DECA Ironman GRIT – Race reflections of 2015 Leon DECA

Posted on 13 November 2015

I am not a fan of lengthy race reports outlining every aspect of an individual’s race.  The real value of race reports is to follow a story, learn about the specific race and hopefully some laughs and learning lessons.

The DECA (1 Ironman per day x 10 days format this year) as many of you know is my favorite and preferred race in the ultra distance endurance-racing scene.   I remember back in 2008 when a good friend mentioned the race to me and started “selling” me on the attraction of the event, why he competes in it almost every year and the magnetism of this special race.   Personally, I would never of thought 7 years later that I would finish my 4th DECA.


This years DECA was in Leon, Mexico and hosted by our great friend Beto Villa who is an experienced DECA athlete.    The DECA started in Mexico and there is a special vibe of Mexico – the food, great people, nice race layout and of course almost always, exceptional weather.    The ongoing saying with so many athletes is “It never rains in Mexico” and no one would of expected the surprise in Leon this year with a hurricane!   The course would consist of 8 loops on the swim, 25 loops on the bike and 21 loops on the run – this is a typical DECA course and no car traffic and held within the park.

The race started like every DECA, nervous energy as the athletes headed to the reservoir for the beginning of the swim.  Tristan (an athlete) played a nice tribute (Mexico national anthem) on the trumpet to kick-start the event.    As normal, everyone races a bit fast on day, are all happy and normally and not a lot of suffering this day.

As day 2 began, there were some discussions about potential bad weather arriving in a few days because of the remnants of a hurricane.   Thank goodness most athletes were sore and a bit groggy on day 2 as it’s one of the toughest days in the 1 x10 DECA and the hurricane discussion was quickly dismissed.

As the race rolled on, all the uncertainty and nervous energy dissipates quickly.   The crews, volunteers and athletes become one family unit with the goal of moving through the day of swimming, biking and running.   A highlight every day for the athletes was waiting to hear what Beto’s remarkable wife Marta and the rest of the volunteers would cook for the day and night.  A variety of food choices is crucial in a long event like the DECA and there was no shortage of food with unique tastes and flavors!    A highlight for every athlete was the 2:00PM pizza.   I remembering riding  loop after loop and waiting for the call from the crews “Pizza is here”.

Over the years, many have asked me which is harder – the continuous DECA or the 1 per day DECA.    I will start with one important piece of advice if you want to finish the DECA – develop GRIT.   I am sure you all know that already, but either format requires a mentality of “grinding”.    There is an incredible amount of suffering and plenty of times when you will feel so bad that stopping creeps into the mind.   In my opinion the 1 x10 is the harder of the two formats.    Many of the reasons include, it’s a daily race and it’s pushing the pace, all three disciplines are required every day and trust me putting on the wetsuit every morning and jumping into cold water is a mental drain.  Lastly, only 10 days is allowed (24 hours per day per Ironman – sounds easy right?!) vs. the continuous DECA allows normally 14 days.   Sleep deprivation believe it or not can become a bigger factor in the 1 x 10 format if you get sick, injured and just have a bad day.  Over the years, I have seen 9-10 hour Ironman athletes struggling time and again in the 1 x10 format and doing the DECA shuffle which is significantly slower than a typical marathon shuffle.

Going back to the race, the hurricane did eventually arrive to Leon and yes it made it very difficult for all the athletes.    Driving rain and wind made the bike and run unpleasant to say the least but the storm continued to motor through quickly and there was hope that after 2 days it would be out of the area.   This is where GRIT comes back into the equation for this race and the mindset was to just get through the two bad days and the weather would be significantly better.   Of course it’s easier to say it vs. actually suffering through the misery.    There is no question, this was some of the worst weather I have experienced in a DECA and the shame was many great athletes dropped out after the first day of the bad weather.   It’s always sad in the morning when the number of athletes getting ready for the swim starts dwindling down.   This was the case after the storm and there were 6 athletes remaining in the DECA.

After the storm, the typical great weather of Mexico returned and we were all back in synch with the daily grinding of the event.   The DECA creates such a bond with the athletes that stay in the race as everyone just suffers together racing every day and it’s not too hard to get to know every aspect of an individual’s personality for 10 days!    The crews, volunteers and athletes all working together is amazing and the best way to understand it is to see it live.   It’s like no other race around, especially if the athlete can get through to day 7, which is always the critical day.   In most cases, if you get through day 7, then you will finish.

Some amazing performances as always, starting with our champion Deca Dave Clamp.   Dave is such a veteran and class guy who knows every aspect of this race and the uniqueness of the bond of DECA finishers.    Dave was superb day in and day out but even Dave had struggles and used his GRIT to overcome some bad times.   Dave’s encouragement and “bantering” to keep athletes in the race is what we love so much about this great guy.    This was Dave’s 5th DECA finish.

Tristan Vincent followed Dave and just had an amazing year – 25 Ironman’s during the racing season and completed every IUTA race except one.   Tristan and Eva his super crew were such a pleasure to be around every day.  We all will never forget the memories of Tristan powering the bike with the sound of the disk wheel and in German yelling to brightly colored fashion of Eva for the various items he needed during the bike and run.    Superbly consistent every day was the common trait for Tristan.    This year was Tristan’s second DECA finish.

Next up was Francis touJouse with a great performance again for his 3rd DECA finish in the last three years and this is clearly his favorite race.   I met Francis in Italy several years ago while I was competing in the Triple DECA and he was doing his first DECA.   Francis always focused, fun guy and he used his experience every day to be very consistent with his daily race times.   Of course Francis is always a highlight at the finish line and awards parties and always includes plenty of laughs.    Our Bordeaux Man!

I was next in line at the finish and overall was very happy with my race and can’t wait for the next DECA!

Jesus Amaya Prado (Chuy) finished his first DECA and at the age of 30 had a remarkable race.  Chuy grinded every single day and pushed through some injuries later into the race.  Chuy had DECA Shin (this is where the sheathing over the shin bone swells and incredibly painful to even stand on.   It happens but with Kinesiotape and a full compression sock the pain can be reduced slightly.)   Chuy’s mentality every single day was exceptional and there was no chance at all in his mind that he would not finish.   For a young guy this was race is an “experienced” based event.   Chuy’s determination every day and great mentality is what got him to the finish line.   I had the privilege to coach this great guy and was so proud watching him finish on day 10.   I know Chuy will be back again for another DECA.

The final finisher, Goulwenn Tristant defined the word GRIT.    Similar to Tristant, Goulwenn raced 6 IUTA races (Double and Triple Iron’s) throughout the year leading up to the DECA.   Goulwenn is a young guy like Chuy and was so great to see him make it to the finish line.   Suffering is an understatement of the daily race for Goulwenn, but he had a strategy and plan that developed throughout the race.  It was a great learning lesson, just make it to the swim the next day no matter what – and even if you have an 18 or 20 hour day.   Goulwenn planned some sleep time after the swim during the bike section and/or prior to the marathon run.   I will never forget seeing Goulwenn sleeping in the grass in the nice Mexico sun!   Watching Goulwenn day after day was inspiring to every single athlete.   After the hurricane when Goulwenn was at the swim start, I absolutely knew there was now way he would not finish!   Incredible effort!


So another DECA in the books and the race was exceptional.   To all the amazing crews, volunteers and our special friend and race director Beto Villa – THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!

I don’t want to forget all the great athletes that competed in the Quintuple, Triple and Single Ironman’s including a Quintuple world record performance by Norbert Luf– CONGRATS to everyone!


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