To be part of the big boys you gotta look for the big boys. That’s why I chose to start in Roth this year. The organisation raised the prize money which ensured me of a strong field, and that it was. Additionally, Roth is known to have a fast course, which I found interesting as well of course.
Before the race started I was unusually relaxed. I did all I had to do to prepare for this race, had a good stay in Roth (danke Horst und Daniela!), the course was explored, bike all pumped up and ready (Danke Stefal Keul), tactic was decided upon… In short: no excuses and nothing holding me back!
The athmosphere on the race morning was great and I (how is it possible) even started to look forward! Next to the canal where we were about to swim a big crowd started to line up, the famous hot airballoons went up into the air and the canon fired. After my first few hits I felt it was going to be a good swim. Swimming fast without putting too much effort in, saving energy for the rest of the day. The first 1.5k I swam around 4th of 5th position, that’s where the turning point was. From there on we returned back to the start for the final loop. On the way back I knew it was recommended to swim far to the side of the canal. The group split in two and I chose the part that went sideways. Now there was a group on the left and right. Eventually, it turned out that swimming on the side actually was faster because I came back to the group in a 2nd position. In the final meters some guys went for a sprint, but I thought this was good enough and stayed with the feet of the leader. I exited the water in 3rd position in a time of 0:47:49, part 1 of this race was a success.
After a quick transition I started the bike in 2nd position. The group was big after the swim and the guys pushed the pace high. After half an hour I noticed this was going to be too fast for me. 5 men left and I stayed behind in a group of three. The pace in this 2nd group was a lot more comfortable although it was still nothing easy. After the furthest point in Greding there was a rough climb ahead after which, I thought, we would have a tailwind. I turned out to be wrong and still had to deal with wind in my face. Before we entered the 2nd loop we had to go up Solar hill. I never experienced anything like that. It was like biking through a wall of people, 3 rows thick on both sides. Music, clapping, screaming; I had tears in my eyes riding up here. Once I was on top I soon got back to reality and back to the harsh race. My legs were painful and I felt my energy level dropping.
After 100 k on the bike James Cunnama came past me and I decided it was time to go for a quicker spin. The rest of the group stayed behind. We caught up with Niclas Bock and McCrystal came past and was soon out of sight again. After 130k I decided to give it another go. This was the moment it would get heavy for everyone, time would be lost here, so what better to do than give it an extra push. So that’s what I did, but I kind of regretted it after 160k. The last 50k of the race were lonely and hard, I was happy to get into transition and change to running after 4:21:53.
In 6th place I started the run, a minute before Cunnama, 2 minutes on Skipper and on an appropriate distance of the first 5. I knew there were some fast runners behind me, in front of me too and a marathon is far… So I stayed with my own pace. Beforehand I had a pace in mind that I wanted to run and so I left in that time. The first 15k that went well, but than I started feeling empty. I had to stop thinking and keep going. Skipper came passing by and so did Cunnema. In front of me the Irishman McCrystal slowed down, which gave me extra motiviation to keep my pace up. Coach Romy kept telling me to run my own race, also there was not more I could do at that point. After 30k I took over from the Irishman, but the roughest part of the marathon was still ahead. After a dirty climb from 33k to 35k I wanted to do nothing more than walk. The last few kilometers I can’t really tell you much about, I barely even remember. A finish in an amazing stadion with lots of spectators could not even wake me up anymore, I just wanted to be done. After a marathon of 2:51:49 I eventually finished in a total time of 8:04:28. A 7th place and a new PR on the full distance.
Of course I am satisfied. Secretly I had wished to be more in front, but I know what there is left to work on. Always things to improve and a lot of new motivation to continue breaking my own boundaries.
Photos: Darren Wheeler, Ingo Kutsche en Romy Louise van Schooneveld