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The Epic Saga of How I Became an Ironman Despite the Norwegian Gods' Best Efforts!

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Once upon a time, in the land of Haugesund, on the chilly coast of Norway, I embarked on a journey that would test my limits, both physically and mentally. Little did I know that the gods of Norway had other plans for me, but I was determined to conquer them with a smile on my face and a dash of humour in my heart. Brace yourself for the emotional and hilarious tale of my very first Ironman race.

Picture this: I stepped off the plane, coming from scorching 40-degree Celsius weather, into the icy embrace of a Norwegian summer. My body shivered, while my mind tried to prepare for the cool challenge ahead. As I dragged my heavy bike box and carried my germ-fighting arsenal (mask, scarf, disinfectant), I vowed to defy any sickness that dared cross my path. Little did I know that pre-COVID-19, I was already a master of the art of avoiding germs.



But my trials were far from over. Oh no, fate had a mischievous plan in store for me. Just when I thought I had conquered all obstacles, I pulled my back. Note to self: Sherpa is required for future endeavours.

Did I give up? Not a chance! I had adopted a newfound belief in myself, so unshakable that not even a locked-up SI joint and gluteal muscle pain could dampen my spirits. I was in agony, unable to run a single step, but I refused to let that stop me from putting up a good fight on race day.


Now, let me take you to the epic race itself.


Darkness blanketed the morning as the clock struck an ungodly 3:45 am. With sleep still clinging to my weary eyes, I gulped down breakfast, hitched a ride to the venue, and performed last-minute gear checks. Raindrops fell from the sky, accompanied by gusts of wind, as if nature itself was joining forces against me.


But amidst the gloom, a moment of magic happened. As the Norwegian national anthem played, tears streamed down my face. It felt like a homecoming, like I had finally discovered my purpose on this Earth. And there, through the misty rain, I caught sight of my dad waving his tiny Finnish flag. Emotions surged within me, a mixture of determination and pride.




Preparing for an Ironman is no easy feat, my friends. It requires cutting out negativity and believing in yourself, even when others might doubt you. Funny enough, I had anticipated disapproving looks from my parents due to events that occurred two decades ago.


So, I planned to surprise them with my Ironman achievement after the race. But my dear hubby had other ideas. A week before the race, he insisted that I spill the beans to my parents. And you know what? It turns out my dad was ecstatic! He drove his campervan all the way from North Finland, covering a staggering 1800 km just to witness my race. That's what I call commitment!


But let's get back to the race itself.


The starting gun fired, and off we went! I shot out like a cannonball, full of energy and determination. The water was absolutely freezing, and after just 200 meters, I had to stop and catch my breath.

Panic started to creep in, and I thought about giving up because I couldn't seem to breathe. I was on the verge of thinking, "Game over at 200 meters? Seriously?!" But then, the thought of all the people tracking me on their Ironman Trackers and supporting me worldwide flashed through my mind. I couldn't let them down.


After a moment, I managed to regain control of my breathing. I glanced at my watch and saw that my average pace was an incredible 1:30 min/100m, way faster than my goal pace. I told myself to relax and find my rhythm. "It'll be okay," I reassured myself, even though I wasted a good two minutes struggling to catch my breath.




Oh, and let's not forget those thunderclouds! It was as if the mighty Norwegian God Thor himself was putting on a show, hammering down with lightning strikes. And wouldn't you know it, those strikes were right next to the lake where 500 people were swimming. "Shit, we're all going to die!" was all I could think at that moment. With lightning striking so close, I kicked my stroke rate into high gear and raced out of the water, finishing first in my age group at 62 minutes. My goal had been 65 minutes, so you can imagine my delight! I was a buzzing, freezing, wet mess, but I couldn't help but giggle.


Now, onto the bike leg, which promised to be a chilly affair. I took my sweet time during the transition, snuggling up in an emergency blanket under my tri suit. But then, horror of horrors, I realized I forgot to put on my Heart Rate Belt. Cue another minute or two wasted stripping off my suit and fumbling to put on the belt. Mental note: practice those transitions and stay focused. I was still giggling about my ridiculously fast swim, but little did I know that the race was far from over, my dear friends. You see, swim time in an Ironman is about as important as finding mosquito droppings in the Baltic Sea. Yeah, it's a weird Finnish saying, but you get the idea.




My goal for the bike leg was a whopping 6 hours on a hilly course. And boy, did Mother Nature deliver! Thunder, wind, and cold were the order of the day. My coach and I had a plan to keep my power at around 75% of my Functional Threshold Power. You know, that fancy power meter thingy that helps control how hard you pedal. The idea was to conserve energy for the marathon ahead.


Easy, right? Well, not so much.


Turns out my power meter was playing games with me, giving me wonky readings. People were whizzing by me, and mentally, it was a struggle to stick to the plan. To make matters worse, lightning struck dangerously close, leaving me momentarily deaf. I was all alone, wondering if the race organizers would call it quits. "Hey, Thor, can you give me a break?" I muttered to myself, feeling like the loneliest soul out there.


Run, my dear friend, is the sanctuary that embraces me after enduring an eternity of a day.


It's the sweet reward I savor when everything else seems to crumble around me. But let me tell you, my Ironman experience was no walk in the park. Oh no, it was a rollercoaster ride of pain, defeat, and unexpected hilarity that left me both drained and uplifted.



Picture this: transition two had me realizing I was lightyears away from the lead. My groins were crying out in agony after a gruelling seven-hour bike ride.


I was a defeated mess, utterly bummed about my sluggish cycling performance. However, dwelling on the past wasn't going to get me anywhere.


I had to shake off the negativity and focus on the present moment. It was time to summon all the tricks up my sleeve to battle mental fatigue and the nagging voice of self-doubt. And guess what? I had a secret weapon—tiny notes from a supportive family.


Whenever I stumbled, I plucked one note and devoured its uplifting words. Those little slips of paper injected a massive dose of mental energy into my weary soul. "Forget the outcome, just have a blast!" they urged.


As I battled against negative self-talk, something magical happened. Amidst the struggle, I took immense pleasure in overtaking those speedy bikers who were now reduced to the infamous Ironman shuffle—a blend of walking and wincing. With each steady step, I left them in my dust, revelling in my newfound running prowess. Sure, I was still an hour behind the leader, crushing my Kona dreams, but it no longer mattered. It was a battle between me, my exhaustion, and my rapidly depleting energy reserves. The only thing on my mind was putting one foot in front of the other—literally. My tank was empty, but I refused to surrender.


We had a grand plan for a negative split marathon, but reality had other ideas. After 15 km, it became abundantly clear that I had nothing left to give. My body was running on fumes, and to make matters worse, my watch decided to keel over at the 35 km mark. Seriously, watch? You chose this moment to go on strike? With a little over 7 km to go, I mentally calculated a four-hour-and-ten-minute finish time, and boy, did I feel mentally defeated. But I summoned my inner warrior, collected the scattered pieces of my composure, and banished time from my thoughts all together.


You know, there comes a point in the Ironman marathon where you feel like you simply can't go on. You're empty, drained, and your mind screams at you to take a break. It's the perfect time to bring out your finest battle axes and wage war against your fatigued brain. That moment when you cross the line of "I can't go on anymore, maybe just a little walk" and instead keep running—that's when everything changes.



You traverse to the other side, my friend. You tap into a rhythm that makes you feel invincible like you've unlocked the secrets of the universe. It's a beautiful showcase of human willpower, wrapped in pain and difficulty. As absurd as it may sound, I can't wait for the next opportunity to venture to the well, to push my limits when it counts the most.


Believe it or not, I finished the marathon only nine minutes slower than my personal record from a few months prior. In the throes of mental fatigue, I convinced myself I was running a tortoise-paced four-hour-and-ten-minute marathon! Can you imagine?


And guess what? I snagged third place in my age group.


But here's the kicker: I missed out on that coveted Kona spot by a whole hour. Yep, you heard me right. An entire hour. I mean, who needs paradise when you've got an extra hour to spare, right? It was a bittersweet moment. I was disappointed, sure, but I was also elated that I made it through all the obstacles that came my way.


Let me set the scene for you. The Norwegian weather was in its full "beast" mode, showcasing its special cold, thunder, rain, and wind combo. It was like Mother Nature decided to give me a personal challenge. Cold swim, hilly bike, hilly run—it was a rollercoaster of pain and exhilaration. Can I just take a moment to pat myself on the back for enduring every single brutal minute of it? Seriously, I loved it, in a weird way. I must have been masochistic in a past life.


The best part is the surge of self-confidence I've felt since then. I'm walking around like Wonder Woman, ready to conquer anything that comes my way. I even tell my kids every day that they can do the impossible. And you know what? I believe it now more than ever. My Ironman journey has shown me that if I can tackle such a crazy challenge, then I can do anything. Who needs cheesy Ironman slang when you've got genuine confidence flowing through your veins?


Now, let's address the elephant in the room. You might be thinking, "Oh, she's always been athletic. She has that extra 'oomph' that most people don't." Well, let me burst that bubble right now. I'm just your regular Jane, nothing extraordinary. In fact, from 2010 to 2018, I was the epitome of couch potato. I was way past my ideal weight, hadn't run in ages, and was in constant pain. I hit rock bottom, my friend.


But guess what? I was sick and tired of that life. It was like an expired bag of chips—I couldn't stomach it anymore. So, I made a decision. I looked myself in the mirror and said, "Hey, you! It's time to make a change!" I reached out for help, committed to myself, and started believing in my goals. I put myself first, and boy, it was about time. It wasn't a walk in the park, mind you, more like a marathon of self-discovery.


And here's a secret: my Ironmom journey started way before I even started training. It began during those desperate moments when I was lost in my own world, feeling the urge to jump off a cliff in Newfoundland. I was done with exhaustion, ready to throw in the towel. But those moments, as painful as they were, became the fuel for my fire. They prepared me for the challenges that an Ironman could throw at me. I mean, if I could resist the urge to take a leap, I could handle anything, right?


So, my friend, let me tell you this: if you've gone through tough times. When life throws lemons at me, or in this case, hills, hills, and more hills, I think back to those tough moments I've endured. If I survived my own personal emotional rollercoaster, then I can handle anything an Ironman throws at me. Lemons? Nah, I've faced bigger challenges. And you know what? I'm grateful for those tough times. Without them, I wouldn't be the badass woman I am today. I mean, seriously, I could probably take on a grizzly bear armed with nothing but a water bottle and a motivational quote.


And here's a little secret for you: if you've been through tough times that didn't break you, you're already equipped to achieve incredible things.


You've got a hidden superpower within you, my friend. Unleash it, embrace it, and go after something that both excites and scares the living daylights out of you. Life is too short to play it safe and stick to the comfortable zone. Break free, be bold, and who knows what amazing adventures await you?


Ever wonder what else life has in store for you? What other incredible feats you could accomplish if you just took that first step? Well, guess what? I'm here to cheer you on.


Consider me your personal cheerleader in the journey of motherhood survival mode.


If my story can inspire and help even just one person, then all the tears and Newfoundland cliff-dwelling moments were worth it.


I want you to shift gears from survival to thriving, my friend. Whatever thriving looks like to you, I'm here to support you every step of the way.


So stay connected, buckle up, and get ready for the next blog post where I'll delve deeper into the crazy and big psychology behind accomplishing seemingly impossible things. Get excited, because we're about to unlock the secrets to achieving greatness while laughing our way through the finish line.


Until then, yours in life (and Newfoundland cliff escapades),

Marjaana

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