Antwerp Half – The Race

WOW!  What an amazing race.  I’ve been fortunate enough to race in 4-5 countries, Worlds 2-3 times, lots of Nationals, several 70.3, other Half Ironmans and even an IM.  I’ve also volunteered at multiple races.  By miles, this was the best run race I can remember.  It was impressive right from the get go.  All RD’s should make the trip over to witness what you should be doing with your registration.  You register, get your chip, bottle of wine, race shirt and number packet at one stop.  No going to multiple tents which seem to be the norm in the US.  Next to registration, they had a huge plasma TV.  It was showing the course maps, what drafting is, what blocking is and how to avoid those situations.  It was more informative then any pre race rules talk I’ve been to.  Races in the US always say they will have marshalls.  But never 15-17 moto’s with refs on them.  I witnessed 2 red cards, 1 black card and multiple verbal warnings when someone was riding on the fence between clean and not so clean.  The course was completely closed to traffic, both the bike and run. Antwerp shut down the tunnel leading from the west bank to the east bank for this race.  The run went through the Grote Market, not once, not twice, but 3 times. This is the place everyone goes to visit in Antwerp. The market is ringed on three sides by cafes and you had to run up a street filled with cafes to get there.  There was cheering, bell ringing, clapping, yelling and the sweet smell of tobacco wafting through the air.
Here are after and before shots:

Was a little nervous before the race seeing all the bike in transition as well as the scooter.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I didn’t think I had the fitness I wanted to have going into this race.

The swim went off, and four of us cleared immediately from the start. There were two guys ahead of me and one to my right. Did I mention each wave had a lead kayak? Completely bad ass! A quick glance back confirmed there was no one latching onto us. The guy to my right and I were sharing the draft of the second swimmer. It was pretty clear, I was in over my head. We started shoulder to shoulder, slowly I drifted back to his ribcage, then his hips, next I was staring at his knees and slowly I eased my way onto his feet. What a relief. They were drilling me and I was barely hanging on. Each time I started to lose contact we started to run into traffic, slowing up the lead three and I latched back on. Rounding the last turn, those three sped up, I started doing a 300m TT effort and it was all I could do to only lose about 5-8m by the end of the swim. A quick run up the stairs and to the bikes had me leading the wave though. I think the swim was about 100m short. I’ve never swam faster then 25:10 for 1.9km that 24:42 is far, far above where I’m at.

I’m an idiot. I left my PT head unit in Tucson. No computer and only a watch. It was old school riding, doing math at the km markers. I only saw 40 and 80km though, thankfully as people can attest to, I didn’t have to use my lacking math skills. It was raining, there were several turns, roundabouts and train tracks. I got passed by the guy’s whose feet I was riding and the pace felt sustainable for 2:30 so I kept him ~10-20m in front. I figured when someone passed from our wave, I’d make a decision, to go or stay, when it happens, no need to plan ridigidly too far ahead. About 40min into the ride, we got rolled by number 795. The swimmer dude looked at me shrugged, I shrugged back and we both threw down the hammer. Hit 40k in 1:02 and 80k in 2:01. The cool thing was watching the main pack of elites head back on the loop section and realizing we’d only lost about 200m to them during the loop around a quaint village. Seems we lost more, lots more, about 8 minutes more, elsewhere.

A short pee break later I was all alone, hammering to get back up to the group which had splintered. By transition I had clawed myself back to :10 behind the wave leader. Number 795 was given a red card then a black card. DQ’d – goodbye. You had to be somewhat dumb though for riding 4m off the back wheel with the moto and ref 1m to your left.  Just drop through the line, the white helmet kid was letting everyone back in. There were a few people from earlier waves doing a 300m penalty loop for getting a red card. The announcer was letting people know why they are running around transition.  Pretty cool and an idea I think the USAT/IMNA/WTC should adopt.  Much safer then trying to pull someone over in a group.

Onto the run we started on a old large cobbled street. This run course is brutal to your feet and legs. Cobbles, hard bricks and concrete. My shoes I discovered the day before were dead.  It made for a painful run that couldn’t end soon enough. About 2 min into the run I rolled the guy leading my wave and held that until about 10-12k into the run. I started on a pace I figured I could maintain for 3 loops and never tried to speed up except for when Rutger Beke and 4 other elite’s ran by. I latched onto the last guy for 6 min. The run was uneventful except for getting passed and my feet were glad to call it a day.  Didn’t know how I was going as I didn’t look at my watch except for running out of T2 in 2:44:xx and then just before the finish line. Ended up in a 4:12:08. Rather surprising result and I’m quite happy with the time. Add another :90 to it for the short swim and it’s still one of my faster half ironmans.

There were some other cool things out on the course. AA energy drink in 4 or 5oz little bottles. Grab and go. This race also had different run and bike numbers then US races. Numbers that actually fit on a race belt!  Brilliant!

No more frame sticky numbers that don’t ever come off clean. Or maybe it’s b/c I only clean my bike 1-2x per year. Either way a bad ass idea.

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