were the hardest for me. I was fed up with the gels, but forced myself to have my last beta fuel gel as I did not want to run out of carbs. Seeing the OxfordTri support crew at the turning point for my last lap really gave me a bust as well. Slow and steady the kilometres were gone. Finally the last 2km! All of a sudden I had energy and started the shuffle and speeding up. I wanted that finish line. Oh, it was awesome. High-fiving Mark, Tracy and Gemma at the finish line was a beautiful moment. Soaked it all up and enjoyed the moment. I had finally done it!! 15:55:10, a long day out but I had done it! It still feels surreal. Having OxfordTri in attendance made it even more special, thank you all for cheering me on and for the last-minute advice. Seeing Sean get his Kona slot on Sunday was brilliant.

Special thanks to Nathan for coaching me and guiding me through it all, and to Gemma for being the best support crew anyone could ask for. Finally thank you all for your support and positive energy throughout the year!

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