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IM Kalmar (18.08.18)

Before and after IM Nice I'd planned on something of a swift recovery and turnaround as I wanted to race at IM Hamburg five weeks later. In order to qualify for Kona I needed to race another full distance, and do well at it!  Racing in Hamburg enabled qualification in July (the first cut off for pro-qualification) and allowed a longer build up (11 weeks) into the World Championships. Not to mention the fact that Hamburg has a higher prize money than most races, there were several compelling reasons to schedule racing in Germany. Funnily enough my body did not understand or go along with 'compelling reasons' and four weeks after Nice (-1wk to racing Hamburg) I was still flat and tired. The reality was that while I could go and race Hamburg, and I'd probably still do ok, I could most likely have put together a decent enough race with the fitness that I had, that's not how I wanted to race. For several years now I've always made Hawaii my goal for the season, chasing points and sometimes (often) racing half fit due to injuries and scheduling.  But this year, I wanted to prioritise races differently. I PROMISED myself at the start of the year that I wouldn't chase Kona points and I wouldn't 'squeeze' the training to race with a niggle or too soon after injury.  Thankfully there haven't been any injuries but after setting Hamburg as the race that I wanted to do, I still didn't find it an easy decision to pull out from the race and refocus on Sweden which gave me another three weeks of preparation time. Racing in Kalmar was 'last chance saloon' for Kona qualification, but obviously it worked out ok - in the short term at least. I was able to race well enough to take the win, broke the bike course and overall course record, and in the process, qualified for Kona.  I couldn't have asked for a better day or outcome. Time will tell how this sets me up for Hawaii, but the focus now is on recovery before tuning the fitness again.  

It's easy to say it's the best race or event that you've ever done when you've just been handed the microphone at the award presentations, but truely it probably is, the best race that I've ever done. Bump it to the top of your 'one day I'd like to race at..." list.

The organisation was great; the Pro-Women were given a 15min start on the AG athletes, so as far as I'm aware, there was no impact of the AG men on the pro-race. It is so easy to schedule the race this way, but it's still not a a given, so thank you to IM Sweden for recognising this.  Everything is within walking distance in the small town, supermarket, swimming pool, swim beach, registration, racking and race start are all 'local' and it makes the logistics easy. I'm all for easy 'gistix. The town its self is quite historic, it has a small harbour and it is all very welcoming, Swedish and relaxed! Come race day though, every resident man, woman, child, dog, cat, cousin and extended relative was in town or on the course somewhere to cheer on the athletes. The swim course loops across the harbour for the first half (much choppiness), however you are then swimming along the harbour wall and down a channel for the last mile or so. The noise from the supporters at this point is incredible even with your head under water! But it sets the standard for the rest of the day. The bike course is obviously quieter for much of it, but the route is a time-trialers dream. You have the unique experience of crossing over a motorway bridge normally closed to pedestrians and cyclists and then you cycle around half of the island of Öland, before heading back over the bridge to loop back through town and out into the countryside of the mainland. The road paving is perfectly smooth with barely a pot hole on the whole 180km (I clocked 180.93km), it is mostly big-chainring and the only slight changes in gradient - I can remember two short sections - were the only place where you could come up out of the bars, except for cornering.  At the 90km mark I was 2h16, normally a respectable 70.3 time (for me) so you get the picture, it's a fast course! The second section of the course has more corners, but you are still locked in TT mode for the most part.  Come the three lap run, the section through town is heaving with cheering supporters and then as the course goes into the residential areas, you pass numerous garden parties and several have their own sound-systems bangin' out the tunes to help you on your way. I cannot emphasise enough how much the people of Kalmar are enjoying you racing there! 

Long and short of it, I swam ok, good even considering my previous swims this year. The lead pack were out around the 52.30 mark, and I was out of the water in 57.28. The transition was slow for me as I struggled to unzip my wetsuit; Asa Lundstrom (who ended up finishing 2nd overall) was nearly a min faster than me through T1. Burned!

I had biked well in Nice so I knew that my strength there was reasonable. Despite my flat spell and only having a couple of weeks to sharpen up coming into Sweden, I didn't think that my fitness had gone anywhere and so I set off with an optimistic frame of mind for the day's performance. Bear in mind that all of my training except for the few days pre-race is done on the turbo trainer (Kinetic - thank you) and I don't have expectations of speed or course times. Come race day I'm working on effort, heart race and power. At the end of the bike course I knew I was in the region of a new NP PB for IM and probably more to the point, I'd cycled myself to the pointy end of the race I so I was now in defensive position for the marathon. Bike time 4h34.32.

If IM Nice was a race of runners (4 of the women more than capable of <3h off the bike), Kalmar was the race of strong bikers. Asa Lundstrom, Angela Naeth, Sonja Tajsich and Kimberly Morrison are all extremely capable on the bike, and I felt that if I could make good time on the cycle course and run a reasonable marathon, I could put together a strong race for the podium. Coming off the bike in first place was in my mind, the best position for me as it allowed me to then control my run according to the pace of the chasers. Despite this, my 3h09.13 marathon time (42.55km) was no easy task and as usual, I was happy to reach the final kilometers and know that the finish line was within reach! Congratulations to Asa (2nd) and Angela (3rd) for podium finishes, and all three of us were able to qulalify for Kona from this race.

As if winning the race isn't enough, I was delighted to find out that I'd broken the bike course and the overall course record. Of course the records are largely dependent on the course conditions, namely how much wind there is and any subsequent changes in the route of the course, so I'll not be hanging my hat on them. But I'll not deny that they are nice to have, if only for a while...

Wrapping it up, I've accepted my place for Kona and there are 7 weeks now until the race. I've had a week in the UK working with the Drummond Clinic, but recovery is the name of the game still and then some smart training for 5-6 weeks. No epic sessions or no uber weeks, I'll just aim for some consistency and sensible decisions to push and pull-back according to however the body responds. 

Happy training! 

IM Kalmar finish. © Getty Photo: Gonzalo Arroyo


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