John, my son Taylor, our best bud Richie and I leisurely arrived at Rotterdam Airport on the Wednesday and went straight into the 1st tough competition of the weekend…a criterium race, which—you guessed it—was on the beach. John and Richie were racing, I however, decided last minute that after the long and arduous 45 minute flight it would be better to rest. Thank goodness I did—otherwise my legs would have been finished for race day. The locals dominated and showed the rest of us non-beach dwellers how to ride fast and effortlessly on the white stuff. John was the first non-Dutch back, shortly followed by Richie who, too, is quite handy on an MTB.
The following day we were able to race the course with a group of 20 athletes from all over the world. This was an easy, steady ride to see what was in store for us, although it would be much harder and murderous-sandcastle-esque come race day. They took us over all of the technical parts of the course, which included 2 death slides (my friend Victoria’s description) and 2 steep sections of stairs that most people ran/walked/crawled or fell down. Coming off the end of one said death slide, we were all reminded of the lethal capacity that sand seems to have—there were just too many wipeouts as a result of tyre slippage, bad bike handling or not unclipping in time.
That night the next tough competition was a 1k or 3k swim race for anyone interested in swimming the course. Thinking this to not only be a good idea, but also an accurate representation of what race day might be like, Richie and I signed up for the 1k and John for the 3k. I started to worry a bit when all the buoys were ripped away even before the start by the 20ft high colossal waves. Still, in we went and hoped for the best.
Upon finishing, I realised how much it actually took out of me both physically and emotionally. The 3k was cancelled mid way through as the water became too rough for all those crazy enough to have wanted to get smashed about by whitecaps and aggressive tides for that long in the first place… Richie and I strangely bumped into John right in middle of all the gargantuan waves, so we all decided to stay together. Well… they stayed with me in reality. I was just happy to survive, get to the end and feel solid ground again. Safe to say I was ready for the real race…couldn’t be any worse than that…right?!?!
Race day finally arrived, the weather was great and I was ready! 1 lap (1000m) of the tumultuous swim, 4laps ( 24k) on the bike (death slide 6x..gulp) and 3laps of a 9k run in deep sand. All of this in the searing heat of mid day just to make it more fun. I finished all in one piece, most importantly, 2nd GB and 8th in my age group. Big smile at the end for me and a GB flag from our fantastic team manager Paul on my way in to the finish. Tough race, incredible experience, loads of nice people but way too much sand—give me a shark attack any day. My next trip that involves any form of sand will be either on the cerulean shores of the South of France or form within the bottle of a beautician’s exfoliator, complete with jojoba extracts and all. Never again…until the next time…. right??