The drive over was pretty rubbish, we’ve driven to Holland many times in the past to see friends for holidays, but this was the worst ever. There was traffic everywhere and took us over 10 hours. And we had no air conditioning. It wasn't pleasant but on Thursday evening we finally made it. Once dinner was devoured it was time to hit the hay for the night.
The next morning I got up to do a little run session before the rest of the day started. Once running was over Aleisha and I cycled down to the lake where we did our swim familiarisation and got a cheeky picture with Richard Murray (see below!). Once that was over it was straight on our bikes and we checked out the bike course. This was one we needed to look at as it was a 9km ride to the town where we did 2 laps of 6km which included a ‘hill’. The Netherlands is super flat so hearing there was a hill was interesting. They weren't wrong though, it was a pretty decent climb but nothing to be scared of. The rest of the route was fast, but at times pretty technical including a nice cobbled section. Lastly we had our briefings which were standard. Nothing much to worry about, the odd silly question and the rush at the end to collect your race packet. Sadly no race gift. I managed to find the usual pre-race dinner of chicken at our hotel which was very yummy indeed. After a bit of time getting everything ready and chilling in our rooms, we went to bed and dreamt about the race ahead.
The morning of the race was pleasant. The summer over here has been like an Australian spring so I’ve been enjoying it for sure. I cycled over to T2 to drop our run trainers off and then over to T1 to drop the bike off and get ready for the start. I did my usual warm up jog, run throughs and drills, said good luck to Aleisha and then trotted off to the start pontoon, picking my place and getting ready for the start horn.
Diving into the 21.5C water (non wetsuit obviously) I immediately got bashed from both sides. But i kept my cool and sat in the draft of the other athletes. I felt really strong in the first 310m (distance to the first buoy). Turning was pretty calm and I was right on the middle of everyone so I was dragged along and still in amongst it all. The final turn to head home was brutal, i was dunked, i breathed much water and had to gather myself but thankfully I was still with everyone and still felt super strong. Putting a big effort in the last 200metres I exited in 9:16 in 55th place…but crucially I was with everyone and in the middle of a massive pack. This is where things started to go downhill.
I mounted and went straight into the back of someone who did a ‘bus stop mount’ which cost me time. I was chasing and chasing to get on the back of the chase pack and I got there! Yippee! Not quite. I thought now I should put my feet in my bike shoes…but as I looked up from doing so the Dutch guy in front lost the wheel and therefore so did I and that was the end of that. Frustrating but its the way it goes, so I ended up waiting and cycling the rest of the ride in a group of 5. Also annoying to know that chase pack ended up catching the lead pack.
On to the run now. I’ll keep it short because it was pretty bad. Stitches all the way round, my legs barely functioned and I just could not get into my rhythm so I crossed the line in what would end up being 63rd.
Looking back at the race there were some huge positives. I was racing in the biggest race of my life and I nailed the swim. I was right where I want to be. Negatives, were that I had a bit of misfortune on the bike, choosing the wrong wheel and going into the back of someone and also having a bad run. But there was also some lessons learnt, mainly when to put your feet in your shoes? I’d never been in a pack so big and never really been in that position, I am a bit of a novice in this type of racing still and that probably showed there.
It definitely wasn't how I wanted to start my European Tour and finish this race but you've got to look at the positives and going into Kyrgyzstan next weekend I’m feeling way more confident about the swim.
So thats next weekend, a trip to Kyrgyzstan. Make sure you follow my social media (@sammileham) for updates on that trip! Finally thank you to all my sponsors Pedal Potential, Sam Farmer, Zone 3, Vorgee and Rocktape for their continued support as I would not be able to get to all these places and compete at all the races I do without them. Also many thanks to Stu and Bon at Eclipse Performance Centre for coaching me to the level I am now. Thank you!
Have a great weekend everyone, thanks for reading,
*apologies for the lack of photos, I hope I'll have more soon!