Pro triathlete Allan Hovda enjoyed his first race of 2020 in June as he finished 2nd in a local IRONMAN 70.3 in Norway. Not everything went to plan for the three-time Norseman winner though and we spoke to Allan to see what he learned from his return to racing... 

Hi Allan, how did you feel your 'lockdown training' had prepared you for your first race of the season? 

In Norway we were lucky with our lockdown restrictions regarding triathlon. No pool swimming or gym, but otherwise we could move freely outside. My only "good" reason for not being 100% race ready was adjustments in the training program to hit peak shape later this fall.

Also, I fell for the temptation to use the non-racing period to do other things I wanted/needed to do. Somehow the race suddenly came around.

We saw from your social media posts that your race didn't quite go to plan, what happened at the start? 

I have a race routine which I followed. However, I didn't add extra time to that routine to adjust for my wife and I having to take both our 5-year-old and the 5-month-old baby to the event.

Lesson learned, hopefully (I always tend to be optimistic when timing).

Did that slightly rushed start and shorter warm-up time affect how you felt at the start line? 

Yes, I was both physically and mentally unready.

The swim start is always hard if you want to compete for the win, and I had to back off early on and find my own rhythm. I ended up 57 seconds behind the two leaders in T1, which was totally unnecessary.

So, once the race was underway, you could start focusing on your strategy... but I understand you had an issue with your bottle?  

My plan for nutrition, hydration and electrolytes is very good. With the Sweat Test I did with Andy and Jonny, I know my exact sodium concentration in my sweat - 1228 mg/L to be precise.

With extensive sweat rate measurements during the winter and spring I was pretty sure I lost about 1 - 1.2l/h on the bike and 1.2 - 1.5l/h on the run.

With that knowledge, I had 1.8l fluid on the bike on the start as there weren't any aid stations on the bike. When I reached for my 1l bottle located behind the seat at around 35k on the bike, I found out I had lost it - without me even noticing (otherwise I would have stopped and picked it up).

So, I lost more than 50% of my fluid, 65% of my electrolytes and 15% of my calories. I had the possibility to stop and fill up my BTA water bottle once, which I did.

That made me recover most of the lost fluid, but for electrolytes I had no plan B. Not a single SweatSalt capsule in my top tube box or in T2.

I was first in T2 with the race winner only metres behind me but I cramped up early on the run and had to withdraw to "safe-mode", with no chance of taking on the battle. I will never put myself in a situation like that again.

Your post-race Instagram post showed you could at least see the light side of the issues...

It never feels good to find out things like the loss of an essential bottle, but I have a much more rational response now. It cannot be undone and you don't have time to beat yourself up for it.

Like I mentioned, I ended up stopping completely to fill up my BTA bottle and take a big gulp of water. It did cost time, but I would without a doubt lost a lot more if I powered 2h 10m of 70.3 race pace in 28 degrees Celsius with a total of 0.8 litres of fluid.

What would you do differently if you could do the race again?

Having more time before the race.

Preparing hydration better with more in my aero bottle on the seat stay and a smaller and lighter 650ml bottle behind the seat. Adding more grip tape inside the bottle cage. Train more on T1 and T2. Having a plan B for electrolytes and nutrition.

What were the positives you can take into your next event? 

I dominated the bike despite having to stop completely twice and had an estimated real-life CdA (co-efficient of drag time) of 0.207. That's the best I had and definitely something to be happy about. I know I have 15-20 watts extra to push with better 70.3 race preparations in training.

And a skill learned once is not necessarily kept forever. Once in a while it might need a refresh 🙂

Sound advice Allan and plenty of lessons for us to take into our events when we're able to race again