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Race Results

4th place, age group M30-34, Kona qualification

3rd place, age group M30-34

3rd place, Finnish Championship

Winner, age group M30-34

2013 IRONMAN Kalmar
2nd place, age group M30-34, Kona qualification

Finisher in 9 hours 30 minutes

5th place, Finnish Championship

Winner, age group M30-34


More results here.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Ironman 70.3 Mallorca 2014 Race Recap






It's early morning in the Bay of Alcudia, Mallorca. The wind is calm and the sun has just risen, quickly warming up the air. I'm walking towards the shoreline, barefoot on the white sandy beach that stretches about as far south I can see. What a beautiful view. But I'm not here for the view.

There are thousands of black figures all around me as the biggest Ironman 70.3 race in the world is about to get started. Soon the mirror smooth surface of the clear blue Mediterranean waters will turn white as each age group at their turn runs to the sea. Most are here to try if they can finish, some even doing their first triathlon. I'm here to race!





My mind wanders for a moment thinking about a famous line from the Apocalypse Now. I'm amusing myself by altering it to better suit the occasion: "You smell that? It's neoprene. I love the smell of neoprene in the morning. Smells like triathlon."

My goal for this race is to get a significant improvement to my previous three results from Mallorca. Maybe even snatch a podium spot in my age group. Knowing the hard bike course and the unbelievably high quality of the field, I know it isn't going to be a walk in the park, but I'm confident. My training has progressed well and I've yet another year of racing under my belt. I'm ready, and Omegawave confirms this.


The Swim


There are over four hundred people starting in my age group and the channel that is guiding us from the beach start to the water is only about ten meters wide. I want a spot close to the front so that I won't get stuck behind loosing precious time when the gun goes, even though I might not be the fastest swimmer in the bunch.


I get a good start and find some clear water almost immediately. My swimming has improved lately and I'm feeling strong. I settle into my rhythm and the stroke feels good. The course is the same as in previous years, a 100m wide rectangle stretching some 900m out from the shore. Nice and easy to navigate. I swam it a few days earlier and got a measure of 1850m without the short run from the start line and back up the beach, so I know the course is pretty accurate.

The halfway turn point comes quickly and my pace is good. On the way back there is some serious overtaking to do as I catch the slower swimmers from the previous, women's start. I don't see many of the golden swimming caps from my start so I must be swimming pretty well. To my standards, that is.

Finally my fingers touch the white sand again and I run to dry land and the long way to T1. In addition to being the world's biggest 70.3 race, Mallorca also has probably the longest transition from swim to bike as well with the distance from the water to the bike mount being about 1km. Out of the water, I quickly check the time on my Garmin. 26:45! An improvement of over a minute already. I'm really happy with that! The distance was 1.92km.


The Bike


The bike course is one of the draws for me in this race. It's a one-loop course including all the goodness Mallorca has to offer for a cyclist: mountains, flats, fast straights, technical sections and beautiful scenery. This time, I'm especially excited to get on the bike because it's my first race with my Garmin Vector powermeter.



I've set myself a plan to ride the course with a Normalized power of 290W which should still leave enough fuel into tank for the half marathon. Immediately from the get go, I'm starting to benefit from the powermeter. Heart rate readings in the start of the bike are often elevated and therefore a poor metric for the first 20min or so, but mine is failing to measure at all, probably due to the salt water. Perceived effort would also have me riding with power other than optimal because of all the adrenalin in the blood muting the signals from the muscles. Now, with the powermeter, all I got to do is stick to my number and trust it will be rewarded later.

The first section of the bike goes quickly. This part is mostly flat along the shoreline to Puerto Pollença and then a false flat towards the Tramuntana mountains. I'm flying past the rest of the women and catch a few guys as well. By the time I reach the bottom of the climb and it's time to change to the small chainring, the road has become quiet. Only a few other competitors here and there. The switchbacks of the road up the mountain restricts my view to about 100m at a time so I've no idea if there's somebody from my age group close in front or not. I’m only concentrating keeping the power under 310W like I’ve prescribed myself for this climb.



I’m staying seated and on the aerobars all the way. After the first quarter of the climb one Swede passes me. He’s out of the saddle throwing the bike from one side to another hammering himself up the slope. I take a look at my power reading and it’s spot on. I let him go. For a while, I don’t see anybody but closer to the top I catch some guy. Then after a few rolling hills at the top I see the Swede again. He is visibly struggling and I grind past without seeing him again. Following the fast descent to the monastery of Lluc starts the final ascent to the highest point on the course, 576m.

What goes up… and so forth. Even though I used to ride track with a supersport motorcycle and definitely get kicks from the speed, I’m not quite comfortable on a tri-bike with 23mm tires on a descent with one-eighty turns following each other and nothing but a few bushes separating the road and drops of up to over a hundred meters. I guess the ones probably making sandcastles at the same time back in Alcudia beach keep me from being bothered about the minute or so lost on the 10km descent.



After the descent the road surface deteriorates for a few kilometers. It gets to a point where I start to seriously question if my bike will stay in one piece and I slow down just a little. That’s when one guy comes past me. He is riding well and I can’t catch him even after returning back to my target power.

The fourty and some kilometers back to Alcudia are lonely but fast on the flat roads from village to another. I manage to catch a few heads still and feel good. I still have some of my PowerBar gel solution left in my frame bottle and I down it before starting to mentally prepare for the run. My time is more than five minutes better than last year, even though I fell a bit under my goal power, to 279W Normalized power. Yes!



When I get to transition there’s a hint of a cramp in my hamstring. I hope it will settle. I run through the deserted T2 and slip into my new Saucony Type A6 racing shoes. I can see there are only a few bikes racked but I fail to make a count. Fortunately my support crew will be doing the job for me and put me back on the map shortly.


The Run


The crowds after the transition and on the beach boulevard are massive and very loud. It’s hard not to get over excited and start too fast. I have to constantly remind myself of my goal pace of 3:47/km, which would bring my run time just under 1h 20min and a new PB. Just before the 2km sign I spot all of my girls and my wife’s sister’s family who joined us here this year. As always, I get an enormous boost from seeing the family cheering me on and suddenly the 19kms to go in the heat of about 30 degrees Celsius seems, well, bearable. “You’re ninth!” they yell as I quickly high-five them and start the hunt. The signs of cramping are gone.



This is a familiar situation for me, running my way through the field. All I got to do is try to stick to my pace and be patient. Some of the ones ahead will melt and some are slower runners in the first place. And sure enough, on the first lap of the three-loop course I catch a few guys already. On the second lap it’s much harder to see who’s in front because of the rapidly increasing amount of competitors on the course. I think I pass yet another guy or two. Unfortunately, one guy flies right past me as well and I don’t have chance to keep up with his pace. On the third lap, there are already thousands of triathletes running on the same, a few meters wide roads, and it’s impossible to see where the remaining few guys are.

I pass the family for the last time and try to pick up the pace just a little, effectively just barely holding it. My legs are numb and fail to turn any faster. Time is ticking away and I try to make the math if I’m going to make it under 1h 20min or not. I’ve got 15min to run 4kms. That’s 3:45/km, isn’t it? I’m struggling with the simplest of calculations and just go for it. At the last aid station, some 500m to go, I see a guy with three different colored bands on his arm, meaning his from my age group and about to finish as well. I gather all my remaining power and shoot past him and hope he doesn’t have anything left to respond. Just before turning to the finish line I make a quick look behind to see if he’s behind but I don’t see him anymore. I run to the finish relieved and happy with my performance.


It turns out I’m fourth in my age group and 32. overall including the pros. I missed the run goal of 1h 20min by 36 seconds but managed still to improve my time by the same 36 seconds from last year on the same course. My total time was 4:20:28, which is an improvement of over nine minutes. I’d say that qualifies for a significant improvement, just as I had planned! In addition, I would have got a slot to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Canada, but once again decided to decline due to scheduling issues.


This was a near perfect start to the season and I’m confident that I’m on a good path of improving performance. Finally, thank you for the support Pinja, Pyry, Lumi, Kati, Ville, Isa, Saga and Mira! I couldn’t have done it without you ;)






4 comments:

  1. Great race recap Jens and congrats for the amazing results! You really aim high man.

    -Jude

    ReplyDelete
  2. Onnittelut hienosta kisasta!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kiitos kommenteista Jude, Lasse ja Mika! Nähdään kesän kisoissa!

    ReplyDelete