This picture says it all: relief and happiness, but also pain and disbelief. I knew that on a good day, I could win this race, but would I be good enough after three weeks of almost no training? Apparently yes, but winning this race was far from easy.I’m used to do a swim-bike-run (my favorite format) or a run-bike-run (as a hard workout), but I had never done a bike-run before. The swim got cancelled because of the water temperature (9 degrees). This was a disadvantage for me, but a bike run also sounds like fun, especially in La Roche, where the bike course of 100km has 1850m elevation gain and the run course of 10km is off road with two steep hills. The top women started in the second wave, which was good for the competition. However, the race feeling was very different, because in triathlons I usually have many men around me after the swim. With the bike-run format, there were no pacemakers around me, so I had to do my own race and be my own pacemaker. The plan was to follow the other girls in the first climb and then try to escape in the rolling hills after the first climb. I had to escape, because if I wanted to win this race, I would need a lead of at least 3 minutes in T2, because the three other top women are stronger runners than I am. In the duathlon of Horst in April, Tineke van den Berg and May Kerstens (3rd powerman Zofingen 2012) were 2 and 4 minutes ahead of me, while I had the fastest cycling time. And I know what Debbie Verstraeten can do on her running shoes. For 300m, I followed my plan, then I almost bumped into the wheels of Tineke and May. This was not a safe situation. With the race belt around my belly, it was very difficult to follow my plan, so I decided to switch to plan B: cycle hard, survive the run!!
I felt good till the top of the 7th climb. At that moment, my lead had already increased till 7 minutes. But no time to waste, I still had to do the col de Haussire for the fourth time! And that was hard. My legs were hurting, I had no power left, I missed a chain ring to keep my cadence, and it took me much longer to climb the col than the previous three times. But I made it. In the descent to La Roche, I finished my BORN isotonic drink and I took another gel, leaving two in my tube box, while it should have been one… There was no time to wonder when I forgot to take that gel, because I had already arrived in T2.
My typical slow transition was very slow this time: my feet still in the shoes at the dismount line; placing my bike with the front wheel in the standard, thinking that that would not be good for my front wheel, turning the bike, and hence ending at the ‘no-running-shoes’ side of my bike; putting on my visor before getting out off my endurance Junkie cycling shirt, trying to put on a running shoe with a gel inside… Maybe I didn’t feel like running? Well, I did!! But my quads and hamstrings were protesting badly. OK, I had a big lead, but the race was not over yet, anything could still happen. I had done the run course a few days earlier and I knew what to expect. I was hoping that the cramps in my legs would disappear. Amazingly, they did! I could maintain a good run level for the first 4,5k, then I started to struggle. The energy gel that I always take with me on the run kept me going for some time, and fortunately, there was cola in the aid stations! I had to walk on the first steep hill, but my legs were feeling OK again when running downhill. When I saw that Tineke had just left the aid station, I knew that my lead was big enough and decided to slow down to a comfortable pace. In the last kilometer I enjoyed every step: walking on the second steep hill, running downhill in the forest, running a last tour around the football terrain. Slowing down a little more to enjoy the last meters and to grab the finish banner: happy, proud, in pain.
Two weeks after my DNF in IM Texas, I am satisfied with this victory and my performance after a disturbed preparation and very little training in the last three weeks. However, this result doesn’t diminish the disappointment for my DNF in Texas. On the contrary. I wanted to be good on ironman race day, it are those days that really count for me, but I also know that the disappointment for Texas will make the hunger to train for Ironman Hawaii only larger! Unfortunately, I will have to wait for four more weeks, because in June my focus has to be on my exams… Wish me good luck!
For pictures click here (thanks to EloDIA photographia, Ellen Rombouts and Ludo-grafica)
The official sport-events La Roche 111 movie : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URxmJFcZ43s