Icon Livigno Xtreme triathlon, 3 months have gone by since the 3rd of September. It was a new experience for me, rich of moments, sensations and introspective searches. Even now I find myself looking inside me with a intense curiosity. Icon is not only a triathlon race on the ironman distances ( km3,8 swimming, km180 cycling and km42,195 running) but a proper challenge, because of the significant difference in altitude on the bike and run fraction.
A challenge that has created in me, who could live it fully from beginning to end, a sort of nostalgic dependence. My role on that epic day was only to assist an athlete and friend of mine , Lorenzo Bernabè, who I call Lorenz. Mine was a very little role, I was only part of his support team.
And before it started I used to tell myself: “I only have to follow him, check that nothing slows him down, give him food and support him” I hadn’t understood anything, I had simplified what I did not know at all. But getting near to this perfect machine, made of amazing people (the organization and athletes) creates in you a new willingness, a jump forward, a very deep way of being and believing in it. That’s why before I talked about a sort of introspection.
And this is how this short story begins, that I want to share with anyone who is keen on reading and understanding it, or to anyone who just want to laugh at my grammatical mistakes captured in a very limited vocabulary.
First Part: Swimming
At 4:00 am the alarm clocks goes off, it’s is time to start.
It’s rare for me to wake up easily early in the morning, with lucidity and a fast response time. It might be the altitude, Livigno is at 1800 meters above sea level or maybe it is the fresh air that comes in through the slightly open window door, I do not know. In a flash Basso and I, who is also part of the support team, are ready. Lorenz, in the room next to ours, is definitely ready (I discovered only after that the evening before he slept maybe just half an hour and did not touch food).
However, having loaded the car the day before with everything needed, we are ready to go to Livigno lake. A few minutes and the scenario that presents itself to our eyes is one that I’ve rarely seen. On the grass next to the water of the lake there are braziers, a changing area and a swarm of people wearing everything. I remember athletes still dressed with normal clothes; someone wearing fleece or wool cap. It’s cold and I, as usual, find myself too little dressed with only shorts, a shirt and a too light fleece.
All the organizers wear a blue sweatshirt and move like an army: someone goes towards the music, others support the barriers for bikes, others are frantically back and forth from one end of the race field. Everything must be perfect; I have a flash memory of a cocker puppy named Inès who walked around athletes in the dark. It is now 5:30 am, the lake is dark but the athletes do not seem intimidated. For me it is a little bit uneasy, but wearing their swimming suit, glasses and bright bracelets, they are ready to start their Icon Livigno Xtreme Triathlon.
There is tension, who knows what emotions, feelings are flowing in each of them. Lorenz is there; I remember I met his gaze, detached from everything as if he knew what he was going to face. In the background, in addition to the wood crackling in the braziers there is some music; a short piece that is always repeated, almost like a drumbeat of American Indians before the battle. And it is accompanied by a melody that inspires awe. I’m happy, but at the same time worried. The race starts, I see athletes in the water going away and then disappearing. The only lights that I see are those of the two boats that accompanied the swimmers to their destiny.
I can’t to put into words what goes through my head. Around me I hear people talking in Italian, English and other languages I do not understand. We warm up around the fires; we are all in the same situation, waiting to see some signs of life coming from the lake. Slowly the sunrise makes its way through the water. The lake becomes less obscure thanks to the light; it is actually such a beautiful picture that captures my attention hypnotically. The organizing team is ready on the green mat that accompanies the exit from the water. The first athlete advances on the placid waters with long and effective strokes. He is called Hidde, a Dutch guy, who is quickly already in T1 and runs to his bike accompanied by his support team. A few minutes later the second one arrives, and it’s about 6.30 am. The third and first among the Italians to go out of the water is Lorenz. I have to awaken from that contemplative mood I was in and quickly adapt to the situation. Removing the wet suit and getting ready take a bit of time. Then Lorenz runs to his bike wearing the number 5 and with the helmet on. He leaves the transition area and then I see him riding away. I understand that this is only the beginning and that to help Lorenz properly I have to delete the thousand thoughts mixed in the head and concentrate with all my strengths on what I have to do.
Second part: the Bicycle
A big breakfast and then off to our duty
Before following by car Lorenz who goes towards Forcola di Livigno and then turn right to Bernina, we stop at the hotel for a quick and rich breakfast. The night before, Vale (Valentina), Lorenz’s girlfriend, made all the food necessary for the duration of the race. 195 km are a lot, it takes time. The day is perfect from a weather point of view. As soon as we get to the race course we see athletes cycling on the road, anyone on his own. They all deserve applause and support, they are not just cycling for a position or to exceed themselves, they are testing themselves because this is also ICON.
We go past Bernina, in the direction of St. Moritz, we carry on towards Zernez and only at the start of the Fuorm Climb we manage to reach Lorenz. I am surprised because Lorenz’s first words are “ I was a bit worried for you as I didn’t see you arriving!” In agreement with Lorenz, we carry on for a short distance, then we stop to wait for him before moving again. When we get to Prato allo Stelvio he says: “Andre the real challenge starts here”. The Stelvio with its 48 hairpin bends scares, it is a hard climb, it is necessary to use the energise well, to balance them in a perfect way. And above all there is still an abyss from the Stelvio to complete l’Icon Xtreme Triathlon di Livigno. Once we pass the peak in the direction of Bormio, before facing the Foscagno Pass, the tension in me reduces a little. The cycling is almost over. In this last climb Lorenz doesn’t seem to be suffering, he carries on with his own rhythm. We get to T 2 at Tre Palle. Vale and Basso help Lorenz to get changed, I wait for them together with Attilio and Pepe, Lorenz’s dog and the mascot of the support team.
Third part: The run
I do not exactly remember exactly how long Lorenz took to finish the bike fraction, I think it was about ten hours. Lorenz start running with a good pace; his strides are not too long, his posture is very upright, come on, he looks fine. The route includes the descent from Tre Palle towards Livigno and the lake, part of the cycle path and then up to Carosello3000. I can only imagine the difficulties that Lorenz is facing and how much will he needs, now more than ever, to reach the finish line at the top.
At this altitude perfect physical training, healthy living, proper diet aren’t enough; at this point your head takes over, your mental strength is needed to accomplish what you believe. You can’t finish ICON without willpower. The desire to believe that I have seen in all these people is for me a lesson of life to be learned by heart. We reached Livigno with the flagship, a bit in a hurry preparing to take the cable car that takes us to Carosello, to the finish line. It is just Vale, Pepe and I, because according to the rules athletes require an escort to act as support for the last 15 km . The chosen one among us is Basso, who hasn’t had a lot of preparation for the race. I remember a statement from Basso: ‘… when Lorenz arrives, he will be so tired that I’ll have to wait!’ A more wrong forecast could not have been possible. We arrive at Carosello 300 at around 5.30 pm. I think that a tranquillizer wouldn’t work on me as I am so concentrated in just one single thought: “ Come on Lorenz, you are almost here”. It is a long wait not only for me but for all the people who are there waiting their own friend, a member of their family, their own son or just an acquaintance. At this point nature gives us a beautiful sunset: A red sky that foretells a wonderful sight. At around 6.30pm the first athlete crosses the finish line. He is the dutch Hidde Bekuis with a time of 13 hrs and 13’, the French Vuylsteke arrives after 46’. After 1 h e 26’ the Italian Cristiano finishes. But the date with the strongest emotions is still to come, at least for me. At 9.30 pm, 9th amongst 53 athletes, with 2hr and 46’ behind the first athlete and with an overall time of 16h00’58’’ Lorenzo Bernabè crossed the finish line. Lorenz just made it! I can’t deny that even now I get emotional but not as much as that moment when everything stopped. A challenge amongst the hardest ones, where man faces his own limits, where man gets in contact with his own “I” and his own nature and discover countless abilities that he has got.
Thanks to Lorenzo Bernabè who allowed me to be part of it, to all the athletes and to who managed to organise lCON LIVIGNO XTREME TRIATHLON.
Andrea Lucchi Tuelli, Support Team Lorenzo Bernabè, Icon 2016