How I became a triathlete

Well, it was quite a long journey. But there’s a happy end ūüôā

1978 – 1982
As a young child I had a lot of issues with my ears. I mean, I sort of lived on antibiotics and suffered from one infection after the other. I actually never decently learned how to swim and also became quite frustrated because all other children swam a lot better than me. Competitiveness runs through my veins …
1984 – 2002
On the contrary cycling was my cup of tea at that time. I was lucky to live that close to school I could always cycle to school. From 6 years old to 22 I have always cycle to school. Also after school I kept on cycling, mountain biking, etc. I love bicycles. I like to maintain them and try to do everything myself. I even have a bike mechanic diploma because I want to be able to fix most stuff on my own.
2002 – 2004
So after a while it became clear that I should try out some competition and I joined a cycling team. Not on a mountain bike, no, that was too obvious. I learned the famous Belgian specialty of cyclo cross. Without a lot of training, I must say, I was able to stand between semi-professional amateurs. Also, the tougher the race was due to weather circumstances I had better rankings. And when it came to running in the mud with the bike on my shoulders, I was one of the best. When other’s gave up because it was too tough, this animal was feeling great.
2005 – 2010
After a few years I quit the team, bought a house, got married and started to miss my sporty past. I needed to find something new to start moving my body again. So I decided to start running. To my it was an obvious choice. I joined a local running team in the town where I moved to, got to know new people and learned how to run 5k and 10k races. At that time it was perfect as running takes less time to train than cycling.
2011
After a while I wanted more. I wanted to become faster, better, stronger. And so I found a coach to help me. Somebody to help my with my running technique, provide me with the training schema’s and push me to the next level.
2012
After a while I became better and started to run more. I also learned that my body is fragile. I suffered my first injury and had to rest for 2 weeks. After those 2 weeks I wanted to get back where I left off, and trained hard to get up to speed again. But then again, I got inured again. I actually had a stress fracture in my right foot due to training too hard in a short amount of time, because I was too eager to come back after my first injury.
2013
This year started with my foot in plaster due to the stress fracture. After 6 weeks I could start rehab and learn how to run again, but this time very easy, step by step. Thanks to a wonderful physician I was back in no time and 6 weeks later I was running again. First in his own garden, later on soft surface and then again on the asphalt. Lesson learned: my body is not built to only run or cycle. I need both to cross-train and to become stronger and have a good mix in the muscles I train. Also what became clear from the foot fracture, was that I had little or no core stability. My legs have always been quite strong, but I always neglected my upper body. So I started to train to improve my core stability and I learned that I should keep doing this to improve my running posture. Swimming was a no-brainer. I started swimming again, first in a swimming pool, later on in open water.
And so we have the pieces of the puzzle together. I registered for my first triathlon and even before competing my first triathlon I already registered for 2 more this year. By the end of September I will have competed in 2 quarter distance races and 1 half distance race. Added together that’s 1 full distance triathlon ūüôā My training schedule now has a mix of swimming, cycling and running and my body loves it. It is the mix of the 3 sports that is perfect to me.
Future
During winter time later this year I will take some swimming technique lessons because I am not the best swimmer compared to others but that’s no surprise. For now I am really enjoying swimming in open water and I feel that I’m already improving just by practicing every week.
Next year I will also compete some quarter and half distance races. But I will be obedient and listen carefully to my coach ūüėČ
Keep training,
Nico

My first (quarter distance) triathlon

ImageIt all started on January 31st 2013. That day I registered for the biggest triathlon event in Belgium. Date of the race: June 22nd. Almost 5 months to prepare and only 1 broken foot to heal in between. That broken foot story will be covered in a separate blog post.
 
The registrations were similar to a ticket sale for a big rock concert. It only took about 10 seconds for the whole race to be sold-out. Impressive, I thought.
 
Let’s jump to the day of the race. I felt ready. The whole week I was already doing the transitions in my head. I had prepared a plastic box with the gear I need for the transitions and I had my wife to come along to the swim start and help where needed. The transition zone closed quite early because also a half distance triathlon was planned to start before the quarter. That gave us some time before the race to keep calm, eat, drink and watch the half distance athletes swim their race.
 
And then finally the first waves of the quarter distance prepared to start. My wave was the 10th of 11 waves. So I had some time to see my colleagues start and crawl away out of sight. I was a bit nervous to jump into the black water of Bruges. I was used to swim in open water in better circumstances. Like every wave there were 100 people in the water waiting for the gunshot start.
 
Bang! Off we go. I let the whole wave start in front of me and swam after them. The limit to swim 1km was 35 minutes. I must honestly say that I was worried not to finish in time. After a few 100 meters I was getting in some sort of drive and felt comfortable. Also, my wife was walking alongside and was taking pictures. It’s great to see people you love being there to support you. The last few 100 meters I suffered cramps in my calves and had to continue swimming with only my arms. I ended the swim in 23 minutes! I hit the lap button of my Polar and I was happy. It felt like the race was already a success.
 
With some many contestants already some of them were switching from cycling to running while I was about the switch to cycling. When I came out of the water people yelled at me that I should keep left because of approaching cycles. I was so concentrated to get out of my swimsuit that I almost ran passed the transition entry. Some guy asked me if I was looking for my bike. I said I was and he showed me the entrance to the transition area. I found my bike.
 
I think the T1 was well prepared. My shoes were already on the bike, the helmet resting on the aero bars and my belt with my number resting on the helmet. One thing was not so clever. My socks. I had never trained barefoot in my shoes for cycling or running. I also wasn’t going to try this for he first time during the race. So I brought socks. And I thought the fastest way to put on this socks, was to have them put one by one over each aero bar. Problem was, it was raining almost all afternoon. So¬†although all my stuff was in a plastic box, my socks were soaking wet waiting for me on my aero bars … By next time I will try to run and cycle without socks.
 
So off we went with the bike. Jumping on was easy. I’m used to that from cycling when I was younger. I put my feet in the shoes which I had attached with little elastic bands. The left one to the quick release of my rear wheel, the right one to the cable end of my front derailleur. I started flying and got into position quite fast. I even saw my wife and had time to wave at her on my way to exit the city center.
 
Then came dinner. I started with antioxydant gel because of the cramps I suffered during swimming. About a half an hour later I ate an energy bar. Meanwhile I was fighting with the wind. There was a lot of wind. Luckily I’m poor and I don’t have expensive wheels. Other people we had high rimmed carbon wheels were suffering even more than I was because of the wind. After a while I got into my¬†rhythm¬†again, found my good legs and started flying like an eagle. Some kilometers later also the wind became my best friend and I wasn’t even feeling the pedals anymore. Also my¬†heart rate¬†dropped and I didn’t want to push the speed any further because I was¬†afraid¬†to be too exhausted to run.¬†By the end of the cycling I took another energy gel to get prepared for running. I ended cycling the 45 km after 1 hour and 15 minutes.
 
Returning back to Bruges wasn’t easy. Bruges has a lot of cobblestones which is not pleasant when you are trying to get your feet out of your shoes and prepare to jump off your bike. I think I lost a lot of time with that.
 
I found my transition spot quite fast this time and jumped into my running shoes and started running. From the start I was passing a lot of other contestants. Although I did not feel well. My legs thought they were still on the bike while my mind was focusing on running. After a few kilometers I saw my wife and I found my¬†rhythm¬†again and started speeding up. I was really having fun. I felt power in my legs and the¬†heart rate¬†was still¬†OK. In fact my¬†heart rate¬†was a bit too low if I think about it now. I was still affraid to blow up so I didn’t want to push it too far. I ended running the 10 km in 45 minutes and I was happy.
 
My total time was 2 hours 35 minutes. The goal was to arrive. Mission accomplished. I really enjoyed this and I am already looking forward to the next race which will be within 6 weeks from now. Then I will try the Olympic distance to prepare for the main goal this year, a half distance triathlon within 10 weeks from now.
 
After all, by seeing my¬†heart rate¬†results I think I should have pushed it a bit more while cycling. Also the last 5km running I should have given everything that was left in my body. But to be honest, that’s something to think about during my next race. I actually really enjoyed this first race so much that I can’t have any negative feeling about it. It was just the way like I wished beforehand. And it felt great!
 
I know now that this sport is my cup of tea. The¬†atmosphere¬†between the contestants, the nerves during the transitions, the feeling you get when you cross the finish line, …
 
 
Keep training,
Nico

I’m not a triathlete (yet)

I’m not a triathlete. At least not yet. I mean, after one quarter distance race I can’t actually say I’m a triathlete. But I’m on my way. And I must say, I learned a lot during that first race. A lot of things from which I thought, perhaps people would like to read this. Perhaps somebody out there is now counting days until his or her first race. And maybe, just maybe, my experiences might be of any help for these people. I also happen to be a gadget freak, I love technology, so that might also be interesting to see how some gadget can be used, or abused.

So what to expect from this blog? Well I’m planning to post what I’ve learned, some tips & tricks, some stories from training and races and also some stories and reviews of my triathlon gear.

That’s it for now, more to come soon ūüėČ

Keep training,
Nico