Anyone who thinks this long distance Ironman triathlon stuff i do is an individual sport has got it all wrong. Having been involved in team sport most of my sporting life triathlon couldn’t be more of a team sport. Any team simply cannot perform with out the support that various people around them give, allowing them to perform on game day.
I am extremely lucky that i am surrounded by people who allow me to endure training and racing. Grandparents coming through early on a Saturday morning to enable both of us getting out for our long bike rides, a coach who has the tough job of juggling both myself and Julies weekly training plans, a wife who not only understands the work that goes into getting to a start line in good shape but can now even tell when i’m due a rest week in my plan purely by judging my tiredness/grumpiness and our son who provides endless lighthearted entertainment distracting us from race nerves or the delays in airports.
We are just back from Copenhagen where i was starting my third full distance Ironman in as many years. My previous races; Florida, Barcelona, had seen an improvement in each discipline but massive learnings were also taken from each. I really enjoy the process of piecing together these long distance races (3.8K Swim, 180K Cycle, 42K Run), analysing what is required to be prepared for each leg, while aiming to constantly improve. For the last point – i have been working with Total Endurance this year. Myself and Coach Ken had sat down at the start of the year and mapped out how best to get to the Copenhagen race in the best condition possible, it has been abundantly clear for a good while that my running is by far my biggest weakness, having crumbled at 20K and 25K in my two previous Ironman races and requires a lot of work.
The couple days we had before the race went by fairly uneventful. The weather wasn’t ideal but i was able to get a practice swim done. After rough seas in Barcelona and the 70.3 Worlds in South Africa last year i was keen for a flat swim. This did not disappoint, they call it a lagoon, but its basically an inlet stretch of sea water protected by sand dunes from the open ocean. We were able to catch up with an old swimming friend of Julies as well. Steven has lived over seas for many years and is based in Dubai these days. He was doing his first full distance and came across with team mates from the Middle East. He can still swim like a fish! its probably 25 years on from when he and Julie were competitive. We were also able to spend some time with club mates from Aberdeen which was good fun. Ruth and Richard Hills were also undertaking their first full distance, we had met them for the first time at 70.3 Mallorca in May. Both had been quick over the 70.3 distance this summer.
Harrison as usual with these event got to do his Ironkids race on the day before. For weeks before hand he’d been telling us that this was the only reason we were going to “cop-en-hagen”. He was third in the 0-3 years group, with help from a pushy mum! Brilliant!
Up early, 4am alarm, quick breakfast in the hotel room (Two days of constant Haribo consumption had been the carb loading choice this time around) and catch the Metro to the Swim start, getting there around 5:30. Got to my bike, pumped the tyres up, loaded bottles and nutrition on and it was ready. The nerves were really kicking in, they had been building all week. Don’t know why, but felt more pressure this time around, maybe from working with Ken and having seen improvements I didn’t want to falter and not seen the gains that had been made. Thankfully after a short warm up swim these disappeared. I was able to catch up with Julie and Harrison before the swim start and went into the 1:06 -1:10 start pen with Ruth. Richard being the uber swimmer was up front with the sub 1 hour guys.
Pretty much went by uneventful, six swimmers go off every six seconds, i got into the water started turning over the arms and fell into a rhythm pretty quickly. Getting clear water for most of the swim, occasionally trying to latch onto quicker swimmers feet as they went past. The swim took us out under two bridges, which made it good for spectators, also good for sighting on. I got out the water just over 1hr 9mins a PB, only just though. I knew i could’ve gone quicker but was concentrating on pacing it easily.
The bike course took us through the centre of Copenhagen before hugging the east coast looping inland and repeating the loop before heading back into the city. Up the coast line the roads were super smooth and reasonably flat which combined to make some fast racing. Ken had a race plan for my bike leg to make sure i didn’t over bike and cook my legs for the run. We were aiming to build the power through each hour of the race. I tried to stay within these limits. The inland section was a lot more twisty and lumpy than i had expected. The roads were narrow and had many blind corners, it was tougher to stay on the plan in this section but i stayed disciplined. Onto the second loop I went a bit harder up the coast and could see the speed building. One major downfall from last years Barcelona race was that i forgot to eat for a good chunk of the bike leg. This year i religoiusly took on calories every 15 mins. Getting through 20 gels and then some on the bike alone. I got to T2 in 5hr 8 mins, a PB by 12 minutes.
By far the weakest of the three legs, i was really nervous about the run, i had no idea how it was going to play the previous year i had completed the 42K in 4hrs 50mins, getting through the first 20k in two hours then grinding to a halt and walking massive sections of the remaining 22k- I didn’t want a repeat of this.
Immediately this year I had decided to walk all the aid stations to take on fluids and fuel. The run was four loops of the city centre taking in all the tourist spots; Opera House, Little Mermaid etc before finishing in front of Parliament. I got through the first half marathon unscathed and was actually enjoying the run. With tens of thousands of supporters lining the course the atmosphere was fantastic, and getting to see Julie and Harrison on each loop made the pain fade, if only briefly.
At 30K i could feel the darkness looming, my pace was dropping and each step was hurting. I started taking on the salted crackers and bananas they had in the aid stations. After a short while i could feel my energy level raising, before i knew it there was only 3k to go and i could hear the music from the finishing chute. Marathon done, 4hr 33min, still not quick or where i want to be, but still a PB and a big improvement from where i’d been. Pretty satisfied with how the day went. time to rest up now and recover.
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