Last year, Ironman 70.3 Zell am See did not go as planned. I was in doubt whether I should go for revanche (check my other blog post for the details). In my mind, I had several negative thoughts back to the day. Would I be able to replace these with happiness? This would be an additional challenge for me besides completing a half distance triathlon. But as ambitious as I am, I decided to give it a shot! Would Zell 2019 be worth it? At least swimming in a beautiful lake between the mountains is always special at first.
For those who know me, when I have something on my mind, there is nothing that can stop me! After signing up for Ironman 70.3 Zell am See I started off training a lot again. Day in, day out; swim-bike-run! Waking up early 4 times a week for a 7AM morning swim and averaging a total of 10-15 training hours a week. Each session was with love! Training is a way for me to clear my head after a long workday or to wake up before my morning coffee. One thing was sure; this would become my A race of the season and I would go 100% for it. Not focusing on last year experience, but creating new memories!
That said, I went back to the same apartment as last year but I took a bit more company with me. Besides my mum and stepdad, one of my friends and my uncle and aunt joined us. Never forget how important supporters can be on race day and therefore always threat them right! Well, my supporters often have a hard time the day before race day. I can be such a pain in the ass because I am always freaking out! I guess that happened this year again! The day before race day, I caught a cold and I felt horrible. I had no clue how I would be able to finish a half triathlon the day after. I think this is just how it is supposed to be. Taper always make me feel sick and super tired. Maybe it should become one of my next season goals to feel better the day before race day? Nah, I think I should take it for granted and it is just normal to me. Luckily I did make some progression compared to last year. I was not freaking out during bike check in. After finishing 2 other half distance triathlons this year and several shorter races, I am kinda used to the packing stress. For a chaotic person as I am, this is really valuable since I sometimes even forget my work laptop when leaving to the office. But yes, my first win is already in the pocket and the race has not even started yet!
Another lesson learned while doing triathlon: Sometimes it is the little steps that count even more than the bigger ones.
After another bad night, yes it is not the night before race that counts but the night before that one, I was ready for race day! The nerves where all there, just like it is supposed to be. Leaving for transition, the sun was shining but I still was a bit scared that something again would happen to the race. After arriving at the transition zone, I checked my bike and it survived the night without a flat tire! From now one, nothing can go wrong! I started listing to some music. This is my pre race mantra. I always listen to music before a big race trying to get a few songs in my head. Whenever it gets hard during the race, I sing these lyrics in my head over and over again. This really gets me through stuff. You should give it a try in your next race!
After the shot gun was fired, it was time for me to shine! During the swim, I did not felt like shining at all. It was more of a fight, again. The lake always looks so big when empty, but when triathletes start swimming in it, it becomes extremely crowded. I was not able to find a good rhythm and was having a hard time breathing. I tried my best but I felt like swimming super slow. After 1.9K, I was glad to be back in transition. With a time of 34.16 min, I set a personal best which I did not expect after all.
After the first stressful transition (for a chaotic person like me, it is always a challenge to find my bags, bike and change clothes fast), I was ready to face the mountain! I saw my support crew waving at me. So I friendly waved back after which I put my race face on.
The first kilometers where flying by and I started quite confident on my way up! I always love climbing on the bike. I was enjoying every second of the environment and trying to stick to the power plan. Passing by several triathletes on expensive time trial bikes gave me confidence! The last 2KM with a 14% climb were challenging for someone used to the hills of the South of the Netherlands... Once I arrived on the top of the mountain, the most scariest part of the race was there for me! The way down! There were several sharp turn and a lot of triathletes (yes also those with expensive bikes) passed me by super fast. My legs and hands were shaking and I have never been so happy when I had to use my legs again to get forward! From that moment onwards, I knew that it was only 45 KM following my plan to make it back to transition. Everything went as planned and my stomach was very friendly today.
After 2 hours and 44 min (YES, another PB), it was finally time for the best part of triathlon! Running! I think most triathletes do not share this view with me, as it is also quite challenging after the bike. I was ready to rock the half marathon but once I started running, my caught became quite annoying. The first KM's went by with a pace of 4.40 min/km. I knew I would be able to run faster, but I did not want to pass out and risk beating my PB! Therefore I kept my pace around 4.40 min/KM and tried to enjoy the run as much as possible. It was a hard time with some small hills and a lot of slaloming around walking triathletes. I was trying to cheer some of them. Always helps a lot when you get on-the-course support whenever you feel down! After 1.39.49, I made it through the magic carpet and the medal was mine! FOR REAL, this time! I took for granted that I did not run a half marathon PB. I did finish with an overall PB in the end!
Total finish time: 5 hours, 6 minutes and 27 seconds.
I could not be happier with my finish time! My goal was 5 hours and 20 minutes and I therefore crossed my own expectations. Afterwards I was glad to hug my supporters which really got me through the run. It is so nice to have your dearest friends close to you to share the most special moments of your life!
In the finisher zone, I got a call from my coach, who was very proud of me. At that moment, we both thought I finished 5th! I was very happy with that ranking because I was hoping for a top 10 finish. Today everything worked out perfect. My stomach issues were under control, no flat tires, perfect weather, great crowd, awesome volunteers and last but not least a great race plan made by my coach! On top of all this, one of my friends spotted a mistake in my ranking. She figured out I was 3rd instead of 5th in my age group 25-29! At first, I was not able to believe it. It took a while. Half an hour later, I was still 3rd. Wow, my first age group podium in an Ironman race! This would have been one of my goals for next season. Now I can raise it up to an age group win, right?
From that moment onwards, I knew that a spot for the world championships in Taupo (New Zealand) became one of the possibilities. I have dreamed of this for the past year but I also knew that I was still new in triathlon compared to some of my competitors. I did not want to focus too much on it as well since I did not want to be disappointed. I even did not share this dream with my family because it would have been too much pressure.
I still had to wait several hours before the award ceremony and I was quite nervous. Maybe even more than before the start of the race. When the ceremony was there, I went together with one of my friends while my family staid at the apartment for diner. After 2 hours of crossing fingers, shit got real! I have a ticket for the World Championships Ironman 70.3 in Taupo next year! Writing this, it still puts a smile on my face!
I am so excited and can't wait to get straight into training. However, first stop: OFF SEASON! Focusing a bit on rest and recovery, which is always one of the hardest parts for me. By now I at least know that it makes me even stronger next season!
Special thanks to my support crew for sharing this experience with me. And to my coach for being there whenever necessary and for the race plan which worked out perfect. And, last but not least, mother nature for giving my race a second chance!
Thank you Zell am See for giving me good vibes only.
Follow my road to the world championchips!