What is it?
5 x iron/day format.
Total of 19k swim, 900k bike & 211k run in 80hr40sec.
Where is it?
Monterrey, Nuevo León , Mexico, 18-22 Nov 13.
Monterrey was like I expected a Mexican city to be... colourful,
but a bit crappy with lots of heavily armed police in big trucks.
Even race site security had kevlar helmets and semi-automatics.
There is quite a lot of drug related gang violence in Mexico.
Type in 'Monterrey deca' in Google and it comes up 'Monterrey
decapitation'; last year 49 mutilated bodies were found in one of
Monterrey's municipal parks. But most of the violence is
gang-on-gang so I guess it's pretty safe... you just hope not to be
caught up in any crossfire or that they don't take a dislike to
your lycra bike shorts.
However, we found most of the locals to be charming. The race
venue was Parque Espana where we swam in an open air 50m pool in
wetsuits, and completed bike & run loops around the park.
The bike course was very juddery; after day 1 I took to wearing
2 bike shorts to dampen the vibration.
The weather was variable, from 31'C in baking hot sun on day 1
down to 6'C on the last day. We also had thunderstorms and
torrential rain. Strong winds on day 5 brought down a power line so
that it was held up by a tree only feet above our heads on the bike
In Europe the race would have been suspended for H&S (half
way through the final day) ... but I needn't have worried... this
was Mexico; some park employees built some sort of gantry to raise
the line higher above our heads while we continued to cycle
Some people don't like the idea of short looped courses that are
often a feature of ultra distance triathlons but there are
benefits. You're never that far away from your support crew or
medical attention if necessary. During the event you get to know
the other competitors (double, triple, quin & deca) as you
occasionally run and bike together, offering each other support or
I was able to witness the fascinating duel between Kamil Suran
and Antal Voneki as they battled it out for title of IUTA
(International Ultra Triathlon Association... governing body of
ultra dist tris) World Champion 2013.
They both came to the race with similar points so winning the
continuous deca would be decisive. Half way through their 422k run
they were still within 4k of each other!
(Right: Kamil, taking a short nap during 422k run. Note ice
By day 3 you've got yourself and support crew into a pattern. A
daily routine of discomfort becomes your new 'reality' and
acceptance of it is necessary. The discomfort (aka pain) and
fatigue involved normally comes in waves, and it is vital to remain
upbeat. Everybody was managing 'issues'.
Mine was a dodgy back; in March I had prolapsed a lumbar disc
and torn another. That had severely disrupted my training and I had
to miss 2 build up races over the summer. I owe a debt of gratitude
to the pain specialist at the Nuffield. He scheduled a root nerve
injection for me a couple of weeks before so that the optimum
window of benefit would coincide with the race.
Lugging my bike box and the long flight didn't help... the days
before the race it was causing me pain again just to walk around
town. During each swim I had to limit the power I put into the
stroke to keep my back happy, but the juddery bike course was the
worst part. Normally I enjoy the bike the most, but each day I
couldn't wait to get to the marathon.
Note to self day 3: 'tell my wife not to let me do anymore of
Completing these races would not have been possible without a
lot of support. The ladies in the 24hr race kitchen would make you
anything.... as long as it was Mexican.
My eldest son Ben was my race crew. He has crewed a few of these
races for me. Ben did a fantastic job of looking after his Dad, and
I couldn't have done the race without him.
As well monitoring/managing my hydration, nutrition and
electrolyte intake he was always thinking of innovative ways to
take care of me like putting sandwich bags of ice in my bike jersey
back pockets to keep me cool or duct taping a bag of ice into a
neck scarf for the run. We also had a great time hanging out in
Mexico before and after the race.
The last 5k of the run on day 5 produced my fastest run splits
as I was just so excited about the
prospect of finishing... finally. I had forgotten my day 3 'note
to self' and was already thinking about the next challenge...?
Ultra distance triathlon is not going to be everybody's cup of tea
but recommended if you think you'd enjoy small intimate races with
great camaraderie and the opportunity to explore your personal
mental and physical endurance. You don't have to be fast; you just
need to keep moving.
My back is a lot happier now that I've stopped provoking
See the 'World
Cup Ultra Triathlon Mexico' Facebook page for more photos.
Follow this link to a video of Johns 5 days of Ironman