Nick asked me to do a write-up of my IRONMAN Copenhagen experience – here it is.
I’ve peppered it with some tips & tricks that I picked up over the years, hope that they will prove useful to some of you. Give me a shout if you have any specific questions and I’ll be more than happy to address them in the comments below.
Starting with a bit of background – I’ve started doing triathlon at the end of 2016, with the goal of completing an IRONMAN before turning 30. I managed to do it in October 2018 in Barcelona, finishing in 10:44h. I then went on to do Kalmar in 2019 (9:48h) and Frankfurt in 2021 (10:56h). Frankfurt was really tough, I made some errors in the run-up to that race and then burned all my matches on the bike, which then left me in a poor shape for the hot run.
2022 had been brilliant so far – the training was going really well, my little daughter grew up (she’s 2.5 now) and slept a bit better, so the recovery had been a lot better, too. I joined OxfordTri to achieve my dream swim of sub 1hr as I always admired the strong athletes in this club and wanted to train with people better than me.
IRONMAN Copenhagen in 2022 was supposed to be my redemption after the awful Frankfurt race in 2021.
In case you’d like to do IM Copenhagen yourself, let me give you a quick idea of the layout of where things were – the village, swim start and T1 were not too far from the airport; T2 and finish were in the city centre. I booked a hotel in the city centre (NH Copenhagen, brilliant) and planned on going to the swim start using the metro – it turned out to be the right move as the metro was really reliable, even in the morning on race day. Just make sure that if you’re travelling with your bike, you buy a ticket for your bike, too! Also, this year the village closed already on Saturday, so if you didn’t get your overpriced merch, you had to buy it online. I’ve taken part in several IM-branded events, but this was the first time when they messed up the M-DOT t-shirt that’s supposed to have everybody’s names comprise the M-DOT on the back – they forgot to include last names starting with A-F (honestly!). And if you wanted to buy the shirt post-event – with the names supposedly fixed – you’d have to pay £25 + £50 postage (!!!).
But I digress. I’ll go straight into race day because pre-race day everything was kind of as usual (registration Thu-Fri, racking Sat, carbloading since Wed). I woke up at 4 AM and had my usual pre-race breakfast – porridge, couple of bananas and a Red Bull, hoping to get the guts going before I left the hotel (you know exactly what I mean) – and the result was my first achievement of the day. The metro on a Sunday morning is every 20 minutes, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the right stop and then a few minutes walk to T1 – so I got the 5 AM metro that was full of people coming back from parties and the Pride event (it was a different smell to the usual Deep Heat aroma that I’m used to when travelling with a bunch of triathletes on race day morning, let me tell you that).
Into T1, got the nutrition and the bike computer on the bike, checked the tires and got my favourite playlist going to get into the zone. Quick warmup and we were in the starting pens for the rolling swim start. The swim was in the sea, but not in the open bit of it – it was almost like a salty lake and it was glorious. Sighting is not my biggest strength, but it was really easy here, as you had two bridges you had to aim for and huge yellow buoys. I went off strong, but controlled – keeping in the back of my mind the recent Goldilocks set that Alain made us do a few weeks back on Wednesday in Radley which taught us how to control the pace. It was really helpful. One other tip that I found useful in the swim was something I overheard the other day on the metro – a triathlete was explaining how he deals with seaweed: whenever seaweed touches him, he imagines that it’s patting him on his back / body and just cheering him on. I smiled to myself every time I made contact with seaweed – everybody wanted a piece of me! That seaweed was really keen to cheer me on, I felt like a crowd-surfing rockstar My dream was to go sub 1h on the swim – at the last turn with about 300m to go, the watch showed 54 minutes, so I pushed and got out of the water in 59 minutes and 20 seconds – buzzing!
Onto the bike – the first 10-15k was a bit tricky, because it was twists and turns through the Copenhagen city centre, with different surfaces. I lost one of my bottles about 5k in – stopped, picked it up and controlled it from then on, I didn’t want my nutrition strategy to be out of the window in the first 10 minutes of the bike! (I really need to get those X-Lab Gorilla bottle cages.) Once we got out of the city, the course was spectacular – flat-ish, with nice climbs and picturesque views. My focus was to execute my nutrition strategy – 120 g of carbs every hour (one bottle with 3 scoops of Tailwind + a Maurten bar every hour) – as that is crucial for how you’re going to feel during the marathon. It was going well, I also maintained a good power and cadence – and then the drafting started. Draft packs consisting of 10+ people 2-3 meters apart (some guys even less than that) – it was ridiculous and just so unjustified. These guys weren’t even fighting for podiums in their age groups (checked a lot of them afterwards) – I will never understand this ‘by all means necessary’ approach to triathlon racing. Unfortunately there weren’t many judges on the bikes around, so this all went unpunished. I didn’t want to cheat, so when I was faster than a pack, I had to push harder to overtake all 10+ people and I felt that in the second half of the bike. Luckily, with an additional kick from some Beta Fuel chews, I was able to complete the bike in a decent time of 4:51h – I was happy, even though I was shooting for a sub 4:50h. The lost bottle at the beginning and the energy dip is something I will work on for next year’s race – I’m thinking of introducing caffeine at a specific time on the bike to fight through the second-half-of-the-bike lull.
Into T2, quick wee and off onto the run. It was getting a little bit hot, but the legs felt good, the nutrition strategy on the bike was executed well and it was now a small matter of a marathon. I got myself a nutrition belt from Decathlon for £12.99 and it worked a treat – had a bottle of Beta Fuel and loads of Beta Fuel chews with me to again stick to my own, tried and tested nutrition, which allowed me to power through the run with no problems or walls. Later on I poured Gatorade into that bottle and didn’t have to stop at aid stations (there were plenty of them). Four laps went by quite quickly with no drama – on the first lap I talked to a chap from Henley who was gunning for a sub 10h (he did it), but then I realised that his pace was a bit slower than what I was aiming for, wished him luck and took off. A negative split on the run saw me finish the marathon in 3:27h and the whole race in 9:25h – my goal was to go sub 9:30h and so I was very chuffed.
Overall, if you’re looking for a fast race, with a flat bike and a lovely run through the city centre of a European capital – then IRONMAN Copenhagen is a must. The city is pricey, but well worth it and the bakeries are out of this world! If you made it this far in this write-up – well done next year it’s a return to Barcelona for me to take stock of how much I progressed since 2018 and to try to finish the race in 08:59:59. Can’t wait for the 13 months of training ahead of me – see you poolside!
Have a great week everyone x