How are you doing? The question came from my mindset coach Adelaide Goodeve. Eeeehh, I guess that I am fine. But I need a reminder on why I am actually doing the race tomorrow.
My season kicked off with Ironman Texas in April. Then I did Norseman and just two weeks after Lofoten Triathlon. It had been a long season and I noticed that I was tired. Physically not in peak freshness but mostly mentally tired. You might even call it unmotivated.
Luckily, Adelaide had my “why’s” on a spreadsheet. To swim, bike and run as fast as possible. To achieve my athletic potential. With the forecasted relatively cold conditions and calm wind, this year’s Ironman Barcelona would offer the perfect venue to swim, bike and run as fast as possible. The goal was set and retaking the Norwegian Ironman record of 8:19 was obvious. In truth, I just wanted to go as fast as possible.
The four previous years I have done Ironman Barcelona I have lost it on the swim. Not being able to start hard enough ending up swimming either alone or with no good riders. This again caused me to ride 100km+ solo efforts. This year it was different. With the first crucial few hundred meters to the first buoy I was well positioned fairly far up in what I reckoned to be a big group.
From then on I had a very successful swim staying on good feet with good control. I was located on the far second in line, which was perfect for me as a right breather. In that position, I had a good overview of the group and was ready to go on surges to close gaps.
With about 1000 meters left tried to increase the pace, but after swimming much harder for about 30 seconds and gaining absolutely nothing I decided to just stay in the group and prepare T1 and the bike.
After a decent transition, I started the bike as fourth in our group. The first 3 km are defined as technical and staying in aerobars is not allowed. Its would not have been so smart either as the section is packed with speed bumps perfectly designed to rocket out your water/fuel bottles.
The group of four quickly increase in size, both as we picked up the faster swimmers and slower swimmers came up from behind. We were about ten early on. I am not used to riding in a group and am not fond of it.
Even at a draft-legal distance of 12m, there is a solid advantage so you want to stay as close to it as possible without getting closer. When the speed of the riders slows down the distance gets shorter and you have to brake to avoid getting within the drafting zone. Then you have to compensate by pedalling hard ones the speed increases. Typically going up/down small hills.
We had a referee with us the whole 180 km and I did not see him giving a single card so he must have found the distance acceptable. Personally, I got a bit stressed out of the group riding and was basically all the way back to avoid being crunched in a pack. I found the ride very very easy. My average watts was 211, and 234 normalized. Basically a Sunday ride. Last year I had 272 normalized watts on average. My aerodynamic drag is 0,18 CdA, most likely 20 % less than an average pro. With the 10-20 watts saved by being at 12m distance I don’t have to pedal hard to keep the pace.
Only one time I passed everyone. It was to bridge up a gap for a rider who rode away. I was successful but had to push roughly 360 watts for a few minutes. Ones I caught the rider in front I got passed by the guy behind me, and the rest of the group followed. I had no choice but to just sit up and let everyone pass me. That is the rules and with a referee on my side, it would not have been wise overtake. Yet, very frustrating to see my effort go down the drain.
After the turnaround at Calella, 90km of the bike course we shared the road with the plentiful age groupers. I was not satisfied with the pace and was on the verge to really go for it several times. With the huge group of pros, now counting around 17, hundred of AG-ers, a few motorcycles in combination with narrow roads I ended up reasoning that it was not worth the risk. I could use the situation to start the run fresher than never before.
Ones the run started I lost ground fast. With such an easy bike leg I figured my run would be blazing fast, but no. Biology is not math. Three guys passed me like crazy and had a big gap before hitting the turnaround at 1,6km. My pace was 3:45min/km(!). They had a 3:30-pace, which no one in triathlon history ever had pulled of. Personally, I also started too hard.
My plan was to run at 4min/km and hold that until the last of the 13,5km long lap. If I had more in the tank I could use it then. I was not able to sticking to the plan. Being “crushed” by the others combined with a fear of bonking before the last lap wanted me to hold 3:45-pace to build up a buffer. As long as I did not feel that I pushed the pace it could probably not hurt?
Starting on an unrealistic fast pace, before settling into the correct pace at 10km and then hit the wall somewhere around 30km is usually how I am executing the run. The instructions from coach Carson Christen are clear and I mentally prepare for it with Adelaide. When its time to actually do it I turn to old habits. Is it fear of expecting to hit the wall regardless of a 3:45 or 4:00-pace? Is it the hope of actually holding a 3:45-50 pace until the finish line? I am not certain but the rational part of me is telling the emotional part of me that I am doing it wrong. Aim for an even split for optimal run.
Despite being an all-time low temperature I still felt it hot. Its been cold in Norway the last month and I had not been able to organize a good acclimatization protocol. Just with a few glimpses of sun I immediately felt my perceived effort went up without an increase in speed. I had a tough patch from 10 to about 16km but then ended up at a steady pace. 4:05-10.
At 32km I was absolutely certain that I would beat the Norwegian Ironman record of 8:19. I could run 5min/km and just make it. Every second faster per km would be a second better record. It fuelled me and enabled me to work 1 km at the time. Reducing the record for each stride.
The strategy went very well, at least until the last turnaround with 6 km left. It was really hard, and Sam Pictor (who was one of the guys starting at 3:30-pace) caught me after I passed him just a few kilometres prior. He encouraged me along and I ran on his tail about one kilometre. Then the second last aid station came up and I walked thru it while drinking coke. I managed to stay alive, barely. Passing transition zone the very last time is a delight. Then you have only 1,6 km left before hitting the red carpet. I took on last gulp of coke, running this time, and charged ahead. At least in my mind. In physical speed, not too much.
Setting my feet on the red carpet with 8:13 on the clock was a great feeling. A final sprint, or what felt like a sprint and I could cross the finish line in 8:13:20. 12th of the 50 finishing pros and a new Norwegian Ironman record. Awesome!
In my view PBs, or pure time measurements are not the be-all and end-all in triathlon. What is the fastest 50km XC-skiing time? What is the highest average speed of a road cycling World Championship? What is the fastest Olympic distance triathlon race? Few people know the answer because it is not very relevant. The same argument could be used for Ironman PBs as well. I have raced Barcelona five times and this was by far the best conditions I have raced in. Nearly flat water, very little wind on the bike and thick clouds covering the sun nearly the whole day.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am super happy about the finishing time. Objective performance is, however, my true goal. With that goal, I still have much undone. I learned a lot and will play my cards differently if I get in a similar situation again. There is definitely much unleashed potential 😀