5X Istanbul Ultra Triathlon
Day 1 - Friday, May 26, 2023
I woke up at 5:30 and began swimming around 6 o’clock. Surprisingly, the swim felt quite easy, considering I hadn’t trained in a pool for almost a year. Most of my swims had been in the sea. To stay hydrated, I had prepared two water bottles—one filled with fruit juice and the other with a plant-based protein shake—and made an effort to drink from them frequently during the swim.
I noticed that my Garmin watch was counting some pool laps twice, so I either swam extra to compensate or left the watch by the poolside and counted the laps manually. In total, I covered approximately 4000-4200 meters according to Strava, plus the manually counted laps, which should correspond to a 3800m swim.
After the swim, I changed into my cycling attire and started the ride wearing arm warmers. However, it quickly became hot, so I removed them. Throughout the ride, the chain continuously rubbed against the front derailleur, creating the usual noise. Adjusting it didn’t improve the situation, and I didn’t want to waste time trying to fix it. To alleviate discomfort, I rested my forearms on the handlebars to assume an aero position, but after a while, my skin and forearm bones started to hurt. I tried alternating between a normal riding position and the aero one.
I chose a 6 km loop with some elevation for the bike ride. By the time I completed 180 km, I had accumulated a total elevation of 1200m. At one point, I had to stop and walk through the garden to reach the support station at our house, which took about 30 minutes or more.
During the bike ride, I consumed dried fruits and nuts that I had brought with me. During the stops, I had a meal consisting of buckwheat and potatoes. For hydration, I mostly drank packaged fruit juice like pineapple, cherry, and coconut. I had left the feeding station close to the house entrance so no one would fiddle with it, but that had the undesirable effect that I needed to get off the bike, walk to the feeding station, and walk back to the bike.
While riding I was giving my father instructions to cook me potatoes with peas and a little bit of tomato souce on top of it. Both the pees and potato were precooked and only needed to be mixed and rehated. In the end of his cooking process I got a cooked potato salad with mixed pickles and pees. It was not what I expected but the combination with cooked pickles tasted not bad at all.
I was thrilled to finish the ride without any significant issues. I then switched to my running gear and began the run. I took it easy for the first 21-30 km, not pushing too hard to conserve energy for the following day. Once again, I lost around 20 minutes during breaks to refuel and hydrate.
In total, the first day took me 16 hours to complete, including transitions and breaks.
Day 2 - Saturday
I woke up early, around 4:30 and decided to start the day also early instead of staying in the bed. My swim start was around 5:05 and was a nice “recovery” swim after the 1th iron distance. After completing my swim, changed to my bike gear, prepared the food that I would put into my jersey and ate something. In total the transition was around 35 minutes.
As I did not had the time to check the bike the chain was still constantly rubbing against the front derailleur. Completed another 180km ride and tried to reduce some uphill sections, so my total altitude gain was around 1060m. During the ride, mother and her close friend arrived, cooked and did some crewing for me. Also some photos were taken. They left 2 hours before I finished my bike ride.
The transition from bike to run took me 20 minutes on this day. The run time was around 5 hours 45 minutes that includes 25 minutes of breaks. During the run Mr. Suyabatmaz, who had rented the bike to me, arrived with his wife and started working on the bike to make some modifications according to my needs. He changed and made the stem shorter, adjusted the gears, put a foam onto the handlebar so I could put my arms onto it and get into a aero position and added a second bottle cage.
Testing the modified bike during the run
I had to stop the run several times to test the bike and in the end it felt more confortable then the last previous 2 days. We had some short talks about the race and plant based nutrition with him and his wife. He also took some very nice pictures while testing the bike during my run and left after that, wishing me a lot of success. My run and day ended around 22:00 with a total time of 17h. Ate a salad and some rice with tofu, put ice on my knee and ankles and got to sleep after 23:00
Day 3 - Sunday
I tried to wake up around 5:30 but felt very tired and ended up staying in bed for an extra 10 minutes. After gathering my belongings and preparing my water bottles—one filled with a green smoothie and the other with plant-based protein and almond milk—I realized everything took longer than planned. Eventually, I started my swim around 6:25 and completed it by 8:00.
During the swim, I had my protein shake and a green smoothie with me. The transition took a significant amount of time that day, totaling 45 minutes. Tahsin joined the crew and took over the responsibilities from my father. He was highly active, constantly in communication, and efficiently delivered supplies to the front garden door or directly to my bike while I was riding, helping me save time.
On this day, I decided to explore different bike routes. Instead of the usual 6 km loop, I experimented with a shorter 1 km loop to reduce elevation gain. Tahsin accompanied me on the ride, completing the long loop of 6 km once before switching back to the shorter one. He stayed with me for 100 km, providing food and supplies whenever needed. During the ride, some old friends paid a visit, and we had a quick chat.
After the bike leg, I changed into my running gear, had a small meal, and began my run. The running route was the same as the bike route, with only a few meters shorter to minimize elevation changes. Tahsin continued to accompany me for 10 km and played music during the challenging parts to keep me motivated.
The run lasted for 5 hours and 26 minutes, and the day came to an end around 23:10. Tahsin had already prepared my evening meal, which consisted of plant-based ravioli with yogurt. After the meal, I took a shower, applied ice to my knees and ankles, and lay down to sleep.
Day 4 - Monday
My body woke me up at 5:00 but stayed in bed until 5:30 to get some additional rest. After preparing my things, I started my swim around 6:07. While recording my daily video before the swim, I noticed that my face was significantly swollen. During the swim, I felt extremely cold and had to stretch my legs a few times as they became stiff.
I finished swimming around 7:35 and started the bike ride at 8:00. My stomach felt strange, so Tahsin prepared a tomato soup with noodles to help settle it. After having the first bowl, I started to feel better and ended up eating a total of three bowls during the ride, if I recall correctly. Tahsin once again joined me for the ride, and we also had a visit from a fellow triathlete, Fatih, who is a YouTuber and podcaster for his own band called “Asla Durma” (Never Stop). He conducted interviews, took great shots, but unfortunately got a flat tire during one of his shots and nearly crashed while taking a tight turn. In the midst of all this, I hadn’t realized that my front tire was also flat. I rode the short distance back to our home on a flat tire. Fortunately, Mr. Suyabatmaz had provided an extra pair of wheels, so we quickly changed the front wheel, allowing me to continue the ride without losing much time. After a while, Fatih wished us luck and success, and he departed. The ride on the fourth day took me a total of 8 hours and 42 minutes.
The transition to the run took me around 8 minutes. It was a challenging run, as I experienced some stomach issues, but with Tahsin’s support, I managed to finish it in 6 hours and 2 minutes, concluding around 22:52. Once again, Tahsin had prepared a wonderful meal for me, including a salad with red beets and other greens known for aiding in recovery and reducing inflammation.
After showering and preparing my things for the next day, I fell asleep around 23:55.
Day 5 - Tuesday
After waking up at 5:30, feeling extremely tired, I looked into the mirror and was startled by the swelling on my face. The inflammation was apparent all over my body, including my knees and ankles. I began questioning whether I should quit, considering it would still be an impressive feat to complete a 4x Iron Distance Triathlon. However, I made the decision to try swimming in the cold pool, hoping it would help alleviate the inflammation. If I didn’t feel any better after the swim, I would end the race.
I started swimming at 6:25, and once again, it felt incredibly cold. I took some time during the swim to stretch my body. Although the swim was challenging, I felt some improvement afterward and decided to continue. After a 30-minute transition, I began my bike ride at 8:30.
Tahsin had prepared and replaced the back tire with the spare one, assuring me that it was in better condition and would provide a smoother ride. After a few hours, Tahsin joined me on his bike, playing fantastic music from his rugged portable loudspeaker, which he had placed in the water bottle cage of his bike. Additionally, my stomach was feeling unsettled, so he prepared easily digestible food for me.
In the last 20 kilometers of the ride, Mr. Suyabatmaz and Mr. Balsun arrived. Mr. Balsun was my initial contact for renting a bike in Istanbul, and he had arranged everything with Mr. Suyabatmaz. They both cheered me on, capturing excellent photos and videos of my journey. My buttocks were in considerable pain, especially the areas that had rubbed against the saddle, resulting in wounds and abrasions from both previous and today’s ride. The company of our visitors provided a welcome distraction during the final hour of my ride.
I completed the bike portion in 8 hours and 40 minutes, around 17:10. I transitioned to the run, and Tahsin made his final round on his bike to accomplish his goal of reaching 100 kilometers. At around the 15-kilometer mark, Enis from Vegan Runners Istanbul joined me and became my running companion. Our conversations made the run much more enjoyable. Later, Firatali and Okyanus, also from Vegan Runners Istanbul, joined us, adding to the camaraderie.
Despite being exhausted from three days of riding, running, and supporting me, Tahsin found the energy to accompany me during the final leg of the run. In the last few kilometers, he returned home to prepare food for everyone. Starting the 5x journey alone, I was now running alongside four friends towards the finish line of this incredible challenge.
Around 23:245, after 6 hours and 29 minutes of running, I completed the 5 Iron Distance Triathlons. It was an amazing experience to finish the challenge with a group of like-minded friends. After the run, I quickly showered, and Tahsin had already prepared a fantastic meal for all of us. We sat down, talked, and had a wonderful time together.
Finisher meal with Vegan Runners
The morning after the race