28 april 2010

SKS Bikemarathon
The SKS Marathon is a race that will always be a special one for me, as I consider it to be start of my 'marathon career'. After three years of XC mountain biking (2003, 2004, 2005) and half a year of road racing (2005, In California) I decided to try a mountain bike marathon race which happened to be the SKS Marathon in Sundern-Hagen in 2006. Before the start it was already raining/snowing and during the race the riders were 'spoiled' with wind, hail, rain and snow. More than 60% of the riders did not finish the 100km race but I did not seem to be affected by the bad weather conditions too much. Halfway the first 50km lap I asked the German spectators what my position was and I thought their answer contained at least a 'funf' and I concluded I was riding around the 50th position. 20 km's later I asked the same question and clearly recognized the word 'funf' and by now I started to believe I was riding around the 15th spot. Another 20 Km later I finally clearly understood I was riding in fifth position.. I would hold on to place 5 until about 4km's before the finish as good friend Jean Biermans and another rider passed me in the last km's. Still, I finished my first marathon as 7th and even won my age (18-30) category. I returned home with more prize money than I had ever received in my entire XC career and the marathon discipline got me hooked.

We (that is Herwin, Juul and me) returned in 2007 and enjoyed both a good race (I finished 8th overall) as some two 'after parties' with the locals as we stayed for two extra days. Unfortunately, I did not race in Sundern-Hagen in both 2008 (knee injury) and 2009 (on exchange in Canada).

One week ago some knee pains caused me to be bit a nervous whether I would be able to start in 2010 but after a diet of NSAIDS & fish oil combined with 5 days rest my knee felt fine. Also, unlike most races, Juul and I did not have to sleep in a tent or book a 'Jugendherberge' as one of the friends we made in 2007 offered us to use her apartment (which was located on the main street of Hagen). So, I not only was pretty rested but also had the luxury of having a great apartment to use before the race.

The actual race was, at least, interesting. After the start I was able to be in the front of the pack but I did not manage to ride with the first twenty riders. During the whole race I was riding around place 20 and after losing some spots during the last lap I finished as 25th. I did not feel extremely powerful during the race and could only follow the riders I was riding with, but overall I was not extremely dissatisfied with how my performance felt during the race. On the other side, this is by far the worst ranking I ever got during a German marathon so I'm not sure whether my feeling during the race didn't reflect my actual performance or whether the level of German races has increased significantly the last year. I tend to believe that both is true...