IRONMAN 70.3 Knokke 2023

- written by Trifharder coach Arthur de Niet

Hello fellow triathletes! In this race report I will walk you through the highlights (and lowlights) of the Ironman 70.3 in Knokke-Heist (Belgium). Located at the North sea coast of Belgium, this was my first “sea Ironman 70.3.”
Knokke is a beautiful coastal city with lots of nice hotels and restaurants and I was positively surprised how engaged the city was with the Ironman event. The whole weekend Ironman was in the centre of everything happening there. What was specifically nice to see is a lot of local participants of Knokke and surroundings, but I notice I digress a bit; you don't want to read about the beauty of Knokke, you want to get informed about the race, right?

So lets get to that. Due to some personal circumstances and (sickness in the middle of summer) I couldn’t do a substantial part of my training plan but could train good enough to aim at 06:00 – 06:15 hours. I kept my swimming “as is” and kept my running up-to-date as well. My focus was on improving my cycling which I spend the most time on last summer.

We went on Saturday already to Knokke to ensure we could prepare everything properly and that was a good idea; the transition zone and start location where approx. 5 km away from each other.
The race started at the beach near the local casino and specially the first part was tough as it was head on against the stream. However, after approx. 500 meters our luck has changed and we could finish the rest of the 1400 meters with a nice supporting cross stream in the back. I clocked a personal best at the check point 32 minutes (and I don’t expect to break that anytime soon 😊).

The walk to the first T1 was long (a bit too long perhaps) which resulted that everybody had around 10 minutes added to the race. But once out on the bike we started the 90km in relative flat land. The first 40Km we had a soft head wind, but after the 40 km mark that changed to wind in the side to a full wind in the back the last 15km. I managed to get an average of 31km/hour which again was my personal best. The landscape was beautiful and the roads perfect (except a few km’s next to the canal that was full of breaks and holes in the deck).

3 hours later I got back to the transition zone, parked my bike and put on my running shoes.  It was all going very well until that! The 21km was split into 3 rounds of 7 km along the boulevard with an enormous crowd cheering us. That was really awesome. My first 7 km went great and well in time. My aim to finish with 6:00hrs became more and more real. But then... in the second loop of 7km I suddenly started to loose energy and speed. What happened?? I needed to stop for additional drinks and nutrition and it was difficult to keep my 10km/h speed. That was unexpected and luckily my coach was there to push me through the difficult moments. I could keep the damage in control, but at the end lost 3 valuable minutes and finished at 06:03:22.

Looking back I did the race well, the swimming was better than expected. The cycling was strong, but I made a mistake during the cycling. I didn’t take enough water and nutrition during the bike leg which resulted that I didn’t have enough power for the full 21 km run. So after my 7th km running I was depleted and needed to add emergency nutrition. I decided to keep it basic with just water and banana and that was a golden decision! There were also several Redbull stands on the track providing energy drinks and when you feel depleted of energy, that really looks tempting. But luckily I could resist. I literally watched a fellow athlete taking the drink, to vomit the complete content out 200 meters further on the track with a lot of stomach pain. I don't know if he made it at the end, but really hope he did.

My lesson learned from this race is that A) I am in quite a good condition, considering the result with a bare minimum of training, but also B) I really need to make a better nutrition plan and stick with it during the race. I had a relative simple but good nutrition plan, but somehow didn’t follow it through (almost just consumed half of what I planned for).

I hope you enjoyed this report. Let me know if you have questions.
Next challenge will be the IM 70.3 of West Friesland (Hoorn – NL).

Maybe I will see you there!