Endurance, Triathlon, Ironman Kalmar 2016 (Erik)

1 Facts

  • Location: Kalmar, Sweden
  • Distance: Swim (3.8 km), Bike (180.2 km), and Run (42.2 km)
  • Goal: Total 10:55 (10:45), Swim 01:15, Cycle 06:00, Run 03:30
  • Result: Total 14:11:31 (13:53:36), Swim 01:40:34, Cycle 06:47:26, Run 05:25:36

2 Preparation

Triathletes have been shown to perform well in the mountains. Kilimanjaro is nothing compared to some of the coming climbing challenges so from the beginning, we considered triathlon training to be the best way to stay fit during in between climbs. The very same night we returned to our beloved, crappy “hotel” in Moshi I received confirmation. I was signed up for Ironman Kalmar 2016.

The IM16 plan and outcome is messy given that I changed training schedule with two months left to go.

IM16 plan and outcome: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8YTYowSuU2aT0JNbzR4M3lSMHc

Gym routine:

  • 15s between reps, 60s between sets, bring music/plugs, all 3x15, kg in parentheses
  • G1: quads (30), hamstring (35), half-squats (50), tri (15), back (40), calf (30), lumbar (0), shoulder extension (10), external rotation (2.5), internal rotation (3.75)[1]
  • G2: sit-ups (0/0), wings (15), shoulders (10/8.0), biceps (10/20), chest (10/10), buffer
  • G3: plyometric lunges, legs down, planks, toe pinch, external rotators, single leg toe touch and squats

Prior to this Ironman I had done a “Swedish classic modified” in 2013–2015. I replaced Vättern Runt with Sjaelland Rundt (both 300 km cycling), and Lidingöloppet (30 km, cross-country) with Stockholm Marathon (42.2 km), thus the “modified”. My original plan was to do Tjörn Triathlon (a half Ironman) in 2014 but I had to break after the swim, realizing such races are different beasts. I did not train seriously for any of these races. Apart from having some basic fitness, knowledge wise I started my Ironman training from scratch.

I think of triathlon skills in 3 categories: technique, endurance, and strength. When I started my training on February 20th, 6 months before the race, all I had was the basic technique in each sport. By May 1st I had gone backwards by injuring my knee, running technique doesn’t do any good if the knee is useless. However, I had also found my swimming and cycling technique and was able to swim (not cycle) long distances. By June 1st there was practically no change, university haven taken its toll. When I had 10 weeks to get ready, I listed 5 challenges, not a bright outset.

  • I can’t take 1 day off before race day
  • I need to get stronger, 75 à 80 kg
  • I must learn how nutrition works
  • No one believes I will be able to make it
  • My knee must heal somehow

Through sheer persistence, and lots of soul killing aqua jogging, by June 1st I could check technique and endurance in swimming, technique and strength in cycling, and endurance and strength in running. I weighed in at 77.5 kg after lots of squats. I had figured out a nutrition routine that worked for me. I ignored all advice to drop the whole idea. Now all I needed was my knee. On July 12th, 5 weeks prior to the race, I went for a run for the first time in 3 months and when I realize it held I almost cried. In the following weeks, I slowly but steadily climbed up to 21 km. I was as ready as I would become.

More on each sport, injury management, nutrition, mental tricks, pre-race-day routines, stretching, massage, heart rates etc. will be written about in relation to Ironman Kalmar 2018.

3 Execution

The swim was chilly (around 14 C°) but the morning was beautiful. With the city still asleep, we slowly marched into the water at 07:00, turned our GPS watches on, and began moving out into the Kalmar strait. Soon we couldn’t see land anymore, just the waves, the birds, the faraway buoys, the rescue teams’ boats and the swimmers around us. A great way to start the day. The swim went relatively steady for me, although slower than practice performance due to the cold and the navigation difficulties. After 01:40 I ran up on land.

The cycling was long but steady. I crossed the Öland bridge that I had crossed so many times by car as a child, I saw the island from a new point of view and thought to myself “This is my island”. The old ladies and the grandchildren cheered us on with nothing but a vague notion about what we were doing, pots and pans and horns and cheers. The bike, purchased only weeks prior, made my neck and upper back hurt but nothing major. The problem during the cycling was that it was 5–10 C° colder compared to my training conditions during the past months. I knew I had to revise my liquid intake but I didn’t know by how much. I chose to trust my body and just drink when thirsty, bad choice.

The run was …interesting. I got an initial jolt of energy when I realized that my knee was not bothering me despite the cycling, and that all I had to do now was double my longest run of the year, I could already see the finish. But after about 10 km I started feeling nauseous, and quickly realized I had messed up my liquid balance. Over the next 10 km I tried to fill up, asked the medical tents for Resorb, tried to walk it off, tried to spend 10 minutes lying upside down in a ditch, nothing worked.

Interestingly, I never seriously contemplated stopping. If I would faint, an ambulance would have picked me up and I would have been fine. My legs were still strong, and I was 20 km from the finish. I told myself “fuck it”, and just kept going. 20 long, dark, disgusting km later I ran into Kalmar. The night was over us, heroes’ hour, people still cheering us on. I straightened my spine and picked up the pace, I wanted to finish in style… “Erik Wester, you… are… an Ironman!”

Here’s to the greek guy in the ice bath who had trained for 4 weeks, the girl who sang “Just idag är jag stark” through the entire cycling track, the Ultraman finisher who fainted in the shower and crashed his head into the sink, Måns Möller who finished last on the swim track, and all others who came together that day. Thank you.

4 Learnings

  • Have fun, feel good, forget about the others
  • Try to not run into sheep on the cycling track…
  • There are only 3 legitimate reasons to stop:
  • V tach, be careful (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ventricular_tachycardia)
  • A crash that knocks you out or disables you
  • Force majeure: natural disasters, terrorist attacks etc.
  • Arrive to the race zone 90 min before the start, 15 min to:
  • Late cab buffer
  • Take a dump
  • Set up nutrition
  • Meditate
  • Walk to start
  • My buffer
  • Race leader’s buffer
  • Be prepared to be bothered by the following during the race:
  • The water is cold
  • Other people
  • Fluid imbalance induced nausea
  • Getting used to the bike
  • “The dark place” (see report)
  • The fear of failing and of pushing too hard
  • Nothing, nothing, nothing new on race day (!)
  • The swim is a warmup, the cycling a transportation mode, the run is the race
  • Understanding what real malnutrition/lack of fluids/exhaustion feels like
  • Humans are made to run: If you feel nauseous, don’t walk, run.

5 Gear

For an Ironman, one needs a lot of gear for the training that’s not necessary to bring to the race, and vice versa. Below follows first the pack list to the race, and second, the gear list for the whole project.

Pack list (only the race), Ironman 2016 (will be updated with brand, model, & price), personal clothes, necessities and other excluded as I was on a 1-week vacation prior and a 1-week conference post-race.

  • Gear
  • TT bike
  • 2 bottles
  • rear holder
  • torpedo
  • repair-kit
  • levers, multi-tool, tube, co2, co2-head
  • helmet
  • foam roller
  • watch+charger
  • pulse band
  • bottle belt, 4 bottles
  • 1 post-swim bottle
  • 2 towels
  • hanger for wet suit
  • shoe horn
  • bag lock
  • mobile bike stand
  • pump
  • swiss knife
  • fanny pack
  • beto
  • electrical tape
  • pedal wrench
  • drive train protection
  • bike bag
  • pre-race running shoes
  • workout clothes as civil clothes
  • Clothes
  • cycling shoes
  • tri suit
  • compression socks
  • compression shirt (post-race)
  • socks
  • C gloves
  • wet suit
  • goggles
  • C goggles+wipe
  • swim cap
  • chip strap
  • number strap
  • running shoes
  • cycling jacket, thin
  • running cap
  • Necessities
  • swim cream
  • vaseline
  • sun lotion
  • toilet paper
  • voltaren
  • ice bag
  • blister tape
  • snake oil
  • chamois+pick
  • Nutrition
  • intend
  • bars
  • gels
  • menthos
  • sport
  • tablets
  • salt

Gear list (whole project), Ironman 2016 (will be updated with brand, model, & price): https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8YTYowSuU2aLUpObnZRcjlhRDg

6 Race map


7 Photos/film