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Amit Samarth overcomes several hurdles to successfully complete Ironman Hamburg in Germany

Dr Amit Samarth from Nagpur successfully completed Ironman Hamburg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)
Dr Amit Samarth from Nagpur successfully completed Ironman Hamburg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)
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Suhas Nayse

Dr Amit Samarth added yet another feather to his illustrious cap by successfully completing Ironman Hamburg in Germany on Thursday.

Amit Samarth, a well-known endurance athlete from Nagpur and director of Miles N Milers Endurance Sports Academy, brought laurels to the country with an outstanding performance in Germany.

Amit Samarth overcame multiple challenges and adverse weather conditions in Germany to complete Ironman Germany in 13 hours and one minute. Amit had to face very cold weather conditions in Hamburg to complete one of the toughest single-day Endurance sports challenges, Ironman.

The 42-year-old had to swim 3.8 kms in the cold water of Alster Lake, then cycle 180 kms and then run 42.2 kms (full marathon). He covered the whole marathon in 13 hours and one minute. He had to face a dramatic temperature difference after traveling to Hamburg, Germany as he was training in 45 degree temperatures in Nagpur.

Amit Samarth has so far done two Full Ironman races and 17 times Ironman 70.3 races all over the world.

During Ironman Hamburg, Amit Samarth faced several hurdles but he overcame them to emerge victorious. Amit, who is a doctor by profession, narrated the entire experience of his various hurdles in Germany.

Amit Samarth during his cycling leg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)
Amit Samarth during his cycling leg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)

Here is the story in Amit's words:

Ironman Hamburg Part 1

Hurdle 1

First of all, getting to the starting line of Ironman Hamburg was an achievement in itself. Ironman Hamburg was postponed for the last two years due to the Corona pandemic and this year all the registered participants who had registered two years back had the opportunity to race at Ironman Hamburg.

In a way, traveling overseas and getting the opportunity to participate in Ironman Hamburg after 2 years of pandemic was a blessing in itself. There were no face masks or social distancing norms for the race, it was like old times at Ironman Hamburg. So in a way you get that feeling of gratitude to get an opportunity.

Hurdle 2

There were issues with the Visa process. There were no visa appointment dates available with the German Embassy in India for June. I was suggested to apply for a French Visa and travel to Paris and then go to Hamburg. So I finally got the visa two weeks before the race for France and then I planned to go to Germany via France.

Amit Samarth runs during Ironman Hamburg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)
Amit Samarth runs during Ironman Hamburg in Germany. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)

Hurdle 3

While going through a security check at Delhi Airport for Paris, I was told by CISF that I cannot carry the Garmin 503 Cyclo Computer in hand luggage. I have to put it in checked-in luggage. I called CISF Nagpur and asked them to intervene and tell them about my past credentials. After a lot of scrutiny over my identity and Garmin Cyclo Computer, they finally allowed me to carry it in hand baggage.

Hurdle 4

When I reached Hamburg, I was very well received by Amit Mairal and Dharmendra Patel and they took me to Mairal's home in Pinneberis, a suburb near Hamburg.

When I opened the Bike Box and started assembling the cycle, we realized that a crucial cylindrical part of the headset and the Nut is missing. After carefully searching the box, we found a Nut but a special metallic cylinder which holds the screw is missing. We were not able to find it.

The Indian community here started making alternate plans as to how they can help me with this major problem. Because without the Headset properly fixed, I cannot ride the bike. The Indians here even went to the extent of manufacturing that part here in Hamburg at some workshops and also took measurements using Vernier calipers.

I went sleepless throughout the night as I knew I couldn’t use my bike without this part in place. Started thinking about renting another bike or something.

Early the next morning, I decided to search again for the box one last time and hurrah - I found that the cylindrical part of the box itself was stuck behind the wheels. I was elated. When I woke up Mairal Sir and shared the news, we were all happy and relieved.

Hurdle 5

So now we have all the parts for the Headset and the Aerobar but we were unable to assemble it properly. After spending a lot of time trying to fix it, we decided to go to a Bike Mechanic. Luckily, we got a good Bike Mechanic around 1 km from our home. The bike was finally assembled and I was nearly ready for Ironman Hamburg.

Hurdle 6

Apart from all these hurdles, the biggest hurdle for Ironman is training. I think I have put in the best training possible. The result of this Ironman Hamburg doesn't show how much training effort I had put in. It is a hard pill to digest for me right now but I am doing it and looking forward to training and racing better.

Ironman Hamburg Part 2

Well, I reached Hamburg, Germany on the 2nd of June from Nagpur, India. At that time, the highest temperature in Nagpur was around 45 degrees Celsius, and Hamburg was around 17 degree Celsius. In the night, the minimum temperature in Hamburg fell to around 7 degrees Celsius.

It was a major dramatic change for my body, I went to urination almost 6 to 7 times throughout the night. I never expected it, I didn't have diabetes or anything but that is how my body was reacting.

The next night, the situation fairly improved a lot and I went for urination around 3 to 4 times. I wasn’t sweating anywhere and was only losing water through urine, I started drinking more water consciously to keep myself hydrated and of course eating as much as I could to carbo-load my body for the big job on Sunday.

I also think the basal metabolic rate of the body must have gone up to produce more heat and keep the body warm in this sudden change of temperature conditions.

Test Swim on 4th June

We had a test swim practice on June 4th at Ulster Lake in Hamburg. The organizers created a small 500 meter loop in the lake for a test swim. I wore my wet suit and went for a test swim, as soon as I got into the water I was shocked by the cold water of the lake.

Instead of one loop, I did 3 loops so that I could get more used to the cold water. At the end of the third loop, my left calf went into a cramp. It was kind of a premonition of things to happen the next day.

I deposited my bike and went back home. In the evening, I tried my best to hydrate more and eat as much as I could. I also searched on Google regarding cramps due to cold water swimming. But it was way too late to do anything, and race time was a few hours away.

I had dinner and I slept off, to get up early in the morning at 3 AM, to have a good breakfast and boiled potatoes. Dharmendra Patel and Mairal dropped me off in Hamburg, very close to the race venue. I was super excited to do a Full Ironman race after 5 years.

I went to the Bike Holding Area and did all the final preparations for the race, like pumping air into the bike and placing nutrition and hydration on the bike.

I also met Rajendra Jaiswal (RJ) and helped him pump air into his bike and had a final conversation with RJ. I did a little bit of a 1 km run to warm myself up and put them into my wetsuit.

The organizers were announcing that we would have a small practice swim before the race, so I used that opportunity to get a feel of the water again before the actual start.

Swim 3.8 km

It was nearly time to go now. The athletes entered the water with a rolling start. After some time, my turn came and I had a very smooth swim start. My first objective was to achieve a calm mind in all that chaos and focus on my breathing rhythm and then work on the speed.

So I started slow and steady and then after some time we were in a big lake, it felt like an ocean only, a big fresh water ocean, but it was fun and smooth.

On the return, the Sun was directly in our eyes, which made it difficult to sight the buoys properly. The water was so cold that I had to stop and take a pee break in the middle of the lake.

Towards the end of the swim, with around 500 to 600 meters left, my left calf muscle went into cramps as well as my right hip as well. It was kind of like my body didn't like the cold water swimming and now muscles are shivering and cramping to produce heat to keep core temperature up.

Bike 180 km

So after a 3.8 km swim, I came out of the water a little slowly as I had to control the cramps in my legs and then slowly jogged to the transition area and got ready for the bike. I had to go again for a pee break so it was kind of a lot of water loss due to cold water conditions.

It was almost 500 meters of jogging before I could mount the bike. So in the initial 10 to 15 km, I thought about getting into some rhythm on the bike and keeping my mind calm for the job ahead. After 40 to 50 km, I realized that I am not able to push hard on the pedal which I am used to doing in general training back home.

When I was trying to push the speed, there was cramp in the inner thighs so I had to settle for a very slow average speed of around 32 kph for 180 km. After 100 km, I took a 15 sec break at a water station to replenish water and other things and then completed the remaining 80 km of the bike.

I don't typically like the bike route at all because it has many twists and turns and there is nowhere much of an opportunity to sit in an aerodynamic position for a very long time. In some places, there was also cobblestone pavement, which made it very bumpy and prone to puncture. Luckily, I had no punctures.

Indians based in Germany supporting Amit Samarth. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)
Indians based in Germany supporting Amit Samarth. (Pic credit: Amit Samarth)

Run 42.2 km

After the Bike leg, it was time to run a 42.2 km full marathon run. I had to do a 10.5 km loop 4 times and every time I completed the loop, I had to collect the band and do the next one. I was not feeling great and whenever I was trying to push the pace, my inner thighs were going into cramps.

For me, it was a surprise why my body is shivering and cramping in this cold weather. I was baffled, it was kind of completely shut down from the system.

I decided to slow down and walk to every water station and drink water, coca cola, salt water and then run up to the next water station. The progress was slow and humiliating as I have never walked in a marathon.

But it was not my day, so I decided to think like a tortoise, and try to continuously talk to myself, even if it is slow, it's fine, I need to complete this and go back home with a Full Ironman Finishers Medal.

I met the Indian community after 2 loops and they cheered me on a lot and that gave me more reason to finish the full marathon. I told them to hang around as I am having a tough day, I will be slow but I will get this thing done.

I did the third loop, which was the slowest and then the fourth loop. I got my energy back as I told myself this was just another run from Seminary Hills to Home in Nagpur, so I was using a lot of mental strategies to get the job done that day.

Finish line

The 4th loop was nearly done, I met the Indian contingent again and they put the Indian Flag in my hands. That really energized me a lot for the finish. I did a lot of Ironman races but this was the first one where I was running with the Indian flag and waving it, it gave me a big adrenaline rush.

Ironman Hamburg was done in 13 hrs 1 min. It was a difficult pill to swallow looking at the amount of training and preparation I had done for it. But I may have to pay my dues before I get the right results.

The Indian Community in Hamburg took great care of me after the finish. Amit Mairal, Dharmendra Patel, Savvy Bedi and their families and Rajendra Jaiswal made sure that I am warm and my shivering is controlled before we go back home.

They got back all my racing gear and my bike and took me back home and put me to sleep comfortably. I really wawant to thank them for their time and effort as we were meeting for the first time in Hamburg.

I think going from 45 degrees Celsius to 20 degrees maximum temperature and 6 degrees minimum temperature in the night threw my body into some kind of "Flight Mode" rather than being into "Fight Mode".

We need to keep time to acclimatize similarly to both hot and cold conditions. You also need a better understanding of physiology to get up with cold weather conditions when you are suddenly coming from super hot parts of the world.

Amit Samarth's journey is an inspiring one for sure, leave your comments and let us know your thoughts!


Edited by Diptanil Roy
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