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Putt Putt's Triple IM race report (Lensahn 2009)
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putt putt

Joined: 23 Apr 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:35 pm    Post subject: Putt Putt's Triple IM race report (Lensahn 2009) Reply with quote

IUTA Triple Iron Man World Cup – Peter Cusick’s race report

Lensahn, Germany 24-26 July 2009

Where do I start? At the beginning of course, but where is the beginning? I think, in this particular case, it was in October 2008, some months after the Double IM in the UK last year, that I began to think – yes the Double was hard……..but it didn’t push me to my absolute limits and I started to wonder what a Triple might feel like.

I looked up Triples and quickly found Lensahn and it soon became the obvious choice. Everyone who had done the event highly recommended it – now I see why.

I committed to a training plan in November 2008. It was a long term strategy with a number of stepping stones (to monitor progress/keep me sane/give me something to look forward to).

I was planning to train up to twice as long each month as I had done in 2008. I also wanted (very much against what I have done in previous years) to go into Lensahn heavily trained and lightly raced.

I will not go through describing 8 months of training here (!) but I generally achieved my aims. By June running a marathon, or doing a century ride or a 8k swim no longer seemed a big deal.

I did a few races in May and June. In one cycling race I finished in the top 30 out of 500+ which was an improvement of about 25 places from 2008.

I also won a local running race at the end of June which was also a nice confidence booster. I was also hitting swim pbs so all looking good.

One week before the race I went out on my tt bike (the plan at Lensahn was to use the tt bike for the first IM bike then switch to my road bike with tri bars). I did an easy 2 hrs. The day after however my back seized up! Panic!

I went to my osteopath – bear in mind this was on the Tuesday and we were flying out the following day. He said my facet joint was completely locked up but it was easily treatable! A couple of resounding clunks later and it was all sorted. My back still felt very sore – he said that was just soft tissue damage and it would all calm down within the next 48hrs.

That’s a good job (I thought) I have a Triple on Friday!

What this episode did do was to definitely decide upon my bike choice. The tt bike was now a back up and I (well…Scott actually!) put the PX50s on the Roubaix.

As the event was part of the IUTA’s World Championship I also had to organise a Doctor’s note/blood test etc. More hassle I didn’t need!

One last thing before I get to the race itself. One very important thing – I had to tune into (a) why I was doing this race, (b) what I wanted to achieve and (c) how I was going to get through the inevitable bad patches.

The best answers to these questions that I could come up with were: (a) because it was there! It had caught my imagination. (b) to do the event at the optimum pace without endangering the finish itself (c) I came up with various mental processes to deal with this.

Getting to the race all went smoothly thanks to BA and a shuttle service laid on by the organisers.

Team Cusick was myself, my wife (Angela) and IM athlete/tri talker/fellow Chippenham resident/friend Scott (aka Scottg).

I have to say the race organisation was absolutely superb and they couldn’t do enough for the athletes and crew. One example – we were staying in a classroom at the school – after a sleepless first night on camping mats, Angela and I asked one of the organisers where we could buy pillows. She said leave it with her and by the time we got back from shopping, 2 large pillows had arrived for us to borrow!

Wed and Thursday were quite busy – getting some extra food for race,

Scott built up the bikes and we went out for a spin round the course – it immediately started raining - a sign of things to come.

The night before the race there is a pasta party where all the athletes are introduced and asked up on to a stage - to the backdrop of their respective national anthems. All part of the fun.


This was in an outdoor 50m pool. Initially everything went well. I went through the first IM in 1.20. Only just outside my newly acquired pb (in training) of 1.15.

Things then started to go wrong. I started feeling ill. At first I thought it was because I had some milk (on cereal/and a yoghurt) for breakfast – something I used to avoid before swims. However, for pool swims I had recently eaten the same thing before long pool swims without a problem.

The feeling starting getting worse and worse. I looked at the side of the pool and saw all the advertising hoardings blowing violently – it then occurred to me that, in fact, it was the waves created by the wind that was causing the issues!

I should add that I have had this problem before in open water conditions. It never occurred to me the same thing could happen in an outdoor pool!

I didn’t want to tell my crew because I knew they would be alarmed but when I stopped for a drink they saw I had lost all the colour in my face so guessed what was up. I had a sea sickness pill in my emergency bag but didn’t want to take it because I had heard they can cause drowsiness and that is something I would not need in the early hours of Saturday morning for the bike!

Angela suggested I got out for a few mins to clear my head but I said no – I suspected that if I got out I would never want to get back in!

Whatever I say in this report will not go anywhere near adequately describing what I had to endure in that swim. It was absolutely horrendous. Suffice to say that when I got out I was a gibbering wreck. I just couldn’t believe that I had got through 3 hours of such an awful experience. I remember thinking that had been the worst 3 hours of my life and the fact it was endured voluntarily was both astonishing and rather bizarre.

One of the ways I coped was to take as few breaths as possible. If I kept my head in the water then it was bearable but as soon as I took a breath I would look across the edge of the water and that would bring back the overwhelming feeling of nausea.

I therefore glided as much as possible and got down to about 3 or 4 breaths per length (50m). This was slowing me down a lot but that was the least of my worries! It was mentally very tough anticipating the increased nausea of every breath.

I remember Scott telling me I had 2k to go. He reminded me it was just a normal session down the local pool! It didn’t help - in fact I wondered how on earth I was going to get through another 2k – it seemed a long long way away.

Eventually I finished – as I said in a distressed state - the swim in 4.40 and was 38th/41.

In the circumstances I was not rushing T1! Angela told me afterwards that most of the field got changed within the (open air) T1 area! This included a complete change of gear! Hmmm………very continental! As I was representing Great Britain after all, I preferred the discretion of the changing rooms! The stats show that I was about 10-12mins in T1.
In such a long race it was important to get things right - like a liberal application of assos cream!


The first surprise was that it wasn’t raining! It had been raining virtually non-stop since we got there. The day before we were talking to the manager of the local bike shop. We asked him if he knew the weather forecast for the race days. He said “It’s not good - first you swim then you bike and swim”.

The loop was 5miles and was undulating. I liked it. The road was smooth and the course was well supported. A nice touch was that when you went round the turnaround points the local fire brigade stopped the traffic (!).
I soon felt good and mixed up riding positions to keep everything as it should be – especially my back which I took care to stretch every lap.

I was wearing a heart rate monitor. I had worked with Jules Taylor before the event on optimum HR zones. Typically I was at the top end going uphill and at the bottom end (and quite often below it no matter how hard I cycled!) going downhill.

I settled into a nice rhythm and went through the first IM in 6.58 inc T1. The stats show 2 very slow laps at around 5pm (85miles into the bike) – I think that was a thunderstorm and included a stop to change wet gear.

I was due to stop for lights/warm clothes and solid food at 8pmish. However because it was dry and bright at 8pm I decided to delay the stop for as long as possible. I knew when it got dark (and wet) I would naturally slow down.

I stopped for 15mins for some delicious pasta cooked by Angela at about 8.30pm. By now I had been cycling for 9 hours and was at about 140miles.

Things continued smoothly until my second stop at 2.30am. By now I had now been swimming and cycling for 19hrs 30mins and had done about 230miles. It was only a 10min stop. The pasta had gone down so well first time around I asked for some more! I was surprised to find out that Dave had stopped and was being ill behind the tent.

We had yet another torrential downpour at about 5.30am (circa 270miles) and it rained pretty much non-stop after that on the bike. That slowed me down – I tip-toed round the corners/roundabouts – it was very slippy conditions.

Towards the end of the bike I started to have stomach problems and couldn’t face any more food. Scott came out on the bike with me and that was a great help to have someone to chat to etc.

He persuaded me to stop for a cup of (sugared) tea and 2 custard creams (!) which was the only thing I could think of that I would like to eat! That was about 7am. I was now up to 290+miles. It was also an opportunity to change my (soaking wet) cycling kit.

For most of the bike the major injury risk/worry was my right knee which felt quite sore. I had no idea whether it would affect my running but I was just about to find out!

I finished the bike at 11am. The 336miles had taken me 23hrs 21mins. I had started it in 39th (I had lost another place in T1!) and finished it in 21st. Taking into account the conditions it was a good effort.

T2 was 14mins.


Now I was in my territory! I settled into a nice easy rhythm. The lap was 0.8 of a mile – and there was 96 of them.

The lap seemed longer than 0.8 because it was in 4 quite separate sections.

The first section was out of the main square and along the road to the bottom of the hill. This section was well populated with other athlete’s crews etc.

There was then a very small hill along a residential road.

At the end of the road, turn left – into another area populated by crews (inc mine).

Then turn left again down a pavement quite heavily cambered (left to right) and back into the square.

I started the run and felt good immediately. I was trying to slow down my heart rate but couldn’t! I was running 6mins for each lap. I felt like I was running on the spot but I knew it was vital that (i) I got my heart rate down to the optimum level and (ii) I stopped running (!) and started jogging.

My split times show that I quite quickly dropped back to 7min laps then 8min laps which is pretty much where I stayed for a long time.
I went through the first marathon in 4.25. (4.39 officially inc T1). By now I had been swimming/cycling and now running for 32hrs 41mins!

We had a major thunderstorm at 4pm. I decided to run through the storm – I was in a good rhythm and didn’t want to lose it. I also wanted, if I am honest, to make a statement!

All the other competitors seemed to be sheltering – it was hammering down - and I just ploughed on. I knew those watching on were thinking who is this guy and would then see the union jack on my race number and would understand that we carry on whatever the conditions!!
However (!) ……..the rain got even more intense – it was crazy – the pavements were flooding! so after about ¾ of a mile I pulled into a door well by my crew’s tent. As I stood there the eventual race winner (the Slovenian Markovic) came trotting through. Enough said.

I kept up a steady pace although I was now doing 9-10min laps. I did the second marathon in 5.08. That included two slow laps of 23min thunderstorm and 17min for (I think) a change out of wet kit.

Somewhere around this time I started to get stomach issues again. I just couldn’t face anything to eat or drink. So i decided to just focus on the task in hand. Angela was cycling alongside me and I told her “no more talking/no more eating/and I will decide when I drink next”!!

I then proceeded to rattle off about 10miles of good laps. My position within the race was now getting interesting. I was up to 10th. Those in positions 6-9 were in various states of disarray. Some of them were a long way in front of me but I was running them down and I calculated that if I raised it a notch or two then I could, just about, catch them up.

So I just started running a bit quicker – nothing dramatic. However stats show 2 laps of 8min miling before ……..disaster.

I was running down the pavement section when my left leg gave way. I tried to run on it but no way. I stuck my thumbs into the problem area (side of left knee) and where I thought the problem was coming from (left itb). I managed to hobble that lap in 12.34!

I had a compression bandage in my kit so I asked scott to go on ahead and find it. I put that on but it didn’t really help and the knee was still giving way now and again.

I did another slow lap and saw Sally (Dave’s partner) and asked her for advice. She suggested the medical tent. Scott went ahead on the bike to find it and I was ushered in. The physio examined the knee and then strapped it. He also massaged the area around the knee. While he was doing that I just lay there and closed my eyes – bliss!! I could have fallen asleep right there and then but I had a race to run so wondered if he could please get a move on!

It took me a couple of laps to get used to the strapping – both physically and mentally – but I got back into my running and all was well again.

I now had 18 laps (about 14 miles) to go. I got into that “homing” zone and banged them out at a nice consistent pace.

Soon I had single number of laps to go but that still seemed a long way! I just kept plodding on.

With 2 laps to go I mis-read the timing device and thought I had to run the last 2 last laps quite quickly to get under 44hrs.

I summoned up whatever I had left and ran the 95th lap in 8.28. Lensahn has a great idea whereby you run the last lap backwards so you can say goodbye to all your fellow athletes. Great idea. Means you can see the finishing order too.

I grabbed the union jack and started the last lap. It was a great feeling and I thoroughly enjoyed high fiving all of the athletes still out on the course.

And then it happened…….I turned round the corner – and under the finish.
7th out of 41. Totals 4.40/23.21/15.42 – overall 43 hours 43mins and 30secs.

Did I want to go any further? No of course not.
Could I have done so……….yes of course…….!

I was immediately taken to the medical tent for a massage and some observation. All was fine and Angela brought some warm clothes for me so I left the race HQ at about 4am. I then slept very well until 11am!

We went to the square for lunch and it was amazing to see quite a few of athletes still running. The days and nights had blurred context.

In the evening there was an awards ceremony which was great fun. Nice trophy, medal etc and interesting breakdown of all my splits. Lots of spectators and all the kids wanted autographs afterwards! Sad – they probably thought they were getting the signatures of sporting stars!

It was nice to meet all the athletes again in more relaxed circumstances!

Guy Rossi was an interesting character. World Champion 3 times, loads of decas and still competing well at 61! Someone told me he puts his ability to consistently tolerate food down to cold baby food! Yuk.
Guy’s wife told me that at one point I was just behind Guy and, Guy wanted to know who was where. She said to me “I told Guy to ignore the flying Englishman – but we were watching you!”. Geez – with everything he has achieved you would not think he was that bothered about a place in a Triple in his 60s! The competitive spirit never dies!

Reflecting on the event - on the negative side - the swim was absolutely dreadful - I never want to go through something like that again. I could have lived without the heavy rain and “sleeping” on the classroom floor too.

On the positive side – loads of things! The atmosphere surrounding the race is fantastic as is the sporting spirit between the competitors. Its brilliantly supported by the whole town. I enjoyed large parts of the bike and run. Most importantly, the sense of achievement in fulfilling a difficult aspiration.

I also ought to mention that this was my first (!) race using my 2xu compression socks although I used them on a 15mile training run. No blisters at all and no calf issues at all – very impressive over 78 miles. They came highly recommended to me and they lived up to that billing. Very impressed with them.

I would say however the Triple is a difficult race and not to be underestimated. I spent a lot of time during the run saying “never again” (!) and that the race was too hard. It is a very very tough race.

Finally I must say thank you to my fantastic crew – Angela and Scott.
These ultras are a team effort where only one member does the race. It’s a complete non-starter without a crew. I was very lucky to have such a strong combination. Angela – counsellor, logistics expert, chef, running companion, data processor, chauffeur and so many more! Scott – mechanic, transportation and removals expert, nutritionist, transition assistant, cycling and running companion, tea maker, and generally a solid guy to have with you!

On the way home I asked them if I was “demanding”. They looked at each other then me and both said at the same time “very”. Cheers guys - I really could not have done it without you!!

Triple IM 09, DecaIron (137h- 4th) 09, GUCR 10, 2.46 Mara Apr 11, 9.38 Roth 11, 9.57 IMUK 11 (Q Kona). 2012 - 5th AG nat dua, 9.27 TBW (1st). 2013 Tampa Dble (24.13 - 3rd), Oct Mara 2.49 (1st) 2014 Gin Pit 2.58 (CR)/3.15, AG Gold GB Duo March15 (50-54)
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Big Ted

Joined: 03 May 2009
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Location: On a motorcycle, in the distance.

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, Peter, you answered my question and ran the ruddy lot by the sounds of it!

I am in awe. A great race report on an event that has something of the mystical about it and is strangely attracting.

You must be very proud of your achievemnt and your support crew.

Recover well.
"Cycle on your bicycle,

Leave all this misery behind"
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Mrs Mash

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Congrats on becoming a triple IM! There certainly aren't too many triathletes who can claim that title.

The swim, and the weather sound awful which makes your finish even more of an accomplishment!

Rest up now, you deserve it!

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Location: at the top of a hill shaking my pom poms

PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done, putt putt!!
What a great report and an even better race.
How you made it through the swim.... I'm shaking my head in amazement.

It *is* about the bike.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

uhhhh! What an experience!!!! You are totally nuts, but the kind I feel a huge admiration for Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Superbly done and great report!!!!

Now what? A deca? Shocked Twisted Evil Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Amazing , and a fantastic report . Well done what an achievement Cool
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, what an amazing effort and experience. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to swim/bike/run for that long, in those conditions, and still be able to keep going Shocked Cool

I'm also amazed at the detail you can remember, especially the 2 custard creams Laughing

Top work Pete Winner Worship
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Putt Putt wrote:
all the kids wanted autographs afterwards! Sad – they probably thought they were getting the signatures of sporting stars!

They were mate. Smile

Brilliant stuff Pete, simply awesome. Worship

When's the Deca attempt then? Wink
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Pete,

Really enjoyed reading that report. Congratulations on a fantastic result, you should be pleased with yourself! Something you'll always have.....unless you go back for another of course Wink
Enjoyed following the updates and seeing your position go down all the time.
Look forward to chatting about it at the weekend!

Just a quick one - what gear were you wearing for the swim, bike, run specifically?
Likeys 9Bar Bike Science Eladon
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations....we all knew you could do it and even through that terrible swim Sad ...awesome performance!
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow mate. Amazing well done. And a great report.
You are nuts but I am in Aw. Winner
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Paul L

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are completely bonkers! Wink

But still epic in every sense of the word. Cool

Recover Strong, Paul. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Massive respect - many congratulations
Life is free - take it in big chunks.....

2006 IM CH, 2007 IMF, 2008 Norseman, 2009 100 hour Raid Pyrenees, 2010 Marazion, 2011 AXtri, 2012 - White Horse Challenge, Tonbridge, 2nd baby, 2013 - Aberdeen to Southampton bike, 2014 Gauntlet

2015 ?
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report, fantastic result, seriously well done Cool
Enjoy the little things, cos one day you will look back and realise they were the big things
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Incredible effort. I love the fact that you have to include the words "the Triple is a difficult race and not to be underestimated". Smile

We really aren't normal people - in the nicest possible way Very Happy

Guys here at work think that a 10k is a bit of a stretch. Triathletes really are the best in the world!
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