24.8.2013 19:09 I was a happy man. I had just finished my first Ironman competition by swimming 3,8km, bicycling 180km and running 42km in 12 hours 9 minutes and 22 seconds. My target was to cross the finish line with a smile. And that target was achieved.
Below is a short story about my road to my first Ironman competition and some thoughts about the race.
Where it all started…
I have always liked to challenge myself. This time it all started at a bachelor party last summer. A friend had completed a homemade full distance triathlon that summer. Along the evening six dare devils agreed to do the same route the following summer.
Before starting the training for the Ironman, I was doing sports (mountainbiking, running etc.) a few times a week until November/December. At that thime I started to increase my workout amounts. I was trying to have 4 workouts per week: swimming, running, cross-country skiing, mountain biking … whatever felt good. This was to get my body to get used to increased training amounts. I knew I had to work the most on my swimming, so I tried to incorporate at least one or two swimming session per week.
Around the end of March, I started to follow a more strict training program. At first I picked up a 24-week program from an Ironman book. At this time my target was our homemade race on the last weekend of July. In April, I started to introduce road cycling to my training. First rides I did with my cyclocross bike, but fairly soon I decided to change it for a road bike. I kept an eye for a used one and finally was able to pick a full carbon Gir’s GStar for 800€. The bike served me very well in all the trainings (over 2000km) and the race.
During May and early June I started to wonder if I should do also an official race now that I was training like hell. When meeting an old friend who was also training for the Ironman in Nastola, I decided to enroll myself. From that day onward, the main training target moved to 24.8.
My first open water swimming session was in Oittaa in May. The water was fairly ok after a few sunny days. I used my summer surfing wetsuit for swimming. To me it seemed to work quite well (little did I know at that time…)
In the beginning of June, I completed my first ever triathlon race. It was a local Kuusijärvi olympic distance race. My official time was: 2.43.18,4 (Swimming:00:32:54 Bicycling:01:17:00 Running:00:53:26). I was fairly satisfied with the result. My movescount move for the race is here: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move14293886. It was quite a learning curve! First lap of swimming was hell, I thought I was gonna die in the water…since then the multiple open water swimming sessions have helped on that.
After Kuusijärvi race, training intensity continued to increase. Also the hours were getting higher. During summer my average monthly training hours were around 45h/month. I changed my training plan to Beginner Triathletes Beginner Full Ironman Training plan (http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=441). The plan was hell! The weekly hours were ridiculously high. But now afterwards, I am happy that I carried through that plan. The race was almost a pleasant experience 🙂
During summer I also tested a swimming wet suit…it was quite a surprise how easy it was to swim in that. It didn’t take me long to decide to invest into a swimming wetsuit. I bought a used Blueseventy Reaction suit. It really helped my swimming, I think it floated my body in a better position and also glided better than the surfing wetsuit.
I worked alot on my open water swimming during the summer. It was good that I had swam in very cold waters, so the race swim in 16C water felt warm 🙂 Also getting used to not seeing anything and going to the right direction were things that you just don’t learn in the pool.
There were also some surprises during the training, like a blown rear wheel:
My total training amounts (from mid December) were:
- Total 280 hours
- 2149 km of road cycling
- 610 km of running
- 100 km of swimming
The last few weeks before the race included decreased training amounts to get my body ready for the competition.
Day before the race we arrived at the race venue and listened to the race info session. After that it was time to prepare all the gear for the race and have a good meal. Below is our two man team race day nutrition plan 🙂
The race course was built around Pajulahti sports center near Lahti, Finland. Swimming consisted of three laps, totaling ~3,8km of swimming. Biking started and ended with a 15km transition to the venue where we biked four 37km laps. Running was a 4,1km route, that we ran back and forth. It was actually very nice to see other competitors during running. Also during each lap it passed the “stadium” with cheering crowds, that was always a boost.
Race day started with a promising +6C and water +16C. The forecast was sunshine and +22C, so it was going to be perfect weather. We woke up at 4:00 AM, ate some breakfast (I had my normal homemade smoothie) and headed for the race venue. We were very happy that we had prepared everything the previous night: gels taped to the bike, energy drinks prepared, all gear checked and ready.
I had all my gear ready at the transition area around 6:30 and was ready to change into my wetsuit and head to the beach.
I was in the water at 6:40 and had plenty of time to warm up and get used to the cold water. At 7:00 it was RACE TIME!! I started swimming with my own pace and it worked perfectly. The whole swimming was actually a fairly enjoyable part of the race. I had some trouble navigating to the first buoy as the sun was shining right in my eyes. But I guess everyone else had the same challenge as well. At one point I had a cramp in my calf. I knew that it would go away by just swimming and keeping my ankle straight. Again something I had learned during the long training hours. Otherwise the only issue was at some point it felt like my wedding ring was about to fall off…luckily it didn’t 🙂
When “running” from swimming to transition 1, I managed to swipe my toe on the ground so that it peeled the skin from the top of the toe. Luckily it didn’t affect the race at all.
After transition 1, biking felt very good. It was a bit chilly, but I had a long sleeved shirt on that I had planned to take off after the first round. Biking progressed fairly well and I was able to keep the average speed that I had planned, 30km/h. Fueling also went right as planned. During the first few hours I ate a few energy bars and had a gel every 30mins. I tried to drink ~0,75l of energy drink / hour, but as it wasn’t too hot I think I ended up drinking maybe 0,6l/hour. Even that felt like too much, as I had to stop three times to empty excess fluid.
The last edge of the bicycling triangle route was fairly hilly. During the last lap, my legs were starting to feel it. I actually got I little scared that had I pushed too hard. I eased up on the speed and took the last lap very easily. Right before coming to the transition area, I saw a familiar back. It was Tommy Boy, my training mate.
We passed through transition 2 together and started running together.
The route was very nice as it always passed through the “stadium”. I had my own cheering crowd present that really gave me energy.
Running went fairly ok, during last lap we were even able to increase our speed a little and the last 50m we sprinted to the finish line. I was very happy that my fueling worked very well through out the whole race. During the 12 hours, I consumed:
- 2 energy bars
- 14 energy gels
- 4-5 l of energy drink
- Water (not sure how much as I was drinking that from each service station during running)
The official results show my finishing time as 12:09:22.
I used my Suunto Ambit during the race with triathlon as the sport mode. I was not sure if the battery would last through the whole Ironman with normal (1s) update interval, so I set the GPS update interval to 60s and recording interval to 10s. This is clearly visible in inaccuracy during biking and running. Ambit recorded 38,13km of running instead of the 42km. I guess the course also played a role in that with a lot of tight turns where the less frequent update interval means cutted corners.
The move on movescount: http://www.movescount.com/moves/move17642146
Links and stuff:
- Nastola ironman website: http://www.nastolatriathlon.fi/sm_taysmatka_2013/sm_taysmatka_2013.html
- Official photos will be here: http://www.nastolatriathlon.fi/sm_taysmatka_2013/sm_taysmatka_2013_kuvia.html
- Full results available here: http://www.nastolatriathlon.fi/sm_taysmatka_2013/sm_taysmatka_2013_tulokset.html