Rotterdam is so beautiful, what a fun and interesting course! A race well organised and under the watchful eye of so many volunteers, thank you. The triathlon gods delivered and we had a sunny day with water temp of 16C and air temp of 12C announced before the first wave of the day.
The week leading into race day was filled with sporadic rain, cold and sunny weather. On Tuesday, we took a leisurely 75km round trip ride to the beach outside The Hague, a great chance to get acquainted with the rental bike and eat some tasty food. Wednesday morning we braved the forecasted 50km/hr winds and rain and ran around the park where the run course would be.
Thursday was busy: registration, swim familiarisation, Aust team function and opening party. The opportunity to mix and mingle with triathletes of the world in the beautiful Laurenskerk was just surreal! The Mexicans were the ones who really got the party started though and we hung around for second servings of pasta.
Saturday morning was a chance for everyone to ride the bike course, escorted by technical officials, to familiarise ourselves with the speed bumps and dangerous corners. This was done in cold, wet and crowded conditions which left me dreading a cold, rainy race day. The question of the day was, “What are you wearing? Are you going to wear layers under your suit?”
Bike racked and ready on Saturday afternoon, then an early dinner and off to bed. It had been a week of getting organised, getting cold and wet, dry again and repeat. The race was a game of logistics with separate T1 and T2 areas, meaning you didn’t want to be that guy who left his race bib in T2 when rules said you had to wear it on the bike.
Race morning, 4:40am with everything packed: bagel, helmet, water bottles, gels, arm warmers, long sleeve shirt, wetsuit, goggles, cap, timing chip, shoes x2, dry clothes. Walking down the street in the dark and locals were spilling out of the bar having just finished their night. First stop, T2 to drop my shoes. Next stop, across the river to T1 to drop helmet, shoes, etc. Then across another bridge to the swim start and to meet Stef.
Standing there, knowing the water temperature, I asked myself WHY. Why do we do these things? I reluctantly squeezed into my wetsuit, warmed up and joined the others in the holding pen for my wave start. Support crew duties for Stef had commenced – I handed off my socks at the last minute, trying to keep as warm as possible for as long as possible. Jumping in the cold water took my breath away and the minute before the horn blew felt much longer.
The horn blew and I kept up with the group for the first couple of hundred metres. I’d gone out hard, harder than I could maintain and soon the pack got away from me. Eventually I got into the groove of things, I overtook someone. I OVERTOOK someone in the swim – this has never happened before! I caught up with three others and the four of us got out of the water together. I am used to coming last in the swim but there were 6 others behind me. Although not my fastest 1,500m ever, I was chuffed with these achievements.
The run to T1 was then LONG (2.25km from pontoon to bike) and with numb feet I had to look down to make sure I was running correctly. I made the snap decision not to wear the arm warmers I’d laid out, just putting a buff around my neck, grabbing the gel on the ground (which had fallen off my bike the prior day) and running out of T1.
My bike mount went swell and I waved to Stef as I went over the first bridge. According to plan, 10min into the bike I grabbed a gel but noticed that the other 2 I had taped to my bike had also fallen off. Damn it, useless tape I had been using for the past three years had lost its stick. So one gel was all the nutrition I had for the bike and I knew there was another with my run gear if I needed it – not ideal.
The bike course was very technical, we had to deal with speed bumps, ramps, tunnels, dangerous corners, cobblestone, narrow road and sections of footpath. As I headed out for my first lap I joined up with a fellow Aussie athlete, Bec Ungermann who was onto her second lap. She assured me that the course was great, conditions were dry today and to go for it. Words of encouragement that were music to my ears. The course covered three bridges of Rotterdam and plenty of picturesque waterfront views. The puddles, mud and the ramps put in place for us provided an almost cyclo-cross/bmx feel to the course with some of us getting some air. My dismount and run into T2 went smoothly and I was still feeling a-ok energy wise.
The run course wound in and around the park and included concrete and dirt paths, again providing an interesting course with a trail running feel. We had to beware of puddles, large rocks, mud and tree roots. A couple of tight turns provided a slap in the face from a tree branch – no chance of falling asleep navigating your way through.
There were heaps of spectators on the run course cheering us on. This included a guy dressed as Elvis singing cheers for us and it was impossible not to crack a smile. I kept an eye on my pace to ensure the adrenaline hadn’t taken over and I wasn’t going out too fast. Onto my second lap of the run and then it was time to give every little bit I had left.
My run time was close to a 10km PB and the best I’ve clocked during an OD triathlon. Before I ran around the corner for the finish chute I proudly grabbed my little Australian flag. As I ran down the blue carpet, Stef was there on my right cheering me on and I crossed that glorious finish line! I had heaps of fun on an amazing course.
I finished 65th out of 82 in my age group. An improvement on my Chicago performance and at this rate, I predict a podium finish in 2035, somewhere around my 50th birthday LOL.
But seriously, a huge thanks is owed to all those who’ve supported me: Stef, for putting up with all the early mornings and for her encouragement and race day support; Tony and Jodie at Zenergy for their sponsorship, accountability and strength training; South Bank Tri Club for the inspiration to become a better athlete; and friends and family cheering me on from near and far.