Since last October when I started training with Magnus Johansson as coach, I have been looking forward to the priority A races of the season. To finally get a receipt for all the work we put in. All planning and follow-up from Magnus side – and over 400 hours of training on my part. The competition in Borås June 18 was indeed really good, but I was not well rested and that does, after all, make a big difference. Imagine my disappointment when I got sick just two weeks prior to Ironman 70.3 Jönköping! Woke up on Midsummer Eve (and my birthday just to make it even worse) with a sore throat. Did however still manage a 4-hour distance workouts on the bike on Saturday (thanks to my boyfriend who went along for moral support and providing a wheel to draft on), but then the worst cold broke out – and continued. It just refused to get better! So frustrated! Only after 10 days I realized that it probably passed into sinusitis (that I as a doctor can not even diagnose myself but just go around and tell myself to stop whining and complaining … Oh my God!). Started treatment with both antibiotics and cortisone spray. Only then did I start to get better, but not fast by any means. The whole peaking period came to naught, and preparation for the second biggest race of the season was downright crap both regarding form and especially mental state. Was hesitant if I could start right up to race day morning. At the same time I knew damn well that it would take a lot to force me to abandon this year’s second most important competition!
The day before the race (Saturday) we drove to Jönköping. Got registered, tried out part of the swim course (despite everything the swim felt ok, even though I had hardly swum in two weeks time), checked into the hotel and checked in bikes and race bags in the transition area. The rest of the day was spend hanging around town, checking out the transition areas (including the enormously long run between swim exit and T1 – over 500m !!), and spending some money in the expo. I went to bed early to try to get as much rest as possible for the body before the race.
I really love the atmosphere at Ironman competitions! It’s a very special feeling because it is so large and involves so many athletes. Everywhere you see people on awesome bikes and in workout clothes. And everywhere you can feel the anticipation in the air. One can not help but be inspired! The races are certainly expensive, but considering how well organized the events are, it’s worth every penny in my opinion! When you have spend so much time training and preparing, it’s nice to come to a competition where you know that everything in the organization around it works like a clock!
Race day came with overcast weather, but no rain and light winds. After breakfast we took off down to the transition area. Checked the bike and transition bags. Got time to hang around with club mates for a while as well. Awesome that there were so many 3CT: ers who lined up! Then on with the wetsuit and trudge down to swim start and swim warm up. The warm up was in the canal next to the lake and was held quite early (8-8: 30 am) which meant that you then had to stand around and get somewhat cold for over 30 minutes waiting for the start. There were many thoughts in my head during that half hour … That I would start, I had definitely decided. However, I had to stand on the starting line without any sensible plan for how I would race. I certainly had like five potential plans in my head, but I knew I would have to revise mu plan regularly based on how my body felt. The plan was to at least start out swimming in a rather calm pace, trying to find my own place in the water and get into a rhythm that felt comfortable. Self seeding caused me some problems. Swam really good in Borås, but was unsure how much the disease had ruined my shape. Swimming is definitely perishable and it’s been really bad with swimming the last 2 weeks. Seeding groups went with 2 min intervals for the rolling start (4 athletes were released into the water with 5 sec intervals). After much wavering I ended up in the starting group for 32 minutes estimated swim time. Did not want to be a cowards and hoped that I would find some feet of a slightly stronger swimmers who might be able to pull up my speed a little. Then it was time for the national anthem and the start of the pros. Then I felt almost a little teary-eyed. After the recent weeks tensions tearing me between hope and despair, I was so incredibly happy and grateful that I got to stand on the starting line and experience yet another Ironman Competition. There are not many experiences in my life that beats the moments just before the start when you stand among 2000 athletes at sunrise, waiting to throw yourself into the water! Then it was finally time to start. The swim was a one-loop 1930 m course in Munksjön in central Jönköping. Extremely easy to navigate – straight up and straight back. Felt nice not having to think about that at least! Turned out quickly that I of course had been far too optimistic with seeding. Was overtaken by everyone and found no feet to draft on – not a good start for the confidence! The swimming felt tough and slow (but on the other hand, I always lose track of time completely when I swim in races so it is difficult to determine how fast it is really). At least got plenty of space and didn’t have to combat with other swimmers in the water. Nice with rolling start rather than the total chaos at the mass starts! Came out of the water and started on the somewhat long run toward T1. Paused my clock as soon as I got the wetsuit down and saw that it was on 38 minutes (official time 37:38). Felt absolutely catastrophically bad compared to my swimming in Boras on 31 minutes.
The run to the T1 still felt ok, even though the pulse was too high. Noticed that the body was not feeling great. In the transition area and quickly found my bag on the rack. Sacrificed 30 seconds to take on an extra sweater for the cycling to make sure I didn’t get too cold (that would have felt enormously stupid after being sick for two weeks). Turned out to be a wise choice as it wasn’t very warm in the air. Out to the bike and off to cycle start. Time in T1 6:04.
Got up on the bike and started the clock and cycle computer. Discovered immediately that there was something wrong with power pedals. A little light stress and panic. Did not get the power meter to register over 100 watts. Realized that I had to race purely on feeling rather than to have a guideline to go by. Rode for a few kilometers and it felt as if the meter showed about half of the watts I really crank so I decide to still glance at the power meter and try to be at half of the value I planned from the start (turned out later to be absolutely correct since the power meter only registered one pedal value). Kept cycling and realize after a few minutes that I also have huge problem with my gears. Specifically, the three lightest gears on each sprocket jumps back and forth and are completely unusable. One of today’s biggest lessons was quite clear: ”make sure to cycle through all of the equipment and gears on the bike the day before the race” … The first 10 km of cycling is basically just up hill. The body felt like crap and I tried to take it easy while everyone else are just driving past. After about 10 km it levels out but the whole track is actually quite hilly (> 600 meters of altitude) so it’s never flat really. A lot of drafting at the start among the cyclists. I try to run a fair race and keep 12 m gap according to the rules. Difficult to overtake when others are not following the rules and refuse to fall back once you have passed their front wheel. Got somewhat annoyed. However; good presence of race marshalls on the course! The body continued to feel bad. Tried to get in as much energy in as possible with the result that I started to get a stomach ache after about 45 minutes. At 20 km I averaged just about 26 km / h. I feel tremendously discouraged and began to strongly consider if I should not break after all. Is it worth it, I wondered? Had to dig deep mentally to come to the conclusion that: ”Yes, it is absolutely worth it, because I know that this is what I love to do more than just about everything else when it comes down to it.” We then turn into tailwind and the tempo slowly increases along with my belief in myself. The body also begins to feel better. The next 45 km bike I do a really damn good cycling considering the circumstances and average almost 34 km / h over 40 km. Last 20-25 km was with head / crosswind. Expected the speed to decrease significantly, but it didn’t. Succeeded to continued to keep an average around 31 km / h in total. Got good cheering from Jesper Svensson, who I rode with at Playitas when we pass each other a few times, which warmed my heart. Realized that I really enjoyed the bike after the first 20 km. Never had a race where the bike part felt so good – and then I’m still not healthy. At 85 km I was overtaken by a guy in M30-34 class that turns his head just as he passes and shouts ”damn you’re fast!”. Heard that he really meant his words, and was so happy! Imagine what such comments do! Rolled in towards T2 and jumped off the bike. Cycle 2:55:03 – average speed of 30.85 km / h. Clearly the best cycling I have done in a race so far!
My legs felt enormously fresher than after cycling in Borås. Fast switch in T2 at 1:34 and out on the run. Felt right away that I had a heavy feeling in my chest. Realized that this was going to get really, really tough. Decided to try to stay at a 5 min/km pace and see how it goes. Really wanted to do a faster run than in Borås. Got lots of energy from being cheered on by team mates and friends both on and of the course. Fantastic crowd support along the entire path. Awesome that so many people come out to cheer and support! My egs feel ok, but I can’t get rid of the heavy feeling in the chest. Can feel that the heart is strained and the pulse is high. Maybe not higher than expected, but as soon as it is over a certain level, it feels as if I loose all strength in my legs. Get a little worried but at the same time, I start to realize that maybe, maybe I can finish in under 5:30 which was really my goal before I got sick (actually, I had a dream about 5:15, but given that it is a slow bike course and an enormously long T1 I knew it was pretty unrealistic), and decide that this is just not a time to give up! When I passed the 11 km it feels slightly better. Just knowing that you only have about 50 minutes left does a lot. Decide to increase my speed a little at 15 km. It still feels quite ok. Kept the speed up to 19.5 kilometers and then increased a little further. Manage to stay at that speed all the way across the finish line. Time of run of 1:44:20 – average speed 4: 59 / km (about 4 minutes faster total time than in Borås). Crossing the finish line really, really satisfied at the time 5:24:38, giving me a 9th place in my AG (less than 2 minutes after 7th grade) of a total of 53 entries.
Felt pretty bad the first fifteen minutes after the finish. Dizziness and double vision. Eases after a bit of food and drink. (Probably sodium deficiency and dehydration). Ate the most delicious burgers I’ve had in a very long time! Food really never tastes as good as it does after a long distance race! 😉 Got my medal and my finisher shirt and then met up with the others from the club. Everyone produced amazing results. Can not say enough times that all my club mates are awesome athletes! No wonder I sometimes feel worse than I am when I have them as reference material! By far, the most impressive performance was made by Robert Kallin, who did his first race on this distance and came in as No. 14 – after 13 professionals and rode with an average speed of 40 km / h!! That guy will definitely big a big name in triathlon in a very near future!!
For my part I was most pleased to go home without the feeling of disappointment that I thought I would have. When I reflect on the race day after I realize that it probably was both stupid and dangerous to expose myself to the strain when I wasn’t in good shape, and that I’m grateful that my body held together. In my world, it was still worth it though – both because I really love what I do and because this contest gave me incredibly much insight into my own mental and physical strength. This time I really had to challenge my limits and thus realized what I can actually achieve. It will undoubtedly help me in the future and contribute to even better performances. As to the swim it was admittedly not fantastic, but in retrospect I realize that it was not as bad as I first thought. The swim course in Borås was about 150m short (about 1750m) and according to my watch I swam 2150m yesterday. If true, it was at least 300m longer swimming, which explains a large part of the time difference. The cycle time at 2:55 on such a slow and hilly course, I can not be anything but pleased with. As for the run, I know I can run even faster. But with two weeks of cold and sinus infections in the body, running four minutes better than the last race is still clearly a pretty good performance. After this contest my goal of 11 hours in Copenhagen does not feel totally unrealistic … If I only get to be healthy until then.