Season 2021 was about completing my first full distance triathlon. I had to change my plan multiple times. It started off with Ironman Hamburg which got postponed to September. September wasn’t an option as this would be the same time as the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. I chose the deferral option and postponed Ironman Hamburg to 2022 and had to look for a new full distance in 2021.
That wasn’t easy with still all the COVID insecurities and many races that were already sold out. It felt like I made a good plan to subscribe for Ironman Waco (Texas, USA) which would take place 23 October. I knew that there was still a chance that there would be travel restrictions. But I was optimistic about relaxation of the travel restrictions before October. While writing this blog, I now know that I was too optimistic. About 6 weeks ago I began to realize that Ironman Waco wouldn’t be an option due to the closed borders of the USA. For the third time, I had to come up with a new plan. But the options became even more limited as the end of the season was near. There was only one option left and that one was called Ironman Mallorca. Wasn’t a perfect plan as Ironman Mallorca had a lot of elevation and I am not very good at a technical bike course. As I wanted that full distance to happen as soon as possible, I went all in and decided to subscribe. Despite the change of plans multiple times, my first full distance was going to happen on the 16th of October. While discussing the plan with my friends and coach, they became enthusiastic as well. And they subscribed for the half distance which would take place at the same time. I was really happy that they would be there to support me through the marathon.
Before the start
On race day, I arrived in the transition zone about 1.5 hour before the start of the race. While putting my shoes on my bike for that fast transition, I mentioned that my left shoe was loose on the cleat and I definitely had to fix that before the start. Luckily my coach Lionel Wille (Ferrum Endurance) helped me to get me nerves down a bit and we went to the mechanicals to get it fixed.
Just in time my bike was ready for the big day. My nerves were everywhere and I had a hard time to stay calm.
8 AM was go time. Super excited, ready for it and as nervous as I could be. I wanted to swim fast, as fast as I could. This season I lost a lot of time with my open water swims in my previous races while I did put in a lot of effort to improve my swimming. I wanted to show that I definitely made progress. I went all-in with the swim which were 2 laps with an Australian exit. I loved swimming in the sea and I was enjoying it. The first lap passed by quickly. The second lap was a bit more difficult as it was very crowded with the people from the Ironman 70.3 I told myself to stay focused on my own stroke. I did and I finished the swim in 1h 2min and 55seconds, which I did not expect at all. I was aiming for that 1h and 10min and therefore I was surprised with the 1.39min/100m.
What a long transition it was! Found the bike and I was ready for the bike course!
Ready for that 180KM ride with 1,700 meters of elevation with mainly a big hill at the front of the course. As we drove the first 90KM of the bike course by car, I knew what to expect. The first part of the bike course was beautiful and not that fast as you had to climb for about 8KM with an average gradient of about 5%. Loved the climb but still have to work on my downhill skills, but that’s something for next year. The last part of the course had 2 laps of 40KM. After finishing the first lap, I was that girl who went to transition instead of doing another lap. Just by accident, I didn’t check the signs and I just followed some people I saw cycling in front of me. Stupid mistake because they went wrong as well. I had to cycle back and I went right around the roundabout instead of left, which was the direction you had to take for the second lap. This made me go over a timing mat from the wrong side, therefore I didn’t know if I missed an important point. In my head this would probably cause a disqualification and my timing chip would stop working. To check this, I went looking for a race official on my bike. However, they spoke only Spanish so I had no clue if I was still in the race. This made me lose focus and my watts were dropping. It was mentally hard not knowing if I made a stupid mistake. I tried to focus on the things I could influence and decided to focus on my nutrition. After 180KM in 5h and 23min I made it back to transition. I saw my friends and my coach standing in front of transiting yelling at me. It was finally time for that marathon. Something I had been looking forward to for a long time.
The run – which felt easy for the first 39KM
After switching my cycling shoes for my Alphafly’s, I was more than ready for that run. The first lap passed by quickly and my legs felt great. In my head I was still thinking about that possible disqualification so I asked my boyfriend if my timing chip was still working. When he said yes, I was finally able to focus on my race again. I knew I lost time cycling and I didn’t push the watts I know I could. There was nothing I could do about it and I decided to go all-in for the run. I sticked to the plan and started with a pace of 4 min and 30 secs for each KM. My friends, my coach and my boyfriend gave me motivation every lap. I was very grateful for having them since the run course was hot and with a lot of turns. It wasn’t really a fast one and the heat made it quite challenging after all. I saw some pro women running and I knew that my pace wasn’t far behind theirs. That gave me a lot of power. Also, other participants were cheering for me and multiple times people said: You made running look easy. It felt my run was going perfect and before I knew it was already time for that last lap. My coach told me that I was a few minutes behind the number 1 in my Age Group and of course I wanted to win. I decided to increase my pace a bit and gave it all I had left. At KM 39 my easy run changed quite fast in a disaster. I had to throw up just in front of a medical post. They made me lay down in an ambulance as I was dizzy and not able to walk in a straight line. I knew that I wanted to continue as it was only 2 KM left. Unfortunately they didn’t allow me as they were concerned about my health which I did understand. However I was starting to feel better and throwing up is something that happens to me quite often. It was definitely something I was scared of. I did test my nutrition and followed the plan perfectly but I think the combination of stress, heat and 10 hours of racing became too much. As I was laying down in the ambulance, a lot of feelings crossed my mind. The feeling of a ‘did not finish’ was the main thought going on in my head. I was so close and my run went amazing. I was fighting with the disappointment and anger. Luckily I saw my coach walking by and I shouted his name. He recognized me and came to help me. He was the one convincing the medical staff that I could continue. After 15 minutes laying down, I was ready for that last 2-3 KM. I felt super bad as laying down after such a long day made my legs feel even worse. Together with Lionel who kept motivating me to get to that finish, I tried to get as fast as I could to that red carpet. Must admit, it went really slow as my feelings were everywhere and my thoughts went crazy. I tried my best, pushed as hard as I could and made it to the finish line! I did not expect to cross that line when lying down in the ambulance. On the one hand, I was so glad I made it eventually after running for 3h and 27minutes. On the other hand, I felt disappointed that I was close finishing that 3:10-3:15 marathon. With a total time of 10h, 2min and 55 seconds and second in my Age Group I should be happy for my first Ironman but that wasn’t what I was feeling at all. First thing I did after the finish was going to the medical staff again for a checkup. Luckily everything was fine.
After leaving the finish zone with mixed feelings, I was really happy to hug my friends, boyfriend and coach. They took my bad feelings away for a moment and I felt thankful for having them on this journey with me. With them I was able to put everything in perspective and I started to feel a bit prouder of my result as it was only my first Ironman. My feelings just went up and down after the race. I think they still do even if the race was about a week ago. I worked hard towards the race and I wanted it so bad. Triathlon is a huge part of my daily life and I would not want to have it any other way. Especially a race that didn’t go as good as planned, makes you way stronger.
I will take this experience with me and it will definitely make me a better athlete. If everything would be easy, I would be bored anyway. I love the challenge that triathlon brings and the unexpected things that can happen along the road. Despite the mixed feelings, I did enjoy my race from start to finish and that was also the main goal my coach gave me for my first Ironman. Let's say that I did accomplish that one!
I am already excited for the 2022 season but first I will take a few weeks off all the hard stuff. Training easy whenever I feel like training and spending a bit more time with my friends and family. And afterwards, let’s see what season 2022 will bring!
Prachtig verslag Ky. Er zit nog veel meer succes aan te komen.
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