Coach’s Remark’s: Stephanie is Oman Ben’s wife, she raced Antwerp off only 3 prior triathlons. Anyway, Steph is racing Phuket and Roth with us and is now officially part of the team, making the Oman Awesome Foursome getting strong with Ahmed, Lisa, Ben and Stephanie now all racing Phuket and Roth along with Crowies camp. I like the emotion here regarding grabbing that finishes medal. Anyway, enjoy this one, especially the aspiring newbies looking at 70.3 racing and one day the reality of doing an Ironman.
The Race Report: As I didn’t go into this with the idea or goal of racing it, I think it would be good to give you an update on my experience in Antwerp as I’m sure it will contribute to a greater or lesser extent to my training programmes to come!
I know we decided that I would do only the swim and bike, but as I’m an extremely nervous flyer (i’ve upgraded from needing very strong medication to “not so strong” medication!!:-)) I wasn’t going to go through the hell of the flight all the way there and back without getting a finisher’s medal! In all honesty my plan was to do a comfortable swim and gain the experience of mass start/sighting etc, do the bike as best I could without inflaming my ITB too much and then walking the 21km (with hopefully being able to jog 2km here and there). My experience:
We had set our alarm for 6:30 but both me and Ben were already awake at around 5:30am. After breakfast, we headed out to the RYCB hall across the river in order to drop our running gear black bags and got there just before 8am. Dropped the bags, took off my nice warm tracksuit and deposited that as well.Then we headed to the start area to hand in our bikes. Usually I love being early, but not today! We were of course about 20minutes early before we could hand in our bikes, and I ended up sitting on the cold,wet pavement while Ben sorted out his front flat with the bike shop! If they had cameras on us at this point, I would have made “Antwerp’s funniest” as I had fished everything out of my blue bag in order to keep warm… arm warmers on, 3 tops, leg warmers, sat on my wetsuit so the cold didn’t get in from the pavement and had the smallest towel on earth over my legs (which i’d nicked from the hotel)! If i’d taken the aero helmet instead of my normal road one, I would have put that on as well to cover my ears from the cold!! Eventually 8:30am rolled round and we checked our bikes. I got into my wetsuit almost immediately which really helped.
I was in the second Wave and also had the furthest to run out the water in order to get to my bike. I heard afterwards from Tony (aka Batman) that apparently the guy with the loudspeaker was giving a quick race briefing to each Wave before they set off, but never heard this as the microphone was so soft against the wind!All I heard was: “you can get into the water now”. After jumping in (didn’t test it the previous day), my body reacted immediately (sounding like I was hyperventilating for a few seconds), but settled in quickly after. I positioned myself quite near the back and to the outside with the idea of staying out of the worst of the fights…but after the gun went off I don’t think there was a spot where anybody was out of the fighting and kicking!! Most frustrating were the swimmers going diagonally and cutting in front of me very aggressively, only to have me on their feet in a few seconds (i don’t mind moving for someone who’s obviously a stronger swimmer than I am, but this was ridiculous as it really increased my swim time unnecessarily!). For some reason I also had a lot of trouble sighting and ended up swimming about 150m extra! My Garmin was a bit screwy so when i got out of the swim it said 56min….56min!!! I thought – what the hell?!! This is a nice way to start my day..but anyway off to the bike! (I ran most of the way looking like I was in a stray jacket as the wetsuite pulled down to my hands but with the cold I had some functional problems.. heehee!) After getting dressed and taking my bike off the rack I realised I’d only put on one calf compression sleeve…what – an – idiot!! 🙂
Bike (from hell) – 3:33:
Now to start with I have to be clear that the bike is my least favourite of the three disciplines, mostly because I’m really weak at it (and I had a seat that felt like something from the Saw series for around 8 months..thinking I would get used to it…. seat time and all that!!). Take this “love” for cycling and combine in with the wind on the day and you’ve got a horror story!! (by the way I’m most looking forward to getting strong on the bike with my training now and eventually getting to love it!). I stopped quickly about 10km out to blow my nose (my nose did not take kindly to this weather!)…for a brief second I thought I’d just stay off the bike and just cheer the team for the remainder of the day! Got back on though…I want that medal. The only thing interesting about the route were the potholes..and given that I was moving at a snail’s pace, I was staying nicely to the right of the road (in accordance with the race instructions)!… the right of the road was where all the potholes were so I was swerving left and right every now and again (when the wind wasn’t swaying me left and right with horrible gusts!). My neck and shoulders were in spasm about 45km in from gripping so tightly and to cope with the agony of this along with my ITB I started compartamentalising..each 5km was a victory. Eventually finished the 3 loops and headed back to T2 with no signs and very few marshalls that were actually awake and directing you! Last 10km was against the wind and on cobble, and this is when I started crying (partly from the pain, partly frustration and partly relief from knowing the end was coming…however slow!!).
Took my sweet time in T2 as I tried to stretch my aching neck muscles first and then to undo the intricate knot tied in my black bag!! Headed out walking… The finish (that you pass twice before completing) was in the town centre and my first time through they were conducting the medal ceremony and I heard that Natascha Baadman was third… I was really looking forward to seeing her at some point in the race – oh well.. About every second or third competitor passing me was saying “don’t give up” and “keep going” in about 7 different languages. In the beginning I was responding positively saying I’m not giving up and “don’t worry – I’ll get there eventually”, but as it wore on the most I could manage was a smile (as I so badly wanted to run and tried it about 20 different times.. but no go – felt like i was being hit with a hammer every step). Ben stopped next to me during the first loop and asked me how I felt…. oops…waterworks came in again briefly but I managed to say “get out of here babe – you’re gonna kick this one’s ass!!” Almost lost my cool in the second loop with a drunk dude shouting “walking is cheating”,… then managed to laugh at myself for getting upset!! Ben joined me for my last loop after he finished his race.. I was so proud of him! At this point I just wanted to finish so I kept trying a wonky jog until I found a way which allowed my to keep moving forward at little more than a walk.Each step i kept thinking that an ITB CANNOT be this painful…it had to be something else! Hallelujah… the finish. Most people crossing the finish line keep going and have to be reminded to collect their medal – but i ran straight to Bart Aernoots (winner pro’s) and held out my hand for mine!!.. It may as well have been gold!
The thing I love most about the triathlon races I’ve done (all 4) is that I’m always surprised at what I’m capable of – mentally this was the hardest thing I’ve done. Physically I could have given the run a real tanking (willing but unable) and I look forward to Phuket where hopefully I’ll be ABLE!!
All and all – the most challenging and rewarding day of my life so far!
I look forward to starting my training with you!