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Middle Distance Triathlon in the beautiful New Forest, 2017’s pinacle event

I had been looking forward to this for so long. Not only the race, but being back in the New Forest, a very special place in England where I have many good memories. As I drove off the ferry in Dover, I felt instant joy. The long, traffic jammed drive down to Ringwood failed to dampen that joy. I was here to enjoy every aspect of that weekend, socially, the environment, moments to relax, and of course the race on Sunday.

Edward, an old college friend of mine, came down as well. We try and meet up once a year, usually connected to sport events. He came down to support. We rode the bike course on the Saturday, refreshing my memory after all those years. Lawrence, another old triathlon friend from Bournemouth, had also entered the race, so it was really good seeing him again as well.

Right, down to business. Got up for breakfast at 4 a.m., the usual (see previous posts), and got ready to ride to transition, only a mile down the road. As I arrived, I heard the race start was  delayed due to one of the approach motorways being closed. At 7.34 a.m., 200 of us were finally let loose. I had a decent swim – really found my stroke in the second half. Different from previous editions, transition was not split between lakeside T1 and T2 at Moyles Court school. This year, we had to run back to the only transition at the school, nearly a mile from the lake, before getting to our bikes. I didn’t mind, as I found it to be a nice warm-up for the bike leg.

The bike course consisted of 3 laps of about 32 K each (or 20 miles), adding up to 96 K. That and the pre-bike run erased my hopes of finishing within the 5-hour mark. Laps 1 and 2 went alright, coming around in under 55 minutes both times. Lap 3, however, is where I started to feel fatigue building up, resulting in a 60 minute split. That is a huge drop in performance. Another way to put it, average speed per lap went down from 35 to 32 kph. I rolled into T2 in 20th place.

Out of transition, you go straight up this long climb. Losing power on the bike means this climb hurt… a lot, just like every uphill to come. The run course was undulating, to say the least. Being 90% offroad on rough gravel trails made it all the harder. My minimalist running shoes were not ideal on this terrain. On that front I managed alright, though. The real problem was the lack of running training, which showed big time after a poorly paced bike effort. Running was reduced to frequent bouts of walking. It got really bad past the halfway point, on the third of four out-and-back loops. I was walking more than I was running, felt low on energy, and seriously considering heading back for a DNF.

SWIM T1(a) T1 run T1(b) BIKE T2 RUN FINISH
33:27 1:36 6:25 1:09 2:51:00 2:04 2:04:38 5:40:20

Back at the aid station, I refueled on energy drink, refilled the little hand-bottle I was carrying, and turned right for a fourth out-and-back anyway. Around 14 K, Christie, who was running for a relay team, caught up with me on a flat tarmac section. I ran along, she started talking, my spirits were lifted. Before we knew it, we were at the final turnaround. We kept each other going until the aid station, where she needed a drink. I continued on for the finish line, another 2.5 K. Funnily enough, I suddenly felt pretty good. I was flying down the last decent and managed to finish strong in 5 hours 40 minutes.

I am not entirely sure what went wrong on Sunday. It is the only race this year which didn’t go as well as expected. I did not expect a superfast run, more like 1:45 or so, perhaps 1:40 on a good day. In reality I came nowhere near. I have been trying to figure out why. The first main factor that comes to mind is that, during the last 10 months, I never had the feeling in training that my running was getting to the level I was aiming for. I just thought it would be okay, based on the last few races. My swim and bike fitness were fine. My run just never clicked into that high aerobic speed.

Ironically, another factor must be overtraining. I think I may have overtrained between Aarschot Tri and this race. Too much focus on key training sessions and too little attention for recovery. The nearly 2-week taper wasn’t enough to get rid of all accumulated fatigue. I would have coped with a standard distance triathlon, as everything went fine until about 2:30 into the race. My body was not ready for anything longer on that day.

Funny anecdote
As Christie and I were cresting a hill after walking up it, I encouraged her to continue running. She said I would make a good running coach. I was flattered, laughed, and asked her why. “You have a good running form, as if you could run all day, and a good voice.” A good voice, I wondered? “Yes, the calmness in your voice when you encouraged me to start running again.” What a compliment, really made me happy. Maybe I should do something with that in the future…

I forget how tough a period the first few months of 2017 have been, with interrupted nights, our youngest being in hospital for a week, etc. I guess, in a way, Sunday’s performance was telling me: “That was it. You’ve hit your limit of what was possible this year, in your situation. Time to let it go and focus on your little (growing) family.” That is exactly what I’m going to do.

2 thoughts on “Middle Distance Triathlon in the beautiful New Forest, 2017’s pinacle event

  1. ivan devos says:

    Toen ik je kort voor de wedstrijd nog behandelde voor je rechter voet (hoe was die trouwens gedurende de wedstrijd?) was de “aerobic challenge test” positief. Misschien toch een teken dat de uithouding niet goed genoeg was voor zo’n afstand. Hetgeen goed te begrijpen is met verstoorde nachten, tijd stelen om toch te trainen, twee kleine kinderen (hoe lief ook) ,praktijk, ect.. Al die elementen belasten toch op een of andere manier het gestel voor zo’n onderneming.

    Wat het compliment van Christie betreft i.v.m “een goeie loopcoach”, daar ben ik ook zeker van. Moest ik jonger zijn zou ik je zeker als coach vragen, mama trouwens ook.

    Zorg goed voor je gezinnetje, je papa

    1. admin says:

      De voet op zich was voldoende hersteld, tenminste op lokaal vlak. Tijdens de wedstrijd geen last ondervonden. Het onderliggende probleem daarentegen nog niet helemaal. Zoals je zei, Papa, was de ‘aerobic challenge test” een teken aan de wand. Ik was in de val van overtraining gelopen na de triatlon in Aarschot. Ik wou nog een niveautje hoger geraken voor New Forest, maar dat was teveel gevraagd op deze korte tijd. Ik had de goeie vorm van Aarschot moeten consolideren en beschermen, niet minachten en ondermijnen. Ik voelde wel veel kracht, maar dit werd bijgehaald door de onderliggende vermoeidheid. Ik heb mijn lesje geleerd (alweer, haha).

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