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Ironman Estonia

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

A special guest report of Jacquie Barlow on her escapades in Estonia completing an Ironman!

My Ironman experience

If I could sum-up the Estonian ironman in four words it would be mud, wind, rain and determination.

Two years ago I decided to see what all the hype was about in becoming an Ironman. Thinking I was equal to any Ironman, I decided to sign up for a contest that was strongly recommended, and after competing, I too now strongly recommend the event to anyone with doubts. A visit to the beautiful country of Estonia alone would be reason enough to sign-up, and Tallinn did not disappoint. The history, the architecture and the stunning views across the Pirita river will leave a lasting impression of the city with any contestant.

If you too should decide to compete, then be warned, don’t become complacent. It is very easy to fall for the allure of the capital. There are countless distractions, from bars to clubs, the historic sights of the city, and the breath-taking views across the Pirita river. Become distracted, and you will be distracted into disappointment. Get into your mental and physical routine quickly, because time is always ticking towards the contest. The scale of the contest is immense, so get planning, get training, and stay focussed on your dietary requirements as soon as possible. Get your body working the way you want it to, and work with the necessary fuels that will help in shaping your body into its best possible condition. The Ironman contest should not be underestimated. If you fail to prepare properly, then you might be punished severely.


Never having swam more than 2 miles, this was part of the contest that daunted me. But a competition of this scale is designed to make you face your fears, and to conquer them. But by overcoming my greatest fear, that of failure, then that only left a positive frame of mind in being able to complete the contest, and becoming an Ironman.

With seven markers to swim past, I had barely reached the first when the scale of the contest hit me squarely in the face. After jostling for position, the scramble continued in the water, with competitors actually swimming through and even over other competitors. I too suffered one person swimming over me, and as they did so, they sent a darting hand into the head. Unfortunately, this brought a sudden sense of panic; with feelings of claustrophobia, nausea, racing heartbeat, and a struggling to regulate my breathing. Thankfully, the abundance of safety boats brought reassurance, and one kind official advised me to stop and calm down, and he directed me to hold onto the nearest paddle-board. The impromptu rest though helped to reinvigorate me, because while calming myself, the scene surrounding Lake Haku were beautiful, and this helped convince me to continue on with my tough challenge.


Completing the swim brought a confidence boost, mainly because I had overcome a significant challenge in my determination to become an Ironman. After the eight-minute transition I set off on the 112-mile cycle feeling the contest was mine to lose. But Nature had other plans for my confidence, as the heavens with driving rain and a strong headwind that hindered my progress. After fibe laps of the six-lap course my resilience flagged, because the rain had soaked me through, and the wind cut through my body like ice. Could I have completed that final lap if the sun had not made an appearance? It was glorious, and in no small part inspirational, as I redoubled my effort to finish that final lap.

That course was tough, and the weather very nearly broke me, because instead of the estimated 5-5.5 hours, the wind and rain added another 2 hours to the course. Nevertheless, despite the ups and downs, the course ran through some beautiful rural countryside and forest. The occasional village also lifted my spirit, as the locals came out to cheer us on.

A sense of bravado convinced me that the run would be my easiest discipline, but I was soon disheartened to find it was on a par with cycling; mentally and physically gruelling. This translated in a tough start, as a pain in my back, from the position of sitting on the bike ( on the tri bars ). After the first lap however, I began to feel stronger. I let my mind drift to absorb the scenery and soon enough the final lap loomed large in my imagination. I redoubled my strength, and I managed to overtake at least 30 people. This again lifted my spirit enough, and when I saw the finish line the sense of relief mixed with accomplishment brought such a wide smile to my face. To cross that finish line was indescribable. Were there fireworks celebrating the end of my ordeal? I thought so, and they kept exploding as I ran down the red Ironman carpet onto the finish-line, to the sound of your are an Ironman!

Wow. What an experience. What and ordeal. And, what a challenge to myself most of all.

Run, expecting the run to be my easiest discipline, I was surprised that this was on par with the cycle, just as gruelling. I enjoyed the whole event and would recommend it to anyone!

Trg tips, swim as much as you can in the sea and lakes in your wetsuit, I hadn’t swam the full distance in the sea or a lake but knew I could do it in the pool, the distance was no problem the wetsuit most defined helped!

Take a gel 15 mins before the swim but don’t get carried away it’s your own race, if you shoot of like a bat out of hell you will burn out. Bike, make sure you ride using the fuel and equipment that you plan to use on the day and put in the hours on the bike!

Nutrition, find gels and powder that works for you. Think about what solid food to have during the transition. I had pancakes and marmite sandwiches! Not for everyone these where just to line my stomach. During the event I had a routine of water and gel, water and salt sticks. In my water bottles, I had an additional powder (Tailwind - recommended by Jon Marsden).

And finally, apparently the body ages after an Ironman

Putting your mind and body through the 140.6

miles has a large effect, the good news is after a few weeks of rest apparently I will be planning my next Ironman. However two days passed and I am already planning one for next year.

Kind Regards, Jacquie

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