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…

State of Health – 2 months before IronMan Western Australia

I set to myself a few goals before travelling to Busselton (150km South of Perth) to race IronMan Western Australia, to make sure I am on track. Those were basically 4 goals:

1. PR at Marathon Prague (May) – done, by 9 min with a time of 3:12:37

2. Improve my ranking at the Wassenaarse ZwemLoop (Aug), a 1km Swim, 10km run at the local beach – done! moving from rank 18 to rank 4 and retaining my title as Fastest Wassenaarian. The only title I will probably ever hold.

3. PR at the Olympic Triathlon distance (July) (1.5 Swim, 40k Bike, 10k run). Done! by 9min at the Olympic Triathlon in Friesland, The Netherlands with a great time for me of 2:21, and this in very strong wind conditions.

3. PR at Half-IronMan Cologne – done, by 8 min with a time of 4:51. I elaborate a bit on this one:

I travelled on Sept 2nd to Cologne for the race and slept at my cousin’s place in Bonn. She and her husband are dedicated to the sport of triathlon in general and Ironman in particular. Just to mention the level of my female cousin (42), she beated my at the half Ironman in Kraichgau (Germany) in 2011 by 32 min…. but it is great to spend some time with them. I learn a lot and they will always give me some useful tips as well as diagnose 1 or 2 things for which I have a blind spot. I had a great sleep. Never had such a good sleep before a race. It actually worried me whether I was really motivated. But Isa, my cousin, told me, sleep is the best doping there is in town. Go and race hard. So I travelled to Cologne to meet first with a friend that would race with me and together we went to pick-up our starting packs and rack our bikes next to each other in the transition zone.

The gun went off at 12:30. Quite late for a half distance (1.9km Swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run), but it was great weather and water temp was just below 21. Perfect. I took it really easy with a 17:30 pace, found “good feet” to slipstream and let myself drag during the whole course. At my last Olympic distance I took a 15:00 pace but it was too fast and came panting out of the water needing a few km on the bike to recover…. To my surprise, when arriving at my bike, I see my friend already there. He was not supposed to be that fit!!! so I hurry up and leave transition 30 sec before him.

The bike leg came with perfect weather conditions and only a 6kmh breeze. Great marshalling on the course to prevent drafting on this non-drafting course. All packs were immediately broken up. I have never seen so many yellow cards (even saw one black! -disqualified). The result list shows 40 yellow cards, meaning 40 people where warned of drafting and got a penalty of 4min! I wanted a negative split (riding the second half faster than the first), but it did not happen. I was enjoying this thing too much, riding at 36kmh on average. Still, I did not go all out and kept enough in the tank for the run. Very happy with the bike improvement over the last months. I wonder what pace I could have gone with a disc and an aero helmet…. Will I be going back to the triathlon candy store soon? Anyway..it took me exactly 2:30 to transition number 2!

I started the run with surprisingly fresh legs, no jelly feeling. I paced and felt really strong. After 2km I knew 4:45 total time was in the bag and I was pumped and thrilled, but at km 4 horrible pain in the liver area! I discovered later tthis typical pain kicking-in is due to lack of sugar. I had to reduce speed as the pain was too horrible when going under 5 min pace. It is so frustrating to have great legs but somehow the body says NO and you see your time flying away without being able to do anything. Finally, at km 10, I took some Coke and from then on the engine restarted and I knew what I had to take at every aid station. I finished strong the last 11km nearly 5min under the first half. Unwanted neg.splits….Very disappointed with the run. A 1:37 would have been easily feasible, instead I have to live with a 1:42. I saw my friend on the run course about 5km behind me. He had a great finish for his first Half-distance of 5:09. I finished in 4:51:02, 27th AG40-44 in the first 25% and 144/830 overall. Good lessons learnt for the upcoming Ironman in 2 months but need to review nutrition when at higher pace and start the run easy.

So far, so good. The big question though is, will this improvement be enough to shave nearly 40 minutes from my last Ironman to come under 11 hours of racing? This is the challenge I have given to myself.

Blog revival for a good cause

I have neglected my blog for 18 months. The last post dates July 5th 2010, reporting back on my first Ironman race in Frankfurt. I have now at least 2 good reasons to revive my blog: My recent registration to Ironman Western Australia that will take place on December 9th, 2012 and the decision the raise fund for Malaika Kids. What is it? Well, I did not know until I met the Chairman of this Non for Profit Organisation on a flight from Amsterdam to London in December 2010. He was just returning from Tanzania to see how the construction work of the new Orphan Village was going (hosting up to 320 orphans). He told me the story of the organisation, the way they operated, etc..and a week later I was sponsoring my first Malaika Kid.  

This was a start but I decided, I could do more. So, I am racing an Ironman in 12 months and I did my first Ironman in 2010 with a time of 11:38. The challenge is to race sub 11:00 this time. In the event I do not reach my objective I will double the amount of the total money raised. You can find the link to Malaika Kids as well as the Fundraising Website on the top of the side bar of my blog.

About the Ironman Western Australia: It takes place as mentioned above in December. The perfect timing if you think about it. I do not have to train during the long cold night of the winter in the Northern Hemisphere to get ready by July or August to race on or the other Ironman in Europe. NO! I can wait for spring, start training slowly, get tougher and faster with some Summer races here in Europe and as soon as the dark-long-cold-unfriendly days of the winter kick-in, I am off with the family into the sun of Busselton (near Perth) on the West Coast of Australia. I obviously was not the only one with this strategy. The IM Western Australia, scheduled filled up in record time – all it took was one hour and nine minutes for the event to reach capacity after registration opened today. A record 360 international entries were received for the event. The region’s crystal clear waters and iconic Tuart forests will play host to 1,400 athletes from across the globe as they take on an incredibly fast and scenic course.



The Course 

This race plays host to one of the most unique Ironman swim legs in the world. The 3.8km swim takes athletes on an out and back course around the famous Busselton Jetty. The Jetty stretches 1.8km out into Geographe Bay and provides a dramatic backdrop to the start of the race. The 180 km bike Leg is flat and fast and takes athletes through the incredible Tuart Forest. The three-lap course provides spectators with plenty of opportunity to cheer on their favorite athletes. The bike course record for the event is a super-fast 4:18:07 and, given the right conditions, another scorching time is possible on Sunday. Like the bike, the run leg is flat and fast. The four-lap, T-shape course takes athletes along the Geographe Bay foreshore and through the heart of the Busselton township on four occasions, allowing athletes to take in the incredible atmosphere created by thousands of spectators who gather in this area to support every finisher.

What can I say, I can’t wait!

Ironman Frankfurt: The Closing of a Long Chapter

My friends told me to race hard, to kick butts, so I did my best and enjoyed every minute. It was Ironman Day. I am over the moon.
I stayed the last 3 hours in the public at the finish line, cheering fellow competitors and I seldom felt such true simple joy, without any selfishness at greeting them with my guts and heart. I cheered every one of them, until the last. What a party. This distance is magic. I love it.

But back now to 07:00 on July 4th 2010 in Frankfurt.

It was a big surprise for all of us at the pre-race meeting. No wetsuit because of a high water temperature was one thing. But also, as of July 1st this year NO tri-race suit with any neoprene or plastic of any sort. And you know what: it WAS GREAT!!! The good old way, most of us, like in the early 90’s just with a Speedo. Apart from the fact that I had a great swim, taking all corners rather wide from the buoys to avoid contact with the other 2351 athletes, the most interesting thing about this swim was to realise exactly how much the difference a wetsuit makes. I exited the water after 1:14 in 827th position. With the same time last year with neoprene I would be 1550!!! Now, last year the 827th position swam in 1:06:35. (I had planned 1:07). So it is confirmed. I swim close to 2min faster with a wetsuit per km! For all who asked my how big the difference is, this is it. It is huge in my view.

And now to the bike after a rather lengthy transition. The weather conditions were perfect for the bike course. Heavy clouds, low 20C, light North-West wind blowing 10-15k. The course itself is a relatively hilly one with 1000 meters of elevation over 4 hills: the Beast, the Hell, the Hünerberg and the real bad one; the Heartbreak Hill). Two loops (8 hills 🙂 and exceptionally, an additional 5K because of road works, hence 185 instead of 180. I had very good legs. I paced myself and stayed for the entire bike course at 144 avg bpm, NEVER going in the red. 31km avg over 185km is an excellent result for me BUT it was only the 1250th time. I lost basically 400 positions during the ride. OK, I derailed twice, went to the loo, had to unclip my front wheel due to a stone that was stuck between the wheel and the fork. But apart from that cycling remains my weak discipline and I need stronger legs. Morale was great all the way apart from KM120 to KM140, but I pushed through that too. I had excellent support from my former osteopath, who flew especially from Vienna and motivated me the whole time.

I had a good transition, the helpers were fantastic and when the one that was taking care of me asked me, whether she should hand-over the Garmin watch to me, I said: “ditch it in the transition bag”. I had paced myself during the swim and the bike, now it was time to run and listen to my body and to feel how much it could take for the marathon. So there goes the heart rate, the pace, etc…I had never done that before and yet it felt just right to do that. The first 10K went very well. Slow and easy. I was still kind of checking how my legs would take the rest of the distance. Just as I wanted to accelerate, I realise with shock that I have lost my chip/transponder. Will I get a total time? will I get a DNF? what’s next? So I run (fast) to the closest penalty box. The ref tells me to stay cool. I just need to check-in at every loop, in the meantime they will inform the data centre, get me a new chip and will scan the bar code at the finish line behind my bib number (so…this is what it’s for, this little piece of paper attached to the bib number..). I “lose” about 10 minutes in the process…but you know what. Great break and plenty of time to rehydrate (very well organised those penalty boxes). By the 2nd round the sun is back. And it is pounding. 29 degrees (86F) and the trend is up. With all these emotions I am out of my rhythm and I try to concentrate. Just then, I see Andreas, my support taking pictures, and this of course, vain as I am, puts me right back on my feet :-). Now I have a good rhythm, I guess around 5:30 per km. I do not stop at the aid stations, just take every time water and ice to pour over my head and soak my entire body. The last round is the hottest one. the last 5K are hard, but I don’t stop, I have lost enough time in the penalty boxes and posing for pictures. No it is all about thinking of the red carpet, the people, the music, the finish line. I start thanking in my head all people who have helped me in the last 12 months, especially Isabel. I think of our daughters. I also see myself in the hospital and realise where I am now. Behind my cool Rudy Project glasses a few tears come out. But now it is time to go over the red carpet. The noise from the crowd is deafening, I start shouting myself, raised arms, I am overwhelmed by emotions, I jump around, slow down, enjoy the finish line. It feels I stayed for ever in the arrival arena. I cross it with the time of 11 hours and 38 min. Better than I thought I would do. I covered the marathon in 4:13. Not great but good enough to make up for most of the 400 positions lost during the bike. End result 913th out of 2351. I could not ask for more. The Catcher at the arrival said that I looked fresh, I told him that I just looked happy, (and to myself: happy to have never given up in the last 13 months following the crash). The IM Frankfurt is a day to remember as the closure of a long chapter. But it is also a day to remember because the organisers, the helpers, my friend as support where just unbelievable. I could start again tomorrow. Realistically though I think, I will only do another IM in 2012. I think Madison, Wisconsin.

Vacation on Lanzarote Island

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We leave cold and rainy Vienna on March 27th and arrive in Arrecife (Lanzarote) some 9 hours later. Zoe (2) and Manon (4) have behaved like never before and the expected stress in the plane did not happen. We go first to AVIS to pick our VW-Caravelle bus. It did cost a bit more, but it was all worth it! Kids were happy and I was happy to put all luggage including the bike case inside. We make our short trip to the rented house. The first impression is great. Sixty year old stylish “Finca” with a nice terrace and pool. Rooms are charming and kitchen is functional.

The only problem so far: the weather. Cold and windy and 2 hours after our arrival, torrential rain. Hm, not exactly our idea of a vacation on the island.

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The next day is better. I ride my bike for the first time and discover the amazing landscape of Lanzarote. Very volcanic, very black, lava everywhere. On my first trip I discover the vineyards of Lanzarote and the bodegas (wine bars). The way they grow it is by digging a whole in a funnel shape in order to collect the dew and to protect the plant from the constant wind. On top of the funnel a small crescent wall is erected to further protect the plant against the wind. After the ride, I immediately propose to Isa to go have lunch with the kids at one of these Bodegas. And it was great. …lanzarote-204

Days 3: we discover the white sand beaches in the South of Lanzarote. The beach of Papageyo is beautiful and pretty well protected from the wind. Kids rediscover the joys of the beach and Isa and I relax….for about an hour before feeling that something is wrong with my stomach. We go home and the marathon between bed and bathroom begins. I leave day 4  without comment apart from the fact that it is Zoe’s birthday and Isabel is doing her best to organise a small celebration for her

Day5: I can stand up again and we decide to go for a short trip across Timanfaya (the volcan National Park). We all love it, adults because of the lunar landscapes, kids because of the dromedary ride we do in the Park.  We continue to meet the first edifice of the famous local architect, Cesar Manrique: El Jardin de Cactus. We did not know really what to expect, but what we saw was breathtaking. In a caldera shape of about 200m of circumference, a real cactus sanctuary with thousands of different cactus type spread elegantly on multiple levels and around elegantly shaped ponds. We decideto have lunch there before heading back home, with the firm idea to see more of Cesar Manrique’s creation on the Island

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Days 6: We do a day trip with the bus and discover the place where we will be staying the following week: the Club La Santa . I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting in the inside of my body.

Day7: Back to the beach of Papagayo. A very warm and sunny day. We stay a couple of hours, just time enough to dig a big pool on the beach for the greatest joy of Manon and Zoe. We head back for lunch. I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting inside my body.

Day8: We move to La Santa, They claim to be the N01 sport & active holiday resort in the world. I don’t know whether it is true but the place is just freaking amazing. Next to the accommodation centre, there is a 1.5km lagoon for swimming and windsurfing, a beautiful 50m outdoor Olympic pool with 8 lanes,a sport centre for squash, badminton, volleyball, basketball, etc.. huge areas reserved for aerobics, taichi, etc.. an athletic stadium next to about 10 tennis courts and beach volley courts as well as a boxing ring. You can simply do everything. It is also the mecca for triathletes. The club is the organiser of the Lanzarote Ironman, supposedly the toughest IM in the world.pool_stor_4cycling_low_big

Day 9-14: Basically Isa and I just split our times to play with the children while the other indulge in some sport activity. What I really liked was the organized bike tours. I am used to train alone and this was great for a change, especially the possibility of drafting on such a windy island.

As said above, we still find time to visit the other Manrique’s main landmarks on the Island, which include his house and designed natural cave system in the north of the Island, both again, breathtaking.

The weather in the second week has much improved and the time for all of us goes suddenly much too fast. Before we know it, we find ourselves packing and making it back to the airport we have to give back to super minibus.

We come back to Vienna in time for Easter. Spring is waiting for us 20-25 degrees and sunny. We spend the hole time gardening and organising BBQ parties with our friends.