It’s been awhile since my last blog post. Sometimes, I feel that in order to write a blog post, I need to have something magnificent to talk about. So I am nervous, if there aren’t huge performances or insane training camps, that people won’t care what I have to say. Well, people probably don’t care ( 😛 ), but I’ll post anyway!
I suppose there have been some big changes in the last 6 months. I started working with Bart Decru, coach of Belgian Olympian Katrien Verstuyft, in March of this year. With my goal of being a Belgian ITU athlete, I figured having a connection in Belgium would be helpful. It was also exciting to learn about the success his athletes have had. I really liked Katrien when I had met her before, and I was looking forward to the possibility of training with her in Belgium. So in June, I decided to take 7 weeks off from my job and travel to Belgium, in order to be closer to Bart and compete in some European triathlons.
What I didn’t expect when I started working with Bart was how lucky I would be to find myself a member of the Atriac Topsport Team. Bart, also working as a trainer for the Antwerp based triathlon club, asked if I would be interested in joining the group. There was no hesitation. More training partners?! Absolutely. I didn’t know what to expect heading to Belgium in June, because this sort of club structure doesn’t exist in the US. I knew there would be some organized training sessions, and that I would be representing the club in triathlons in Belgium, but beyond that I was going to Belgium without any knowledge of Dutch, or what “topsport” really meant.
Man, did I hit the jackpot. If I could describe Atriac, it would be “the-fix-it” team. Lost bike and luggage? No problem, we’ll lend you one, and provide you with gear for the weekend. Need some help with your running form? We’ll set up an appointment with some famous running specialists (thank you RS LAB!!). When I had medical problems or needed help finding a place to live, Atriac was there to help with the logistics. I came in hoping for training partners, and left with more than I felt I deserved.
It was clear from the beginning that this was a better situation than I anticipated. Then, with each race I did, my performances kept improving. In the first seven weeks, I competed in 5 triathlons, and each race was better than the previous. I know I have a lot of improvements to make to be competitive in the ITU circuit, and to keep progressing from continental cups to world cups and hopefully one day (soon) WTS circuit! So, since things were going well in Belgium, I didn’t want to leave and disrupt the consistency. Why break something that isn’t broken? You don’t always get to choose when you’re injury free and when you’re making improvements. So I decided, since things are going well, let’s make a jump and fully commit to triathlon. In order to do that, I needed to leave my engineering job.
I extended my trip in Belgium by a month, and now I am back in Michigan in time for my last race
of the season in New Orleans. Last weekend, I competed in a local sprint triathlon, finishing first overall, 6th among the men, and winning $500 in prize money! Thank you Allendale Countryside Triathlon! I’m pleased with the progress I have seen in races, and excited about the potential I’ve shown in training.
I am surprised to find myself a little sad that the season is almost over. In the past, by the end of swimming or triathlon competition seasons, I was always ready for a break, both mentally and physically. This year, after my return to triathlon racing, and coming out of a year and a half period ridden with injury, I think I got a new perspective towards the sport. Running and biking pain free is no longer something I take for granted. That, combined with finding a team more supportive than I ever felt like I deserved, made it for a special year of training and racing, and I’m already looking forward to 2017!