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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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.

1 day before IronMan Western Australia: Daddy is Proud

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The nerves are kicking in… The 1000 questions and scenario how things could go wrong hit home….but actually, it is too late too worry now. The bike is racked in transition zone, the transition bags are hung in the transition areas, the training is done, it is actually all about not worrying and relax AND enjoy. Well…that is easier said the done, but there are 2 things that helped me taking my thoughts of the race: The talking with fellow athletes and Pros as well as my daughter participating in The IronKids Race.

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1. I met some very inspiring people: a 60-65 lady age grouper, who answered me after asking her what was her goal for this race. She said ¨this year is all about not getting a glow stick before the finishing line¨. A glow stick is something you receive after darkness as settled over the running course in order for the helpers to identify the athletes still in the race. I hope I will also be fighting the glow stick receival at 60!
I also met Luke McKenzie and his wife. Luke is a 5 time Ironman Champ, 6 time Hawaii finisher (ranked 9th in 2011) and is currently 37th on the 2012 IronMan Pro Ranking Male (http://www.lukemckenzie.com). We chatted for about 10 min. Totally relaxed accessible pro (like many others). He took time to give me some advise on the course, his wife was playing with our kids, etc.. There is just no other sport where pro, all age groupers, male, female, disabled, etc…are all racing together at the same time and share the experience in such a way. The 3rd person is Paul Perrett. He lost his father at the age of 13 from skin cancer, took on weight up to 130kg, became a chain-smoker and workoholic on the border of exhaustion. Then he realised ,that he would not re-produce the same story and have 3 fatherless kids. So, he got out of his couch (and office chair) and started training for Ironman. What made it more difficult is that he was born with clubbed feet. Multiple operations left him with a big challenge to run, but he still did took on the challenge and finished his first Ironman a year ago. We checked in together and I will drive tomorrow morning with him at the start (planned at 5:45…aaaarrrghh!). What willpower (not the early wake up part…)! Simply Inspiring.

2.  We supported our older daughter to start her first triathlon.

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At the beginning, she was not sure whether it was a good idea but she gradually became more and more excited as the day came. IronKids age limit is 7, so she was one of the youngest in the race and she did awesome as you can see in the pictures. The swim was the toughest piece for her. Surrounded by Aussie kids, most of them butterflying their way out of the womb, it was difficult to compete,. Once one the bike though (after a very comfy break in transition chatting with her wonderful helper), she was flying, overtaking a few and giving it all.

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The run, like dad, was her best discipline. A dash from start to finish under the real arch of the Ironman finish chute. She finished as her starting number indicated: As number 1 in Mom’s and Dad’s heart. We are so proud of our daughter.

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She cannot wait to go back to school after the break and show here finisher T-shirt and her medal to all her 1st grader friends (a special greeting to Ann and her class here!).

So tomorrow is the big day… I don’t think I will be able to blog much afterwards…

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…

7 Things We Did in The National Parks of Utah

I have not updated this blog last month. Life in an RV is quite… intensive especially when it is cold and rainy outside. In the meantime we have arrived in Vancouver and got rid of the big rig…due to acute RV-fever. We now live in a comfy house by Kitsilano Beach and I have some time again to update that site.

South Utah is a world of its own with a very high density of National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments etc… We decided to avoid basically National Parks with Big Canyons as activities with children are rather limited there. We did not see ourselves in a place where we would have to shout : “get down from that fence or don’t slide down the canyon”. So we decided to have look at The Big Sand Dunes (big sandbox for children…ok…it is in Colorado), Monument Valley (Marlboro Country and Horses), Glen Canyon/Lake Powell Recreational Area & Capitol Reef (Mormons Promised Land and Orchards in the middle of desert). We also went to some small Parks like Goosenecks State Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument. And yes..all these are in South of Utah just about 300 miles apart.

They all have in common the color red and we realised that we never had enough of it. These monuments of baked sand are just…well…earth shattering. When you are in South Utah, you just wonder why-oh-why people go to see that one big red stone in the middle of nowhere in Australia. In South Utah you have one Ayers Rock basically every twenty miles.

So here is a sample of what we did in the out-of-this-world area.

1. Playing Desert Survival in the Great Sand Dunes of Colorado

2.  Horse Riding in Monument Valley

3. Getting dizzy on the rim of Goose Necks State Monument

4. Maneuvering the RV on Not-For-RV-Roads

5. Hiking & Riding  in the Natural Bridges National Monument

6. BBQ on the shores of Lake Powell (Glen Canyon) and cruising with the RV on water.

7. Feeling like Mosis arriving to the Promised Land in Capital Reef