TLDR: Difficult to get to, but bloody worth it!
Swim was in a beautiful Finnish lake, dark water and slightly choppy in places but a joy to swim in. The weather was lovely and sunny with fresh morning air. The lake can get really choppy so if you’re planning on entering I would recommend a sea swim or two to get used to a swell as a precaution. Entry was self seeded from a ramp in groups of 4 to avoid a complete melee which is always preferable. I felt hungry as I got in (oops), it took me a good 20 minutes to relax and get my breathing under control, and I wasn’t used to so many swimmers with poor sighting / swimming over me, which I found a little nerve wracking. I ticked off bouy by bouy but still found myself wondering how far away the turn could possibly be. The joy of seeing the triangle turn bouy was immense. After two smooth turns and the swim back, I spotted the bridge to indicate the last 500 meters, swum under and got out. For some reason it wasn’t my day for the swim – I didn’t enjoy it very much and I’m not very happy with the pace, but still under my target of 1.5 hours by 5 minutes.
Transition held a few mistakes – I needed the loo and got stuck in my wetsuit and soggy Tri suit, but after that it was plain sailing to the bike start.
If anyone is looking for the most beautiful fast bike route – THIS IS IT. Rolling hills, stunning views and a speed that made me feel strong . There were no big climbs where you really have to grind out the pedals which was a huge relief. One thing to just watch out for is the wind – the weather turned and the wind was a bit wicked in places, either head on or side, disturbing my wheel on the fast descents. I settled into a nice zone 2 HR pace and spent most of the time on the TT bars sitting up occasionally because my hip flexors were getting a bit grumpy; but the feeling passed after the first 45km. Dropped some fuel in the first 10 minutes and chain came off at 70km but otherwise drama free aside from nearly stacking it collecting a water bottle from the hand of an aid stationer without stopping (practice required or go slower). I read a hill climbing technique in Don Fink’s “Ironfit” book which is to decide how to climb each hill at the bottom – I was out of the saddle counting to 10 before sitting down again and it worked a treat giving me extra power and relief from the aero position. Every person who overtook me I turned into a mental boost of “well I beat you in the swim!” to stave off the mental disappointment and it was great seeing the pros coming the other way. I set myself a little goal of not being lapped by them and was successful . The rain came in the last hour and I picked off a few people in the final lap, but so happy coming in an hour faster than I needed, and smashed through the cut off limit!
T2 was a disaster in monsoon like weather. I grabbed my kit bag and ran for a changing tent. I unpacked and started to dry my feet off to get dry socks on and realised water was coming up through the carpet. Everything was soaked. Deciding against changing, but faffing around, I was ready to run.
The run was 4 10km laps of some road, some gravel around a chalet complex, a golf course and back. It was HILLY. Due to my “runners knee” issue I decided on a run/walk strategy of 90 seconds run, 30 seconds walk and just to finish – my knee pain can strike at any time and leaves me unable to run. It worked brilliantly, gave me the strength to keep on going and permit myself regulated breaks. I’d highly recommend it as an endurance strategy as so many runners were walking anyway. The first two laps were comfortable, I was really pleased with the pace (other than the km I stopped for the loo and AGAIN got stuck in my wet Tri suit!!). I took some sherbet lemons along with me and rewarded myself every 10km. I had to dig deep for lap 3, boosted when I saw Nicky at approx 28km. One lap to go. I found the km markers demoralising at first, seeing 30+ when I was only on 1-10km wasn’t great, but I was patient and told myself my time would come. I had to be resilient to my mind telling me people would think I was weak for walking, but for me this leg was about finishing, not speed. The last lap was just as hard, the run/walk became harder – my thighs starting to give in – but I stuck at it knowing I had less than 10km to go. Amazingly, I had a few twinges in my knee but nothing more. It was getting dark and there was another downpour so my feet were swamped and blistered but my mantra “keep moving forward” served me well and every beep of the timing mat gave me a boost knowing that my supporters at home were excited and egging me on. I got a little emotional in the last km but held it together!
Before I knew it I was running down the mat to the legendary Paul Kaye who made me jump on the M-dot, looked me right in the eyes and delivered those immortal words – “Hollie Morgan – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” – we fist bumped too
The race was hard, but never broke me. My race day strategy worked. I kept the faith in my planning and executed on the day – a stark difference from the experience at Wild Boar where I went too hard too fast and hated it. I’m delighted that my knee is in really good shape considering, and had tremendous fun (of the type 2 variety ).
Now were do I get that tattoo?!