The equivalent of 7 liters of Coke
I’m weighing and mixing my race nutrition: 5 hours ride – 400grams, 3.5hr run – 300gr. Total: 700 grams of carbs; The equivalent of 7 liters of Coke. So if you’re the BOB* and you drink along with you’re mates, and say you drink 2 cokes per hour on a festival, you drank enough sugar to finish an Ironman.
This will be my 10th race, but the pre-race feeling hasn’t changed over the years. I’m not nervous, but I just feel very uncomfortable. Maybe the excitement of closing a huge deal is another life situation where non-athletes experience this, but this is one where you have a 100% chance of getting physically exhausted.
I know it is horrible feeling. But trust me: once you decide to stop competing you crave for more adrenaline in your life. Try to enjoy it.
Ironman Copenhagen is the next goal, a race I choose because of the weather stats, relatively flat course (1100m of altitude) and short travel distance.
Upon arrival in Denmark I have the lyrics of ‘You only got one shot do not miss this chance to blow” of an Eminem song in my head. I turn on reggae music instead, in an attempt to relax. And it helps: I sleep at least 12 hours a day. Perhaps also because I’m a dead fish from all the training and work. My coach Mark reminds me: “I know it is horrible feeling. But trust me: once you decide to stop competing you crave for more adrenaline in your life. Try to enjoy it.”
My competitors (Michelle Vesterby, Anne Haug, Camilla Pedderson etc) are seriously strong so Mark’s advise is to catch the feet of some girls in the back of the pack at the swim. And so I do. But the last girl slowly drifts away and I cannot stay with her. This is going to be a nasty 3.8km. I’m repeating my slogan “Sometimes in life we’re gonna start slow. And that’s okay. But we are always finishing fast” of Appolos Hester in my head.
This is what they mean with slipstream. It just feels too easy.
Just when I processed my loss two girls slowly pass by. Huh? For a moment I wonder if they are two paralympic athletes who started behind us (that happens sometimes, f.e. a blind athlete and a guide). I don’t care whether they are disabled, agegroupers or whatever: I’m going to swim my socks off to catch their feet. Surprisingly, it feels like I’m going slower whilst swimming with them. It just feels too easy. I try to take over and set a faster pace several times, but there is no way I can accelerate and pass them. This is what they mean with slipstream. It is so relaxed. There is time to spot some jellyfish, navigate, and sometimes I even need to do some breast strokes not to hit the girl in front of me. Leaving the water I see there are 4 pro female bike bags still on the rack. So they weren’t para-athletes and I’m on 7th position. Nice! Time: 59min.
That is ‘one down’ taken a bit too literally.
The congested roads of the city have been cleared for us to pave our road to the Danish rolling hills. It is a magic moment to race full gas through an empty capital. The first 1.5 hours I ride with Angela Neath. At each climb or corner she puts me on a few seconds. I thought I was a punchy rider, but this is another level. I have to let her go before I blow up my legs or hit the asphalt; Several ambulances pass by to pick up crashed athletes. The road is slippery. One girl lays alongside the pavement in a pool of blood. I quickly look at her number and conclude she is a pro. That is ‘one down’ taken a bit too literally. I hope she is doing okay again.
I’m checking the facts: I’m riding 37.1km/h and my average power is 10 Watts above my planned targets. Cycling is my best discipline. But the gap with the leaders doesn’t get any smaller. What can I do?
The last athletes seem to be teletransported from the highlands of China
In the second loop some agegroupers help me distract from my own worries and put a smile on my face. The last athletes seem to be teletransported from the highlands of China and appear to have no clue how they ended up there. Sitting right up on their bikes, hello kitty outfits, looking around as if enjoying a ride in a city sightseeing bus. There are athletes cycling on their running shoes – aiming at the fastest transition – and at least five athletes carry a filled backpack. One guy has a rain coat and jacket on, while it is 19 degrees and sunny out here. Many of the agegroupers I pass wish me all the best. I find that very intriguing.
My race spirit gets back at me. I imagine I’m Julian Alaphilippe: I’ll never win the Tour but I will go ‘strijdend ten onder’**. I also realize if I keep riding like this I may get a PB here. Bike time: 4h51
All the blonde girls here are exact copies of my sisters
The marathon course takes us right through the center of Copenhagen. It is a true festivity. My dad is there (also a slogan from my motivational inspirator). I recognize him from miles away. His proud smile is very supportive. I miss my sisters but all the blonde girls here are exact copies of them so I just smile at them. The surrogates don’t know how much their cheering helps me. Although I allow myself to absorb energy from the audience at times I’m very focused on myself and my technique. The additional data of my Garmin on my cadence and vertical oscillation is super useful. Each 2km I get my splits (4:45/km). Exactly as planned.
Some athletes, however, seem to do other stuff than executing their plan. Or perhaps they didn’t have a plan. In the first lap I hear a peristaltic “bleeeeuhkeeeeuhk”. Someone is throwing up in a container and has a long way to go. Then someone –bib number 240 – comes running next to me , wishes me luck and gives me advice – each bloody kilometer. I wonder whether this is a voice in my head or whether it is real. And why someone would coach me. Another coach today is Gerard – who informs me of the girls chasing me. One of them is Krivankova***, known for her impressive running skills.
At some point I feel like we are truly doing this race together.
Number 240 appears to be Dutch. I’m one lap further in the race, and hence slightly more cooked, but we run at the same pace. As long as we stick to 4:45/4:55 per kilometer, I happily form a duo with him. At some point I feel like we are truly doing this race together. I pass the aid stations faster, but he doesn’t need to stop at the Special Needs, so we align perfectly. It isn’t fastest run course (in my opinion, not when you look at Anne Haug’s finish time) but the cobbles, bridges and U-turns really fly by.
At 39km also Krivankova flies by. I push for the next three kilometers but there is no way I can run any faster. As I enter the finish area I say goodbye to 240**** and wish him luck at his final 10 kilometer. I finish in 9:21, a new PB, 7th pro!
Sugar goes well with fat and salt. After 7L of sugars, I think it would be appropriate to ask for some fries.
As soon as I cross the line, the legs shut down completely. As I crawl to the douches, I pass two spectators eating french fries with mayonnaise. Sugar goes well with fat and salt they say. Well, as I just had 7 liters of sugar I think it would be appropriate to ask for a bite. They allow. It makes my day.
Inspecting the wounds and blisters under the shower the happiness that comes with the reward of achieving a (intermediate) goal kickes in: I challenged myself and I got the most out of it. It feels so good.
I got the most out of it. It feels so good.
* DDD: Determined not drinking driver. 700 grams of sugars: no wonder why athletes have the best looked-after but worst teeth, as published in a scientific article last week.
** Fight like a hero to the very last end
*** I improved 15 mins compared to last time competing with her, closing the gap to only 2 min now.
**** I feel bad for my best-friend-for-a -day that he needs to do his final lap alone. 240 (Lionel Wille) couldn’t maintain our pace, but finishes a decent sub 10 hours!
This blog is also published on PleuniHooijman.com