How to describe my experience at the first European Games in Baku? It would be like getting that first lick of sweet ice cream before accidentally letting it all fall on the floor…let me explain.
This was my first multi-sport event and it was an incredible experience to stay in the Athlete’s village, eat in the massive dining hall, train in the numerous brand new sport venues and meet athletes’ from all disciplines across Europe. The organization by host nation Azerbijan and by Team Belgium was impressive to say the least and I felt fortunate to be a part of the historic first-ever European Games. Since the triathlon was on the first day, I did not participate in the opening ceremony, but heard the fireworks and Lady Gaga singing from my room.
Race day was hot and windy, which made for very challenging conditions. The swim was very choppy, and particularly shallow the first 100m forcing many of us to dolphin dive thus breaking the field into several small packs. Strong winds made the bike especially hard. I put in a big push alone in the first 3km to catch a small group in front of me, but we were caught by the rest of the pack a few kilometers later (still I was glad I went for it). However, this early effort cost a lot of energy and I did not protect myself very well from the wind, staying at the back of the pack, but too far from the wheel to really benefit from drafting. (Watch the full race video here.)
As for the run, that’s when the 35 degree heat really became my arch nemesis. It was a fight against cramps, dehydration and let’s be honest, lack of running form. This was my first 10km of the season and coming back from injury with only 3 weeks of running in my legs, I ran the last lap on adrenaline and willpower.
Sometimes I feel like a walking disaster. Literally. Monday morning I went for a short swim and despite walking very carefully, I slipped. In retrospect, this was probably a funny scene: in front of the entire men’s French water polo team I fell on my bum, with my back pack on, one leg in the pool, the other awkwardly twisted on the pool deck and my water bottle, cap and goggles hitting some unsuspecting Frenchmen.
An MRI later confirmed a fracture of the 2nd metatarsal and small fracture in the 3rd, meaning I was off for another two months of no running. At first, I was incredulous. How could I do something so stupid? I was truly beginning to wonder what kind of hex was put on me this season. However, when I dropped my ice cream, I must have held onto the cone in my hand as the doctors confirmed that I could still swim and bike. So my coach and I have adopted the following motto:
“If a triathlete cannot run; make her the strongest swimmer/biker possible.”
I am happy to report that we have been progressing well in the swim and bike by finding the joy in training thanks to great team mates and having fun with open water races. When my foot is strong enough we’ll include some bike races as well.
Despite this seeming to become the bad-news-blog, I want to thank those around me for their continued support, extending a special appreciation to my coaches, medical team and friends. Even if I fall 99 times, I'll get up 100 and I'm always grateful for the hand back up.