Julie’s Ironman World Championships

My Ironman World Championships Race in Hawaii
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

Since my qualification last year in September, the Ironman World Championships on October 14, 2017 has been on my calendar. My entire year was dedicated to this race and I put in more work than ever before. Leading up to this highlight of the year I had some good results in other races and my form was improving throughout the entire season. I travelled to Hawaii three weeks before race day.  There I did my last important training sessions on the race course and I got to enjoy the hawaiian lifestyle before it would get serious.  Everything looked great, I had adapted to the heat very well (at least I thought so), my training had gone great and I was feeling very fit. This made me go into the race with a very confident feeling.

Racing the Ironman in Hawaii is something very special. It’s said to be the hardest one day event in endurance sport. For triathletes this is the most important race worldwide and the only time we get some attention.:)  It’s an honour to participate there among the best of the best.

 

That Saturday Morning at 7.20 am the canon went off for about 800 female athletes. And you are exposed to a battle field during the 3.8 km open water swim. Everyone wants to get a good spot and goes out pretty fast. So it’s normal to get some kicks and punches on the way. My swim was pretty good, I felt strong and it went by quicker than I had expected.

Coming out of the water my family told me that I was 15th in my category and that the first girl was 8 minutes ahead. This was good news, because I knew that catching up 8 minutes on a 180 km bike ride would be possible. I was happy to finally sit on my bike. My legs felt fresh while was passing one girl after the other. Riding through the the lava fields is unbelievable hot and after 60 km the strong cross winds came out which makes the bike course really challenging.  After about 70 km I had passed the last girl of my category so I got into first position. But she decided to stay with me and draft for about 100 km (which is against the rules in time trial triathlons).
I tried to find a moment where I could get rid of her, for example on the downhills and the aid stations. She was a strong rider and unfortunately she stayed right behind me after all. Since you all know my sprinting qualities, you know why I didn’t give that a shot :). About 30 km before the bike course was finished we passed the last aid station where I didn’t manage to grab enough water to fill up my bottles. At that moment I didn’t know that it had been the last one.

This turned out to be a big problem, I had to ride for about 45min without any fluids. In holland this is not a problem, but in the heat of Hawaii that is a different story. I had never been so thirsty before which made my sight very blurry when I got off the bike. I tried to rehydrate in the transition area before starting the marathon.
But noooo.. 🙁 Starting my run the dizziness just got worse. What was happening to my body? I tried to run the pace I had planned on but after about 5km I could only see black. This was a really scary moment. I didn’t know what to do, because I really wanted to keep going and win this race. Something told me to take a few steps walking so I wouldn’t end up on the floor.

This made it a little better. So after a while I tried running again. A few kilometers later: the same scenario. Two girls had passed me already, which was terrible for me. At that point I decided to just finish the race healthy instead of dropping out. I adapted the pace and went really slow. I can tell you, this was the hardest thing to do. All these training hours, this discipline, passion and dedication that I had put into this particular race seemed like I had done them for nothing. When I saw my mom after about 15 km I just fell into her arms and I couldn’t avoid some tears squeezing out. It was impossible to understand why my body was doing this to me. Now I can conclude that it  was the dehydration and the overheating which I couldn’t recover from anymore.

It ended up being the longest marathon I had ever done. Especially mentally this was the biggest challenge ever. It’s easy to push hard and hurt yourself when you’re in the lead of a race, but overcoming this situation was way beyond that.

After 11h I was finally back in Kailua- Kona crossing the finish line. What a relief! I was glad that I hadn’t passed out on the way and actually made it to the finish line. Crossing this iconic finish line is something indescribable. So many emotions in a state of complete exhaustion. I placed 7th in my category, this was not what I aimed for and the disappointment was huge.

It took me almost 2 weeks to recover mentally from this pain and disappointment, many tears have fallen to understand why this race had turned out this way. I can now accept that it’s just the way this sport works. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.  I am happy to take these experiences into the next season of racing where I can hopefully benefit from them.

And one thing is for sure. This wasn’t my last time racing in Hawaii.