At the finish line of Kona Hawaii I swore I would NEVER do an Ironman again. But apparently memories of suffering and weather conditions vague as time passes. Now that I think about it, this exercise-dementia must be quite essential for the business model of race organizers. And also for my triathlon ambitions, otherwise I would have quit in October 2014 after my triathlon initiation.
So once again I signed up for the Egmond Beach Challenge 🤦♀️. The race is a combination of 1) 38km cycling at the beach on Saturday and 2) running a half marathon on Sunday. Sounds lovely right!? I thought so too, so I signed up again.
A week before the race I got a new mountainbike (mtb) from my team, it is 3kg lighter than my old one so that perfectly compensates for my winter fat. I tested it once on a team day, which also was my first mtb ride in a year’s time. But that shouldn’t matter: because mtb’ing is cycling. And it is impossible to forget how to cycle (fyi: this is an official Dutch expression 😀). On top of that: the beach is just a straight line so how technical can it be?
The beach town Egmond is about an hour’s drive north from Amsterdam and as there are over 20.000 participants expected, cars are banned and you need to take a shuttle bus from the nearest city. Quite stressful on racedays so I arrange a little cottage close-by. We arrive on Friday evening after work.
Gerard doesn’t leave the cottage until we go home again on Sunday afternoon. There is just nothing inviting about leaving the cottage this weekend. And he is right.
This time of year this sad region has no people. Trees dont even feel like living there. It only has empty fields and clouds that block all daylight. It is 1 degree Celcius and the wind finds it way straight through my thermo underwear.
Now I remember why I like to race abroad.
Then the mental game comes into play. I feel I should be really excited about all of this. This is where I wake up for everyday at 6.15am. Where I work so hard for. But I honestly consider to stay in the cottage and join Gerard watching Gomorrah on Netflix. We have a good 12hrs of series left, so that would be a perfect time filler.
Luckily, picking up the bib numbers pulls me out of the stay-in-the-cottage-vibe. People stare at my bike, I never experienced that before, so I assume it must be a cool one. Also I notice I’m one of the few girls around, and that gives me a good vibe as well. This girl can.
On Saturday I score a free coffee at a bike shop and ask the mechaniker to do my tires. Bumping into world champ Ellen van Dijk I cant resist to ask her what her tire pressure is. She tells me she doesnt know as she outsourced it too. Come on girl are we really that dependent? I arrange a pump and add 0.2 Bar more as the beach looks hard today (fyi: softer beach needs softer tyres). Maybe thats where it went wrong, but at least I can blame myself now for it.
My coach told me to go kamikaze on the first mile in order to stick with the group. I do what I can but I terribly fail. There seem to be too many girls skilled enough to stay calm and push hard while their front wheel enters the horribly soft sandy beach. I just panic and need to slow down until I reach the harder beach around the shoreline. It is what it is and I just do what I can to keep the gap as small as possible.
After 5min they’re out of sight.
But I found a new group with which we pass many other participants. Amongst them an older man that has such a big difference in speed with us (33 vs 15kmh) that it looks like he stood there parked. I noticed him too late and tap him on the handle bar, make a flip turn and fall hard on the ground. Ouch. All I think of is covering my head as a hurdle of men on bikes fly by and I’m too scared to get a scar-face. My hip and bike are damaged, and it costs my some expensive minutes to investigate the damage. But with one bended spoke and a for 20% failing derailleur I can still bike. 👌
The course has changed and it no longer is a straight line. We have to “kluun” for a mile and that just kills me. 7km before the finish I hear a speaker announcing the first women have finished. Wow that must be a gap of at least 14 minutes, I realize. But I just assume they don’t start the combi and are only here for the cycling. Besides, I’m too busy with spitting out the sand and salty water that keeps on flying into my face and with trying to just-not-die here anyway. What am I doing here? Didn’t I experience this before here?
Gezandstraald back home in the cottage I feel even less like starting tomorrow, especially with this painful hip. But I’m on 4th position in the combi and I calculate that of the 48 hrs in Egmond I only need to spend about 3hrs outdoors.
Looking at it that way I realize I shouldn’t complain and enjoy the minutes inside in the heat.
The next morning in search for pre half-marathon espresso I bump into a teammate and many other familiar faces. That makes me sparkle. People ask me what my goal/expected finish time will be. One half of me just wants to be in the cottage, the other remembers I once finished second here and still hopes to win today and wouldn’t be satisfied with a third place
The run reminds me that racing basically means: fighting against pain and trying to enlight your thoughts and keep pushing. And on top of that: racing in Egmond means trying to find the path on the beach and through the dunes that lets your power evaporate as little as possible.
I did what I could in a not very fast and ugly run (I’ve been a injured for a while so not up to speed yet). But it did the job!
After hours of pressing the refresh button of the results page I found out I finished second in the combi. Hell yeah! I am so happy. It is such a great sport! It was a great race and will definitely start again next year. I cant stop talking in the car on our way home.
Great business model.