It’s been a while since my last post, I’ve had a few more half marathons – but I’ve mostly been focused on preparing for the half ironman which happened yesterday!
We decided late last year when the new half ironman in Jönköping was announced that we were going to do it together. The only problems were that we couldn’t swim front crawl, and we had no bikes. The bike part was solved quite quickly, the swimming we decided to tackle in the new year with a swim course over several weeks.
We got a trainer to set the bike on so that we could train over the winter indoors, and we set to getting our basic training levels up in spinning. Then in January started the front crawl course – which was a bit shaky but seemed to work to getting a basic level. With university and placements it was a little hard at times to fit in getting in the pool, but we tried as much as we could to get the base in in order to be able to start in open water come spring.
Running we both had a reasonable background with, and so I planned in the womans health half in April, then we won tickets to Göteborgsvarvet and we did a half in T’s home town in June on our 5th wedding anniversary.
We had an interesting journey down to Jönköping – our car broke in a queue on the motorway, and we ended up having a frantic call around to find a suitable hire car for our roof rack. After 5 phone calls we managed to sort it out and got to Jönköping later than planned but at least we made it. Managed to meet up with E and have a coffee before heading back to the hotel to sleep.
The next morning involved registration, getting our bags ready, checking out locations for the race, and hanging and pepping each other up. Triathalon needs lots of preparation it seems – from getting the bike checked (seemed like a good idea, and turns out our tires need to be waaay more inflated than we had been doing), to preparing the bags that you use in transition. We had three bags – one for before the event/after, then one for swim-bike transition and one for bike-run. I packed a few things too many (rain jacket for the bike, sleeves as well which I decided I couldn’t be bothered with, a t-shirt for the run that I didn’t end up changing into) but on the whole I was pretty happy with my choice of items for the event.
Then it was back to the hotel after having checked everything in and an early night. I actually slept pretty well, with the alarm going at 6am in the morning for 6:30 breakfast. We then headed to the transition area to do a final check on the bike and transition bags (putting bottles on the bike, and energy bars/snickers) before changing into wetsuits for the warm up in the canal.
Warmup and Swim
We were at the canal just before warmup was over. T and E decided to just jump in and get out, while I chose to swim the length of the warmup to get used to the feel of being in the water around other people. I had a bit of a panic going under the bridge as it got pitch black in the water, and my navigation was a bit shocking – but I managed, and then also managed to get myself out of the water at the other end without making a fool of myself. Score!
Then it was time to self-seed – aka stand where you anticipate your time to be. We stood at the back in the 50+ minute group as our times have been around that when we’ve done the distance. T and I got photographed kissing at some point as well which was quite cool to see. The start was a rolling start from a ramp, where they let 4 athletes into the water every 5 seconds or so. It meant that it was over 30 minutes from the mass start till we actually got into the water, which also meant people were finished with the swim before we even hopped in. It felt like an eternity and a second at the same time, I had a terribly hard time keeping my pulse in check. While I’ve known for a while that I can do the distance within the time limit and with front crawl, I’m still a beginner who hasn’t swam with many many other people at the same time.
Once into the water, it finally sunk in that I was doing it – and I worked hard on focusing on breathing and not panicking. I kept to the outer edge of the swimming area (which meant that I swam an extra 300m, but rather that than being swam into and over and other stuff). I had a few encounters with other swimmers, but was at the same time mostly able to hold my own. I had a hard time navigating though, especially on the way to the furthest bouy. I had also got the course mixed up in my head – which was a bit disappointing when I realised I still had a long way to go. Overall though I was pretty satisfied with my swim, coming up from 1900m (2200m!) after 49:15.
The transition was 500m away, barefoot running on a carpet which covered cobbles. I had expected to walk it, but once on dry land my legs took off and I ran the whole way. The transition went a little slower than expected (partially the run, partially that I realised that me trying to go fast wasn’t exactly going to mean that I was going to win the bloody thing anyway!), but worked well. I chose against taking my rain jacket in my cycle top, and couldn’t be bothered putting my compression sleeves on either, I did put on my toe socks though – which I think helped my feet being a lot fresher on the run.
Then it was time to go grab the bike and semi run out of the transition zone. I was delighted to then get onto the bike and clip in without *toooo* many issues. I’m not exactly comfortable with the spd-ld pedals to say the least, so clipping in and out with crowds is something that hasn’t exactly filled me with joy
The bike started off leaving Jönköping with a few light hills and turns, then after 7km we began the climb everyone had talked about. I took it steady, which led to being overtaken quite a lot, and then the drafting rules (12m between cycles) meant I had to drop back every time someone went past, which didn’t exactly lead to a quick climb. After about 10km it turned to rolling hills in stunning swedish countryside, which I tried to enjoy whilst attempting to keep my speed up as best I could. I ended up behind a woman who I rolled faster than, but then she climbed faster than me, we overtook each other quite a few times! Fear of the rules and drafting meant that there were a few situations where I didn’t overtake and probably should have done – I know that I could definitely improve there.
Around 20km in just before the aid station T came whizzing past me (singing baby shark), and while I tried to keep pace for a while, all the overtaking and everything was a bit too overwhelming for me, so I dropped back. The aid station was pretty uneventful – I had planned on stopping, but I managed to grab a bottle of water and a gel without actually stopping which I was quite proud of.
There was a dead turn somewhere in there, which was bloody awful – I nearly ended up in a ditch there…. oops.
Around 35km I started to feel my lower back hurting, so decided to stop on a slight incline to stretch my hips, which maybe wasn’t the best idea as my legs were like jelly and I nearly tipped over the opposite side to which I’d unclipped. Which then led to me pontificating for the next 55km on how on earth I was going to get off the bike once I reached Jönköping again. I tried instead to focus on the beautiful views, on eating every half an hour and finding a reasonable place in my head that wasn’t thinking that I could just quit once I got back to Jönköping.
Somewhere around 70km the cycle went through a place called Vista Kulle, and it was so beautiful that I came swiftly out of my mood and back into my happy place. The downhills into Jönköping were enjoyable as well, and before I knew it I was into transition again. In my fear of stopping I chose to get off the bike waaay before the transition, much to the amusement of the guys on the line. (3:48)
This transition was again longer by needing to attend a call of nature, which in a one piece tri-suit with built in bra is not easy. But otherwise it wasn’t so eventful and I was relatively quickly out on the run.
I was utterly overjoyed to finish the bike in under 4 hours, and by that point I knew that I had the half ironman in the bag. I started the run on light legs – they felt incredibly fresh, and not at all like the jelly legs I had experienced on my brick passes. The run route comprised of 2,5 laps, passing the finish line twice before going in the third time. It also had a few areas where you were running back and forth, so it meant you saw people multiple times and could cheer folk on. I saw both H and Mr T on the way out along the front of the Vattern, then I saw E both coming into the running transition and on the way back along the front – which was awesome. I had some stomach issues which meant a loo stop at around 5km, but with that solved I focused on enjoying the run. My legs definitely became tired around 10-11km, but seeing Mr T now and again made me wonder if I could catch up with him to finish together. I felt a little doubtful that I could, but on the final lap with 3km to go I finally caught sight of him just after an energy station and managed to join him for the last bit of the run. Running up the main street for the last time was pretty magical, then seeing friends just before the finish line was even better. It was absolutely brilliant to run in together, our first half ironman, our first triathlon.
The athletes garden was fantastic – hamburgers, alcohol free beer, coffee and a massage later and I felt brilliant, the whole experience was incredible and the volunteers and organisers had really put on a brilliant event.
I’ll definitely do the middle distance again, though I do definitely have the urge for a full ironman now!