Swim, bike, run, write.

Ironman Copenhagen Race Report

I lay awake in our AirBnB apartment, waiting for the alarm to go off with a whole host of emotions whizzing around my mind. Nerves, fear, excitement. 3:50am finally showed up. Rise and shine - it's race day! Everything I'd done over the previous 2 years - the hundreds of hours of training, the blood, sweat and tears. The doubts and the fears. The G&Ts and the extra glasses of prosecco I'd dutifully turned down. It all boiled down to this one day. And I was ready for it.

With our usual race day breakfast - porridge and a strong coffee - successfully gobbled down, Graham and I starting walking down to the swim start at the Amager Beach Park. With the sun rising around us and my pre-race anthem of choice - Thunderstruck by AC/DC - playing somewhat tinnily through my phone speaker, the half hour walk went by pretty quickly and soon we were arriving at T1, with almost 3000 other athletes. Bike checked, nutrition locked and loaded; it was time to lube up, suit up and head down to the beach for a quick swim warm up. Graham somehow spotted my parents amongst the hundreds of spectators who had already gathered and it was great to see them before I started. I had no idea they were coming out to Copenhagen to watch until the night before and having them there was the best surprise. Time always seems to pass much quicker on race morning and suddenly I found myself lining up at the metal gates, with my snazzy pink swim cap giving me the Triathlete Face Lift, running into the water. Go time.

We'd arrived in Copenhagen a good few days before the race and we'd been down to Amagerstrand for a quick dip already, so I was fairly confident I knew where I was going in the swim. How wrong could I go? Naturally, my famously terrible sense of direction meant I somehow ended up starting the race by swimming a fair way off-piste. What an idiot. There was a group of us who'd all done the same thing - the blind leading the blind, so at least I had company as the canoe of shame drew level with us. With a few muttered swear words, I got myself back on course and vowed that this would be my first and last muppet moment of the day. My early mistake meant that I was a lot closer to the buoys than I would have liked. This, combined with a bit of bad luck in terms of the pack I ended up in the middle of, meant I spent a lot of the swim getting the crap kicked out of me. I couldn't get any space in the water and every time I just about got into a rhythm I got smacked or swum into. It was after a hefty kick to the right eye at the turnaround point that I resigned myself to the fact that the swim, much like the portaloos we would all be encountering later on the run course, was going to be a bit of an ordeal. Suck it up princess, this is an Ironman. Swim like you mean it and get the job done. I steadied myself and focused on trying to stay calm. 1hr 18 mins later, having swum almost 4km instead of 3.8km, I made my way into T1. Graham and our two friends Franzi and Hagar, who started in different waves, all said they loved the swim and had no problems getting space in the water. So I think my slightly less fun experience was down to A) my own idiocy at the start, and B) getting myself caught up in a busy pack. Still, an okay time for me (though slower than I know I'm capable of) and I didn't drown. Cool.

The bike was where the fun really started and I had a huge smile on my face from the moment my arse hit the saddle. I absolutely loved the bike course. It took us out along the coastal road, whizzing passed locals strolling out of their houses in dressing gowns for an early morning swim, before heading into the rolling danish countryside and back down in to the city. There was a bit of a headwind but the roads were perfect for tucking down onto the tri bars and tapping away, nice and smooth. Investing in a good bike fit (shout out to Ian from Corley Cycles in MK - spot on!) definitely paid dividends here and I was really comfortable on my bike. I stuck to my power plan, ticking along consistently rather than surging and knackering my legs for later. Pacing the bike section of an Ironman takes discipline - you feel like you should and could be going harder at the time, but overcooking it will definitely catch you out by the time the run comes around. The support out there was ace, from the enthusiastic gang of mexican-wavers at the top of one of the sharp little inclines to all of the spectators lining the longer hill at the Continental Tyre hotspot. I soaked it all up and I was having so much fun that the time flew by - soon I was coming to the end of my second lap. 6hrs 11 mins later, after 180km in the saddle, I rolled down the ramp into the underground car park that was home to T2. I handed my bike over to a volunteer and grabbed my run bag. Helmet off, running shoes on, gels and jelly babies secured. I was on for a pretty quick transition until I had to queue for a portaloo on the way out - call me an amateur but I didn't really fancy peeing my pants in front of hundreds of spectators on the run course! 8 minutes after ditching my bike I headed up the ramp out of T2 and into the city centre, ready to take on those final 26.2 miles.

I'd never run a marathon before. Giving it a go for the first time after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike (which was also my longest ever ride) was always going to hurt. I knew I had the endurance, so it was just going to come down to a bit of grit and determination. The city centre was buzzing with spectators and I made a point of taking it all in and soaking up as much energy from the crowds as I could. I did my best to channel Michelle Vesterby and keep smiling! The run course was 4.5 laps, with lots of out and backs. This meant I got to see my parents, Graham's sister and her husband along with his friend Chris (who lives in Copenhagen and brought his sausage dog out on support crew duties - the best!) several times, which gave me a boost. It also meant I saw Graham, Hagar and Franzi out there - Franzi and I crossed paths quite often on the out and backs and her positive energy really spurred me on. I had a fairly intense pain in my stomach up until the 20km mark - I'm still not entirely sure why - but thankfully it disappeared and overall it didn't do too much damage to my pace.   I was determined to run the whole marathon, only allowing myself a few steps of walking whilst taking on fluids at the aid stations (and a loo break halfway round) before I got going again. I had to have some pretty stern words with myself during the last 10km - ranging from my mantras of "suck it up princess... yes you bloody well can... things get tough, you get tougher" to the slightly less articulate "come the f*ck on, Jenny." It worked. I kept running. The pain really started to get real during the last 5km. My blisters had blisters, my calves were seizing and my hip joints felt like they were filled with barbed wire. My body was asking me to stop. My mind was determined to keep running. I gave it everything I had, every bit of mental strength I could get hold of and finally - having had to run right by it 4 times on previous laps - I was making my way down that glorious red carpet to the finish. Crying, laughing and smiling all at once. Relief, excitement, happiness. With my family shouting my name from the the grandstand, I finally heard those four words I'd been dreaming of for the last 2 years: "You are an Ironman!"

12 hours 33 minutes after I'd started, 140.6 miles of swim-bike-run later, I was officially an Ironman finisher. I'd like to say I played it cool and maintained my dignity, but in reality I cried like a child for 5 minutes post-race and then discovered a little too late that my legs had stopped working and seriously contemplated just living on the toilet I was now unable to get up from for the rest of my life.   A bit of herding about from Graham (who'd been finished for hours, the jammy swine), an ice cream and a (non-alcoholic) beer from the Mikeller bar later, I was a bit more with it. I headed out to the finish line to watch Hagar and Franzi come in. This was Ironman #5 for Graham and he got himself a new PB of 10hrs 44 mins, having raced Ironman Lanzarote in May. Franzi and Hagar, who were also doing their first Ironman, both had awesome races too and it was really cool to share the experience with them. A great day in the office, which all just feels like a bit of a dream now!

So there we have it. First Ironman completed and I absolutely loved it. My goal was to go sub-13hrs so I'm really happy with a 12:33 as a first attempt. There's lots of work to be done and I feel like I'm only just getting started with this swim-bike-run madness. 4 days post-race, my blisters are yet to heal and I'm already itching to book the next one (someone hide my credit card...) It's crazy to think that 2 years ago I could barely ride a road bike. It's been one hell of a journey and I'm so excited to see what the next couple of years hold. Anyway, that's enough rambling for one day. Reading this post is turning into an endurance event in itself - if you made it this far I hope you've been fuelling and hydrating properly. If you want my suggestion - chocolate digestives make for an excellent post-long blog post recovery snack.

I'm already excited for off-season training, suggesting my transformation into a full-blown triathlon obsessed weirdo is complete. Time to plan the next adventure!

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