TALLINN - ESTONIA : I did my first human triathlon four years ago. It was tough. But not as tough as the one over the weekend, when I competed in one of the few triathlons that have taken place during the pandemic.

Not only did I have to adjust my training around a lockdown [and the closure of swimming pools], but I also did it with flights being canceled and quarantine rules changing.

Just being able to show up at the start line was a major hurdle almost on par with 2.4 mile open-water swim, the 112 mile bike ride and the 26.2 mile run.

The World Triathlon Corporation, which owns The Ironman brand, has canceled or rescheduled The to 2021 almost all of its 159 events. The famous world championship race in Kona, Hawaii, in October was cancelled for the first time since its inception in 1978.

''IT was mind boggling preparing for this race when all your friends and the tri community keep telling you the race will not happen,'' said Irene Megalena Alisjhabana, a schoolteacher in the Netherlands, Tallinn was her fifth Ironman.

The race. postponed one recent Saturday, was the first Ironman race to take place since March 15. It required plenty of adjustments because of the pandemic.

Athletes were given individual time slots for registration and gear check-in. Their identities and check-in times were tracked electronically; health information was taken, the race briefing was provided via  YouTube' and the traditional pre race pasta party was canceled.

At aid stations volunteers wore gloves and face masks, at the finish line, medals normally handed to the competitors were put in bags that athletes had to collect themselves.

''All the volunteers were with masks and gloves, which limited contact,'' Alisjahbana said. ''But their most appreciated cheers and positive energy came across those barriers.''

At registration, organizers scanned athletes' temperatures, looked over their health questionnaires and handed out face masks. If the temperature was normal and the questionnaire was cleared, the athlete could proceed.

The restrictions had some side benefits, like an easier to navigate goods-and-services exposition.

''With limited athletes getting their race pack, the expo was never crowded like it usually would be,'' Alisjahbana said. ''I felt safe throughout the process and thought the measures put in place worked out well.''

Under normal circumstances, more than 3,000 athletes, supporters and staff members gather before the swim start. This year, that wasn't an option.

The organizers had moved another race, a half Ironman that had been scheduled for June in another city in Estonia, to Tallinn on the same day as the full Ironman, for a total of 1,507 participants from 50 countries.

Several accommodations were made for my race, including staggering the swim start to reduce crowding, though there was some not socially distant bunching up in the transition area for bicycle leg.

Then again, just being in the course was something of an achievement.

Until two weeks before the event, people traveling to Estonia were asked to quarantine for two weeks if their country had more than 16 infections per 100,000 people. Leading up to the race, the list of ''red'' countries included Britain, Germany, Sweden, all of which traditionally send athletes to the Tallinn race.

The World Students Society thanks author Nick Busca.


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