Karlstrup Kalkgrav - The second race location!


In 2022, while watching a local triathlon event in my hometown of Bremen, I reminisced about the time when I participated in athletics during my school years. The feeling of excitement and butterflies before a race, the competitive atmosphere, and observing all the athletes being prepared resonated with me once more after several years without engaging in competitive sports. Shortly thereafter, I relocated to Copenhagen to pursue my Master’s degree and discovered a new community within the local triathlon club, TRI4. I commenced training and competing once again, and in my inaugural season in 2023, I successfully completed four races. This article serves as a brief recap of my first year in triathlon, highlighting the lessons I’ve learned so far, as well as outlining my future plans in the sport.

Lessons learnt


  1. Learning a New Discipline

The biggest and most obvious thing I learned is a whole new discipline. I knew how to run and how to bike on a race bike (at least technically), but my swimming abilities were limited to breaststroke and simply staying afloat in the water. I had never swum for speed or time, nor had I ever used the freestyle technique. So, as I began my training in the club, you can imagine how the initial swimming sessions went. I could barely crawl one lane (i.e., 50m) in the pool, and it’s safe to say there was no recognizable technique involved at all.

I did what most beginner swimmers tend to do: I stressed myself out about “never learning it at all” and “not being a swimmer type,” among other things. Of course, I also watched countless online tutorials on how to start swimming and improve my technique. However, I discovered that the best way to start was simply to train consistently, no matter how bad it felt at first. Those initial sessions were exhausting; I couldn’t even focus on the exercises because I struggled to breathe properly for just one lane. But after a few weeks, I had a breakthrough moment during one of my swim sessions. After starting the swim session as usual, I suddenly felt a certain relaxation in the water, more than ever before. I noticed myself exhaling slowly underwater through my nose, something I couldn’t do before. I hadn’t actively trained for this; my body had simply adapted to the environment and relaxed. From that point on, I was able to actively participate in exercises, swim 200m consecutively, and more.

Now, I’m at a point where I still feel like a complete beginner in terms of my technique, but I’m confident that I can maintain a moderate heart rate and breathing pattern for a considerable time in the water. My races have included swims ranging from 500m to 1500m, and during the last two, I managed to swim without taking any breaks. I plan to continue training to improve my technique, but I’m very pleased to have acquired this new skill.

  1. Overcoming Fear of Open Water Swimming

Starting my journey in January, the first few months of swimming sessions were exclusively indoors. Even my first race in May was held in a pool. Naturally, I was excited for my first open water swim training. However, after trying it out for the first time by myself in a nearby lake, I felt similar to my first indoor swimming experiences. I couldn’t swim more than 25m without stopping and had to switch to breaststroke. The inability to see the ground and the sensation of being alone in the water made me extremely uncomfortable, a feeling I even experienced when swimming breaststroke.

With this experience in mind, I attended my first club training session, which turned out to be different from what I had expected. The combination of clear water and people around me gave me the relaxation I needed to apply the techniques I had learned in open water. While I’m still not 100% confident in open water, especially when I’m alone or in the open ocean, I am grateful for facing this fear and taking the first steps to overcome it.

  1. Expect to be Mediocre

Being a competitive person, I always tend to compare myself to others, especially when it is so easy and objective to compare timed races. However, coming into a new sport, I knew I had to expect to be mediocre at best. Even with my limited running background, people who have trained in all disciplines for years have a significant advantage and will (of course!) perform better. It would be disappointing if that were not the case! Therefore, having realistic expectations is key here. Even though I like to be at the front, I willingly accepted that I would be in the middle of the pack and decided to have fun with it, for example, by trying to keep up with the faster runners and pushing myself even further.

  1. Discpline and Motivation

Most of the time, training is super fun. But there will be days where you just don’t feel like it. When it is the second workout of the day. When it is raining. When it is cold. When you have had a long day the day before. Or all of it together. I won’t preach to always go for a session, regardless of how you feel. If you feel strained and have had some hard workouts in the days before, it might be wise to use this opportunity to rest. But if you are well-rested and the only thing holding you back is your mind, then you should actively decide to overcome this mindset and go for it. In 98% of the cases, you will feel better and more accomplished afterwards. In the remaining 2%, you can take it easy the next day. The feeling of overcoming your mind is worth it in 100% of the cases.

  1. Nutrition is its Own Discipline

Next to the technical abilities in all three disciplines, there is a cross-disciplinary ability that has to be trained as well: Nutrition. General advice tends to be around 60g of carbohydrates per hour, but it varies with body weight, gender, and the distance of the race. In shorter races (like sprints), nutrition plays only a minor role; the longer the race, however, the more important it becomes. In order to avoid trying to fuel with 60g of carbs per hour (in a 4-hour race, this amounts to 240g of carbohydrates, which is roughly equivalent to a quarter kilogram of sugar) on race day, you need to train your nutrition as well. This is an aspect in which I am not very experienced yet, but I am excited to train and learn more about it, especially for longer distances. Of course, nutrition around the workouts is at least equally important, but I will not go into detail here, as it could fill another blog post.


  1. Club Culture

With their own word for it (foreningskultur, i.e., club culture), it is understandable that clubs of various sorts enjoy great popularity in Denmark. Throughout the year, I have met a diverse group of people, many of whom I have become friends with. Sharing sports as a common interest is a strong bond, and triathletes also tend to be highly ambitious and motivating individuals. It is a wonderful feeling to be motivated towards better performance in training and competitions, while also representing a club together.

  1. Danish Language

After having started my studies in August 2022, I joined the club in an intro course around 4 weeks after moving to Denmark. Obviously, I was not as proficient in Danish to understand what native speakers talked about, and my skills were limited to basic conversations. As almost all members of the club are Danes, I was suddenly surrounded by strangers speaking a mostly unknown language, not an easy situation to start with. However, after introducing myself as a German, they all switched to English (some even to German) to start a conversation with me, even to explain the workouts. As I gained more experience with the language, I slowly started to keep up more, no longer needed separate English instructions, and now use the social time on bike rides or slow runs to improve my Danish-speaking abilities.

  1. Danish Culture

Lastly, I want to emphasize some core values that I had the pleasure to experience while being in the club: trust and respect. Even though triathlon is an individual sport on race day, training still feels like a team effort. Everyone is respected, regardless of their skill level, and coaches are respectful and extremely supportive. This is something I had not experienced in other sports before, and it is a nice feeling to be part of such a community.

Future Plans

To conclude my summary, I want to talk briefly about my plans after winter. I am currently on exchange at the University of Toronto and joined the local triathlon club; excited to start training until end of the year (without any competitions). I hope to continue training next spring in Copenhagen and compete in a variety of races again. For now, the plan is to stick to similar distances as this year (and hopefully improve), but you never know what the future holds. I am very grateful to be a part of this community and look forward to the next season!