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5th at Middle Distance European Championships – Race report from Challenge Herning

My race season is now finally successfully started. St. Pölten’s unluck turned to better luck and I got what I wanted: a better weather, a better race, a race until finish line feeling rather strong the entire day. However, the perfect day is still waiting for itself. I felt that I had an average day, not under-performing but not over-performing either. I didn’t take any risks at any point, not even at the last 5 km run loop, which bothers me quite me much now. One should at least try to reach the limits and push hard, but I just did what felt good at every point.

Well, I guess I should be rather happy with my day – overall age group winner, 5th at Middle Distance Championships and 6th at Challenge Herning. There were some pro women, who didn’t participate in the championship race, but only in the Challenge race.

The race course was rather fast, which was also a good opportunity to a do a new PB. However, it still required a better shape than last year.

Swim: 29:41
Bike: 2:24:55
Run: 1:27:36
Total time: 4:26:29

Preparations = far from perfect, but deep learning curves

Don’t ever skip strength training! Not even on a heavy training week before the race or on the race week!

Yes, I skipped strength training and got again some moderate muscle pain in my gluteus muscles a week before the race. Four rather heavy training days within a week were quite much, but as I otherwise had felt very strong, I didn’t realize that my gluteus would almost sign off their contract again. This time I wasn’t that calm as in March. You can imagine my huge stress. Dinner at my coach Mette’s helped! We decided to skip all heavier and longer trainings in the beginning of the race week and concentrate on swimming and easy cycling. That did the job, and I felt myself a little more confident and happier, when I travelled to Denmark last Thursday. From now on, I will strengthen my ass every day to tolerate all the swim-bike-run things I want and need to do. Mini-band exercises in the program…

Don’t drive a rental car, where you need to stretch to the switch pedal and thus get bad cramps in inner thigh muscles!

I have never had a car, and I drive around once year. I was a little nervous renting a car, but as a brave girl, it didn’t sound that bad. Well, the first car that we got broke down after 6 kilometers (I didn’t do anything!) and the second car was apparently too big for my short legs. Sometimes I can’t just believe what happens on my race trips! I needed to stretch to the switch pedal, which later caused cramps in my inner leg. Nice! On Friday evening, just a bit more than 12 hours before the start, I was putting a lot ice power gel on my legs, stretching a lot, googling and sending SMSs to coach what to do. What if the cramps become so bad that I need to DNF already in the swim leg?! (well, they didn’t)

Pre-race posing in Finland’s race triathlon suits
Bike check on race course on Friday.

The race

Nice weather, very good atmosphere and interesting course! I was very happy to start racing with friends and in good weather. Women’s own swim start was also highly appreciated. It was definitely the nicest and easiest swim start I’ve ever been in. Nobody swam over me, and the start pace was just perfect for me. Water start seems to be much better, when water is cold. When you float 5 minutes in the cold water before the start, it is easier to start swimming fast, in contrast to jumping directly to cold water and immediately starting to swim fast.

Although water was rather cold, I felt good during the entire swim leg. This time I tried to honestly draft other girls (= all races before Kona are meant for training various things) and spend as little as possible effort to navigation. That worked quite nicely. The swim went fast, but it again felt a little too good. I feel usually much worse in the pool, when doing heavy intervals. It was anyways the first time that I swam a sub-30 min in a half distance race.

The bike leg started with heavy headwind, but it made me actually rather happy. I knew that there would be many kilometers with nice tailwind too. And so there were. I passed easily some girls during the first five kilometers. My bike seemed to fly on Saturday at times! However, I knew that another Finnish flying machine, Aino, would be also on the bike course and soon flying behind me and passing me. I was right. Aino passed me around 20-25 km. This time I could keep her back in my eyes almost the entire bike course, which was a huge mental help. As we kept on passing age group men during the entire bike course and didn’t see any women after 30 km, I was almost 100% sure that there could not be any other age group women in front of us. I came to T2 around 1,5-2 min behind Aino.

I felt I was a bit cleverer in the bike leg now in compared to previous years. I didn’t start far too fast as I used to do earlier. The watts became slightly lower during the last 15 kilometers, but not very much. Gluteus muscles and lower back were a little sore, but luckily they didn’t become a huge problem. Positive mind helped there. After 80 km I started to wait for T2 and the run leg, which seems to be a rather normal thing for me. Biking from 80 to 90 km is still the time to race hard!

I felt I started the run very easily, but my clock showed something else. First 5 km went in 19.52. It is not only jogging for me. When I came from the first 5 km run loop back to Herning shopping/bar street, I could only smile. Running felt very good and I loved this race thing again. (Feeling after the race: stupid girl, don’t just smile in a half distance race, ran faster you idiot). On second and third loop, the pace got a bit slower, but I still kept my place in the left “fast lane” passing people. The last 5 km loop was a little problematic with sore stomach. As I was rather sure I am in AG lead, I could drop the pace and run to the finish line without having to s**t in my tri suit. I however made a plan that if any girl passes me, I don’t care about the outlook but take the win. Luckily on that day, those tricks weren’t needed.

The run course was definitely not the fastest with a lot of sharp turns, running a little on gras and sand and for example inside a library, but it was very interesting! Four loops felt also great. There was plenty of variety. Nice weather had brought people to the small city to watch the race.

Overall AG 1 and 2!

Lessons learned

  • Push harder. I need to be able to push harder than in zone 3 the entire race. I used to feel much worse in these races. Now I had almost the same feeling and HR as in my full distance race last September.
  • Learn what makes the stomach feel bad in critical kilometres. I probably ate something inappropriate during the race week, which made the stomach too soft.
  • Learn to swim faster.
  • Be happy after a good race. Enjoy being a winner and be happy about good performances of myself and others!
  • It is extremely nice to be in race trips with friends.

Next up

IRONMAN 70.3 Haugesund. After that 1 week summer holidays in Finland before starting to really train for IRONMAN Kona. I can’t wait the for last one!

Team girls Charlotte x 2 got both bronze!

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Heini View All

Finnish triathlete living in Norway

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