On the 3rd of July it was finally time to toe the line at the inaugural Challenge Aarhus of 2011 – a half distance triathlon with 1km swim, 90km bike, 21,1km run. Months of training with hours of training per week was about to climax in what I hoped would be less than six hours of triathlon activity. Swim had been shortened for safety reasons due to low temperature (13,7C) so less than six hours looked very likely.
Slept OK the night before the race and woke up well in time for my race morning plan and could take the car to the start area with no stress. Good start of the day.
With three transition bags and a start bag packed and ready to go there was plenty of time to get all bags properly placed and change to my wetsuit for the start. So wetsuit was on at about 7.15 and from then on it was more than an hour wait to get into the water.
Finally it was time for my wave to make our way into the 13 degree celcius cold water. Even with a wetsuit that water felt very cold. One of the other guys in my wave had done all his open wate training in Indonesia. HE was feeling cold. Just a few minutes to the start now – everyone were eager to get going.
Tooooooot! And of we went. Man, that water was cold!! For the first 25 meters or so I just couldn’t seem to breathe right. It was as if the low temperature along with the sudden increased physical activity prevented proper breathing. That was a surprise. Anyway, the swim went fine. I’m not a very good swimmer, so because I don’t race up in front with the tough guys, I also tend not to get hit or kicked a whole lot. The water was pretty calm too, so 1000 not so eventful meters later I got out of the water, ready to transition to the bike.
Earlier this year I did a self supported half ironman as previously described here. Having done that and with two more months of training, I figured I’d have no problems getting through Challenge Aarhus. There’s half distance and there’s half distance, though. Challenge Aarhus proved to be a LOT hillier than the route I did in training. I guess I also did it a bit faster – maybe not so smart.
The bike section of Challenge Aarhus takes you through some of the most stunning scenery of East Jutland in Denmark – just truly spectacular. Add to it that participants get to ride the route completely without having to worry about other traffic than fellow participants. At the 2011 version of Challenge Aarhus the organization and volunteers took excellent care of participants on all legs of the race. On the bike that meant two major aid stations with all you can eat and drink energy.
The days leading up to the race had been fairly wet, but when we started on the bike it hadn’t been raining for a while and the roads were getting increasingly dry. Conditions proved excellent for cycling. I just took it easy going South through the forest and slowly build some speed. Just enjoyed the non-drafting cruise. Maybe I did increase the speed a bit too much, going too fast and spending too much energy on the hills South of Aarhus. I came back to the transition zone feeling a little tired, but ready for the run.
After a quick change to running gear I exited the transition tent for the last leg of the half distance – the half marathon. I’ve been living in Aarhus for several years, but I never thought of it as a hilly place – not the center of the city, anyway. This particular Sunday Aarhus had suddenly grown some hills. The Challenge Aarhus run had 3 laps, taking triathletes through the center of Aarhus – plenty of spectators watching for the fast guys – not so many when I passed by. Still the experience was great. With three aid stations along the route, the major challenge being the stairs of ARoS Museum of Art and plenty of participants struggling through the last bit of the race – everyone with the last little bit of energy just disappearing from the legs as they carried on putting one foot in front of the other. Just spectacular!
My run didn’t go so well. Well… I guess it went alright. Given the amount of training that I’d done, the hills on the bike and run course and my relative lack of experience with the distance, I guess it went pretty OK. Still, this marathon was quite a bit slower than my only experience with this triathlon distance so far. My guess is that I just wasn’t as good at taking in nutrition at the right times and that I maybe raced a bit too much on the bike leg. Or maybe it just was the hills on the run – and those stairs. Either way I managed to finish my half marathon strong – ran much faster the last few kilometers with each taking less than 5 minutes. Even outsprinted a few of my fellow participants going down to the finish and shot over the finish line to finish my first ever official half distance triathlon.
What had started in December of 2010 as one of these half crazy ideas and a bit of a dream of doing a long triathlon had finally become reality thanks to the crew and volunteers around Challenge Aarhus. My entire race was a magnificent experience from I signed up to the race until this moment where I sit and think back at the race. I hope the other triathletes at Challenge Aarhus 2011 will do that as well and think: I too was fantastic!
That concludes my Challenge Aarhus experience – other race reports can be found here: