It was almost exactly a year ago today, that whilst on a work conference call, my finger nervously lingered over the entry button of KMD Ironman Copenhagen. With many online entries it takes many attempts to log on and get success first time. However, whilst conversing about some HR matter or other, to my surprise, my entry was complete, accepted and credit card debited. Gulp…..
What middle age crisis was I trying to fix? Don’t most men my age by a sports car or take up golf? With the deed done, the fear excitement, sheer bloody stupidity dawned on me….How was I ever going to complete a 3.8km swim 180km bike ride, and a 42.2 k run all within 15 hrs 45 mins ?
Fast forward 365 days, endless training sessions. cold winter mornings on the roads, early morning swims where I could barely lift my eyelids and back to back Brick sessions 4 hours on the bike followed by runs, looking like John Wayne. And the indoor Turbo sessions… Oh the boredom. How can any sane individual spend 3 hours indoors on a stationary bike? Clearly,driven by an immense goal, obsession and madness takeover.
Here I am with 6 other buddies from Leighton Buzzard who had fallen for the lure of the greatest endurance race.
As Glen and I set off from our apartment on the Copenhagen metro at 530am, the irony not
lost on us as we bumped into revellers coming back from the clubs and pubs, munching on kebabs and mac as, here we were braced for the Unknown. We had, of course, completed the training, but never could we replicate the 3 disciplines back to back. Swimming with 3200 others was immense, and I hadn’t run more than 15km in training due to an injury.
Crossing the bridge to the start as the sun rose of over the sea, the 10 minute walk to the ‘ village’ was surreal. Music was playing somewhere in the distance, the tannoy announcements lost on the wind, but as we approached, daylight appearing, here we were……the ultimate race. We were very quiet. The nerves were now upon me. Flashing through my head were just the words of my coach – ‘ If you remember 10 % of what I have told you, you will be an ironman’…..maybe but my head was still trying to re,ember 5 % and not collapse with nerves.
7:05 am came and the elites were off…. Another 20 minutes and the masses were in the water.
My time came – a shake of the hand and we are off…. The scandanavian water surprisingly warm, and I’m in…. The first 100 metres desperately trying to hold back – it’s a long day after all. Keep focussed and disciplined was my mantra -I was actually enjoying this. The training was remembered , long slow strokes, keep out of trouble.Even the chaos of the turns were ok. Before I knew the swim finish approached, and a helping hand out of the water, seeing Debbie, Joe and Izzi was a boost and T1….Wow, we really were in the race and all good.
Out of T1 a bit of a blur,I just had to remember keep eating – keep the calories up and only 179km left…. The bike saw us navigate a few km of the flat city of Copenhagen before heading out along the coast…. A tailwind kindly pushing us at an easy speed. So far so good; keep the mantra of keep eating and drinking. 40km in feeling a good and we hit the ‘hills’. Copenhagen maybe flat but the outskirts have a few interesting twists and turns and climbs and the wind turned against us and the weather. The Danish weather is more unpredictable than the British. We suffered a drenching from a storm front,luckily this one only lasted a few minutes. But drenched and wind against – this is now a tougher prospect than the first 90 mins.
Then the turn for lap 2…. I m lapped by the elites who are heading in for T2 as I am heading for lap 2…Motivational?You can say there was a small dip in mood. But ‘keep eating’ keeps the mood up…Knowing that the coastal tail wind was about to bring some relief, lifted the spirits. In keeping with the unpredictability of the weather another heavy lashing of rain was about to give an unwelcome drenching…. But we are on the countdown…
50km to – I had passed my longest ride in training, but I was feeling good. I really did have this – everything was going to plan.The roads in Denmark, unlike our pothole ridden bone shakers, really make biking enjoyable and quick. This really was fun 40km and 30k to go pass by in a flash – one more nasty climb until the home stretch, 10k and we are turning back into the City and the support. Soon enough, we are in the city centre and the noise was incredible. T2 and underground Car Park.I am here, in good time – in all honesty I hadn’t taken any notice of the watch. So no real idea of the pace but I am feeling ok.
A quick drink of the favoured Banana milk – helmet and shoes off – trainers on and we are away – just a marathon to go!
As I’m out of T2 there they were Izzi, Debbie and Joe,right there what a boost. A quick photo and I am away. 4 and a bit laps of Copenhagen. The support is amazing tight streets lined with restaurants and bars tight against the course. In the dark times this is a real boost
I am feeling good but the doubts were there, would the knee hold out – could I sustain a steady pace pain free. Lap 1 ok – I a counting this as 5 separate park runs with a 2k cool down. Lap 1 complete,only 5 parkruns to go. Lap 2 the knee starts to play up but come on we can just walk through the the pain and get well needed nutrition. Respond to the support – and 20k done – 4 parkruns to go….
Lap 3 I see the support crew – clearly they have been for some food and a rest – it’s tough being a supporter….A quick chat and I tell them I have only 3.5 parkruns to go…They think I am stark raving mad but nod and smile as only supporters can. But only 17km to go. We have this nailed. I run past the finish for the 3rd time as the familiar cry is heard – ” You are an Ironman’!
Only about 12km to go and I see the crew again – Izzi cries ‘Dad the next time we see you, you will be an Ironman…..ok we have this now – I pickup the final wristband, and the home straight 10k left.We wind our way through the narrow streets for the final time and the Danish weather gives us a little boost – a torrential downpour that lasted a good 20 mins. Proper cross country weather, I feel at home as feet are aquaplaning inside my shoes…
The last 6k – of course the quads are super tight now. But there is nothing that will prevent the finish. With 2k to go you can hear the announcer and see the lights – this is it – those months and months of training and here we are _ I turn into the finish and here the infamous words ‘You are an Ironman’ – I see the crew and wow! I did it – it is real. Emotions tumble through me relief, joy and pride and exhaustion. But there was the medal around my neck. Done…. 14hrs 17
Out of the finisher area and everyone is there amazing – all of the people of who have been supportive, understanding and probably thinking I was an idiot but stayed quiet, it’s done. A massive hug – and then the need for a Big Mac…..The hunger was immense.
Was it worth it ? You bet – the best race experience ever. Training loved it ! And I learnt so much. A special thank you to Mark Kleanthous (Ironmate) who tailored the training programmes and always ensuredI kept the faith even in those dark winter days when I doubted in my abilities. We stuck to the plan – and never deviated -never worked about others. There’s a lesson there.
Would I do it again ? You bet…..