27th of August 2017 was marked as “Go hard” day in a year calendar and awaited both with excitement and fear. Stockholm Triathlon is the biggest triathlon (both Sprint and Olympic distances) in Sweden and part of the World Triathlon series – meaning that they are serious enough to close half of the city center for the event that was great for a newbie as myself. Therefore in the report I want to keep in mind that I had made meticulous research about common pitfalls, best practices and strategies for the race. As a result I was prepared extremely well. Theoretically. And this was a day to put all the knowledge into action (oh boy, there will be some twists!).
Short summary of my experience – this was simply amazing and I am sold on Triathlon! It felt like all parts of puzzle perfectly fitted into their places – extremely satisfying result (funny fact, my time prediction on the night before the race was off only by two minutes!), weather, landscape and organisation.
My starting time was 11:30, so, lucky me, I got some good night sleep (tip for all the nervous souls – 5 mg of melatonin half an hour before the bed time and you sleep like a baby). I know there is general advice to eat low-fiber breakfast that is supposed to be a regular breakfast as well. That is either/or option for me. I went with my regular morning routine: green smoothie (spenat+mango+acai+turmeric), avocado toast with the levan bread generously seasoned with the sea salt and an unsweetened soja yoguhrt with whole grain granola with nuts and dried fruits.
Then triple-checked that I have all the things that I will need (everything was put in order the night before), packed the bag, got help with extra pumping the tires of the bike and getting it in the car and went to the check-in. Surprisingly, no traffic on the way there. Here is the magic began!
Last preparations in the transition area
I came to the transition area, was welcomed by the nicest ever volunteers and pointed to the rack of my starting group where I needed to find an empty spot. I had around 1h40m before the start so plenty of time to talk to the fellow participants (hello, Lina and Joe from M start group!), prepare for T1 and T2 and memorize my place both from swim and bike part. The whole transition area was huge so I was happy that I came early.
11:10, wetsuit on, it is the race time!
The course was one lap with 3 big yellow buoys on the way there and 3 on the way back. I guess, they were placed 200m, 300 m and 750 m on each side.
11:20 There were only women starting at my time and strictly following the organisers’ instructions, everybody was in the water 10 minutes before the start (the start is in the water). 18C (64F) degrees water. Well, let’s count it as a warm-up. Kind of.
11:30 START, oh my god, no way back!
400 m Swimming straight in open water with strong wind and current turns out to be harder than in my regular lake. Come on, you know what streamlined position is, right?!
800 m Hallelujah, half way there. The current and wind are getting stronger but now you can see City Hall and all the beauty of the Södermalm (Southern Island to my right) so I am pushing through. Though doesn’t feel that I am getting further.
1000 m Feels that no mater how hard I crawl, I stand still. No panic, but come on, I want to get to T1 some time soon.
1500 m (1720 m as I will find out later) OMG I did it, T1 here I come.
Like a pro (let me believe it!): walking briskly, goggles go up to the cap, one arm is out of the wetsuit, the second one is out with the hand holding googles and the cap (so they stay in a wetsuit without any further worries about them), upper part of the wetsuit flails on my hips.
Jogging and easily find my spot and, surprise, my friend R is waiting me there! Her start time is in an hour so she came to cheer for me! This totally boosts my energy (as well as slows down my T1 as I am so eager to share everything that I just experienced in the water but I was supposed to have fun, so no regrets there!).
Wetsuit is off, helmet is on, 250 ml water and 1 gel are in, scrupulously dry my feet and remove all possible sand/dirt particles, socks are on, shoes with the elastic laces (can I get those for all my sneakers, please?) are on, belt with the start number on the back, two gels go to the back pockets of my dry suit, take the bike from the rack and I am ready to rock!
Okay, rock the bicycle is not really my thing. The story how I end up with the bicycle for the race day is worth its own post (stay tuned!) but to put right expectations, my main goal for the bike was “not to fall”.
The course consists of 4 laps that are essentially not ideal for the best cycling time. Each lap has four 90-degree turns (once after right after downhill), two passes of the 600 m bridge (that is 204 m above the water and the winds on top of it are not really pleasant) and two turning points.
Overall, biking part was easier than I imagined however it was tough and took tremendous amount of reasoning with myself why on Earth I have thought that I can bike in a race.
Lap 4 The time is according to the expectation, I can see the transition zone, OMG, looks like I am going to finish the biking without falling, break, jump of the bike, run-run-run
The benefit of not having bicycle shoes is that in T2, helmet goes off and you are good to go (spent two times less time here comparing with T1)! The drawback is bike time…but I am supposed to have fun, huh!!
Bicycle goes to the rack, three sips of the isotonic, helmet is off, baseball cap is on, small bottle of isotonic goes to the back pocket of the tri-suit, run, change the race belt with the number to the front, OMG, this is happening!
1,8 km I am reaching Old City where I think I need to do three laps (just wait for it!). I look at the total triathlon time and my eyes are getting wet – I am going to finish in the timeframe that I have planned to. I am thrilled and overwhelmed. Energy simply pulsates in me!
2,12 km As if my emotional spike wasn’t enough, I am running into the first water station and see, at least, five 6-9 year old kids running back and forth to the participants and giving glasses with water and isotonic. I don’t want to drink, but I can’t say know to this sweet gesture. They are not just standing there, they literally moving as fast as boson particles.
2,25 km So called Garmin Power Zone starts – loud music, high fives from the dancers – let’s have some fun! Great booster zone, let’s push it a notch.
3,93 km bring this hill! Most of the crowd is cheering here as you either go for the next lap or to the finish from the top of the hill. Get the bracelet marking the first lap out of three (it’s coming).
6,25 km another lap is down, get second bracelet, feeling good and energised. One lap to go, woohoo, bring it on! I eat a gel and give all I have to push through! (you see where this going, right?).
8 km I am getting up the hill, totally exhausted, but proud of the effort, looking at the watch and something feels wrong . My internal monologue goes “THIS IS MY THIRD LAP and the watch shows 8 km but it is supposed to be 10 km…OMG can this be true that there are FOUR LAPS? BUT I HAVE CHECKED THE TRACK MAP 1000 times, it said 1*+3**. No wait, there were several asterisks, one for one lap and two for three laps, can it be that the first lap is not only from one island to the other but also includes a full lap in the Old City. How can I know how many asterisks there were but don’t know what they meant…AAAAA”. During this monologue my legs deliver me to the station where I get third bracelet marking the LAST lap, and I realize that, yes, one more lap, madam.
9 km I don’t believe it but kids are even more enthusiastic than they were during ONE PLUS TWO LAPS before. I try not to think about how tweaky my memory works, get a water just because you can’t say no and push it! Too bad, I gave it all on a SECOND LAP WITH TWO ASTERISKS.
9,5 km Aww who cares about asterisks, I am about to become a triathlete!!!! With this thought I hear my swimming coach Anna screaming my name and “come on, you are right on target, COOOOME OOOON”.
9,95 km I look at the watch, it says 9,95 km, PHEW NO MORE LAPS CONFUSION, OMG OMG OMG, I can see the finish, IS THAT TRUE?! And then I hear my name again and see a friend L right there that I register only after passing her (there were 3 more standing with her that I haven’t even noticed!).
FINISH I get the medal on my neck, stop the watch and I literally get a tear and doing all I can not to burst into tears from the overwhelming feelings that I suddenly get. Not because I am tired or because it was hard but because of all these people who chose to be here on Sunday sunny day cheering and working instead of chilling at the water side; because of all the enthusiastic kids and teenagers eager to help; because of the beautiful Stockholm that I got to see from totally different perspective on this sunny day; because of the feeling that impossible is possible and today I pushed my own limits that I never thought I could.
Thank you Stockholm Triathlon for this experience, this was unforgettable. See you next year!