Recently I compiled my training plan and actually so far I am managing to commit to it and it looks quite well. I am on track and progressing, sessions are going well and I am able to recover. Of course, from time to time I have to adapt to happenings around me – f.e. last Tuesday and Wednesday we had huge rains in Vilnius, which then translated into traffic jams and coming home late – in other words, I had to skip a training session, because I did not think that it would be a good idea to do a high-intensity spin, even on a trainer at home at 8:30pm, when I go to bed around 10pm. But as I said, adaptation is the key.
In other words, my week 28 looked like this, with only 1 session missed, due to really bad weather:
I managed to complete 15h of training out of planned 15:30, averaged about 7 hours of sleep and did 3 interval sessions during that week. I did not notice too much of fatigue hanging around my back, so it looks pretty promising!
Now, let us get to the reason, why you came back here – my write-up on Ironman 70.3 Elsinore, European World Championship and how did I clock the illustrious sub-5hr time.
I was lucky enough to get to Denmark week before the Ironman and planned my tapering for that week, as well as the last few corners to be cut. In general, my learning from this year’s IM70.3 was that I had the experience and gut feeling, where corners can be cut. As in, which sessions are more important, what is the minimum viable mileage I can do to be able to run a half-marathon, what I have to train, to be able to do the 90 km bike ride and how can I deal with my cramping leg in the water.
I arrived to Denmark on Sunday, with my second and last open-water swim day before. Dovile accompanied me during those swims and was very helpful to go swim with me, aligning herself and her time with my training needs – I am oh so grateful for that. During those swims my left calf muscle was cramping up approximately at 15 minutes into the swim and my only goal was to work with my mind on it. Whenever I feel that leg starts cramping up – I tried to focus on relaxing my left leg, trying to kick less, trying to adjust the movement, so the cramp would disappear or at least ease out for a second. It worked to some extent. The thing I was worried the most, was that not-so-smart impulse my mind sends, whenever I feel that something touches my leg and you start kicking with it as if you were football player during Champions League finals. And during a swim in any triathlon – your legs will be hit, touched and pulled quite constantly. So my plan was not to freak out and leave the football to professionals during the swim.
Sunday was supposed to be my last long run as well. Prior to Denmark and during my illness, I barely could run comfortably 10 km. It hurt everywhere and my mind did not want to cope with it. So 6 km into my long, 16 km run in windy Denmark, my stomach muscles start to hurt and my mind begins to wander somewhere, where bad ideas come to it – maybe 7 km will be enough? But from experience, I knew that it is not going to be enough. So it had to be my last push through the swamps of my laziness and discomfort. At 8 km mark the pain suddenly disappeared, I started to feel the comfort in discomfort and I managed to finish the whole planned 16 km run, worn out a bit, but confident.
Once I arrived to Elsinore, I suddenly got swept away into the city, which lives Ironman for the few days. It was super exciting, I saw people coming with bike-bags out of trains, walking around with compression socks, rocking their clothing from different Ironman branded events and even showing off tattoos, representing that they have done full iron distance triathlon. It was a great throwback to my very first Ironman in Zell-am-See, where it felt like being in a bee-hive of triathletes. Where you are aligned to your goals, you all have this passion for the sport and you are happy to be here, despite all the nervousness awaiting prior to next-day’s race. It was European Championship and I saw many professional athletes as well, looking at their bikes – it was just like being Ross, from “Friends” at dinosaur expo. That feeling caught me into a whirlwind and I have spent an unreasonable sum of money on Ironman gear. It was necessary though. I assure you.
So it all was aligning itself into a great race day. Until the evening, when we came back to the house we were renting. It was shaking from low-bass noises and people yelling. It appears that house next to us, was doing a sorority-like party and they did not consult us, nor they cared about tomorrow’s Ironman race, I was having! So at about 7pm, I already started thinking that I am not getting a proper sleep tonight. Even though I was quite sleepy ant tired, the noise, yelling and music was so loud, you could barely think your own thoughts. We watched some videos on the internet and I was trying to put my body and mind to rest, despite not being able to sleep. Our windows were not closing properly, so every bass drop, was doing us a disservice. The party went on, up until 3am, just 2 hours until my alarm goes off. Sporadically, I slept some, I listened to music some, I was trying to understand how karma works and I just to disappear into my rest zone, counting metaphorical triathlon-sheep. And there goes my alarm clock. I get up as usual, trying to forget the night and move onto my yoga routine, getting ready for the race. I notice that I have a very sore back as well. I start thinking, that if it were easy – everyone would be an Ironman.
I am trying to be as calm, as I can before the start. This is my first triathlon this year, I have done the bare minimum of preparation to be here. It almost feels as if I am disrespecting the race, the distance. But I am not, I am just trying to not give into the fear, I can see Dovile is being stressed, if she sees how really stressed am I – our stress will quadruple into big bowl unnecessary actions or decisions. Here I am before jumping into the water:
It was an actual jump into the water, which I never trained and did not know how to, so I soldiered-on and jumped straight into the water on my mark. Consequences were easily deducted – just at the contact with water my goggles went off from my face and I almost cursed, but tried to focus on positive – at least I did not knock them off completely and I could re-apply them. Anyhow, not the start I was planning for.
The swim was crazy. During briefing it was noted that “you will definitely not need a compass to navigate”, but I would love to debate that:
Water was 15-ish degrees, so pretty cold. Rolling start ensured that it was not too many people going in waves, so less contact, however narrow turns and not too much of space to maneuver had its own plans and people were pretty squeezed together. The most difficult part, was at the turnaround, where yellow and orange buoys are located and you had to steer yourself into yellow buoy at 1km mark – from that distance both buoys (the yellow thingies, showing you the direction) looked pretty much at the same place and I did not know where to orientate to. In the best traditions of my swims in Ironmans, I took the wrong direction and at halfway figured out that I am all by myself, I do not know where I am, where to go and how far into swim am I. Deep breath, some sighting – ok, I can see some people going there, I will with them. I managed to get on the right direction and soon enough was in the middle of the swim. And it only got tougher from here. Every turn was narrower, there were more people at that pace on turns and you were receiving hits or dodging them from left and right. The most difficult part was at 1.5km, because you not only had narrow space next to the buoys, but there were ships around you. So last turn into the straight and my cap goes off from my head, pulling my goggles up and I am watery-blind. I look around to check if I am not blocking anyone, I stop to fix the goggles and go for the last straight. Instead of running to transition zone, I walk there, working with all the anger I had coped during the swim. My wife was very confused to see me this angry out of the water, but I decided to stop and vent a bit – telling her everything I think about this swim and the organizers. Very messy. I would not do it. At the end, I predicted my swim time almost spot on: 00:37:55. My calf did want to cramp up multiple times, especially when someone touched my feet, but the mental sessions I did prior to Denmark – they were the real MVP here.
Cold, wet and still a bit angry, I run to pick my bike up. I memorized where it stood, where I had to go out of transition and it went quite smooth. First time I went for a barefoot transition and my bike shoes on the bike – I liked it, it was comfortable and useful to do so. I do not regret this decision.
Onto my bike, I put my feet into my shoes start pedaling and my chain goes of. Ironic and sarcastic myself mumbles something about “how great this day is getting”, I come to a full stop, put my bike on the ground, get chain back up and try to start anew. Nothing happened, lets focus on the bike as if I just started.
To my surprise, I managed to maintain a steady speed and keep going through the bike course thinking – well this is great, I missed this. Chugging a gel every 30 minutes, I go on for 02:35:36 to ride the 90km bike course. It was windy, hot, a lot of turns, some hills. At the last 20km I could not sit in the aero-position any longer, so I was losing time, but risk vs reward ratio was telling me that I should rather bike easily, as there is still half-marathon to go for me. In overall, I think the bike went well, I would want to improve my ability to push myself on the bike, as I was getting lazy, after hour an a half and was easily dropping into “rest-zone” intensity. I could achieve more, but those cut corners show in situations like these, I guess. In overall, I am super happy, I averaged 34 km/h.
On to the run and here I had to dig deep. I was tired, I wanted to stand for a second, to talk to Dovile, to rest, to go home, to do anything but run. But everyone would be an Ironman, if it was easy.
I focused on previous training sessions I have done with my father, specifically on “release and relax” phase of the running. I kicked off from the ground and tried to catch a relaxation, on every step. Trying to be focused, to run and to be here in the run, right now, not to think about where I would want to be, or where I will be. I wanted to be in this Ironman a year ago, when I was registering. And I am in it. Right now. Lets stay in it then. I was managing a pretty steady pace, despite some difficult corners or locations, my watch was giving me some insufficient data, as I accidentally switched it off right after the swim. So I was running the best I can, doing some math calculations and extrapolating the data I have – to understand will I beat the 5 hours, or 5 hours will beat me? Dovile was running with me, throughout all the shortcuts she found out, to give me cheers, to take a picture of me, to be there for me. I can not thank her enough for that. Into the last lap, my mind is running out of positive thinking, I want to stop and walk for a bit – I do not understand for how long have I been in here. I ask Dovile – will I make it out of 5 hours? She did not understand me, because of the yelling all around. I do not know. I find something in myself and think that only 5kms are left. I have run 5kms, 5km is easy. I keep my pace, I run through the city, I get a pat on the back – my fellow Lithuanian Artiom Neznanov passes me and encourages me to keep going. It was nice to see him. On one corner, I see a three-legged samoyed, which I saw 2 years ago, during my first time in IM70.3 Elsinore, its owner looks and me and in best american accent tells me – “good job”. American English is best English for pep-talk. I feel encouraged, I feel noticed, I feel empowered, someone knows how difficult it is and just have told me that I am doing a good job. Into the last 3kms, which are almost there, yet I need to push myself, I am too tired already, but I focus on it – release and relax, release and relax. I can already see the sign, the red carpet, I do a left turn, showing to the referee 3 fingers, telling them I have done 3 laps already and I can see my name on the board, the time switching from 4:5… 4:58 to 4:59! Oh my god, I have done it, I can not believe it. I finished it in sub-5hrs. Beating my best time by 20 minutes with all this going on!
2-3 days forward and I am better than ever, I want to train, I want to work on, I want to be triathlete. What IM70.3 Elsinore has done – it reduced me to the bare minimum and let me do the build up. I scattered the LEGO pieces of “Edgar a triathlete” across the spring and this race carefully brought those pieces back into the playground and let me play with them, construct an Ironman from myself once more. What a great feeling.
Song of the week: Oddjob – The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Reading: Andre Agassi “Open”
Game: “Nioh” and our new cat
Average Weight: 78.5
Average Suunto Recovery: 50% Recovered
This was it for my race recap and reflections on what happened prior to participating in Ironman 70.3 Elsinore, European Championship. Hope you enjoyed it. Writing about it, was as fun as participating in it.
I am training for Ironman Copenhagen right now, 1 month to go. It is going rather well, my workout planning is doing well. I have not over-trained yet and I hope I will not. I am still waiting for a lot of my new gear to get delivered. After that is done, I will perhaps do a write-up on my gear choices and decisions what to buy and what not.
Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.
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