Race Update – Ironman Copenhagen, August 2017

Simon Duke

Hot on the heels of Rosie’s report, here is my take on Ironman Copenhagen.

It has turned out to be a bit of a long one so… SPOILER ALERT. I am an Ironman!

Training had gone well. I’d been consistent throughout the eleven months since signing up for the race and avoided any significant injuries. Crawford had me working hard and I felt improvements coming on. By and large the long runs and rides went well and where they didn’t I had some firm lessons to take away. Swimming continued to progress. Regular attendance at Pinkston sessions over a couple of years had turned me from someone who struggled in open water swimming into someone who now actually looks forward to it. The final long brick sessions fell into place culminating in a five hour ride and two hour run spot on my goal power on the bike and 5.30 mins per km on the run.


My entourage and I flew out to Copenhagen on the Thursday before the race and I went to register on Friday morning. I also took the bike out for a quick spin to make sure all was well. In the afternoon my sister and I went for a swim in the lagoon where to my delight the water was pleasantly warm – certainly warmer than any Pinkston session I’ve been to this year.

On the Saturday, I’d promised the family that we’d have a day exploring Copenhagen. What this meant was a long day on my feet including several hours running between the rides and rollercoasters of Tivoli Gardens. Not the best preparation but my wife and daughter had sacrificed a lot to get me to the start line and I felt I owed them as much time as possible while we were away.

Late afternoon I racked the bike and went home to relax for the evening.


I slept pretty well the night before the race. Up and through breakfast a little ahead of schedule. My sister had agreed to come to the swim start with the rest of the family planning to catch me early on the bike course.

Despite it being 5am Copenhagen was still partying away which led to a crazy mix of people on the Metro out to the swim start – wannabee Ironmen just up and party-goers heading to bed.

The swim course looked beautiful with a stunning sunrise accompanying us. And after a warm sunny day the previous day, the official water temperature was announced – a balmy 18.8 degrees.

At 07.00 the Pro Women started their race. Thirty minutes later and my Ironman day was underway.

I loved the swim, pretty much every second of it. I avoided trouble, got into my stroke quickly and started to eat up the distance. The Copenhagen swim course includes swimming under several bridges with crowds of people cheering from above. I found it hugely motivational. All too quickly I rounded the last buoy and swam up to the finish. A look at the watch and I’d finished in 1 hour 19 minutes just inside my stretch goal time.

The bike course is quite technical and has a fair number of hills. Anyone who says Denmark is flat is not quite telling the truth. The first loop was great. The weather was sunny and warm and the miles were passing quickly. I was eating and drinking to plan and feeling pretty good. The second loop was a little less fun. I rode through a couple of cracking thunderstorms and the legs began to feel drained. I couldn’t deliver the planned watts, although the speed was above what I was hoping for so I wasn’t overly concerned. Eventually the second loop was over and I was pretty happy cycling a few kms back through the city knowing that the bike was done and I could get started on the run. My longest ever ride, both in distance and time, taking me 6 hours twelve minutes to complete.

The run in Copenhagen consists of four and a half loops around the city centre, passing some of the famous sights. The first lap went well. I hit my goal pace almost immediately and loved the atmosphere. I was high-fiving kids and thriving on the spectators’ cheers. I collected my first band at the turn-point and headed back towards the city centre.

It was on the second loop that issues began to hit with a vengeance. The legs just felt so tired. My pace dropped very quickly, from 5.40 mins per km, to 6.30 and sometimes slower. I started to walk the few hills that were on the course. I felt at my worst around the half marathon mark. It just seemed such a long, long way still to go at that point. But actually that was as bad as it got.

While the pace stayed slow, the enjoyment went way, way up. I knew I was going to finish and I knew I’d pretty much hit my target time. The kilometre markers kept passing by, the crowd support remained enthusiastic and helped to carry me on. My body refused all food after 30kms but I didn’t coped. I just drank energy juice at every aid station and kept on moving forwards. I walked the hills and aid stations and ran everything else.

Then the time came to collect the final band – just half a lap to go – a mere three miles. I gave a whoop of delight as I slipped it on my arm and carried on back through the city centre taking as much in as I could. Past the 41km marker as the heavens opened into another massive thunderstorm. But I didn’t care. Round past the Copenhagen theatre and there was the finishing chute again. But this time I was running down it, not past it. Lots of high fives, a glimpse of the family who were there to see me finish. Arms aloft, over the finish line. Hugely tired, hugely proud and staring at the medal around my neck.

The final time… 12 hours and 28 minutes. Almost exactly what I predicted it would be. The slow marathon (4 hours 38mins) costing me any chance of beating my stretch goal of sub-12 hours.

The next day Rosie sent me a message including the million dollar question, would I do another one? Had anyone asked during the run or five minutes after I finished I’d have simply laughed. But my answer having had fifteen hours to reflect on it all, was yes. I’m already thinking about where and when…

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