Well I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on my race in Copenhagen this past weekend. The weather was better than the lead up last year, as the rains in 2010 were the worst they had experienced in years, and it caused havoc with their roads (which caused many punctures last year…).
My preparation wasn’t very good, and I had battled with a virus about 2 ½ weeks out that had been zapping my energy, so my training efforts were not as intense as I would have preferred. I saw a doctor in Boulder and was on antibiotics up until 4 days out from my departure to Denmark. Getting to Copenhagen was a little more relaxing than last year, as I had Bel with me, and that was a nice way to settle into the race weekend.
Well the swim start was the usual smash and thrash, until we settled into a rhythm. I fell off the leaders early in the swim, so was pretty much on my own for most of the swim, and I exited the water in 5th place. I had Stephen Bayliss, Fredrik Seistrup and Bjorn Anderson out three minutes ahead of me, but Jimmy Johnson was only about 40 seconds ahead, and then there was the main pack of seven over a minute behind me. I rode pretty well, and was on my own for the first 30kms, then I caught Jimmy, and soon after that, we got swallowed up by the pack I had dropped back in the swim.
The course in Copenhagen is a great mix of straight country roads, and some narrow technical sections with tight corners, and cobblestone surfaces. You get a definite feel of Europe when racing there. Last year I made my break off the bike through those technical corners to drop some Danish guys that were shadowing me, but this year the corners which assisted my solo breakaway one year earlier, became my downfall. Soon after the pack swallowed us up, I was sitting in third position and we were heading into a sharp corner. The guys ahead of me slowed down for the corner, and I came up to about 6 metres to the guy in front of me, while I was still braking. I heard a motorbike along the side of me, but was focused on slowing and taking the corner, when I heard him yell “Number 1” (my race number…) “Penalty” and he held up a card to me. He then yelled to the guys behind me, and in front of me, that he was giving them a warning.
I was fuming, and it started to do my head in. I remembered from the race briefing that they said we could dispute a penalty if we thought they were unfair, so I tried to settle myself down and told myself to just finish the bike, then dispute the charge, and get on with the race. I was feeling pretty strong, so at about 155kms on the bike, I pushed the pace a little, and frenchman Christophe Bastie came with me, and Jimmy, Dejan Patrcevic (from Croatia) and last years second place getter Keegan Williams (from New Zealand) didn’t come with us. I was glad to see the group split up because I would prefer to set into my run pace without the others breathing down my neck.
By the time I was heading into T2, Bjorn Anderson was smashing the field and he had over a 16-minute lead on me, but the other early leaders of Bayliss, and Seistrup were only a minute ahead of me and I had opened up nearly a three minute lead over the boys I dropped at the 155km mark. I knew I had to settle this drafting penalty, so they told me to get in the “Penalty Box” and I told them that I was going to dispute it after the race. I knew I was not in a drafting position, and that anyone looking at the lead-in to the corner would use common sense and reverse the call. Note to self… never assume that common sense will prevail.
I ran about 1km, and a guy road up on a motorbike yelling at me to stop to serve my penalty. I tried to reason with him, that I was going to dispute the call, because we were told in the pre-race briefing that we could. He told me if I didn’t serve the penalty, he would disqualify me right there on the spot. I was nearly 2km into the run, so I was going off at him, and yelling back that we were told we could dispute a “bad” call. He wasn’t budging so I knew I would go mental if I finished the race and then found out it was all in vain as they were going to stand by their call. So I stood on the side of the road, while he served me the four minute penalty. I had already moved into a solid third place before I was forced to stop, but then I watched 4th, then 5th, then 6th and eventually 7th run by me. Each guy that ran by me, raised my level of frustration. I hope there weren’t any young children standing near me, and if so, I hope they didn’t have a good understanding of english. At least the english I was using…
By the time my penalty was served, I was in 8th place, and I hit the road, like a bat outta hell. I was angry and running out of frustration, and just possibly not running sensibly. My Garmin GPS watch has me running a 3:20 min/km pace, and I picked off 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, and by the 7km mark I was approaching Jimmy Johnson who was sitting in 3rd. I ran past him then thought that I still had 35 kilometres to go, and at the pace I was going at, it wasn’t going to be sustainable for the remainder of the race, so I eased back to my normal marathon pace (which is about a 4:00 min/km pace).
I overtook Christophe Bastie to move into second place at the 9km mark so I only had Bjorn Anderson up the road. I had Dejan tailing me on the run, and I couldn’t shake him. He was always 20-30 seconds behind me, but I kept my focus on Anderson, who had smashed us all with a spectacular ride. I kept getting splits from the crowd, and I knew I was closing in, but I didn’t take the lead until the 23km mark. I still had Dejan trailing me by 30 seconds, and Jimmy was only a minute back from me as well.
Dejan eventually caught me, and we ran together for a few kms, then I surged a little and dropped him. After a few minutes, I felt nature calling and needed to make a visit to the nearest port-a-loo. After finishing my business and exiting T3, I had Dejan right next to me again. So I dropped him again, and ran on my own until I was joined by Jimmy Johnson at the 35km mark. Jimmy’s a good runner, and it felt like my Jason Shortis dual from Ironman WA all over again. I used a similar tactic and settled into a pace with him side-by-side and took in a SiS Smart 1 Gel (which has a kick of caffeine…) for good measure. After I was feeling fresher, and knowing I only had about 5km to go, I surged to drop Jimmy. He held pace with me, and even then put a surge on me. We were flying and not letting the other one get an advantage. I knew Jimmy had put in a pretty good effort to catch up to me, but I also knew I had run the early portion of the race at a silly pace, and I knew I didn’t want to have a sprint finish with him.
I had 2km to go, and dug deeper than I’ve ever gone before. I wasn’t thinking about anything but the finish line and I did not turn around until I reached the entrance of the finish chute. I had no idea of where he was but when I turned around I couldn’t see him. So I cruised in the finish line and lapped up the applause. I knew the predominantly Danish crowd were hoping to Jimmy there first, but they were awesome at supporting my repeat performance from 2010. It was my narrowest win over an Ironman-distance race, with Jimmy coming in 35 seconds later, and third place Dejan Petrcevic only 1:03 behind me. They were great competitors and they pushed me hard to the very end. Penalty, and nature calls aside, it was a great race, and I was over the moon to be able to defend my 2010 win.
So now I’m back to Boulder to recover and prepare for Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas in four weeks time.