Training endurance sports is simple. If you have a decent training plan in place and keep following it you´re eventually bound to gain fitness. It´s really just about consistence and commitment. Sounds easy enough but somewhere along the way it tends to get complicated – there are moments when it feels so tempting to cut training a bit short and head home early.
I vividly remember one of these moments a couple weeks back when I was approaching the halfway point of a 5h bike ride. I had been riding to a very strong headwind most of the time and I´ve had to gear down so low it felt like I was barely moving. I was seriously getting cold, tired, frustrated and hungry. Then it started raining.
The main thing that keeps me going on those moments is the confidence I have on my training plan – will I get faster if I finish this? However, there´s only a certain length you can go with confidence. Eventually you´ll need to put it to a test and that´s what the races are for!
Voimarinne Half Triahlon last weekend was the first real long distance test for me this season. The training was toned down for the whole week to allow some tapering after a couple of tough weeks and I felt my body recovering properly for the first time in ages. On the last short high intensity workouts before the race I started feeling the familiar eagerness to finally get going. When the alarm clock went off at 6:15 on Sunday Morning I was all set!
A bit more than a hundred of us were lined up in the water a bit off the shoreline waiting for the start. The sun was warming my black wetsuit nicely. The swim route was shielded by a bay and regardless of the wind there were barely any waves. When we were set off by a car horn I sprinted ahead from the front row.
After the typical couple hundred meters of swim start confusion I found myself swimming alone between the lead pack and the second group of swimmers. I eased down a bit to a pace I felt might be comfortable keeping up for the 1,9k. After the first lap I was still behind the lead group but not too far so I decided to keep the same pace until the last 500ish meters where I picked it up a bit for the swim finish. When running to T1 I heard I was 14th to finish the swim. After a quick transition I headed out T1 and started the 90km bike on 9th Place.
The 90km bike route was two 45km laps totaling to 760m of ascend. On the first lap I gained a couple positions but after that it was very confusing trying to understand who was on their 1st or second lap so I gave up and concentrated on riding.
After the 1st lap I was a bit off from the “secretly” planned 2:30 bike split but considering the hills and wind I was quite happy with the pace. On the first half of the second lap I started to realize I probably need to ease off a bit if I want to finish off with a decent run. However, a bit after the turning point I realized my friend who was a stronger runner was only a couple minutes behind so I needed to keep up the pace to allow myself a headstart for the run. I finished the bike at 2:35 and after a quick T2 I was off for the 21km run with surprisingly fresh legs.
The three lap run started with a 2km downhill and I was glad to see my pace there was way faster than planned. I kept a close my eye on the heart rate monitor and trusted I´d be ok regardless of the pace as long as I kept the heart rate in control. I knew I needed to climb the same section back up three times and that would eventually slow down the average pace. The first 7km lap was done in a bit more than 31mins and I realized this may end up being a good run for me.
I passed a couple of guys on the first lap but after that I lost the sense of who was on the same lap with me. My friend was running pretty steadily 4ish minutes behind and we kept cheering each other every time we passed at the turning points.
The hilly run route seemed to suit me well as I´m a decent downhill runner and the uphills were equally tough for everyone. I kept the pace at a comfortable level and decided I´d pick it up on the last lap if I still feel like it. The day was getting really hot and especially the flat section exposed to the sun but shielded from the wind started to feel pretty uncomfortable on the second lap. Luckily they had an aid station there and the drinks and cold water sponges kept me cool enough for maintaining the pace.
When I headed out for the last lap I still felt comfortable and found myself smiling. This is why I had been training for hours an end for the last 9 months. After 4+ hours of racing I was running at 4:20 pace and feeling great!
Crossing the finish line with a new half marathon personal record I heard the announcer say I´was 6th. It took me a while to realize there were actually just 5 other guys at the finish line. I wasn´t 6th in my age group – I was 6th overall!
That was all the confidence I needed to keep up the training for the next 1,5 months heading to Ironman Kalmar 2015!