Challenge Geraardsbergen

Pre-race

This race was going to serve as a stern test before my IM in Copenhagen in 8 weeks’ time. Preparation had been good and I felt confident. Maybe a bit too confident. But if I wasn’t able to conquer a middle distance triathlon, what chance would I have for a full distance?

My mind was all over the place on raceday, I kept on missing and forgetting things and then made the cardinal sin of losing my timing chip 1h before race start (I later found it again hidden in the car fml). Luckily, I was given a spare racing chip but am still awaiting my final results as it needs to be linked to my name.

My family was there to support me again. It’s always nice to get cheered on by familiar people when you’re suffering on the course.

Swim

Perfect conditions for the swim, 21 degrees in the water and about the same in the air. I set off in the 30-35min group and felt good from the start. I passed plenty of swimmers and was hardly passed myself. I got an almighty smack from a guy who all of a sudden started heading left. A bit later I avoided a head on collision from two swimmers who were heading to the wrong buoy. Finished the swim in about 31mins, under 1:40/100m.

T1

I took my time in T1 to get ready and settle the heart rate a bit, and got out of there in just over 3mins.

Bike

I noticed from the start that my heart rate was high, over 160, due to the swim. It took nearly 10km for it to settle. Also possible due to the constant climbing. There was very little let off, it was up and down the whole course. Most of the climbs were relatively easy except for the Muur of course. 1.1km at 9.2% avg with a max of nearly 20%. All on cobbles and we had to do it twice!

The first time started horrendously as my chain came off right in the middle of the climb. Great timing. But I got over it pretty unscathed. You can feel the build up of lactic acid after a climb like that. You don’t want too much in the beginning of the race!

The second loop I felt more comfortable on the descents. The wind had settled a bit. I had to adjust quite a few times due to gusts along the track. It can be a bit scary going at 50-60kph in aero position with a side wind! I saw quite a few people with a disc wheel, that must be so tough to ride with when it’s windy, can’t imagine doing it.

Smiles at the start of the climb
Less smiles

I had plenty of people pass me during the ride. A clear sign I need to spend even more time on the bike. And the sound some of these bikes make when they pass you. Near orgasmic. That’s what a 5 or 10k bike does for you.

The second climb of the Muur was much better. I didn’t go as hard as I knew I had to start running 10mins after the climb. And my chain stayed on too. The wife was waiting near the top of the climb, took a few pictures and then ran like the madwoman she is to the other side of the chapel to take this pic:

T2

T2 was quick. Handing off the bike, grabbing my blue bag, quickly taking off the helmet & shoes and putting on my cap and running shoes. I was out of there in just over a minute.

Run

Another athlete set off on the run at the same time I did. We shared a smile, knowing that our legs were telling us: “Wtf are you doing? This feels weird”. And it always does as you come off the bike, for the first few hundred meters. But we didn’t have time to get used to it as some sadistic person, clearly a triathlete (as we’re all a bit sadistic just by doing this sport), had designed the course so that we had to run up the Vitstraat, 8% over about 150m. That was a killer climb each lap.

I ran the whole way on the first lap (7km) but decided on the second to walk at the aid stations so that I could refuel properly. It cost me 10-15s each km but I’m not going for a top 3 position, so that minute or maybe 2 that I lost on my time is well worth an easy refueling.

The course was up and down all the way, just like the bike leg. In total, the run had about 180m of elevation gain which is decent on 21km. And it kills your pace. The last 5km I ran without really stopping at the aid stations. I just picked up the sponges to cool down a bit, but had drunk and eaten enough already.

I put in a little sprint up the Vitstraat as it was the final climb on the last lap. I crossed the line, looked up for my time but of course my reserve chip hadn’t been linked to my name yet. My watch told me 5h19m30s which is a minute better than my first triathlon a year ago in Luxembourg. But that had a lot less climbing on the bike and the run course was as flat as a pancake. So I’m definitely happy with the result.

Post race

I forgot to pick up my bike and bags so I had to go back and climb the start of the wall again. That was fun.

There’s plenty of lessons from this triathlon for me. From raceday nutrition that I need to get right, to more brick training and a double and triple check that I have all my gear with me! The organisation was great and as there were “only” around 650 participants, it wasn’t too hectic or overcrowded which made for a nice day all round. I got ridiculously sunburned though, including getting my arm tattoos burned into my arms. I look like a right prick.

When I started the run, feeling the weight of the legs, I was thinking: “Right, so why did we sign up for IM Copenhagen again?”. That is just going to be one big sufferfest. I’ve got 8 weeks now to prepare for that. I think the mental battle is going to be the hardest, so I’m going to see what I can do to beat the mind (and body!) and cross the finish line..

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