Today was the day of the inaugural Challenge Copenhagen, and since I wasn’t racing it was the perfect time to get to spectate at my first Ironman race. I’ve raced three, but never spectated at one.

Since I knew Aleksandar Sørensen-Markovic who was racing Elite with bib #1 and also Mikkel Bondesen it was perfect, having someone to cheer on.

Let me start with yesterday though.

Weather has been rather schizo lately here in Copenhagen, alternating between sun and torrential downpours. Yesterday we had 90.8 mm rain. That’s 150% of normal. For all of august. It was, in other words, wet, especially out in T1.

I got up a little late this morning, so didn’t arrive at the swim start before 7:10 or so. It was OK, there were so many people out there that I couldn’t have gotten close enough to really see anything anyway, except when they swam under the bridges of course, which was a great feature of the course. Adam Molnar took out the swim in a fast 45:54. Saltwater wetsuit swim with no waves and probably next to no currents equals fast times!

It was great fun to sit and see all the people come out on the bike in the light drizzle. Many different styles and speeds. Lots of bike porn too, which I enjoyed very much. I even managed to spot Mikkel Bondesen and cheer him on, even though I hadn’t met him in real life before. Lucky. It’s really hard picking out specific athletes in that chaos, let alone someone you’ve never seen before.

After about 2 hours I got really hungry, I hadn’t had breakfast and was now going on 3 hours without, so I went home and took a break while they were all out cycling north of the city anyway. I was following the live updates from home. Martin Jensen was doing incredibly well out in front, but then disappeared. It turns out he’d had his 2nd flat and had lost his repair kit, so he was out… pity. He was doing so well in his Ironman debut.

In general people had a lot of flats out on the still wet roads, and I saw a few that looked like they had crashed too. About halfway trough the ride the roads were almost dry, and the sun was out. Humidity was high though.

I made it back to T2 before the leaders, and got to see them go out on the run. Tim Berkel was having a fantastic race, and led the men. Rebekah Keat was the first of the women.

I managed to see Aleksandar too, he started the run in 15th place. Aleksandar is a tiny little runner guy at around 60 kg, so he was just now starting to rip the legs off the others.

I went off and placed myself on the out and back part of the course on Kalvebod Brygge, around 2 km from T2, and from there I got to see both Mikkel and Aleksandar and run a little while with them and talk to them. I had a laptop with a mobile internet connection with me, so I used it to get times for Aleksandar on his competition. He was in 12th at that time, 2:15 down on Jimmy Johnsen and 5 more minutes on Luke Dragstra in 10th. In the end he came in as 9th because people crashed and burned in front of him. Ironman is about durability, and Aleksandar have it.

One of the casualties was Chris McDonald who descibed his race like this on his Twitter stream “Never felt so in controll to so out of control in a matter of 60 min. Went from second on the road and got a drafting penalty… yes a drafting penalty! Got back to the group got a flat, fixed it got back to the group got another flat fixed it got back to the group then hit the run in 8th and… blacked out at 30 km passed out and ended up in an ambo with 4 bags of IV.” (stitched together from 3 tweets, touched up a little). Sounds like a nasty race for him, I hope he gets well soon.

It was great seeing Mikkel do so well in his first (I think) Ironman race. He did a 1:03 for the swim and a 5:11 bike, and did the first 3.35 km at a 4:48/km pace, but his average pace dropped below 5:00/km at around 20 km and he ended up with a 4:02:18 marathon and a total time of 10:26:48, 81st out of 273 finishers in his agegroup. Solid work!

It was great being out there and witness all the winners of the race, because anyone who finish an Ironman race is a winner. I was longing for getting back into it. The whole process of training and preparing for an Ironman, culminating in the nerves and concentration in the last few days before the race and then the big long moment when you’re racing, all of the 10+ hours that I’ll need. The beautiful singletasking of executing the race to the best of your ability is something to behold and experience. That’s the thing that fascinates me so.

I just love that.

Thanks to the Challenge Copenhagen crew for putting on such an excellent event. Everything seemed to be well planned and run, and having an Ironman race in the center of a capital is truly spectacular.

Update: Some good coverage on Slowtwitch. Interesting that both elite winners felt they needed to go off the front on the bike to get rid of a label as “pack” riders.