June update…

…a 1/6th triple…

I’m in the water at the start of a small-scale middle-distance triathlon. The speaker announces that the start signal will be a gunshot, and seconds later we hear a horn. A lot of swimmers decide that a horn and a gun sound alike, and they’re of, while most of us stay behind confused; will the marshals find a way to send the early starters back to the start, or will this now be the new ‘official’ start? After a few nervous moments all swimmers get lined up again, and we’re off for the actual start of the race…
Today the plan is simple: take it easy… It’s going to be a hot day, and I’m telling myself: ‘it’s not a race, it’s a training-day…’ So I swim as relaxed as I can, and I’m actually not too happy to be at the swim-exit after 2,5km. I am really having too much fun, and want to swim a bit further… And being as relaxed as I am, I’m actually swimming faster than expected! So this is going to be a good day…
On the bike I’m also just enjoying myself, trying not to make a race out of it. I just accept it when people overtake me, and I just ride at my own easy pace. During lap number 3 (of 4) I realise that I’m taking it a bit too easy, but I’m not really bothered by it…

On the run the strategy starts to pay off; it’s getting seriously hot (over 30 degrees, on a run course without wind or shade), so there’s no-one running really fast, but my long-distance diesel-engine is now starting to get into a race-pace… The trick is to walk at the aid stations, eat and drink as much as possible, get as much water over me as possible to cool down, and then power on… It’s hard, it hurts, but I’m having fun, since I feel strong… The fun increases when I see my big brother Daan on the course; he’s doing a shorter distance, and he is clearly having a hard time, but it’s so great to be on the same course together!
Little over 5 hours after the start I make it to the finish line, finishing my first triathlon since the Double Brutal last year. It was a great day, now the trick is to not think about doing this distance times six…

…tower to tower…

A week later it’s all about the bike… When Coach and me were planning the season back in November, I told her that, even if it might not be necessary physically, I wanted to tick of the ‘500km in one ride’ box, just to build confidence for the Triple Brutal. So this month I was going to ride the ‘Tower to Tower’: from the local ‘Dom-tower’ to the Eiffeltower (a little unknown tower in France…). At first it seems like it’s just under 500km, but after a bit of rescheduling Stijn (who will be following in the car) finds a route that’s just over 500km. So on Saturday afternoon I ride into town to the first tower, and start a long ride…
The first hours are easy, as was to be expected. Brother Daan comes out to join me for a while, and by the end of the day I am on my own, with Stijn setting up aid-stations every 40 to 50km. I am well on my way into Belgium when it gets dark, and after a few beautiful roads I hit the long, long straight… Basically its a 200km straight line on the map, and it’s actually really nice to ride; just getting into my own little bubble, just riding, and riding… going up, going down, going up, going down… Just too bad that Belgium is known for it’s bad roads; so after quite some cobblestone sections, I am happy to ride into France!

There’s a lot of small stories to tell about a 500km ride, but I’ll just skip to the final part (let’s say that during the ride I went through all the stages one goes through during a 24hour ride… at some points it was really nice, at some points it sucked… I suffered, I smiled, I was in pain and I felt great. Just the regular ups-and-downs I guess…). The last 40km are pretty hard; I’ve entered big cities before on my bike, but those were during cycling holidays, being well rested and relaxed… Now I am entering Paris after being awake for 36 hours, and feeling ‘not completely fine’… The closer I get to the Eiffeltower, the busier traffic gets, and the adrenaline makes sure I am focussed and alert, and after 538km in the saddle I finally meet up with Stijn at the Eiffeltower…

…mental battles…

June was filled with hours and hours of training, beautiful long swims, hard interval runs, long multisport days (I learned that a ‘1/4th triple-iron’ sounds like a short day, but basically is almost an iron-distance training day…), and long days on the bike. After not finishing some longer sessions over the last months you would think that this month my confidence would be back to the level it has to be, but it’s not that simple…
Physically I’m getting stronger and stronger, and I know that I’m getting more and more ready for The Triple. But there’s a difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘feeling’, and sometimes the ‘feeling’ part takes over… I get through a stage of doubt every year before a big adventure, and right now I’m climbing out of the darkness of self-doubt… Although I know that the Paris-trip gave me a lot of confidence, at the same time it showed me how insanely long the distances involved in The Triple are. Again; I know I’m getting stronger, and I have a real shot of finishing this epic undertaking, but sometimes I just feel extremely nervous (or is it scared?) thinking about racing for 50 or 60 hours… But let’s be honest; that’s all part of the challenge, finding a way to deal with the mental battles, both during the race and during preparation!

And I AM still convinced I’m going to get to that finish-line!

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