Pre race - IRONMAN KALMAR report

Hi guys! OMG how late is this blog?????

This was to be a follow up on my training towards Ironman Kalmar just like for Ironman Nice last year, and then nothing happens!

Well, not nothing happens, as a LOT of happened in my triathlon world since my last blog.  I have become a part time sport blogger writing about various women research in sports, become part of the Challenge Iceland team and hence working with the Challenge Family, working on my small but very cool international platform for women in triathlon Tri4Her, have become president of the triathlon club Þríkó, with a total of 120 amazing athletes (largest club in Iceland, WE ARE NOT THAT MANY!!!) of all ages, ranging from beginners to a few Kona qualifiers and a proud Ambassador for Strongher, a stage for women to ride and Womenlab

Peew! This list was long, sorry about that, but all this to say that my writing spirit has been a bit too preoccupied to write about my little life and training.  

But now I´m here. In Kalmar, Sweden, Just about to race my second Ironman distance.

Of course as one should be, I´m humble towards the race and distance and don´t take anything for granted. I however feel good and confident and I´m quite looking forward to the race. Having said that, I also know that anything can happen on race day and that one can go from having the worst, mediocre to the perfect race and that all this can change within a fraction of a second.  I mean, just like "anything is possible" then also "anything can happen" in an Ironman. This is just part of the game and the game I love, that´s for sure!!!

My training has gone amazingly well. 

Training on the Challenge Iceland bike course. Cannot complain about the scenery that much. 

Training on the Challenge Iceland bike course. Cannot complain about the scenery that much. 

I have worked a lot on my running and I have improved massively but still far from being Miss Speedy Gonzales. To be able to work on my running I have worked the least on my swim and only been swimming 2 x week. This means that there will be no improvement there, as I have just done enough to maintain my form.  I however believe this was the wise approach to take (O, alright then! Yes, I did need some convincing from my coach Eric). Swimming 3-4 x a week just to improve my swim of a 3-4-5 min is nothing compared to what I will loose on the run if I don´t work on that.

The bike I only started working on at the end of February beginning of March (before that I was only biking 1 x a week) so there will be some improvement there but not a great one, I imagine.

The run however, I want to be able to do in no more than 4 hrs at a constant speed. Anything under, even a fraction of a sec. would be amazing. That´s my main goal anyway, so fingers crossed. I have been as dedicated as I can be and now I just have to give it my absolute best with a 100% focus on race day. 

My training did not just go smoothly though. I have had a few patches of being very tired (moving around all the time has not helped) and my concentration and focus has been known to be better. 

Bike test with coach Eric van der Linden at the end of June during my tired period. It came out worse than the one in February after bike training only 1 x a week. All my zones were then readjusted for me to recover properly and get my strength back.  

Bike test with coach Eric van der Linden at the end of June during my tired period. It came out worse than the one in February after bike training only 1 x a week. All my zones were then readjusted for me to recover properly and get my strength back.  

I have also gotten through weeks of wanting not to give a toss and being fed up with all these long training every weekend as the Ironman journey is a bit a lonely one, kind of a personal battle, which usually is the hardest one. 

The difference between this year Ironman training and last year?

Well, this year as opposed to last year, I´m far more relaxed towards the whole thing. Last year I put my life and even the whole world on hold.  You know like "Can someone put the world on pause please, Ranna is training for her Ironman, Thanks a lot".  Now on the other hand it was the opposite, my life and the whole world was played fast forward. 

I have kept my social life, I SWEAR!!!, I have not denied myself self, chocolate, ice cream, cakes or a glass wine, well okay then, even a few glasses of wine… and grabbed every opportunity that has come my way and it has been a pretty awesome journey.  In other words, this time I did not let life go by. 

Now, I´m staying up late writing this blog while the husband is fast asleep. I´m not here only with the husband though. I´m also here with my most beautiful and most amazing Cervélo P3. 

My super Cervélo P3 straight from my sponsor Meesterknecht!

My super Cervélo P3 straight from my sponsor Meesterknecht!

Yes it really did happen, 2 months ago, on the 3rd of May, I got my first Time Trial bike. That day was not just any other ordinary day. That was the day when I rode with awesome Kim Peters, founder and big boss of the Fietsbelles,

Super Kim Peters!!!! Photo credit Kim Peters. 

Super Kim Peters!!!! Photo credit Kim Peters. 

the most amazing women cyclist group in Amsterdam, and Jenny van der Molen, a fietsbelle (cycling bell) herself to join Kim in finalising the Rapha Women 100 Ride as Kim was the leader and organiser of that ride.

The fietsbelles. photo credit Kim Peters.

The fietsbelles. photo credit Kim Peters.

Jenny, Kim and I

Jenny, Kim and I

We met early that morning at Amsterdam´s velodrome and headed off.  As girls do, we chatted about everything and nothing that day while riding and like girls sometimes do, we also chatted about the BIG day. You know, the BIG day followed up by you taking your girlfriends to choose your wedding dress. 

Except, my big day was not about getting married to a guy, I´ve already done that for God sake. Don´t you know anything? But to my Time Trial bike, to Cervélo P3.  

The girls were just as excited about this as me.  I mean, if you want to talk about bikes and get super excited you talk to the Fietsbelles.

So what did we do?  We speed up, it was getting late, as we got a bit delayed due to many new discoveries...

Some wild horses just chillin like a villain

Some wild horses just chillin like a villain

and cycled together to Meesterknecht (don´t ask me to pronounce that in Dutch, trust me) to see my new bike that was already waiting for me on the turbo trainer for my final bike fit.

We stumbled through the door with our bikes all at once. Yes, yes, the whole shop was aware that we had arrived. The fietsbelles were in the building alright. 

Remco the best bike fitter in Amsterdam and I @ Meesterknecht

Remco the best bike fitter in Amsterdam and I @ Meesterknecht

We looked at the bike, Jenny bought some sun/bike glasses to match her bike, we chatted, we had a cup of coffee, took pics, chatted some more about it and finally the girls gave me their blessings and the marriage was made <3.

Kim and Jenny

Kim and Jenny

Since then my bike has traveled from Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Reykjavík ,Iceland to Denmark, Copenhagen to finally Kalmar, Sweden. Saturday is our first big race together, where our relationship will be put to the max. 180 km after 3.9 km of swimming.  This new partner in life has to get me fast and without exhausting me to the end, fresh enough to run a marathon afterwards.

Let the games begin and let´s hope I don´t mess it up!

Running towards IM Kalmar!

Running towards IM Kalmar!

xxx

Ranna

Posted on August 18, 2016 .

My most intimate running data.

Hi guys!

As promised another weekly blog, which actually became an "every other week blog" since I have been busy with guests and my sons Benni graduation last week.   

But the blog is here now, so let´s get on with it!

I have mentioned a few times in the past, that Amsterdam is MY city. I just find it to be the coolest place to live in. Within minutes here, I felt at home. I guess it´s because it fits my personality well. It´s international, vibrant, energetic, strong community awareness, modern but at the same time with the most awesome hipster feel to it.

I think the hipster part is what resonates the most with me. The thing is, I once used to be a hipster, like big time. Well I actually lived in a pretty nice house, in a nice neighborhood and did not lack anything. But you know, I thought I was anyway. From the age for 16 until 25 -ish, I used to get my cloths at the Red Cross or at the Salvation Army and go my way of mismatching them before I went out of the house. 

I used to read and write (I kid you not) poetry while drinking red wine, go out on out on a Friday night with my camera and take pictures of people and the atmosphere instead of drinking, go to art exhibitions, the theater and any art festival I could get my hands on, do a lot of protesting, and last but not least, smoke a skull shaped pipe like there was no tomorrow. 

My mother, who has always been a very elegant woman, actually used to have nightmares about it…which is, when I think about it now, quite understandable. 

Mamma mín!

If I could have had a peek into future then, and see that I would become a scientist and a sport freak, my world would have crumbled - ergo - I became exactly what I did not want become :D.

Today, I don´t look like a hippy at all, but don´t be fooled, I´m still a bit of a hippie on the inside. I still; enjoy the art world (although I neither read or write poetry anymore), believe in the power of community and not in individualism, I´m political and would even protest here and there but in moderation, with more thought and less drama. 

WOW!!!!

All this intro just to show you this super cool photo that I took in my neighborhood the other day. It´s the neighborhood library taken care of by it´s inhabitants.  You can go there and pick up a book and return when you are finished.  In the evening someone closes the bookshelf and reopens it in the morning. Now how cool is that? 

They even have hipster bakeries specifically for dogs, all hand made made, organic, gluten free, no salt and sugar! 

Dam Good Dog Bakery, only in Amsterdam!

Dam Good Dog Bakery, only in Amsterdam!

Now enough of all this hippy stuff already! Time for some juicy sport stuff!

So, not only did I promise you in my last post a weekly blog, but also to share with you some of my most intimate sport data, hence here it comes with all it´s glory.

For those of you who are new to this blog, then I met my new trainer in the middle of August last year (2015) after moving to the Netherlands. His name is Eric van der Linden and for me he is amazing. You can read all about our meeting here if interested. 

I told him the usual, I can swim, I can bike but I can´t run. I then added, "O, yes and one more itsy bitsy tiny little thing, I want qualify for the Ironman World Championships in 2016".   "You think you can help me?"

Eric then replied diplomatically (probable thinking, who is this crazy and absolutely unrealistic woman) "Let´s get you tested and the test I did...verdict;

"Ranna, you can swim and you´ve got talent on the bike but for the rest "we got A LOT of work to do".

This meant, swimming 2x a week, cycling only 1x a week (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) and for the rest, running, running, running. Not just running, but running at a crazy slow pace and stay at a HR of 110 and 120!!!!! no intervals, no progressive runs, just running at HR 110 and 120!!!! Are you kidding me????

Here were the results of my running test at the time;

zone 1 @ HR 100-111

zone 2 @ HR 112-122

zone 3 @ HR 123-135 - aerobic threshold

zone 4 @ HR 141-155 - anaerobic threshold

zone 5 @ HR 156-162

Noooooo, I said,

Yeeeeeeees, Eric said.  

I then said to myself: Well, I have got nothing to loose and what I have done until now in the running department does not seem to have worked that well. 

So on I went with it, for months (August last year to March this year). At first nothing happened for months and months. I was frustrated. No I was FRUSTRATED (proof below from Eric)

I was running at a pace 8:00-7.5 min/km and got overtaken by people walking their dog. I was mortified. I was ashamed. I even tried to run when the morning traffic was gone and along side paths so that nobody would see me. I wrote Eric e-mails, asking him if he was sure this was the way. I always got the same reply, 

"Stay focused",

"Stay in control" (mainly when I got overly excited about things, you know, like one does),

"Don´t loose sight of the process",

"There is no shortcut to excellence",

And then it finally happened.  After 5 months of running in zone 1 and 2 (HR 110 and 120 respectively), my speed increased.  I started to run at a pace of 7:00 min/km, then 6:30, 6:00 and now 5:45 all at a HR of 120-ish depending on previous training sessions and climate.  In the graph below (Figure 1) you can see my pace development since the middle of August last year until today.

Figure 1. Pace development at zone 2 since I started the program last year. In end of August my pace was 8 min/km at 120 bpm. Now it is approximately 5:45 at the same heart rate.  

Figure 1. Pace development at zone 2 since I started the program last year. In end of August my pace was 8 min/km at 120 bpm. Now it is approximately 5:45 at the same heart rate.

 

As an obvious consequence my running efficiency increased as well and now (this data is so super cool in my humble opinion ;=) (see below graph, Figure 2) I can now run 35 to 40 % further with the same number of heart beats than I could in August last year!!!

Or to put this differently, at the beginning I needed 950 heart beats to run 1 km, now I need 690 heart beats to cover the same distance and at a much faster pace on top of that. Common guys, this is MEGA COOL, don´t you think?

Figure 2. Running "efficiency" since I started the program. At the beginning I was able to travel just over one meter during each heart beat. Now I am able to travel 1.4 meters during each heart beat. 

Figure 2. Running "efficiency" since I started the program. At the beginning I was able to travel just over one meter during each heart beat. Now I am able to travel 1.4 meters during each heart beat. 

Summary and super conclusion

Since August last year, I have had another test on the 18th of January 2016. The improvement was clearly detected and my HR zones were reevaluated accordingly.  I have 2 other tests coming up in June (run and bike) to again, reevaluate my HR zones. 

Since 2 months a go, I do much more intervals and progressive runs as my body is ready now. My base is so strong that sometime I feel like I´m exploiting with power. I never do any of my intervals or progressive runs over my aerobic threshold. I do all aerobically. 

Due to this, my aerobic threshold has moved up, meaning that I can now go to a higher HR than before producing lactate acid.  I obviously go faster in the other zones too (zones 3 and 4). 

I´m now in an improvement phase and I´m able to run at 4.50-4:55 min/km at a HR of 156-ish. Last year I would have been at a HR far above 170.     

One day I intend to be like my super friend and triathlon idol Viðar Bragi Thorsteinsson and those other amazing long distance triathletes that, after training like this for years are able to run at a "recovery" pace of 4:50 at a HR of 125 (below a sample of Viðar´s Strava data). 

It will not happen over night and my estimates say that I will reach that level in 2018...:D.

It´s okay, as I have patience. I am willing to a step back to take a step further.  So until then, I´ll just keep on running as I know that every time I go running I´m one step closer to my goal and when I set myself a goal I wont stop until I´m there. No matter what it takes. 

There is no short cut to excellence, right?

Okay, that´s it for me now, stay tuned for my next blog. I will have some MEGA NEWS. 

xxx

Ranna

 

Posted on May 31, 2016 .

I´m back!!!!!

Hi everybody!

If is not the time to put some life back into my blog then I don´t know when that will be! My last post was in December last year! Now were is the discipline I once used to have, is my question!

Anyways, let´s start the new era where I´m totally going to try my absolute best to have my weekly sporty blog post and let you follow me on my way to the IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, in KONA HAWAII baby!!!!

For those of you dropping in on my blog for the first time here is how this all started. Additionally, you can also follow me on STRAVA and soon by my sponsor Meesterknecht (will tell you more about that later, suspense, suspense!). I have even started to put a LOT of selfies on STRAVA. Honestly I don´t know were this will all end, probably like Narcissus or something.

On top of everything else, my sons keep telling me that I really need to work on my selfie pose, as according to them, I always do the same pose, which is mega lame. Well, one more task on the way to self improvement and they might have a case there...

 

Now for those of you who have followed my blog in the past and those who have just read how this all started in my link above, will know that I was very worried about moving from Italy, where I used to live at the foot steps of the Alps, to the Netherlands, which probably one of the flattest countries in world. This was first and foremost because of my cycling.  

I mean can it be any flatter than this??? Me not think so!

I was even so worried about this, that 2 ½ months before my IRONMAN in Nice last year, that included a 180 km bike leg with a total of 1900 m elevation gain, that I moved back from the NL back to Italy just for training.  I obviously used every opportunity over there to tackle the hills while following my coach at the time, Simone Biava,  training program dutifully.

Then Nice happened and I did a pretty good bike and swim for that matter.  My marathon however turned out to be a bit of a disaster...you can read about my ordeal here if interested. This ordeal was still one of the best experiences of my life and I would even go as far as saying that this experience has shaped my life into what it is today and therefore something that I carry with me every single day. 

Super IRONMAN NICE that will stay with me forever. 

Super IRONMAN NICE that will stay with me forever. 

I have now however realised, that all this worrying about the flatness of the NL was not needed at all. I had heard from many, that hills were not needed to become strong and fast on the bike, as biking in the wind would totally make up for the hills.  

Well, I was never entirely convinced though, despite knowing that the Dutch have very good riders on an international level.  I was told and I believed so myself that the Dutch riders would go abroad to train but now after living and training in the NL, I know this is not the case. Yes, they do go abroad to train in the sun but only for a 2-3 weeks like everyone else who lives in Northern Europe (maybe even 2 x a year for some lucky ones), but that is not what makes them strong, it’s the bloody wind. IT IS TRUE!

So why am I convinced now?

Well, I will tell you why.  Since IRONMAN NICE, which was the last weekend in June last year (2015), I have done 3 x hill trainings and they were no Italian hills at all, just some 200 or 300m climbs.

I went once to Deauville France (Feb) where my father lives, once in Ardénne Belgium (March) and once in Germany (April).  The rest I have been biking in the Dutch wind and, oh boy is this hard. Not only physically but even more mentally. Sometimes I was very closed to going over the edge.

When you bike along the windy Dutch canals there is simply no reward, no nice view at the top of the mountain, not chilling on the way down the hill. It’s just a constant monotone battle against nature, in this case, mercy less wind. Like really.  The battle is so hard because in the NL, especially in Noord Holland, there is just flatness and a vast number of agricultural fields ergo no landscape to break the wind. You could just as well be in a wind tunnel and stay there for a few hours with the wind machine on.  

1/2 IRONMAN AIX en PROVENCE

With this training, I went to Aix en Provence, 3 weeks ago and competed in IRONMAN AIX 70.3.  This included a 90 km bike leg with a total climb of 1500 m and at no point did I feel that I was missing the hills from my legs. On the contrary, I felt strong.  For the French speaking audience here is a cool race report about it written by WOMENLAB if interested. 

How did I do this? My strategy

I of course did not cycle this without any thought. This is what I love about long distances, you really have to think your race through and if there is something one learns in the NL, then it is to respect the wind and work with it rather than against it.  Nature will always have it´s way. 

I actually once wrote a blog post about how to bike in the wind. You can see it here if interested. So what I did is that I actually put into action what I wrote.  

I pushed into the head wind and took it easy in the tail wind. In the crosswind, well, then I just tried to stay on the road. There actually was a storm alert that day. Bergur, my husband knew about it but decided not to tell us about that so not to stress us. 

I also tried by best not to go over 210 W, which is my zone 4 limit so to have something left for the run.  Obviously at some points, I had to go over that limit and 2 times I started to feel tired during the bike leg. I then switched over to active recovery pace.  All in all, 2x 10 min to recuperate and I have to say I’m very pleased with my bike leg.  I was 4th in my age group and 37th overall out of 220 Age Groupers on a normal road bike.  They were many there on TT bikes. You can only imagine what will happen in CHALLENGE ICELAND, Nordic Championships and  IRONMAN KALMAR when I´ll have my new TT bike ;=).   

With my super best triathlon companion and more, Cloé Desmet, who has already been made immortal on this immortal blog HERE. 

With my super best triathlon companion and more, Cloé Desmet, who has already been made immortal on this immortal blog HERE

Final conclusion - It´s not about the hills!

Maybe I would have been faster if I had done some hills as well but I don’t think so, because the thing is it’s not about the hills.  it’s all about how much power you put into your pedal stroke. The power can come from doing hills, going into heavy gears or biking into the wind. It really does not matter where it comes from. In the NL you can have 20-30 km of full on headwind where you will use as much power as when you are going up a hill, except there are very few climbs that are that long. 

On top of that, obviously one has to train well and build a super strong base (low HR training to build aerobic muscles) as it´s the aerobic muscles that support your anaerobic ones. Your anaerobic muscles will not be the muscles that will carry you for a long period of time.   So if one's aerobic muscles are not strong enough, one will reach a moment of no improvement followed eventually by a system breakdown.    

Right, enough already of all this sport stuff, I´m even starting to tire myself for God sake! 

In my next blog I intend to share with you my improvement in running. From the day I started to run all over again in August last year until today with my new super coach Eric van der Linden. I´ll share with you my most intimate running data.  Now exciting will that be??? I would say immensely ;=))))).

Until next week then week!

xxx

Ranna

 

Posted on May 19, 2016 .

Better late than never!

Dear all, super sorry for a very late blogpost. My schedule has just been a bit hectic lately. I´m also moving blog day from Tuesdays to Fridays with the next post to be expected next week, as I´m afraid my life is not exciting enough for me to be able to blog about it 2 x a week.

But first things first, I won the most AWESOME gift at ATAC´s end of the year Christmas party the other day. It is supposed to be for keys but first and only thought was, for my future Kona medal of course !!!! This is a sign, I´m telling you guys!

Posted on December 15, 2015 .

Upcoming races and a little message from my son Benni.

Hi all, wow, already Tuesday and time for another blog post!!!! Where does time go, is my question of the day. It seems that all my days lately go into blogging, writing reports or e-mails and making plans and milestones. Well, I love writing my blog and I´m grateful and fortunate enough to be able to do all this, so on we go.

If you read my last blog post, you may know that I got the new awesome 920 Garmin Forerunner XT and I´m absolutely in love with it. Like really, I feel that I have entered another world. I´m soooo much in love with it that I wear it every minute of the day and night.  

Posted on December 1, 2015 .