Just like last year, I won the triathlon of La Roche in the Ardennes, one of the most beautiful races in Belgium. It consists of a 1k swim in a reservoir surrounded by trees, a 95k bike course with 1900m ascent and 3 times the hard climb to the col de Haussire, followed by a challenging 10k off road run. Different form last year were the mindset and the conditions. In 2013 I took a DNF in ironman Texas and decided to do the triathlon of La Roche before my exams to convert my great shape into cash. I was well rested at the start and could race at high intensity. The lead I took on the bike last year was very large. So were the pain during the run and the days after the race... This year, I was in the build-up period for Ironman Frankfurt three weeks later, so the race was done at a lower but more constant intensity.
As too often, the most difficult part was to get at the start line in time. Fortunately, I registered and mounted my bike the day before, and went to T2 well in advance. I parked the car near the finish, put my running shoes in T2 and went back to do the last preparations and to get ready to cycle to T1 8k further (mostly downhill). And that’s when my mechanical luck started! Pumping up my front tire was accompanied by a psssshhht. No problem, change the tire. Second time pumping and again immediately psssshhht. Only one spare tire left… I started to feel a bit nervous. I didn’t want to take any risk and decided to put my front training wheel, which, fortunately, was still in my car. It is heavier and less aerodynamic than my race wheel, but at least, I could cycle and compete. Or so I thought at that moment… I put the pump on my rear tire and I saw a scary 4 bar for a tire inflated to 8 bar less than 24 hrs before… A little panic was getting into my head. Of the different scenarios I could think of, I chose a risky, but attainable one. After all, the clock was ticking. I inflated the tire till 8 bar and started the ride to T1. If the pressure would have dropped too low, I could still use my last spare tire. At the reservoir, I couldn’t feel any difference, realizing very well that pushing a thumb in a tire right before a race is very subjective (I chose the optimistic view!!). So I decided to give it a try, and to get all the thoughts about a possible flat out of my mind. You can imagine my big smile when I saw the 4.5 bar on my pump three hours after the race!
But most of all, I feel very stupid and I’m a bit angry with myself. As with luck in many different aspects of life, it is also possible to force mechanical luck to be at your side. The two flats I’ve had before during races were with borrowed race wheels. Also this time, I should have checked my received second-hand race wheels better and ridden them more often, although I didn’t have any problems in Lanzarote. The bike should be race ready 10 days before the race, giving the possibility to check everything and to find bugs in the last rides leading to an important race. So I know what to do next week. I prefer not to have to take any risks for ironman Frankfurt.
My race was very regular. The women started in the second wave with the veteran men, so we were only 100 triathletes in this wave making the start very comfortable and easy. Soon I found some good legs to draft and I exited the water as first female, a position I would keep till the finish line. I paced very well on the bike. The second and third loop were one and two minutes slower than the first loop, but I find this decay reasonable (and maybe a little bit caused by the tire?? We’ll never know). I had no cramps coming off the bike which was a huge difference compared to last year, when I was fearing at every step of the 10k run a complete collapse. So, also the run was very well paced with a time difference of only 8” between the two full loops. I’m also satisfied with a second run split of the women.
Back at the camping site, I was very happy to be invited for a photograph by a young new fan whose father also did the race. It is really nice to inspire kids!
Now I take two days of recovery workouts followed by a ten day block to prepare for ironman Frankfurt on July 6.