Race report from Ben – World Triathlon Stockholm 2015

The Stockholm Triathlon was my A race this season along with the French Aquathlon Nationals.

I was really excited to compete abroad against other guys and check where I was standing. After 6 months of training I was impatient to see the results I would have on a major event.

Preparation

I got pretty nervous before my French Aquathlon Nationals as I was preparing alone the 3 weeks before and it was my first big race abroad. Getting through this anxiety helped me managed Stockholm much better. Since I got a bit disappointed of the Nationals (23rd / 27), Stockholm was the occasion for me to smash it and prove myself I could do much better. I had only done Laugarvatn as an Olympic distance triathlon but it helped me gain confidence in dealing with this kind of race. The spirit I had a few days before the race and at the start in the water was much different this time. I was here to fight hard and smash the guys around me.

Nutrition

For the past 2 months, I had really put emphasis on my diet because I knew it was considered as the “4th leg” of the triathlon. I didn’t know much about it apart from the fact I had to eat fruits and vegetables and avoid as much as possible processed food. Reading a few articles and books on the matter including “What the fat?” I decided to try out the LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet. This meant I excluded all the sugars and the carbs from my meals. I very quickly lost a few kilos. I felt great during the day with a constant source of energy, I felt lighter on the run and in the swim. I could also feel I could ride longer without any trouble. After a few weeks I realised all this new diet had a drawback, I was losing my power and I was unable to sustain intense efforts. When I did the brick session on the Open Water Half Iron-man weekend, I didn’t have any fuel left on the bike and felt dizzy, I could barely pedal back normally. I realized I couldn’t race in these conditions for Stockholm otherwise my performance would simply be horrible and way below expectations. I gradually included more carbs in my diet (oats the morning, potatoes at lunch).

Preparation for the race

It was crucial to arrive 2 days before the race in order to have time to mount the bike, get our race number, check the course, watch the pros race and relax before the race. Preparing a race takes time and every detail has its importance during the race. Feeling prepared and relaxed before the race is important. Along with Siggi we checked the bike course on Google maps and in reality to make sure we wouldn’t have any doubt during the race and to try to watch out for dangerous turns along the way. Siggi got a flat tube after 2 km. It was good he got it early the morning and the day before the race. It could have ruined his race. We then decided to get back to the apartment to check every detail of the items we had to bring for the race. From nutrition plan to bike checks, we focused on every details for almost 3 hours. I ended up the preparation doing some massage to relax the muscles. Every detail had been reviewed so it was time to get an 8 hour sleep before the race.

Regarding the nutrition before the race, I focused on eating a lot more carbs than usual, especially the 2 days before the race.

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Race day

I got up at 5 AM since the start was at 8.30 AM, I took boiled oats mixed with raisins and bananas, 2 scrambled eggs, vitamins, beetroot extract and a little bit of home-made smoothie. I was careful not to take too much as it would automatically create stomach ache later on during the day.

After checking the bags again, we headed to the start zone 1h30 before the beginning of the race. I rode a bit my bike to check the brakes, ran for 10-15 minutes including a few strides out to let my body know there was something going on today. Since the transition zone was really long, I tried to get closest to the exit not to run too long with the bike. I repeated a few times the things I had to do after the swim and after the run.

Swim

8AM: Wetsuit on. Transition zone prepared. Warm up done. I could get to the start and concentrate. I couldn’t wait to be in the water to begin. Conditions were perfect; warm, calm sea, good visibility. I jumped in the water to warm up and check my googles. I felt great in the water from the start. There were about 100-150 competitors in my wave. My goal was to start sprinting to get to the front and then choose a group to draft. Kicking and fighting in the crowd is a waste of energy and I really wanted to avoid it this time.

8:30: The race starts. I had put myself completely on the left side to be able to watch everyone and check the groups. I wanted to have a control on what was happening to be able to accelerate if needed. I quickly got in front and thought another guy would join me. After a few minutes I realised I would probably have to lead alone since I got a few meters ahead pretty quickly. I was feeling great and didn’t want to wait for anyone. I like drafting but I don’t want to let anyone draft me. I got nervous after 600 meters because I thought I was maybe going the wrong way, there was no one really behind me. Checking on the jet-skis, I figured out they would have told me if I had been the wrong way. I kept a steady pace over the swim. I could have smashed it more but I wanted to keep the power for the bike.

I got out of the water, got my wetsuit quickly off and I was not feeling too dizzy. I took my bike and ran a pretty long time until the transition exit. I wanted to keep the lead on the bike.
The initial objective was to swim in less than 23 minutes, I did 23:11, I was really not far.

T1

I got out of the transition ready to push it on the bike. I knew I could gain most of the time on this leg compared to my last triathlon. The winning time the last years were between 2:04:10 and 2:10:00. So if I could do a better time on the bike and hold the run, I would be in a good position. The transition was really long: 02:56 to get through.

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Bike

The course was fun and more technical than what we usually have in Iceland. The speed was not constant with the hills and the turns. I quickly passed the bikers from the previous wave. It felt really good to pass so many persons on the way but it was also tricky to have many people riding around. I had to notify a couple of times the persons in front to get on the side so I could pass them. It was actually tough to maintain the pace at that point because there was no competitor in front or behind I could fight against. I was feeling really good on the bike, I had enough power after turns and on the hills to push it. I still had this strong determination to hold the intensity and keep on accelerating.  I put myself as much as I could on the aero bars to gain time. It was sometimes getting dangerous as I was taking risks at every turn to gain time.

The goal was to bike in 1:40 pace (36 km/h) which meant 1h05 over the bike leg. I arrived at the transition zone after 1h04m59s. Objective completed.

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T2

I got pretty mad when I saw I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted with my bike in the transition zone. It was getting really packed and people in front of me from the previous wave were walking and I couldn’t really pass them. I left the transition zone in 2:49.

Run

I quickly felt I had stomach ache as usual. Now I knew how it could end up if I didn’t do anything about it, I decided to relax as much as possible my chest and think about something else. After a few minutes it had disappeared and I was getting pretty good running legs. I decided I wouldn’t take any drink during the run otherwise I would immediately pay the price, my stomach was not able to absorb anything else at that point. I set my pace at 3:40 – 3:45 after the first kilometre. It felt good at that point to pass other persons quickly because it was getting more difficult. I tried not to listen to my body telling me to slow down. This is where the small voices kick in to tell you “it doesn’t matter if you slow down a little bit”, “you’re leading anyway”, “why do you still want to suffer that much?”, “you’re passing a lot of other competitors anyway”. It takes a lot of discipline not to listen to them and find the reason why you keep on pushing. I trained many times to get rid of those voices by telling myself “losers slow down, are you a loser??”, “you’ve trained so hard for this, it’s your race”, “I will regret it if I slow down”, “ I’ve done this kind of things so many times in trainings”, “are you trying to feel comfortable NOW??”. It generally gets me pretty upset/angry at that point which enables me to get an extra boost of energy until the next hard moment.

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My goal was to run in 38 minutes, I ran in 39:06 the 10.1 km. I pushed it more on the bike so it probably had an effect on the run afterwards.

I finished the race in 2:12:59. I was really glad about that result. I was also completely smashed as planned. My goal was to finish below 2:10:00 considering I would have similar transition times as in Laugarvatn (1 min 30s). With similar transition times I would have finished in 2:08:30. Objective completed. I improve my time in all the legs compared to Laugarvatn (2:14:14).

With this time I expected to be in the top 20. I was amazed in the afternoon when I learnt I was 2nd overall out of 1040 participants!! I couldn’t believe it. I only had to enjoy the result and see the pros race in the sun! What a blast!

Since there is always room for improvement, I think I could accelerate a bit more on the swim next time to arrive 30s – 1 minute earlier. I can definitely work on my transition bike/run which would enable me to get closer to 37-38 minutes on the run. With some consistent training on the bike this winter, I could feel better off the bike and run faster.

Next milestone is to get under 2:05:00 on my way to get under 2 hours!

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