I have just returned from another trip to Sweden for another event. Another bike event but as part of a relay in the Ironman Jonkoping 70.3 triathlon as part of a relay team with my amazing friend Gemma.
Gemma is a fantastic runner and I cycle and so when our other halves, Brett and Marios, signed up for this triathlon we figured why not team up and do it too but as a relay team. This saw the creation of team Don’t Be Shit. The saying don’t be shit is something we say at events to lighten the mood as a joke to friends we are supporting.
So who was going to be our swimmer? Well Gemma decided that after completing her Abbot World Marathon Major series that this would be her new challenge and she’s trained so hard for it too. I have so much admiration for her for doing this and admit it didn’t even come into my mind to do the same or even offer to take on that discipline!
We arrived in Gothenburg and after a drive (about 1 hour 20 minutes) we were checked in and went straight to register, meeting up with other team mates from Havering Tri who were also taking part in the event. We were laughing as they’d printed our team name on our participant bands and also our numbers – brilliant! This was followed by the Tri club parade through the town with a brilliant atmosphere.
After bikes being built and test rides were done we had a wander round town and checked the swim start and transition area. Bike racking took place in a downpour of rain and a lot of hoping that race day wouldn’t have the same weather!
On race day it was a late start at 9am so not the usual 4/4:30am alarm, which was nice and everything seemed calm despite nerves and weather looked like it would be dry until late afternoon so I was hopeful that my bike leg would be dry! Once everyone was in their wetsuits the heavens opened! Not quite the plan!
Gemma on the swim: I seeding myself into 42 minute wave and I was a nervous wreck. Standing in the cold, wet and in puddles on the gravel roadside in complete silence. I could hear the cheers along the start line for the swim entry. Taking a deep breath Marios grabbed my hand and said it’s ok- I nearly started crying. It took 40 minutes to get to the swim entry, with 4 people going in every 4 seconds, and off I went, knowing Marios was directly behind me in the following wave of swimmers. As soon as we entered the water, the sun came out lighting the way for us.
The water was lovely and I found my groove straight away/ compared to the day before! I trained for all weather conditions rain – hail- sun – storms and trained for cooler temperatures and mass starts with Havering Tri. However, I couldn’t have imaged that people would have seeded themselves in the earlier waves to do breaststroke from the start (due to strict bike cut off times). This made it impossible to swim around or through.
Marios was my rock during the swim and made me realise that 5 months ago I couldn’t do open water swimming and now I am able to swim comfortably and take the time to assess the best route for overtaking slower swimmers. I loved every minute of the swim and would recommend going in the earlier wave for what you expect.
I would have liked a better time, but happy I was well above the cut off time and more impressed I managed to run the 0.8km to meet Lisa in the relay exchange box!
Me on the bike: After Gemma passed me the timing chip I tried to run through transition but running in cleats on wet cobbles is not that easy! Plus I was freezing by this point as I had stood in the exchange box since the swim start in the rain so know for next time if it’s the same weather that’s not a good idea. I also needed the toilet the second I got there but couldn’t get in transition so had to hold it.
I was soon over the mount line and on the bike. I had 56 miles to cycle, a distance I can easily do but for some reason I was super nervous and this is the third time I’ve done a relay and knowing someone is waiting for you is added pressure.
Prior to the event I had heard from many people there is a horrible hill at the start and that pretty much the first 10km was uphill. I’d been told the big climb was really long and really steep and that last year there were so many people walking. I’m not good at hills. I can do them but slower than most and with a knee injury I knew I had to spin up easy – pretty much my plan for hills without an injury. I knew once of the commentators would be at the base of the hill so when I saw and heard him with the customary Swedish Heja Heja Heja I knew I’d reached the hill. Just keep spinning, smile at the supporters, pretend it’s ok. Another member of Havering Tri overtook me and gave me a thumbs up and I said is this the hill and he shouted yes and that we were about a third of the way up. Not so bad I could do this. I rarely say a hill was not as bad as I thought but it actually wasn’t – it was twisty and more gradual but at almost 1,000ft definitely a hill still. Here is my face about three quarters up (ha ha).
And the difference once I realised I was at the top – oh ok not so terrible.
The rest of the course is rolling and on the downhills and straights I was really able to overtake a lot of people and knew this is my strength and to use that.
There were three aid stations, all of which were either at the top or bottom of hills. As I wasn’t doing the run I had my nutrition I needed on the bike and didn’t need to stop for anything else. I did stop at one aid station as I needed the toilet too badly but the queue had five people in it – five people taking on and off cycling kit that would also be wet like mine could be timely so I abandoned that idea and got back on the bike – I would have to wait!
At about 40km in the heavens opened again and for about 25/30 minutes I got soaked. I was wiping my glasses with my gloves and accidentally knocked them off so had to stop to get them back. The rain also made me overly cautious on the brakes on some of the downhills that I would ordinarily fly down. There were also some sections that were really windy and trying to power through those takes a toll on the legs and makes the effort that much harder, especially after a really narrow and tight turn point was just headwind up the hill you’d just flown down.
There was a section from 76-78km that it is forbidden to overtake as the road is narrow and winding and this was frustrating as I got stuck behind a group who were going much slower and had to wait until after to be able to pass them.
Your number is on your back for the bike and on your number is your team name so I had some fun as people giggled at Don’t Be Shit. I did the same to a man on the bike I passed whose team name was Loser Buys Burgers.
About 20km from the end I knew where I was and this was back on the Vatternrundan route. On that ride there is a stop at Jonkoping so I knew it wasn’t long until I would be passing Gemma the timing chip again.
After dismounting my bike and trying to run in cleats again I made my way to Gemma in the exchange box, little celebration dance, brief hug and she was off! As she left I had a swift hand down my bib shorts as my heat pad I sometimes use for back pain had slid down to my bum and it was on fire! Classy as always.
I finished the bike in 3:06 and will admit I was disappointed with my time – on a different course I’d previously done 2:56 and whilst I’m the first to say every course is different and you can’t compare and that it’s the conditions on the day, I really feel with better weather and no knee injury I could definitely have done that on this course too. Though I did get a lovely compliment as someone came up to me and said man you can bike! This lady told me she tried her hardest to keep with me but couldn’t get anywhere close and she said well done and left me with a huge smile on my face!
Gemma on the run: I had an absolute blast on the run, met some lovely people and gave them encouragement along the way. I felt like I needed to support everyone as they had just come of the bike and had jelly legs, mine were relatively fresh in comparison. It was a nice 3 lap course and loved seeing Lisa after 2 laps.
Again it was great fun knowing other tri members were around the course. Happy with the 2:09 for the run, considering the conditions – after the rain the sun came out!
However much I wanted to finish my Ironman journey with Lisa, I was absolutely gutted we couldn’t, but like we said we understood the Ironman rules. It was lovely finishing with Marios and it really made it a unique experience for him.
I had the best time and would definitely consider it again. I would love to inspire anyone who thought the Ironman journey is unthinkable and say break it down and take on one discipline at a time …. it was just a natural progression for me, I have loved my world running journey …. so why not take on a new discipline.
I was able to get to behind the finish line to see Gemma and Marios finish, which was amazing.
Everyone from Havering Tri were safe and done!
We found out we came third place in the female relay and so it was suggested to attend the awards ceremony. Being called up on stage by presenters who were laughing too much at our team name was funny and resulted in extra kudos and fist pumps.
We both had a fab time and coming third place was just the icing on the cake and made us realise our training had paid off! Team Don’t Be Shit – Team Freaking Awesome!
Sweden has a special place in my heart so I knew before I got there I would love it but so many were commenting on the bike especially and how beautiful it was. Both winners of the event, male (Elliot Smales) and female (Claire Hann), were from Great Britain (amazing) and said it was the best bike course they’ve done. It was also European Tri Club Champs and will be for the next two years so if you are considering a middle distance triathlon would definitely recommend!
To top it off there was 27% women who participated in the event, which is a world record participation for an Ironman event!