Iron Century: 100 triathlons in 100 days
Two Sydney-based athletes, John Mergler and Debi Hazelden, are about to attempt to set a world record by respectively completing 100 Iron distance and 100 half-iron distance triathlons, consecutively, in 100 days. They are calling this monumental event Iron Century, which will culminate at Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. As part of Iron Century, John and Debi are raising funds for Australian Red Cross, and are encouraging the public to join them in this record-setting feat.
The duo’s main aim is to raise $100,000 for the Australian Red Cross, the disaster relief fund that addresses crisis in the Asia Pacific region. John and Debi will start the first day of Iron Century on 28 January 2017, in Sydney NSW.
The countdown for Iron Century is on! John and Debi are less than two weeks away from starting their world record-breaking feat in which they’ll complete 100 half- and full-Ironman distance races in 100 days. Taking place in City of Sydney pools and Centennial Park, the physical challenge is just one part of this feat, as the duo are committed to raising $100,000 for the Australian Red Cross. In this week’s blog, John tells us how they’ve been preparing, how much kit it takes to do this number of races, and why they’re taking the craziness out of crazy.
With less than two weeks to go, we’ve finished our training for Iron Century, and we’re now feeling excited for day one on January 28th! We had a test run a couple of weeks ago, where Debi completed two half Iron-distance triathlons, and I did two full Iron-distance triathlons. The workload for this hasn’t been as intense as you might think – the traditional model of doing up to 80 per cent of the workload isn’t feasible – and both Debi and I are relying on our years of experience as endurance athletes to make this happen. I have spent about four or five hours each day training, whether that’s on long runs, brick sets, or one of the other disciplines.
We certainly learned a lot from that test run, thinking about time management and what we need to be our best. I need eight or so hours of sleep per night, and I’m budgeting to do each of my iron-distance events in 12 to 13 hours, including breaks. Taking a few minutes here and there can add on an hour, an hour-and-a-half at the end at the end of the day – it’s not ideal if I’m coming home at 8.30pm. We now have definite break times in mind. There’s also the psychological effect of stopping for too long. If you let the mind decouple from the job at hand you find it difficult to get moving again, so my small breaks will be four minutes or less.
We’ve revised the schedule for my bike leg. Originally I was going to stop halfway at the 90km mark, but I’ll now stop every 40km for two minutes to stretch my back, refuel and refill the water bottles. Debi also realised she needed to drink more water earlier in the day, especially on hot days. Like other endurance athletes will know, you feel okay at the time but when you’re doing day after day it’s crucial to eat and drink enough, and it gets to a point where you have to force yourself to take in enough liquid and fuel. Debi’s new nutrition plan includes SIS bars and four bottles – two of water and two of SIS Recovery while she’s on the bike. Otherwise, she’s playing catch-up, so it takes until halfway through the run that I feel 100 percent again.
We also worked the two test days out of our four-wheel drive rather than the Let’s Go motorhome we’ve just secured. While we had boxes to store our gear, some things got misplaced, and we lost a lot of time trying to find stuff. That plays on your mind when you put something down and can’t find it again! So we’ll have a better system that allows us easy access to our food, water, gear and so on. What’s perfect is that the four-person motorhome has a double bed permanently set up inside it, so there’s loads of room to have our gear laid out.
We’ll need that room because we’re surrounded by a mountain of gear. Scdy has given us five of everything – that’s jerseys, knicks, shorts, singlets, swimmers, few tri suits, some crop tops. Roka’s given us swimming shorts, a sleeveless wetsuit each, and a full-length Maverick for when we do ocean swims. Eight pairs of goggles, two pairs of cycling shoes each. A cupboard full of Hokas, Suunto watches, four Fly12 and two Fly6 Cycliq video camera/light combos. SIS has given us – and I’m not exaggerating – a tonne of sports nutrition: recovery powder, bars, electrolyte powder and tablets, drinks. POC has given us two helmets, two pairs of sunglasses each. Lake Cycling has supplied two pairs of cycling shoes each. Ribble has given a couple of bikes, Roka has provided SIM shorts, wetsuits, goggles, swim caps. Quarq has given three Qollectors. Chobani is delivering a fridge full of yoghurt on Monday. And, in the middle of it all, two Thule prams for Ryder – we’ll be pushing him around Centennial Park on occasions too.
The word ‘crazy’ comes up a lot, but we want to back away from that. ‘Crazy’ implies doing something reckless. Maybe the ideas are out there and pushing the boundaries, but we come back to the base level when we think about our goal. We have put together an event that is fully supported, fully sponsored – the risk mitigation has been done, all the health care checks have been done. We’re leaving nothing to chance in order for us to attain this feat. The goal itself is breaking into all sorts of new territory. We’re doing this with great support networks and being methodical. It’s taking the craziness out of crazy!
That said, we understand this is a physical challenge – one that’s self-created – unlike any other, and there will be some dark times out there. What usually happens is when I have a bad patch I go totally into myself, I like to be alone and get on with it. I know I’ll resurface, and both Debi and I push our minds to thinking about how lucky we are to be out there doing what we’re doing, especially for Australian Red Cross. This organisation is incredible, and we’re proud to be supporting them.
I keep thinking of the people in Haiti where they’ve been hit by atrocious weather two or three times in the last ten years. Every time this happens, the population has to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives. The Red Cross are always there to assist them with shelter, sanitation and volunteers, and so on. If you have to rebuild your life three times in ten years, doing 100 Ironmen in 100 days is comparatively nothing, especially when we are surrounded by our support crew, our friends, family, the wider triathlon community.
The other really important aspect is that because it is 100 days we will treat each day as it comes. Each day is another day, a new adventure, and it will have its own challenges, and the final day will take part at Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. We’re both ready to get this started!
Debi and John encourage anyone who is racing at Ironman Australia or Ironman 70.3 Port Macquarie to take part in Iron Century and raise funds for the Red Cross on their road to Ironman Australia 2017. Visit www.ironcentury.com.au and join them in the pools, or on the bike or run — or all three! At time of going online, the group had collectively raised $4,160, and would like to thank their sponsors: Foodora, SCODY, Science In Sport, Ribble Cycles, Hoka One One, Roka, Suunto, Health Space Clinics, Lake Cycling, POC Sports, Thule, Quarq, Chobani, Prince Alfred Park pool, and Kustom Caps.
To sponsor Iron Century on the road to Ironman Australia 2017 – or to set up your own fund-raising page as part of Iron Century – head to https://www.tricharity.com/fundraisers/IronCentury.
For more information and real-time tracking of Iron Century go to: www.ironcentury.com.au.
Text: Paul Taylor/IronCentury