Last weekend was tough, since I was prepared to race IM Zurich but got sick and could not finish the race.
I felt very tired the day before, maybe a bit more than normal. But I was not concerned about it, thinking it was just tiredness leaving my body. In fact, it was a virus entering my system.
Race morning, felt quite normal. I did the swim, changed to the bike – and had no legs. I still was quite confident, you always have a bad hour in such a long race, and I thought, it’s ok to have the bad hour at the beginning of the race rather than at the end. Let’s deal with it and get through. But I couldn’t get the legs moving. I tried everything: Pushing in aero position, ease down in aero position, lift up the cadence, pedal seated, standing up, eating something, but nothing helped, and it cost me an incredible effort to reach an intensity which I do in training for hours without noticing. Then, after 50 min of struggling, the body shut down completely, and I had to back off. Heartrate below 100 beats, I couldn’t get it up, not even at the hills. Race over. But I didn’t want to quit – always having doc’s dogma in my head of never letting a job undone. And two of my brothers with their families were waiting for me at heartbreak hill. They made the long trip just to cheer me! Therefore I rode slowly, but I rode. The remaining 50k of the first loop took me 2 hours. In the meantime I was feeling sick more and more, fevered and shivery. There definitely was something wrong. Tickle in my throat and lungs. I completed the first loop. I stopped, stood at the side of the road, still not sure if I should quit or go on. Looking at all the athletes passing by. Finally I decided to take the signs of my body seriously and stop instead of risking a serious illness. Now, three days later, the virus is in full bloom and I am reliefed that I didn’t push me further.
One one hand, a really bad day. On the other hand it gave me the opportunity to recognize some things I would never have without dropping out.
I watched the race now as a spectator and realized how big the difference is between your imaginated self as an competing athlete and the perception from outside. 45kph feel really fast on the bike and you think you are a really tough guy – and look so slow and unspectacular from outside. Same with run speed. If you run sub-4min per k you feel like an hero (and you might be) – but it looks anything else but fast.
Another thing were the big groups riding together. Not 10 meters, not 7 meters, but tour de france like wheel at wheel. Even when the leader was passing by he had 2 motorcycles 5 meters in front of him. This is the way it is. If you want to control the race, you have to be in front of it.
I always thought, triathlon is a boring sport to watch. Instead, I was astonished how fast time went by! While you are waiting for the top 10 men entering T2, there are already the first ones coming by on the run. You track time and wait for the first girls. Until they change you are half way into the marathon and it gets really interesting who moves up… and so on.
Watching hurted. My real self found my imaginated self still competing from time to time, and it was painful to unify them at the side of the course again and again. I recognized how badly I want to win such a race. I never will be satisfied with a third or second place. I want to win.
Then I finally found my family . All of them were concerned about my physical and mental well-being after quitting the race – the only one who did not care was my son Nico with his 2 years. He was not a tiny bit concerned about that. He had a complete different view on the whole event as well. We watched the finish of the first guys together, but he was just scared by all the people and all that noise at the finish area. He was not interested in watching Ronnie crossing the finish line, – what him fascinated most were the hunderds of balloons flying into the air when he came in. He loved the bouncing castles in the kid’s corner of the expo area and had so much fun jumping around with his cousins and other kids. He was so excited, was sweeting from enjoyment, had so laughing eyes, that it really made me happy. With his ruthless happiness, he taught me that one’s ego is – and is not – at the same time the center of the earth. I even couldn’t call it a bad day any more.
Keep your head to together and look ahead. There was nothing wrong with your training. You just got sick. Get that virus out of your body and look forward to your next race. Then do what you are born for – race and win!