Offseason came to an end and it was time for the first race of the season. Time flies when having fun. Had a lot of fun during offseason with training and some running races, also with success. Got a new half marathon personal best in 1 hour, 20 min and 59 seconds. Also made progress on the bike and I was excited to show it on race day. Ironman 70.3 Marbella was on my list as the first race of the season. As the weather in the Netherlands wasn't as good as we all hoped for during spring, it was a night trip out to the Spanish sun. Besides the sun, the climbing on the bike and the swim in the sea were 2 things I really liked about this race. And the race was a perfect preparation for Ironman Hamburg, my first full distance of the season on the 4th June.
After arrival in Spain on Friday, I did a short swim to test the water and a ride to loosen the legs. I was already feeling the nerves but also the excitement. The first race of the season is always special. I know that I have been in this situation multiple times and I know how to do it, but the first race of the season always brings some additional insecurities. In addition, after putting in some hard work during the winter, you are very hungry to perform well and get rewarded for all that work. The days before I was trying to stay calm and focus on the things I could control. We drove the cycling course by car and checked out the transition zone. My coach (Lionel Wille, Ferrum Endurance), made a nutrition plan for race day and I tested the gels and bars a lot during the winter with my new nutrition partner (226ers). Despite the tests, I was still a bit nervous if it would all work out on race day. My stomach is always very sensitive but I knew I had to trust the plan. After the check in on Saturday, I went to bed early to hopefully catch some sleep before race day.
A rough sea swim is what I like best. There were quite some waves on rest day and after being on Kona, I know how to deal with that. I was planning on getting into the sub30 start wave but unfortunately it was already full when I got there. Lesson learned for next time; instead of looking at the sea, make your way earlier to the starting zone. As a consequence, I had to start a bit more in the back which gave me a hard time passing people during the swim. Overall I was satisfied with my swim. When I had more space to swim, I felt that I had some speed and I kept overtaking people. Would be nice to have that feeling from the start next time.
Another lesson learned, don't forget your glasses on a sunny day in transition. Especially during the descents I had a hard time not to cry, with the wind blowing in my eyes! I really enjoyed the course. I love climbing and normally don't like the descents. I was also a bit scared for the descents. In the end, I ended up overtaking in the descents. It was way easier on a road without traffic. Feeling the speed made me happy and I was trying to reach the highest maximum speed I could, which was about 73km/h. I was really happy with it. The time on the bike went by fast and I sticked to the nutrition plan. My stomach didn't feel that bad and I took more carbs than I did last year which was definitely a big positive take away from this race.
My favourite part of any Ironman! I was looking forward to run along the boulevard and I decided to run without socks. Why? Because I don't like socks and it saves time. Bad choice as the run was on a sandy boulevard and my feet started to hurt pretty fast after 3 KM. After about 5 KM, my blisters started bleeding and I had a hard time to keep running. I knew that I was in the front of the age group races and I was just a few minutes behind number 1. This gave me power to keep going and to keep my thoughts from my feet. Every lap I was getting closer to the first place and for the final lap I knew I could hold the pace. I had to make up 2.5 minutes on the last lap to have the overall age group win. Despite the pain in my feet, I felt so happy to be out there racing. I enjoyed every minute and I was hungry to get the overall Age Group in.
The Finish line feeling
The finish line of an Ironman or an Ironman 70.3 is always special. This time it was a beach finish line. The finish line was empty and I was able to enjoy every minute of it. After finishing, I realized that I not only won my own Age Group, but I was also the fastest overall female age grouper. This was definitely the best way to start the season and I am very much looking forward to the rest of the year. Next up: Ironman Hamburg. Main goal? Qualifying for Kona.