Having finished IM France on a high I was extremely keen to commence my training for IM Sweden.
Sweden was 6 weeks after France, therefore my training block was planned to allow for recovery, whilst still maintaining fitness and finishing with a taper.
In 2011 I done a similar plan, I raced Outlaw Iron distance triathlon and then 5 weeks later raced IM Wales, I did 11:07 at Outlaw (my PB at the time) and came 3rd in my category, then went onto the sufferfest that is IM Wales and crawled across the line in 12:54.
But with my new coach, Alvin Cooney, getting me ready for the 2014 season, I had high expectations of how I was going to perform.
Coming out of my recovery week after IM France, I felt very stiff, as expected, I had 1 week of building my miles back up in each discipline, so nothing too strenuous, then had 2 weeks of hard, solid speed work in the week, brick sessions on a Saturday (bike into run) and long cycles on the Sunday.
Once I got my stride back around half way through the first week of the hard block I felt like I was flying and just could not wait to get to Sweden!
I entered into my taper week feeling great, completed my usual routine for that week, eased by the fact that Race Force had taken my bike, Knowing that I didn’t have to drag it all the way through my travels from Manchester to Copenhagen, then on a 4 hour train journey up to Kalmar in Sweden, Phew!!
The Wednesday before the Saturday race day came and it was time to travel out, travelling all went to plan and I arrived in Kalmar early evening, had a little look around the town, had some food and headed to bed. My hotel was 50 meters from the finish line! Perfect for me to roll into after I finished.
The next day I headed down to register, no silly French rules here as once again I didn’t bring my race license, but you could purchase a local license for around £15, no problem.
Once I was all registered I went over to meet Grant from Race Force and pick up my bike, it was all there ready, clean, serviced and with my hired Zipp wheels on!! New toys!! I went for a 404 on the front and 808 on the bike due to the risk of high winds.
I took it for a test ride and it was utter perfection, complete opposite to the experience I had in France!
I headed back to the hotel, prepared all of my transition bags and checked everything in down at transition, IM Sweden didn’t operate a timed check in, it was anytime, which was great.
The rest of the time I chilled whilst completing my usual race week light training sessions.
I had no family at the race with me and it felt like race morning came around so much faster!!
I got up at my usual time of 4am, had a shower, coffee and breakfast and headed for the start.
IM Sweden opted for a seeding swim start rather than a mass run in or deep water start, so each competitor queued in starting area based on there expected finish time, I put myself up the front, although the timing pen was 1:05 (I should hope not!!).
The gun went off at around 7am and we started to feed into the water down a large ramp, the swim start was brilliant, No punching! No slapping! No kicking! No swimming over people! Everyone had enough space to swim as they wished.
The course was 1 lap, but had 12 turns, I got lost twice and had to sit upright in the water to sight due to the bright sun and large amount of buoys in the water, but I exited the swim in 59 minutes! New IM swim PB! I ran into T1 and onto the bike in around 2:30.
The first portion of the bike course was great, no real wind and great road surfaces. We headed out on the Orland bridge after around 5k on the mainland, the bridge was 6k long and had a slight incline for around 1k, follow by a 5k decline onto the island of Orland.
I was really enjoying the first part of the course as we had a tail wind, at around 30k we entered into a small village for an aid station.
At the beginning of the aid station, as usual, there is a empty bottle drop, I missed the drop and needed to get rid of mine so I veered over to the left of the road to throw mine in the central reservation, without looking I proceeded to pull back right towards the aid station and at the same time another guy was cycling by, I quickly pulled left, missing the other athlete but in turn pushing my front wheel to a 90 degree angle, which threw me over the handle bars and scraping down the road!!
To say I sounded out a number of curse words would be an understatement! Probably used everyone there is! My knees, hands, shoulder and elbows had a nice bit of road rash, but I got up, shook it off and got back on the bike.
My elbows were in a pretty bad way, so being down in the aero position wasn’t very comfortable, but I ignored it.
The rest of the course on the island was pretty uneventful; there was some stunning scenery and a hellish section at around 100k, a 10k stretch which cut straight through the middle of the island, it was completely flat, completely exposed and completely into a strong headwind… I had been averaging around 38 kph up until that point; I was then reduced to around 18 kph.
After the tour of the island we came back onto the bridge and I had forgotten about the descent on the way out, which meant I had 5k climb coming back, again there was a head wind and again I was reduced to around 17 kph.
The remaining 50k was on the mainland and cycled through a number of villages, a great section of the course as spectators were out in there hundreds! By this point my upper body was in agony, I could no longer stay in my aero position as my elbows and shoulder were throbbing, however I entered into T2 with a bike split of 5:21, another IM PB! Now I was dreading getting onto the run incase this crash had done any harm.
I exited transition quickly again and started into the run, the first 2k was through the town center which was lined with thousands of spectators, my knees were niggling a bit, but nothing I couldn’t handle, once I got out of the cobble floored town and onto the road I hit my stride! I felt amazing!
The run course was 3 laps and varied between, town center, long road stretches and even some off road sections, which I found very helpful and a great difference from the usual 4 laps of 1 straight road, again local residents had come out of their houses bringing stereo systems with them and blasting music out all over the course.
I stuck to my usual race plan of running the fist 21k straight out, none stop and then so not to blow out I fast walked through every other aid station.
I entered town finishing my second lap a few k’s behind Leanda Cave, who was just finishing, her time was 8:56, I then knew that I had to run the final 14k lap in 1 hour to hit my sub 10 hour goal… I ran my final lap in strong stride, once again entered the town center, where I had around 2k left to go and on the outskirts of town they had a total time clock, the time was 9:57… I started screaming at myself out load to dig deep and speed up, I needed that sub 10 hour time but unless I ran 1 minute k’s I wasn’t going to do it, but I was determined to get as close I possibly could, I ran onto the finishing shoot with 10:06 on the clock! 39 minutes off the PB I set at IM France and a total of 1 hour 1 minute cut off my IM time this season! I was ecstatic!! I air punched over the finish line and was quickly escorted to the first aid tent where a very attentive but rough nurse gave my road rash a clean.
I was very happy with my time but also very annoyed that I didn’t get my sub 10 hour IM, I predicted coming into Sweden that I was on for around 9:50, I had put in the hours training and had performed well at IM France, but unfortunately did not pay attention to what I was doing which resulted in my crash.
Ever the IM addict in search of the evasive sub 10 hour Ironman, the next day I signed up for IM Barcelona….
So once again I commence a 7-week training block between the 2 races and once again I intend on getting sub 10 hours… watch this space…