“Flexibility runs in the family” – Ironman Barcelona part 2

According to the script my sister Evelien arrives at the start area at 7.15am to French brade (NL: invlechten) my hair. The start is at 8.10am.

At 8.00am she arrives.

Fortunately, flexibility runs in the family: we perform better under unexpected circumstances. The pro’s of being late are that I don’t have the time to get nervous about (1) the huge waves (athletes that tried to do a warm up are thrown at the beach like hopeless little seals under attack by killerwhales) and (2) the other pros. And that is a good thing: “They think you care, they’ll walk all over you” – quoting my Netflix addiction



I’ve always been of the opinion they’d better take out the swim and the run of a triathlon. This time it is different. This swim has nothing to do with suppleness or technique, it is about strength. I may be a clumpsy swimmer but I’m a strong girl. Each stroke I’m getting more confident. The sight is extremely poor: I can’t even see the coastal line or buoys. The good part of that is that the leaders in front of me are invisible as well. So I don’t feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away losing his only friend (a football) into the ocean. Only when situated at a wave top I have the chance to look around and I notice some arms and white caps behind me.

Ow I love this swim. It is epic! It takes me 64mins. That is 5 mins slower than my PB but I don’t care. I’m here to have a decent race, not to break the world record. Most importantly: I feel great and of the pro women I’m 9th out of the water.


After 50km on the bike I find myself in a pack of agegroup men. I take the obligated 12m distance with the rider in front of me, but it still feels much lighter than cycling all alone. My new Irish friend and myself seem to be the only athletes chasing others, so we do most of the front work. But the legs don’t complain. Instead, my stomach uses up all the complaint cards.

It is carrying some fish that are trying to swim their way out. I’m glad the way up, and not the way down, is the one of the least resistance; vomiting is fine, diarrhea is not. I’m wearing a white trisuit and according to the script I will be live-streamed on the Ironman race viewer – I need to consider my looks today.

I may be a (semi) pro now, but I will always be a scientist that likes to do maths. Using the back-and-forth loops I calculate the gap with the leading women. It is decreasing. On top of that it starts to rain. Epic. My weather. Dozens of athletes crash at the wet roundabouts, but then I remember a quote of my addiction again “You always have a choice” and so I take a bit more caution. After 4h52 I descent the bike as third woman.


The marathon consists of three laps.

Lap 1: A spectator screams at me:”Enjoyyyyy!!!!”

Enjoy? It reminds me of my training squad. We always say that as a joke when someone is about to be start an Ironman and suffer all day. Today it is different. I AM ENJOYING THIS MOMENT: I’m positioned third in an Ironman. At 10km Yvonne van Vlerken crosses me on her loop back. “Heeeeey Pleuni!!!”, she screams out loud: “Aaah! It is so cool that you are at third position!!!”. And she gives me a high five. Wow. That was an unforgettable moment.

Lap 2: My algorithm predicts that the girls chasing me from behind will take over shortly with their 4.00min/km running pace. And so it happens. But I’m too busy trying to ignore the fish that are trying to escape. This time through the lower exit. I’m scared like Will Smith for his skydiving experience that this marathon will result in a port-o-pottie (NL: Dixi) crawl, or that my legs will cramp if I stop. I’m puffing the stomach pain away until I feel like colapsing.

Just because I want to explain the people at home why I’ll drop a few minutes on the athlete tracker, and that they don’t need to worry about me going K.O. again, I scream to my sisters that I need to go to the toilet. They interpret my message that they need to arrange the key of the toilets of a neighbouring restaurant. 😄  At 23km I take a seat at the port-o-pottie. The experience I have there is unforgettable. I may have passed out at an Ironman, but I’ve never sat down. The legs are shaking with an amplitude of 10cm and a frequency of 20 times per second. Is this what an epileptic shock feels like? When I get up I see my face in the mirror. Another shock. I better get out here and fight for my prize money.

At 24km there is a Hooijman sister waving with the keys of the loo of a local tapas bar. Speaking of being brilliant under unexpected circumstances.

Lap 3: I calculate that the chances are small that another girl could pass me now. I take look at my watch and to my surprise I see that I might make a 3h24 marathon. That would be such a huge PR that I find a new motivation to keep on pushing. There are no further cramps or toilet breaks needed. Hooray! I complete the marathon in 3.28 (3.26 if we take out the pit stop) and finish with 9h30 and 5th position. Woopwoop!



5 thoughts on ““Flexibility runs in the family” – Ironman Barcelona part 2

  1. Written with loads of humour and honesty, I like your style! And again, many congrats on your great result!


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