Things about me
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Name: Els Visser
Date of Birth: 03-04-1990
Birthplace: Haren, The Netherlands
Height: 170 cm
Weight: 54 kg
Medicine, Univeristy Utrecht
Cameron Watt, Trisutto
PhD Surgery, University Medical Center Utrecht
Ironman Champion Maastricht 2018
I was born on 3 April 1990 and grew up in Glimmen, a small village in the north of the Netherlands.
I had a safe childhood and my parents, Dirk Jan and Anne, were super supportive and encouraged my brother Willem and I to try the activities and sports that we wanted to do. I enjoyed all sports and played any sport that was going around, but decided together with friends to join the local swim (ZCHaren) and tennis club (TCGlimmen). In 2002, I started with Gymnasium at secondary school (Maartenscollege Haren).
I was interested and attentive at school which resulted in high ranks. After the lessons I did social things with friends and did my sports. I was always busy and looking for adventures. In 2005 I stopped swimming since I didn’t enjoy sitting in a swimming pool during the entire Saturday or Sunday for only a 100 m swim. I focused more on tennis sport, and was competing in local competitions on the weekend. The best thing about sport was that I could spend time with friends, to keep reasonable fit and having the great feeling when I achieved nice results.
University – Student life – Traveling
I left home in 2008, aged 18, to study Medicine at the University of Utrecht. Studying was always my main priority, I was an ambitious student and wanted to achieve good results. But I also made sure that I had a good student time. I joined the oldest female students sorority ‘de Utrechtse Vrouwelijke Studenten Vereeniging, UVSV’, lived in a sorority house, and was chairperson of the sorority during one year (2011-2012). During this time I made my closest friends, developed my personal and my leadership skills, and it brought me a big network. Next to my studies and the social events, I had a side job in the hospital to earn a bit of money. Sporting had no priority, I only ran 5-10 km a week so I had the feeling that I did at least something to stay fit. During my studies I made a trip to Africa (2013) and Indonesia (2014) for backpacking and gaining experiences with the health care systems abroad during internships. Travelling brought me into contact with some really wonderful, inspirational people, landscapes and cultures.
My second trip in Indonesia was a special one. After I did an internship in Bali and travelled around for 3 months I decided to make a boat trip (August 2014) from Lombok to Komodo during my last week. On the second day in the middle of the night, the boat sank. We had no satellite phone, no GPS or navigational equipment, not even any flares. During the night, I clung to the wreckage, together with 24 people on board. After sunrise in the morning and when no rescue came, I swum together with a woman from New Zealand for shore. It took us 8 hours to make that swim. The island we arrived on was vulcanic and uninhabited.
We spent a night on this island and drank our own urine to survive. In the morning we were rescued after attracting the attention of a passing boat by waving our life jackets. Two of the passengers didn’t survive the accident and I know that I’ve been really lucky that my life continued. The accident reached the newspapers and I did several interviews on television and for magazines. And of course it changed my life… I realize that it can be short and therefore I want to live my life and follow my dreams.
Doctor – PhD Surgery
A week after the accident, I restarted my studies and graduated with honor a year later in 2015. I continued working as a PhD-candidate for the department of Surgery. As a PhD-candidate I published different articles about esophageal cancer surgery in high impact international journals. Together with our research group we visited different congresses worldwide where I presented my work. A wonderful and learningful period in which I gained great experiences and had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from surgery world. In my spare time I started to run more regularly. Running for me was a moment to relax and to clear my head. I also enjoyed the challenge of going that little but further and faster each time. I had always the dream to finish a marathon, so I entered the one in Amsterdam 2015 and started training myself on schedules. I ran the marathon in October 2015, and crossed the line in 03.33.39.
After this race I wanted to do more and continued running with the aim to run on time. Unfortunately I fell during an obstacle run and was injured at my ankle. Because I wanted to stay fit I decided to start swimming again in July 2016. I also started with bike riding. My colleagues did a lot of riding together and invited me. I had never sat on a racebike but could borrow one of a friend and learnt how to ride it. One month later I bought my own bike and together with some friends we entered a sprint triathlon in Amsterdam. I had no idea how to race and what to do. During the swim I did not look and swam to the side, I lost my bike in the transition zone and changed my clothes for the run. I was totally surprised that I won this race! But most important; I really had fun and enjoyed every moment. This day have changed a lot.
The fun I had in my first race was the real beginning to continue with triathlon sports. I joined the local triathlon club Hellas and signed up for the Ironman Zurich in July 2017 impulsively. Other triathletes advised me to train for a half distance first, but I was convinced that I could do this. With all I have done in my life whether its my job or sport I try to push myself to the limit, approach it with an open mind and see it as a challenge. So with a lot of enthusiasm I started this adventure. I enjoyed all trainings, the races in preparation and I met great people in triathlon world. I surprised myself and other people with the progression I made and my fast times during local races. After almost a year of hard training which I combined with my full time job, I was at the start line of my first Ironman. I was so proud to be there and felt physically and mentally strong. I went in totally blind and had no expectations. During the race I gave everything and enjoyed every minute of it. My parents and friends supported me and that I was the 4th women who crossed the finish line wasn’t something that had crossed our minds! I will never forget this amazing day in my life and the journey to this race was incredible.
At this point I had to decide whether or not to take the risk to give up my job and make the step to live as a professional triathlete. Because I never want to look back and think ‘what if’, and I will get only one chance at life I will give it a shot! I want to develop my potential to become the best that I can be. I don’t know where it would be in triathlon, but when I don’t try I would never really know. I came in touch with the coaches from Trisutto, who are based at the Sunshine Coast in Australia. In August I left to Australia and joined the Trisutto group. We started together and made the step into the unknown. I am looking forward to all things that will happen. One thing for sure, I believe in myself, will push myself to the limit and will make the most out of it!