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The Beginning

Mankind has always been interested in questions that are not that easy to answer, such as "What is the meaning of life?", "To be or not to be?", "Is there life on Mars?". As for me, from the moment I started working at an international law firm in 2006, I became obsessed with the rather banal question of whether there is life outside the law. Working in an international law firm brings interesting clients, complex projects and, most importantly, valuable experience. But the price you pay for these things is time. There was practically no time left for anything except work - it occupied 12 to 22 hours per day and as a result, in the first few years, I was forced to give up a lot. This was hard because my life had always been full of different interests and passions and I never liked to limit myself to one thing. Finally, after about nine years of working, I managed to squeeze sport into my tight schedule. But the ability to plan my own life and accord due attention to both business and my passions – sport in particular, arose only when I set up my own law firm, TA Legal Consulting.

Many people call the triathlon the modern cure for a mid-life crisis. That's not true for me. I came to the triathlon in a logical way. Apparently, my profession made an impact on my decision. In 2013, while still working at an international law firm, I practiced martial arts (jiu-jitsu). I took up cycling , at the end of August, when a friend suggested that I take part in a multi-day cycling race the following year, the "Baikal Bike Trophy". I was fired up by this idea and began to train on my own while still doing jiu-jitsu. After a while, I noticed that my new passion for "cyclical" sports (such as biking, swimming, running, skiing) had a positive effect on my martial arts results. Cycling fascinated me more and more. By participating in a race I would really be challenging myself; I would be competing with myself, not with others. So, this is how I gradually came to favor individual "cyclical" sports, which, above all, show you what you, in particular, are capable of. I didn't have good enough technique and lacked sufficient experience and coaching advice, among other things, to successfully complete the Baikal Bike Trophy (a difficult distance of about 350 km: 40-90 km per day for 6 days). Nevertheless this race reinforced my ambition to keep going and continue with this endeavour.

Aside from cycling, I had always wanted to learn how to swim beautifully and technically correctly. I don't mean well enough to catch up with Michael Phelps; just well enough to swim 3-4 km without stopping and not get tired. Why not try now? In 2015, I began to train privately with a swimming coach. I remember my first 25 meters crawl! It was a nightmare! As they say, fight fire with fire so, after a couple of months of training (by this time I could already swim 200 meters without resting) one day I swore to myself that I would swim my first 1500 meters without stopping. My hearty breakfast made me confident, and I didn't hesitate to conquer the pool. That was how I swam my first 1.5 kilometers without stopping. What did I learn? You just have to give yourself your word that you'll do it, and then everything is much easier. And most importantly - all limitations are only in your head. Despite this, my relationship with water is still unstable. I would say it's up and down: either we drive each other crazy, or we respect each other or it gives way. The aquatic part of the race is still probably the most difficult element of the triathlon for me!

By the time I had become a keen cyclist and swimmer I thought there must be room for running as well! We all remember those awful physical education classes in school when you run eagerly swallowing the air because it is hard to breath, your legs stagger, and then, worst of all, you get a cramp in your side. Now, I think "No, it's not like that at all!" I am absolutely sure that at school we are diligently discouraged from doing sports in the future. Despite my unpleasant associations with what I had previously called running, I nevertheless decided to try. My friend and part-time lawyer, Yura Arkhipov, recommended I take classes at a sports training centre called TEMP Center. Alexey Kalinin, TEMP's manager, its ideological inspirer, a trainer and just an interesting person, later became my triathlon trainer and is still my trainer today. And so it was that running became a part of my life together with cycling and swimming, bringing to my daily running around, an understanding of the pace and the basic techniques of running, as well as of running shoes! As they say: "Legs were made for running..."

That is how my obsession with the triathlon started. I never set a goal to achieve a certain result in Ironman or Challenge competitions (at the beginning of my triathlon journey I had never even heard of them). I was just doing what I enjoyed, what inspired me, brought me moral satisfaction and was good for my health.


Of course, preparing for Ironman is not easy and certainly requires special training. My trainer devises my training plan taking into account my individual characteristics and capabilities. The schedule looks like this: 3 hard - loading weeks (16-18 hours of training per week) alternated with 1 light – unloading week (10 hours of training). So, it is 6 days a week with 1 day of complete rest which I sometimes breach by going for bicycle rides with friends or jogging. The trainer logs all my workouts and loads them onto a special mobile app that is automatically synchronized with my wristwatch, which calculates all the necessary stats concerning my physical condition during my workout.

Today I manage to include 1-2 workouts into my daily routine. In the morning, I usually go for a run or a swim, and in the evening, I do cycling or jogging. I schedule my day depending on my workload including business meetings, conferences and business trips. In this regard, the ability to work remotely, without the need to come into the office every day, greatly facilitates the maintenance of a balance between work, personal life and a passion for the triathlon. I try not to miss any running or swimming sessions, even during my business trips.

Training is when I disconnect from the outside world and I can be alone. I don't take anything with me to training sessions. Sometimes I only take a train ticket and travel 20 km away from home, and run back. This has a practical impact on my physical condition since it is important when running to monitor your breathing and pulse, and listen to your steps (a loud clatter is not good). It also allows me to relax emotionally and clear my mind. I think about so many things when I'm running and I organise both my business and domestic affairs in order of priority. I return to my daily routine with renewed vigour and a clear understanding of what is the best approach to tackling various issues.


No start of a race is easy , but each start is exciting and challenging in its own way. It is difficult to describe with words swimming in a lake of incredible beauty or a river with a strong current, cycling in the fields or along the serpentine roads of centuries-old mountains. However, by the time you are at the running stage you are probably not up to enjoying the beauty of nature. After the previous two stages you just run to the finish line, glancing at your pulse, remembering the trainer's instructions and looking for your support group. All in all, each start has its own difficulties to overcome and this is exactly what makes the finish line so desirable.

Very often people ask me which of the three sports in a triathlon is easiest to start with. I usually answer that all three kinds of sport have their own nuances and it is difficult to compare them. For example, in swimming the most important thing is your technique. Technique can only be honed through regular training with a trainer and through number of kilometers swum. I swim once a week with a swimming coach and twice a week on my own, but even this does not enable me to attain the same results as people who have been swimming seriously since childhood. In other words, to swim quickly, you need to have grown-up in the water. To successfully complete the cycling stage, strength training is required, as well as clocking up kilometers cycled, and, of course, it is important to build up the power with which you pedal. Running is the most traumatic and demanding part of the triathlon. Technique is also important here because the more professionally you run, the less energy you expend, and, consequently, you can run faster. This is obvious once you take into account the fact that you will have to endure the distance of the run after swimming and extensive cycling.

One must not forget the climatic conditions during a race which can be very harsh. For instance, during my first race in Budapest, the air temperature was extremely hot, +35. Or, the water temperature might be so cold that not even a special neoprene cap can warm you up. Plus, anything can happen when exercising at long distances: diseases or old injuries can worsen, or you might suddenly feel depressed usually due to malnutrition or an uncomfortable pace. The most terrible thought, pursuing any triathlete in the most difficult moments of the race, is to drop everything and withdraw. But as soon as this thought comes to your mind, you need to try to calm down, align your breath, think about victoriously crossing the finish line and move on. It is also incredibly helpful when your relatives and friends support you. It’s especially great if it’s your support group that suddenly jumps out around the corner waving their hands and shouting something like: “Dad, I love you, you are the best...” Perhaps this is the best cure for morose thoughts. It is very important to me that my family and friends share my passion and support me. Though, not all my friends are so positive and some, for example, think that triathletes are psychos, which is probably not that far from the truth, since only a psycho would choose to conquer 226 kilometers in one go. Just kidding...

The role of the coach

It is difficult to overestimate the role of a coach in a triathlon. The coach must be not only a professional sportsman but also a good psychologist. I think it's essential to establish an emotional connection with the trainer and to feel that both of you share the same values. Otherwise, there is a chance that the training will not bear fruit. This is especially important at the initial stage, when you are just starting to train and the initial results are quickly visible. Many coaches who see the speed at which progress is being made, increase the complexity of work outs for amateur athletes. This can result in serious injuries. It is quite tough, including emotionally, to recover from injuries and go back to regular training realising that you are no longer as fit as you were, that you need to start all over again from a lower level and that you may get injured again.

Experience comes over time and you become aware of your capabilities and can adjust your training schedule without any assistance knowing that in some cases it is better to renegotiate a task for which you are not ready at that moment. In addition to the possibility of seriously harming your health, excessive training can bring loss of motivation, which is even more dangerous than any physical injury. It is self-motivation that helps an athlete to pursue the desire to win. Self-motivation helps you endure pain when you think you have no strength left to force yourself to go for a run in the rain, or not to miss swimming or cycling training, and when hundreds of "good" reasons for why you should not train today are spinning in your head.

Each coach has his own approach to devising a training plan and coming up with motivational tricks. It is vital to understand whether the trainee is satisfied with the chosen approach and to establish a trusting relationship so that it is always possible to optimize the training schedule for the physical and moral condition of the trainee at the time and taking into account the target goals.

The key to success in training is to find a balance: you constantly need to be sensitive to your body, you must find and not lose the inner feeling of comfort. It's worth noting that there are no universal workouts; training always needs to be adapted to the particular individual.

A triathlon requires special nutrition and equipment which is expensive. However, you actually only need a strong desire and passion. Even people who are not so financially well off achieve very good results at the finish line. Of course, when people with disabilities are competing next to you, you realise that there are no physical limitations at all.

At the same time, it is important to understand that a triathlon involves a serious strain on the body and, in addition to self-discipline, requires knowledge of three kinds of sport and how to combine them. You can start by preparing for races on your own but you will need to spend a significant amount of time studying specialised literature and understanding the basics of sports training. Of course, everything is individual and depends on your level of fitness when you start. In any case, I would not recommend that anyone participate in long distance activity without preparation as this can cause irreparable harm to health.

The best way to prepare for a competition is to organise training step by step. On average, preparation to complete half of the Ironman distance should begin 6-9 months before the start. For the first year, it is recommended that a participant seek to do 2-3 “half” Ironmans, and the following year, if all goes well, you can try for the full distance. The approximate time within which you should complete the competition is set individually by the trainer and depends on the area where the competition is held. On flat terrain, a decent time for completing a half Ironman is considered to be 4-5 hours, and for the full distance - 9-11 hours. In mountainous areas, this time increases.

Goals and motivation

As for my immediate triathlon goals, I plan to take part in an extreme triathlon in 2020, which is held in the Austrian Alps. You can compare the usual "mountain" triathlon comprising cycling with an ascent of 1600m above sea level and running on flat terrain with the extreme one which presupposes an ascent of about 5500m during cycling followed by running.

I have always chosen active leisure activities. Therefore, a triathlon is also the best way for me to spend a vacation. For example, I used to go to Austria to ski every winter but I had never been there in the summer. When I took part in the half distance Ironman there last summer, I saw this country from a completely new perspective. So, a triathlon is also a great opportunity to see and get to know the world in an unusual way.

I am not inspired by material goals. I am keen on overcoming myself, discovering new opportunities and setting new goals. My main motivation for doing sports is to improve my character and body with each workout and with each season. Participating in a triathlon you are forced to make decisions in order to move forward and become stronger. Being engaged in the triathlon community you understand that it is vital, not only in sports, but also in everyday life, to learn new things and constantly develop new traits. These insights help me in life, so that I successfully deal with my workflow and of course, they are most valuable to me in my pursuing my newfound passion.

Marat Agabalayan,
Managing partner
TA Legal Consulting