Lukasz you've just competed in your first Ironman triathlon – how are you feeling?
I'm feeling great. It's Wednesday morning as I'm writing this and I'm almost back to normal. I'll be heading for a ride on my bike after lunch. I'm guessing my internal engine will be exhausted for a while still but I'm planning to slowly ease back into it.
An Ironman triathlon involves a 2.4-mile (3.8km) swim, a 112-mile (180km) bicycle ride and a full marathon of 26.2miles (42.2km) and is recognised as one of the most formidable endurance tests around. How did you decide to take on such a challenge – have you got a history of doing triathlons?
Not only haven't I got history of such challenges but also that was the longest I've ever swam, or cycled or run period. I needed a goal to keep my fitness in check, I wanted to aim high, very high in fact.
And why? – what was your motivation to tackle this?
I have said this many times before, with photography it's very important to bring something extra to your craft, add a deeper knowledge of another discipline. There's an assignment in the pipeline that will require from me to be 'physically and mentally flexible' well beyond average. It's difficult to train for that, and in order to try I had to break all my rules and step outside of my comfort zone. My whole career has been a huge learning process and now I know that it's been the main driving force behind it. I want to expand my personal envelope.
You're a busy man, very much in demand workwise as a cameraman, how did you find time to prepare and train for the event?
That's one question I get asked a lot. It's not easy and that's the whole point. Ironman was an exercise beyond physical exercise. It was a mental battle and struggle to find time, motivation and most importantly not to loose sight of the goal. If you look at a standard training plan for an IM event it's something like this - Monday (swim, bike), Tuesday (run), Wed (swim), Thursday (bike), Friday (swim, run), Sat (bike), Sun (rest day).
I'm on the road 250+ days/year, I might be in a jungle or in the mountains for five/seven days at a time. The nature of my work gives me a very high level of base fitness and during trips I do what I can to stay fit. But the bottom line is that every time I would go away I would loose fitness and train in between trips to get some of this fitness back. Running was the easiest, keeping bike fit and swimming enough was the biggest hurdle.
Some people talk about immersing themselves in the journey rather than thinking about the end as a way of getting through a really long challenge – is that something that rings true to you?
Absolutely. If there's one lesson I take away from my Ironman it is just that - being in the moment. Focusing on the job, executing your race strategy and nutrition plan.
Also, if you're doing an Ironman you might as well smile along the way and enjoy it - you've paid a lot of money to be there!
Do you think there is a part of your personality that likes 'jumping in at the deep end' to take on the biggest challenges?
Yes! That's me in a nutshell. Middle ground is a waste of time. I thrive when the pressure is on. I'm impatient by nature - it drives Ulrika crazy!
As I stood on the start line, I knew this will be the longest swim, bike and run ever in my life! Not combined, ever! And I loved the thrill. I'd done all my preparation, I had all the kit and I had a quiet confidence that I could finish and perhaps even race and surprise myself.
Did you have any 'moments' during the race...?
First 500m of the swim was mentally tough, bit like being in a washing machine and I had a moment of doubt. I settled down properly into the race after 1000m. The bike was just a joy and a ton of fun! Last 60 km was tougher than I expected but mostly because I hadn't recced that part of the course. On the run, I had to pull back 37km into the marathon. I started to feel exhausted and I walked the 3km before running again the final two to the finish line.
What were your feelings as you neared the finish line?
I nearly cried, I'm not afraid to say it. I was emotional and I cannot explain why. The atmosphere in town as you run the final kilometre is absolutely phenomenal!
How would you compare the challenge of an Ironman with other difficult things you've taken on?
Firstly, there's no objective danger in doing an Ironman. It's a mental battle but purely about your physical performance. It's highly unlikely that you will die doing an Ironman. Also, quite often I have additional work pressures when I'm out performing on an assignment. Here, I had one job to do - get to the finish line and in the process give everything I had in the tank.
To some it might seem a stretch but do you think some of the strengths and skills you've built up photographing and filming in challenging places equipped you to succeed in the Ironman?
I don't think it's a stretch. Being a commercial photographer is full of unknowns and anxiety. Over the last ten years I have developed a repertoire of coping mechanisms on how to deal with those feelings. I was pretty relaxed on the day, especially after 1000m into the swim.
…and do you think having completed the event, some of the things you've learnt doing the Ironman might help with your work?
Perhaps? In the process I have learnt that my lack of self-discipline is my biggest weakness. I'm disciplined with things I'm good at or things that come easy to me. With everything else I have a tendency to procrastinate.
Time will tell if I will be able to implement this lesson. It wasn't my last Ironman, that's for certain.