Can you ever feel completely comfortable competing in an Ironman? Probably not. Almost definitely not. However, returning to Copenhagen a year after my first long distance triathlon was as close as I can imagine getting. Preparation is key, and I had a cheat sheet from the year before. I knew the registration process, I knew the course (albeit with a few minor tweaks), I knew where the loos were if sh*t got serious, I knew after 5 years competing that you shouldn’t start the run course with your helmet still on your head. I was ready.
The biggest unknown was whether the injuries I’d picked up in the last month would allow me to get to the finish line. But I was at the start line; a miraculous feat on it’s own given I was bed-ridden only weeks earlier. It’s one of the few guarantees when training at the volume I do; injures are inevitable. It’s an ongoing challenge to maintain the volume of training necessary to perform at your best, while trying to avoid injuring yourself or exacerbating any existing niggles. Sometimes it doesn’t work and this year an old back injury decided to flare up at the same time as a new knee injury and, naturally, it was at the most crucial and annoying point; in the run up to Copenhagen. With little movement without excruciating pain, I looked at options for deferring my entry (it was too close to the event) or seeing if I could get a refund if unable to compete (not a chance). So I had to sit and wait (lie in bed and wait) and hope I could at least try and hobble my way around the 225.8km course.
Never underestimate the power of the frozen pea. With a vigorous regime of vegetable ice packs, gentle stretches, and (lots of) pain killers, my mobility started to return. I may have looked like a wonky old man, but I was going to do my damnedest to get to Copenhagen and complete the race. Slowly but surely the pain eased and when my flight to Copenhagen came around my body was almost back to it’s semi-straight state.
The race itself went even better than I could have imagined given the state I had been in and the complete lack of training over the previous weeks. It was probably a mixture of determination, adrenaline and the fact that everything hurts during an Ironman race so I could ignore specific injuries. The swim went well with no jellyfish stings to speak of. My dodgy knee definitely affected my bike time, and whilst it was slower than I was aiming for, it was faster than my bike leg from 2017. I couldn’t be happier with my run. Having had a rather messy digestion problem during my race the previous year, I was a little apprehensive which, ironically, wouldn’t have helped. However, it behaved itself wonderfully and I managed to take 20 mins off my run time from 2017 and completed the marathon in 03:10:35.
My finishing time was 09:09:01. Overall I came 7th in my age group and 54th overall; unfortunately missing out on a slot for Kona 2018 by 3 minutes. I’m getting closer and closer to claiming one of those elusive spots and if it keeps going in this direction, hopefully I can get one in 2019.
Whilst Copenhagen has given me the best starting experiences to my Ironman career, I’m changing my plan for 2019. I have qualified for the Long Distance World Championships in May and I will be using that as a ‘warm up’ race for Ironman Switzerland in July. This gives me time to sign up to another event and a second chance of getting a slot for Kona 2019 if Zurich doesn’t go to plan.
I have no doubt I’ll be back to compete in Ironman Copenhagen at some point, but I really hope it’s not next year and that I’ll be organising my trip to Hawaii instead.