Back to reality – Sweden already feels like a distant memory despite only getting back last night! Although I still have the DOMS to prove it was, indeed, not a dream! What an experience!
I am still writing my post(s?) of my race recap, but I demanded Phil does his asap, so I have something awesome to put on the blog meantime!
He has some phenomenal mental strength! His back hurt so much after the bike that he was in transition for ages trying to physically and mentally prepare for the marathon. He is some guy! AND to top it off, he totally looked after me before the race – I was terrified!!
(3 amigos arriving in Kalmar)
Here is his account of his 3rd Ironman experience:
IRONMAN KALMAR 2015 RACE REPORT
Bonk (cycling) definition: The catastrophic moment when there’s suddenly nothing left in the tank; when the legs turn to jelly, and getting to the finish becomes an altogether supreme effort of will – BikeRadar.com
After racing one in 38 degrees heat and also racing one in hilly Wales I assumed I’d had probably the worst of what Ironman triathlon can throw at someone. Nope, something new again!
Usually I’d keep these post-race evaluations to myself but I’ve made a deal with Debbie that if I get this report to her soon for her blog, she’ll exchange it for everything she knows about supplements (hopefully it won’t be just a Ben & Jerry’s menu). So now I’m sat on a Norwegian Airlines flight to Gatwick trying to dig back into the emotions and physical feelings of that race – expanding on the standard Aberdonian response of “it was alright”.
Let’s ease in with the pre-race build up; that might get the memories flowing. Our accommodation seemed to be like University halls, basic but the core things you need and was only a couple of kilometres from the race start. Registration and the race briefing were fairly uneventful but I think for Debbie it started to make things more real so I tried to calm any fears and answer any questions I could. Once we’d built our bikes again (well Kyle and Keith had built Debbie’s bike, #TeamMoore) we went for a short spin on the Friday morning to make sure they had no issues. The scenery in Kalmar is stunning and like a lot of Scandinavia it has loads of cycle paths, would visit again if it wasn’t a bit of a faff to get to.
(he got SUCH a good spot…out of the way and near the exit!)
On Friday lunchtime we racked our bikes and bags in the transition area then spent the rest of the afternoon/evening stretching on the grass and sorting final bits and pieces. Coach Scott had a long chat with Debbie on Skype, I listened in for a bit while foam rolling, realising all the stuff I hadn’t done right and picking up on tips like chewing electrolyte tabs. Scott kindly asked if I had any questions too, I figured it was too late to change anything now anyway so just said, “I’m alright”.
(we paid to do this)
(can we go home now we have the merchandise?)
Race morning started for me around 4.30am, met Debbie for breakfast around 4.45am, we’d bought some porridge to soak overnight then heat up with boiling water in the morning – it didn’t work – it was pretty disgusting. We tried to get as much down as possible though as the alternative was lots of meat or yoghurts from the canteen. We headed to the transition area where you’re allowed back to pump tyres and put a few more things in your transition bags like nutrition and waterbottles, this is when a lot of people start to get really nervous, hence long queues for the toilets! No real dramas for us though, gave Debbie a big hug when she was starting to overthink it all and reminded her to just think of it one chunk at a time. Moments later she was heading right to the front of the swim start so I think she got in the zone! I hung back a little bit around the 1hr crowd due to my slightly undercooked swim training.
(Big L is full of the positive mantras!)
The swim start was in a harbour at sunrise surrounded by Kalmar locals and had a really good vibe, they were rolling swim starts so it wasn’t the usual fight of thousands that I’ve had at the other Ironmans. I was sceptical and sort of preferred the big mass starts but I imagine for those with smaller builds it’s a bit fairer. As I dived in and nearly went flying into a pod of swimmers I realised some of those who were in the 1hr group may have been thinking optimistically. So spent the first half hour or so zig-zagging from pod to pod drafting on their feet til I spotted another group further ahead. Once I realised my arms weren’t going to fall apart after half-way I started accelerating and picking them off even faster which was fun cause that was when we were back in view of the crowds. In hindsight though I should have just moved myself forward with Debbie and got on a fast pod from the start.
I finished the swim in about an hour and felt warmed up now to get started with the real race but strangely my hamstrings started cramping as I headed into transition to get changed. I don’t know exactly why this is, I don’t really kick when I swim frontcrawl, especially in open water but the same thing happened after my swim in IM Wales. My current theory, is that maybe in the lead up to the race I’ve drank too much water with not enough electrolytes/salts so any exercise would have suddenly set off the cramp. Or a combination of that with lack of swim training. Either way, both can be sorted if I do it again.
Probably time to get a coffee if you’ve made it this far through this report but it is making this flight pass faster, I’ll leave it up to Debbie to edit this down if she wants. Speaking of coffee, I cut it out for a week in the lead up to the race to hopefully be more caffeine sensitive on race day, didn’t seem to do much so think I’ll continue as a coffee junkie next time.
Back to the bike, the IM Sweden course is pretty much pancake flat but it was very, very windy. Meant it was hard to gauge how my pace was doing, once I’d done the big loop (and had therefore had both tail/head winds) I was averaging over 19mph which I was more than happy with, especially given I’d been cramping or on the verge of cramping for most of it so had to stay more in a spin gear.
After that big loop the wheels started to come off, not literally but they might as well have. One of my aero bars had come loose as I hadn’t tightened the bolt enough so was trying to manage that, then while opening up a powerbar while resting arms on said aerobars and going up a steady climb my left leg went into a full cramp spasm. A few swear words and a bit of zig-zagging later I recovered control and still had the powerbar, luckily avoiding a nasty bump.
At around mile one hundred, the steady ache in my lower back just became unbearable, felt like I was being stabbed whenever I bent into the aero position and I lost all real power in my legs. My pace dropped from the 18-22mph down to 13-15mph and it was just about mitigating damage done to my time for the final 12 miles. Earlier on the bike I thought I was on track to smash my previous best (12hrs 15), with a one hour swim and a 19mph bike I’d be going onto the run roughly after 7hrs and all my long training runs had been well under 8 minute mile pace – maybe get close to 11hrs I thought…. Not anymore. I decided if I couldn’t cycle fast back at least I could sort everything else out. At the final aid stations I made sure I ate enough and cooled myself down with plenty of water, emptied out any water I wouldn’t need to drop excess weight from the bike and started mentally going through the transition plan.
When I got off the bike I started to get the feeling that it was game over. I could barely walk. The pain was in the whole of the lower quarter of my back now and each step was agony. I’d had sore backs from cycling before and in other Ironmans but this almost had me in tears. Walking out of transition and past all the crowds there’s a feeling of shame, mixed with a spot of depression covered in a wave of embarrassment – along with the daggers in my lower back. I was not in a good place. The dream target time was over, now what.
I don’t quit. While not technically true (I’ve quit piano lessons, jobs and swimming), you don’t get into technicalities when feeling that raw. I also remembered the, very cheesy, line from Rocky I’d watched the other night “It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take, and keep moving forward” so I kept moving forward.
I couldn’t eat any more, the combination of gels, powerbars and electrolyte tabs from earlier was tough enough to keep down. So coca cola would help, it has caffeine and sugar to perk up, however the coke they had on the course was straight from the bottle so still fizzy, not a good idea. I had to get through the marathon just on water. This lead to a bonk after a couple km where I just wanted to crawl into a heap on the ground and sleep. So emergency gel out, started sipping while trying not to vomit.
Thankfully towards the end of walking the first 10km (takes a surprisingly long time walking that distance), my lower back started to numb (or I’d stopped feeling pain), the gel had started to work and around the same time Debbie came flying past on her second lap with some words of encouragement. I was able to jog again, a little, and worked out that thanks to my faster bike time I could actually get near my previous attempts if I got a move on. So with that new mini goal in my head I killed myself jog/walking for the rest of the marathon to finish in 12hr40, slower than Tenby but faster than Zurich. I roared as I finally got on the finisher’s red carpet and milked the crowd then past the finish line I was taken to the medical tent cause I was a little broken.
(my FAVOURITE photo!!! This is Debbie talking and not Phil being vain.)
I’ll leave the post-race awards and celebrations to Debbie (so no spoilers). I could go on for pages and pages about lessons learned in this race, there’s definitely a few things I’d need to fix next time to avoid the cramping, bonk and back pain, but overall this is one of my proudest races even though it wasn’t the fastest. I didn’t quit. It was awesome doing an Ironman with Team Moore and although I haven’t mentioned him in this, I’ve got a new buddy in Debbie’s boyfriend Kyle who helped with a lot of the pre-race logistics and also collected me after the race. He’s a fun guy and definitely a keeper! Debbie did amazing and keeps on increasing my already sky high respect for her, looking forward to her race report.
(eating reindeer, witch and elk in Stockholm)
(we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Abba museum in Stockholm)
(Phil’s gift to me finishing!!! He knows the way to my heart…muhahaha to Coach!)
Onto the next challenge, after a stop at the buffet.
Thanks for doing that Phil – I LOVED reading it! I didn’t even pay him for the final statement at the end!! And an even BIGGER thank you for the M&Ms that Scott said I could have afterwards!