2016 – start triathlon
2017 – 15th in my agegroup at Ironman world championship, thinking: I’ll come back here when I’m strong enough to fight for a top 3.
2018 – world champion in my agegroup, thinking: I’ve won the biggest race, time to turn Pro and work hard to come back to the world championships as professional in a few or maybe many years.
2019 – the 3rd Ironman as professional, Malaysia, I win with which I’m qualified for the world championships in 2020…
Let’s see if I can already find the words to tell you my story, my world turned upside down…
Set goals. Stay quiet about them. Smash the shit out of it. Clap for your damn self. Repeat.
This phrase describes how I worked towards this race. Sometimes I feel a lot of pressure from outside, from people around me, specially when I race home (Ironman Lanzarote and Challenge Almere), which is my own fault, because it’s me who’s telling you what my opportunities are. Soon after my DNF in Almere I switched my mind and prepared myself for Ironman Malaysia. I wanted to shout from the roofs how great I felt, how excited I was for this race and what my goal was for this race. But I stayed quiet. Even I told myself: the goal is finish the season with a strong race on a long distance race, showing myself what I’m capable of in the shape I am now. The real goal? Making my dream come true: win the race and qualify for the world champs on Hawai next year. A goal I wasn’t meant to think about in my first season as a pro. The first year should be one to get the experience of racing on high level, but I knew this race should give opportunities. The conditions are brutal, the humidity makes it feel like 40 degrees. I know I can race well in these conditions, but even more because of this, anything can happen untill the last kilometer.
So with full confidence I’ve spend a good week before the race on Langkawi Malaysia. I stayed in a ‘don’t-worry-be-happy-style’ guesthouse where I felt home from the beginning. 500 meters from the finish and a white beach, nothing more needed! I felt this was going to be my day, everything looked perfect. Both physically and mentally I felt 100%, I couldn’t wait for raceday to come.
This is how I had visualized my race. It was going to be hard to beat multiple Ironman winner Jocelyn McCauley, strong on every discipline but also some DNF in races with these conditions. She will come first out of the water with Claire Davis, who probably will not be an opponent for the rest of the race. I was hoping to come out of the water with Italian Federica de Nicola and maybe some other girls, in not much more than 1 hour. On the bike I will start to build up a little lead on the rest of the field and trying to keep the gab with Jocelyn as little as possible. The run has to be controlled to be able to fight untill the last kilometer, if I come with 10 minutes lead from the bike I should be safe. But having Jocelyn in front of me I needed a very strong marathon and a bit of luck. Actually it looked impossible, but I learned: never ever give up and anything is possible untill the very end.
On Saturday the 26th of October 7:45 I was toeing the start line with 10 more pro females. The swim has the most beautiful scenery in the Ironman circuit, from a white beach into 28 degrees ocean covered by 2 small islands. The gun went off and from the very first beginning I felt strong in the water. As expected 2 were taking the lead, I was leading in the second group. Normally I’m just looking forward to be out of the water so my weakest part is done, this time I was enjoying. The girls seemed to be fine on my feet in the water, which is normally te other way around, I have to fight to stay on feets. Just over 1 hour I came out of the water with 4 girls right behind me, 8 minutes behind of Jocelyn and Claire. So part one exactly as planned!
The bike course was a 2x 90km loop, quite flat with two parts with some steep short hills, one in the beginning and the other one halfway. Also on the bike I felt quite good from the beginning, but with the hilly part in the beginning I knew I had to take care not pushing to hard. Federica found probably the good legs and ran out on me, I sticked to my own plan, knowing that this race should be decided on the run. Soon I felt better and better on the bike and suddenly, during the second hilly part, Federica appeared in front of me. Slowly I came closer and we companied each other long time. At that moment we were in 2nd and 3rd position, no clue where I passed fast swimmer Claire. After about 100-120km I noticed I dropped Federica, but also I felt the fatigue getting in. Keep hydrated and cooling yourself was the key, I needed every aid station (20km) 2 bottles of water, missing one should bring you in trouble. When it became hard to keep my vision clear in the last 15km I started to be worried. I was’t able to cool my head because of the aero helmet, but my fuelling on the bike was perfect, was this a sign of dehydration? With 15’ behind on Jocelyn and with 6’ lead on Federica (followed by 3 more not very far behind) I ran into transition to start the marathon.
The run was a 2,5 flat out-and-back loop (finish on another place) in 35 degrees which felt like 40 without any breeze and the worst thing: every day since I was on the island there where heavy short showers, this day: no clouds, no rain… The first 2km felt good, the planned pace but then BOOM, I felt my heart rate rising. F*ck.. Oke Tess you know what to do, don’t panic, slow down a bit and give your body time to get in the right rhythm. After 3 more kms my heart rate stabilized and I found a 5:00-5:10/km pace which normally should not be enough to hold second position (4:40/km was planned). I suffered from the beginning, hoping it should be enough, hoping I could hold on, but all I wanted was walking, crying and jumping in the ice tub at the aid stations. Seeing everyone suffering kept me pushing and believing anything is still possible. Federica didn’t came closer, Japanese Naomi and Czech Simona just a bit. Just after halfway Federica was gone, DNF, the Japanese came dangerously close (3 minutes) and Jocelyn was winning more time. The win looked impossible, even I had to be prepared for a battle for 2nd place. I was just focus on the biker with the 3rd female flag, so I didn’t realize this Japanese was an flying agegrouper (3rd pro was Japanese as well). All the time I was thinking: “I can’t hold on, I can’t fight anymore, I’m happy with 3rd place. No only 17km more, still anything can happen with the others, pain is temporary, give up is forever!”.
Everybody was cheering me on, volunteers, locals, new Malaysian friends, people from 🇳🇱 and even participants. It gave me wings, I couldn’t give up now. A big fan (racing) ran up the other way and shouted: ‘GO TESS, SHE’S DYING!!!’ And I thought, “yeah everybody is… I’m 20’ behind so no way she will give that away in 12km”. Not even 200m later another participant shouted: ‘Jocelyn is in an ice tub!’ I told myself I just wanted to hear this, it wasn’t real, this was impossible. Am I leading the race? Am I going to win? Am I going to Kona? I didn’t want to think about it, but it gave me more wings. I arrived at the point where we passed each other the loop before, she wasn’t there yet. I arrived to the turning point and she wasn’t there yet. The bikers for 1st and 2nd switched position. My heart start to beat strong and my eyes get wet while writing this. I couldn’t believe what was happening. The Japanese was still 3’ behind, the only thing I had to do was control. Well actually I didn’t had to worry at all, because the 2nd pro was nearly 10’ behind, but I didn’t knew. Still 8km to go, 40 minutes more, still anything could happen. I was so afraid.. afraid to blow up, afraid to get cramps, afraid to loose the victory, afraid to loose my world champs qualification… Langkawi was cheering me on, home🇮🇨🇳🇱 and friends everywhere were cheering me on, I could feel it. I don’t know how I managed to run this stable marathon and even a faster last 8km. You all must have gave me the power. I gave all in the last 3km, still afraid, looking over my shoulder. Seeing Yvonne van Vlerken (Per was racing) in disbelief: “No, there’s nobody behind, enjoy now!” Finally, the red carpet, it felt like there was no end coming on this marathon but the last 12km changed all. I couldn’t believe what was happening, the last 500 meters, Langkawi was thrilling, WAUW! I can’t describe all this in words, the pictures will tell the end of the story. Or is it the beginning..?
I BROKE THE TAPE! I’M THE IRONMAN MALAYSIA CHAMPION! I GO TO KONA, HAWAII, WORLD CHAMPS 2020! I F*CKING DID IT!
Back in he guesthouse proud owners and guests were waiting for me to hear all the ins and outs, but I started to feel weak, diarrhea, thirsty and dizzy. They’ve called the medical team from Ironman for me who were there in no time. They took me to the medical tent with an infuse, dehydration, nothing really to worry about. Not that strange after giving your best during 9h43 in the burning heat. Soon I was back in my room, destroyed but unable to sleep from the adrenaline. Insane, a dream coming true very soon! Dream big, work hard, make it happen!
I couldn’t do do this without the support from family, friends and fans. A special thank this past week to Irene, Serena and Sam of Two Peace House. I am who I am, I love what I do and I’m happy to be an inspiration for some of you in this way. I’m looking forward to share my road to Kona 2020 with you.
I couldn’t do this without my coach Miguel Prados, I’ve been thinking of you when the situation in the race changed all. You’re world turned upside down and so did mine! Since we work together it’s going upwards with big steps. I’m proud of how we planned this and how it worked out, a copy of Hawaï 2018 but we’re on world level now. We said 2018 will be hard to beat, we’ve beat it by far! And the best is yet to come!
I couldn’t do this without my sponsors:
CarregUK – Fusion sportswear – Tripasion – Trikipedia.nl – Stilo Vitae – Powergym nutrition – Hoke OneOne – Orca sportswear – Centro Deportivo Fariones – PY Hotels Princesa Yaiza – Julbo eyewear – Sockgame.nl – La Casa del Parmigiano – BikeBox Alan – Schwalbe tires – The Gavin Glynn Foundation
The messages where overwhelming, its going to take me a while to answer everybody but I’m really thankfull for this! You all say I’m amazing but you are as well!
Now it’s time to let it all sink in, rest and celebrate this day of my life!