It was a lot like the morning of a big exam and I had studied diligently and now it was time to show off, or at least see if I had done my homework correctly. I have been working very hard on improving my swimming and to a lesser degree my cycling. I always work on my running. But I didn't imagine my running would improve much from last year to this year. Plus, they lost my running time last year, so I really couldn't compare it to anything.
I felt great and I wasn't nervous. I had slept wonderfully. Because I never come even close to winning triathlons, there is much less pressure.
Yesterday was the annual Olympic distance triathlon in Næstved. Actually it's only the second year of this event and our second attempt. It was our fourth triathlon total. This year they met maximum capacity, which I believe was 200. Here are the distances, for those who haven't memorized the lengths of different triathlons (excuse me while I look it up)
1.5 km swim (60 pool lengths)
40 km cycle
10 km run
And here is a picture of the canal (a 5 minute bike ride from our apartment), courtesy of Anette Ø:
The weather was sunny and in the low 80's, so energy drink & salt would probably be really important. I had a bottle of energy drink and a bag of peanuts ready for me on my bike. I downed a bottle of water before things got started.
Before all triathlons start there is the donning of the wetsuit. Granted not everyone had a wetsuit, but 95% did. I used to dread putting on that tight, hot thing, but I've come to adore it. It reminds me of all the happy times we've been swimming in the ocean recently. But, of course, before this goes on, bike, helmet, number, towel, socks, shoes and food and drink need to be in order and all in a minuscule space. Again, the more triathlons one does the more fun the designing of the tri cubby becomes.
A bunch of friends at the start, including running buddies Allan and Rasmus, made for a fun atmosphere. Rikke, the physical therapist and swim coach for our tri team was there swimming as part of a relay group. She has taken me from a person with a loser crawl technique to a relatively graceful and fast swimmer. I joked with her that I might beat her. And she stopped laughing. "No, SLG, there is no way you will beat me."
200 participants and I was about number 5 into the canal water. I was so excited. I lost track of SR and everyone else I knew.
While I was battling thrashing legs and arms from every direction after the gun went off, SR was about 25 meters from the start "warming up" and hadn't realized the tri had started. He had planned to start out in the back, anyway, but not that far back.
Tri's are NOT for people with claustrophobia. Sheesh. The first 1/3 of the distance, I was completely surrounded by people; passing was hard as was being passed.
There is a type of swimmer (and I have so far only seen men do it) that zigzags incessantly without knowing it. It is very counterproductive and obviously not intentional, but I was swimming near a man who zigzagged right into me about 10 times in all. I would have been upset, but SR has the same problem, so I just kept calm and tried to think happy thoughts. Thoughts about things, such as the trip we have planned to Thunder Bay at the end of July. Thinking of something pleasant and calming is really important during long swims in open water. I got into a beautiful rhythm and know I swam quite a bit faster than last year (results to come soon, hopefully). SR and I came in right next to each other last year, but this year I finished at least five minutes ahead of him. That put me close to middle of the pack.
////Update: The chip times didn't work again, but I was able to see that the swim plus first transition was 35:16, likely putting my swimming time at 32:44, based on my transition time from last year. That was the only time recorded for me (oh and the final below) :( even though I went across the mat and heard it beep every time. But it's three minutes faster than last year, so that's nice!////
But, biking was next. Biking is by far the most important event as far as overall time in an Olympic tri, because it takes the longest and you can gain or lose a lot. I have barely made it to the level of an average Dane when it comes to cycling. So I'm nowhere near the average triathlete. And I should explain: Tri's in Denmark, are not something people just do for fun. They are fun, but these people are DAMN serious. It has a lot to do with the social structure in Denmark. Everyone has a similar amount of money (sufficient and, if you save right, a little extra) and a very similar education. Everyone runs at least a little. And bikes to work. But this tri thing is beyond normal exercise and expensive. Therefore the people who do it are really dedicated to it. It is what they spend their small amount of extra money on. I also have to mention that racing bikes and, in fact, all sports equipment and apparel here is about 3x as expensive as it is in the United States (luckily we purchased everything we have in the US, as, despite being two physicians, we've got zero extra money and are in big debt, so that was the only way we could afford to participate in the first place).
First of all, my bike is quite nice, but lacks a tri-bar. I had attempted to get a tri bar mounted on my bike but my American handles are too thick for the tri-bars here. And then I had extra brakes removed from my bike on Friday, hoping I could then get my tri bar to fit without the brakes on. Well, it didn't work. And the new brake cables screwed up my gears, so my bike clicked out of gear the entire cycle distance. How irritating! Whatcha gonna do? It was an out and back 6x loop. Our friend Rasmus caught up quite quickly to me, though he was quite surprised to see I had beaten him in the swim. Then I saw SR had just come out of the transition zone from swimming as I was about half way through my first loop. He just laughed and gave me a big smile, happy to see my swim had gone so well. He also thinks his swim improved from last year (for one thing, he didn't swim into the cement wall along the canal this year). It took SR just over 3 loops to pass me. And I didn't pass a SINGLE person. But I didn't last year either. Since there was no visible time clock and I had no watch on, I can't even give an estimate of my time. But hopefully that is coming soon. And I will report it regardless of how pathetic it is.
This is supposedly my strength. Already near the beginning, I could sense IT was happening again: I had that same dizzy feeling I had in the last two marathons we've run. There were little black spots and things were spinning. I had the sensation that if I pushed myself to the point of sweating even more, I would pass out. It wasn't hypoglycemia. I ate a heck of a lot the day before, a good breakfast, ate and drank on the bike ride. But what I really felt I needed was sports drink or something salty. I felt like at any moment my blood pressure could drop to the point that everything would go black. There was an aid station after 2.5 k, but they only had water. Oh, no! I just had to take the run easy. It was really frustrating because my legs were ready to kick it into the next gear. I managed to pass a good number of people and think positive thoughts, but mostly I dreamed of finding an abandoned bottle of sports drink on the trail. I am perplexed as to why this same thing has happened to me now 3 big events in a row (I DID drink all of the sports drink in my bike bottle and ate two handfulls of peanuts).
As I approached the finish, I saw I woman in her 60's about to cross the finish line. Now that is just so cool she could pull off a triathlon so well.
Here is my dramatic finish, brought to you by the lovely and talented SR. I wish I had taken some photos of him, but you will unfortunately have to settle for me.
We both had such a wonderful time and it was easy for us to draw the conclusion that this tri had been more fun than all of our recent running races. We had worked hard but weren't sore in any particular place. Ahhh, how wonderful.
I promise I'll post all of our times when they are made available.
///Well, again, I'm not sure what exactly happened with the chip times. The Excel spreadsheet that comes up under results has just two numbers for me and the second is 2:52:11, which I am deducing was my overall time. Since the chip time didn't work last year either, I don't know if my exact time, but based on where I finished, I believe it was around 2:56. So approximately a 4 minute improvement, which is okay, and also leaves me ample opportunity to do better next year :).///
I think we are both game for the Challenge Copenhagen full Ironman in August, but up next is of course Voyageur 50 miler on July 24th.
We got home, greeted The Lorax and his babysitter and then SR took my blood pressure, which of course was normal at that point. Then we took a long nap. A perfect summer day.
Running song of the summer (at least it was perfect for hill repeats in the heat on Friday):
Skisser för sommaren by Kent (the title means "sketches before the summer" in Swedish - it's almost the same in Danish). Sorry, there really is no video, it's just so you can hear the song.
And if you are previously unfamiliar with Kent, here is an older music video, which has nothing to do with running and everything to do with love.
Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.
"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman