So, the distance to cover was an open water swim over 3 km in the harbour of Odense, then a 120 km bike ride, and finally a 30 km run.
This means it’s somewhere between an Ironman and a 70.3. Hence the plan was to go a little bit faster/harder than in a full distance IM, but not as hard as the other week in Elsinore. I wanted to reach the podium and thought that on a good day I’d absolutely have the chance to at least be involved in a battle for the victory in my AG.
Equipment for the race: Orca Predator wetsuit – brand new, Argon 18 E-119TRI+ with Corima disc and 78mm front since the course was fairly flat. Spiuk aero helmet and bike shoes. Swe national team 2-piece suit. ON Cloudflow running shoes, no socks. Throughout the race I rely on my own nutrition: Maurten 320 on the bike and Marten 100 GEL on the run.
In retrospect it’s clear that I was never close to win this race, but on the other hand I surprisingly pushed my self to a runner up position – without being aware of it. So to conclude: I’m very happy with how I played the cards I had in my hand in this long distance world championship.
I don’t think a detailed report on every aspect of my race is interesting; so I’ll limit my notes to some take home messages to myself and those who might be interested:
Race morning: Inspired by my friend Lars Rosencrantz I was on site early. Actually before they opened the transition area. This turned out to be a huge advantage since the organisation was ”not the best”, leaving many athletes still in line to get in when the first wave started (!). For future events: Be there early – it’s simply not worth sleeping an extra 15 minutes.
Swim: AG 18-49 started a few minutes before 50+. I started ”firm but not rushing” leaving a little gap to the front pack in my wave after a few hundred meters. But for the first time in my life I was able to close that gap! @simcoachens instructions on repeat inside my head; initiative, catch, relaxed. After 500 m we started to catch the slower guys in the previous start wave. From then on it was open water slalom…
At 1500 m there was an Australian exit – if I had known this was a photo session, then I’d try to look less like a bad Voldemort look alike.
Special cred to Adam Kjellström who managed to take the in action swim photo below.
T1: Interesting arrangement not letting the athletes see where their T1 bags are hanged up before the race, leaving us running around like maniacs searching for our bags and trying to interpret small hand written signs with BIB numbers… no more comment needed…
Bike: A beautiful two-loop bike course on the Danish countryside, and it was totally closed for traffic – simply superb. The weather had changed and the previous days 30 degrees and sunshine was replace by clouds and a bit of wind. The wind made the bike course harder than I had estimated, and after a quarter of it I started to feel that this wasn’t a great day for me. I struggled to keep watts and couldn’t find a relaxed ”in the zone” feeling. I didn’t want to risk my run performance, so I adapted to the fact that I didn’t have a great bike day and just focused on doing a good job anyway.
The craziest moment during the bike ride: With 20 km to go the ventilation of my Spiuk Aero helmet was demonstrated: A bee is sucked into the helmet from below the visor. It gets stuck above my left ear and I hear the characteristic buzz of a bee that is not comfortable with its beeing (!). For a second I hesitate, and then I start hitting the helmet on the left side as hard as I can and try to squeeze the bee by pushing the helmet around.
The bee did not hesitate for a fraction of that same second… And I feel the pain from the sting slowly get more intense whilst smashing and squeezing the helmet. I would have loved to have this sequence on video; it must have looked very awkward and quite funny.
After a while I realise that the pain is there and that it will stay for a while. But I’m not too worried since I’ve had bee stings before during racing, and my experience is that the
pain goes away after an hour or two.
Take home message: Even if it’s not my best day – just keep on working – medals are not distributed based on how I feel during the race.
T2: Dismount line at the end of a downslope(!) into a parking garage… This is the first time I get of my TT-bike with locked brakes standing on the front wheel. I’m not sure but it could be that I did an ”over-the-aero bars-dismount”.
The find-your-bag-if-you-can-arrangement was copied from T1, and just as bad as in T1…
Run: A four loop run course in the beautiful city of Odense. And just as the bike course, the run course was an athlete’s only area. That was really great! No risk of colliding with pedestrians or strollers, so we could fully focus on our running… and looking for toilets in case any of the 1000+ athletes would find themselves in need for a bio break during this 30 k run… Unfortunately the organisers had missed this little detail…so our search was in vain… To be fair they realized this little mistake and arranged a few during my last lap. Ironically this meant that some of the athletes that spent almost an hour in line for the toilets in the morning, now lined up again during the race…
My own running didn’t live up to my expectations either: I usually wait 2 km to assess the run form since I know it takes some time to switch from biking to running. But once again, I searched in vain: I didn’t have that flow feeling I so badly need to be able to pull of a good run. I timed my self approx. +10 sec/km compared to race plan. So instead of making up time, I was falling further behind.
Until now I didn’t know how I was doing compared to competition. This is according to plan since I want to race my own race, but now I was curious. Two friends standing about 1 km apart shouted that I was fourth after lap 1. I then passed a friendly Danish athlete who said, ”Now you only have to catch Krüger to take the lead”. This was a surprise. But Krüger was several minutes ahead, and I was more occupied with a mind battle regarding whether to finish or not. I simply could not keep a good rhythm. Occasionally I had short episodes of good run feeling, but most of the time I had to fight physically and mentally. I was passed by an US athlete in a furious tempo and almost gave up. The following two laps I was told I was in third position. I had no idea how far it was to 2nd or 4th when I headed out for the last lap. For the last lap I found motivation in my ”PodiumTour2018” mantra. I was in third position, it was the world championship, and ”pain is temporary…” I told myself that if I loose that 3rd position, at least I should make them have to fight for it. So, I keep running the best I can. This turns out to be a very good decision: Unaware of it I pass Oliver Degenhardt for 2nd place during the very last kilometres. The American that passed me in high speed and almost made me give up was in another AG… So i’m really happy I finished strong after all.
Conclusion – don’t quit when it hurts* and I’m tired, quit when I reach the finish line. The reward might be greater than I expect.
Michael Krüger was outstanding and the man for the top of the podium this day. Personally I’m really happy with the outcome and proud that I showed myself that I could pull off a good result by compensating a lack of perfect physical day form with mental focus and determination. It didn’t come easy – but podium positions never do 😀
* I’d like to point out the importance of judging the situation and differ between ”bad pain” such as an injury or real health issues, and ”good pain” which is a natural consequence of the racing at high effort. See blog post from 2014