Challenge Roth 2018 in Best Company

 

I don’t know a single triathlete who hasn’t got Roth on his/her bucket list. I’ve had it for about 10 years and 2018 was to be the year where not only me but 4 other friends would tick this race off the list. A Brit, An Aussie, An American, A Dutch and A Swiss. Our common denominators:  our children go/went to the American School of The Hague and triathlon. We all met on Saturday in Nürnberg with our families after setting everything up in different transitions zones and had a last supper at the hotel. IMG-1877A bystander would not undersatnd how we casually talked about planning to pee on a bike while devouring a tomato-mozzarella. All shared their goals & anxieties. My fear was the ability to race the marathon after having been attacked by a blood thirsty swan! I kicked the bird so hard that I badly cramped and a large vein popped in the calf area.. Long story short we went early to bed, layed down, did not sleep (well) and before we knew it, we were driving by 05:00 towards the start…well actually 05:15 because The Dutch had to “quickly” go for No2 later than planned….. We nearly missed the cut off time to put our T2 bag in the zone. Unnecessary stress before a long day. I managed to breathe, pump my wheels, get my wetsuit right first time and warmed up.

07:15: boom! IMG-1882Roth lets the athletes go in waves of 200. I am part of the first wave starting after the ladies. Poor ladies (those who do not swim fast). After 1000m we catch the first ones and swim past and over them. The scratches on my legs confirm these are nails belonging to female athletes. In any case, perfect swim in a perfectly calm canal. I focus on 1 thing. keep cadence high while not pulling too hard under water.IMG-1878_2 I estimate my HR to be in lower Z2 and I keep calm. I manage to actually look up from time to time and soak in the atmoshere. It is amazing. There are people EVERYWHERE along the canal and on the bridges clapping, dancing to the sound coming from T1. I never had a better long distance swim and by that I mean leaving the water after 1:08 hour feeling great & fresh. I should leave a bit more energy next time around. The long distance swim trainings in open water really paid off.

 

 

 

08:30: I leave transition feeling good! I pace myself immediately, starting easy, wind in the back. The wind hits us after 10k. It is not more than 20km/h but about 20 times more than shared via loudspeaker 90 min. ago. “Dear athletes, we have perfect conditions today: low 20’s and No Wind”. My morale is not good in the first 50k of the ride. Constantly riding against that wind with quite a bit of elevation. Kavalerienberg comes up and having studied the course, I know this is also the turning point of this 2 loop course. That meant from now on and for the next 50k it would be cross or tail wind. Yes!orig-CRKP1996

I keep my watts under control and constant until hitting km70: Solarerberg. This is why Roth is Roth. 50’000 people packed along 700m of a 8-10% climb. From the top of their lungs they scream at you to get to the top of that hill. And indeed it takes zero second to be up there. I made the mistake that everybody makes, I bask in that cheering and forget to watch the power meter which is well above 300W. I am burning my matches as if I had just another kilometer to ride.

There is another 110….

 

By km 110, I tap myself on the shoulder for nailing my nutrition so well so far but the wind is back in my face with a vengence. Morale goes in the cellar and the PowerBar Coffeine Boost helps only marginally. I feel tired and rationalize that it was too much to taper and race The Challenge Championship in Samorin only 4 weeks ago. What was I thinking? taper 2 weeks for Samorin, train 2 weeks and taper again 2 weeks? blablablabla goes my mind. At the same time, The Aussie passes me….Oh dear.  I manage to shut up my mind by km 160 and enjoy the rest of the ride but my temp indicator already shows 26 degrees. Low 20’s..second understatement of the day by the announcer.

14:00: 178 km are covered. 5:30 is not bad. This is what I had in the tank riding at 72% of my FTP. I actually was right on the money in terms of power and intensity factor….BUT my legs tell a different story… I don’t listen to them and blast through transition in 1:48. boom! Legs are still saying “no marathon today, please” but the mind is saying keep your pace at 05:00 m/km and cadence at 174. That works for about 10k. the next 10k are in the shade along a canal. Perfect for running but my cadence is slowing down and so is my pace: 05:23 on avg for the next 10km. The Aussie is 2 min ahead of me and I try to close the gap. I don’t because I pause twice for nature’s calls. The wheels come off after km 20.

My left leg wants to cramp (the bloody swan strikes back), my IT bands are screaming and my head is suggesting a long walk. BUT my family is there, my friends are there, my coach is thinking of me. There is also that lady from Loolaba Triathlon Club, who finished in 10:50 last year….  I decide, that I can’t walk, won’t walk. End of the story. And this is what I do. KM32 welcomes us with a 60m climb. It feels like going up the Eiffel Tower. The sun is now hot and at km35 the course goes back down 60 meters… which is worse for the IT bands.

Only 6km to go. All my salt tablets are consumed (12) all my coffeine boosts are consumed (6). I feel OK. No GI, no cramps. I try to pick up the pace and going into the beer mile of Roth, I meet Isa and the family. This tells me that I made it, I can smell the finish line. I enter the stadium, slow (further) down, soak it all in and enjoy the last 200m. orig-CRKB1110It is 17:49. I end up 20 minutes later than orginially planned. My marathon, 3:49, is the slowest since my first Ironman in 2010. But I am happy, so happy. I have pushed harder than I ever did, I stayed mentally strong on the whole marathon. My legs are 100% toast. This is how I should always feel. I know that I would wake up the next day telling my self I could not have run another minute faster. Stats: 10:34 (1:08 / 5:30 / 3:49), 73rd out of 579 in my AG (Top15%).

The Aussie finishes 20 min in front of me… all others are still on the course. I enter the athletes garden and start eating sandwishes with boatloads of sauer gerkhins, go figure. I don’t think I got pregnant during the race. I lay on a massage table. The Aussie is magically laying next to me. We talk with big smiles on our face. Go shower and go back to the finish line to celebrate the day, our friend coming in. I could write verses and chapters about the quality of the organisation and the devotion of the 7500 volunteers. It was incredible. Roth lives up to its reputation. It is the largest and the best long distance triathlon on this planet. Period.

Finally, and as usual, the difference between being motivated and really mentally strong through out the race is the presence of the family, my wife, my kids and friends. They cheered during the whole marathon and when I see the pride of my children in their eyes, there is no way for me to give up, let alone getting comfortable. Its about them, the support they gave me for months. This gratefulness flls empty tanks and allows me to enjoy every minute of every race. Thank you.. I love you!

 

 

 

 

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My first win or how the old bull gets them all

Young Bull and the Old Bull

“De 15 van Wassenaar” was my last preparation race before the ITU Half-Distance European Championship in Peguera – Mallorca (Oct 18th, 2014). As the name suggests it is a 15km run, the only running race organized in our town. I had done a rather mad workout 3 days before (14x1000m with 90 sec intervals) and my legs were telling me that racing on Sunday was not the idea of the Century. Fast forward. 15:15 on Sunday, perfect weather conditions, 320 athletes lining up and booom! I had posted myself in the first block (ETA 1:00 – 1:10) and start in the first group of 15 athletes.

I assess the field and quickly put my “Macca” hat on (see previous post). I spot a fast looking guy (I will call him “El Greko”) and ask him what is his expected time. He tells me “1 hour”. I answer “hmmm…”. Shortly after this, 4 runners take off at a 3:40 pace. I let them go as I know I could not hold at this pace for 15km. My pace is nonetheless around 3:50 to make sure I do not lose eyesight. El Greko is also clearly pacing himself and backs off. I am staying behind him in 6th position.

3rd Km of the run in 6h position

KM3: the distance between the first 4 stabilizes to 25 seconds.

KM4: 2 of the 4 are starting to struggle and loose contact with the lead. 1st internal maniacal laugh.

Km5, El Greko slows down slightly and I overtake but he stays on my heels, soon after we both overtake the struggling runners paying a high price for overpacing so early. So I am now in 3rd after 5km!!! not bad at all for the oldest runner in the leading group with shot legs. My HR tells me I could catch, but I do not need to as we are now gaining 1-2 seconds every 300m or so.

KM6: what’s that? a new runner comes from the back and starts running by my side. He is clearly panting from the catch-up effort. I take a deep breath and speak to him in a calm matter of fact way: “we will have caught up on the lead in 3 km…”. 2nd internal maniacal laugh.

Km7: the young runner that had caught up falls back. El Greko overtakes him as well but is not keeping up with me anymore. I am now chasing the first 2 runners alone.

Km9: As predicted, without increasing the pace, or just slightly, I am on the heels of a tall, slim runner in his mid-20’s and another runner in his forties. The older runner is just hanging in there by a thread.

Km10: I therefore force the pace and go for the first time “in the red” just to see what will happen, the older runner (or should I say my peer as I was probably as old) loses contact. It is the beginning of the end for him (he will end up in 5th or 6th place).

Taking the lead ater 10km

I am in the lead!!!!

Km11: The young runner stays on my heels…hm…smart…so I slow down a bit. He seems happy about this and run alongside.

 

Km12: Mother Trucker! the young buck takes off like a bullet!!! I feel tricked, getting a taste of my own medicine. Was he running so easy? I try to follow him, my watch says 3:30…no way I can hold this, so I back off and go back to a 3:50 pace. I lose quickly 30 meters on him. At the same time, I decide that the guy was bluffing. Not only was the gap not growing but I also felt that he would have taken off much earlier, if it had been so easy for him. And then a small miracle, a female supporter on the side of the street shouts to me in English: “CATCH HIM”. She is right!

12th km of the run, the young buck accelerates and passes

Km13: I catch him! and my mind projects immediately pictures of Andy Raelert catching up on Chris McCormack at the end of the marathon of the Ironman 2009 in Hawaii. Andy does not  make the pass… in the end he loses in the last mile.

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I will not make the same mistake and plough on accelerating for the final 2 KM.

KM15: I run the last one in 3:45, looking back, making sure he is not making a last surge on the final meters. No, he is 80 meters behind. The final straight line, my friends are here, both daughters are here completely surprised to see me just behind the lead motor bike announcing the first runner in the finish chute. I relax in the last meters, soak it all in, smile and get my first win at a running race. Time: 1:00:12. It is a small local race, but a race nonetheless. After the finish line I turn around, wave and clap to the (huge) crowd (of 250) totally happy. A few minutes later I am on the podium with my daughter and a crown on top of my head like they do for the winners in Hawaii… A good omen?

PodiumA few minutes later…my wife crosses the finish line exhausted but with a huge smile. The kids are filled with pride and happiness. What more can I wish for? Life is sweet.

On the podium my wife!
2 hours and a few Grimbergen beers later. The prize ceremony. Daddy gets the trophy and is handed the mike by the super friendly organiser Bernard Menken …oops, what should I say. I have immediately pictures of Roger Federer always polite thanking the great crowd and the ball boys so I try to do the same: “Thank you to the organisers, the volunteers, great race, etc…” but in the end, I cannot help it “..and you…young runners….train harder”.

Prize Ceremony

Saas-Fee: Our Easter Winter Wonderland

This is why we love to be in Saas-Fee…so much:

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1. 300 days of sun. That is probably the number one reason. When you live in The Netherlands, you want to make sure of one thing when you go places.: you want to see the sun and the deep blue sky. Because there ain’t such thing up North like a deep colour…apart from deep green maybe.

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2. There is ALWAYS snow and the ski-station is open all year round. How? The upper part of the resort is on a glacier. And on the top of this glacier, there is the highest turning restaurant in the world at 3500m. It has just been renovated and finally lost its 70’s groove. The food is very decent for a decent price (to Swiss standards).

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3. The mountains are specatacular. There are 47 mountains over 4000m in Switzerland and there are 14 of them just around Saas-Fee. It protects the resort from changing weather…hence the 300 days of sun.

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4. It is not the largest ski resort of Switzerland. Far from it. Around 100km of pistes and something like 30 lifts. But you nonetheless have it all. The easy slopes for kids and beginners, the bumpy runs, the steep runs, the wide runs for carving, the specatacular runs amidst the glaciers, the hard runs and the amazing off-piste (if you know to avoid crevaces).

5. Saas-Fee is a place with more than 100 restaurants. It prides itself of having a 1 star Michelin restaurant, The Fletschhorn. This restaurant has recently acquired a smaller restaurant on the slopes and you can enjoy gastronomic kitchen with your ski-boots on. Weird but a somehow a must-do. There are romantic restaurants like La Ferme but there are also of course plenty of Swiss traditional cusinie eateries with the expected smell of melted cheese. Nothing for dairy-allergic though.

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6. We of course love Saas-Fee because that’s also where we have our chalets

…doh… Fasan & Eichhörnchen are their names. Those are super cosy little chalet 1km away from the centre and the après-ski music at the edge of a larks’ forest where squirrels and wild goats can be spotted. http://www.atraveo.de/objekte/714124.php

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7. The kids love to stay up there. Its total freedom for them, they open the door and can disappear in the fields and the forest. The resort is car free, so no danger there either.

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8. We have a skate-skiing loop in front of our door. Its is a 5.5 km training course, with one lane for classic skating and one for skate-skiing. We call it our private house loop as not many people use it. My wife and I just love to exercise here. The loop goes 120m up, then flat, then down..it throws your heart out of the chest the first time you do it. After a few work-outs, you feel stronger and it becomes a matter of who is going to beat the loop record (24:30).

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9. And then, there is sledging. This is basically also a few steps from our house. A cable cars takes you up for 15min and you then have a joy ride for about 15-20min down a relatively steep course. Helmets recommended!

10. Last but not least, Saas-Fee is in Switzerland. This is where we come from. This is what we call home. And because we have enough beds (the chalets can accomodate up to 11 persons), the family is coming to visit us as well as friends. So it is a place where we celebrate and enjoy the company of those who are dear to our heart.

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An unforgettable day at the IronMan Western Australia

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It was D-day at last. The time had come to face the music, to see how the training, the race plan, the nutrition plan and the material would hold. The time had come to see whether I would have to double the money raised for my charity action with Malaika Kids (see banner).

The start was planned at 05:45. It was not before 05:25 that I walked to beach, my swimsuit on. FIrst surprise of the day, the sea was not calm as forecasted. LIttle waves rolled on to the beach and it meant, that 2km outside in the ocean it would be a very different story. I did a quick warm up 200m and went back to the beach. Off the gun goes.

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As expected, a choppy swim to start the Ironman Western Australia with up to 25-50 cm surf. The Official distance: 3900m to go around the beautiful and longest jetty in the Southern hemisphere. I mentioned in a previous blog post, that I dropped the ball on the swim training to concentrate on the bike and that I may regret it 2000m into the swim. This is EXACTLY what happened. I needed just 33min to reach the end of the Jetty and thought I was doing great in the waves, but I did not realise there was a slight side current. The way back was exhausting and I had to fight my way back to the shore. The time reflects my training. Finished 602nd!!! in 1h11min. from 1515… hopla.

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After a relatively quick transition of 4min, I unracked my bike for an official 182km ride around Busselton and into the scenic Tuart Forest National Park. As mentioned earlier in my blog as well; a beautiful course but exposed. And today the wind blew up to 35km/h for the first 4 hours before starting to fade. For someone who trains in the Netherlands, this was an advantage. Everything went perfectly to plan. The nutrition plan worked this time and I negative split every 30km feeling stronger and stronger. Moved from overall 605 to 444 position. I really wanted to hammer the last 30km, just to beat the clock and manage the course under 5:30. But I kept a cool head and instead cruised to transition 2 in a time of 5h34m. The temperature during the bike leg between 24 and 29 C. Ideal!
Again plenty of inspirational moments on the bike, as you can see on the picture. I finally pass a hand-biker after 120km!!! This also meant, he was ahead on the swim, just working with his arms…humbled.

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Another transition to put some running shoes and a ton of sun cream. Here the only big change versus plan. My little left toe was hurting for a couple of days so I chose to wear a pair of Mizuno Wave4. The advantage: a bigger toe box and super light weight (154gr). The issue: a super light weigh shoe ideal for a 10k run on fresh legs…(This will be a subject for a separate blog post but in short I would not recommend to run a marathon in those shoes and definitely not on hot roads). Because that run was a real scorcher. The wind had died and the temperature had raised to 32C. No cloud, no shade on black roads along the shore.
At this time, after feeling real strong on the bike I thought, that a 10:30 was possible so I deviated from plan and ran 15 seconds faster (5:00 instead of 5:15 pace per km). But the heat got the best of me and instead of negative splits I faded in every single round of the 4 course loop. The other competitors had obviously more issues with the heat than me.

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The last 10km were trying. I was running on dead legs with blistered feet from the heat and trying to keep cool by storing ice, where ever I could and drinking liters (literally) of Coke to keep to body going. I finally saw the 41km mark. 1.2 km to go! My wife and daughters, who had shouted words of encouragement for the last 8 hours or so, shouted even louder. This gave me enough energy to motor my way to the finish chute, with the knowledge that I would beat the clock and indeed race as planned under 11:00. The commentator at the finish line said: ¨…and here comes a very happy Ironman¨. I was indeed over the moon and I came across the finish line laughing out loud. I did not assess properly my level of exhaustion. Within a few second my legs decided to sail without the rest of my body and I collapsed into two so called ¨catchers¨ (who decide whether you go directly to the massage, the medical or the recovery tent). Thanks goodness they brought me to the recovery tent for drinks and food (and not for an iv).

So the final result: I move with a marathon time of 3:44 from 444 to 227 rank overall (1510) and 45th in my age group (first15%). Happy with the overall result. A PR by exactly 1 hour. Total time 10:38:59.6 So many things could have gone wrong and racing so far from home was a risk….but all went well. What difference it makes whent the family is along the course, following your every meter and getting the best support you can wish for.

Next IronMan, June 29th with my buddy Joel in Klagenfurt, Austria.

4 days before IronMan Western Australia. Time To Say Thank You

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As mentioned in a previous blog post some 12 months ago, I am racing this Ironman for myself and for a small UK/NL led charity, MALAIKA KIDS, that takes care of Tanzanian orphans. I proposed to whom ever would sponsor me, that I would double the money up to the charity target of 2000 pounds unless I race the Ironman under 11 hours. I raised money over 2 web-sites, a UK based and a Dutch based one. More than 40 different individuals donated generously to a total amount of 2’100 .-GBP. I would like to thank you all for your donation and I take the opportunity to remind you of what you have just done. You are supporting children that cannot hold a father’s or a mother’s hand for comfort, for security, for re-assurance. You are supporting an organisation that gives it to those children. It certainly will never replace the real-thing but, if only, will restore a feeling of normality. So THANK YOU! And as someone said: ¨I hope you will succeed in your endeavour for your own sake but I also hope you will fail for their’s. For once, those children can only win.

An Ironman under 11:00 means to swim 3.8km in 1h15m, bike 180km in 5:45 and run a marathon in 3:50 (+9min of transition from swim to bike to run). This is without considering a possible flat tire, windy conditions on the bike or choppy sea conditions during the swim. This charity action has been a great motivation and I have trained between family and work the best I could to achieve those goals. So, a huge thank-you also goes to my wife, Isa, that has supported me unconditionally during the last 12 months as well as my daughters. A big thanks to my Windmill Warrrior buddies, that have trained, supported me as well as advised me on new training methods and gave me tips -especially on the run and the bike (because those guys cannot swim so well…). A moderate thank you to the ¨Windmill Warrior Widows¨ that relentlessly gave us a bad conscience about our training, but also prepared great restorative food and made us laugh so much. A big thanks to all others that have been involved directly or indirectly in the preparation and the fund raising action like my neighbours Helen and Klaas or the Chairmen of Malaika Kids Nigel and Ton.

4 days to go; tomorrow is my last swim training along the world famous jetty of Busselton. Pics to come.

6 Days before Ironman Western Australia. It is not all about the IronMan

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We finally arrived to our destination. It took us 4 days to fly from Amsterdam to Singapore, Singapore to Perth. Rest for 2 nights in Sorrento (North of Perth) and then travel from Sorrento to Dunsborough (20km South of Busselton). Dunsborough is a very laid back location on the coast of the Geographe Bay. Its beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in the world. As far as we can tell, it could be true. It did not take our girls long to discover the fun of a low tide. Hopping from one sand bank to the next, catching small shells, jumping into deeper pools of water. SO, it is not all about the Ironman? Definitely not: what an unbelievable feeling to be back in the Summer, living outdoors, looking forward to a cold shower to wash the salt away. Isa is soaking the sun in. Zoe told us she likes the place because it is so wonderfully hot and everything is so quiet. Dunsborough reminds of Hanalei on Kauai. Beautiful beaches with surf possibilities, great yoga places with organic food.. a slow-down-relax-breathe kind of place.

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I went to Busselton this morning for a first ride to check out the course. First impressions. Gorgeous course across The  Tuart Forest National Park (50% of the total course), the rest of the course is exposed to prevailing South West Winds and has a remarkable absence of shade. Temperature this morning at 11:00, 31.5 degrees. Oh yeah. Despite the wind, I could keep a good pace at a very low HR. It is so much tougher to ride in the cold-wind-bashing green heart of The Netherlands. It feels that I can cut right through the wind here…. Anyways, it also felt great to see other participants. I usually feel pretty lonely mostly riding solo back in The Netherlands.

The Ironman in Busselton is definitely a big thing here. EVerybody talks about it. You hear about it on the radio, there is a special edition of the local newspaper, everybody cheers and say hi when they see you on the bike. People understand what we do and do not consider those strange bikers with tailed helmets as aliens. It is a great feeling for a change adn definitely a great place to race. I CANNOT WAIT!!!

It’s now snack time for the girls: Fresh pinapple and…Philadelphia spread over bread…there are also things that really don’t change…

No one is too old or too young to surf

We land on Kaua’i On March 3rd and drive to Hanalei, our place of residence for the coming 5 weeks. We knew we could get some rain on the “Green Isle” but we did not that we would be getting downpours 18 out of the first 19 days. Least to say that it lowered slightly the fun level. We actually became downright cranky.  The two things that gave us joy was a great yoga centre and the opportunity to get better at surfing. At first Isa and I thought we really were too old for that sport.  But when the only thing you can actually do outside without getting bothered by the rain is surfing then you start just doing that. And that’s what we did. We were wise enough to take at first lessons with an instructor. The attempts to learn by ourselves in Australia were frustrating enough not to make the same mistake twice.

Hanalei Bay is known as being one of the 10 most beautiful beach in the world. That did not strike home during the first two weeks as we could actually barely see the Bay due to low clouds and yes…you guessed it….rain. This beautiful beach is not only shaped into a perfect circle, it also provides very regular waves of all sizes. You therefore meet local stars as well as professionals next to first timers. Surfing is the life in Hanalei and we soon got the hang of it. The person that left us all in awe though was Manon. Courageous enough to go out with Chris, the Instructor and standing alone on the board after only a few attempts. A few days later, Zoe accepted to be lifted on a long board too, but stayed on her belly while riding gentle waves. After Isa and I had emptied the battery of the Nikon taking pictures of our little loved ones on the board, we also went in turn and could soon celebrate some success.

It is now the 4th week of our stay in Kauai and we now love this beach above all others around the island. When the sunshine, it is the most incredible beach we have ever seen. It will be, yet again, difficult to leave this place for a new destination.