The Kona Qualifying binge


August 23rd, 2016 by



2nd Ironman Copenhagen – Sub 8hrs – Kona Q 

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - AUGUST 21: Will Clarke of Britain finishes second at Ironman Copenhagen on August 21, 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Ironman)

That’s what I call a great weekend!

We started this year with a goal to Qualify for Kona and THEN do a good job in Kona. The nature of Ironman is that often these plans don’t quite work out and after starting the year with zero points carried over it’s no joke to qualify for Kona. I had a terrible race in Ironman Brazil despite being in pretty good shape actually, so that meant I had some catching up to do! Frankfurt went great as you’ll read in my earlier blogs there was 2000 points right there but still not enough. Then we made a plan to do 3 races in 7 weeks on a points hunt binge! Budapest 70.3 (small points but still something…) Wiesbaden 70.3 (big points) and Ironman Copenhagen (big points).

Hill climb Budapest

Budapest didn’t go well, the whole weekend didn’t go well. I crashed my bike on a wet ride before the race and hurt myself. Which meant I had a terrible swim, I used all my energy on the bike to catch back up and died in the heat on the run. It was one to forget about and move on. 

I was feeling much better going into the next two, training didn’t go very well actually because of my Budapest crash but I was feeling quite fit considering. Wiesbaden was up next which is the Ironman 70.3 European Champs and it went much better, I went into the race very refreshed and relaxed with my homestay host Stefan. Thanks man! I finished 9th but man it was a hard race. The level of the athletes was so incredibly high, I swam quite well, pushed my best ever Watts on the bike and held it together on the run (just). It only won me 300 points though which isn’t that helpful to my overall score and much worse I totally levelled myself so I was nervous about what would happen to me in an Ironman 7 days later! 

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I didn’t go home between Germany and Copenhagen so I could save myself a flight so I drove down the road and stayed with my buddy, Patrick Lange. He’s famous now for his win in the North American Champs and don’t we know it!!! I had an amazing few days staying with him in his home town. We ate our body weight in Schnitzels, Apfel Strudels and Cappuccinos, generally lounged around in Normatec boots and had a good old gossip. I loved training in Darmstadt, perfect place with quiet roads, a swim squad every evening and running…well I didn’t do any really! Thanks Patrick and Laura for letting me stay. 

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Pressure was on for Copenhagen. Our team director Bob De Wolf came out for this important occasion as this is the last day possible to qualify for Kona, and I was on a podium or bust scenario! We spent the days before trying to drive the course, eating pasta and danish pastries and doing the general Ironman admin which is always a laugh…NOT! Anyway, eventually race day came round and I was feeling ready as I could be. 

My swim was spot on finally, after struggling for a while in the water in training and racing, I was able to sit on the leaders feet till the end as the pace started pretty easy and gradually wound up faster and faster. I got onto the bike in joint first with Igor Amorelli with a 47mid swim time. I managed to avoid the hundreds of jelly fish we passed and also luckily I didn’t go head on with all the age groupers swimming off course! 

We jammed the first part of the bike as I could see that we had a small gap the other strong guys but once we got out of town I realised we were not hurting anyone apart from ourselves so I settled into the line with the other 6 guys. (Raelert, Carvallo, Neilsson and Casedi) The pace was quite high for me, I was above 310w for a bit too long for my liking but I stayed with it hoping it would calm down. It didn’t unfortunately and I knew if I carried on at this pace I wouldn’t be running fast today! So after 60k I made a conscious decision to leave some cheeky gaps hoping to end up with a smaller group of like minded athletes to ride with. 4 of the guys drifted off the front and I ended up working with Alberto Casedi, my mate from the ITU days. The pace was much more ‘me’ and we took 5k turns each trying to get from A-B as fast as possible. With 30k to go I lost my buddy and went it alone as I started to feel pretty strong again. I finished with a 4hr25 bike split which is a nice 6mins PB I think. 

I got onto the run in 5th with a 8mins gap to the leader and 5mins to 4th place. Work to do thats for sure against some very classy athletes (3 of them have won many Ironman race between them).  I had paced the bike very well and I was confident that I was going to have fast legs. It’s funny, you have around 40,000 steps to make to get round the marathon but you just know the moment your feet hit the ground after 4.5hrs hard on the bike how your legs are going to feel on the run. I always say a prayer in those last 2k of the bike!!! 

Thankfully god answered my prayers and I had good legs! I set off chasing way too hard. My target is best case scenario around 3:50p/k pace, that gets you in around 2hr40 but I was going 3:30 pace for the first 5k. I had to tell myself to mature a little bit and slow it down to maximum 3:50! I caught a lot of time in the first lap and after 12k I passed Igor Amorelli. Then it was time to try to hunt for the podium. I kept pushing on and got through 1/2 marathon in 2:18 I was gaining all the time and sure enough at 25k I went past Fabio Carvallo. I was stoked to finally be in the podium hunt and to my surprise Bob De Wolf said Andreas is just 1minute ahead! That was when I ran my fastest with excitement! I went back up to 3:30 pace and caught Andreas nice and quickly! 

finish copenhagen Till

At 30k I heard Till Schenk the announcer say to the crowd that I was on target for a sub 8hr performance. That’s been a goal of mine since I started Ironman, as it’s quite an special club! I was still under 2:39 marathon pace at 30k but I was starting to get very tired! I slowed down to around 4mins+ pace and tried to maintain, I was getting very flat, I was spending longer in aid stations cooling off and getting my nutrition down and generally shutting it down to stop the agony but I always had a sub 8 finish in the back of my mind. What if I just pushed on for ‘another’ 20mins or so?! Towards the end, all records were out the window, I just didn’t care any more and just wanted to get to the finish and lie down but with 1k to go I could sense Till getting excited, the music was pumping and the incredible crowd were amped up so I went all out just in case I was onto something! I got onto the carpet with 7hr59m10s on the clock and the feeling I’ll never forget. Massive congrats to Patrik Nilsson for his win and 7th fastest Ironman ever I think! 

Bob and me

Ironman is truly an incredible experience. You put in so much hard work and make so many sacrifices, you race on your limit 8hrs, against intense competition, as a professional you’ve got a job on the line and a family to feed. When you finally hit that finish straight it’s got to be one of the best feelings in the World. 

Massive thanks as always to my family who support me no matter what the result, my friends, my amazing team who have got my to this level, BMC Etixx Pro Triathlon Team Powered by Uplace with Bob and Ben De Wolf every supportive. The man with the plan Luc Van Lierde, Rudy Heylen for keeping the mental side strong. Social media has been nuts and I’ve loved it, thanks for the messages.

Can’t wait to get to Kona and try to have my best ever Ironman performance there.