Full disclosure: I felt like absolute garbage for 10 days straight leading into this race. Tired, sore, and grumpy (according to Lauren). So terrible in fact, that I moved my flight home a week early. Too much travel? Lots of hard training? Not really sure (more later). But given that I expected to feel terrible and tired, this race was all about the experience of going to Knokke, having a good time, and finishing the summer on a positive note. All of which happened.
|The door man at the check in area turned my frown upside down.|
I’d like to thank Pieter Auwaerts, Peter Croes, Jef and Hans Cleemput, and the race organizers for a fantastic few days, lots of fun, great people, and an awesome event. Thanks so much for the invite and hospitality.
So before each race, the announcer typically introduces the top Pros in the field. I wasn’t at all expecting to be introduced (never have been, and the field here included Olympians and Ironman World Champions, etc.). So during the introductions I was spacing out (everything was in Dutch), minding my own business, and getting focused. But I slowly began to notice a suspicous number of people in the crowd looking at me. The announcer (Hans) was great, he must have realized I had no idea what was going on, so he finished my introduction entirely in English, “And in the blue swim cap, from the United States of America, please welcome, Jesse Thomas!!!!” Pretty awesome. Not really sure what else he said about me before that, but I’m sure he made me sound much better than I am.
Swim: 1km, 14:30 (20th Fastest, 20th Place)
In the water before the gun went off, I noticed all the other pros doing this little floaty thing with their feet kicking up behind them in the swimming position. I’d never seen this before, and I was worried the crowd was thinking “the poor American guy doesn’t even know how to do the floaty-kicking thing, he doesn’t stand a chance” so I did my best to imitate it, hoping that it might be the secret to swimming a couple of minutes faster.
So the gun went off, and just like the first 5 minutes of every swim, it felt like being in a gigantic washing machine with dozens of other Batman dudes pushing, shoving, punching, and oh yeah…swimming, so I just concentrated on making sure I was still afloat and generally pointed in the right direction. I did my best to stay with the 2nd group of pros, but a small gap developed about 300-400 meters in. I couldn’t quite get back on and got dropped (surprise!). So I swam steadily for a few minutes until a couple guys came up behind me, and then decided I wasn’t going to swim too much faster by myself, so I may as well just tuck in and draft. The pace was probably a little slow for me, but I figured it was better to use 10-20% less energy and swim only 20-30 seconds slower. Anyway, I came out of the water about 1:45 behind the leaders, a bit further back than expected, but not terrible.
Bike: 45km, 1:07:47 (18th Fastest, 15th Place)
Thus continues my trend of crappy bike splits. The only difference here being that I expected to feel terrible, so I didn’t let it bother me too much during the race. My legs just felt tired, as they had the entire week before hand, and as they have most races so far. More to diagnose….but won’t discuss that here.
|Goldmember kept me company the entire bike ride.|
So instead of focusing on how I felt, I realized a few miles into the bike that it was my first time in Holland (the bike course crosses the border between Holland and Belgium). My brain then quickly scanned the entirety of my knowledge of Holland and landed, of course, on Goldmember (of Austin Powers). So instead of the usual song repeating in my head during the bike, I cycled between “I’m from Holland, isn’t that vierd?” and “I love Gooooold!” and “Can I turn his you-hoo into gold? It’s kind of my thing you know….” Anyway, Goldmember and I just tried to relax and go with whatever our legs would allow (which wasn’t much, losing another 3.5 minutes to most of the pros), but nevetheless enjoying the countryside as it passed along.
Run: 29:31, “10km” (1st Fastest, 9th Place)
Honestly, probably my favorite run of the year. It was flat and fast, two laps up and down the beach sidewalk with a big crowd the entire way (and Hans announcing when I went by – in English). I knew I hadn’t blown out my legs on the bike, so I was pretty geared up to get after it, thinking I still had an outside shot at the top 10 if I ran well. I ran some great negative splits, going 5:20, 5:07, 4:59, 4:58, 4:57 through 5 miles and then bringing home the last .9 mile in 4:11 (about 4:39 pace). Obviously, it wasn’t a true 10k, but it was the fastest run by over a minute, and two minutes faster than the 3rd fastest run! Might have been more impressive after a faster swim and bike, but hey, I’ll take it.
Overall: 1:53:56, 9th Place
|What's nerdier than this picture? Me posting to my blog.|
Given how I felt coming into this race, I’m pretty satisfied with my performance. I definitely think I can perform a LOT better than this, particularly on the bike and even on the swim (just 75 seconds faster would have put me in 5th). But I’m back in the top 10, and in a very competitive field. I even beat a few guys who beat me substantially in Antwerp, so overall, it was good.
It became obvious the last 10 days that 8 weeks of travel in Europe has taken its toll on my training and energy levels. I’m sooooo excited to get back home, get into a routine, have some training partners, etc. It’s been a long season, so next steps are still unclear, it’ll depend on how I feel in the next week or so, but looking forward to it regardless.
I was invited to the after party by my host Pieter, which was awesome. We ate some amazing food and had a great time with great people. It surprised me how much my understanding of the mostly Dutch conversation improved with each glass of wine and champagne…. My shining moment of the after party came during the video montage/replay of the race, where my only cameo was my incredibly embarrassing bike mount (getting on the bike after transition). I tried to jump on (flying style), but caught my leg on the waterbottle behind my seat, almost fell on my face, stopped the bike completely, tried twice to lift my leg over the top tube, and then finally got on and going. By the time I was riding, the table had a pretty good laugh at my expense, but since most of their taunts were in Dutch, I just let ‘em slide.