At the end of June in the Challenge Walchsee middle distance triathlon race in Austria, I had qualified for the World Triathlon race of the Challenge organization: the Challenge The Championship in Samorin, Slovakia! Early August I competed in the Ironman 70.3 Gdynia Poland race and there were only three weeks until The Championship, and I wasn’t really interested in driving too many times through the whole of Europe within a few weeks. Therefore, I decided to drive on the Tuesday after the race in Poland to Vienna in Austria which is close to Samorin in Slovakia.
I found a studio in a suburb of Vienna with a good connection to the city center, a swim lake, and the river Donau nearby, and easy to go out for a bike ride without having to cycle through the whole city center each time. The studio was located in the completely new suburb of Vienna called Seestadt (translation: lake city) and they were still building so many apartment buildings in the area and it’s supposedly the largest new suburb of Europe.
Unfortunately, the project designer has missed his lectures about climate control within a city and almost everywhere you looked was either asphalt or concrete. Just the lake with a small park around it and a few small trees in between the buildings but the temperature was increasing during the whole day without the natural climate control of grass fields, bushes, flower beds, or anything besides asphalt and concrete. Besides this, the area around the lake was very nice to relax and swim in a bit and the easy transport with the underground rail to the center of Vienna was very convenient.
During my 1.5 weeks in Vienna, I was able to recover from the Ironman 70.3 race in Gdynia and start to prepare myself for the upcoming triathlon race in Samorin. Quite some good swim training sessions in a 50-meter public pool in the center of Vienna (Stadthalle Bad), endurance and interval rides alongside the river Donau, easy and interval run training, and a brick training to stay used to the intensity of a race. Besides all the training, Vienna was great some sightseeing and just relaxing. The weather was really good, lot’s of sun, about 30-35 degrees Celsius and only a few short rain showers at the end of the week.
About 1.5 weeks before The Championship race day, I drove in a couple of hours from Vienna to Samorin. The apartment I had booked in Samorin was in the center of the town and luckily included secure car parking in the underground garage. After arriving in Samorin and unloading the car, I cycled the ‘old’ bike route of the Challenge Samorin. The new bike route wasn’t possible to cycle because it was mainly on a section of a brand new highway!
The swim training in the river Donau was quite interesting. The river is about 2.5 kilometers wide at the X-Bionic Sphere sports center and the river wasn’t flowing not that wild. At least not in the week before the race… The whole week we had a Northwesterly wind but it wasn’t that strong. The temperature in the first week was still very good, about 30 degrees and sunshine! This is the climate I really like and enjoy! Compared to the bike route in Gdynia, the old bike route of Samorin was pretty good. Except for one short section where it was a bit poor but nothing compared to the dramatic road conditions we experienced in Poland. And the triathlon bike route was mainly on the new highway so probably very good and smooth asphalt!
Samorin itself is just a small town with not that much happening. Ok, except for the Saturday evening after I arrived they had a large music stage build up about 50 meters from my apartment where they were playing live music until just after midnight. During my stay, I checked out all the highlights of the town which were two churches, a memorial for the deportation of Hungarian citizens after World War 2, and the Rock Giants memorial park. At least I wasn’t spending much time sightseeing… What surprised me in Slovakia was the low number of people that could speak English. Almost everyone that I spoke to in Poland could at least speak a little bit of English and quite a few pretty good English, but in Slovakia, it was very rare that they could speak or even understand me. Probably in Bratislava, there will be a lot more people speaking English but not in the small town of Samorin.
On Thursday before the race weekend, I picked up my starter kit in the X-Bionic Sphere sports center. This large sports center consists of a horse race track, running track, 50 meters outside pool, 25-meter indoor pool, fitness center, tennis courts, and probably more that I don’t know of. The pick-up was quick and well organized. The Challenge Expo had opened as well and I bought a nice Challenge sport shirt. At least there was a bit more than in Walchsee although still not that much compared to the Ironman Expos.
On Saturday was the first Collins Cup where the world’s best triathletes were competing against each other (similar to the Ryders Cup for golf). In total 36 triathletes of Team Europa, Team USA and Team International were competing. Every 10 minutes one member of each team was starting, first the women and then the men. The team that won the most points would win the trophy of the Collins Cup. An interesting concept but you can read more about the points on the Collins Cup website.
The weather on Saturday wasn’t really good anymore. There wasn’t much wind, but the temperature wasn’t that high anymore (only about 17 degrees Celcius) and it started to rain pretty bad in the middle of the afternoon. And even some thunder so they had to postpone the start of the male athletes for a short time. The water of the river Donau was pretty flat since there wasn’t much wind and they were swimming quite fast! I was watching all the women starting the race and the first 3 men (Jan Frodeno, Sam Appleton, and Sam Long). After that, it was getting too wet and cold for me and I went back to my apartment to watch the rest on Eurosport television.
The bike check-in was on Saturday morning or Saturday evening (in the afternoon it wasn’t possible due to the Collins Cup event). I checked in my bike on Saturday evening and protected the chain and cassette with a large plastic bag against any possible rainfal.
Race Day! Sunday early morning at 05:30 hrs I had my breakfast and prepared the last few things that I needed for the race (nutrition, gear, etc), and around 07:00 hrs I drove the few minutes to the X-Bionic Sphere sports center. There was plenty of parking available so that was great. In the transition zone, I made the final preparations on my bike and put everything that I needed during the race in the two race bags.
Strangely enough for this race, they had the blue bag for the transition to run (normally blue = bike) and the red bag for the transition to bike (normally red = run). No big deal, just strange. Unfortunately, the temperature was still pretty low (just like on Saturday) but at least it wasn’t raining, and the wind had picked up to wind force 4 from the northwest. That meant during the swim we would have the current and wind against us for the first 900 meters and on the bike, it would mean the wind full against us and full with us… How about challenging conditions!
After a bit of time relaxing in the car to kill the time, it was time to head to the swim start. The last toilet visit and getting into my HUUB wetsuit. My normal clothing went into the green ‘after race’ bag and dropped off next to the swim start. Only thing that was slightly annoying was that there were almost no toilets available at the swim start. I had plenty of time but if you’re in a rush this can be quite frustrating 😉
The start of the pro men was at 09:00 hrs, followed by the pro-women. The age groupers of The Championship were starting with the rolling start method, every few seconds three athletes were allowed to jump into the water. At 09:36 hrs I started the race!
The current and wind were strong! I hadn’t experienced these conditions in the last 1.5 weeks that I stayed in Samorin and it was tough. I felt my speed was dramatic but I could see that almost everyone around me struggled the same way. At least that was comforting 🙂 Of course, some athletes were overtaking me in the swim but in general, I don’t think that I lost much against the majority of athletes in the water. On the way back to the swim exit, my swimming went slightly better and faster but this didn’t make up the dramatic swim speed of the first section. The 1900m (according to my Strava just over 2000m) I completed in 39m05s and a long run to the transition zone started.
Quickly getting out of my wetsuit, putting on a slimfit bike jacket against the chilly weather and wind (probably costing me 45-60 seconds to put it on), and grabbing my helmet, I ran further to the bike park. Grabbing my bike and run to the bike exit. The more than 600-meter distance from swim exit to bike mount line took me 4m46s. Not very fast but that was mainly due to the bike jacket and the reasonably long T1 distance.
With a flying mount on the bike and then through the town of Samorin to the highway. This run-in to the highway was about 5 km with the wind coming from the side. On the highway the first section was about 10 km with the wind, turn around and then approx 20 km against the wind, turn around and 20 km with the wind, turn around and 20 km against the wind, turn around and the last 10 km of the highway with the wind. Cycling on the highway was an experience but actually pretty boring!
I was flying on the sections of the 20 km with the wind but suffering quite a bit in the opposite direction against the wind. I had quite a few times that my calves were close to cramping. I guess because it was either going very well with the wind with 48 km/h or very tough against the wind with only 30-32 km/h. And against the wind for 20 straight kilometers without a break to relax for a short period, was hard. I’m not sure why but I couldn’t really give a lot of power on the bike. My average was only 217 Watt, the sections with the wind below 200 Watt and against only up to about 250 Watt. I’m interested to know what the reason is or what was happening but I still have to analyze this.
I don’t know why or how, but I did notice some injured or crashed athletes on the highway. The roads were really good, brand new asphalt and almost straight. The only thing I can think of is sudden across wind gusts or less focus by the athletes, but that’s all speculation. Anyway, I hope all the athletes will recover!
After leaving the highway it was the same road back to the X-Bionic Sphere sports center. A flying dismount and run to the bike rack in the bike park. I completed the bike part in 2h26m07s with an average of about 37 km/h.
Then while running to the changing area I was getting out of the bike jacket (was getting too warm for the run but was great on the bike). Grabbing the blue bag, slipping into my Saucony Endorphin Pro 2 running shoes, Nike cap, sunnies, and having the Nutrid nutrition flex bottle in my hand, and off I was on the run course. T2 took me 3m14s.
The first 500 meters were still fine and then the hammer came. Hard. For the next 1500 meters I was suffering, almost cramping my upper leg muscles at every step. This was tough and wouldn’t be possible to maintain for 21 kilometers…
Strangely enough, after about 2 kilometers, the almost cramping of my upper leg muscles was getting less and I was starting to run better and faster again. The almost-cramping feeling was still slightly there but it wasn’t as bad and I could at least run a pretty decent speed. The three laps around the X-Bionic Sphere were not easy because the course was on a short section on normal hard pavement but mainly on horse track sand, gravel, and pretty high grass and many, many turns and corners. In the last few kilometers of the half marathon, I found some more energy and was increasing my speed and overtaking a few more athletes (probably also from the open competition race). After the third lap, heading the last couple of hundred meters to the finish line was a great feeling!
According to my Strava, the run part was just shy of 20 km (so not the complete half marathon of 21.1 km). The run part took me 1h27m09s with an average run speed of 4:27/1km.
I finished the Challenge The Championship world triathlon race! Yeah!
It was a great feeling because due to the wind it was a pretty tough one. But the weather is something we can’t control! Directly after crossing the finish line and receiving the medal, it was possible to sit down shortly and drink some water. Then it was onwards to the recovery area where they had pasta meals, fruits, cakes, and drinks. And plenty of it!
Comparing this recovery area to the Ironman Gdynia recovery area, where they gave me a salad and some water, I certainly acknowledge that Challenge did a way better job in caring for the athletes!
After a while recovering from the race, eating carbs, and drinking water and a coke, it was actually quite nice to chat with some other athletes sitting at the same table. We all found the conditions were tough today but we were all happy to have finished. One a bit faster, the other a bit slower but that doesn’t matter.
|Time||Average||Rank AG||Rank Overall|
|Finish||4h40m20s||20 (39)||152 (404)|
Considering that all the athletes of The Championship had qualified in a previous Challenge triathlon somewhere in the world, my finishing as 20th in such a competitive field isn’t even too bad.
I didn’t expect a podium position and ending up in the middle of the pack is pretty good!
The fastest athlete in my age group finished in 4h11m04s. About 3 minutes faster in the swim, a good 15 minutes faster on the bike, and about 8 minutes faster in the run… Btw, the first Pro men completed the race a good hour faster than me 😀
But comparing my result to other Dutchmen, I was 3rd and not even too far behind them! The fastest Dutchman (Thijs van der Zee AG25) finished in 4h31m27s and number two (Bas Meeuwissen AG45) in 4h35m15s.
After a month from home traveling to Poland, Austria, and Slovakia, it was time to get home so that’s where I’ll be training and preparing until the next race. The next race is the Ironman 70.3 West-Friesland in Hoorn, the Netherlands. Not far from my home town and the conditions can be pretty windy. Especially at the end of September with the autumn storms on the open field roads and dikes can be pretty bad. The water temperature of the IJsselmeer will be a lot less than in summer and the summer of 2021 wasn’t even really good…
It will be interesting again! About 3.5 weeks to go until the race so it’s time to recover well, train, and prepare for the race!