Ironman triathlon, I love it!
Or probably I should say that I love my first Ironman. As my namesake Heini told me on the race week, the first Ironman is the best. My first Ironman race was so incredible and awesome that it very probably can be the greatest triathlon race of my life.
Here is a long report of the race. It will be an endurance training to complete reading it…
I slept well and woke up at 4.40. Breakfast started at 5.00. I was there at 4.58 and saw already around 15 other triathletes eating. It was nice to notice that I wasn’t the only early bird! I was so nervous that almost everything tasted bad, especially eggs, and bread slices were shaking on my hands. I managed to eat two slices of bread, some scrambled eggs and a little mysli. I drank one cup of coffee, juice and water. So, the breakfast was quite light. I had concentrated on eating properly on Thursday and Friday, so I wasn’t nervous of eating too little in the race morning. Stomach felt good. I ate 1/3 energy bar 45 minutes before the start.
I woke my dad up and we walked to transition area to pump my wheels, set Garmin computer and cycling shoes on their places. On the way to transition, I lost my other contact lense. First problem. Luckily I like to be always (too) early, so we had enough time to walk back to our hotel after setting up stuff in transition. In the transition area, it was told that wetsuits are allowed, although they were said to be forbidden on Friday. I kept my head clear: I am not using wetsuit. Swimming had felt very good without it on all 5 days in Alcudia, so there was no point of panicking and changing plans. On the beach I noticed that almost every other age grouper had wetsuit, except another Heini. It helped me to stick in my decision. It was also otherwise really nice and useful to have Heini racing at the same time. As an experienced ironman triathlete, she could give me valuable tips on the race week and help to check some essential stuff.
Swim – 1:04:04
I started in rolling group 1:00h-1:10h. I had hoped to swim around 1:05 on a good day and around 1:08 on an average day. When we came out of the water after 2,4 km and I saw I had been swimming 1:39min/100m pace with easy but strong feeling, I was extremely happy and motivated. I thought “just do the same for rest the 1,4 km”. And so I did. My watch showed the same pace after the entire swim (3833m / 1:03:28). Official time was however 30 seconds slower, since the time wasn’t stopped immediately on the waterline.
There was some chaos in the swim start. I was hit a couple of times to my shoulders and ribs, but nothing really dramatic happened. It was just a lot of men there… Many people had selected again too good start group, but luckily I didn’t use a thought on it, as a I saw under the water that I am passing people that left in the sub-1h group. I enjoyed the swimming all the time and kept my head in the swim, not in T1. That was really different from other races this year, in which I have been thinking this and that while swimming. I smiled a lot when I stepped out of water, saw my swimming time and thought “this is my day”. I had completed my worst discipline and I even liked it a lot.
I felt I had a rather fast transition, but results showed that I could have been a minute faster, when compared to pro girls. Luckily my AG win didn’t depend on that minute. Some Finns cheered for me. Thanks! :) I don’t know who you were.
Bike – 5:24:18
As knowing that running has been my best discipline this summer, my plan was to spare legs in cycling and really hit in the run. So, I started cycling easy and even finished it easy. The entire cycling felt just easy, even the Lluc hill. That made me thinking: was I cycling too slow? Probably a little. However, I cycled the Lluc with more watts than on the flat – on purpose. I think I passed around 30 men on the hill.
There were however some small problems in the cycling split: (1) I needed to pee already after 45km, (2) I dropped the chain just before the hill climb, (3) there was a “just a little too slow” group in front of me during the last 20km and I decided to cycle behind the group the last kilometers. Watts and HR decreased. I guess I made a stupid decision. I could have saved 5 minutes by passing the group and cycling faster.
I finally stopped to toilet on the water station at Lluc hill. It took around 30 seconds. Since it started to rain and I probably drank a little too much in the end of the cycling split, I had to stop again to toilet at T2. I thought then “an idiot age grouper stops to toilet”, but at the same time “this is in total a minute, I will run 5 minutes faster if I stop to toilet”.
I fixed the chain in 20 seconds, so it didn’t become a huge problem either.
The downhill went okay. It wasn’t glorious downhill cycling, but not very slow either. At that point, I loved Ironman cycling. The sights were great and it wasn’t even raining yet.
Bike to rack, thumbs up to my dad, to toilet and to run. No problems, but I again lost a little time to toilet break.
Run – 3:18:35
I guess triathlon is my sport if I have swum 3,8 km and cycled 178 km and legs still feel incredibly good when starting to run a marathon. They felt extremely good all the way to 10 km. Even my stomach felt good. During the first four kilometers I had only one thought: Don’t start too fast, keep the pace at 4:30-4:40min/km. Well, if all kilometers from 1 to 9 were sub 4:30, first kilometer being 4:16, I guess I failed. But it just felt so easy and HR was correct. So, I kind of let go of the pace plan.
After an hour (13,5km), I found myself thinking: “only 2:15h of struggle left this season. An idiot gives up here. Just keep the damn same pace and run.”. It went well until my right calf got cramps at 17 km. I had done a beginners mistake 1,5 weeks before the race: I had run intervals on asphalt too fast. I was fit for the pace, but legs couldn’t handle it. My calves had been sore more than a week after that training and now I paid for it. However, I knew I would finish. I just had to slow down the pace.
Around 35 km, both hamstrings became so heavy that I forgot the cramping calf and concentrated on the hamstrings. I ran the last 6 km again slightly faster. I was so stuck in my own race that I had no idea of my placement or what else was happening there. I didn’t pay attention to girls that I passed nor did I talk to friends that were also competing. However, thumbed up with Heini and Hanna a few times – of course. Around 3-4 kilometers before the finish Jörg told me I am leading my age group. Then the fighter mood came. I decided I will give 110% for the Hawaii slot. It will be mine. When I didn’t see any girls on the last U turn (~2,5 km before finish), I knew I had more than 1 km lead to the next girl. 800m before finish an English man with four arm bands saw me next to him also with four arm bands. We cheered ourselves to faster finish with huge smile. I didn’t hear the magic words “Heini, you’re an IRONMAN” :( But I had some friends and other ironmen to tell me that after the finish line. :)
It is strange how you are able to run to finish line and feel “almost ok”, but after the finish, you can barely walk! I don’t remember when was the last time that my legs felt so bad and heavy.
I had no idea of my total time while running. It was very nice to notice that it became a sub 10h ironman race!
Total time: 9:55:12. AG F30-34 win, Hawaii slot and 9. of all women.
Results are here.
Own thoughts for improvement for next season: swimming, cycling, calves, no toilet breaks.
Thanks to all people who shared my joy and stress during the race week and day. Special thanks to dad who travelled with me and helped to stay calm. It wasn’t always easy. Thanks also to rest of the family, Håkon and Heini for last week’s tips. :)