KMD Challenge Copenhagen 14 August 2011
WARNING: This is a very long report . . . . . . and I mean very long! Probably more for me than anyone else.
This was my first attempt at an IRONMAN distance triathlon and I had been taking it seriously, which meant a fair amount of time and dedication. I entered a year ago after badgering/goading from Justin at work. I had visited the website and left it open on my computer for at least three weeks. Over that time the seriousness of the challenge appeared to reduce until the point, on a random day in the office, when I was probably bored I thought, “I know what will fill a few minutes and provide a break from work, I’ll enter an IRONMAN”. I thus went against my better judgement of ‘it will take over my life’ and ‘I will obsess’, and vowed to train as a normal person and see how hard it really was . . .
The other main factor was Em’s reaction when I slipped the possibility of entering into a conversation over dinner. “Why not, Sophie (her sister) lives in CPH so we can visit her, and your training will encourage me to train ahead of the wedding . . .”. With the pre-approval it was all systems go!
Training in earnest started at the end of the rugby season, when I could actually dedicate some of my weekends to Tri training, and from that point on it was almost all about the IRONMAN. By the end of July, I couldn’t wait to get to CPH and get the event over with. I had put so much effort into the whole thing it was like doing two jobs at the same time . . . . However, I loved the physical aspects of the training and have some great memories, mainly of early mornings:
· Interval sessions round RP – Go! . . . . . . EASY!;
· HHH (Highgate Hill Hell) – hill reps up and down Highgate Hill West, trailing after Marcus and Darren (pretty similar to the interval sessions actually);
· Sunrises over Paddington Rec while sprint training with Em;
· Long early morning runs round RP, Hyde Park, Green and St James’ Park and along the canals nr home – even squeezed in a 3hr run in Munich;
· Swim sessions at UCS and with TriLondon;
· the Hampton court swim (my first swim over 3km);
· getting so cold swimming back from an island with Em in Chimsee (big lake in Bavaria) that my arms and legs started to cramp and i almost died/cried depending on whether its me or Em telling the story – n.b always check to see if the water from a lake comes from a glaciar!;
· London to Brighton and rtn with my brother (my first 100miler); riding chain gang back from London to Cambridge with Guy and his mates at London Phoenix; getting p*ssed on and cutting a ride to Kent short with Marcus, Naomi and Roz; 100mile TT round RP starting at 3am on a Wednesday morning – thanks for that one Justin . . .
but mentally it took a lot out of me, I couldn’t miss a training session, I had to get enough sleep, didn’t want to drink, I had become obsessed . . . . and I wanted the damn thing over with . . . I wanted my life back!
1. To Finish;
2. Overall time under 12 hrs;
3. Bike time under 6hrs;
4. Run time under 4hrs;
5. Take it all in and try to enjoy it.
Flew out on the Friday night after work. Unfortunately the flight was delayed, as was our luggage at the other end, which meant we didn’t get in until 2am. Not the start I wanted to the weekend. As with many things over the past few months I was stressing about not getting enough sleep. Still, i took my 8 hrs sleep, had breakfast and registered in town 30 mins before the cut-off point. Had a relaxed coffee with a friend also competing and then set off to build my bike and fill the multi coloured bags with the right stuff.
After an initial minor panicthe bike went back together relatively quickly . . . well it was quicker than getting the damn thing into the box a couple of days before.. (this was the first time I had packed and unpacked a bike). We then had to leave to get to the bike check-in before it closed at 18:30. Cycled down to the metro to test the bike out and the gears were OK(ish). Out of the metro at 18:00, plenty of time, still others on their way to check-in. Everyone had their bikes and their blue run bags . . .BLUE RUN BAG!!!!! F*ck I had forgotten my run bag . . . . key massive panic and over stress. We rang Micheal (my pseudo brother in law and he very kindly agreed to cycle it down. I was ever so grateful as this was a c30min cycle for someone who had done their first ever triathlon the day before with no training what so ever and he had been given a time frame of 30mins).
So the bag is on its way, let’s just rack the bike . . . and see if the mechanic will look at my OK(ish) gears. They are closing as I am too late . . . so I have a go myself . . . . . bottom line is I have no idea what I am doing . . .gears are now screwed . . . . panic sets in again. Blue run bag has arrived and flung over the fence to me as I run with my bike back to the mechanic (who has cleared all his stuff and getting into his van) and beg him to help. In the end he uses my tools as I hold my bike up for him to fix the gears. He only made a few minor adjustments but they worked again and the mental meltdown receded again . . . . all was ok again. Now to head home for pasta and a good night’s sleep. Got the first, and not so much the second, but that was to be expected with a combination of the nerves and the shear amount of pasta that I ate . . .
Up at 4:55, big breakfast of museli, honey, bananas, peanut butter and jam bagel, all washed down with coffee to wake me up and help ease things on their way . . . ;-)
Arrive at T1 with not a lot of time to spare but there wasn’t much to do. Queue for the loo, put my RED and GREEN bags in the appropriate places and don my wetsuit. Gave Em a hug, posed for a few photos and waited for the horn. . . . finally the nerves had gone, there was nothing to do now, just exercise, there was nothing else I could do to improve or hinder my event. It was time to stop thinking, mulling, imagining and just DO!!!
The horn went and I and a large majority of the wave wandered into the water and set off on the 3.8km swim. I found I spent most of the swim on my own just to the side of the main pack. I know that drafting saves energy or speeds up your time but I have yet to find someone that works for me as I always seem to swim into them from behind or convince myself that they can’t swim in a straight line and head off on my own again ( . . . . clearly given I swam on my own and not in the pack its them that can’t swim straight and not me!!!). I found a rhythm and kept swimming and I rather enjoyed it. I could actually hear Em cheering from the bridges and given the anti-clockwise nature of the loop and my breathing to the right I could actually see her tracking me from the banks – so I threw a few waves in along the way. I was out of the water in a time of 1:19 which was pretty much what I had anticipated and I felt good, so I was happy and you know what I was enjoying this J!
T1 passed without a hitch, took my time, dried my feet, socks and cycle shorts on. Toilet stop and off on the bike to cheers from Em (Jack and Lucy) 9mins
The bike nearly went wrong as soon as I got on. Micheal gave me such a . . .what can only be described as some form of primeval roar, that I nearly fell off, but I managed to stay on and was away. The bike course over all was brilliant. It was pretty flat and fast and the “slope” was a nice respite and chance to, if you wanted to, get out of the saddle. The wind was also kind to us. Justin had done a reci of the course a few months ago and came back with stories of great winds and struggling to break 30km/h etc etc.
I took on board a lot of advice on race nutrition and pacing from people and all the books I had bought. . I made sure I ate at regular intervals and I ate all the food I had eaten before on my long training rides. I actually ate a lot of solid foods, as mentally it’s what I hunger after so I have found from experience it’s what I always reach for and goes down ok. So at a minimum a bar and a gel every hour along with energy drinks. The feed stations were really good and really easy to collect whatever you wanted without needing to stop (first time I had used a feed station like this so didn’t know what to expect). Started taking on the bananas they were handing out and these went down a treat. I got handed a muesli bar with a banana at one station and could hear all the advice “don’t change what you know; only eat what you are used to etc etc” so I considered chucking it. However, anyone who knows me knows I am not one to waste food so I tucked into it and found it to be really nice so had a few more later on . . . .
I was making good time and was averaging over 30km/h, which would see me home in the 6hrs I was aiming for. The first half went very smoothly and I was really enjoying the ride. Em and Sophie cycled out to the turning point and I saw them dead on the 3hrs I had predicted. I could hear Thomas’s comments in my head that an Ironman is just a nice day out (bit of a dip and then a ride) right up until the run. I was in complete agreement up until 5hrs into the cycle when I started to get saddle sore and could feel myself getting a bit tired. Still I pretty much stayed in the tuck for the majority of the cycle and in the second half started catching people who had passed me before and were sitting up and looking more tired than I was feeling. It was at this point that the madness of the 100mile TT round RP in the tuck started to look more and more like a genius idea. Had I not been in and tried out the TT position at that point, for that length of time. I too would have been sitting up and needing to work harder to keep the same pace.
Overall I only averaged 126bpm for the cycle which is slap bang in my cycling Zone 1 and so I felt comfortable, wasn’t killing myself and hoped I would feel fresh for the run. The support was brilliant all round the course with families moving their entire living room or lounges out to the side of the road to watch and cheer.
Coming back into CPH I noted I needed to ensure I kept the pace up to get my 6hrs and overtook a lot of people who were noticeable easing off now that we were back into CPH – mentally the cycle was over for them, but there was still over 5km to go. Raced into T2 at 5:58:59 so had got in under 6hrs = TICK.
My bike was whisked away from me, my run bag handed to me and I was into the tent. Off with the cycle shorts, top and gloves and I was ready. Tried to find a toilet in T2 but to no avail . . . . didn’t want an additional toilet stop impacting my first marathon time. Ah well just need to run faster.
Kicked off on the run at a pace, completing the first two laps (half marathon) in c1:40. But I was loving it, I was almost dancing to the music at points. No-one was overtaking me and I was having to step people and zip through gaps at the tighter sections. I was sticking to water and alternate coke and energy drinks at each aid station – plus a sponge under the hat. I passed Justin at a rate of knots (he was a lap ahead) but he admitted to doing the maths just to check I wouldn’t catch him J.
The run was flat and along the water and through some of the key scenic areas of CPH. I had two separate groups cheering me on plus a few randoms cheering on the TriLondon top (BadTri and Thames Turbo were also out in force).
I took on some bananas and kept reaching for the coke. My splits started to edge out with my pacing slipping from 4m30 to 5mins etc. Legs started to feel heavy and could feel a big blister on my left foot. But the major concern was my insides, which were churning. All was ok in the end but the advice from a friend of mine to focus on nutrition, lube and Imodium had me worried that all may not be well. Eventually the concern ‘passed’ and then I just had to make it to the end. My heart rate was pretty fixed in the mid 130s to low 140s (which is again Zone1 for my running), so I wasn’t too concerned that my pace was slowing slightly. I had never run a marathon and didn’t know what to expect or what would happen if I gave it a nudge. Having watched ‘The Crawl’ and other triathlon horror movies on youtube the night before, I didn’t want to ‘hit the wall’ by pushing too hard. I was well within my targets so I just kept on going. On the last lap I was becoming unable to stomach even the apples and stayed with coke or a mouthful of water gearing up for the final push to the finish. With a few 100m to go a ThamesTurbo relay team sprinted past and that was the trigger, it was time for the big sprint finish. I kicked, and then kicked again and then kicked again and i was flying. I nearly hit the railing as someone weaved ahead of me in the finishing channel. I could hear the announcer saying words like and “here comes Tim Cook putting in a sprint” followed by “looks like he has a lot of energy left to burn” as I kicked again. I crossed the finish line at full pace and I mean high knees, pumping arms, 50m sprint training full pace. . . . 3:41:18 total time 11:12:20 and a big smile on my face!
Quickly found Em to give her a big hug and thank her for the final cheers on the finishing straight which I failed to acknowledge in my sprint…..
It was done, I was done, I had completed it (within myself) but I had achieved everything I wanted. Time for a shower, the finishers t-shirt and medal, and then bread, beer, pork pie, pasta, pizza and red wine J
Loved the vast majority of the race. Last hour of the cycle hurt (will need to consider different saddle or bike fitting to prevent the saddle soreness – or just ‘man the . . .’ ) and a brief section of the run hurt but other than that enjoyed it all the way round. I enjoyed the swim and I paced myself well on the bike, maybe too well, [generally I post rough positioning times for the three disciplines of 75th percentile, 50th and 25th, however my bike was down at the same level as my swim – too easy or just longer than I was used too????] and had energy left in the tank throughout the run. How much I will never know, but there was certainly some. A mate of mine from Patagonia commented that I looked better at the end of an Ironman than I did on any number of days of pulling sleds across the Patagonian icecap. And I am minded to agree, this was not the hardest thing I have ever done . . . Or was it and was I just better prepared?!?!?!?
I achieved all my targets and had the added pleasure of scaring Justin into doing mental mathematics on the run to try and figure out if I would catch him. Had a big sprint finish and had a mountain of pizza and pasta afterwards. A great event, extremely well organised with loads of support from the locals, a great day out and a superb experience I will keep with me forever. And in fact a lot of the changes I made for the event will stay with me – healthier eating, more cycles and more swimming and of course training with TriLondon. But onto the big question . . .
Will I? Won’t I?
I have long said that I won’t be doing another IRONMAN (sorry just like putting it in capitals), not because of the event itself but because of what it took out of me to get to the start line. Done one, got the time, got the t-shirt, got the medal and now time to move on . . . .
I like the HIM distance and have already signed up for the Mallorca 70.3 next May and will be signing up as soon as I can for some punishment and childhood memories in the Wensleydale HIM next August (just seen Naomi’s race report from Norway and that is now firmly on my radar too . . .). My other aim for next summer is to continue with the cycling, which I found I really enjoyed and complete Le Marmotte. So, throw in a potential half and full marathon (want to post a proper time now) and a few sprints and I think I have found enough to keep me out of mischief for next year. So not yet . . .
But ever???? I asked Em all along not to let me do another one and she kept saying she didn’t want me to do another one, because I became an obsessive nightmare. But within 24hrs of completing the event she has said it’s OK to do another one in a few years, especially as then I will probably be able to cross the finish line with kids in tow (as long as they don’t prevent me getting a time that is ;-) . . .). On the other hand the permission may have had something to do with the diamonds I gave her as a thank you for all the moral support, encouragement, understanding and actual support. All of without which I am sure I wouldn’t have made it.
My own view is certainly not in the next few years. But as it sinks in and my rose tinted memory kicks in I love it all the more. I have barely stopped thinking or talking about it and I was really quite sad to be leaving CPH after such an amazing weekend. Was it all worth it? Will have to let that question sink in some more and at the very least I want to leave it a few years so that I can continue to improve my bike and target my swimming technique so I could come back and attack a better target . . . . so never say never . . . . . but for now onto the next big adventure our wedding in October J oh and two Olympic distances in September.