Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ironman Barcelona - 9h03m on home turf

Best race mates singing in the rain , Guille & Toni!!!  Oleee!

This would be the 6th time I started here in Calella - actually each year since 2009, when I raced the first edition of the Half Distance. I train here a lot - I love the flat bike course, which can (and ended up being) fast on a calm day.

However - the day started really ugly. Big dark clouds lured over Calella and I could already see the flashes of lightning over the mountains while getting out of bed. Around an hour before the Pro-start, the clouds gave in like an overfilled water-balloon bursting, and poured a massive amount of water over us - big flashes over the ocean and it definitely looked like at least the swim would be cancelled. Waiting 30 minutes brought us good news - the thunder-gods was taking a rain-check (excuse the very lame pun) and hence, we could start.

Got in the first line of the swim and made it fine around in a bit more than 59 minutes - the water was a bit choppy, but not too bad. I guess there was a bit of current against us on the long stretch and the official measure says 3900m. My age-group wave started way behind in the backseat, so we had quite a bit of hurdles, blue hats, white hats, breast strokers to overcome, with around 2000 swimmers in front of us.

The heavy rain stopped, but the bike circuit was still wet and we had to slow down a lot in the many (40) roundabouts, but apart from that, the legs felt very good and I quickly found the right goal watts. I train a LOT on this circuit, so I know well how and how much. The sky cleared, the wind was not too bad and the sun started drying up the fast, clean tarmac - just tucking into a good position, pushing, feeling good.
Passing lots of bikes and turning in Montgat, I was close to 41 km per hour after the first 70km - the average power was still spot on, with a slight tailwind - so things were going down as expected. I feared that I would get caught up in one of the massive pelotons, which at times can at time get formed at this race. In all fairness, I can't see how you can completely avoid bikes getting too close in this race - but I would say that the folks that I was riding with, was keeping a fair distance. Pushing through to a 4h34m bike which is a personal best on this distance.

Out on the run, the legs feel pretty good too as expected. I kicked off with good cadence and had to hold back, as I was moving around 4:15 on the first 8-10 km. Slowed down and hit the target at 4:20 until 15 km. But from here, a mental struggle started. The old belly start to cramp a bit and I quickly found myself in a quite negative mental state - motivation was really low. I slowed down to a safer pace around 4:30 and kept a good intake going, but shortly after I succumbed to the first of many breaks of walking. Frankly legs were fine - but I was digging a mental hole for me myself, deeper and deeper for each step.

It would be easy to conclude that I pushed too hard on the bike, but riding at an intensity factor of only around 72% and VI of 1.04 would suggest, that I was on the safe side for a good run. But the tummy and and old head wanted something, so just tried to make it through around 4:45 or a bit slower to the end, running in around 3:25. All in all finishing with a PR at 9h03m30s and an 11th place iny AG. Overall times were very fast I'd say, we were lucky with the wind on the bike.

No Kona slots for 11th place. First they cut one slot in my AG (to 7 instead of 8) - then it rolled all the way down to 10th place, who finished 2 minutes in front of me. That'll teach me to consider if walking during an Ironman is clever ...  But hey - fair game! Missing Kona must be a first world problem, eh?

Thanks to all who cheered and support onsite and online!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ironman Frankfurt vs. Thomas Rohde: 2-0

So its been almost 10 months since last full distance race in Kona, Hawaii. During spring I have raced 2 half distances races with limited success, but the feelings and numbers leading into Ironman Frankfurt this year were actually better than ever. I raced in Frankfurt back in 2012 also - where the rain got the better of me and I can say that Frankfurt still owes me a perfect day. But this being my 12th Ironman race, I have sort of settled with at least one conclusion:  There are NO perfect days in Ironman, no tea-parties - you can be top-prepared and you can still get humbled. But hey - you learn and come out stronger.

Leading into this race, most conditions were very fine. I had trained very stable and steady and have good improvements to tighten up running, biking 10-12 watts harder than in 2013, coming fine back into swimming after Kona and race weight was on par.

After the last 2-3 longer running sessions (around 23-25k) I was a bit indecisive on my choice of race shoes for the run. For at least 2 years I have had smaller issues with Morton's Neuroma in both feet - a result of running with elastic shoe laces. Just 10-12 days out from race day, I ran with massive pains after running in my race shoes, either came home with the very light Asics DS Racer or the bit more padded Brooks PureCadence. Eventually I took some anti-inflammatorics the week up to the race, and decided to go with the Asics DS racer.

On race day things were calm. I started with the 300 best age groupers and had a fairly OK swim, but quite a few unexpected fights in the water. Felt the swim was long, maybe 4000-4100, so exiting in 1h02m was actually not that bad. Most good AGs had a longer swim time, maybe around 2-3 minutes longer.

The bike was great - I quickly founds my goal watts, settled well and kept going conservatively around 15 watts below optimal/hardest possible IM watts. I figured I could still do around 37 km/h which would give me a good time around 4h50m and then have good legs to run well and easy in maybe around 3h20m. The cut for Kona Qualification would be around 9h30m.. A bit more wind on the 2nd loop and I entered T2 in 4h53m, so if I could just run at 5:00 min/km Kona was absolutely still in scope - so far, so good.

As expected, my legs felt really fine at the start of the run, running steady around 4:30, but I immediately felt the pain in both feet. Took some ibuprofen almost straight after leaving T2, which initially calmed the pain, but still, each step was like stepping on small nails and it became more and more painful, but still bearable.
The heat was really on now, maybe around 34-35 degrees and the sun was blazing. I tried to find shadow, cool down with ice, water - still hydrating well, keeping up a fine pace.

At around km 15 I decided to walk trough the next aid station to get plenty fluids. Started to feel really dizzy and had to stop completely and hold on to a pole for some seconds to remain standing - that was NOT good. Drinking and go back to running OK, but really fast started fainting. I must admit this was a horrible dejavu from Kona and I kinda lost my motivation right there too - I was falling apart, now both feet  and my head was a mess.

I think I made it sort of running/walking/stopping to hydrate to around 25km where I was fairly confident that DNF was the only option left, - the bad memory of my only Ironman DNF in St. George in 2010 got me going - walking mostly, talking with other athletes, made quite a number of new friends walking/jogging/suffering. Passed good people cheering and cheered back. I turn off my GPS and just decided to make it to the f**king line - Kona was out of the question for this one. Eventually made it around in something like 10h16m. No complaints - tough day, everybody suffered on that run.

It was amazing to be with so many friends in Frankfurt.  Some cheered, some raced hard, some suffered, some became European Champions - but you all reminded me once again, how much I love to be part of this great sport and family. Thank you so much for a great time in Frankfurt!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ironman Hawaii World Championship - The Two Sides of the Medal

I came to Hawaii with two main objectives;  one was to finish the Ironman World Championship in the best possible way, and the second was to have the time of my life doing it. This past Saturday I fulfilled both and received a medal. Its like the two goals are represented well by the two sides of that medal. On one side, this was the hardest thing I have ever experienced and on the other side, this was one of the best and most amazing days of my life.

Let's get to it:

The hard side - the boring, cold facts you will find in any old race report: 
I think it is almost impossible to describe in words, what Ironman Hawaii really is. Its a monster - something so much harder than any other Ironman races or anything else, I have ever experienced.  I frankly did not expect it to be so hard - but as my friend says;  There is really NOWHERE to find forgiveness during the race ANYWHERE or at ANY time. You swim with no wet suit in the toughest pack in the world - everybody are good swimmers, hence almost every is swimming within 10 minutes, which obviously means everybody is in the same place at the same time. The bike is so darn hot. humid and grueling - the headwind coming back from Hawaii hit me like a hammer, made me dizzy and feeling really sick and with no power. Then the marathon - well the first 15 km are fine, but when all the glamour of the world elite, all the sponsor banners, all the loud inspiring musics starts to fade out behind you - you need to pass through a hot agonizing 42km long, hot asphalt road on top of a lava field, which is essentially draining your energy step by step.

Just before entering the water, I find Guillermo and we give each other a last big hug - I look at the 2000 people already floating in the water, then make my way to the front of the line. Few minutes later, the canon is off and the race is on. I quickly settle in a good pace, enjoying the scenery, but there are a lot of fights - I have many people swim on top of me, pulling me down and I seek a bit further to the left - however this does not really help a lot. Looking at ocean floor is like a giant fish tank and time passes quickly until the turn point at the Body Glove catamaran. I have seen this so many times on TV - its truly insane to be here. Coming back is a bit slower, things calm down slightly  but I manage to swallow quite a bit of pacific ocean, which potentially sets of the first stomach issues.

Reaching the pier, I go far enough right, so when I stand up in the shallow water I get a good look at the whole scenery. Running up the red carpet stairs, picking the green clean water hoses and running easy to pick up my bag and find the bike - not big deal, I am just freaking out, being part of this.

On the bike, things seems calmer and easier than expected - a bit conservatively, I aim towards 205 watts, which is some 15 watts below par and what I pushed just 6 weeks ago in Copenhagen. I want to be certain to have enough energy to manage to finish strong on the run. At least that WAS the plan. Once on the Queen K highway, we have a slight tailwind and there are huge amounts of riders on the road - its practically impossible to avoid getting caught up in smaller groups, but I try my very best to keep the 7 m - the refs here are notoriusly rough. My tummy is troubling me and I try to calm it be sipping water at each aid station, which works a bit and for the first 100km I am kinda OK - tailwind and 33 degrees. How bad can it be?
On the way up Hawii, we see the first pros coming down at full throttle. Jacobs, Van Lierde, Kienle, Crowie - all big guns and big heroes.

At around on 195w I reach Hawi with an average of around 38 km/h, thinking "this is so much easier than I thought" - n ow its just getting down this hill and then 70km home - piece of cake. I guess those could be famous last words, cos right at that moment, the headwind is back, but now mad hard. With the heat and humidity, it hits like a hammer - I try to stay on watts, but I am fading. I am getting passed by many, many bikes - I can't even maintain aero position and I am feeling so sick that I am about to throw up at every sip of water or energy that I am trying to take in. The last hills back into Kona is taking the best of me and I am starting to consider how on earth am I going to run a marathon now. Later on in the day, while picking up my bike, I find out that I had a flat front tire - potentially this has slowed me down, but I did not even notice. I spent all my energy just to pedal to get back to T2.

I guess my face expression here says it all ... dead meat!
Off the bike I must have looked like an old man. Everything hurts - back, legs, stomach cramps - I could frankly hardly walk. Taking my time in T2, my feet are wet and already looking like raisins, but I do not have any spare socks. Coming out of the transition is like a dream. Although I am so dizzy and nausea, there is a huge crowd cheering and I manage to walk/run for the first 2-3 km and then starts to get the running going. But its hard - very, very hard. The heat is hammering down with the blazing sun, the humidity is furious. Strangely enough my legs are kinda OK - maybe because I am moving at a record-slow 10 km/h. But hey, this is IT - the World Championship- this is Ali'I Drive! Come ON - only 40 km left... GOD!!!  My feet starts hurting too, from a number of massive blister. Post-race I drained 12 of them - so no wonder I felt like walking on heated charcoal. I never realized how hilly this run is - there are no times during the marathon where its flat. All the time up and down - and even if I had the ability to find a "rythm" at this time, it would get spoiled by the changes in terrain.

Out on Queen K its gets silent - runners are suffering just like myself or even more. I see many throwing up, some quitting. I manage to make it to the Energy Lab - the infamous stretch some 15 km from the finish line. Now I know I will finish, though my motivation hits an all-time low. I keep running/walking at around 5:50 min/km, but slowly fading. The last 10 km is just survival. Every time I stop to walk, I am so dizzy and nausea that my legs are literally trembling. Running is so painful, due to the blisters - I think I am down to 6:30 - its slow, but I am progressing. The last mile feels very, very long. You can see and hear the finish line, but we are being led in a loop down back on Ali'i, before coming into the famous finish line area.

I slow down, the crowd is mad here, literally 100s of high fives, people screaming - and then at 10:49 the voice of Mike Rilley "Thomas Rohde - You are an IRONMAN" - what a great feeling... at least for a few seconds.
Just over the line I am being picked up by 2 volunteers, I get to sit down in the grass and chat with a few friends, but I am not good. I find my way back to the medical tent, get assistance and starts throwing up. I am almost 5kg from my weight this morning, so massively under-hydrated, thought I have been drinking very well all day. I get to lie down and the medics decide to put me in intravenous rehydration, pumping some 2 liters of salt water into my left arm. After 2 hours or so, I start feeling better, get some color back in my face and feeling back into my legs and (partly) my feet.  Its over - I made it, goal achieved. Ironman Hawaii 2013.

Officer down - 2 hours with IV regaining body fluids

Probably one of the best days I have ever lived, since the 26th of June 1992:
Hawaii is amazing - simply amazing. We have been here for a week now and its people and nature is beyond anything I have experienced elsewhere. Its so good, it actually makes me wonder, why other places in the world cannot be like this. With a more simple, clean life, good spirits and karma, with less Facebook, camera phones, compression socks and Ironman race reporting...

On the morning of the 26th of June 1992, I had just turned 18 and I had my final exam for my driving licence - a big day indeed. Nervous, but I passed it fine and from here on, this day went ballistic. First, around noon, I went to Roskilde Festival for the very first time - met all my mates, then we saw my favorite band Pearl Jam perform. Then Denmark played Germany in the Football Eurocup and won, setting the whole country on fire in a spree of happiness - and ending this day, we saw Nirvana perform and then goodnight. Probably the best day of my life period. Until this past Saturday in Kona that is.

Since we arrived to Kona, we could definitely feel the strong vibe of the Ironman. Circus was in town. Everywhere you see 6-packed, sharply shaven athletes, some well into the 50s or 60s, most with a fat% well under 8%. Frankly, I quickly found this a bit absurd - way too much and too cliche for the sport of triathlon. But apart from that the World Championship is everything I had ever dreamed of. The day was hard indeed, but I enjoyed it the best I could, through the dizziness, nausea and bleeding feet.

Hank Schrader - init ??
Great highlights includes the bike check in, where when I realized how small the pier really is and the place is full of the world elite. Then the swim in the fish tank and getting out of the water, looking at the scenery unfolding. The Hawaiian people supporting us with Alohas and cheers, the kids and parents helping out on the aid stations - so happy to help, though the sun must have been burning them too. The run on Queen K, much harder than I imagined, but what an experience to be here and be part of it. Being passed by elderly runners here, who have the strength to even get here and then they cheer you going "you can do it" - I have so much respect for these men and women who keep coming back here to race well into their 70s. On the podium during the award banquet, was a cute woman at 77 years old, who finished well in a bit more that 16 hours and was determined to come back next year. I have seen this on video, but seeing her live here made me realize how strong the body and mind is and how well one can grow old in a healthy matter, if you take care of yourself. Much respect for these folks.

Eventually, just a big amount of thanks to all of the people who have cheered and supported me on this long journey.  De Soto Sports, Triatech, OOB Coaching, Argon 18 Bikes, Fit4Bike, I AM ID, SIS Nutrition - thanks a bunch. A special thanks to three persons who especially walk an extra mile for me:

Guillermo Lladó - as a mentor and helped spawning the initial spark to actually do this. Have survived countless kilometers of biking with me on his tail, so much bullshit about watts, tyres and what not. Taught me to push hard, showed me the ropes in Ironman, as well as taking me in as a friend.

Aleksandar Sørensen-Markovic - my friend, coach and colleague. Pushed my limits in training and in life, making me believe that I actually could realize that major turn in my career - most likely one of the most daring and best things I have ever done. Without your support, guidelines and confirmation that this was indeed possible, I doubt this dream would ever become real.

Blanca Martí - my love and biggest support every day. Always there for me with sweetness, words of comfort, soothing hands on my sore legs. I love you - you are the best thing that ever happened to me.

Now its time for a bit of relax, surf and good food - enjoying another week of experiencing Big Island. Mahalo to you all !!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Goal achieved - now what?

Three years ago, in the beginning of 2011, I set myself a goal. After going sub10 in Ironman Copenhagen and running sub3 hours in The Sebastian Marathon, both in 2010, I gathered enough confidence and forged the idea of qualifying for the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. I even went public with this dream - a daring thing to do in a world with social media full of "naysayers"

Initially it seemed a fair goal, I would need to shave off some 20-30 minutes of my 9:52 from 2010 Ironman Copenhagen time - a bit of tuning on the swim, improve my bike further and then learn to actually run well, without getting either sick or run out of juice. Easy, right?

Not so much so!  Happily I embarked a journey with my good friend and mentor, Guillermo towards Ironman St. George, to take place in May 2011. The training sessions for this race were the longest, hardest and most tiring I have ever done, and they left me vastly over-trained. We both had a tough race and eventually had to pull out after the bike, just too sick to continue a tough and hot run. I had Ironman Zurich as back-up, but already going into this race I had a wake-up call, then I realized the the qualifiers in my age group, were as fast as 9:15 on a course which is somewhat harder than Copenhagen. In Zurich, a referee made a mistake and disqualified me - so 2011 was definitely not my year. However - I learned many new things - especially that Hawaii qualification is definitely not a walk in the park!

In autumn 2011 however, I initiated a much better planning with Aleksandar and Out of Bubblegum, which also was the beginning of some major changes in my life and career. With a little help from my friends, I got an entry to Ironman Frankfurt 2012, which would be my A-race for qualification the same year. It seemed reasonably easy with 100 Hawaii slots. I would need to go around 9:25 on a course which is not too hard - this could actually work. Training in spring 2012 went really well - I learned a lot and improved a bunch in all 3 sports. Come race day, I felt great - it was pouring down for 5 hours on the bike and after two hard crashes on the bike and a flat at km 175 - my chances were down to almost zero, so just jogged it home and missed the cut with around 15 minutes. However, at the end of the 2012 season I did get a confirmation, that my new training regime with OOB had been fruitful, as I (slightly under-trained) finished Challenge Barcelona in 9:23 and to my surprise won the Spanish Age Group Championship.

I kept the stove cooking at a fairly high heat during the autumn months and into spring 2013 - with a new A-goal to go under 9 hours in KMD Ironman Copenhagen in August, but along the way, stamp the ticket to Kona at Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, USA. Racing Half IMs well in March in Malaga and in May in Calella gave me a new, good sensation and confidence, that the goal was indeed within reach. The preparations for IM Coeur d'Alene were close to optimal in terms of training and resting, but on race day heavy cramps on basically all 42 km of the run, left me 2. places at only 6 minutes from qualification. So, at that moment I was really already looking at qualifying races in 2014. The "oh-how-easy" goal of reaching the Big Island in Hawaii seemed to be a fair bit harder than I had initially ever imagined.

This was indeed new for me. In most aspects of my life, be it love, career or sports, reaching my goals has always come fairly easy to me. Frankly, I don't think I have ANY more talent than anybody else, but I am born with a nerd-like curiosity, a massive natural-energy engine and some ability to focus a bit for limited amounts of time. Since I was a kid, I would pick up something new, like sports-fishing, playing electric guitar or what not - spend ALL my time reading books, magazines and practicing until all god-damn aspects of the theme had been explored in depth and I my parents had gone mad. I guess skateboarding taught me to practice on my own and remain persistent towards learning new stuff - you land tricks or you immediately pay a ticket in terms of pain. It really hurts to learn to become a good skateboarder.

Qualifying for Kona was becoming the hardest target I had ever tried to hit. But it was not time to put down the arms now, but rather aim and fire again.

I was already registered for what was then Challenge Copenhagen - where I still had a hope to go below the 9 hours. During the summer however, this race got bought by the Ironman organization, WTC. What a pleasant surprise, when we all realized that the Copenhagen race (against all odds) now indeed offered 50 Hawaii slots for 2013.

The weeks leading into KMD Ironman Copenhagen, I was training very hard in the Catalan heat, had time to relax and recover - I was focused, motivated, but relaxed. I guess this is the right feeling before an important race - something I had never felt before. Even on race day, standing at the swim start, I felt a massive confidence. I knew I had to go close to or under 9 hours to pick one of the 6 slots in my age group, but both Aleksandar and Vladimir had given me a firm confirmation, that this was indeed realistic, if things would unfold the right way during the day.

And so they did! I frankly do not recall much from the last 20 km on the run, but I just dug in and kept it at 4:30 min/km as planned, which eventually got me through in 9:04 - exactly a 6th place and almost certainly a slot for Kona, which got confirmed the next day, thanks god!

The next few days and weeks were full of travelling to Vietnam with Blanca - what an amazing place. I needed loads of rest and the jet-lag made me sleep badly for a week or so and my legs were swollen from the long flight.
I was indeed nice to be far away from my bike and just do other things - no focus on training, pace or watts. I started realizing what I had achieved and how long I had been pursuing this goal, neglecting many other things - and the first thoughts leading to this blog-post started to take shape.

I got in a few run- and swim sets in Vietnam, though the sun was blazing hot and the humidity and pollution was overwhelming. Back in Barcelona, I got back on the bike and the first thing that struck me was that I really didn't miss my wheels that much. Legs were still really tired and I guess I was just a culmination of many things coming together - things coming to a pleasant end. Many months of hard concentrated training and many races with no real breaks. I feel a bit like a car, that has been driving hard uphill for at long time, that was now on the flat, rolling at a steady pace, but in the neutral gear.

But slowly I have been coming back - better and better, week by week. More motivated. I can't say that I am looking much forward to another agonizing day, at what is know to be by far the hardest Ironman. Period. At least in terms of heat and humidity. Big Island on Hawaii has been known for close to 40 degrees and humidity well above 80%. But indeed I am looking forward to the trip and going to have this amazing experience, travelling with my mate Anders AKA Coco Lopez. Also racing in a World Championship, in the great nature, with friends, colleagues and with the best in the world - it will be an insane experience.

Let's see what will be next. Definitely 2014 will be a busy year for OOB Coaching and I am very excited to take part in this - there will be many good challenges and many days travelling to Denmark and around the world. Also, I want to get back to the mountains and climb - preferably in my favorite corner of Catalunya, secret little gem Val d'Aran with my mates there. I miss skateboarding and snowboarding - its feels like ages since have been surfing too. But Ironman will most likely always have a big role in my life - and so it will in 2014. Will keep you posted - stay tuned :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

KMD Ironman Copenhagen - Kona Bound!

So, after IM Couer d'Alene and the cramp-hell on the marathon, I was very pleased to learn that while OOB's partner YWC got bought by WTC (Ironman Corporation), this meant that already from this year, the new KMD Ironman Copenhagen would have 50 slots for Kona - the World Championship in Hawaii. Racing on home turf was already in scope and I could hardly have dreamt of a better setting to finally stamp the ticket to the Big Island in Copenhagen, with friends and family cheering all day.

The 5-6 weeks leading up to the race, was probably the hardest period I have ever come through training-wise. First off, the mayor business projects in OOB that kept me busy during time had been concluded succesfully. Hence, I had more time to train and focus. Further, training in Barcelona in July & August, means that temperatures are brutal around 35-40 degrees and humidity was insane - so even a brief jog was a mean source of dehydration, not to speak of the long bike rides, bound to collide with the mid-day blaze from the sun. I kept a steady training volume and high intensity, but most weeks summarized well above 22-24 hours, swimming more than ever and getting really comfy running hard for longer periods of time, than ever before.

Come race day, a bit of sun, but mostly cloudy and some rain. The amazing in-sea lagune was all calm as always, water temp fair around 20 degrees and the wind was indeed present (breeze) but from a good and fast direction.

I am beginning to realize that this is the beginning, not only of a great race, but also the best day in my professional life. OOB has almost 90 athletes racing today and I am accountable for coaching and helping close to 30 of these in their preparations for this (for many their first) Ironman race - needless to say, its a immense joy to see the nervous smiles of the team and pass on some confidence and calm words that its gonna be all fine.

Find the front line with OOB colleague Vladimir, who I knew would be a pair of fast feet in the water. From the start I felt really well and that I could push hard (though I lost Vladimir quite early) all the way through the swim. All time best swim in a bit more than 57 minutes, which is what I hoped for so happy with that.

The organization of KMD Ironman Copenhagen is fantastic and flawless - simply everything is in its right place for optimal race conditions.
Currently biking through central Copenhagen is a bit dogdy - many road constructions, patches on the tarmac, enormous potholes, but its invaoidable as Copenhagen is being dug up these years with the construction of a new Metro line. And its just a few kilometers, so once out on the road leading north, I have a fairly strong tailwind, hitting some 42-44 km/h and I am passing 5-6 bikes until I am quite alone.

For the remainder of the bike, I am almost all the time riding solo, execept for Irish Martin, who I switch places with a few times during the 180km, but not really enough to benefit from the same pace, so I just stick the the plan and 220 watts. Though the weather is not just top-fine for Danish August there are still thousands of Danes cheering on the roads and of course seeing my whole family, friends and Coach Aleksandar on Geels Bakke is a real boost. Enter Copenhagen a to the roar of the massive crowd at T2 after 4h50m on the bike - some 10 minutes of par, mostly due to a strong head-wind that has picked up in the later ours of the bike leg.

The run is simply just unrealistic, fantastic - 200.000 people are cheering on the 4 loops in the center of the Capital. Seeing so many known (and unknown) faces, shouting my name & cheering is undescribable, I will never forget. I know my swim better than ever and I know I had a good bike split to, so definitely hope to be in top5 in my age group at this moment in time. Around km 5 I see Blanca and Anders who gives me the first real update on standings in my group and at this moment in time I am 10th. Normally I will loose a at least a handful of places, as there are stronger runners who will go below 3h10m for the marathon - so my first thought is "no way Hawaii is realistic now" - there is initially only 6 slots in my group, so I need to place in top6 to be sure to qualify. However I am running fine at 4:30 and I decide to just do my best to keep that pace, first until 10 km, then to 20 km and the eventually keeps this pace all the way during the day. Along the way I sometimes pass other participants in my group, and other times I get passed. To be honest, I kinda loose track of counting - I am dizzy and I just push to stay on pace. Again, its a great motivation and joy to see friends and athletes running well on the course and giving my feedback that they too are having a great day in Copenhagen.

OOB/Irunmen's Kasper Ougaard exhausted on the floor after a tough race.
My legs looks like a mess as always... 

Blanca, Anders and colleauges Aleksandar & Morten are great helping on splits and I advance to 8th then 7th. Eventually, around km 34, I have only 30 seconds to number 5 in front of me, where he stays until the end. So I secure the 6th place with 3h11m on the run and greatest feeling of accomplishment ever in an Ironman race, an all-time best at 9h04m. Vladimir enters some 8 minutes in front of me in 4th - so, so good. There is great rejoice in the post-race area with all our friends and atletes coming over the line.

I feel like this was a very well-balanced race, especially on the run, where things worked so much better than in Couer d'Alene or ever before. Eventually both Vladimir, myself and more than 6 other OOB athletes qualified for Kona on this fine sunday. Read all OOBs  stats from IM CPH here: 

Thanks to all who cheered and those who supported me;  De Soto Sports, Triatech, OOB Coaching, Argon 18 Bikes, Fit4Bike, I AM ID, SIS Nutrition  

Wish y'all a good recovery. Love fron Hanoi, Vietnam! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ironman Coeur d'Alene - tough one, even for Murphy!

First off - how great is the people of America!  Never have I met such good people everywhere! From just people on the streets, our hotel staff, the volunteers and the crowds cheering us on the race. Everybody has been so great hosts and representing this nation and region in the best possible way, everywhere! Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.- thanks! A lot!!! 

So after a long lonely flight to Seattle, I met up with my good friends Karen & Ulrik - sweet company!  Just though my bike was lost again (3rd time this year??) but apparently just issues with US customs. Eventually the little fellowship was on the road, heading to little Coeur d'Alene - a 5 hour drive west into deep Idaho.

Five good (but wet), relaxed days just to focus and prepare - just ideal preps for this race, my 10th Ironman.

On race day the forecast was fair, the water was coldish, but the swim course looked amazing. I was right in the front line of this rolling start, where your own timing only starts when you enter the water - smart way to get people more relaxed and ease the fight in the water. Still though, had a rough start and came around in 1h02m a bit slower than expected, but I can see that quite few age groupers were below 60m, so the swim may have been a wee long. 

Good feelings on the bike over rolling highway hills, a few harder, short climbs - in the end around 1600m of climbing, so just a bit less than e.g. Ironman France. Felt really good all the way through and kept well to my goal strategy watt-wise. 
Mechanically the bike leg was a nightmare. Unbelievable that I have such bad luck, as I really feel I prepare the bike really well. First, problems with the front shifter had me climbing the fist hills on the big ring (would have made Sr. Lladó proud here, eh?). Second, the Di2 shifter on the aerobar got loose. Fiddling with that I went over the groves in the side of the road. Result: EVERYTHING ejected from the bike, bottles, gels and ... yes, again my SRM power meter computer. So had to stop and go back after that. During the last 20 miles or so, I even realized that I had been riding semi-flat on the rear wheel - not sure for how long... I peed 4-5 times on the bike - I was leaking like a river! 
Murphy was really in that mood on Sunday!   

Anyway - eventually riding happy, fueling well in the sun, no wind and with good feelings in 5h08m slightly better than expected!  Spot on 222 watts in Normalized power and pushing 288 TSS, which again is a good number, to run well off an IM bike.

Filled up my De Soto race suit with the needed gels and started the run with really good feelings. Here is why racing with a power meter, riding a bit more conservatively on the hills had a good effect. Easily kept my goal pace at 4:30 but 3 km into the run, something happened that I haven't experienced for 3-4 years now.  A massive cramp hit my left rear thigh. I was like getting a BIG nail hammered in and my first thought was indeed "Game Over". A few salt tablets, started walking and slowly came back into running. Felt OK so pushed back to around 4:40 then to 4:30 ... all fine... then OUCH:  Right rear thigh now had the second nail - came back running again, but from thereon it was just pure agony. For something like 33 km I was running with constant (though bearable) cramps everywhere in my legs, thighs, quads, calves and eventually even my arms.

Never experienced anything like this! Even now, two days post-race, my jaws are aching from gritting my teeth so hard - not cool at all. The last 5 miles was run/walk and finally made it to the last 1000m stretch of downhill, which were amazing. The roar of the crowd made me give in to a few tears (mostly from pain I guess) and made it through in 3h26m - my best IM run ever on a hilly run course.

Again - thanks to all who wished us good luck and cheered. To the great folks we have met on this trip, to Karen & Ulrik for amazing company. And then to my collaborators & sponsors:   De Soto Sports & Triatech.es - the race suit really worked wonders, to Argon 18, I AM ID and to OOB Coaching!

Next race will be Challenge Copenhagen the 18th August - stay tuned!  

Friday, May 24, 2013

8th at European Championships - Challenge Calella Half Ironman Race Report

So, this was the 4th time I did this race - actually it was in Calella that I had my debut in triathlon. First, this race is now in a completely different ball-game. Everything has undergone so many improvements, which is just great. I love racing, but I am also always very critical on race organizations - but for this edition I can say, that it is now as close to a flawless as you can ever hope for. I frankly did not experience any annoyances or surprises in the race. Even the post-race buffet is like a 5-star hotel :)

The new bike circuit is out of this world - its effin hard, beautiful on the Montseny climbs and this really benefits lighter and stronger riders. I had dropped 3 kg after ICAN Malaga, getting just below 70kg. That along with an almost 10% improvement in my cycling tests (FTP) during the months of spring, had me hoping that the curse of being a better flat-circuit rider, than a climber, was over.

I was sporting a brand new De Soto Forza ITU race suit in order to be able to compete legally in the ETU European Championships. Triatech even helped me printing my name and country on the suit - thanks a bunch, Hector. The fabric and quality of the De Soto gear is amazing - light and firm. The "compression" actually gave me a very steady feeling, especially in my thighs while running. The suit has a good cycling pad. Its nice to just be able to pick a suit off the shelf, put it on and race for almost 5 hours without anything bother or chafing. Great stuff.

So, the Catalan waters were really misbehaving the days before the race - almost 2m waves were pounding the beaches and I could feel people getting anxious about the swim. On race morning the sea had calmed a bit, but still very choppy - especially sighting and drafting in the water was a nightmare. Got in the first line and was one of the first at the first turn. Lost orientation a bit and had to stop to get back on track. Frankly I didn't feel I had the best pace. A french guy punched me so hard in the back of the head, but he was nice and checked if I was ok and said sorry .. Finished fairly OK in 30 minutes, swallowed too much water and got into T1 kinda cold and nausea.

I was excited to get going on the bike - I had setup my Argon 18 E118 with Zipp 808 front and back, whereas I saw some riding a disc here. Started getting comfy and pushed the planned 270 watts on the 3 climbs as planned, but I had to struggle a bit to maintain goal watts on the last climb. There was so much poplar fluff in the air, at times it looked like a snow-storm. I started feeling a bit of problems breathing - probably a bit of allergy or hay-fever.

Delivered the bike in T2 and felt ready to run. The run course is also updated, and we avoided the countryside, empty road that was dead boring in the previous editions of the race. I had been training really well, with many longer threshold sets the 4 weeks leading up to the race, after ICAN Malaga, where I ran in 4:05 min/km. I set off at 4:00 with the idea of dropping to 3:55, but quickly realized that this was not really an option. Legs actually felt quite good and even at 4:10 I passed many runners, who probably burned their legs on the bike. I had a bit of stomach cramps and every time I started pushing back closer to 4:00 I had problems breathing - probably my heart rate was going balistic. The last 7-8 km was pure survival and I dropped to running at 4:30-4:40 which is sub-par even for me. Finally did 4h47m and finished 8th in the European Championship - I guess I should be happy with that. However, I can see that I still need to work on hilly biking - I doubt I was even in top50 on the bike (compared to 2nd last year on the flat course)

Frankly it was amazing to race in Calella - I realize how lucky I am to know so many good people and being carried forward by the cheers of friends and having Blanca there was of course sweet <3

Coming up is the Ironman Couer d'Alene in Idaho, USA - the 23rd of June.