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 :)


  1. Kæmpe respekt Thomas... Du skriver du ikke rigtig kan huske noget de sidste 20 km., men jeg kan fortælle dig, at du så fantastisk ud, et kæmpe smil hele vejen, og var super at følge...

    Du fortjener Kona om nogen....