Denmark’s Michelle Vesterby describes racing in Abu Dhabi

Danish pro athlete reports on last weekend's long course race, where she came third

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After eight great weeks of training at Club La Santa, Lanzarote, I was more than ready to kick off the season. My preparations had been perfect and I felt in fantastic shape. I even decided to grab one extra week at La Santa, giving me only two days back in Denmark before I was heading to Abu Dhabi.

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2013 was a great year for me so my expectations for myself were sky high. At the same time I was coming in to Abu Dhabi as one of the favourites – which I honestly always enjoy.  A feeling I definitely could get used to. Abu Dhabi is one of my favourite races with a long long cycling course and lots of heat. There is always plenty of awareness on this race from both media and sponsors, which could be why tensions are always a bit higher.

I chose to fly to Abu Dhabi during the night, which I thought was REALLY smart – turns out it wasn’t. I only managed to grab a few hours of sleep Tuesday night (three days until race day) and moreover I caught a stomach infection which I brought with me to Abu Dhabi, causing me all sorts of trouble on Thursday, with only two days until race day. I prayed that it would be over for the big press day, but it stayed around. That meant that I had to sneak to the bathroom every now and then, as I obviously didn’t want my competitors to find out that something was wrong. I managed to get through and got some medication. Luckily it made it all better, and when I woke up Friday morning, I was feeling much better.

Race day

It wasn’t the best of preparations to be honest, but in my eagerness to get going with the first race of the season I told myself that it meant nothing – a hard stomach never killed anyone (as far as I know). Feeling better and getting back my appetite meant that I ate like a madman on Friday. I have a motto – “the one who eats the most, wins” – so obviously I knew what to do. On top of that I was very pleased to find out that the swim was without a wetsuit. I knew it would give me the upper hand against Melissa [Hauschildt] and Yvonne [van Vlerken], which I regarded as some of my biggest competitors.

It wasn’t the advantage I had hoped for though – despite being only six pro-girls in the race I find myself struggling with one of the other girls to get behind Jodie Swallow (not that I could have stayed put anyway, as she swims like a fish). I win the battle, making it a pretty lonely swim, before getting out of the water and on the bike to catch up with Jodie the fish. I find myself hoping to catch up with her and maybe work together to create a wider gap between us and Mel and Yvonne.

I would be lying if it went as planned… Mel catches up with me and I try to keep up, but she’s simply too fast. I have to let her pass and focus on my own race. “Pull! Push! Come oooon, Michelle.” I’m quite frankly feeling a bit low on energy on the bike, but it never occurs to me that it might have something to do with my stomach trouble. I’m trying so hard to focus, but I don’t find any rhythm whatsoever, and just before I reach T2, Yvonne catches up with me as well.

Quitting is not an option

I’m staying with Yvonne until we both reach T2 and I park the bike as number three. I know that the two other girls are better runners than I am, but I decide that I want to prove them wrong. But when I get through transition I can already feel that I won’t have much to give. I’m giving everything I have, but I can’t keep it faster than 4:20mins per km. I decide that this will do then and keep a solid rhythm the rest of the way. I end up third, for which I am really pleased, but at the same time, I know that there will be much more coming from my side this season.

Michelle on the podium

Luckily for me I have another race in just three weeks at Ironman South Africa, and I can´t wait to get back into action. The first race of the season is always something special, and I´m very proud to finish third, though I could have done without some of the mistakes I made. The good thing is though, you rarely make the same mistake twice, and I am very pleased that I proved to myself that ”quitting is NEVER an option”.

(Images: The Dudes Media)

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For more info on the winners of this year’s Abu Dhabi International Triathlon head here