IRONMAN Copenhagen race report

I am going to have to admit, leading up to race day was a little stressful. I mean packing for a normal holiday is stressful enough but imagine packing for a swim, bike and run event, one that you have been training 7 months for. I have to say a huge thank you to Giant Store York for dissembling and packing my TT bike for me. That was one thing I did not have to worry about. I printed off a few lists and triple checked them all before I finally decided enough was enough and everything was packed.

My support crew consisting of my dad and girlfriend, (later joined by my cousins), flew out from Manchester early doors Friday morning, giving us enough time to get everything sorted on the Friday. I waved goodbye to my bike box, hoping I would be reunited with her in a few hours. If you have ever taken a bike abroad you will feel my pain. If you haven’t, imagine your most prized possession in the hands of a stranger you’ve never seen before.

I arrived in Copenhagen and was pleasantly surprised when I saw my bike box arrive on the rack, unharmed. There were a few scratches to the case, but it was still in one piece. I jumped onto the shuttle bus that took me to the hotel. Everything was going smoothly.

Then the stress began. I had booked my bike to be built by a store. I didn’t trust myself to build it. It was the race of my life and I wouldn’t forgive myself if I assembled it incorrectly and the bike broke on my way round. My girlfriend and I jumped in a taxi with my bike, and my dad was going to join us at the bike store after catching the metro. We got to the bike store after a very expensive taxi ride (note; never get a taxi in Copenhagen, the metro is a lot faster and easier). I rolled my bike box into the store and asked them to build it after exchanging emails a few weeks prior. They said ‘no problem, it will be built by Tuesday’… I thought he was joking, the race was on Sunday and I had to have my bike racked by Saturday evening. He wasn’t joking. After some strong words they said it would be built by Saturday midday. What a relief! I then hauled the bike box around looking for my dad. He still hadn’t turned up and his phone was dead… He is the oldest and most ‘mature’ of the group, but I now know where I get my sense of direction.

The stand out moment of the day was when Emma and I were stood at the bus stop with my huge bike box getting laughed at by some Chinese tourist. I think they thought I was wheeling around a huge bag of luggage.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say, I actually took it to the wrong bike shop… Classic Eddy.

Saturday was a new day, the to do list was as follows; register, pick up the bike, go for a test ride, go for a run to activate my muscles, pack my transition bags, drop off my transition bags, rack my bike, go to the race briefing and try and relax as Sunday was going to be a big day.  I am happy to say we successfully managed all this, however I did end up walking a half marathon on the Saturday. Looking back, this is probably a tad far but it did mean I slept very well. I actually fell asleep at 8.30pm and slept for a good 8 hours. I think that is unheard of the night before an ironman.

Anyway, I’m sure you are not here to read about the days before… You are here to read about race day, so here it is. Brace yourself for one hell of a race.

7am, the professionals set off. Tim Don being one of them, a true Ironman Legend (you have probably seen him on social media, but if you haven’t he is well worth a Google!). I set off a few minutes later after putting myself in the fastest swim group (sub 1 hour 6 minutes). This was easily within my reach. I mean, last year I swam a sub 1 hour for 2.4 miles at Bolton. Yes, admittedly I had done more swimming training but something would have had to go wrong for me not to be in the top group.

The swim was a staggered start, I was near the front but some people were adamant to get right at the front. I wasn’t going to wrestle. Pick your battles Eddy, save yourself for the scraps in the race not before.

Bang, the first 6 athletes were away. The race had begun, I didn’t feel nervous at this point, everything was ready, and finally it was all down to me. I have trained so hard and so long for this. It was time to prove to myself and everyone else, that the hours I had sacrificed to training were worth it. Within about a minute I was at the front of the queue, watch in hand ready to run into the water. My race had begun; I started off catching a few and overtaking. I was feeling good but I was constantly telling myself to slow down. After all, the race can’t be won in the swim. I looked up to see that I had only swum 600 metres of the 3800 needed. After this I got into a rhythm. I found my own space and just put my head down. I tried drafting for a while but it was just throwing me off my own style and technique, so I went to the side of the pack and swam with open water in front of me.

The swim was going ‘swimmingly’ until a moment that really got the heart pounding. It was the last 180˚turn in the swim where a swimmer a few metres ahead had got caught in the netting, he then swam sideways blocking the only route through. The swimmer directly in front of me was faffing around, so I took my inner water polo player mentality and pushed him out the way, jumped over the netting and back under like a dolphin. This is how I imagined it anyway, looking back it was probably nothing like that. I finally managed to get away from the problem but my heart was pounding and the adrenaline had really kicked in. I think the next 100 metres will have been close to my PB. Soon the swim was done and I was into Transition 1. I finished the swim in 54 minutes 24 seconds.

Transition 1 is by far the most difficult transition, however much to my girlfriends amusement I had practiced this at home in my garden.  Emma did actually say “this is the only enjoyable part of your ironman training for me”. The photo beneath isn’t me stretching after the swim; it is me trying to find the cord to get out the wetsuit. The struggle was real, I couldn’t find it to begin with but it wasn’t long until the arms were free and I was sat down forcing my legs out. Whilst I was sat down I was trying to remember what I had to pack in the back of my tri suit and where my bike was racked. I put my helmet on and my cycle shoes and I was running to my bike. I did have a moment of dread when I thought I had run past it and I would have to turn round. I realised I was just being silly and cracked on and found the bugger. Transition time 4 minutes 45 seconds.

The warm up was done, now time for the big boy section, the bike. 112 miles of knuckling down and putting everything into it. The bike course had a lot less elevation than Bolton but I had set myself the challenge of averaging 22-23 miles per hour. This would mean I would go sub 5 hours for the ride. I started well, holding back to make sure I didn’t burn out. Taking on my nutrition but I have to admit there were some animals on the bike they flew past me. Hopefully one day soon I will be like that. The bike course was made up of two loops, once I had passed the support crew for the first time I started to struggle. I started to grit my teeth and just keep pushing. My lower back was tightening up and I started to feel uncomfortable. My nutrition popped up to say hello and I decided I didn’t want to waste any time nipping to the toilet, so decided powering through was the best bet. After that the real grind started, I managed to come across someone going a similar speed to me, which helped. I didn’t want him to leave me behind; basically he dragged me around the last 1/3 of the course. I was feeling a bit light headed but I managed to finish in 5 hours 4 minutes 39 seconds.

Transition two was completely different to last year. Last years T2 was the hardest part for me physiologically. I couldn’t imagine running a marathon after just cycling 112 miles. This year was completely different. I was actually looking forward to getting off my bike to start running. I needed to stretch out. I knew I was on for a sub 10 hour ironman but I would still have to run a marathon PB. The fastest I had ever run a marathon was 4 hours 11 minutes, this was in Paris last year. It didn’t go to plan but it could go this way again. The Bolton run took me 4 hours 36 minutes. What helped me around this course was my self-belief, I have always been able to run and I knew I could run sub 4 hours. I wasn’t going to allow myself to miss out on sub 10 hours. I was either going to smash it or have a big DNF against my name trying to get there.

The run started well, I was probably going out a little too fast, running the first 2.4km at 4:23 per km. I was aiming to run at 5-minute km for as long as I could. If I were able to hold that pace, it would leave me with a 3 hour 30 min marathon. Some would say this is ambitious to say the least given my past marathon times but there was only one-way to find out. The first lap went well, I was very conscious of taking water and food on board. I did not want to ‘bonk’. Not when I was doing so well. The first couple of food stops I managed to get more coke on my face than in my mouth, the same with the energy drinks. I decided from there on I would walk through the stops. Nutrition is so important, someone once told me ‘throughout the day, do you ever not eat for 4 hours’. ‘No’, ‘then how do you expect to run a marathon without eating anything?’.

A lot of people struggle with running laps of a course. Ironman Copenhagen run was 4.5 laps around the city. Psychologically, this can be hard. Personally, the first lap is always the hardest for me, once the first one is under my belt and I see others without a band I start to get more confidence. I do however think to myself ‘I have to do this another 3 times…’ They give you a band around your arm after each lap you complete. By the time you have your fourth band you know you are going to make it.

Physically, it’s the opposite. You feel great on the first lap then it slowly goes down hill until you get the fourth band and you know you could probably crawl to the finish.

The first half marathon was strong. I clocked around 1 hour 46/47 minutes. The next ¼ was going to be a dogfight. My tummy turned south and my pace dramatically slowed. This caused the support crew to worry, they were unsure if I was going to make it under the 10 hours. Lets be honest, I couldn’t blame them, the colour had gone from my cheeks and my run had turned into a shuffle. Little did they know that if I stopped shuffling they would have been in for a nasty shock. I eyed up the toilets at the next stop but they were both occupied. I wasn’t going to stop and wait. I would never have been able to forgive myself if I was stood waiting for 5 minutes and then clocked a 10:00:01 time. I tried to zone it out but the struggle went on. The next stop I grabbed a hand full of crackers to try and settle the stomach and like magic it worked. I was back to it feeling better that ever. Just as I was back to full confidence I got a back cramp. I just thought to myself, ‘for God sake, I have just started to feel better again’. My natural reaction was to stiffen up but I focused on my technique and tried to relax my upper body and it went away within about a minute. Hallelujah!

The end was near and I picked up the pace. I avoided the last drink stop and headed for the red carpet. My family were cheering me on and then the emotion hit home. I wonder if one day I will cross the finishing line without crying? I stopped my watch and saw I hadn’t just snuck under the 10 hour mark I had smashed it. My marathon time was 3 hours 42 minutes leaving me with an overall Ironman time of 9 hours 48 minutes and 26 seconds. The finish line was overwhelming, what have I just achieved? Have I really completed this 3 hours 13 minutes faster than last year?

I still think I must have missed a lap out on the run.

I would firstly like to say congrats to Sam McMeekin (@meeks_sj) for also getting a huge PB. I managed to cheer him on during his last lap where he said ‘I need new legs and more oxygen’. No you didn’t mate! Looking forward to racing with you next year.

Well done to Becca Fellows (@fellows91) for coming back from injury and completing her first Ironman!

A huge thank you for all the support on the day. It makes a huge difference and I couldn’t have done it without you. It isn’t just the support on the day however. Working full time and training is very difficult and can be rather stressful. Those that put up with me day in day out deserve a biggest medal.

Thank you to the team at ASICS FrontRunner and The Giant Store in York for supporting me to help reach my goal. Again, I couldn’t have done it without you.

Finally thank you to my Coach Rob for actually making it physically possible to not only complete the course but to reach the sub 10 hours.

This is not the end. I am looking forward to studying Sports and Exercise Science at Leeds Beckett University. I’m sure this can only help my performance, but more importantly my future career prospects.

If you have any questions about my race or any advice please get in contact with me. I would love to help.

Eddy over and out.