2016 Ironman 140.6 Kalmar, Sweden Race Report

2016 Ironman 140.6 Kalmar, Sweden Race Report

Ironman 140.6 Kalmar, Sweden is a model of how every major Ironman should be: fun, historical, flat, and beautiful. And the fan base…WOW!  

kalmar-poseOver the last couple years I have heard more and more people talking about the Kalmar, Sweden Ironman course now in it’s 5th year. The Ironman circuit has offered so much opportunity over the last couple years as I have moved up in the ranks from a Bronze AWA medalist to this past year in 2015 a Silver AWA medalist earning a little more respect along the way.

The Benefits of Cross-Training

Since 2008, I have competed in eight International Full Ironman competitions and the Inaugural Ironman Vineman competition in 2016. In 2013, I began racing shorter sprint triathlons, winning my age group in almost every event and have now raced in over 100 events around the world. I am also the 2015 Clydesdale 220lb+ National Champion and still hold the fastest time in the Olympic Distance event in Grand Rapids Michigan. This would be the second major race under my new sponsor, Red Ace Organics, Rudy Project, and Juice Plus and more as they outfitted me with a spectacular new race suit, gear, and supplements!

Aside from competing in multiple Ironman competitions, I was a member of the US Rowing National Team from 2001-2004 where I won a silver medal at the 2001 U23 World Championships in Ottenshiem, Austria representing the US Men’s Eight Rowing Team. In 2003 I placed 2nd at the Pan American Trials in double sculls and claimed a gold medal in Senior 8 and a silver medal in the Elite Double at the US Nationals in the same year. In 2013, I was voted US Rowing Masters Athlete of the year.

I am discussing this because I want people to know that cross-training on the rowing machine during the year and during recovery blocks throughout the season helps swimmers, cyclists, and runners stay injury free and mentally fresh. Those are the key benefits of rowing for triathletes while also trying to swim, bike, and run extreme long distances during an Ironman.

Logistically, this wasn’t the easiest race to get ready and prepare for as it took me nearly a year to fulfill a massive dream of mine to take a month and drive throughout Europe, but that is a whole other story in itself. The videos on Youtube of this race can really get you pumped up and it’s nothing short of an overall amazing race experience.

Tips From the Pros

This race begins and finishes at the same point in downtown Kalmar next to the Cathedral. On Saturday I had to drop off my bike at T1 staged near the Cathedral in downtown Kalmar. T1 and T2 were in the same transition area which makes the logistics of the race much easier.  I made sure to make it to the athlete orientation meeting at 7pm at the Sports Center Complex about a couple miles away from T1 and T2 after dropping off my bike.

I always tell my athletes that I train never to miss a race orientation as they give you some much needed information about the course and things to watch out and prepare for on race day. Sure enough the race director brought some of the women pros up on stage and gave them a chance to talk about the course and their feelings towards the race. The three major tips I got from the pros were very useful in order to gain even more knowledge about the 5th edition of Ironman Kalmar.

kalmar-swimTip #1 – During the swim don’t be afraid of the thousands of jellyfish in the water throughout the swim course. Not only do they not sting but they remain a few feet below you from the surface so you never really get bothered by them. Make sure to take a look at the swim course and know where you are going because it can get quite confusing. Last but not least, enjoy the swim…especially when you go through the small channel near downtown and under the bridge where thousands of fans are cheering you on!

Tip#2 – The bike portion of the race can be windy…especially on the first lap of the race around the southern part of the island of Oland. The course is flat but make sure to save a bit in the legs when you come around the traffic circle and go on to your second loop around Kalmar. By the way, the traffic circle is your chance to shine and really make the fans go wild as they scream and shout your name heading into that second loop. Wow… I’m getting the chills just thinking about it!

Tip #3 – Ironman Kalmar changed the run course for 2016 and beyond in order to make it an even better racing experience for you and the fans. They call the run portion through downtown Kalmar as ‘the forgotten 4 miles’ because there are so many fans you really get amped up and forget all the pain you endure during that particular portion of the run. It’s true … It is the best run course I have done in all my previous
9 Full Ironman and 6 70.3 races!

I also had a chance to drive the course and ride the course a few months before the race so that was an incredible advantage as you are a bit more familiar and know what to watch out for and how to pace better for the longest part of the Ironman: The 112 mile bike!

The Big Day

I woke up refreshed on Friday the day before my race after having a few days rest and travel recovery time. Leading up to the race I had put in about six hours of cycling and rowing training in order to keep my cardio in check with the ‘taper week’ as they call it upon you. Friday night I got to sleep around 8pm as I had to wake up at 5am in order to get to the transition and make some last minute adjustments before the start. One main difference in my accomodation is that I stayed on the northeast side of Oland island about 40 minutes away from downtown Kalmar. It was an amazing bed and breakfast called Hotel Drei Jahreszeiten and I was very well taken care of as it was extremely quite and
nice to be away from all the madness near downtown Kalmar.

After setting up transition I made sure I had my bike gear put on one of the middles chain ring as it was a flat grade coming right out of the transition for the swim and then I dropped off the morning clothes bag and was ready to go.

A Strong Start

The water temperature was about 65 degrees as they mentioned Ironman Kalmar has always been wetsuit legal in the past 4 years. They announced there were over 2,800 athletes
racing and that it was the director’s favorite race on the European Ironman circuit. The swim was a bit hectic as they siphoned the athletes through a mass chute along the docks allowing just a handful of athletes into the water at one time. It took me about 15 minutes or more to start after the pro men and woman had started.

The Baltic Sea was interesting and not really salty but it was quite refreshing and soon I found it was a perfect cool temperature to allow my body to adapt and swim fast into position. There are several points in the swim where you really have to keep your head up and sight out the rest of the course as there was a hazy fog just above the water that made it hard to see the buoys once you were in the water. I had a decent start and overall a good time for me at 1:19… my swim is usually the weakest of all three categories.

Three Breaks

I had a relatively slow bike transition as the tent was completely full I had to stand outside of the tent and manage to do everything standing up which made for an unusual challenge and for a bad transition time, but I got everything situated and picked up my bike in about 6 minutes. I really wanted a fast bike split on this course and knew it could be a great time to attack the first lap over the bridge and onto Oland island.

I knew the bike would be pretty fast and this was my time to catch up and show my strength on the bike leg to make up some lost time in the swim and transition. The bike leg consisted of two loops around the beautiful island of Oland and over the Oland bridge twice which was once considered the longest bridge in Europe extending nearly six miles. I actually noticed being quite cold in the first hour of the bike, but I pressed kalmar-runon making sure I stayed hydrated and fueled along the way knowing that it would heat up towards the middle and end of the day into the mid to high 70’s.

I made sure to hydrate every 20 minutes or so and hit the salt stick caps with Roctane GU Energy gels.  You have to make sure to stay on top of your hydration and nutrition. It really can make or break your race; however, in this race I had a little too much and for the first time ever in a Full Ironman I had to stop three times to go to the bathroom. It was the first Ironman race where it wasn’t over at least 80 degrees so it was hard to manage and adapt to the cooler temperatures along with not drinking too much water.

I made sure I was staying hydrated and taking in calories. I was having a great bike leg on first lap and decided to take up the tempo and speed on the second lap but as I got to mile 90 my legs felt lethargic and slow. My average speed hovered around 20-22 mph and I ended up with a 5:24 bike split time which was fast considering I stopped three times. I did not get passed on the bike during the entire bike leg however I knew the run would hit me hard as it always does.

Taking it Easy

My run transition at T2 was fast and under five minutes and was able to recharge a bit in the tent before moving along to the marathon. I ran out of transition strong and in control of my pace until around the second lap at mile 16. On the third lap I remember telling myself it was my time to beat my personal best of 11:06 and I was right there to take control and beat my goal.

It ended up being a careful balance of moving, staying clear of injury, and hydration. It hit me that I was on vacation and also needed to save a bit for the rest of the next few weeks as I was also signed up for the Ironman Vichy, France 140.6 race just eight days after Kalmar. It was a lofty and ridiculous goal I had in mind to accomplish 2 Ironman finishes in just one week and three, including Ironman, Vineman, in less than one month, but I thought I would try it and get to my legacy spot of 12 for Kona. It hit me that I needed to take it easy and just finish Kalmar safely and efficiently as I ended up with a respectable time for me of 11:51. 

They run course was three laps and it was well plotted out with just a couple of light hills and a tremendous cheering section near the finish line. I ended with my second worst Full Ironman finish time of 12:02.. far off my goal of going under 11 hours and an hour off my best time of 11:06 which was done in the cool rain temperatures of Cairns, Australia back in 2014.

All in all Kalmar was the most amazing Ironman experience!

Thanks again to everyone for the support, to Red Ace Organics, Rudy Project, Tri Lab, Normatec Recovery, Juice Plus, and of course my fitness center in Long Beach with all my amazing members at Roworx Fitness!

 

For your own special deal on the Red Ace Beets supplement, use the discount code “ROWORX”.

To receive special discounts off of all Rudy Project Gear, contact me at PowerHouseFit@gmail.com.

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