Tapering for Ironman – Highlights of the training season

After 500 hours of training, more than 6000 kilometers logged, 270 000 calories burned, and 57 vertical kilometers climbed it´s finally time to recover, fuel up and get ready for the real thing – 3,8km swim and 180km bike followed by a marathon run.

Triathlon Bike

I signed up for Ironman Kalmar 2015 two weeks after crossing the same finish line in August 2014. The training started again in October when I looked up a coach and figured myself a target time for 2015 race. Since then, my training has averaged to 10ish hours a week increasing progressively towards the summer. In practice, this has required two workouts a day for the full year excluding Mondays which have been dedicated for recovery.

Final days before the main race are the best time of the year. The training load is scaled down and at the same time you´re at the best form in a long time, probably your life. During the last easier workouts you feel the constant urge to go faster or longer and need to keep reminding yourself to “save it for the start line“.

During the last workouts, I find myself thinking through the journey of getting there and going back to the highlights of the past training season. When I´m facing a low point in a long race and the negativity is taking over I try to get my mind back to the highlights and away from the discomfort and fatigue of the moment.

Countryside winter runs: One of the earlier memories of the season are the countryside winter runs from my parents house during the Christmas time. It was a cold Christmas in central Finland and the temperature was constantly at -15c to -25c range. Daylight was available only for couple hours a day and most of the people were happy staying indoors. The solitude and quietness of running on fresh snow by frozen lakes was somehow a perfect fit for the Christmas mood!

Countryside winter runs from my parents house
Countryside winter runs at Christmas time

Biking on frozen snow: I did most of the winter bike training outdoors on a mountain bike. Typically, I tried to ride on smaller forest roads away from traffic as the daylight was scarce and I was riding with a lamp. Sometime in March, the snow started to freeze up after a couple of warm days and eventually it was strong enough to carry the bike. It was incredible – I was able to ride basically anywhere! I was all smiles riding around forests, fields and frozen lakes until the fun eventually ended after another warm period.

Biking on frozen snow
Biking on frozen snow

Mountain biking in Portugal with my daughter: In April, we made a family trip to Sintra National Park in Portugal where I dedicated the mornings for training riding 3-5 hours a day for 9 days in a row. The park was full of beautiful single tracks and the constant climbs provided good high intensity workouts.

We also rented a mountain bike for my 12 year old daughter and in the afternoons we went out to explore the park together. One of the best biking memories of the whole season is from following my daughter down a single track leading to seashore and stopping to watch the sunset together on the cliffs where I took the photo below.

Mountain biking in Portugal with my daughter
Mountain biking in Portugal with my daughter

Mountain biking is one of my favourite sports and during this season I also had a chance to try riding in the Spanish mountains and jungles of Florida (more on it here).

Cold morning swims early June: This has been the coldest summer in Finland in 50 years. The temperature barely exceeded +20c in June-July and hence the water in local lakes just didn´t warm up. I started open water swims early June and the photo below is from one of the first trips to the lake.

I was sitting in my warm car at the beach parking lot at 6:30AM waiting for a friend to join me for the morning swim. It was +9c outside, windy, and it rained a bit. We didn´t swim for long and it definitely was cold and unpleasant. However, the feeling of accomplishment when driving to work after the workout more than made up for it! It really felt like proper commitment to training getting out there early in the morning and I still feel good for making myself do it!

Early morning swims
Cold morning swims early in the summer

Summertime long runs from home: As said, the Finnish summer wasn´t one of the warmer ones but the weather was actually perfect for at least one thing – running. I really enjoy running in light rain and we definitely got lots of it!

I live in the countryside and our house is surrounded by a never ending network of paths and dirt roads criss-crossing around the forests. There´s barely anyone around and on most of my runs I only see a car or two if it´s a busy day. At some point, I ended up leaving my headphones home and started running in silence.

20km route going around the lake
20km route going around the lake

In exactly a week from now I should be in the middle of marathon run making my way towards the Ironman Kalmar finish line.

Let´s see if these highlights will get me through it!


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