Ironman Sweden: The “Sideways” Bike

Sorry for dragging out this Ironman…I have so much to say about it! Swim recap can be found here!

Before I start on the bike leg, I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to Planet X for sending me AMAZING bikes (I was racing on their Exocet 2 Team Carnac TT bike) and looking after me. Let’s just say cycling isn’t my forte so I needed all the help I could get with a super speedy bike! With my lack of training for obvious reasons, I was really comfortable on it (until my back hurt from tensing so much in the wind…my fault entirely!).

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(Thanks Planet X….if I hadn’t been sent a 2nd bike after my crash I would have been out of the race!)

And another HUGE thank you to Steven at Holburn Cycles for the best service a girl could ask for! He has THE best bike shop in Aberdeen, and even gives good cuddles to girls (having just been hit by a car) when a bike accident happens right outside the door! I was an emotional wreck in his shop recently! He has kept me right and has filled me with advice over the past few months!

Thank yooooou guys!!

Ok back to the race. Transition went smoothly. I saw one other female enter the change tent after me and I congratulated her. She didn’t speak English but responded with a smile and a “F***”!” It’s funny how swear words can be internationally recognised! I let her off considering it was a challenging swim!

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I found my bike, headed to the mount line and tried to get on without falling over or taking too long. The crowds were 3 or 4 rows deep along the road we mounted on and they were going wild for the 1st female out of the water, so I had thought it was inevitable I would slip and fall flat on my face with the bike falling on top of me. Fortunately, this didn’t happen and off I went up the hill towards the Oland Bridge.

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My Garmin was playing up so I was trying to sort that while trying to work out where the wind was coming from. It felt like it was going in circles!! The direction was determined once I turned right onto Oland Bridge. It was hitting me right in the face.

I finally got the Garmin to work while on said bridge, but wished it hadn’t when it revealed my speed. 16kph. On the flat. It was laughable it was so windy! Did I REALLY have to battle through this?! Hang on, the main parts of the bike leg are going to be facing the wind side on….NOOOOOO!!!!!

This was going to be one loooonnnnnnnggggggggggg bike ride.

On the same topic, “Oland” – I found out later – means “land of wind and sun”. Why did I not know this before entering? 120km on a scorching hot, tornado of an island? I could barely hear my own thoughts with the wind hitting all angles of my tear drop helmet (sorry, Steven’s helmet – thanks again, Steve!).

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(oops – sometimes it got so windy I couldn’t stay down in the TT position – sorry coach: photo courtesy of Ambjorn Johansson)

The crowds were amazing for the first 30km of the bike leg. There were Mexican waves, samba bands and children cheerleading on their trampolines! Then, as soon as the crowds died down, in “horse manure county” as I have now named it, two pro women came whizzing past me like I was standing still! How demoralising!

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I don’t mind when guys pass me on bikes thinner than the width of my nails, but whenever a girl passed me (I think there were 4 or 5 in total? Don’t quote me on that) I get annoyed. Granted, I haven’t had much time on the bike, considering I bought my 1st one last July, only started using it in around September, and have been in and out of hospital in recent weeks, but I like to think these thunder thighs of mine can at least keep up with these super human cycling machines!

A good couple of hundred males must have passed me! I had mentally prepared for this, and I took these times as a way to learn more about how those fast guys are so speedy. Some had a super-fast cadence, others were ridiculously slow yet powerful, but they all looked amazing! I did see some struggles from those with full disc wheels in the wind though…not surprising considering I had some near misses and I only had deep rims! My way of tackling these disheartening passings? Counting how many people were called Johan…maybe 20%! I had a cheesy grin on my face when an Olaf passed me; all I could think about was how the snowman from Frozen would cope in those conditions. Hey, I had a good few hours of thinking time – I went off track a few times…!

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(stop posing and FOCUS Debz…!)

One thing that annoyed me was how much drafting went on. Maybe I was just annoyed that I couldn’t keep up on the back of those draft packs, but it was a bit of a coincidence that the majority of women that passed me were on the back of a group of at least 5 who were clearly less than the legal limit of 10m between one another. In my opinion, you don’t deserve that finisher’s medal if you draft. The wind was so strong it would save you so much time and effort if you were in a peloton. The marshals I did see on course did seem to be doing their job though; one motorbike pulled up to me and gave me an informal warning about my number being at the side. The wind had turned it to the side from the back and I hadn’t noticed!

Back on the mainland, we did a wee loop back into Kalmar, which really helped with morale for both the athletes and the spectators. Their cheer was VERY welcome and this point and when I saw Mum, Keith and Kyle after being on that island for nearly 4 hours I just lit up! It gave me an extra boost and I had my energy and mental strength back! The massive tailwind back on Oland Bridge also helped…!

The mainland 60km were pretty undulating and on old country roads. The quality of these roads were just like Aberdeenshire, which was unfortunate – but at least I was used to it! There were potholes, grit and even train lines to negotiate. There were quite a lot of twisty parts, which may have kept it interesting for the good cyclists, but my bike handling skills are still sub-par that I really struggled and lost time in these areas. It was mentally tiring when a group you were finally managing to keep an eye on in the distance would drop you at every aid station and corner, just because you have to slow down so much, and you are so tired from the unplanned lack of training that you have to come up onto your hoods a lot more because if you stayed in the TT position any longer you would rust in that position and remain in that position for the run that was to follow.

An out and back point of the course meant a 180 turn (#fail) and “only” 30km to go to the end of the bike leg. Granted, my nutrition hadn’t been as planned, so I started to struggle a little. Basically, I thought I could master both filling up my Profile aero bottle with water AND grabbing a Powerbar at every aid station, but alas I only managed the former. I had had zero solid food on the cycle and had just relied on the 10 gels I diluted into my water bottle in my bike cage.

Not to worry though, I didn’t have long to go, and the further I went, the more dense the crowds! Although the smell of their bbqs mixed with my lack of solid food reeeeaaaalllllllyyyyyyy played on my mind.

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(nearly there….stop thinking about bbq burgers…)

Finally, I passed our hotel which was only a couple of kms from the transition area and smiled the whole way in! You couldn’t help it with the crowds! The winds were less severe as we were sheltered with more buildings and trees, and I got some motivational words from people that passed me/the small number of people I passed that were bonking pretty hard. As I heard the commentator’s sound on the loud speaker, I know I only had a few more seconds before I could get some relief from sitting on the bike for 5 hours and 44 minutes – WOOHOO!!

I was now down to 2nd place. Time for the run…

6 thoughts on “Ironman Sweden: The “Sideways” Bike

  1. Really love reading your blogs, don’t think you know me, I worked with Kyle in Run4it. Now in Middle East. Training for first half ironman. Can’t swim, not great on a bike and my running days are past me. Lol

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    1. You can definitely cyle if you managed 66km in 37degrees! I was struggling in 26degrees! What half are you doing? Sooo jealous you are in the Middle East – it is on my list!! Slightly better than working on Holburn St?! 😉 xx

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