September 13th I swam, biked & ran the Half Triathlon in Menen. Last year I tried a quarter triathlon, so the half-distance was quite as milestone for me.
When Polar Benelux asked me to participate 1.5 month before the actual race day, I hesitated for a split second, but convinced myself with the fact that it would be my first achievement as a Polar employee, and It would be a good way to show my colleagues I’m not a pussy. ;-)
1 month before race day
The situation mid-august? Well, I hadn't swam since corona, I hadn't participated in any open water training and it wasn't until August 13th (exactly one month before race day) that I ventured my way back to the swimming pool.
On the other hand, I took advantage of Corona times to do endurance runs and long bike rides. In those two disciplines I felt more prepared.
The week before
Of course one week ahead I planned a ‘rest’ week but with sufficient physical triggers. On wednesday I did a 2 hour bike ride, on Thursday an 8k run, Friday half an hour bike, an saturday 5k run.
I started to figure out what my meal plan was going to be. I never train with gels, but I highly recommend experimenting with sports food in advance.
I asked some more experienced triathletes for advice and these are the tips I valued the most:
- While swimming, it is best to focus on someone's feet, this way you know what the right direction is, and you are, as it were, in the movement of the water.
- Bring some slippers/hotel slippers/socks along that you wear when walking to the swim start. Right before the start you can take them off and leave them behind.
- Put elastic laces in your running shoes (for a slightly faster change)
- Stick energy bars and gels with painter's tape on your bike so you can tear them off easily while cycling.
The day before
I went for a Thai massage, only afterwards I read it’s not a good idea to do a massage the day before - but hey I’m an amateur -, I baked a banana bread (and obviously ate half of it the same day),
I managed to stop myself half-way through the banana bread so that I could keep the other half for my race day breakfast). I prepared a bag with everything that needed to put in my box at the exchange zone; running shoes, running belt, bike shoes, a towel...
I prepared everything what (that) was supposed to be in my box at the exchange zone. Running shoes, running belt, bike shoes, a towel...
I went to get my race number, already put isotonic in my bottles, cleaned my bike, ate pasta with my fellow Polar-ambassadors, and went to bed early.
The alarm clock went off at 6, I made oatmeal with banana and ate 2 slices of banana bread with peanut butter on top of that. Then we went to Menen.
Waiting in line for the ‘rolling start’ I took an energy gel, and from then the nerves started to kick in. They counted 3 seconds in between every participant, then you rush onto the pontoon to jump into the water. I knew that this was going to be the hardest part, so I was in survival mode. My mindset was: as soon as you get out of the water, your race can begin - haha. For 41 minutes I was unsuccessfully on the lookout for someone’s feet, but hey, I got out of the water. My swimming style was somewhere between crawl and breaststroke, I switched every buoy. It must’ve looked ridiculous.
With almost everyone ahead of me I really had to win back some time, I thought, by NOT putting my socks on - I can tell you in advance that I ended up regretting this. Once I was on my bike I was particularly relieved that I had survived the first part and rewarded myself with an energy bar (the only non-liquid food I had with me).
After the first loop op 30km I still felt good and tried to keep an average speed of 31,7km. I felt I could go even faster, but with that impending half-marathon in mind, I decided to stick with this pace and play it save. After a quick exchange, it was time for my favourite part…
I think I started running at 1h00 clock, and it was about 26 degrees (but felt like 40). Although it was hot and I was already racing for three and a half hours, the first loop of 10.5km went quite alright. The second one was harder, but then at least - the countdown could begin. 5h16m20s later I passed the finish line, with a BIG smile.
Mission accomplished - not drowned, and not a pussy.
On to the next one!