You are an Ironman - four words that every triathlete wants to hear at least once in their life

Ironman is a globally popular triathlon race consisting of 3.8 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and 42.2 km of running and is in a way considered the holy grail of human endurance limits, and the time limit to enter the finish line is 17 hours. Preparing for one such race requires an extremely large amount of training and a lot of sacrifice. Our colleague Robert Špoljar, Senior in the Audit Department, took us through his entire triathlon journey and we are pleased to share with you his inspirational story.

Why triathlon? How did you discover this multi-disciplinary sport and what attracted you to it so much?

My triathlon journey is relatively short, but the sporty lifestyle has been going on since I was kid. From football in primary and secondary school, to cycling and recreational running while studying, I decided to learn to swim on my own and maybe one day finish a triathlon race. I have always looked at triathletes with respect and they have always seemed to me like they are out of this world, but in the end you realize that the key to everything is perseverance and great desire.

For most triathletes, placement is not important, it is mostly a competition with yourself and it is important to be better than you were the day, week or year before. Rare are those who fight for medals. My personal biggest victory in triathlon was definitely learning to swim, which is technically very challenging and there are a small number of people who master the technique without at least a little professional help. I took advantage of the fact that today we have a large amount of information available online and with the help of tutorials on YouTube in about half a year I came from the amateur to swim 50 meters in a row to swim up to 2 km without any problems.

Swim Ironman

What is your experience with racing up to this year’s Ironman? What does your path and lifestyle look like in which you balance private, business and sports life?

Most of my performances were inside Croatia, from the south to the far north, but at various lengths. There are triathlons that last from about 40 minutes, all the way to the Ironman which lasts until 5 hours, and most of my performances so far have been in races that last between 60 and 90 minutes and are called Sprint triathlons (750m swimming, 20km bike and 5km running).

By the way, I am a fan of long, difficult races, but these are races that are rarely taken and that require a high level of readiness, so the longest race so far lasted 5 hours and 30 minutes. I finished the half-Ironman distance twice (1.9km of swimming, 90km of cycling and 21km of running) and one of those two races remained in my fond memory. The race took place in St Polten near Vienna and was attended by over 1500 competitors from all over the world with over 100 professionals. It was there that I realized how much triathlon was actually a valued sport and the support each competitor received throughout the race was amazing and memorable.

Every race brings some new experience, but what is always most important is that you have to enjoy it and practice such a way of life to be able to deal with it at all. On the other hand, serious preparation, for example for Ironman, requires a lot of sacrifice and will definitely affect private life and if a person is not willing to spend a good part of his free time training, replace coffee with friends to ride a bike, then it is better to replace such an adventure with another activity.

We've heard of that one: "If Ironman is easy to be, Ironman would be anyone!" Tell us how to succeed in business and career with equally great effort and desire to compete in such demanding races?

I mentioned that you should always enjoy, but during the right preparations there are many more moments that make you give up than those that keep you smiling and cheerful, but these are the moments when you get out of the comfort zone and where you progress. It is the same in business, the more you are outside the comfort zone, the more you progress and that is the reality that every individual should accept.

The only difference between triathlon and work is that in triathlon you can't blame anyone for a bad result, in a race you get exactly what you deserved in training and there are no exceptions, you can't blame a neighbour, grandmother or colleague if you fail. I am my own master. If you keep that approach in business, you have succeeded in all fields.

Bike Ironman

Day D: Estonia, Tallinn, 07.08.2021. - How was the Ironman race and what do you plan for future?

That date has been reserved for me since the beginning of 2021 as the day I want to finish that holy grail of triathlon. Preparations started at the beginning of the year. Honestly, when there was no work, there was training. On weekends, cycling lasted from 3 and sometimes up to 6 hours, running for 3 hours, after work during the week there were sometimes half marathons, all for just four words that you hear when you enter the finish line - You are an Ironman.

There were also health problems due to which I almost gave up a month before the race, crises were frequent, but everything passed and the day of the race itself came. The number of competitors was approximately 2000 and I could hardly wait for the start.

The weather in Tallinn has been beautiful for the last month, but on the day of the race the sky and the ground merged, the rain didn't stop and the wind was incredibly strong, but for everyone as well as for me. If you want to be an Ironman, the rain must not slow you down. So I set myself up, after a hard swim in a muddy and undulating lake I got on my bike and set off. There were also falls, some gave up because of the cold, some because of the rain, but for me it was not an option.

And then that 137th kilometer happened, 5 and a half hours after the start of the race. At one point a bang was heard and a flat tire left me helpless and stopped on the road in a matter of seconds. Expertly speaking, for me it was DNF, that is, disqualification. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish Ironman, but since I know I was ready to reach the finish line that day and I believe the effort just always pays off, I came into the room, made a plan, and immediately reported “make-up” on the new race.

I’m one of those people who is still looking for their limits and I think mine are still a long way off, so I can’t let a flat tire discourage me for new attempts and challenges.


Robert Tallinn