World Cup New Plymouth & World Triathlon Series Gold Coast:
Let’s just describe the WC New Plymouth and WTS Gold Coast as still part of my rainy period. In both races, I struggled to get all three disciplines on point on the same day. With each passing race, the disappointment of letting Olympic points slip right out of my hand began to set in. Yet, I could feel improvements with certain aspects of the races and still trusted my training. So while I was frustrated with lack of progress, all I could do was learn from mistakes made, accept my situation, and keep pushing forward.
World Cup Chengdu:
The next step forward was the Olympic Distance World Cup triathlon in Chengdu, China on April 16, just one week after Gold Coast. Despite some delays in receiving my Chinese visa, I finally landed Friday morning at 1:30am and less than 36 hours after arriving, it was race time!!
Since I missed the briefing Thursday evening, I had to start last on the pontoon. I found myself swimming more or less by myself in the middle, with a group of swimmers about 10m away on my left and 10m away on my right. Of course, everything came together at the first bouy, but I had some ground to make up. I accelerated through the second smaller lap of 500m, and exited the swim between the about 10 seconds behind the group in front and 10 seconds in front of the chase pack. Our chase group worked well together catching the leaders by the end of lap 4. When we arrived into second transition as one big group, I just mentally prepared myself for a warm and hard 10km run.
I took off fast trying to create a small gap early on and when cramps started coming on after 5km, I lost contact with the leader Summer Cook (USA). At that point, I thought that if I accelerated to try and catch Cook, I’d risk blowing up completely. Over those last two laps, I just tried to remain constant reminding myself that if I wanted these points, I was going to have to fight for them. When I glanced back after the last turning point and saw I still had a gap over third and fourth place, I was overcome with relief. After all the injuries in 2015 and early season struggles, this performance could not have come at a better time.
Moreover, fellow Belgian teammate Marten Van Riel earned a bronze medal a few hours earlier in the Elite Men’s race. Marten has had an exceptional start to the season, but this was his first podium and it was really special to share this moment with him at a World Cup level.
The Olympic qualification period lasts two-years ending in May 15, 2016. After last weekend in Chengdu, I have improved my ranking to 56th (and 47th on the "cleaned-up" simulation list), regaining an Olympic qualifying spot. I am now back in Belgium for a short training block to prepare for the Olympic Distance World Cup in Huatulco, Mexico on May 7th, followed by the World Triathlon Series in Yokohama, Japan, one week later on May 14th. While I know I still have a lot of work to do, I am more determined than ever to secure my spot and will go into these last qualifying races humble, hungry and on the hunt for points.
Thank you to my coaches, friends, family and supporters for the messages of encouragement through the good and the bad. No matter where I am in the world, your support is always much appreciated!
Thanks for reading,