This was my third attempt to take the Norwegian Ironman-record, and earlier I have said that having a timed based goal like that is not a very good goal to have. The reason is that it is depending on factors you cannot control, like wind, waves and temperature. The fewer factors that are in you control of the less powerful the goal becomes as a performance enhancer. Instead of setting pure time goals I usually have goals like swim time compared to the fastest swimmer (which in a big degree evens out the variations in conditions) and I have a wattage goal on the bike. On the run I usually have a time goal, but since my ability to perform is degenerated in hot weather I usually run in a pace as fast as I think is sustainable. A pure time goal, like I had last Sunday is in other words not that wise.
With a measured water temperature of 22,3 degrees in Barcelona it meant a non-wetsuit swim for the pros, where the limit is 21,9 degrees compared to 24,5 degrees for the age groupers. Right then and there I knew I could throw my goal in the bin. Then I ended up a bit goalless, which is not very positive regarding motivation and focus.
Swimming is my obvious weakness, and non-wetsuit makes it even worse. Being a slow starter does not make it any better, making me domed to swim alone every time. If someone is swimming in a slightly faster pace then me, and my perfect drafting pace, my slow start makes me unable to keep up with them the first 100 meters. I catch someone there is no help in hanging on their feet since they are swimming slower. That’s why I always end up swimming alone, even if the men pro field is nearly consisting of 80 guys.
While I swim a lot slower with swim-skin there are some benefits doing it. It gives a feeling of freedom and if the water temperature is high enough to not get cold I prefer over wetsuit regarding the enjoyment of swimming. I believe it is right to have different temperature limits for pros and AG, since we generally is swimming harder and able to keep out body temperature in colder water compared to the AG who swim 3800 meters in 2 hours and 10 minutes. What I would argue with is the limit, because in 21,9 degrees I get cold when only using a swim skin.
Being past by the first females before half way on the swim was a clear indication that I was swimming slowly, since they started five minutes behind us. When getting close to the finish line I also got passed by the first AG in wetsuit and they where swimming like small speedboats. My Polar V800 said just bellow 1:06 as I got up of the water, which was slow, but as expected.
With that many pros on the start line I was almost certain that there would be someone swimming about my time that was strong one the bike. That was an erroneous assumption, and there was absolutely nothing help from the others I passed on the bike and I got passed by not one single cyclist. While being on of the biggest Ironman events in the world with 3000 competitors, it makes group cycling and drafting unavoidable on the 2-loop course. I am sorry to say it was a drafting party, and from my view the pros was just slightly better then the AG. The density of cyclists was too high to have a realistic possibility of a “clean” race for AG, but for us pros there was no excuse. Except from the fact that “everybody” was doing it and the judges did not enforce the 12-meter rule strictly. “Are you f***ng kidding me?” I shouted to a pro I passed who was sucking up to the wheel in front of him with about 0,5 meters clearance. Embarrassing! Since I cannot stand drafting I was happy enough to be riding alone from I jumped on the bike, until I jumped of it. I focused on keeping my wattage steady and my body aero. It was a big relief that my body responded much better then in Almere making me finish with 250 watts, nearly 20 watts better then in Almere, in a route that is slightly more technical (which means more time with zero watts). Not as good as in Lofoten, but not very far from it. A bike time of around 4:30 was not fast compared to the fastest, but in light of cycling alone, I don’t think my watt/kg was so far behind. Especially in the headwind going back to Calella it was very advantageously to have a wheel to follow.
I felt fairly good out on the run starting with my usual 3:45 min/km pace. Of course that did not last very long, but I felt so much better compared to Almere while running significantly faster. While the temperature was not super hot, it sure felt hot enough in my opinion, and my run fitness was not at its peak. I had a positive mental attitude, and while I was suffering a bit I could see that Lars Christian Vold, who had a good swim and very good bike effort, was suffering more. Even if my gain on him was not even closely enough to catch up his 18 min lead from T2, I felt a bit sorry for him. A good swim/bike like that had deserved a better run, which would make him able to take the Norwegian Ironman-record. I know his potential is much greater then a 3:16 run. Since Ironman Barcelona is my last race of the season it was no reason to leave anything left in the tank. I knew that this was the occasion to go all out. My head was not completely agreeing, and I just could not motivate me to “kill myself” out there. I got passed by another pro with just 2 km to the finish line and he actually encouraged me to keep up. I know I was physically able to do it, but I passed the opportunity and said to him; “Just go. I am going to enjoy the last kilometers.” And I guess that is what I did. The crowd was amazing and I got extra cheering from all the Norwegians both in and along the course. It was super cool and a really nice way to end the season running along he extended red carpet (the 1,6 km from T2) to the finish line with a good feeling.
8 hours and 48 minutes is not any super performance, and 12 minutes slower then my time my PB on 8:36 from IM Barcelona last year. With a non-wetuit swim, a tougher bike course ridden solo and being the fourth full distance in a period of eight weeks it is not bad at all. While I tried and tested that doing five full distances in one year fairly close to one another is something my body handles reasonably, it does not come without costs. I was not able to peak my form at the three last ones and both motivation and form was declining, as the season got closer to an end. In many ways, this was a year of learning and gathering experience, and with that in mind I really got what I was aiming at.
Now I will have a very sought after off-season period spending more time and focus on Jenny and jonas. Not to mention finally clean out and organize the storage room in the basement which have been on my “to-do-list” since June 2015.
Thanks to everyone who has cheered me along this season, and thanks to my sponsors and partners who have helped me a lot. A big thanks to my friends and family for their understanding and patient, especially Jenny who not only have to sacrifice a lot to help me train as I had to, but also had the very demanding job of “sports director” in both Swissman and Norseman. That is far from “no big deal”, but a very big deal.