When Jasper Mikkelsen started competing in triathlons in 2006, he could scarcely have imagined where the sport would take him.
Now, a mere three years later, Mikkelsen has qualified for what is arguably the most important event in the triathlon world – the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
Hawaii is the birthplace of the Ironman triathlon, a supreme test of endurance composed of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run.
This year will see the 31st running of the event, and on 10 October, Mikkelsen will take his place alongside the best Ironman athletes in the world in the hope of doing Cayman proud.
He reached his goal of qualifying in his second ever Ironman-distance triathlon. His first Ironman-distance race was the Grand Floridian triathlon, which took place on 25 October 2008.
Mikkelsen had been hoping for a good time, but his time of 10 hours 17 minutes and 43 seconds surprised everyone, Mikkelsen included.
Speaking after the race, he said that he knew he had a faster Ironman in him. On 30 August, Mikkelsen proved his prediction right, finishing Ironman Louisville in a blazing 9 hours 49 minutes, well under the 10 hour barrier he had been taking aim at.
It was good enough for fifth place in the 35 to 39 age group, earning Mikkelsen a spot among the 1800 tri-athletes invited to Kona.
With only some six weeks between Ironman Louisville and the Ironman World Championships, Mikkelsen has to prepare for the event very quickly.
‘I’ve been told the swim is extremely rough which is not surprising given the standard of the athletes there. Other than that it will likely be the heat on the run.
‘But I can’t complain as the Cayman heat and humidity makes running just as tough. I’m not expecting the bike to be a significant challenge other than it is 180 km which is always going to be a long ride,’ he says.
Although Kona is the greatest of the challenges ahead of Mikkelsen, it is far from the only one.
‘I have the world championships on the half ironman distance coming up in November which I qualified for earlier this year,’ he says.
This will make it two world championship events in one year for Mikkelsen. However this certainly did not come easily.
‘There is no faking an Ironman. It requires many long hours of training. If you skip on one of the three disciplines it will show come race day. The long hours require dedication and planning.
‘With a family it can be difficult to work the long training hours into the family’s schedule. So for me the challenge of training is really one of time management. My body seems to cope well with the training load,’ according to Mikkelsen.
As one can imagine Mikkelsen’s training regimen is exhaustive and could easily wear out a lesser man.
‘So far this year I have trained on average about 12-14 hours per week. Leading up to Louisville I ramped up the training and had a few weeks of 18 hours,’ he says.
As he spends so many hours training, Mikkelsen views himself as quite fortunate to be able to train in Cayman.
‘Training conditions in Cayman are good especially if you are competing in similarly hot conditions.
‘For cyclists the lack of hills can be a bit of a problem, but the beautifully resurfaced roads out around East End with plenty of wind to spice it up make up for it to some extent.
‘Swimming is a no brainer. There is simply no where better to train than Cayman,’ says Mikkelsen.
However, training in Cayman is not all moonshine and roses as far as he is concerned.
‘I can’t say running in Cayman is a joy, it is simply too hot and humid, but running in the early mornings helps.’
Even for someone as dedicated as Mikkelsen, getting up for an early morning run is not always easy. Fortunately he does not have to do it all on his own.
‘When you have get up at 4:30 on a Sunday morning to go for a 2.5 hour run it’s nice to be able to meet up with someone. Having strong and dedicated training partners is extremely important.
‘For me personally, having the likes of Beth Schreader, Mike McDonald, Russell Coleman, Scott Brittain and Marius Acker around really helps,’ according to Mikkelsen.
He is quick to admit that holding down a regular job as well as training for an Ironman makes it tough to spend as much time with his family as he would like.
Fortunately he receives a lot of support from wife Majken and their two sons Tobias and Christoffer.
‘I try to schedule training when they are asleep so it doesn’t affect family time. In the weekends that is not always possible, but I try to make it up to them,’ says Mikkelsen.
Fortunately, it does not seem to trouble his boys too much.
‘They seem fairly keen on following me at races and they like the medals, but other than that I think they would rather play with their friends,’ he smiles.
However, Mikkelsen hopes that his children will follow his example.
‘I hope my love of endurance events and the healthy lifestyle it necessitates will rub off on them when they are older.’