The race of races was here! The race I have been training for the past year. The weekend it had to happen.
On friday we arrived at the hotel so we had all the time to sort things out and walk around the expo. It was amazing to taste the atmosphere. The ironman banners along the maas river. It was finally gonig to happen.
We stayed at the design hotel in Maastricht, about a 10m walk distance from the Start and transition zones. The room was great, quite big, with a massive bathroom, so it was easy to store the bike as well.
Saturday was all about preparing the transition bags. The major races, like Challenge or Ironman all work with a bag system. So nothing is stored next to your bike. The weather on this day was a bit mixed. A bit stronger winds and a lot of rain. Time to check everything in. You have to display your bib, helmet check, starting numbers, and they will take a picture of you and your bike. So no one will leave with yours after the race. I placed my bags on the right place on the stands. Rack the bike, and cherish it a little, so it will get you through the bike leg. As this was my biggest fear. My bike breaking down, eg broken chain, or too many flat tires. To counter this, I stuffed my transition bags and special needs bags with inner and outer tires. I believe in total I could make up for 6 flats, and 1 destroyed outer tire, without relying on the support vehicles.
A remark here: On our rack, all bags had to be placed on the top row, making it top heavy. Later during the pasta party, we heard one of the racks fell because of the wind, on top of one of the athletes. I believe she was not able to start the race the next day.
Weather was forecasted to improve a lot for raceday. Nice sunshine, 20-25 degrees, little wind. Just perfect!.
The alarm went around 04.00 am. It is really strange to hear the buzzing sounds of a lot of people in the restaurant at this hour. As the hotel offered a special athletes breakfast at this time. Multiple participants were having breakfast. You could feel the tension as well. Funny to see the food people stuck to. Coffee or not, White bread with jam. Etc.
After gathering my gear, I was off to the transition zone for a final bike inspection. I decided to inflate my tire a bit more with a pump from the organization. But the thing was horrible. Felt like more air escaped instead of into the tire, so this had to do.
It was time to put the wetsuit on and leave transition. I met up with Eibert. A friend I had been training a lot with, and who is really experienced in long distance races. He swims about the same speed as me, his bike is faster, (as its my worst of the three sports), but runs slower.
We were ready to roll!
Boom! The pro’s were off. We were still in the queue for the rolling start. Eventually it was our turn, and we were off! Amazing to see the packed bridges and riverbanks along the Maas river. I didn’t push too hard, as it was going to be a long day. Me and Eibert swam close to eachother pretty much the whole course. Around 1.08 hours later, it was time to exit. Swim. Done!
A short run to transition. Grab my bag, enter the tent, and get ready for the bike. The guy next to me in the tent got an official warning, for swimming with his bib underneath his wetsuit. Really stupid to risk such a thing, for a couple of seconds. I got all my gear, and was onto the bike.
I felt good. Yet, after a couple of k’s, BAM. Not a flat luckily, but one of my bottlecages snapped. The screw broke, turning the bottlecage up side down, dropping one of the bottles across the street. Hopefully this wasn’t a sign for the remainder 177km ride…. I quickly fixed it with a tie-rip. And grabbed a bottle at the next aid station. The bike leg was amazing.
A really nice scenic course. There were three steeper climbs. The Geulhemmerberg, Bemelerberg and the Hallembaye in Belgium. The last one is the hardest, but, the coaches were there with a lot of support, and they would shout you to the top! The final third of a lap was along the canal, so good to push the average speed up again.
When entering Maastricht to start lap 2, there were some cobbles, but no problems. And A LOT of people watching. During the bike leg I stuck to the instructions from Sarissa, my coach. Heartrate should be <150, and made sure I took enough gels and fluids.
The bike leg was a wrap! Just under 6 hours! Way quicker then I would have anticipated. This was also a massive relief to me, as I knew I would make it now. As running is my strong suit. I still felt good, and was ready for my first ever marathon.
T2 was quick, got a short reminder from the official to leave my helmet on untill I racked my bike.
After T2, I saw my girlfriend again. I quickly checked how Eibert was doing, but I was way ahead of him! I couldn’t believe it, but had to go on. The run was simply EPIC. 4 laps through the center of Maastricht. Pretty much the full course was packed with backyard parties, BBQ’s, restaurants and bars and a ton of people watching.
After the first few kilometres I noticed a small twitching pain on my left achilles, but nothing serious. I managed to run with it. I was really enjoying every step of the run.
Every aidstation I took my time to make sure I took in enough fluids. The sidepockets on my suite were really usefull to stuff all the gels. I managed to keep the pace up throughout the laps. In lap 3 my legs started to hurt a little. At the start of lap 4, my legs were close to cramping up. I was also trying to do the math, which pace I would have to stick to, to finish the marathon under 4 hours. As I came closer, it was still possible. I decided to fully skip the last aid station and push on. Onto the carpet, the final meters. I slowed down a bit to fully take in the experience, and reminded myself: Smile! and dont stop your watch on the finish line! As it will ruin the finish photo. Then, there I heard the famous words
Dennis, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!
I did it, I can’t believe it, but I did it.
The marathon was just over 4 hours. Doing math turns out to be quite hard when exhausted.
Overall it took me 11 hours and 18 minutes. Way below the 11.30 – 12 hours I expected.
If you look carefully you can still see the emotion behind the sunglasses. So much effort went into training for it. One hell of an experience. Here is a video of my finish, made by friends.
My and my support crew. Without support from The Girl at home, this wouldn’t be possible!
The video made by the organization:
Afterwards, we heard that with the club from my coach, we qualified for the 70.3 European Club Championship in Barcelona. How cool is that!
Hopefully you enjoyed it and got a little taste of an Ironman Race.