Mikkelsen’s iron will helped

Jasper Mikkelsen is one of the
fittest athletes in the Caribbean, there’s little doubt about that considering
how many Ironman events he does internationally.

They are usually in the US but when
Mikkelsen learnt of the inaugural Copenhagen Challenge, another Ironman, in his
homeland of Denmark, he would have swam across the Atlantic to enter that one.

It happened last Sunday and
Mikkelsen, 38, an economist in Cayman and father of three, acquitted himself
well as usual despite some major problems with his bike. The Ironman distance
is a swim of 2.4 miles, 112 cycle and full marathon run of 26.2 miles.

Each discipline is gruelling and
combined only the fittest – and foolhardy – athletes can complete it. Around
1,700 athletes participated in the event. The cycling stage took place in
northern Zealand, while the running stage and the swimming stage were held in
Copenhagen.

Australian Ironman Tim Berkel
powered his way to victory in the event this weekend, finishing more than five
minutes ahead of his closest competitor. The 26-year-old completed the event in
8 hours, 7 minutes and 39 seconds to earn the win. Berkel was the fastest over
the 180km bicycle stage and fifth and sixth fastest in the running and swimming
stages respectively.

New Zealander Keegan Williams
finished second and Denmark’s Jens Gronbek took third, nearly 10 minutes behind
the winner.

Denmark’s Jimmy Johnsen was the
fastest over the run, completing it in 2 hours, 43 minutes and 49 seconds. An
Aussie also won the women’s competition: Rebekah Keat, 32, in 8 hours, 54
minutes and 36 seconds.

“The swim was pretty uneventful,”
said Mikkelsen. “The water was 18-19 degrees Celsius, ideal for a wetsuit. I’ve
come to realise that I don’t enjoy swimming in a wetsuit and this swim was no
exception. My time was 61 minutes. The first mile or so felt fairly laboured,
but once I got into the groove, the swim felt very much like a warm-up as it
should. Out of the water I had lots of surplus and sprinted through T1 as fast
as I could.

“At the start of the bike I felt
great and was hitting around 25mph with a slight head wind. But about 40 miles
into the bike I experienced my first puncture. Examining the tyre I found a
large piece of flint stone which had easily penetrated both tyre and tube.”

After more problems with punctures
and no spares left, Mikkelsen decided to pull out. He was on his way back to
catch a train home when a kindly elderly man who was not part of the race
stopped and offered his spare tube from his old 1970s steel race bike.

“Being back in the race was an odd
but also gratifying feeling. Mentally I was resided to the fact that I would
not be finishing. It took a while before I was ready to push again for the
remaining 100km.

“Since I had nothing to lose I
thought I would try something different on the run by going hard from the
outset. First 10km was sub 45 minutes and the half marathon was reached in less
than 1 hour 35 minutes. After that I slowed because I noticed my heart rate was
creeping upwards, above 165, but still felt I had lots of surplus. On the
second half I caught up with my friend Mikkel who was having stomach issues. I
walked and jogged with him for a while. I also stopped to talk to my wife
Majken about my unfortunate bike experience. At no time on the run was I really
struggling as I have been in other Ironmans and I easily increased the pace to
finish strong in 3 hours 21 minutes.

“All in the entire race had both
positives and negatives. Puncturing is an unfortunate part of Ironman racing
and the major negative. In all previous Ironmans I’ve been lucky to avoid them.
However, now I know that I can deal with it even under pressure. Fuelling wise
I think I was spot on for the whole race. I’m also happy that I was able to
pick up the pace on the bike after a very demoralising experience. However, I
still need to work on my bike. Although my time net of punctures and delays was
fairly good I need to be able to go around 4 hours 50 minutes to be seriously
competitive on a course like Challenge Copenhagen. I was pretty surprised with
my final run split. I wasn’t expecting it to be that fast and I think I could
have improved it a lot had I had the motivation to do a sub 9 hours 30 minutes.
A sub 3 hour 15 minutes marathon split in good running conditions is definitely
possible if I keep my run training consistent and don‘t go nuts on the bike.
But it will be a while before I find out as I don’t intend on doing an Ironman
any time soon.

“I would definitely do Challenge
Copenhagen again and would recommend it to others. From an organisational
perspective I think there are lots of improvements to be made, but for an
inaugural event the organisers did a good job. It is also a fairly fast course
for anyone looking for a personal best.”

Despite the setbacks when he lost
well over an hour, he still managed a respectable time of 10 hours 40 minutes.

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