Attention: long and wmn content included ;)
2012 I was a supporter in Almere and in 2016 I raced the half distance. I made at these events a clear resolution that I’d never do a full distance here. I did not like the course.
I have to say I was not right.
This race is super. And it’s not the fancy features which make it so, it’s the people, who stand behind.
I have completed 5 full distances in a row since 2016.
2016. Extrememan Hungary 11:52 I realized I cannot stand racing in 30+ Celsius anymore
2017. IM Copenhagen 12:39 crashed on the bike course due to my own mistake
2018. IM Copenhagen 11:21 THE RACE of my life until now, my best result
2019. IM Tallinn 12:50 on a way to a burnout, stomach issue on race weekend
2020. IM Tallinn 12:33 mentally weak, could not handle the uncertainty of COVID travel
I did not have any plans to do a full distance this year but when the World cup was postponed from 2020 to 2021 and still to be held in Almere, I told myself, most likely this was my only chance to do such a race on Dutch home soil this life. As I could not handle flying during COVID times last year with all uncertainties, flying to a race this year was no option anyway. With the months passing by, this race became more and more a reality.
This a tricky question. Swimming was not in the books for many months in the winter. There was one outside pool open in Amsterdam where I could have gone 1-2 times per month, but that was not really worth from training perspective. All in all it resulted half year miss of swimming second time in a row. Yeah, I am coming from some childhood swim background but this year again I could not get back to my pre-COVID strength, my swim performance is just lagging.
Cycling was the only stable factor, where I needed anyway most improvements. The last 2 races in Tallinn were a disaster, cycling around 7 hrs though I used to be a stable 6hrs IM cyclist on flat/rolling hills.
Running is of course the most injury prone sport, and unfortunately I faced 2 injuries the past months. The specialists could not find the root cause really either, I say it was an accumulation of the years of long distance racing combined with a medical treatment not linked to sports but it had a huge impact on my whole body, I felt that my body has changed.
Well, both injuries did heal before the race but it meant that the half year pre race I could not even do 50% of my normal running training load.
It was really a pleasure to go to race weekend from home, sleep in own bed, prepare the race things last minute, not to search for COVID rules in another country etc. Though I had to go for 2 COVID tests the last week to meet race requirements, it was much less stressful than flying was last year.
I had a small surgery just 2 weeks before the race, it was not sure if I could take part at all. I got cleared by the doctor on Tuesday, Race was on Sunday…I have already won I felt.
But mother nature again let me know that some decisions are not for me to take; I had a bad PMS the days leading up to the race cumulating on race day. Driving to Almere at 5am I told my fiancée, not sure I could start. This is not the state how you wish to go to any races :(
But if you know it’s your last full distance for a while, went already the extra miles to get even to the start line, it’s the super atmosphere of a world cup, you go above and beyond. I felt so at least.
It was also super great to meet fellow Hungarian athletes, who had a super race, scoring a world cup title and a 5th place at the end!
Swimming was rolling start with all ladies racing at the AG world cup. Actually we were just chit chatting with Viktoria when we realized it was our start already. I wanted to go to the middle of the ladies queue but missed that :) I knew this was not the biggest issue of my race, I was relaxed.
As mentioned I have been struggling with swimming since COVID, have great (almost the same) swim threshold results but the longer strength endurance work I could not get in again, and I hate racing in swimming since. It seems an other life when I swam 63 minutes in Copenhagen in 2018…This will be one of my challenges to work on this autumn/winter, I want to do my next IM within 60 minutes and feel fast and strong again (fingers crossed no pool closure again...).
Water was bit choppy, I did not have any draft possibilities, I felt that my swim was mediocre. It was. 75 minutes. Be positive, at least 2 minutes better than last year. But nope, I again did not enjoy, I could not wait to get out from there.
Super slow transition, 6 minutes, I also do not know what I spent it with, but since my crash in 2017 which happened just after a quick transition not getting there to cycle mentally being in a post-swim blurry state, I rather spend an extra minute there than to rush.
Cycling I really enjoyed and was back to my ‘old highs’ appr 30-31km/h even above my planned watts. But then around 60k pain came back really strong. The pain game started, how to balance paracetamol, where is the limit I can bear and where is the limit where I am not ruining my body. An IRONMAN itself is a huge challenge of course physically, this way double or triple, and I had still 8ish hours to go. Pain consumed lots of energy.
I started crying around 80k which went on until 115k. Luckily on the bike no one sees… I was sure I was to stop and give up. Fortunately at that aid station there was my man and also Elena, a tri mate who was working as an official. We discussed the situation, the options, took a little break, got some more paracetamol (thanks to Angela, who I did not recognize at the time though had some contacts accidentally on Facebook with – do accidents really exist?), and got some crème on my lower back. I was ready to go on with the journey whatever it would be...though at this point I was crying from the pain, I was not ready to give up.
And that’s the challenge, you need to make a decision for yourself, no one can decide for you (until you are not taken by medical staff at least…). You need to make a decision to face your own mirror, that day, the next day and also in 10 years time. I wanted to make sure I did 200% and made the decision as such.
Pain eased, luckily the wind direction also changed for that last 40-50k, so we got less in our face. It helped. I reached 150k where pain was again worse, but same time I also reached that peace I needed. I would cycle back to Almere, got to transition and if I could not run that’s it. I’d not make this a walk race, it’s a world cup, I wanted to respect the event though I was quite OK with the time limits, I could have walked the whole way... I was at 8hrs exactly when I left the 2nd transition (I just checked it afterwards, I had literally no targets and ideas about time at that point).
It was a blast to be out there on the run course. So many people cheering, helpful – it reminded me the old Hungarian races where I fell in love with triathlon. Oh and I got some 'come on Hungary' cheering as well, I was super surprised about as I was not aware any more Hungarians racing - actually there was one additional athlete and his partner who was the cheering person in this case :)
It went as planned until 13k, on 4 hr marathon pace, then reality kicked in. Medical service, they also said no way you were so unlucky you get your period now – yeah, for female athletes it can happen, and for some it’s a real issue. Normally I lay on the couch…now I was on the way to get to the finish line for my 14th IM.
The middle 15k or so was a nightmare, I was walking more than running.
More pills and so was not an option, I felt I reached the limit that I'd ruin my body. But somehow at the last 2 loops, 13k to go, I could handle pain better or it eased somewhat, no idea. I started to run more again, with a quite OK pace, back to that 6:00ish. Many athletes who were still on the course, had major muscle issues– my situation was different.
10k to go, I got those goosebumps why it’s worth to do. At an aid station as it was getting dark, volunteers and officials started partying, disco music, lights, fantastic atmosphere. It was just a moment to cherish forever. I also remembered all the people who helped me lots to get to that moment, finally I was sure I’d reach that finish line; my fiancé, family, family in-law, friends, doctor and physio…Oh yeah my doctor 2 weeks ago banned me from doing any sports. This is why also that moment was to cherish.
Actually this year these last 2 laps were the moments I most enjoyed, not the finish line.
My final time was 12:44, an hour worse I was expecting but literally I could not give a f..k, I did not even check it until the next day…This race was much more than time and results. I did not feel it for years but today just a day after the race, I cannot wait to train again.
My learning was to never say never, and I can say now, I am sure that I will be back in 2022, maybe as half distance athlete, maybe as volunteer, maybe as support crew but I will not miss this race!
IM Tallinn 2019
My 12th Ironman! What an IM it was…Awesome organization with last minute changes executed perfectly, flat course, everything given to do my personal best (a finish time under 11 hrs was my aim) but I ended the day with mixed feelings and a poor personal result.
I prepared similar way training wise this year as last year for IM Copenhagen but many other factors changed in my life which had major impact; both positive and negative. Going to office everyday facing an unsustainable situation caused way too much stress, incomparable to last year when I could hardly wait to enter the door. Luckily my private life changed just the other way around.
I planned only 3 tri races for this season, no small “just for fun” races. After one success and one disaster with full demotivated racing, I was quite determined to put my best on the course in Tallinn. Well, the last weeks before the race I could not complete several key trainings, we also had to change one key weekend to a rest weekend with coach which was not a good sign.
We have arrived in Tallinn after a great holiday where I could mentally switch off but preparation wise it was not a good decision.
As the last step of preparation we checked the bike course in Tallinn. I knew it’s a flat course but the road quality was a huge positive surprise (btw never rent a car in Estonia there are flash cameras everywhere…). So the task for the last 2 days was to chill, eat smart, rest smart, get my head fully focused. Mission completed.
But then…3 days before the start an email arrived from the organization. They informed us that the temperature of the sea in the harbour where the swim course was planned was too low and therefore was likely to be cancelled. Holy shit, 11-12 degrees! I got shocked as swimming is my best discipline and I did not want to do this IM as a duathlon. I did not train for a duathlon the whole year to end up at an incomparable time with a “what if”.
Luckily the next day another email arrived, informing us that the swimming was moved to a lake, they just cut the grass and got the licenses last minute. Kudos for the organization! They received a standing ovation at the race briefing later that day.
Race day. The day I was training for 10 months.
Swimming. Saturday 6:45am start. Awesome lake for the swim, 18.5 degrees. I heard some fellow athletes saying it was cold, for me it was more than warm. I only swam during my holiday in 20+ degrees open water, so I have no issues with 14-15 degrees either. I had to stop already once during the swim, almost throwing up. It was not a good sign, I did not feel super strong. When I checked my swim time after the race, I had to realize that I swam 1:07 which is awful for me. I had some issues with my shoulders in the spring but I did not expect this time.
Cycling. 1st loop out of the 2 went quite OK, I was around the expected watts. I had some stomach pain but this is an IM not a 30 mins gym session, so you don’t expect to finish without going through some (or much) pain. For the 2nd loop we got a nasty and cold wind, which meant that the last 30K was totally headwind. I was draining, my power went also way below expectation. I knew my chance for a PB was over but I was hoping a strong run to finish this IM in a nice way and feeling that strength at the run at least…
Running. Unfortunately things went even more south, I got a diarrhea from 5k already though I used my usual refreshment. As it did not get much better, with no food in anymore I became really weak. I had to combine some jogging with walking but there was more walking than jogging. Of course I was considering giving up 20 times. Once I even consulted my boyfriend if this had any added value…my rule #1 at full IM races is that I don’t give up until I can move but this was really on the edge of the no added value. He said without thinking to go and finish if I don’t risk a permanent health issue.
I almost shout a spectator’s head off when he told I should run as I did not come here to walk. It was meant positive but I knew exactly what I came for and I have 50+ tri races in my backpack….
I did finish with a time of 12:50. A ‘bit’ more than I expected….
I needed some more time to reflect on this race than usual.
Did I have many happy moments? No, I can hardly remember any. I still think that I’d have felt worse giving up…
Did I find the reason what could cause that stomach issue? No, I have only guesses. I have to put this experience in a drawer next to some other non-sport ones where I will never get/find an explanation for and close that drawer.
I learnt a lot on the way, I had many fantastic people on my side helping to get there and I had some great moments at trainings and at the Hungarian race in May; let’s remember these moments from this season and I am looking forward to an awesome New York marathon and a great 2020!