Copenhagen Ironman Triathlon – 21 August 2016
by Chris Jamieson
The day started at 4am with two world colliding…the loud, colourful Copenhagen Pride party goers starting to make their way home just as the quiet, reflective Ironman competitors were making their way through the city to the start. Then exiting the Metro at Amager Beach there was just one group walking through the misty pre-dawn twilight to T1 with their pre-race thoughts.
A final bike check, to mount shoes and nutrition. Special needs bag dropped off (spare tubes and CO2 in case the flint stone strewn course did its worst). Then into the wetsuit. Plenty of time to « warm up » in the race (after getting cold waiting an hour for the rolling start at Mallorca 70.3 I’d decided it was better to keep dry ahead of time) so no practise swim. The only downside being not knowing if the 16C water would be a shock, impacting the start.
Just another 225k to go….
By the time Saleema and I got to the rolling start line the first Pro’s were already exiting the water! after their 45 minute performances. No shock as I hit the water (phew!) so quickly settled down and felt really good passing under the first bridge at 600m. Out to the next turn at 1500m with the course turning back into the slight chop the wind had kicked up. The course is a straightforward 3.8k loop of the inlet which was fortunate as the chop, mist and lack of landmarks made sighting problematic. After the bridge at 2.4k it was a bit disconcerting swimming almost on my own as the course goes straight following the coast while most people were adding distance to their swim by going closer to the buoy line that marked the out leg we’d already done. Into T2, a few seconds lost as cold hands made getting the wetsuit off harder than usual but with the 1:22 swim ahead of plan no drama. Saleema had a great swim too chicking me with a 1:20 😉
The first 10k of the bike twists and turns through the City but then joins the beautiful coast road for an almost flat 30k before turning inland. The course is billed as flat, with the high point only 73m above sea level and the total elevation for 180k being 750m, it’s hardly hilly but with lots of small rolling bumps it was hard to settle into a rhythm for the inland leg and I also discovered that, despite the huge number of cyclists in Copenhagen, the Danes don’t know how to corner! (I put it down to the lack of hills) creating a bit of traffic at almost every turn. Through 90k averaging 35 kph, still on plan and onto the second lap. The wind had picked up a little and changed direction to a headwind on the homeward leg, slowing the second lap overall, and with a bit of fatigue bleeding the power in the last 15k the average pace slipped to 34kph for a 5:18 bike split back into T2 in the city centre. Saleema had a tougher time having to stop after 10k to fix a slipping seat, and her hip injury starting to be felt earlier than expected but was still able to push herself and beat her 6 hour 30kph target for the bike leg.
Now it was decision time…My goal for Copenhagen was a 10 hour race, which I knew needed the stars to align and everything to go perfectly. Coming out of T2 behind plan, I now needed a marathon just inside 3:15. It was beyond borderline but I had to risk it. The first 5k were spot on but the cobbled section and a short steep climb over a bridge ate into the pace so by 8k I knew it just wasn’t going to be.
I backed off, legs still feeling ok through the half marathon point but knowing the second half was going to be a grim run watching the pace slip and trying to hang on as the fast start took its toll. The crowds were brilliant (this is the best supported triathlon run I have ever seen!) and the sprinklers and sponges provided some respite from the unexpected hot sunny conditions.
Past 30k and onto the last lap, it was time to start counting down to the finish, mentally feeling the race was done. But around 36k a whole new Ironman experience…my vision started going and I couldn’t run straight! I’d hit « the wall » (and apparently given myself concussion!) I had to walk or I was going to fall over. 2k or so of walking and my head cleared a bit, enough to force myself to run into the finish. 3:54 for the marathon and 10:42:15 overall.
Saleema had a bigger mental challenge, not knowing from the start whether her hip injury would hold out for the run, but in spite of a lot of pain she was able to keep going the whole way for an excellent 12:49:46 finish.
The difficulty with Ironman racing is you just don’t get to practise how your body is going to react after 9+ hours at race pace so I’ll happily take 10:42 for a « bad finish » having taken a risk. The finish line is always a new experience and I think for both of us this time around, the biggest emotion crossing the line was RELIEF, and ok maybe a little (Copenhagen) PRIDE ;)!