A series of journal entries for non-professional triathletes seeking to compete at a high level while balancing the demands of being an entrepreneur.

written by Urmas Peiker

A Brief Triathlete Origin Story

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” — Isaac Asimov

In 2013, my good friend Jaanus Juss convinced me to start training for a triathlon. Ironically, this also was the same year Funderbeam was incorporated (you can read Funderbeam’s origin story in our 2016 Annual Review). Initially, I was reluctant to accept Jaanus’ challenge. Completing a full-distance triathlon had been on my bucket list but I wasn’t confident it was the right time. Not because I wasn’t sure I could finish the challenge, it was more about whether or not I could perform to the best of my abilities. Simply completing a goal has never been enough to satisfy my nature. I wanted to finish the full distance well under 10 hours — and in this particular situation, I questioned whether I had enough time and knowledge to prepare to achieve this aim.

Fortunately for me, Jaanus was training under the tutelage of professional IRONMAN, Marko Albert. However, Marko wasn’t too keen on accepting fresh greenhorns, understandably so as his priority at the time was his own training.

But I persisted and told Jaanus, “I’ll do it, but only if Marko agrees to coach me.” Because Jaanus is a great friend, a day after I declared this ultimatum, I was in. I suspect Jaanus may have blackmailed Marko because it shouldn’t have been so easy to get a coach this accomplished. But perhaps the world was trying to tell me something. Because since that day, triathlons have been a significant part of my core and have served as a great on-going challenge.

At L’Etape du Tour in France the same summer when Funderbeam was incorporated (2013)

Over the years, Marko has become a very close friend and has been the cornerstone of my development. I owe him greatly for my early and current achievements. Learning anything new first requires the ability to consume information effectively and efficiently, and in many cases this process is accelerated when you have a great teacher or mentor. Additionally, I was pushing myself to constantly read academic and scientific articles, watch videos, and at times bother Marko with questions on how to improve.

Obviously not everyone will have access to a professional IRONMAN, but I recommend seeking an accomplished mentor to help you navigate the training and preparation process.

If you’re ever in Tallinn, Estonia, we potentially could arrange a team training session with Marko. Stay connected and message me if you are coming to town.

As part of my 2017 process, I began April with one week of training in Mallorca, Spain (this is what I’d consider “vacation”). In addition, I spent one additional week in Lanzarote, Spain with Marko during his final week of training before he was to compete in the Taupo (New Zealand) IRONMAN. The last week of training before a major event typically is the most brutal, so there was some significant suffering on my end whilst training with a professional in peak condition. But I think the adage what does not kill you makes you stronger can be applied here.

What you need to know now was at the end of these two weeks, Marko suggested I sign up for the Lanzarote IRONMAN in May. The training in Spain would help me to know what to expect in terms of terrain, wind, etc. when later competing in Lanzarote. I imagine it is Marko’s wisdom of experience that saw an opportunity and as a good student, I trusted his advice and registered for the event. Here is an excerpt of a update I shared on Facebook shortly after the race:

My preparation was far from needed I had already forgotten what it takes from you to cover the full course under ‘normal circumstances’. The swim was a civil war from the beginning and it did not ease up for the second lap either. Had to use breaststroke kick a lot to keep the predators away. Time 1:04

The bike started with high emotions (new super fast Canyon) riding downhill and downwind. This deceptive euphoria faded quickly and I wanted desperately quit from the half distance every km until the end. Wind, mountains, wind… downhill was always shorter than uphill. Time 5:31

When I eventually started running, I was sure that I have fallen all the way back. My brother managed to cheer me up a bit by saying there were not so many ahead of me. So, I just kept running. Pouring cold water on myself at every aid station and counting every step. Time 3:02

After finishing the organiser who was personally greeting every finisher asked: “Are you happy?” I could not express my contentment at that moment, but he was right — the pain had passed… Third in my (old) age group and a slot for my 2nd try at an Ironman World Championship, Kona (Hawaii) confirmed for this October is the result.

There are many who made this suffering doable: Jaanus Juss, Marko Albert, Meelis Peiker, Tanel Taal, Valdur Raak, Jüri Käen, Chris, colleagues, friends, supporters… and the list goes on.

The final part to note, which already has been implicitly and explicitly implied, is that in order to take full advantage of having a great teacher, you have to be an excellent student. This means to trust, to listen, and to apply teachings with a concentrated effort — this lesson has served me well both in physical competition and in business. Simply put, since I have an elite coach, I need to focus on being a worthy pupil.

In particular, this support and focus is (I think) why on October 14, 2017, I competed in my second IRONMAN World Championship. Competing in Hawaii is a dream of many, and I’ve been fortunate to live that dream twice. My fortune (in large part) is due to having an excellent support system as well as being opportunistic to take the necessary steps in order to put myself in position to benefit from lucky circumstances. This happened to me first in 2014, after an IRONMAN event in Florida, and then again in 2017 while in Lanzarote. What a privilege and experience.

My support system does go beyond Jaanus and Marko, but they were an essential and extremely influential part of my triathlete origins. (Similar to how Kaidi was at TedX Tallinn in 2013, in regards to my Funderbeam origins.) But as I mentioned in the introduction to this series, the demands of juggling intense training with entrepreneurship require a support system as wide as the English Channel. Hopefully, as I continue to share my experiences I am able to give everyone justifiable recognition. Your network really is the difference maker and ultimately, can be your greatest resource.

If you want to learn from a professional like Marko, why not learn from him directly. He is actively training triathletes and shares information regularly online. You can follow or reach him on: InstagramFacebook, or his website.

For the other professionals trying to balance their work and training schedule, I’d be interested to hear how and why you started competing?

Comment below or reach out via TwitterLinkedIn, or train with me on Strava.