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Race Reports 2013

Ironman Copenhagen - Mike Billups (August 2013)

I flew out on Friday morning. When I mentioned to friends and acquaintances that I would be travelling to Copenhagen, every one of them remarked to me that it is very expensive over there.. I had a fair inkling of that when I booked my stay at a Youth Hostel and that was nearly £100 a night for my own room. This trip I was travelling alone and needed to sort my own transportations out as opposed to Nirvana picking me up at the airport and ferrying me about to all the event stuff. My internet instructions said I just needed to get the Metro from the airport and it was a short walk to the Hostel. Well that is what I did…even with the towing of a bike box. I wouldn’t like to attempt that on the London Underground. I was impressed with how easy it was to do over there. I just got mildly curious looks from other passengers when I appeared on there train struggling with this big box.

As soon as I had managed to check in at the hostel I headed out to find the registration and Expo site.  It was only when I picked my race pack up and got talking to other competitors that I found out the race start and bike check in was somewhere over 6km away! This was news to me. Oh dear….I really need to do more pre event research next time.

Well, after a bit of panicking on my part I learnt that I could get there by the Metro. It was a couple of stops short of the airport that I had just come from. Panic over….it just meant that race day would involve catching a train and then walking to the start as opposed to just a walk.

Friday evening I headed out to find the venue for the Pasta Party. This proved difficult to find, but with the aid of fellow lost competitors we found it. It is normally a crowded bun fight at these sort of things, but this one was remarkably relaxed. Myself and my new Danish friends sauntered in and without queuing headed for the food. This was a big disappointment for me as there were no veggie options. I ended up having the pasta without the meat sauce and two bread rolls without butter as there was none. I have experienced better cuisine, but at least the company was good . The talk of the evening was that HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark would be taking part.

 I would love to have been a fly on the wall when they had the rota meeting for his close protection squad “ Oh you have got to do an Ironman that morning!”.

Saturday came and I managed to get my bike assembled and headed out for breakfast. This was a trip to the local supermarket to buy some muesli and milk for 25 krona instead of paying 75 kronor for breakfast at my Hostel ( That is £9 for a bit of cereal and coffee!).During my wanderings I found a healthy eatery place called “Green Health” which became a haven for me to buy healthy food and where I had my first taste of  wheat grass. It looked like a very small piece of overgrown lawn which they snipped a bit off with some scissors and put it in some gizmo that produced a green liquid. Surprisingly, it was not unpleasant tasting… a bit liquorishy with a hint of sweetness. It is supposed to be the liquid of champions and full of nutrients and protein. I needed all I could get.

Well, the Danish people have got a deserved reputation of being very helpful and kind, so I was not too surprised when I was looking probably a bit out of my comfort zone at a an automatic ticket machine at the train station trying to figure out how to buy a multiple ticket on the Metro when I was approached by someone offering help. Unfortunately this help smelt like he had imbibed several litres of fine ales and he proved to be not very helpful. I managed to extract myself with as much diplomacy as I could muster without causing an incident. Oh the fun of travelling.

It was then back to the Hostel to pick my bike up and take it for a ride on the Metro to check it in at T1 ready for race day. All went without further glitches and I left my bike hanging from a rail and walked back to the Metro station whilst taking in the swim course for the morning ahead. It was in a man made canal next to the sea. The water looked clear and lovely and I was looking forward to swimming in it.


RACE DAY This Ironman was unusual in that it was a wave start, with the pros off first at 7.00am  and the rest off in age groups every 10 minutes. This was a legacy of it having been a Challenge Event until 6 weeks previously.

I was put with all the old people.

The music was pumping out of the PA and the atmosphere was fantastic. As I was putting on my wetsuit they were playing Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. My adrenalin was flowing.

Well, my start came and I was feeling good. A little bit of jostling at the beginning, but nothing to worry about. This was one long out and back course which went under three bridges. They had put up massive yellow banners on all these bridges with distance markers which made it really easy to sight so I had no chance of getting lost.

Swim Fuel; 1 gel and at least a pint of seawater

I felt like I had had a good swim and then ran out and collected my bike and was soon navigating my way around the City of Copenhagen. This was when I noticed that the streets were wet and it was raining. There were several tight turns to get through and numerous wet manhole covers to negotiate. Lots of crowds though giving vocal support!

After about 10 minutes of tricky riding I found myself on a nice straight road following the sea. It was still wet and raining, but I felt a europhoric sense of joy and happiness. This was fun! This is what triathlon is about! I was feeling good and looking forward to what the day would bring. I new this feeling would not last, but made the most of it while it did. I was flying along at 22 to 26 miles an hour and just living in the moment.

It was a two lap course and I did the first lap with an average speed of 20.5mph which is completely off the scale of what I am used to doing. There were still cyclists continually going past me though, as if I was barely moving…so it is all relative. The wind had got up even more and was becoming very blustery. It no longer seemed to be helping at the points on the course that it was before. My average speed was relentlessly going down and so was the rain at various points along route. Still, I was grateful that I was still feeling ok and had not been penalised by the really officious drafting marshals who seemed to appear from nowhere on motorbikes. I saw them give out several warnings and penalties. The time came when I arrived at T2, all too suddenly really, because I hadn’t got my feet out of my shoes forcing me to hobble along on the slippery road with my bike shoes still on.

Bike Fuel;  two & a half bottles of water, several bananas, four pieces of homemade flapjack with a topping of chia seeds

I didn’t have to hobble far before my bike was taken from me by a helpful marshal and then my run bag was handed to me by another. I was impressed. This was a slick operation! So, on with my run shoes and sort bike stuff into bag…seemingly in slow motion as I couldn’t get my body to operate as efficiently as I would have liked.

Just the marathon to go then. This was a four lap affair running past many of the scenic and tourist spots that Copenhagen has to offer. I didn’t notice much scenery except the next ten feet in front of me. I did notice the crowds, though as they were packed all along the route offering fantastic encouragement . It can be very daunting if you let yourself think about how far you have got to run so I try not too and just break it down to the next couple of miles or just finish the next bit of the lap if you are quite far into it. This seems to work quite well for me up to a point. I certainly try to not listen to the body as that is generally telling me how tired I am feeling. Bit by bit the laps were getting done and I was managing to hold onto a reasonably consistent pace for each mile. The crowds were just lovely, but there was one particular woman, though that caught my attention. She was shouting out a one word mantra which was “exercise” ….”exercise”. Every time I passed her, the same thing. Very odd I thought. It looked like she could have used some herself . There were several cries of “Go Farnham” and also some more specific ones of “Good going Michael” as I had my name printed on my race number. There was also one man positively shouting “UK! UK!” in the manner of a frenzied Ryder Cup crowd when they shout “USA! USA!” . It didn’t quite work for me, but the thought was there.

Run Fuel; Three gels, water and coke

Well the finish line finally came to me. A new PB of 11:26 and utter exhaustion.

Happy days.


Mike Billups