Sixth at Ironman Lanzarote: an ironman on empty tank

In my first race as a professional triathlete, I finished 6th after a very tough day on Lanzarote. From the day my coach and I decided to race ironman Lanzarote five weeks ago, I was looking forward to this race. Our plan was to do this race at 80% of my peak level, recover fast and work to a peak level for ironman Frankfurt on July 6. With this in mind, I didn’t expect my top shape in Lanzarote, but since my fitness level had improved a lot compared to last year, I was hoping to perform well.lanza_2014

I did everything I had to do in the week leading to race day. My typical prerace run and swim workout on Tuesday were very good. But on Wednesday, my stomach and intestines started to do strange things, I will save you the details. I also had a headache on Thursday and Friday, but I didn’t have fever. I tried to stay calm and was hoping for some miraculous recovery on Saturday morning, which ….. didn’t happen (of course).

So on Saturday morning I went to the start line with an empty tank: no glycogen in muscles or liver. But I wanted to give it a try and do my best with the shape of the day. The swim start was OK for us. We could take off 30m before the pack, and since I’m a decent swimmer, there were not too many swimmers going over me. But for the mass of AG’ers, this must have been a difficult swim: 2000 triathletes (1500 three years ago) packed on a very short start line, a first turn around a buoy after 170m, two loops of 1900m. I’ve heard several triathletes complaining about having to fight for the 3.8km. I hope that the organizers will take action to improve this next year. I had a good start and found some good legs to draft. It took me 26’ and change to do the first loop and I had a lead of more than a minute. But then I suddenly felt all the energy disappearing. I lost the turbulence of the good legs and started to move very uncomfortably in the water. I exited the water in 55’04” with two other professional women right behind me.

Once on the bike, the same thing happened. I felt rather good during the first 45km, taking a lead of 3’ after 20k, but then I ran out of energy. The gels I was taking, were not passing my stomach, making me feel nauseous after some time. On normal race days, I am a 100% concentrated on the bike and time is flying. This time I was counting every minute and kilometer. It is a pity that this happens on Lanzarote. I like the bike course, the hills, the wind, the loneliness,… I was surprised that it was only at km 175 that another pro woman passed me. I rode the second bike split (5hrs28’39”), and many say that I should be happy about such a bike time. But my coach, bike sparring partners and Iknow that this performance on the bike was not representative for my shape.

I was hoping that I would feel better on the marathon. And I did in the first loop of 18km. I could easily maintain the marathon pace of 4’50”/km that my coach advised me. But again, I ran out of energy. That was a very tough moment, another bad race in the third weekend of May. But I didn’t want to quit, not as long as I was able to put one foot before the other. After walking for a kilometer or so and drinking lots of cola, the only thing that gave me some energy, I managed to start running again, but my pace was never faster than 5’20”/km, leading to a bad marathon of 3hrs46’.

I crossed the finish line after 10hrs17’54”, disappointed with the result, but relieved that I didn’t quit. After realizing that this off day was caused by those gastrointestinal problems (which continued till Tuesday), I decided to forget about the race and to work hard for my next race. That will be Ironman Frankfurt on July 6. I will also participate in La Roche 111, which will serve as a hard workout to prepare for IM Frankfurt. I won La Roche last year, so I’m eager to do as good this year!

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