Forum v Ironman Germany: The Final Countdown

Forumite Monique at the Bala Middle Distance Triathlon

Over the past two years, the Runner’s World Tri forum has grown, strengthened and spread its DaGlo message into the furthest reaches of the international triathlon community.

The Pirate Ship of Fools – that’s PSoF on the entry forms – under the unorthodox captaincy of Candy Ollier, last year unloaded 26 novices on to the shores of Lake Zurich for their inaugural appearance, at Ironman Switzerland.

They rapidly won the attention and the affection of the huge crowds gathered there, and proved that it was possible for a disparate group of athletes – some finely honed and experienced, some self-confessed lardbutts – to swim, cycle and run from zero to hero in just nine months.

But on Sunday, July 23, the Pirate Fleet will be at Ironman Germany, this time with more than 60 members. Some of them back for the second time to race it rather than simply survive it, and some of them fresh blood, who took the Captain’s five pence after witnessing the excitement and camaraderie of Zurich.

At the moment, with just two weeks to go, taper madness is biting hard as training dwindles from anything between 18-25 hours a week, down to … more human levels. And while Cap’n Candy won’t be there this year, the scurvy dogs are being kept in order and good spirits by his own acerbic brand of encouragement, tempered by the warmth, wit and experience of Iron Rose, some rare but memorable pithy asides from RichardM, and exasperated expostulations from last year’s magic bullet, Turtle’s Head.

Forumite Big Dave shows his emotion at last year's Ironman Zurich
For all the lightheartedness, no one is under any illusions that Ironman Germany is to be anything other than a gruelling, painful, soul-searching way to spend a day.

There have been months of optimism, depression, encouragement and frustration, but in less than two weeks it will all come to fruition - and we’ll be with them all the way. Our intrepid reporter is already equipped with several sharpened pencils, tucked safely into a little pink ribbon…

Triathlon is competed at several distances, from novice, through sprint and Olympic, to middle distance and beyond. It’s the ‘beyond’ bit that attracts the experienced endurance athlete and the foolhardy alike. Ironman distance is a race that’s completed within a cut-off of between 15 and 17 hours.

It comprises a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a marathon. While the key to success lies in a combination of fitness, consistent training, good nutrition, and good genes, most will agree that other major factors include mechanical good luck and a healthy dollop of sheer bloody-mindedness.