August 20, 2019
"How does it feel to finish an Ironman?"
I’ve asked that question a couple of years ago and 2019 was the year to find out the answer.
An Ironman Triathlon is widely regarded as one of the most challenging and physically demanding single-day sporting events in the world. It’s not at all difficult to understand why when you take a look at the tasks to check off within the total cut off time of 17 hours: a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, topped off by a marathon.
For me, the journey has started 5 years ago with the purchase of roadbike off a Tour de France team and getting interested in endurance competitions. Before even thinking about a full distance Ironman, I was testing the waters with an Olympic distance Triathlon - that’s when I got hooked and learned a lot about training and nutrition. Soon after, I signed up for a 70.3 Ironman event and it slowly dawned on me that all these steps were leading to one finish line: that of a full distance Ironman.
"EVERYONE HAS A PLAN UNTIL THEY
GET PUNCHED IN THE FACE"
... and boy, did I get punched. Had a flat tire 3k into the bike, nearly got a penalty for wild peeing and after 100k on the bike my legs and back were in big pain. The run was after 20k a mix of hooks and face hits for about 2.5h. Well, forget the plan and better imagine the win. Visualize that finish line and you can take all those hits.
Fast forward to Copenhagen, t - 1 day.
Me and Harri G. (another weirdo with the shared appetite for pain) arrived in Copenhagen 3 days before race day. The nervousness level was increasing by the hour and we tried to distract ourselves with preparing our bikes and gear. You know how they say ‘do not change any settings on your bike shortly before the race’. Well, when you are hours away from the biggest challenge in your life you forget about all the good advice. So I went ahead and changed my entire bike set-up, from saddle to handlebar 48 hours before the race. I mean, 48 hours is not shortly before, that starts around 36 hours, right?
You also begin to show symptoms of a beginning OCD - you are convinced you have to see the swim start and have to get into the water for a last training session. Total nonsense obviously, but it helps you cope with the little guy in your head who freaks you out. Anyways, after picking up the start numbers and getting the bike into Transition Zone 1, time for the last supper before an early wake-up on race day. I was actually thinking about having a glass of wine for dinner, but then reminded myself of the two weekends before when I had to step up my drinking game in order to rule the dance floor at weddings. So that was a ’no’ for wine.
I kept wondering why I was nervous. It’s not like I was going for the win and behind me lay some intense months of training. I guess there was still some doubt in me if my body would make it to the finish line. With a lot of people knowing about it, I could not disappoint them and come back without finishing. Also, I was simply nervous of the unknown: being in a competition for 12 hours straight, performing on an intense physical and mental level, actually running a marathon for the first time ever. Yes, I had never completed any of the distances separately before and now I had to do all three, back to back. Not sure if that was a smart choice.
So, that’s how in August 2019 I found myself in Copenhagen, ready to experience the feeling of becoming an Ironman, having one last nervous shit before the swim start and taking in the smell of fear of my fellow athletes.
The 4 months before were nothing but intense with a crazy amount of training. Having a challenging job (50+ hours and lots of weekends on the road) and still trying to get 2 workouts in per day is not that easy. Getting up at 6am, going for a 2h bike session, working for 10 hours and hitting the pool in the evening for 1.5h was a normal day for me and after a while it actually became sort of a routine - even up to the point where you feel bad when you take a day off training. I quickly became addicted to this post-workout feeling once you start seeing progress and it feels just great to cross off yet another session on your plan. On top of that, I have turned into a supplement maniac, taking 5 pills every morning and putting all the protein into my body. After all, this was going to be the machine that I needed to perform at it’s best so it would take me across the finish line.