As a reader of this blog could easily guess, today's post is about the FNB Sandman Triathlon in Swakopmund, Namibia. So the grand finale was the race on December 3rd, 2017. A few days earlier I had traveled from cold Germany to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and had the opportunity to acclimatize a bit. The challenge was to switch from wet, cold to dry, hot. Remarkable if you have a completely dry mouth after 20 minutes of cycling. That would probably not have happened in Germany.
My conclusion first:
In my small project, it was about - after almost 10 years - finally tackling a sporting challenge again. I had gained nearly 50 pounds in the 10 years prior to my project. I was able to lose about 15 kilos of that last year. And last but not least: I really like triathlon, I like training, I like racing (when I'm well prepared). I finally wanted to feel this love and enthusiasm for sport again and also like to share it with you, my “sports friends”. I think all goals achieved. Thank you for your support and attention!
Where is my bike?
Norcom Straight 1.3 - it should have been[/caption] Before the departure there was of course a little excitement because my bike, the Fuji Norcom Straight 1.3 (2018) did not arrive on time. It had actually been planned since September that it should arrive early in November. So I briefly switched from Fuji to the 2017 variant of the same bike with the kind support of Harald von Hoogstraten. The bike arrived the day before departure. With the help of Frank Sievert, the store manager of the triathlon.de shop in Munich, I was able to set it up the evening before. Many thanks to Frank and Harald: Without your help I would have had to come up with a pretty good idea!
Warm up in Windhoek
Two days before the Sandman Triathlon I traveled on from Windhoek to Swakopmund. Arriving there, the weather was foggy and surprisingly cool at 10°. No wonder the Germans felt so comfortable here, because Swakopmund feels more like Hamburg than Africa. The day before the race there was the usual briefing, then putting things together and dinner at the popular fish restaurant... that was probably a mistake.
The food was actually very good, but during the night my stomach started to rumble and from midnight to 6 a.m. I had to commute between bed and ceramics. Did I eat something bad? Was I just nervous? It was clear to me that diarrhea is not optimal preparation for a triathlon race and that dehydration can be critical. I really hoped that I could still complete the race reasonably well.
Dry bread for breakfast
The breakfast at the beach hotel is actually sensational. I've seen a lot of hotels but I can't remember ever having a better breakfast. It was all the more annoying that I had to switch to tea and dry bread that morning. The good news of the day...unlike the day of arrival, the weather on December 3, 2017 was great. Not a cloud in the sky and the most beautiful sunshine. At 6:30 a.m., nature called again and, as if by a miracle, everything was fine once I put on my neoprene.
Flipper swims too
Punctually at 7 a.m. the first starting shot was fired for the "ultra distance", as the middle distance is called in the Sandman Triathlon. I threw myself into the water with the others and followed the triangle course, which had to be swim through 5 times. After a few meters, while breathing, I saw a dolphin jump “flip” to my left. A shiver ran down my spine and I knew everything would be great today. I don't know why, but it was just fine. Later, the spectators reported to us that two dolphins had apparently stayed in the bay and accompanied us on our first round through the bay. The swim itself went quite well. A long-distance swimmer from Swakopmund had pulled away from the start and was on his way to setting a new course record. Our field stretched behind them and I was able to keep up with the first group of pursuers, but I didn't put any pressure on them. I came out of the water in fifth place, into the transition area and Neo out. There I pulled on the top of my aero one-piece suit. I had previously found out during training that the one-piece suit bothered me when swimming and had rolled it down to my waist. Under load and when you're nice and wet, it's a crazy fumbling, of course. So put on your helmet, put on the start number band and then push your bike out of the transition area. This change wasn't really optimal and when I left Swakopmund after a few kilometers, I finally had everything adjusted and my sitting position was ok, the sleeves of the one-piece suit were turned the right way.
It went well, with increasing tailwind I was able to roll well up to the first turning point. On the way back, the tailwind from before laughed in our faces. Suddenly the road, which isn't made of tar but is a salt road, also felt quite jerky. Nevertheless, I managed to catch up with three other athletes and overtake them. The bike tour is 45 kilometers long and has to be completed twice. After the first lap I felt really good and ready to push. My speedometer showed me that I was constantly pedaling between 200 and 220 watts. Suddenly I noticed that my handlebars were moving further and further to the left, while my bike continued to go straight. When the deviation was 45°, I decided to stop briefly and fix the handlebars. Luckily I had a mini tool with me. But what happened? Due to the jerky track, the screws of the stem had loosened slightly and with every jerking the handlebars moved further to the left. So stop and tool out, whoosh, whoosh, the first two athletes I overtook on the first lap passed me again. Whoa...Number three was in front of me again. Well, but every screw gets tight at some point and I got back on my bike. On the way back to Swakopmund, the strong headwind from before greeted me again and I was able to pick up one of my competitors.
I didn't really need the last three kilometers
The bike-run change worked great and the first few meters felt good too. 1st kilometer and my Garmin reported 4:45min. Ok...actually a bit too fast, but I started out deliberately easy and I felt good. In the meantime it was almost 11 and the thermometer had climbed to about 30°. The running route is a 7-kilometer lap that has to be completed 3 times. Half of the round is along the promenade with a tailwind. The way back leads a bit inland on the road, with a headwind and no shade back to the transition area. The 1st and 2nd lap went great. I was able to keep my running average for around 5 minutes and was on course for the half marathon in 1:45. With the start of the third lap, however, I noticed how slowly my strength was fading and the kilometer times kept going down. The last three kilometers were a struggle, but I went through everything and finished fifth overall and first in my age group. In short: "I actually didn't need the last three kilometers." But wait a minute, it's exactly the three kilometers that make the difference. That's the difference between rolling to the finish and fighting for the finish. I didn't achieve my time goal of staying under 5 hours on December 3rd. But I fought to the end and gave everything I could. And that's what it's all about and that's the difference that the last 3 kilometers make.
Why the FNB Sandman Triathlon and Namibia are worth a trip!
The Sandman is a small but lovingly organized triathlon. It reminded me a bit of the triathlons we used to have. Athletes compete against each other, have fun together and are fair to each other. You don't need a timing chip and no full road closure. At this point many thanks to Yvonne and Mark Brinkmann, the organizers of the Sandman Triathlon. After the triathlon, we went on a nearly two-week round trip through Namibia. That alone would be worth several articles on triathlon.de. I just want to briefly summarize the stations: Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, Maltahöhe, Omaruru, Etosha National Park, Damara Land, Brandberg, Uis, Windhoek. What makes Namibia special? It is a vast, wild and sparsely populated country. The landscape is incredibly diverse and often breathtaking. We ate sensationally - but you shouldn't necessarily be a vegetarian. And those who like to observe wild animals will get their money's worth here. The whole thing can be combined with sporting challenges at any point - if you want.
Thanks very much!
I don't know if that's how it's done, but I feel that way, so I just want to express my gratitude. First and foremost, of course, Martina Stehr, who supported me during the race and took the great photos, but also because she went through everything in preparation and in Namibia (almost) without complaint. Then of course Harald from Fuji, who made sure that I ended up having a top bike at the start. Many thanks to Totti from Saucony, thanks to you I had the best shoes for me. Thanks to Christoph, Frank and Stephan from the triathlon.de shops in Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg for supporting me with advice, action and material. And of course many thanks to Yvonne and Mark, who organize this great event mainly because they love sports. Sandman Triathlon and Namibia: I would love to come back!
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Photos: Martina Stehr