By Jean-Brice Combebias, platforms product owner, Scality
At Scality, work-life balance is important — and we continually strive to improve this equilibrium for our staff. As part of our efforts, we’ve implemented a wellness program to support various aspects of well-being, from physical activity to mental health. One component is the sponsorship of employees in sports competitions, such as Jean-Brice’s participation in the 2022 Ironman European Championship. Read on to learn about his experience in this tough competition.
On a Saturday night in June, I lay in the bedroom of a Frankfurt Airbnb, staring at the ceiling. I should have been fast asleep, but nervous excitement wouldn’t let me rest.The next day, I’d be participating in the Ironman European Championship — a triathlon consisting of 3.8 kilometers of swimming, 180 kilometers of cycling and 42 kilometers of running.
Even though I’d done triathlons before, this would be my first European Championship triathlon. And there were many moments when I found myself asking, “Why on earth did I register for this race?” I had to remind myself of the reasons why I clicked on the race registration button nine months prior — it was a chance to run with and meet other triathletes, including many world-class ones. Long-distance triathlons have proven time and time again to be a good way to take stock of my physical and mental endurance. Each is like an “appointment with myself” where I get to set goals and test my limits.
It wasn’t as if I was unprepared. From January to May, I trained for 8 to 15 hours a week, which enabled me to shed my winter weight. Two weeks before the Ironman, I did a trial race and felt good about my performance.
The big day arrives
The day of the event, I easily woke up at 3:20 AM, despite a short night’s sleep. It was time to eat a good breakfast and fill up on carbs before the start of the competition.
All my bags were packed and ready. For peace of mind, I’d checked them at least three times every day for the few days leading up to the event.
As luck would have it, my shuttle bus got stuck in traffic despite leaving extra early. I felt my stress level rising. With the clock ticking, I decided to jump off the bus and walk to the race meeting point.
Once I arrived, everything moved quickly. I clipped on my cycling shoes, filled up my isotonic drink tanks, dropped off my bags, put on my swimsuit and headed to the start area.
The cannon went off and I started swimming.
The first two legs
The weather was sunny with a few clouds, and the water temperature was a relatively warm 24° Celsius (about 75° Fahrenheit).
After a disjointed start, I had to refocus after going off-course. I reminded myself to check the location of the buoys every two or three breaths. During part of the swim, my legs felt heavy and I started getting a little frustrated with my swim time. But I reminded myself: I’m not the strongest swimmer and, besides, it’s just one part of the event.
My first 10 kilometers in the cycling part of the race went very well. The heavy feeling in my legs disappeared. I monitored my performance by paying attention to both how my body felt and the data on my sports watch: heart rate and power meter. I forced myself to eat or drink every 10 minutes regardless of whether I felt hungry.
Between kilometers 90 and 130 of the cycling portion, I experienced alternating waves of fatigue and renewed energy. At this stage, I knew it was important not to fight against the fatigue but, rather, to accept it.
The final event
The bike-run transition was problematic. I got fuzzy-headed and had trouble finding my running bag.
Running is often the hardest part of the race (at least it is for me). The air had become heavy and humid, and I could see storm clouds in the distance. Regulating my pace became extremely important and, at kilometer 3, an older German runner invited me to run with him since we were at the same pace. As a member of a triathlon club in Frankfurt, he had completed the race a few times before. We ran together until kilometer 18, but after that, my performance deteriorated badly and I struggled to maintain my pace. Go ahead without me, I told him.
At kilometer 30, my energy and motivation returned. Amazingly, I was even able to speed up in the last four kilometers of the race. Crossing the finish line was a thrill. As good as it felt, I welcomed the fact that it was time to rest, get a leg massage, and enjoy a German beer!
Lessons learned from a finished race
With a variety of athletic events now under my belt, I’ve realized that each race offers an opportunity to learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of — both mentally and physically. On the plus side, this competition revealed that my body has adapted to long-distance racing. Compared to previous events, I had no issues with continuously feeding myself, and I experienced no debilitating physical pain. On the other hand, my mental stamina proved to be lacking during the running portion, even though I had done just fine in my last Ironman race the previous September.
This experience brought to light that no matter how much you prepare or how you may have performed in the past, each race is the coalescence of a unique set of circumstances. The event may not go as you had imagined. Your finish time may not be what you’d hoped. But, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how fast you went or where you placed.
The real prize is the joyous rush of crossing the finish line, knowing you’ve given it your all. It’s a deep level of satisfaction that nobody can take away from you — and a lesson I take with me to every new challenge I face, whether at work or in my personal life.
It’s thanks to Scality’s generous wellness program sponsorship that I could fulfill this enriching “appointment with myself.” I’m already looking forward to the next race!