The title Catch me if you Cam has never felt more appropriate for a race report. As has become customary with me with regard to race planning, I decided at the very very last minute to participate in Ironman Copenhagen & I'm obviously happy I did indeed line up. It'd been almost 2 years since I'd had the opportunity to put together something that resembles Ironman Training, its not been since the lead up to Ironman Italy in 2019 I actually felt I'd done the work to not only go the distance, but also be prepared to race every single centimetre of it.
The reason for the last minute decision attributed to a number of reasons. Firstly, my Teammates success at the olympics with Gold Medals for Tom Pidcock, Filippo Ganna, Richard Carapaz, & off course Bronze for Rohan Denis, was so inspiring I simply wanted to race myself & show what i could do. Coupled with that, I'd missed out on selection for the Vuelta Espana so i wanted Dave B & the management to know that i was ready for the race, in great shape, so they take that into consideration next time they are considering me for a converted spot in a grand tour squad.
Secondly, Fallon's sister Kira was visiting from the USA. I needed to make sure she was happy to tag along with our circus to an Ironman. Fortunately Kira was happy for a new adventure, she'd never been to an Ironman before, let alone Copenhagen, so she was a resounding yes. I greatly appropriated her allowing me to interrupt her holidays to come along and watch me race around swimming, biking & running in Lycra.
The third reason was due to my training load. I'd managed the most consistent 6 weeks of IM training I believe I've ever been able to execute. It seems the road racing has given my fitness a nice little bump & as a result i found i could push myself much harder in my swimming & running while maintaining my cycling, than i could in past years. This however has a toll & the cumulative fatigue started to hit me 2 weeks ago & i knew i needed to take a break to absorb that great work. Knowing that I'm hopeless at taking a break from training, i felt that if i did an Ironman to "finish" off the block, I'd be more likely to take a proper break from training for a number of days.
And the final factor was my 2nd vaccine. It was scheduled for last Thursday so 3 days before the race. I'd certainly felt pretty average after the 1st dose so was quite concerned about feeling flat in the Race after my 2nd dose. In the end we decided to take the gamble & I had the vaccine the morning we traveled to Copenhagen. I took Thursday completely off, Friday as well to be on the safe side, & to be on the safe safe side i took the day before the race off training as well. Actually that's a small exaggeration as on Saturday I did a 50m swim with or Dog Olive so she could get her paws wet in the Baltic Sea, she loves swimming. I certainly still wasn't confident i felt "normal" but I didn't have a fever like after the 1st dose so decided I'd roll the dice & tackle the Ironman.
Once we arrived in Copenhagen it felt so good to be back at a proper Ironman event. Obviously this time was a little bit special as we had Wyatt with us for the first time. Last time he attended an Ironman was in Italy & Kona when he was the size of a Prune inside his beautiful Mumma. 2 years down the line & he's 15 months old & ready to begin his IronKids career which he did on the Saturday before my race on Sunday. I have to admit, he's pleased Kona has been postponed as he's definitely got a few areas to work on, particularly getting off the starting line on his own 2 feet. He was chomping at the bit in the build up until the loud music & crowd fired up. His little sensory senses haven't had much exposure to noise during the Lock Down dominated first 15 months of his time on the planet. Anyways the extra 5 months we have to prepare for Kona will be invaluable I'm sure as he looks to improve on his first performance in Copenhagen.
Pre Race wise for me was dominated by the recent appointment by Lionel Sanders to make me his coach. I never offered my services, he simply appointed me. I agreed to do the job for this 1 race & 1 race only. I was so confident in my ability to get the best out of him that i knew he wouldn't need me after Copenhagen, he'd be back on track. I shouldn't give away my coaching secrets but I'm a bit off an open book so here you go. I simply told him I'd lead by example, simple as that. There was obviously plenty of banter & interviews for the pair of us which was a welcome return to what I've become so accustomed to at Ironman events, & most certainly, what I've missed so much these past 2 years. I really love everything about Ironman events, the build up, the race obviously, the day after with presentation if you've earned a place on the podium. I really love the whole thing & to now be able to include my son & the activities for him into that makes it even more special.
The Wurf's are pretty dial'd in with race day mornings & despite the introduction of Wyatt & my Sister in Law Kira, everything went as smoothly as it ever has. My bike setup it pretty straight forward. Check the tire pressure, 110psi in the front & back, fill up the hydration system, refill water bottle behind my seat, 2 oversized squeegee bottles containing 5 gels each & 2 energy bars in the bento box, clip in my shoes, Garmin, & I'm good to go. A process that used to take me 1hr now takes 15-20 minutes. From there its off to find the family to relax a little before getting suited up for the race.
Finally on the start line & the final countdown seemed to take forever. So long so that my front foot started sinking into the wet sand & just as I lifted it out to reposition it, the race started & i was quite literally on the back foot! Fortunately i was able to bash my way through the field & latch onto the back of the strong swimmers group. I was certainly at maximum revs trying to stay with the group & unfortunately just after half way i lost touch with those guys & slid back to the next group. Fortunately this group wasn't overly far behind but what surprised me was that Lionel was leading it! He really was taking this follow my example seriously & was swimming the best I've ever seen him swim. As humbling as it was slotting into this group i was comfortable in the knowledge that there was only a handful of guys ahead of us within a couple of minutes. Well, all except Lukas Wojt, the former Olympic swimmer who was giving us all an absolute schooling in the discipline. It would take me the best part of 120km on the bike to overhaul the 5+ minute lead he had built up in the swim. Fortunately he was alone & the rest where well and truly within catching distance nice and early on the bike.
Once on the bike & we'd navigated through the first 10 very technical Km's, i went to work on making my way through the field. First thing i needed to do was put Lionel & the rest of the group we'd swam with in the rear view mirror & put what i felt to be my biggest rival for the day on the back foot. I'd studied the course & wind direction & knew that a long exposed cross tail wind section came after 20km. As we hit this section of road i twisted the throttle & instantly had a gap on Lionel & the group & was off in pursuit of the faster swimmers further up the road. Once I'd established this initial gap on Lionels group i settled into a nice comfortable rhythm ready to twist the throttle again as i caught & passed those ahead. By halfway through the bike only Lucas remained infront of me but as I'd averaged close to 45kmph for the first 90km i knew he'd been working very hard to maintain his lead & it was just a matter of time before i caught & passed him as well.
Sure enough around km 110 i sailed passed Lucas to give him a taste of the same medicine he'd dished out to us in the swim & i was in the lead. I've got to admit i took a moment to savour the fact i was leading an Ironman again & i now simply couldn't wait to get off the bike & get into the run & finish it all off. The final 60km i just kept my nice solid pace & i was pleasantly surprised but my pace. I've certainly done some work on my position off late & obviously racing at the world tour level has opened up the energy systems quite a bit. Was definitely a nice feeling to be able to maintain such a pace & at the same time feel like i was well within myself to have a good run. As soon as i dismounted the bike & my feet hit the ground the sensations where confirmed & I felt great running into transition to strap on my running shoes.
Onto the run course & my first objective was to get an idea of where my rivals where at. I knew i had a decent lead but I had no idea really how big it was & who was where. Fortunately there was a turn around after 2km so I'd get a good look at the field. Off everyone i saw only Jasper Swenson who was at 6 minutes & Lionel whom was at 9 minutes back, looked like they'd be capable of catching me. They where both still running at 2:36 pace after 10 km when i got a 2nd chance to asses the field so i ran some calculations in my head to set my race plan.
I figured if i ran at 2:45 pace it'd be fast enough so that they have to maintain there rapid pace to catch me by the finish line. Neither had run a marathon that fast before but i have too much respect for my rivals to count anything out so I figured it was best to be on the safe side. Fortunately for me this pace felt very comfortable so i made a rule with myself that I wouldn't react until they got within 1 minute of my lead. I was extremely confident i could up the pace if need be but with it still very early in the build up to Kona I wasn't prepared to work any harder than was absolutely necessary in the run. Sure enough lap by lap the gap to these two continued to plummet & it took a lot of patience to stick to plan & wait as long as possible before reacting. My ego wanted me to burry them early on but common sense or perhaps maturity ensured i stuck to the plan.
First Jasper fell off the pace & only Lionel remained as a threat as i began the final lap signifying 10km till the finish line. At this point the gap was down to 2 minutes which meant he had to run 10-15 seconds per km quicker than me to catch me before the finish. I stayed patient and maintained my 4:00 pace knowing 3:45's where a big ask for anyone in the sport at that point in the run. With 4km's to go the margin was still 1:20 so his paced had began to slow & i knew i had it in the bag. At this point i allowed my self to have a little fun & stretch my legs over the final few km's to the finish. At that point I didn't see any need to be out there any longer than necessary & was excited to hit that finish tape 1st for the first time in 2 years & celebrate with my family waiting at the finish.
That feeling of crossing the finish line didn't disappoint & was as exhilarating as always. Was a pleasant surprise to learn I'd broken the overall course record by over 3 minutes with a time of 7hrs 46minutes, which is always my goal as it means you've also won the race! People talk about bike course records however my opinion is you ride for show & run for the dough $$$. So that was that. In the end I'm extremely happy that we made the last minute decision to go to Ironman Copenhagen. Obviously winning makes me feel less bad about dragging Kira around Europe on a work trip during her holiday although she seemed to really enjoy herself so that was good. Being a dad is the greatest thing in the world so feeling like I'm setting a good example for my Son feels good as well. All in all Ironman Copenhagen was a very satisfying outing.
With Kona postponed till February we've obviously had to change plans accordingly. I'll now finish the cycling season racing on the road with the Ineos Grenadiers. i expect to race a few 1 day races in Italy & belgium over the next 6 weeks. My race program is very flexible with the team as I'm basically one call for everything but I'd expect to just do a number of 1 day races between now & the end of the season in October. From there ill take a bit of break before building up for Kona with my annual training block in Los Angeles in December & January. Obviously it's disappointing that kona has been delayed from the perspective that Hawaii is still struggling from the COVID pandemic. We can only wish that the island gets on top of that so they can safely and happily welcome the Ironman World Championship back to the island. Obviously public health & safety is of far greater importance & significance than any sporting event. So having said that, whenever it is we are fortunate enough to be back on the big island for Kona, I'll be ready!