Race morning, 3:30am – Standing in front of the mirror with my waterproof mascara in one hand, and my phone in the other. I open a weather app. It says: “27 millimeters of rain”. Did they forget the dot between the 2 and the 7? It must be a typo. So I open another app. Again: twenty seven milimeters of rain. Nine degrees Celsius, 7 Bft wind. I look out of the window. Grey clouds gather above Y’al (see previous blog what Y’al means). Through the heavy rainfall the lighthouse is barely visible from where I stand, which is at approximately 100m distance. Without using it I put the mascara back in the drawer. It is pretty waterproof stuff but it has a limit. I’d rather be an albino than a panda.
06:30 am – During my warm up run at the beach I bump into a woman from my training squad in London. She flew over to volunteer at the swim, which is cancelled at the very last minute. “It’s such a pity. The water is absolutely lovely. It is 14 degrees!”, she comments without seeming to make a joke*. Then I remember this woman went swimming every day in the Hampstead Heath pond in London without wetsuit. That is 8 degrees Celsius in winter. She has Irish spirit. I turn my head and stare at the ocean where a couple of other lifeguards are smashed from their surfboards. Damn. We had such waves in previous races, where I performed really well. Also, I’m a bit grumpy I cannot show my swim progression now. But grumpiness doesn’t bring medals. I need to have a positive Irish spirit.
7:30 am Mascara or not, to swim or not to swim, grumpy or not, there is another key choice to be made: poor aerodynamics vs hypothermia. After many rides in the British and Dutch weather I got a degree in rainy conditions. So prior to the start I squeeze myself into my Bioracer gloves, toe covers, sleeves and even a body warmer. Hey! That is a positive thing about cancelling the swim. No first transition so I’ve got plenty of time to dress up.
But what do I do with the rain coat my boyfriend handed me? It is two sizes too big and is kind of a parachute. But then I recall: You will never warm up once you get cold so I put the parachute on. When I’m ready to jump I look around the start area and notice the fear in the eyes of other athletes. Damps of cold sweat rise and mix with the other clouds in the sky.
As I join the queue for start it turns out other pros are only wearing extra sleeves. What am I doing here in my Ronde van Vlaanderen-proof outfit? Whatever. I made up my mind and cannot bin the brand new 300 euro jacket now, so I stick to the plan.
I start third, one minute behind Linsey Corbyn. At the first kilometers there is a tunnel of cheering people along the course. Immediately the grumpiness disappears and I start smiling. This is so cool. I feel like a champ.
After an hour on the bike I feel totally overdressed. It is so warm with all these layers on. I’m even sweating more than I counted on and hence I need to take more bottles at the aid stations. Cycling on the left side of the road, the bottles are handed out on the left as well. I’m a righty and hence miss three bottles in a row, only when I slow down drastically I finally manage to grab one. It is a waste of time, but I got to stick to my nutrition and upgraded hydratiom plan.
Riding in the middle of nowhere. Again, many spectators. Is there a fine for locals for not cheering and making flags and banners? I’ve never experienced so much support. Banners at Inch Hill say: “It’s just a hill, get over it” and “Bike like you stole it”. They make me laugh. But “Pain is temporary, results are online forever” is the one that strikes me most.
At 60km Emma Bilham passes me. She started 30s behind me. I haven’t googled her, so I wasn’t aware she has won Alpe D’Huez triathlon and I have no clue what type of climbing goat she is. But I can tell she weighs about half of what I weigh. I stick to her side and together we ride up Wind Mill Hill. Later I see at strava that I went 30 secs faster than my previous attempts, on a segment of approximately 2 min 30. Racing is so mental. At the 100 km point, however, I cannot keep up with her and I’m riding alone again.
She passing me and me not passing others means I’m at 4th position. Ow men.. Cycling is my strongest discipline. I am supposed to nail this! I cannot see my heart rate or power as the screen of my Garmin is too wet. I’m struggling to push and have little motivational crisis when I think about the marathon. Then I suddenly see Linsey Corbyn. She looks like suffering from hypothermia and really exhausted. I wonder if she had a crash or had a mechanic, so I ask if she is okay. She ignores me completely so I assume she isn’t hurt and doesn’t need any help. Somehow this situation helps me get myself together. The race is still very very long. Keep going.
1:00pm. After 180km I dismount my bike, and have no clue what my time position compared to the others is but I do know my hips feel very sore and there is a marathon to run. I tell myself: Have faith that it is just a bike-to-run transition pain and that it will disappear shortly. Keep looking after yourself now.
* FYI: average pool temperature is 28C, on average open water is about 21-23C