On Sunday August 7th I participated in my first full distance triathlon. A back to back 3.8k swim, a 180k bike ride followed by a full 42.2k marathon. A 226k event. After finishing a half distance triathlon last year it took me a whole year to prepare for this, including maintaining fitness during the winter and the gradually ramping up training distances since January.
On Saturday I travelled to Maastricht. I had packed all my bags the night before and took the first train out in order to avoid the leisurely weekend rush hour with other cyclists. I reached Maastricht at 930, then found my hotel where I could already leave my stuff, which was very helpful. Then made my way to the registration tent to register and pick up all race essentials. I kept the rest of the day easy: lots of food and watching the halve distance runners and enjoying the good atmosphere in the city ☺️ Attended the race briefing at 1400 and checked in my bike at transition at 1500. In the evening I took a bath, applied the race numbers to my kalf and forearm and then went to bed early 😴 ready to race!
I actually slept surprisingly well and was woken by the alarm at 0500. Got into my shorts and top which i would be wearing the whole day. Put on my wetsuit up to my waist and then put a hoody on to keep warm until the start of the race. Grabbed all race essentials and then made my way to the transition zone. Checked my bike to see if it was okay. Put the drink bottles on and then made my way to the start area. Then the 60 minute wait for the start started 😅 The fast swimmers started at 0700. It took me 35 minutes to reach the water 😅
Had a lot of encouragements and tips from other fd triathlon finishers in the weeks before the event, including people from my tri club, but also from people from the Africa trip. They have been very encouraging! Best tips were to hydrate well, eat properly and focus on the moment, so that’s what i tried to do, even though I was quite terrified of the venture during the weeks leading up to the event 🙈
I was surprisingly relaxed before the start. Things were out of my hands now and I had done everything in my power to be ready for it. And if not now, then when? What else could I do to prepare even better? 😅 Right before the start I felt super daunted. A minute before I entered the water an official told me not to forget to enjoy and smile, and he pointed up at the bridge overhead, which was lined with all these spectators cheering, which put a big smile on my face ☺️
Started the swim and it went quite smooth. All the open water trainings apparently have been helpful ☺️ During earlier training sessions I had achy arms but non of that now, which was nice. Loved the bridges overhead which were full of people. Also loved the early morning sun, which showed it was going to be a day with beautiful weather. Also loved the contours of buildings lining the riverside. Made it to the halfway point relatively fresh, although I had a hard time keeping the buoys to my left 😅 apparently i have some kind of deviation towards the left when i’m swimming🙈 Even got on the wrong side of the course a couple of times 🙈 Was able to accelerate a bit after the turn around point. I counted the bridges but apparently i did’n count properly because at the end of the swim they told me I was already there and needed to get out the water, while i figured I had another bridge to go ☺️ Finished the swim in some 1:42, which is a shitty time but considering that I didn’t know how to swim freestyle a couple of years back I was quite pleased that it was sub 2:00 ☺️
I got way to excited during the swim because it went so well 😅 heart rate was up way higher than I intended, so tried to use transition to get it down and to have a pee. Then got onto the bike but still was way to excited 😅 Loved the crowds along the roads, they really got me pumped ☺️ And it was a hilly bendy course, which I loved. It required focus so there was not much time to think about time or discomfort or whatever. Just enjoyed the crowds and the bends and the technical riding. First two out of three laps went very well, but I cycled way to fast. During the third lap i started wearing down a bit, but it still went well. I stopped at the aid stations to mix my own electrolyte sportsdrink, to prevent my body having to endure a drink or a product that it didn’t yet know. What made the last lap of the course a bit tough was that most of the crowds had disappeared to start watching the runners downtown. And by then I had overtaken everybody I could overtake, so it felt a bit like I was left alone out there 😅 What helped immensely was that my parents and my brother and his girlfriend were cheering for me at the end of the bike ride, which was really nice ☺️
Transitioned quite easily again, had another pee, and then started the run. The bike ride had taken me some 6:26 so figured i had been going for some 8 hours, meaning i had another 8 hours to finish the run within the 16:30 cut off time ☺️ Knowing that I could just walk the run gave me confidence that I could finish within the cut off time, and that was my only objective for today, and knowing that I could achieve that objective made me feel really good ☺️
Legs felt good during the first km of the run, meaning my brick sessions paid off. I was very anxious about my digestive system which could easily have been my nemesis🙈, but it seemed to hold up as well☺️. After k1,5 i came to the conclusion that i was super hungry though, despite having fueled the best I could on the bike. It was the only time I panicked a bit, because how on earth am I going to run a marathon when I already feel hungry after the first km? Knowing that in the worst case I could walk the whole thing took the panic away though. Made it to the first aid station and took my time to eat some crackers and drink some coke. It felt a bit wrong to already be walking this long this early in the run, but it helped me settle my hungry stomach ☺️ After finishing the crackers and coke I started running again towards the 2nd aid station and did the same: walking and taking time to eat salty crackers and coke. And then started running again, until the next aid station 2k down the course. Crowds were even crazier along the run course. There were some big parties at some parts of the course. And it was quite warm, but there were people out with their garden hoses, spraying every contestant who wanted to be sprayed. They took fun in it, but it was a real life safer for me ☺️
Made it to the 10k marker, running from aid station to aid station, while taking my time to get food and drink in at the aid stations. Ran my first 10k in like 1:05, despite the hunger and the long stretches of walking, so i was hapilly surprised ☺️. From there I figured it would only be a 6 hour walk, meaning i could finished well within the cut of time ☺️ Then started on my 2nd lap and made it to 15k. Then i figured that at 16k I would be reaching the 200k mark of the race! And that there would only be some 25k left. No way I was going to lose this thing in those last 25k 😅
Somewhere during my third lap I met an Albanian guy who complimented me on my pace ☺️ he was 1 round behind me but we ran about the same pace, so we chatted a bit and we kept each other running. This was his 7th IronMan!!! And he encouraged me that I could finish as well. An inspiring person!
Made it to 25k, only 17 left, or a three hour walk, and still amazed that i was still able to run between aid stations. 30k, only 12k left out of 225, only a 2 hour walk, still amazed that I was still going and moving forwards, also conscious that I had never done a distance as long as this before. ☺️Longest self powered distance i had ever done before was some 210k on a bike. Between 20 and 30k my legs felt really wobbely though, but that passed after 30k. I came across my parents and brother every 5k but didn’t have much time to stop to chat, afraid that my machinery might stop working 😅 At around 32 i left the Albanian guy behind. He congratulated me and told me that i got this, still going strong! I thanked him for his company, his inspiration and his encouragement, and encouraged him to keep going as well. He has been an immense help ☺️
At 35k I was still running. Every km I ran was a km i didn’t have to run. And if i kept on running I could finish the marathon sub 5:00 😅 Got really hungry again but kept on running between aid stations and tried to get sips of coke in. Loved the parts of orange that they served 🥰 More and more people started congratulating me, telling me I was almost there! Lots of people were walking now but somehow i was still running. From there on it was just counting down. 6k out of 225. Just 5 more out of 225. I’ve done 5 before, i can do 5 now ☺️ 4. 3. 2. How was it possible I was still running at 40 frigging k 😅 At 41 reality set in that this really was going to happen and I got a bit emotional, screwing up my breathing 😅 1 more k to go. At the finish the crowd was completely insane, cheering and bonking on the boarding. I felt so grateful towards all those strangers that carried me throughout this whole event. Then hearing your name on the speaker and crossing the finish line where my parents and my brother and his girlfriend were waiting for me. They gave the medal to my brother to put it on me ☺️ And that was it ☺️ Done and dusted!
After a full year of preparations. Staying fit during winter. 4500km on the bike since january. 700km running. 90km swimming. Some 5300 training km in total, spread over 140 sessions, totaling some 260 hours. Some 15 100+k rides. Some 15 21+ k runs. After overcoming knee issues in February and March and a failed attempt at the Rotterdam Marathon in April. After a crash in June including a ride in the ambulance and a severely bruised chest and sternum. After a succesful half distance triathlon just two weeks after that. After months of self doubt about whether I would be able to finish these back to back insane distances. After 1:42 in the water, 6:26 on the bike, 4:49 running and 22 minutes in transition, i finished my first FD triathlon in 13:19 ☺️ And i’m very pleased with that result ☺️ And the best part is that I expected it to be horrible, but it actually was a lot of fun, especially due to all the enthusiastic people lining the course. Thank you for that 🙏🏻