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My Road to Ironman with Sophie Freij

If anyone had told me a year and a half ago that on July 7, 2019, you'll be on the starting line for Ironman 70,3 in Jönköping, I would have laughed out loud. I couldn't swim freestyle, bike that far, or run for that matter, I'd answer. So, no I will not. This is not the case anymore – quite the opposite. In almost precisely three months I will be right there on the starting line in my wetsuit, ready for the 2-kilometre swim.

In October 2018, I decided to sign up for the Ironman in Jönköping. I had lost 15 kilos in a year, changed my lifestyle and started training. I needed a new challenge, and that challenge was Ironman in Jönköping.

While I went through registration, I realized what I had in front of me. What had I done? Sure, I can do a normal breaststroke, but rather badly. I don't know how to swim freestyle. I don't even like public swimming pools.

I've seen others swim front crawl. It looks easy and I wanted to learn. But then again, I've felt that it's probably no use, it will never work. But now I had no choice.

So, I started watching YouTube videos and thought: God, how do they do it? I Googled swimming coaches and was pointed to the German professional swimming and triathlon coach Ulf Hausmann. I contacted him and three weeks later I was on my way to learn how to swim front crawl.

Totally terrified; feeling naked, scared and embarrassed, because I felt it was hopeless.

After five lessons with my coach, my own weekly training and much choking on water, I started to feel the rhythm. For weeks I struggled, for hours on end.

I have been crying by myself, throwing my swim cap, feeling bad from all the water-choking and feeling time and again that it can't be done.

I now swim almost once a week with my coach, and practice alone a second time. I never thought I'd say this, but I can now swim freestyle. And to be perfectly honest, it was worth all the tears, all those hours in the swimming pool, choking on all that water, all the training in the past and all that's in front of me.

I'm not the fastest, far from it, I'm training to be. But I have a knack for freestyle swimming and I totally love it. Now that I've figured it out, I love it.

One day this past Christmas, I nailed it. It surprised me so much that I started to cry. There I was, crying in the swimming pool.

Going from being terrified, not being able to hold my breath, gasping for air, arms and legs not syncing – to actually knowing the basics – is pure magic.

Some workouts I love myself. I feel like a world champion in the swimming pool. Everything just works, including the breathing, strokes, kicks, everything. I feel sort of invincible.

Other times I just want to quit, not wanting to do another crawl stroke. Last week I cried walking away from the swimming pool. Nothing worked and my head was empty. But hey… I guess that's part of it – you simply can't give up, ever.

Now I just have to get faster. I practice my technique. So, it's the same thing, week after week, counting and analysing, asking to be filmed so I can watch afterwards what I'm doing right or wrong. Should I be able to improve my time on the swim, I need to get faster. That's the big challenge right now.

I set up intermediate goals, that's my driving force. If I reach my goals, I'll reward myself with things I like.

Like last week, I was so happy with my swimming and made such progress that I deserved a PowerWoman swimsuit. I've had it in my sights for a while, and now I had done so well that I decided to order it.

I love workout clothes. The more colours and patterns, the more fun the training in my opinion

And I love it.

I've fought hard to get to open that package and see the tiger on the swimsuit stare back at me. I love workout clothes. The more colours and patterns, the more fun the training in my opinion. So that swimsuit is fits me like a glove. It just screams Girl Power and I love that!

The feeling ahead of IM is positive. I'm so stoked and excited. The road has been long and there's still a long way to go. But I keep training, training and training some more. Swimming, running and biking, alternately. But all the progress I'm making drives me to keep it up – and not give up.

In my heart, I'm terrified of IM. I'm terrified of not crossing the finish line.

I'm not competing against anyone but myself. I just have to cross the finish line, even if it's in last place.

I have to believe that I can do it. And I WILL do it. I have so many around me that support me, encourage and cheer for me. Coaches who help me and push me forward. A partner who comforts me when the body hurts and the tears flow. When I lose confidence, he is there. During my best and worst training days, he's there.

Ironman I am coming for you!

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