How the Ferrari and the caravan dare to win

It’s like pulling a caravan behind a Ferrari. Two bottle cages at the seatpost of an aero time trial bike.

I give it a try anyway. “Nein. Das geht nicht. Nicht aero und zu schwer.” The Canyon mechanic of Frodeno and Lange* is unpursuadable. He continues: “Ploiny, es gibt es 10 Tränke Stations am Rad Strecke!” I stare at my nutrition / hydration calculation sheet again. With a sweat rate of 2L/hr** there is no other way out: I have to pull that caravan.

I’m preparing for my 7th full distance triathlon, Ironman Maastricht. The Netherlands has been in a 2 months heat wave and I’m taking precautions.


My coach Chris Brands assists me with my heat wave battle plan. He tells me about the Danish triathlete Torbjørn Sindballe (1.90m 80kg***) who turned 3rd at Ironman Hawaii wearing long sleeves, that he watered every ten minutes. I cannot believe it and so I google “Sindballe, Kona”. Indeed, it looks as if he was racing in his pyjamas but he succeeded. I try it out with a pair of bike sleeves that last time I used them saved me from freezing to death at the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Now at 36C they help me complete a 2h30 run, to the surprise of the staring bikini’s and naked chests in the Vondelpark eating ice cream.


Sitting in my pyjamas in a Ferrari, pulling a caravan: I don’t care what people may say. I’ve put my career on a lower level, I barely see my friends, I biked 7840km, I ran 1600km and I swam 330km this year: I am not going to dehydrate and loose this race because of aerodynamics and looks. If I want to look pretty, I should have become a model, not an athlete. I’m ready for the heat.

So far the physical part of my prep to compete as a pro triathlete. “But the mental part is just as important”, I’ve been told. Sure, for weak people that part may be difficult, but not for me, I thought for years. It took me 6 months to realize my coach wasn’t talking nonsense when he told me that mentally I too could improve a lot. Why would I need to change mentally if I don’t suffer from depression, I never had a DNF, never cried before a race, I don’t have fear for failure, and I’m always happy when competing?

One mental point of improvement I realized my coach was right about came to light when I started training with him and a top runner and swimmer in my squad. Each and every session they were hundred percent focused, as opposed to me, spotting birds in the sky, making jokes and chatting about the news. I guess it makes a huge difference if you didn’t do sports on a competitive level as a child, start triathlon at the age of 26 and tend to be an extremely outgoing/externally oriented person. But that is not limiting you to learn it. So for the past months I started imitating them, tried to focus a bit more and more, and by now it almost has become part of me and the next years I hope to be excellent in it.

Another aspect he was right about came to light when I had my first ever mental milkshake experience during a full Ironman I did earlier this year in Italy. A good friend from the UK heard what happened (and already saw this coming) and sent me a book that was delivered right on time before my next race. It was about an athlete that stopped dreaming and believing in himself, but then meets someone who gives a new twist to his life, that changes his mindset and teaches him to only accept thoughts that nourish his inner power and how to take steps to continue chasing his goals. It almost felt a bit as if that friend was here the past weeks and that I went through a mental metamorphosis while reading the book: I slept like a baby, I trained like a pro and I was willing to win, daring to lose. I explored the course 4 times and have never been as prepared as this time.

So, I was ready to test the maximum speed of the Ferrari. Pulling the caravan. Wearing pyjamas. With an iron will to succeed. Regardless of the temperature.

How the race went in the end? You can read that here: in this interview.


*The number 1 and 2 at the Ironman World Championship

** I tested how much sweat I lost during my trainings the past weeks, which was 2L/hr.

*** If you are taller and heavier you tend to have more difficulties racing in hot conditions. Most triathletes are very small and light (say 1.60 and 53kg instead of 1.85 and 73kg like me) so Sindballe was exceptional as well.

2 thoughts on “How the Ferrari and the caravan dare to win

  1. Je weet nu hoeveel vocht je verliest bij een bepaalde inspanning bij een bepaalde temperatuur. Maar kan je lijf, door net zoveel te drinken als je verliest, deze hoeveelheid ook opnemen / verwerken?


    1. Dat vroeg ik me ook af en heb overlegd met Asker Jeukendrop. We gaan dat verder onderzoeken en binnenkort testen. Maar in elk geval heb ik een inschattingsfout gemaakt door te denken dat ik niet meer dan 1.2L ofzo per uur kan drinken op de marathon. Als je gedehydrateerd bent kan je idd niet veel opnemen, als je nog niet zo ver heen bent kan je wel genoeg/meer opnemen. Nu zat ik wlijk echt te laag met mijn inname.


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