Fragment of memories from a memorable day.
– He is at 104 degrees, put him in the ice bath – Now!
– There is no stretcher.
– We’ll use a blanket a pull him over.
– Hurry up!
– Ready, got him! One two three go!
6-8 (?) nurses and doctor’s work as a well trimmed team. They lift me from the beach bed used in the medical tent and the ice-cold water surrounds me, leaving only my head and my left arm (with the i.v.) sticking up. Initially I don’t feel much but soon it hurts all over. It’s simply freezing.
– Please take me out, it’s cold.
– Not yet.
– Carl – look at me, can you open your eyes?
I open my eyes and look into a friendly and concerned face.
– Do you know where you are!
– Yeah! Hawaii – hang loose…
– When did you arrive?
– …mm October… I sort of see the figure 2 in front of me, but can’t remember if it’s a date or what it is.
– Please call my wife and say I’m OK (obviously a lie…)
– We’ll do that later – first we have to take care of you.
– Please take me out!
– Soon, just one more minute…
– Please call my wife!
– OK – what’s her number?
– …+46… wait…+46…7…I don’t know, please call her
– We will, we’ll find her…
Next thing I remember is lying on one of the beach beds again. I can feel the cold plastic ribbon against my lower back and realises that they must have cut my brand new swim skin open for some reason. I remember thinking ”Too bad but ok, obviously they had to.”(They haven’t. As everybody else I took of the swim skin in T1, and I’ve been racing in a 2-piece tri suit…). My legs and stomach starts cramping – It hurts. Actually it hurts all over me. As my mind slowly becomes clearer as a consequence of my body temperature coming down and the i.v. , I sense how fear grows. It strikes me that I don’t know how this will end.
– I’ afraid…
– It’s going to be all right Carl
– I fucked up, I failed, I don’t know what went wrong, It hurts, I’m scared
– I’m right here with you.
A nurse sits down beside me. I grab his warm soft brown arm and hold on to it tight. He looks at me with a calm smile.
– I’ve got you – it’s ok
The doctor asks if he may give me something against the cramps via the infusion and I appreciate it.
I don’t know how much I’m awake during the approx. 2 hrs. I spend in the medical centre, but when the situation becomes stable I remember how the team that has taken care of me starts to greet each other and introduce themselves. I realise that these guys formed an emergency team the moment I got carried in to the med.tent. They are all volunteers from different part of the country and haven’t met before.
– Wow – we did well didn’t we! Hi, I’m NN and I’m from Arizona…
I get even more impressed and grateful! I can’t remember any names except the dr. Lindberg /Lundberg(?) who I met next evening at the awards. If any of you read this – I hope you are super proud of yourself! You were simply amazing and definitely my champs. Thank you!
– Carl – you won your age group! You’re a world champion! Congratulations! 9.05 that’s awesome! World Champ!
One of the nurses has checked my results in the tracker app. Lying on a bed wrapped in emergency blankets I let it sink in: I did it.
The goal I defined a year ago as the ultimate achievement has become reality; Winning my age group in Ironman World Championship and setting a new AG course record.
But there and then, on that beach bed in the shadow of King Kamehameha’s hotel I’m not completely sure how I feel about it.
Now, 2 weeks later, I am proud, happy and grateful. And I’ve been able to recap some key moments from the race that I’d like to share with anyone who’s interested. So, let’s turn back to that beautiful morning Saturday Oct 13, Kona, Big Island
After a good night sleep I arrive early at body marking. I fix my bike as everybody else and put on my swim skin. A short swim warm up at the Kamakahonu beach and a chat with Nelker, Annika and a couple of other Swedish athletes. Then it’s time to head for the swim start.
BANG – the cannon shot declares Race On! Anna-Karin’s (i.e. Simcoachen.se) instructions on repeat: Catch, easy, frequency, catch, easy, frequency… I get a good start and manage to keep calm. No stress, it’s going to be a long day. Form beats force.
As we approach the turning point 1.9 km out I navigate towards the right to get a tight turn. I’m perfectly placed and swim alongside the Body Glove ferry that marks the turn around. Well done I tell myself.
Some 500 m after the turn around I find myself swimming beside a guy that obviously has the same pace. We swim parallel for a while and I watch his stroke; perfect catch, high elbow through out the stroke and he even pulls through with the palm facing back all the way. I come to the conclusion that this is a skilled swimmer, and then think of coach Oscars last text message: You don’t have to swim super fast – but try to find good feet to follow. So I decide to fall back and see if I can stay behind this guy. This turns out to be a good move and I’m able to keep this position for the rest of the swim.
My race plan is to swim steady with good form without pushing it. When asked I’ve said that a dream is to sit on the bike when the race clock reaches 1 hour. I exit the water and glance at my Garmin: 56 minutes… Yes! I know I should get through T1 in about 3 minutes… A perfect start, and
I celebrate with a hang loose to the cameraman 🙂
Bike – On the way up Kuakini Hwy on the loop in Kona:
- On the upside: After a while I realise that there is no one coming down yet… this means that I’m actually close to the front pack of the age group athletes – again I tell my self that this is definitely a good start!
- On the down side 1: I hit a pothole and hear the typical sound from a bike bottle hitting the ground… I look back and see that I lost one of my bottles. Since I completely rely on my own nutrition during the race, this is not the best start… Fortunately it’s the bottle with ”160”. It only contains some 40 grams of carbs since I wanted to empty it before the first aid station to make up for the sweat loss during the swim. I carry 2 extra Maurten gels as back up, and these will cover the carbs so the main issue is that I’ll be a bit behind in terms of fluids during the first part.
- On the down side 2: The saddle suddenly tilts and I find myself sitting on a down sloping saddle… Note to self: Check ALL bolts before check in next race. Not much to do now, and since there is only 170 k left I decide to leave it this way. It will work even if it isn’t perfect. (This is entirely my own fault since I adjusted the saddle 2 days ago. BikeTyson – my bike dealer has made a superb job in my bikes through out the season)
When we get out on Queen-K I really start to appreciate the fast swim. Sure it’s good from a swim split perspective, but it’s even better from a bike perspective! Plenty of room. Not once during the race do I find myself having to break loose from a group. Sure there are a couple of guys who clearly draft deliberately (and show the most surprised ”I don’t understand what you’re talking about-face” when approached) and I’m getting passed by some small groups that obviously don’t have the ambition to join the #IKNOWTHERULES movement. But these where the exceptions and I also witness the referees taking care of some of them :-D.
Most of the time I can ride relaxed and ”alone”. A bonus is that the photographers from Finisherpix get plenty of time for a series of great shots focus just on me when I ride by 😀
Close call… the most dramatic sequence of the bike leg occurs on the way back to Kona. I enter an aid station and grab a bottle of water as I do in every aid station. I sit up with my left hand on the handlebar and switch between drinking from the bottle and pouring water over my speed top to keep cool. I register that a guy in front of me aims for a bottle of Gatorade but misses the catch and knocks it out of the volunteer’s hand. The bottle flies across the lane, lands and start rolling away…but since it’s a full cone shaped bottle it rolls in a circle… Everything happens very quickly but it feels like slow motion, and I remember thinking – theoretically that bottle could turn around and cross my path… This is exactly what happens. Since the bottle is moving in a circle it’s hard to predict its course. I tighten my left hands grip on the bar and hope for the best, still holding to water bottle in my right hand. Since my saddle is down sloping I have way more weight on my left arm, and thus the left part of the cockpit, than optimal. The full Gatorade bottle and my front wheel share the exact same GPS coordinates fractions of a second later… BANG!
Fortunately the bottle happened to roll in and meet my wheel at almost exact a 90-degree angle and I feel very VERY lucky. In my mind I send a ton of grateful thoughts to the design engineers at Argon 18 for coming up with an incredibly stable bike and a super rigid cockpit. I think the adrenalin boost I get from this episode lasted for the rest of the bike ride.
In T2 I change from the long-sleeved speed top to a short-sleeved tri top. I’ve modified the top by cutting off the ends of the sleeves for faster transition and Åsa has sewn a net pocket at the upper back that I will use to carry ice for cooling. Since I started using ON-running shoes I don’t wear socks, not even during the Ironman marathons, so I save a couple of seconds there 🙂
I load the pockets with my 8 Maurten gels I want to use for the first 2 hours of the run. I also have a bottle of 160-mix that I carry with me for the first part in order to somewhat compensate for the sweat loss that I expect to take off rapidly once I begin to run.
About 1 k in to the run I see Åsas bright smile and she shouts ”2 minutes to the leader”. This is the first time I get any info regarding how I’m doing compared to the other athletes in my AG, and it’s suits me fine. When asked before the race what I know about the competition I’ve shared my simple view: I don’t know since I don’t care. My rational is that in order to maximize my performance I focus on my race. I have a plan for the swim, for T1, for the bike, for T2 and for the run. I will of course adjust according to outer circumstances such as loosing a bottle of Maurten and weather conditions. But allowing someone else’s appearance on the start line interfere with how I execute my race doesn’t make sense to me in a race like the Ironman Hawaii. Not until a bit in to the run, and then more as inspiration than as basis for changing tactics.
Simply because I aim for getting as close to my full potential as possible, and to do so I feel that I need to continuously assess my own status and make decisions based on that.
So, I welcome the fact that I, as I interpret it, is 2nd in my age group and there is still 41 k to run before any awards are distributed…
Early in the run I realize that the temperature will vary between hot and hotter. Plan A is to walk through all aid stations in order to have time to put ice in my ice pockets and drink at least 2 cups of water – I stick to the plan. The pace is ok and when I pass Åsa on the way back from the first turning point 5.5 km out on Alii Drive she shouts ”1 minute”. So, the trend is positive.
I run (well, not exactly run, but anyway) up Palani and share a whole lot of high fives with the Hannes Hawaii tour team that, as always, have a crazy crowd right after the run course turns left on to Queen-K.
The rest of the run is a mind battle. I struggle to keep running between aid stations, telling my self that I’m allowed to walk through but not between them. The Finisherpix photo below is probably from an early stage of the run on Queen-K, since I obviously smile to the camera.
The road seems endless and it feels like an eternity before I reach 21 k. Still 21 kilometres to go… this is crazy. I don’ recall many parts of the run, but I remember heat, pain and how I fight to convince myself to push on. Just one more aid station…again and again.
The plan is to finish strong in case someone is coming from behind. I have no idea whether someone actually is approaching from behind, but during ITU Long distance world championship in July and 70.3 World Championship in Sept I was able to pass for 2nd and 1st position respectively in the last 1-2 km by pushing through all the way. With 10 k to go I try to increase pace, but I’m not sure I actually do that. Maybe it at least keeps me from slowing down.
Experiencing my race from within at this moment is a completely different story from following the race from the outside. It’s obvious of course, but after the race I’ve used the tracker app to see how the race actually evolved and how a spectator probably experienced it:
I start off with a great 56.07 swim followed by a 3.10 T1 leaving me starting the bike leg with 44 sec before 1 hour racing – awesome!
I then nail a 4.42.03 bike split, which for me is simply amazing albeit with favourable weather conditions on the bike. We all share the same weather and I exit T2 as 2nd in my AG. In KONA!
At the 14.3 k split time I’m in the lead by 8 seconds, and from then on the gap grows steadily: 16.9 k 1 min 9 secs. 22 k 2 minutes. At 30 k the gap has grown to 5 minutes and my pace is equal to or better than the others. This looks good! Just relax, make sure to monitor the carbs and salt intake, and keep drinking water and cool down with ice in every possible way.
Too bad I don’t have the tracker app at hand…
What I experience is this:
I feel how every part of my running machinery is deteriorating, and I fear that strong runners will catch me. I fight the temptation to stop, and it’s a fierce fight. At this moment ”Pain is temporary, glory is for ever” is far more than a catchy phrase. It’s my source of ”Mana”* and over and over again I tell my self that this is what I’ve been training for and invested so much in. All those hours on the Kickr, in the gym etc. Don’t give up now!
Finally I reach the top of Palani and turn right down the hill, 2 km left. I try to ”roll” down, but my legs seem to be of another opinion. With 1 km left I spot Åsa that shouts, ”8 minutes – just keep it together now Calle”. The implication of this should be – take it easy, and maybe even enjoy the moment. But that kind of complex reasoning is way over my brain capacity right now. I’m stuck in mode ”faster – all the way to the finish no matter what”. The photo to the right is from this moment.
Mia Ekström says we met when I ran down Hualalai Road and she was on her way up. Apparently we did a high five. I don’t even remember running there. What I do remember is that on the last stretch on the red carpet the noise from the crowd is overwhelming, and that I’m having issues keeping the balance. I run leaning heavily to the left and with 10(!) meters to go my legs collapse. I try to get up clinging to the fence. My legs won’t carry me and after a couple of attempts I give up and see no other option than to crawl the last meters in order to reach the finish line. Neither legs nor arms are particularly cooperative and my last meters are best described as a crawling version of Monty Pythons Silly Walk. The finish film shows an attempt to dab before falling over…
The next thing I remember is
– He is at 104 degrees, put him in the ice bath – Now!
– There is no stretcher.
– We’ll use a blanket a pull him over.
– Hurry up!
– Ready, got him! One two three go!
Afterwards my daughter Vendla said ”Dad – I think you lived up to the phrase I sent you before the start: ”I don’t finish when I’m tired, I finish when I’m done”.
I’m not sure what went wrong – I’ll try to dig a bit in to that so that I’ll be able to avoid physical meltdowns like this in the future. I did stick to my plan through out the race, especially regarding carbs, fluids and salt. May be I lost track of caffeine intake. May be I overused my mental strength turning it into a weakness not listening to the body’s signals.
Or… maybe maybe the run course was too long. A marathon is 42 195 meters, and my Garmin actually measured 42 290 meters which could explain why I was wasted before reaching the finish 😀
But for now I just relax, enjoy life and roll in contentment. Every day I remind my self of how I felt for the inspiring and challenging target I had. Together with Oscar I’ve tried to find a way to get as close as possible to the ultimate goal of breaking the AG course record and win. There were other levels that would have been great to achieve – but this is the one that has nurtured my training sessions through out the year. Not because it was probable, but because it was possible. And in Ironman – anything is possible!
I wish you all a wonderful off-season and that you are able to find your inner well of Mana*.
IRONMAN AG World Champion and Kona AG course record holder 🙂
*In Hawaiian culture, Mana is spiritual energy of power and strength, it exists in objects and persons. It is the Hawaiian belief that there is a chance to gain mana and lose mana in different hints that you do. It is also the Hawaiian belief that mana is an external as well as an internal thing.