don’t stop when you are tired. stop when you are done…

this should have been the hardest decision of my sports-“career”…
…but it turned out to be the easiest…

(spoiler alert for the impatient reader: I’ve decided to cancel my Deca-2022 plans…)

This story might be a bit long, unstructured and chaotic, but that’s just how my mind works on this subject right now… I’ll try and write down the process in a way that is slightly readable… The Deca-journey has been a long and exciting one, but it’s impossible to explain all the ups, downs and nuances of it…

…the infamous muddy field in Wales, starting place of crazy adventures…

In august 2015 I visited Wales for the first time; I signed up for The Big Brutal Swim (which was going to be my first ever 10km swim!), but mainly I wanted to visit the course of the Brutal Triathlons to see if I would have the courage to commit to the Double Brutal in 2016 (which I did, and that started an ultra-career that gave me so much: adventures, friendships, ups, downs, and more adventures and friendships…). The day before the swim I first met Brutal Claire, ‘Brutal’ race-organiser and ultra-athlete.

…finishing the Double Brutal, and sharing the emotions with Brutal Claire…

We had a short chat, and she casually told me about a little thing called a “Deca” – a 38km swim / 1800km bike / 422km run ultratriathlon… That sounded impossible at that time (since I was still building the confidence to do “The Double” the next year), but I also knew that somewhere deep inside a seed was planted… And with every step into the “ultra-world” that seed started to grow; slowly at first, but it became unstoppable after a few years…

…a few hours before the breakdown on the Triple Brutal life was still pretty awesome…

After a big mental breakdown during the Tripe Brutal in 2017 (thanks to my amazing friends who supported me through that race I still finished, still don’t understand how that was possible!) I knew I found my limits, and although I would still wanted to do long races and adventures, maybe anything above 50 hours would be too much… Except for this one little thing… That seed that had been slowly growing… Let’s do just one more big, crazy adventure, and commit to The Deca…

…finsihing my first ever 21+ km swim… Not too bad for a ‘non-swimmer’!

Early 2018 I decided to take “a slow year” (after the Double and Triple Brutal I needed a bit of a break), and use that year to learn; I read all there was to read about long ultra’s, did a few long runs, sleep deprived nightly adventures, and my first 21+ km swim (since, if I could do 21km, I dared to commit to the 38km!). All this for a Deca in 2019!

…swimming the 26km Lake Zurich Marathon…

…the Double UltraTriathlon Emsdetten in 2019 – 10th place on a IUTA world cup race!

Unfortunately the Swiss organisers didn’t host a Continuous Deca in 2019 (focussing on the “one-a-day-double-deca” instead), so 2019 became another year of research… More long swims (the 26km Zurich swim was awesome!), long runs, my first ultra-triathlon in a pool and on a short-looped course, and more prepared than ever I started the 2020 season…

 

The 2020 race would take place exactly 5 years after that initial idea was born, and I was getting more and more ready… Well, we all know that 2020 “wasn’t a great year”. The 2020 race got cancelled, and I decided not to commit to the 2021 race until I really knew I was motivated enough to go for it another year… Training had been hard, and although I did enjoy it, the continuous focus on a project like this takes its toll… But when I ran a 100km that summer, sitting on a park-bench after that run near the finish-line, I knew it; bring on the 2021 Deca!

…moments after finishing a 100km run I knew I was going for the Deca again…

In 2021 the Deca got cancelled again… And again; I decided to not make a decision until my motivation was 100%. I did a lot of running, a bit of cycling, and very little swimming, and basically just did what I wanted; no training-schedules, no big goals, just having fun. The Deca-Dream was still in the back of my mind every day, so eventually I committed, and started working at it again…
Something had changed though; I asked coach Jacomina to help me out, but make my training schedules a bit more “flexible” than before, there were some sessions that I wanted to skip (so less strength/conditioning work, and less pool swimming), but I still felt ‘motivated’, although there were some mayor ups-and-downs (well, quite a few downs that is…)

Last week there was a 126km run scheduled; the idea was to start at night, and do 21km laps, with about an hour of rest after each lap, to see if this could be a potential race-strategy (using recovery-time wisely for nutrition and rest). I knew that this was going to be an important one; if I finished this run all was going to be well, if not, I had to seriously reconsider if I was ready (mentally or physically) for the Deca…

Just having started my 2nd lap I got a totally clear view of what was going on in my head; At this point it was just after midnight, my body was feeling great, and I was running at an easy and fast pace. But I just knew… And for the first time I really, really dared to be honest with myself… “I am not enjoying anything about this process anymore… and have not been enjoying it ever since the cancellation in 2021…”

6,5 years after that first idea was born, and with the last 3,5 years of structured hard work, commitment and struggles, this decision should be a difficult one. Weirdly enough, this was the easiest choice I’ve made in a long time (which helped me a lot, by knowing it’s the right thing to do!) – Even now, a week after that moment, there’s not been a second where I’m second-guessing the decision… I’m relieved that it’s done, I’m seriously happy with losing the pressure (that I’ve put onto myself), and looking forward to new and crazy adventures. Looking back I think the deep, intrinsic motivation just hasn’t been there since the 2021 cancellation; before that I was working hard “to do a deca” – since then I worked hard to “at some point have done a deca” (not sure if this makes sense… But for me that little nuance is pretty important….)

Will I ever try again? Who knows, if one morning I wake up and I really, really want it I might start working for it one more time. If I’m not feeling that inner drive I won’t. Either way; it’s good… It has been an incredible adventure so far, and there will be other (ultra)goals to come, but this one just took one year too long…

I have a text-document on my laptop with a collection of mantra’s/motivational quotes, and one stood out today… Although it’s a line that should be used to push yourself further, it also applies very much to where I am today:

– Don’t stop when you are tired. Stop when you are done –

Right now I am done, and that’s ok…

(and although I am really happy with not doing a Deca, don’t worry, I am still human; some tears have been shed this week, and a few more will likely follow!)

Thank you to all who have supported my crazy adventures so far, and thank you to all who will support all new adventures! With a little (and by that I mean ‘a big’) extra shout out to coach Jacomina, mental coach (and sports-psychologist) Danielle and the amazing support-crews on the previous ultra-triathlons!!

the DoubleBrutal 2016 support-crew…

“TeamNL” – supporting me on the TripleBrutal, and Jacomina on the Double, Nick on the Full and Daan on the Half…

the Emsdetten Double 2019 support-crew…

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2 Comments

  1. Philippe Vonlanthen

    Proud of U mate!

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