June 18 it was finally it was time for the year’s first major triathlon! Borås middle distance (1,9 km swim, 90 km bike, 21 km run), which was organized for the first time this year by Jonas Colting. Short summary of the track with swimming in Almenäs lake just outside Borås on a two lap course with an Australian exit after 1000m, cycling on an extremely hilly 45 km turn lane with a total of 1000 meters of altitude ascent (probably the toughest middle distance bicycle course in Sweden) and running on a flat 7 km three course loop.
Given that the competition is only 3 weeks ahead of Ironman 70.3 Jönköping, which is one of my number one priority races this season, Borås ended up being in the middle of the most intense training period before peaking for Jönköping. Therefore, I had set myself to do the race as a pure training race. Therefore, I initially had no huge expectations on time and placements, but viewed it more like a perfect opportunity to test all the race equipment, energy plan etc etc. Buut, you know how it is .. Checking out the startlist in the week before I realized that I might have a pretty decent chance to get a good placement and then – of course – my competitive nerve set in. 😉 Just as it should be, in other words.
Week up to the race weather forecast shifted dramatically. Everything from sunny skies to absolute pouring rain. Borås is known to be Sweden’s wettest city, so my hopes for great weather were not huge. As expected Saturday also came with overcast weather, rain and air temperature of about 14 degrees celsius when we got up at 5 am. Packed the car, had breakfast breakfast and then heading of at 6 am. The nervousness increased gradually as we approached Borås, while rain showers followed each other. When we arrived it was just to sign up, pick up my number tag (26) and time chip, fix the last things on the bikes and then set up the transition area. Was a little short on time for changing into my wetsuit and somewhat stressed out. I’m not normally particularly distracted and forgetful before races (or haven’t been in the past at least), but felt totally confused and couldn’t think straight at all this morning. Hopefully a good sign that competing is getting more important to me and meaning I focus better on racing itself – but who knows? Missed the race briefing due to time deficit and stress, but fortunately by now I have done this a few times before and know that things tend to work out anyway as long as you have read the starting pm. If nothing else, you can always ask one of the other contestants if you missed something really important … 🙂 Good thing there are so many friendly and helpful people in this sport!
Had just managed to get into my wetsuit, smeared Vaseline all over and started moving towards the transition area to perhaps hear the last of the race briefing when I realized that I forgot the pulse band. A little stressed and panicked (one becomes so sick sickly addicted to all this electronics … chest strap, watch, power meter .. Sigh! It’s not really either wise or healthy I know, but somehow this workout / race feels almost nonexistent if you can not go home and scrutinize all average speeds, average effects, distances, cadences, elevations etc etc afterwards .. Luckily I got help from a supporter of the club who helped me get the pulse strap on without me seeing to take the whole wetsuit of. That said, I usually do not tend to be so absent-minded, but the brain was completely blank this morning.
Just managed to get enough time for a pretty decent warm up in the water before start. According to Jonas Colting was the ”air temperature of 16 degrees and roughly the same in the water” – did not feel so when I stuck my toes in the water, I can say! But after a few minutes the body was numb enough so that I would not feel that it was cold anymore. Then it was finally time to start. The entire competition class (men’s and women’s (senior + master)) started simultaneously from land.
I started in roughly third row and was quickly into the water. A bit chaotic initially when I ended up in the middle of a group of three guys who swam with both uneven speed and direction. Had a little trouble finding my place and rhythm until I swam over one of them and came a little further out towards the left. After about 300 meters it eased up a bit and I was able to get into a good rhythm. Felt like I swam calmly and evenly. No high effort at all. Felt like the first lap went by pretty fast, but you completely loose sense of time in the water so I had no idea how I was doing, but had a pretty good idea that I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. Then onto land for turning. Complete blood pressure drop! The legs were like spaghetti and heart rate went through the roof as soon as I got out of the water. Staggered the 25-30 meters on land on somewhat shaky legs out on the pier and dived in to the next lap. Probably took another 20-30 m before the blood pressure and heart rate stabilized again but then I felt fine again. No sense of time, but at least the course was straight and easy to navigate on, so didn’t loose much time on detours. Out of the water for T1. Luckily I escaped another drop in blood pressure. Got my wetsuit half way down pretty quickly and headed for the bike. Stopped my watch in the run and glanced at it. Thought I saw 31 minutes and managed to get a little shocked because it was much faster than anticipated (10 minutes faster than the IM 70.3 Kronborg last year!), But I dropped the thought quickly and focused on shifting.
Lost about 20 seconds when the wetsuit stuck around the ankles and I had difficulty getting it of being so cold and stiff. Then on with the socks and helmet with fumbling fingers, shoes and bib number. Grabbed the bike and started running toward the bike start. Time in T1 1:54 min. Pretty long run on gravel and grass to get to the start of the bike course, which took some time. By the way, did I mention that the bike course is hilly? Or, that’s not true – it is extremely hilly! Starts with about 3 km almost constant ascend. Averaged only 17 km / h the first 5km and was almost on threshold power. Luckily there was so much adrenaline in the body at the start that it didn’t feel as hard as it otherwise would, but you do get a little discouraged when it is so damn slow at the very beginning of the race! After about 20 minutes it got better. More descent and tail wind. Averaged 33-38 km / h over the next 15 km. Felt really strong and spirited. Did well with fluid and energy intake as well (I have had big problems in training the last few weeks with getting really nauseous from all the sugar since I never eat sugar otherwise. My test during this race was a new solution which basically meant that between all the sugary bars and sports drinks chewed on mint flavored candy, and it did the trick for the nausea!). Didn’t even freeze in my top and shorts even though the weather was still half lousy with wind, drizzle of rain on and off and about 16 degrees Celsius. At 40 km I began to meet the first guys who had turned at the 45 km turn point. I tried to see how many girls that was ahead of me, but as most of you know, it is almost impossible at that speed. Turning point was at the bottom of a long hill where I turned at 1:32 h (average speed of just under 30 km / h – So pleased!). And then I began the climb back towards T2. The second half of the bike ride was tough though! It was either went up hill or in stiff headwind. My legs started to deteriorate and I had difficulty pushing high wattage even uphill. Long stretches I was all by myself on the road and it felt like I was standing still – on the positive side though, no-one overtook me either so I guess everyone was in the same position I was.. It’s amazing how focused you are during the race by the way. I did not recognize the road at all for most of the way back, even though I had just rode it the other way! A couple of times I even thought I was on the wrong way! Luckily I was not! Got to dig mentally the last hour. Last pep song I listened to on Spotify before starting (Hall of Fame) ran on repeat in my head along with all the positive mantras I could pick up. Succeeded nevertheless in keeping my focus, mood and belief in my ability throughout the bike ride which I am enormously proud of since I know that can be one of my biggest weaknesses on the bike! Got off the bike after 3:10 h active cycle time (official time 3:14 because running to/from the change area counted in the bike time). Was a little tired, but still made a pretty decent change in T2 (55 sec).
Out on the run I was holding about 5 minute pace. The legs felt stiff right after the cycling. Spotted another girl about 60m in front of me but did not know which class she was in. After about 500m I passed a bunch of spectators shouting that I’m fifth and that the fourth girl is just in front of me. I could see that she was going at a pace at least 10 sek/km faster than me though. Searched inward to see if I had the strength at that point to hunt her down so early in the run, but realized that it was too risky. Chances were that I would loose double up later instead. Felt a little disappointed but focused instead on bringing life back into my running legs, keeping a steady pace and finding my usual good feel for running again. Also had to make a brief pitt stop in the woods to pee. Have not yet mastered to pee while I ride the bike. The inner mental barrier puts a stop. Still made a valiant effort today, but may as well keep practicing it. I realize that I can not continue to waste precious seconds doing unnecessary stops like that. After about 5 km my good running legs are finally back and everything feels pretty good again – for about 1 km when a horrendous cramp sets in in my right calf. At first I did not even know what it was – I NEVER suffer cramps. So first I thought I had managed to pull an injury of some kind. Started to run the whole spectrum of possible injuries in my head with muscle tearing, bleeding, tendons and ligaments (sometimes the medical profession is not to one’s advantage!). I had enough time to get myself a little worried, until I got to a hill and really felt how the entire calf muscle cramp up. Presumably because of hard cycling in cold weather. Hurt like hell, but at the same time I was so enormously relieved when I realize that it was ”only” a muscle cramp. Pondering if I had to stop and stretch but concluded that if I stopped once, chances were big that I would have to keep stopping. So I decided to just bite the bullet and stop whining. ”Pain is temporary – quitting is forever” rolled on repeat in my head for the next 25 minutes or so. Felt like I had a knife in the calf but could still keep a pace of approx 5:15. Downed a gel and kept going. To my relief the cramp gradually subsided after about 11 km and when I passed the 14 km mark and headed out on the last lap it was completely gone. Instead, the rain started pouring down, but it was a change I nevertheless gladly took. Increased speed a little for the first half of the last lap. The body felt good. Was a little low on energy but did not feel particularly strained in general. Had I been better to get energy in during the run, I probably would have been able to run faster. But, practice makes perfect and this was precisely meant to be an opportunity to train and perfect the details. Felt great when the finish line approached and finished with a run time of 1:48 and a total time 5:36:51, which is 37 minutes faster than my IM 70.3 last year. Really not bad considering how strained I am and how tough the bike course was! Really great with a competition where everyone is also met by the arranger (Colting) who personally congratulates every participant and hangs the medal around their neck! It makes you feel a little extra special in some way. 🙂 Moreover, it was really nice that they had a big snack table after the finish! Rarely does food taste as good as it does after finishing a middle and long distance triathlon! 😉
After changing into dry clothing and check out of the bikes, there was some uncertainty about where I placed in the race. Got hold of a race director who informed me that I nevertheless managed to take third place in the senior class (F18-34)! Award ceremony and the first experience of standing on the podium gave a really nice ending to a great day! In summary tremendously happy with the swim and the first half of the bike ride! Admittedly tough on the second half of the bike, but pleased that the mental part worked. Would have liked to finish with a slightly faster run, but with tired legs after cycling, cramps for 5km and pouring rain the last 7 km I’m still really happy with the performance. This was not even meant as a competition where I would perform well (considering the strain I’m in right now I will definitely be able to perform better in a peaked state if all goes well). The weather could of course also have been better, but it was a really professional and nicely arranged contest on a beautiful race track! Everything ran smoothly and wonderfully talented officials and race leader. Felt admittedly a little hesitant to do the competition again next year because of the bike course, but now when I won a free starting place for next year’s contest who knows.. maybe I will be back next year after all.. Could be a nice training session for one of next year’s major goals ..