Sunday, 18 September 2016

An adventure in the French Alps : The Evergreen Endurance 118

Laughing so hard tears roll down your face, cramps take over your stomach and almost no sound comes out of your mouth, no words can be spoken, the ultimate feeling of joy shared with someone with whom you have a deep connection.
I found myself doing exactly this on a terrace in the middle of Chamonix enjoying the sunshine and a drink with my Dutch friend Jantiene. Sharing pure laughter with someone was  rare for me and one of the reasons why I valued our friendship so much. Having known Jantiene for only a year it was amazing how close we had become and even though we came from completely different background’s our life’s and views seemed so paralleled, including sharing the same bruised big toe, a broken drink bottle cage on our bikes and identical body aces!!
Enjoying laughs in Chamonix

It was already clear at race briefing that both of us wanted to escape the compression socks, aerodynamic haircuts and all the rest of the triathlon hype these races were associated with. We lasted an hour. Neither of us had paid attention and as two giggling school girls we went to Nico for a briefing of the briefing and before we knew it  we had done what we needed to do and were relaxing and laughing in the centre of Chamonix not giving the huge day ahead any room for thought.

Jantiene taking the piss out of my lack of strength pumping up my tyres!
Although it was probably one of my most relaxing pre-race days, I did not sleep very well. I was not often worried about a course but this run course was brutal. I had done minimal amount of running since February and although I did feel my injury was getting better and better, the worry of breaking myself completely during the race was on my mind. On top of that I was not a good technical downhill runner so I was looking at a 5-6 hour run time over this course. I started to doubt if my decision to race was the right one but I wanted to do it so badly.

We had to leave the house at 4am on race morning and Jantiene calmed my nerves down by saying “I am expecting around 11 hours, 40min for the swim, 5 hours for the bike and 5 hours for the run” In my head I added another half an hour for the run and her saying it oud loud somehow made it seem more doable.

What a magical morning it was, transition from night to dusk, the atmosphere was electric, the lake calmly awaiting about 500 triathletes. After setting up in bike transition I caught Jantiene on the way down to the lake start and we passed a whole lot of yellow race bags, “what are they doing here” I asked as we both had them set up at the bike transition “teams may be?” She answered without giving it too much thought. Turns out we should have paid  more attention at race briefing!!!
We were about to start!!
I was not really nervous before the swim, I had never been able to match the speed I can swim in the pool  in a race so I was not worried about how fast I would swim, I knew I was fit enough for the distance and that was all that mattered. When I came out of the water and looked at my watch I could not believe how fast I had swam, I had smashed all my personal records!! Super excited I run into transition which added even more to my excitement as I saw glimpses of Alex and Jantiene who are both great swimmers and I finished only just behind them! Excitement turned into panic when it occurred to me that people were heading to tents to get changed and were given the bags which we had seen on the way down to the lake! Oh crap!! We got that all wrong, while volunteers were yelling at me I run to my bike whilst giggling to myself as I knew Jantiene was in exactly the same awkward situation!!
“My swim!!” I yelled in excitement to Michael whilst jumping onto my bike, both Jantiene and I were now racing in the top 5 female overall!! This was beyond expectation for both of us!!
Finding my legs on the bike and enjoying every minute of it (even descending with a loose headset!)

I found to have great bike legs and was loving the race. I decided to keep my HR low which I could do as I felt so amazing and cruised up the climbs as if they were road bumps it felt that easy!! A small mistake in building my bike after the flight ended up in me having to descent with a loose headset (not ideal in the Alps) but even that error I decided to laugh away. I felt like nothing could get my mood down. The course was not always marked that easily and I found a couple of times that I had to turn around and retrace my tracks but it did not feel like I lost a huge amount of time doing that. The coolest experience was that I was in the race with Jantiene and also Sarah from Organicoach changing position all the time at the pointy end of the field. And we were all smiles. Michael was the best support crew ever charging around in a little fiat 500 which put a smile on my face every time he came screaming past!!
Quick chat with Jantiene and Sarah in the bike/run transition tent and on to the run I went, I knew that this would be the end of the race for me but I here I was hoping, I run through in 6th place overall and within one km I moved into 5th place, my legs were ok, I was ok!! This was great!! The first 4km’s were flat so I tried to take advantage of that well knowingly that my nightmare began on the uphill. Both Jantiene and Sarah caught me on the first climb. I had been struggling with my stomach the whole race and suddenly it felt like my stomach folded in half and I had to throw up, not ideal. Jantiene’s concerning words were encouraging and I tried to overcome my ill feeling. This will pass I thought. This will pass. And I kept moving forward trying to take in the breath taking views.
Spectacular course through the Alps
The run was indeed brutal, an extra climb and 2km’s was added to the course and as I reached the top I was completely empty and knew the downhill would only add to my fatigue and injured body with the technical rocky course. I did my utter best to hold on to the top 10 female overall running downhill like I never had before ignoring the pains shooting down my legs but reluctantly I had to let go in the final km’s  of a 10 hour race!! Mixed emotions at the finish line being ecstatic about completing this insane event with the lead up I had had and disappointed at the same time because of my bad run. I needed to work on shutting up that ridiculously competitive little voice in my head because before the race there was no way I would have thought I could actually perform that well and be at the pointy end of the field for such a big part of the race!!
Team Organicoach plus Altijd sporten!
Super proud of my friends, Jantiene who finished strong in 9th, Sarah in 6th and last but not least Alex who won the female’s race, as modest as they come, no nicer person completely in sync with the Evergreen spirit could have won this race!! A few magical days in Chamonix with great friends, racing the way I love it, on a course which ended up one of the most beautiful courses I have ever done. Big thanks to all of the volunteers of Evergreen and Bruno for organising an awesome event. One for the bucket list for sure and I will be back next year!!

"laughter is the shortest distance between two people" Victor Borge


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