3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42km run. Sounds easy right?
Time Out Bahrain staff
In March Khalid Al Khalifa and Ali Janahi became the first Bahrainis to complete a full Ironman challenge, we caught up with them for a chat once they returned to the island. Khalid Hamad AlKhalifa, 36, completed the course in 14hours one minute and 59 seconds.
This is a horribly tough challenge, what are the distances involved? 3.8km swim followed by 180km cycle and 42km run.
What made you decide to do it? I have been doing triathlons for a couple of years and the Ironman is the pinnacle. It has not been done before and we wanted to see if we could push ourselves and finish what looks like a monstrous distance, we weren’t really sure if we could finish it. There are many things that can go wrong in the race such as a mechanical problem to the bike or an injury.
How did you train for it and how long was your training? We came up with the idea of registering for the Ironman last summer. We started training from then till November for a half Ironman. During this period, we trained six days a week, sometimes doing two disciplines per day. This was very important to create the base that we can train from for the full Ironman distance. From then, we started longer-hour training sessions and less of the multiple sessions. In the last three months, we put in several sessions of over four hours of cycling which was mentally very difficult if you were going in laps. We also did regular three kilometre swims to get used to the distance. As for the running, we maintained our running at a maximum of 30km as it was very difficult to recover from running sessions. We also participated in shorter distance races to keep us in the race mood.
What was the hardest part of the training? The hardest thing was keeping to the training plan. We have to adjust to the weather and other commitments when we go out to train. We also lost a week’s training due to falling sick. But the toughest thing would be the long sessions of training that seem not to finish. These sessions are the most important to take you to the finish line, but it can get lonely and at times you feel that you must be crazy doing this instead of putting your feet up on a couch, especially on a cold, windy day when you are barely able to pedal!
You must have been in sport before this, are you a runner, cyclist, swimmer or all three? I have not stopped running since I joined the Bahrain Road Runners in 1993. I have not been a super runner but I have a passion for running races and like to challenge myself. However, I also swim and cycle to a good extent. Hence, I found that I can do well in such events and also enjoy the change in movement it gives the body. Rather than just using your legs, a triathlon actually uses the whole body which makes training more varied.
What made you choose the New Zealand event? First, we wanted a good venue with natural beauty since we will be spending the whole day outdoors. The environment will certainly make it easier to finish. Second, the timing of the race makes it possible to utilise the training we have already accumulated and prepare for the event instead of starting from scratch.
How did you feel at the start line, were you confident of finishing? Having good weather on race day was very instrumental in buiding my confidence. Also, going a few days before the race and swimming on the course and looking at the cycling and running courses prepared us mentally. I did not feel out of place or that I was not comfortable due to the weather. I had a clear race strategy of spreading my energy throughout the day. The hordes of people on the start line can scare people off specially as people literally swim over each other until the crowd spreads itself, but I was in the thick of it without discomfort. My real worry was finishing the cycling leg as I was not confident on doing my tubeless tires if they went bad. Besides my chain falling of twice, it was a smooth ride with tiredness starting to creep in on the way back to the transition. Once I started the run, I knew I would finish and focussed more on enjoying the race and having laughs with the cheering spectators.
And how did you feel at the finish – I understand you’re the first Bahrainis to complete a full Ironman? The finishline brought together the months of training and knowing that I’m the first Bahraini to complete the race was certainly a proud moment. We have certainly put in a lot of effort and commitment even sometimes at the expense of being with my wife and kids. However, we were overwhelmed by the support from our families, friends and training group. They have been following our progress ever since we registered. They were intrigued as to whether we would really do it. Many followed our results on line and we were really honoured when they came to welcome us on our arrival as true champions. We really remembered them throughout the race and were trying to make sure we made them proud.
And lastly, what’s next? We certainly hope to share our experience with others who might be motivated by our story. Not many people believe they can do it, but it’s all about believing in yourself and putting in the effort. I will continue to participate in races and seek to improve as this has become part of my lifestyle. Although, I love shorter distances, I hope to one day finish a marathon in a good time as I find it very challenging to keep a certain pace for a very long time. For now, I will celebrate becoming an Ironman!
Ali AbdulAziz Janahi, 26, 15 hours and 14 minutes.
What made you decide to do it? I love to challenge myself and Ironman was a childhood dream.
How did you train for it and how long was your training? We started to train last summer and we trained six days a week, one to two hours a day, at weekends we trained three to four hours a day and sometimes five hours and more.
What was the hardest part of the training? The hardest part is the weather, it is difficult to bike or to run if it is cold or there is a strong wind, and it is so hard to swim in the cold weather.
You must have been in sport before this, are you a runner, cyclist or swimmer or all three? I was overweight five years ago then I start running and cycling and two years ago I started to swim.
What made you choose the New Zealand event? It is one of the best races in the world, moreover New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world.
How did you feel at the start line, were you confident that you could do it? At the start line I was so quiet and cautious because I was wary not to get injured and stop the race.
And how did you feel at the end? It is so hard to describe the feeling, I felt so happy. We received a lot of congratulations and a big reception at the airport from friends and family.
And lastly, what’s next? Maybe another Ironman or a marathon.