dinsdag 11 oktober 2016

The way to Hel

After the deception at the Triathlon of lac de Salagou in 2014, I didn't really know what to expect from 2015. Too afraid of the heat, I decided to stay in Belgium in 2015. I did the 111 of La Roche and the Nisraman. Two amazing races from sport-events in the beautiful area of La Roche. The 111 was too much bike (100k) for me. But it was super fun to cross the finishline with my boys!

Happy with my performance in La Roche, I continued to train for what I assumed would be my main goal for 2015: The Nisraman. Nothing changed in the format of this fantastic Sport-events race. Last time, I burned myself during the mtb part, this time I would try to keep some for the run. After a steady swim and good bike, I was still in 20th position to start the mtb. I lost a few more spots, but was up for a good run. However, cramps (again) at the first descent decided otherwise. I lost 10 more spots and finished 38th on 123 participants. Happy with the race uptil the cramps, I still enjoyed this great format, especially thanks to the support of my family.

Because I felt I could have done better if it wasn't for the cramps in the run, I decided to find another race that could motivate me for the remainder of the year. For more than a decade there was 1 particular race that kept me curious. The "Hel van Kasterlee", an off-road duathlon, held end of december. Being in Belgium, you never know how hard this race can be. All depends on the weather: will there be rain, snow, cold or maybe sun? But even without the weather, the race format promises excitement : 15k run - 105k mtb - 30k run. Some say it's as tough as an Ironman. So better prepare for the worst :) I started doing long mtb tours, first in Summer (really fun doing the +100k tour of Hageland), then in Autumn (rain and mud a gogo but not less fun for me :). Obviously, I had to do some running as well, so I participated on my first multi-day trail event : X-trails Houffalize: First day : Kamikaze (4k trail) + Semi-night trails Coccinelles (20k) - Second day: 26k Houffatrail. Really fun event which I finished with a lot of confidence to go to the "Hel"!

While I was preparing for the "Hel", I started to feel less and less motivated in my job in IT at Atlas Copco. The lack of appreciation, direction and progress in projects made me wonder why I was waisting my time here. Luckily, I had my family, sports and my side-job as Sports Masseur (which I started in 2015 : check my website for more about that: www.sportbalans.be .) to balance my life. From September to December, the frustration in my daily job grew bigger and bigger until a point where I started to feel sick when I came to work. I decided I couldn't continue like this and something had to change in 2016, I had to escape this hell I felt to be in! But first let's go to "the Hel of Kasterlee "!

The race started at the first weekend of the X-mas holidays. I felt I was still stressed from the de-motivation at work. With that came the stress of what I was about to get myself into... I decided to try to run my own race in a smart way. Stay calm on the first 15k, survive the 105k of mtb and then go all out on the 30k. Difficult to stay calm on the first run, as a lot of the guys here run the first 15k at around about 1:00:00... I finished the first lap after 1:09. Good enough for me. 169th place so far on 255 participants. Not great, but plenty more fun to come! However, fun was not the word that came to my mind while I was riding my mtb through the sandy roads in Kasterlee. I felt what these months of demotivated work had done to my body and mind... I was empty. And although it might sound strange to say this about a race like the Hel, I was bored...  In my mind, I pictured the mtb course to be made up of technical single tracks, but that was only the case for 2k on each 21k lap. This was the only place on the course where I was able to catch other fellow "Hellracers" and where I had fun (except for when I passed the transition zone, where my two biggest fans of the day (my dad and Matti) cheered me up. The next difficulty was to "ride" through a field, but that was more a struggle to walk through mud. Not much fun about that...

The rest of the course was just dried up fast tracks through the fields. Some might call it luck that we had temperatures upto almost 20k, but I would have liked to have gotten some rougher conditions... I am a man of power, not souplesse... Anyway, you have to take life as it comes. So I just continued to pedal lap by lap until I was allowed to start the last 30k run. In the back of my head, I was continuously hoping to have no mechanical problems. Just when I started to feel relieved that I would make it, my rear wheel blocked... I thought it was just the chain, but it just refused to turn around. By accident, I noticed that it would only turn if I let it stay loose on the frame. With only 3k to go, I decided to losen my wheel and just ride carefully. Obviously, this made me lose some spots, but hey, I was here to finish and have fun, not to beat other people... Speaking of fun, finally I got to the point where I could go all out: the last 30k run! Two laps of 15k. The course consisted of roughly 5 long stretches of road, mentally pretty tough. Luckily my good friend Bert accepted my invitation to be my companion on the bike during these last 30k. When I started running, I was so happy, I started of faster than the initial 15k. Other participants looked at me as if I was crazy and warned me that it was still a long way to go... But this is why I stayed calm on the bike, to go crazy on the run :). But when I saw I was running at around about 13km/h, I decided to slow down anyway. I started  passing by a lot of guys on the first 10k. When the first round was done, I must have passed more than 20. It gave me wings. Obviously, I was bound to meet my dear friend with the Hammer. The second tour was really hard, much less participants on the track made it mentally really hard. But mister Hammer only caught up with me at the last 1k when I got cramps... I left my last bottle of ORS in the transition zone... But the emotion took over and pain left the body. I had tears in my eyes when I realized I was going to finish this Hel despite of how shitty I felt about my job... My family was just around the corner to encourage me on the last few 100 meters. I told my boys to follow me and with my last strength, I climbed the stage of the finish line! Yes! I made it! Finished 143th after 8 hours and 58 minutes :D

My first thoughts after finishing was that I would never do this again, but when your oldest son tells you on the way back that he wants to run this race when he is older together with you, you laugh and say ok :)!

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