Terheijden Long Course Weekend…

As far as small-scale events go, this one is as small as it gets… Only 12 athletes showed up for the first edition of the Terheijden Long Course Weekend: swim 3.8km on friday, bike 180km on saturday and run a marathon on sunday, sounds like fun!

After being brought to the swim-start by a local farmer it’s time to get into the choppy water. The first 3km we have to battle the waves and the wind, and with so few swimmers in the water it’s a solo challenge. I’m working hard, and after what seems to take forever I get to the only turn on the course: after 3km I turn right for the final 800meters, finally a bit more shielded from the wind. When I exit the water I look at my watch and am pleasantly surprised: a 1’07 swim is a new personal best time! Now time to get some food and rest before tomorrows ‘race’….

on our way to the start…

long roads with a lot of wind…

The next morning we get ready for a time-trial style start: starting times are based on swim times, so I start a few seconds behind another athlete. I overtake him, and now starts a lonely day on the bike. 15(!) laps of only 12km make this ride a mental challenge (good training for some long multi-lap races to come next season!), and the wind makes it a tough day. At the start we were told that there are 2 bridges in each lap, and during my first ‘climb’ on the first bridge I think ‘that’s not too bad…’. But, as is to be expected: after 10 laps these bridges become a bit annoying, and during the last laps I’m not too happy with them!
There’s not too many stories to tell about these 180km; it is a true solo challenge, I only see other cyclists a few times, other than that there is wind! More wind, and more wind… Oh, and the volunteers are awesome!
After just under 5.5 hours I finish the bike, time to go home for the day!

best race-pic ever; with added visual effects! (photo by my 6-year old niece)

On sunday it’s time for the marathon… My body feels tired: it’s weird to have this ‘race’ over three separate days: there’s constantly this voice that tries to tell you to push a little bit harder, since you don’t have to do anything else after this… So I swam too hard, and cycled too fast as well (especially since I didn’t make enough miles this season, focussing on ultrarunning and swimming…). So at the start of the run I know there’s a chance I’m going to drop out: it’s cold, it’s going to rain, and I don’t want to push myself too hard, since there’s plenty other plans to come…

But when I hear that I’m in 4th place, only 16minutes behind number 3, something tells me it might be a good idea to make a race out of it…

I start slightly too fast, and in 3rd place (of the run, by now it’s impossible to keep track of the overall standings) I finish the first lap (of 6). Now I find my pace, and I’m not in ‘race’ mode anymore: just going ‘comfortably’ hard…

happy finisher…

The marathon is fairly uneventful: I have to force myself to keep the pace during the last two laps, since it’s so lonely on the course you just forget it’s a race… But when I finish I know that if needed I could add another 10k at this pace, so I know that my running form is really strong… And when someone tells me that I’m the second finisher I’m surprised: unfortunately one of the faster runners dropped out…

Then time for warm and dry clothes, warm up in the car, until someone knocks at the window: time for the ‘award ceremony’. I still don’t know if I made the overall podium, but it turns out I finished in second place. Since it’s not a race, and only 12 athletes started, a second place shouldn’t mean anything. But I’m still really happy with my first ever podium-finish!

the “award ceremony” – shielded from the rain in the small chapel at the finish line…
Too bad they forgot to put the right marathon distance on the trophy…

What’s really special about these small-scale events is the camaraderie: not only do you feel like you’re ‘in this together’ with your fellow athletes, but also with their supporters and the volunteers. This is really one of those events where everybody was having a good time, and the only marathon I ever ran where I greeted every supporter and passerby during the race (and thanked every volunteer, obviously!). I just might be back for more next year…

Terheijden Long Course Weekend – 2nd place
3.8km swim: 1’07’37
180km bike: 5’24’29
42.2km run: 3’26’04

Total: 9’58’10

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