Ironman Italy Emilia – Romagna
Finally! I made it to the start and finish line again after nearly 1,5 years. A crash at Ironman 70.3 Jönköping ended my 2018 race year as complications with the broken clavicle ended up in a downward spiral of antibiotics and new surgery. Early January I was given the green light to start training again and build towards Ironman Lanzarote in May. Too eager to come back is a classic formula for failure and instead of a steady built – it became a rollercoaster of flues and antibiotics.
FINALLY – Checked in and ready at Ironman Italy
While sick at the hotel during Ironman Lanzarote I booked Ironman Viktoria – Gastein, in Spain 12/7 as a family vacation/race. But once I got back and started to train again, I hurt my heel and had to stop running. Fortunately Ironman now allows you to move your entry (for a fee..) to another race in the same year and region so I picked a race in Europe that was available and late in the season Ironman Italy 21/9.
Training – Leading up to race:
SWIMMING: Mainly endurance and drills as it still hurts in my clavicle “dig site” to swim faster sets. Did just a few intervals the weeks before the race. I have come to realize that I can do 56-58min swim with 6-10,000m swimming per week – if I want to come down to the low 50’ies again, I would need to do 20-25,000m/wk again and I don’t have time or energy for that unfortunately.
RUN: Heel got better with the help of Friskvårdskollen and I could carefully and gradually build my running back up from 20km to 70km/week in the six weeks leading up to the race. Didn’t do any track or intervals only endurance with some tempo according to “level of pain for the day”.
BIKE: I did most of my biking leading up to the race during the time my heel prevented me to run (June-July) and got it in decent shape, rode unstructured outside with many nice long rides. Tried to maintain the shape with less biking in the 6 last weeks as I increased the stress with running.
Race Site and Conditions:
Cervia is a typical Italian, sixties beach town which really shuts down after the Italian summer vacation in August. Ironman has been able to extend the towns season a few weeks by putting on their biggest Ironman race weekend in the Europe. On Saturday – the full Ironman, on Sunday a half (70.3) and an Olympic distance – which in total means over 7,000 participants.
650meter bike rack
September is a risky month with regards to weather – even in Italy. We who participated in the full Ironman on Saturday got clear but cold conditions and the participants on Sunday got rain and humid conditions. The days leading up to the race there was very strong winds and they even canceled the test swim, so we were really fortunate to have a sunny clear day with offshore winds.
Nutrition and prep – for race day:
After a year of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines my stomach is like an un-predictable volcano. Sometimes just gases and ash clouds, sometimes real eruptions with devastating consequences for residents in the area that has not evacuated in time. To get such an area secure and safe for race day was a challenge.
I decided to follow my old protocol – oatmeal from lunch to breakfast day before race day.
The only problem is that they don’t eat oatmeal in Italy. After long discussions and google translating at the local restaurant I managed to get it for dinner and breakfast (take out for the breakfast). Served on a flat plate with knife and fork the waitress asked if I wanted parmesan cheese or olive oil on it and when I could not hold back a laugh and asked for a spoon some milk and a deep plate – she took the plate out to the kitchen and came back with a double portion. I just love her – 65 years old, have worked there all her life and still does not know one word of English.
Oatmeal – Italian style
BIKE: 15 x www.Sport2.be gels loaded in bike bottle. Rudi Stroobands is an old friend and Ironman triathlete who I used to train and race with in the 90’ties. We always used to complain how bad the sports drinks and energy was at races and after he stopped racing he decided to do something about it. He has developed a range of really thought through products that works really well. When I asked him about this 2:1 that a company are marketing as their unique formula – he just laughed and said that most real research is public and that Sports2 has been using that formula since many years.
Had 1 energy bar with me but did not need it.
RUN 10 x S2 sportsgel. + water.
What also helps is that the S2 gels have the right amount of salts and are in a more liquid form than some other brands. This makes it easier to have them in bike bottle and also to “drink them” on the run. Sticky gels are lighter to carry but you better time your intake perfectly before an aid station with water or you will hardly be able to open your mouth.
FINISH LINE: 1 x S2 sportgel + water. After every race it has taken me months to even want to look at gel again. Not anymore – good to get some energy down right away.
Rolling beach start with shallow water for 30-50m out. Decided not to warm up as it was too difficult to get a place in the <60min section. Started easy and build into a good pace. After 400m checked out the crowd and got on some feet – but as usually got fed up after 200m and went solo the rest of the course. Stayed close to the buoys and watched the pack drift out to sea – towards Albania as they just focused on the feet’s in front. Swam 54:54 which would be a 58-59min in my 2015 version of the ORCA Predator. Really impressed with the 2019 version – so many improvements.
Positively surprised with a sub 55min swim.
T1: 650m was the length of just the bike rack! Now that was one long transition area. No drama, just find bag, put helmet and race bib on and start running towards the bike. 350meter barefoot concrete run….and then another 300m run with bike….
BIKE: When I woke up at 05:30 on race morning it was +9C and people were already freezing their asses of in the transition area. After the swim it had warmed up a bit to +13-14C. Out on the bike I went into some kind of hibernation (which is normal for cold blooded reptiles) blood is maintained to heat the vital organs like heart and brain but not legs. After 90km we finally got to the climb and after that it got better, and I could feel my feet and hands again. In Sweden I would stay on the indoor trainer if it is +13C as I don’t get any quality training in that temperature. I hate the cold. As a decent swimmer I always expect to get past by the fast bikers after 40-60km and this happened as usual – 10-15 strong bikers passed working alone hard and honest. Then came the packs.
All Alone – the way it should be!
I knew it would happen and I had made it my mental challenge not to yell, not to throw water bottles at them and most importantly – not waste energy on overtaking them as you really can’t win against a pack working together. Joining the pack and justifying it to myself with with “well, that’s what’s everyone else does” is out of the question for me – I race clean and honest and I am proud to have never got a warning, card or penalty.
No podium in the world is worth compromising my values and ethics and staying true to the sport.
So; I just let them go, even the Swedish guy at the back of a peloton who tried to encourage me to join, sat up – I dropped back 20meters, and waited for the next, and next until I lost count. After about 90km I finally got in no-man’s land and rode pretty much the rest all-alone.
Johan Hasselmark at www.aktivitus.se has helped me a lot during the last year and said that based on my data I should keep 192watts avg, 195watts NP which would give a 5:11 bikes split (note: this is based on my very conservative FSA power meter). I went a little harder and ended up with 202avg watts and a 5:08 bike split.
There was one climb on the loop that we did twice – a bit difficult to stay aero when climbing 13,5%
During the summer I have realized whatever training I do; I will never win over the aging process and the gradual decline of power. So, I have decided to spent more time focusing on aero position and efficiency – rather than “post big watts on Strava”. I simply want to get maximum speed at the minimum cost of heartbeats and power to ensure the best possible legs for the run.
RUN: Got off the bike and ran the 650meter barefoot leg to the bags and didn’t stress to get out on the run course. After 2-3 km I passed a guy and decided to do something I have never done before in a race – say something other than “thank you” to as many volunteers as I can. I said “long day at the office” and he responded “only 39km left. I thought to myself – this guy is in the hell hole already, but it’s an individual race. After 1-2 more kilometers I see him again in front of me so I realize that we must be running in the same pace. So we start to talk and spend the next 20km running together talking work, family races, Sweden, studies, the development of the sport etc. We agree that if one of us need to say goodbye it’s ok and after 25km Andreas drops back and I take on a new challenge that I invent to keep myself occupied – not think about the anything else than cadence and pace.
The marathon starts after 28km – so why not enjoy the first 25km
The challenge is now to live in the moment, to experience every step, the pain and breath without knowledge or awareness of distance (where I’m at in the race, which kilometer and how much remains – which typically dominates your thoughts during the latter part of an Ironman. All I focus on is what www.trimastercoaching.se has told me about the importance of steady pace and cadence.
Completely in the zone – fourth lap of four. Setting a Personal best at 53 is kind of cool.
Get to the finish line and get information that I placed 5th of 369 in my age group. This is completely irrelevant as my objective was to have a good training race and ”take stock” on where I am at.
Swim: 54:54 is my 5th fastest time (2nd in 50-54 AG and 49th overall)
Bike: 5:08 is my 6th fastest time (49th in 50-54 AG and 434th overall)
Run: 3:23 is my fastest time (8th in AG 50-54 and 211th overall)
Finishing time: 9:37 is my 4th fastest time in 16 Ironman races over the past 25 years.
Good to race a fast and easy race – but I don’t like to watch the sport go to hell so in the future I will continue to focus on smaller races that preferably are hilly and windy so people without ethics stay away.
The happiness with having a decent race day is overshadowed by the way our sport is getting commercialized and destroyed, the spirit and camaraderie that was there before is replaced with Ironman merchandise and the single minded focus of getting a slot to Kona at whatever cost. I get reminded that many of todays ”triathletes” don’t really like training and the lifestyle – it’s strange.
Enjoy your winter training!