Fore ambassador Menno Koolhaas takes 7th place at the Ironman European Championships Frankfurt 2022

At the end of 2020 I decided to leave the National triathlon selection and choose another path. For 6 years, I had trained within this selection with only one goal: to reach the Olympic Games! After COVID-19 broke out in 2020, all possible races were cancelled. I knew I had to make a change in 2021. Time for different ambitions and a different coach. I had decided to change my ambitions from the short distance to the longer distance. The main thing in 2021 was to discover and to do my first races on the 70.3 (half distance). I won the Maastricht/Eijsden half triathlon and at the end of the season I raced my first professional Ironman 70.3 in Cascais, Portugal. I finished 3rd in this race. This was the moment that I knew my ambition was the longer distance.

In early 2022, I made the decision to make my debut at the full triathlon. My debut was scheduled at the Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt on 26 June. I chose to participate in this race because it was/is not certain for me how long I can continue as a professional triathlete. Due to corona and additional financial matters, it is difficult to continue practicing the sport full time. I entered my training period with the thought that a good result would give my triathlon career an extra boost. There was also the thought that I would have done an Ironman if I had to stop being a full-time triathlete. The months leading up to the Ironman were dominated by just one thing: training! Often very fun, but tough training. Every now and then there was a training session that I had to drag myself through.

On 26 June 2022 at 6:25 am the time had finally come. At the Langener Waldsee, about 15 km outside of Frankfurt, I was ready for the first event: 3.8km swim. With a very strong swim I left the water in 2nd place. The helicopter with live images hung over me and four others. With a group of five, I started the 180 km bike leg. I noticed immediately that I did not have good cycling legs when I got on the bike after the swim. I had to let two men go soon, together with a Polish athlete I rode into the city centre of Frankfurt. We had built up a 3:30 minute lead on the large chasing group after the swim. After about 65 km of cycling, the large chasing group joined us. The pace went up immediately in the group of 18.

After 120 km it was over after a long struggle and I had to let go of the big group on the climb. Two days before the race I had slipped during a small run and landed hard on my back/buttock. My back was still sore during the Ironman and the muscles around my buttocks were tense. I noticed that I could not deliver any power and I pedalled about 50 watts less than I should have. Mentally, I was a bit worn out, but I had to keep going. I still had 65 km to go and I had to continue alone.

Just under 10 minutes behind the main group, I entered the second change-over in 14th place and could start preparing for the final marathon. I had pumped up confidence again and knew that anything was still possible. The first part of the marathon I ran the fastest of all and made up a lot of ground. In the meantime I had gone from place 14 to place 9, so a lot was still possible in the last 20 km. In the second part I had a small decline and lost some speed, but nevertheless at 40 km I was running in 7th place and had 6th place in my sight. Unfortunately place 6 was just not there anymore. I finished my first Ironman in a time of 8:05:48. Only 20 seconds away from the 6th place. With the 3rd running time of the day, a 2:42:38 marathon, I finished 7th at the European Ironman Championships! I also received the YOU ARE AN IRONMAN at the finish in Frankfurt, where there was a huge crowd and a fantastic atmosphere.

It is a fantastic experience that I will never forget. Keeping in mind that without my little fall two days before the race there could have been a lot more. With my time of 8:05:48 I am 2 minutes away from qualifying for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. This gives me an enormous boost for the future, where I can show even more of myself on the long distance. My next goal is the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

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