*** many thanks to Jasmijn Vaes for this race report ***

Wiesbaden 70.3. Great race, great people, great fun!

Most of you tri-peeps could have finished the race, collected your medal, had a three course meal, gone for a massage, collected your bike from T2 and still have been on time to see me finish. As a result I’m afraid that I don’t have any magic training or racing tips to enlighten you with. But maybe this race report will help convince some people to give triathlon a go (Mrs. Coghlan, I’m sure I saw a spark?!) or to register for a race just for fun.

Maarten and I discovered triathlon 2 years ago. When we started we could only swim breaststroke, run 5km and except for cycling to work, we didn’t really cycle. That in combination with the dreaded Dubai stone and bad knees from a previous basketball career meant that we had a lot to work on.

The first year was a year of trial and error. We didn’t really have a plan, we just cycled, ran and swam at random and added in some bootcamps for good measure. Last May we joined TriDubai and that changed our lives completely. We met team Wiesbaden’s Captain, Guy Coghlan aka Mister National, who made us realise that we had to up our game…big time! We joined the TriDubai Tuesday and Saturday swims and on Wednesdays we swam with Crissy Harris (DMSC). This pushed us to the max and resulted in some solid improvements for both of us on the swim. Thank you Crissy and TriDubai swim leaders, you guys rock!!

Since Wiesbaden has a hilly bike course we tried going to Hatta regularly which really paid off. I’m still too slow uphill and a little too scared downhill, but working on it. If you can get one, a support car for longer rides really is a great comfort on the dangerous UAE roads. Thank you Sarah Hawkins, Noeline Luitingh, Josh Harney and Kevin Lucey for keeping us safe in Hatta, we definitely owe you!

Our run training didn’t go as planned. Maarten was injured after the RAK Half Marathon and couldn’t run for 4 months. Running without my hubby just isn’t the same so I skipped more sessions than I should have.

We arrived in Wiesbaden on Friday, 2 days before race day. I can recommend getting to the race venue a few days in advance; it gives you time to get your bearings, sort out registration issues and take care of bike travelling hic-ups whilst enjoying some ‘holiday’ moments in between.

Once on location Team Wiesbaden was guided by Anja Kunze and Stefan Spies, Wiesbaden’s finest tri-duo (confirmed by the fact that Anja was crowned Wiesbaden’s ‘Stadtmeister’ after the race: officially the fastest female citizen of Wiesbaden!). Dinner was arranged at some exceptionally nice places and they really went out of their way to make us feel at home. Thank you Anja and Stefan, we hope we can make you feel equally welcome in Dubai!

Paul Stevens, a rally driver at heart, suggested that we drive the first part of the bike course the day before the race. The first 40km of the course consists of short steep hills followed by sharp turning descents which are quite technical. I must have said “this is going to hurt” more than 10 times before we stopped at the 40km mark to head back to the hotel. My heart sank when Paul said, “right, the real hills begin here”. Help!!

Having seen that first part of the bike course, I seriously started doubting if I was going to be able to finish the race. So this became my main goal. But deep down I was hoping to complete the swim in under 40 minutes, the bike in under 4 hours and the run in less than 2:10.

As it turns out the swim went well; 36 minutes. Wetsuits are a great invention! Since we didn’t know what weather to expect I had brought 2 pairs of goggles, 1 with transparent lenses and 1 with polarized lenses. I was glad I chose to use my polarized lenses on race day as the sun was shining right above the water and I got the impression that some of the girls were a bit blinded by it (or perhaps they just had a phobia of swimming close to the buoys?).

Bonus tips from Wiesbaden’s Stadtmeister:

- Use a plastic glove to apply your Vaseline before the swim, by doing this you will avoid having Vaseline all over your goggles etc.

- Once you’ve handed over your white bag with your shoes in it, wear the disposable hotel slippers to make your way to the swim start and avoid hurting your feet!

Despite my fears the bike went ok. I wasn’t great on the technical downhill sections, which resulted in going ridiculously slow, but being able to visualize the course helped with getting the gear changes right. The long up-hills were tough-going but luckily I didn’t have to unclick and walk as I saw some people do on the steeper parts of the course. I managed to stay below my target time and finished the bike in 3:54.

I felt great on the first 10km of the run and then lalaland started. My stomach began protesting and forced me to visit every toilet I passed. I walked the last 5km fearing that I would end up with a DNF if I continued running which resulted in a 2:42 run time. Ouch.

Even though the run didn’t go as planned I felt really satisfied after the race and stayed high on endorphins for the following three days. I’m guessing this might have helped in convincing my sister in law and her husband to join us next year. The things people do for free drugs!

Two years ago, I would have never thought that I would like triathlon this much, but I really love it and TriDubai has definitely contributed to that. I feel privileged to train with you guys! If you are reading this and are still unsure whether to join the TriDubai sessions or not (we silently followed the website and Facebook page for months before we dared show up for a swim!), just give them a go! I know, TriDubai has more people that have done or are going to do Kona than I have facebook-friends, but trust me, you will love it no matter what your level is!

I’ve still got 2 special people to thank:

Mister National, thank you for guiding us. It was fun training with you. You are a great team leader! I’m already looking forward to the Tuesday swims!

My much better half, I love training with you and hope that we can train together for many more years! Thank you for packing my bike, making my coffee in the morning, always encouraging me and listening to my grumpiness when I’m fatigued. Next season I promise to take more gels on the bike. :)

Wiesbaden 70.3, team Belgium will be back for more!