Now this is not for the faint hearted! Chain Reaction Cycles staff member Andrew Hassard decided to mix business with pleasure and take on the Decaman. Andrew is a Category Manager with Chain Reaction Cycles, based at their HQ in Northern Ireland, and took on the beast of a race (10 x Ironman in 10 days) a few weeks back. How did he get on? Well, you can watch the video or read our interview with him below. Even better, do both!
How did you get into it?
The guys at Tri Limits who organised it got in contact and said they were doing an event to raise some funds for Cancer Focus NI and would I be interested in doing it? I stupidly said yes. From there it was a case of getting in shape for it and getting prepared for July.
How did you prepare for it?
It was a good quantity of training. February, March, April and the start of May were always the heavy training blocks. I did some work with Body Lab NI who did a lot of training with me and worked on the physical and nutritional side of things. Those months I was up out of bed at 5am to do a session before work and then I was doing a session after work as well. And then at the weekend it was longer sessions.
From February to April I was out on the bike or going to the pool for a couple of hours. Then coming into the end of April and start of May I was up in the mornings and down to the Irish Sea to swim as much as I could for an hour and then an hour on the bike. Then in the evenings it would be a run or a cycle session.
Coming in towards May and into June I based my time around events. There’s a tough cycle called the Tour of the Glens in Northern Ireland which takes in the mountains here. So I did that on the Sunday and then did the Belfast Marathon on the Monday after it and managed to set a PB of just over 3:20 – I don’t know how I did that.
There was also a couple of half Ironman in there and I did the Celtman two weeks before the Deca.
How did you motivate yourself through the race?
The thing with the training was that it was as much mental preparation. People often say to me that the only reason I can do these things is because I’ve got good mental toughness – or stubbornness – but that’s as much part of your training. That doesn’t come naturally to people – you get that through getting up at five o’clock and jumping in the Irish Sea when it’s 12C or coming home at 8pm and getting changed for a run when it’s hailstones and sleeting.
For the Deca I was in the physical shape to do it and I would say that if you really want to you can get in that shape.
I would say that one of the biggest challenges was after Day Three the mental side of it. The swim was six laps in a cold lake every morning which was hard enough. The cycle was 12 laps of just under 9.5 miles and it wasn’t even a loop; we just came out the centre and cycled to one end of the road and then another and that was a lap. On Day One you think ‘we’ll see how this goes’, on Day Two you think ‘I’ll know this road by the end of this’ and by Day Three you think ‘I’m not going to like this road’ and then by Days Four and Five ‘I hate this road’. I knew every corner, every bend, every stone, all the smooth and rough bits of tarmac and where the dog would come out and bark as I cycled past. It was as much how you dealt with that, and it really was breaking it down into little small chunks. The run was the same. It was just over 1km that you had to do 40 laps of. In one way it was good as the safety and medical teams could see us regularly, and if we needed anything the support crews were never too far away so it was easy to get anything you wanted.
Did you ever want to quit?
If ever there was a day that was going to break me it was day six. From start to finish it was a real tough day. First of all we had done five days, and doing a quintuple Ironman is a recognised distance so you think ‘I’ve already done something’. But then I got into the water and my goggles leaked all the way round the swim so I had to stop every couple of minutes. Then I got on the bike and within two laps my bearings went on the back wheel. I had a spare wheel but it was just something there to annoy me and by that stage you’re pretty easily annoyed. And then on the run it started to rain. And not just a little bit, I have never experienced rain like that in Northern Ireland before. It was massive raindrops, the path was flooded and it was five-and-a-half hours of getting soaked.
I drew comfort from getting through that, and from that point on on the plan was always to get to Day Eight in as good a shape as I could and then I didn’t mind. Our cut-off time was 22-hours and I knew I could cope with a 22-hour day on Days 9 and 10. So Day 8 was always the target and I knew I could crawl through the last days.
How did you feel physically?
I held together pretty well until Day 5 or 6 which was when I started to feel the effects. I’m six foot six and 110kg so I’m probably not designed the best to do triathlon full stop. We were running on pretty hard ground and the impact zone of my legs – halfway down the shin to my feet – were feeling the effects. The knees swelled up a bit, the ankles were stiff. The last four days were injury and pain management and I just got through it and thought I would deal with it after the Deca.
The one thing I want to say is that every day I got up and my breakfast was waiting for me. I went out and did the swim and when I came back and my kit was ready, clean and dry. I went out on the bike and food was always ready. After the bike my running clothes were always clean and dry. During the run anything I needed was handed to me and after the run I had my legs rubbed, dinner ready and everything I needed ready. I was the one everyone saw doing the Deca but there was a support crew doing the Deca too and they made me successful in doing it.
Would you do it again?
My wife says I’m not allowed to.
What were the times like?
Day 1 I did a 12:30. My average time was just under 15 hours across ten days. My slowest time was 16:30 on Day Ten and I was happy with that.
One thing I had in my head which I didn’t tell anyone before was that an Ironman cut off is 17 hours and I had it in my head that I wanted to do all of them in under 17 hours. I always knew that my times would get slower during the week whatever happened so started off at 12:30, did a couple of 13 hours, couple of 14 hours, Day 6 – the tough day – was 15:30 and Day 7 – when I was feeling better – just over 15. On Day 8 I felt good and went just over 14 hours and felt in pretty good condition for the last two days where I went 16:00 and 16:30.
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