ETU – European Championship Half Distance Triathlon- or how sometimes it is just about getting to the finish line, no matter what.

Saturday October 18th, 12:00, Paguera-Mallorca.

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My last Half-Distance (1.9 Swim, 90 Bike, 21.1 Run) was in Cologne early September 2013. I decided then to take a break for half a year. I am not sure I would recommend it. I lost a lot of endurance, muscular mass and gained weight on top of feeling less happy with my life. Getting back at it had not been easy either with some injuries and bike crashes. So, October 16th in Mallorca was for me a symbol of coming back and I was race hungry.

My goal time was 4:45. I crossed the finish line in 5:15. Sometimes, things do not go to plan…This race has been humbling.

But first things first. A late start, on a cracking day. Sunny, hot, no wind, no waves, warm water, no wet suit. Perfect! The gun goes off. A good beach start, with nearly 50m of dolphin jumps exactly as trained. Perfect! The water: ridiculously clear. This is not racing, this is snorkeling! Perfect! I swim relatively easy as usual and get out after 1.9km  in 35.12. This is 1 minute slower than expected. But within the time plan. A quick casual high five with my daughter (while leaving the German competition behind 🙂 and a dash to transition.1395158_10153238453411679_1849690160603102546_n

Summary: A good start in the race overall. I exit in 32nd place with 60 other competitor in the category M40-44.

A very long transition (literally – the transition zone was 285m and the way to it around 400m) where unbelievable bikes were racked. And on to a tough technical course in the heat (29 degrees). I knew this would not go well as I had scored an auto-goal in the transition zone before the race even started.

My special pump for the discwheel (Lezyne and usually reliable) shoots off the valves after 5 bar of pressure. No way to put anymore air. Going into the race with a half-inflated wheel is not only going to cost me a few minutes but also increase the risk of sliding in the curves or worse getting the tyre out of its rim.

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE: CHECK ALL YOUR MATERIAL BEFORE THE RACE.

The first 15km feel like a nightmare, out of breath, heart rate constantly in the red while being passed by competitors, my mind set on the wheel issue. Am I going to make it?  The mindset thankfully changes in the first long descent. Cool air, time to hydrate, heart rate going down. I will get this distance done, this is the European Championship and I wear for the first time the Swiss jersey in an official ITU/ETU. Mantra Number 4: Get to the finish line, no matter what (or quit only on a stretcher)20x30-CHPC1713

KM25: What is this noise in my front fork? Oh no! the front tire is rubbing against the top of the fork!!!. I stop quickly to check for dirt stuck between the tire and the fork…nothing really. I get on the bike again and the tire keeps rubbing. Darn, what is going on today! – I will find out after the race that the mechanic (former pro cyclist) who serviced my bike before the race had mounted the rear tyre in the front. So the thin narrow tyre was in the back (bad for grip) and the thick large tyre was in the front, hence rubbing against the fork.

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: SEE ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE. Norman Stadler would confirm this (the famous “too much glue” episode).

20x30-CHPE0502Deflating the front tyre is out of question. I cannot ride a bike with front and back tyre deflated: this would be suicide in fast curves and downhills. I am telling myself that friction will cease once the “excess” rubber will be rubbed of the tyre (which happened in the second hour of the bike race).

KM30: Confusion between traffic, police & volunteers. All agitating arms. Me and 2 other cyclistS take a right turn, right into the party city of Magaluff. Once in traffic, we knew FOR SURE we had taken a wrong turn and lost a few precious minutes. Not a great bike leg so far… (especially when I took a wrong turn again at km 65 after a police man indicated to the athlete in front of me to take a deviation, I followed him but it turned out the cyclist was not a competitor and diligently taken out of the race road….)

ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER THREE: GO FOR A RECO RIDE PRIOR TO RACE DAY.

20x30-CHPD2166The worst mistake comes at km 50, just after the second long climb when I was sure to have taken 3 bottles at the aid station: 1 water, 1 coke and 1 iso-drink. I shower myself with the water, throw the bottle away, want to grab the iso bottle in the back, fumble for a few seconds, look back… the bottle cage is empty!!!! and the coke bottle in the front has max 2.5dl. … this is what I would have for the next 25km… a huge rookie mistake that nearly costed my to bonk completely on the run afterwards (I bonked but not completely)

ROOKE MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR: FOCUS ON YOUR NUTRITION PLAN.

The last mistake…and it starts to be embarrassing, is related to the tail of my aero helmet. It can be opened for better airflow in the heat or closed to retain warmth when cold. Guess what? yes, indeed the lid under the tail of the helmet was closed. My aero helmet had also become a pressure cooker.

ROOKE MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE: SEE ROOKIE MISTAKE NUMBER ONE.

Having said all that, I was still very happy with my bike fitness on this 860m elevation course. Most inclines were not more than 3% so it was like riding in the wind. Total distance on my Garmin Edge 90.2km in 2:44 against a planned time of 2:35. So I was now 11 minutes behind my time plan + 3 minutes due to long transition time. Goal time was now out of the window. BUT glad also that no major technical issues happened, it could have gone horribly wrong with that rubbing front tire and a deflated back tire in descends.

Again 600m of transition before starting a long, long half-marathon

The course was not only 22km long it also was very hot AND it had 250m elevation! What a hard course for everyone. The stupid mistake with the closed aero helmet had as consequence that I overheated and I now looked like an overcooked lobster. (A supporting friend said he had never seen me glowing like that…) I did not have much in the tank, cramped, etc..but got it through and was very happy to finish this EU-Championship as an official Swiss Age Grouper. I passed Nicki, my racing buddy for this ETU on the 3rd loop of the race and she was having a ball. We chatted for a bit, I was then sure she was going to have a great finish and although I was tempted to slow down and talk for a bit more I pushed myself back in that 5-ish min/km shuffle of mine. There was nothing more I could do. I finished with my worst half-marathon time ever in 1:49 (- but believe it or not it was the 16th fastest run split in my age group, crazy!!!). I ended overall 22nd out of 57 in my Age Group. 183rd  out of 880 overall (+ 100 who did not finish on that day! obviously I was not the only one with issues). 20x30-CHPG0835

I had never raced with such a density of good athletes!!! Many racked bikes of had a World Championship- Kona-Hawaii sticker on, or Mt-Tremblant (half distance world championship) bottles, bags etc…so happy to have been part of it all. Challenge organised a great race and this whole Championship in this small town with the heat felt like a”Mini-Kona”.

I take away many learnings and as a total fan of Challenge races. But the biggest learning for me is finally understanding what Chris McCormack  had said in an interview last year in Challenge Roth, Germany. He said “as many Age Groupers are not racing for the podium the only thing that counts for them is to beat their PR. They are therefore entering flat, fast courses and shy away from the challenges triathlon offers. Ironman-WTC has recognised this and is planning more and more standard flat races across the world. As an ambassador of Challenge and course advisor I hope we can avoid to do the same as Ironman”. In my case, I felt so happy and proud of myself despite my 2nd worst time at the half distance in 8 races. I found it very rewarding to cross the finishline. This is what triathlon is about, get to the finish line, no matter what. Loved it here and hope to be back in the coming years.20x30-CHPF0341

Cheers everyone and go race.
You can find the full results here

Ironman Western Australia / The Post Race

I just found some highlights of the race recently published. Those of the swim show how scenic and truly unique this swim course is around the pier of Busselton. It also shows at around 1m40sec into the movie how the waves greeted the swimmers at the end of the jetty

The highlight of the bike shows not much of the bike course, rather the amount of money people are investing in their bikes and how many have already purchased a Specialized Shiv’ time trial / I personally find it rather ugly…. The athlete in the movie, who gives a quick answer on the bike is the incredible Petr Vabrousek from the Czech Republic. The Western Australia Ironman was I believe his 102nd Ironman and he finished 5th…Who says that Ironman is difficult… he certainly does make it sound easy.

As to the run leg, the main message is about who is going to manage the heat. The 48th second of the movie shows how much of furnace that course was. The next shot shows Paul Perret, SunSmart Ambassador, whose task is to spread the gospel around melanoma prevention. We were lucky enough to meet him and his lovely family and spend a few days with them.

It is now recovery time and it is currently happening in…Bali! oh yes!

8 days before Ironman Western Australia – The travelling and the training are done

On the sport side of life, I was able to close the training phase in an ideal way. NO injuries, NO pain, NO health issue. I have around 8000km under the belt over the last 6 months. Around 5900km on the bike, 2000km on the run and only about 100km on the swim. I dropped consciously the ball on swim training to improve my biking. I may regret this, after 2km choppy waters, but this was a trade-off I needed to do in order to have a chance to achieve my objective: race that thing under 11 hours.

8 days before the start of the Ironman means tapering mode. The hard piece is behind me, now is time to relax and enjoy the ride. My working colleagues will think otherwise, but I was able to close heaps of stuff before going, so my head is free from that point of view, the visa story is over…basically no worries…mate

During the flight I watched 5 movies and drank a delicious Singapore Sling (my only aloholic treat before the race) next to hectoliters of water to minimize jetlag. I wonder whether they had to jetison some of it on the way…Oh, did I mention that we flew Singapore Air. There is simply no short haul Business flight in Europe that beats the standard of the Economy class of this airline. The kids loved it, we loved it. ALL HAPPY.

10 Days before Ironman: The Big Long Haul from Amsterdam to Perth

So here I am in the plane with the family direction East, just passing over Iran. It feels like starting our tour around the world of 2009 all over again, but with just some slight differences. 1. We only travel for a total of 5 weeks against 52. 2. The children are 3 years older and it makes it so much easier. 3. We did not forget to apply for visas back then…. Yes, indeed visas for Australia. I realised that 2 days ago when I wanted to check-in online. The system did not let me print boarding passes due to a lack of visa application. Oops. A few minutes laters, application are filled on line and sent..but for some reasons only Zoe gets a grant to enter Australia. It is not without a certain level of nervousness that we standing in front of the ground staff member at the check-in counter, waiting for her to tell her our fate. But she was marvelous, not only did they sorted our visa issues, but looking at our distress she decided to do  this all for free (we can make great distress faces…). Unbelievable. Once again the Dutch readiness to help has struck. I cannot imagine anything like this could have happened in other countries.’ Anyway, the bike case is now safely stowed away in the belly’plane and we have 5 hours flight behind us already. Only 13 to go with 3 hours stop-over in Singapore.

Ski-Yoga Asana

Here are some pose you need to do in the middle of your skiing day to prevent injuries….This is officially a new sports now. Its called Skyoga Flow.

 

 

 

 

 

Start in Skickon Asana

 

 

 

 

 

Followed by a Warrior II, Virabootasana

 

 

 

 

 

Reverse your Virabootasana to better enjoy the sky (hence skyoga) before ending the flow with a nice inversion on your helmet.

 

 

 

 

 

The crowning of you skyoga.

Overall a great week of training in Saas-Fee, CH. with some running, indoor swimming, skiing, skate-skiing, ice-skating and skyoging…. all of it between 1800m and 3600m of altitude. I am ready to get back at sea level on Saturday and kick ass for my 32km Sunday run!

Race Schedule 2012

I have now finalized my race schedule in preparation to the big event in December 2012. I felt I needed quite a couple of milestone as just aiming for a race in December seemed way to far. There is a lot of races I would like to attend this year. I like racing, not because it is for me the best form of training, but I like everything around it. The meticulous preparation, the concentration before the race, the fact that I met people from the same species, etc..

Realistically though, I will only be managing to attend half of them. I therefore rated the likelihood and plan to attend at least the ones I put 3 stars. All the others are B plans. I don’t know what will happen this year, but it is very likely that our daughters will be sick on one week-end, a wedding invitation will snow in, etc…

Anyway, most of the race I within 2 hours drive from home apart from a few, so it is quite flexible in this aspect.

If you liked Santa Fe – New Mexico in the 90s’ try Taos now…

It was less easy than we expected to get to New Mexico via the Rockies of Colorado. People tell us: “it is a Nino year” (pronounced of course ninio…but I don’t have the spanish wavy thingy on my keyboard). By that, people mean that 2010 is a bad weather, stormy year. We drove on the I-70 through Silverthorne, Breckenridge (beautiful ski station – forget Aspen -) and then Buena Vista and Alamosa. On the passes we drove through snow storm and strong winds, quite a change 10 days after Kauai and another excuse to go shopping for warm clothes.

Taos was a welcomed change. No wind, no snow and a shining sun. That meant we could get out of the RV! And I soon as we got out we met some real good people who invited us to put our big rig in their alley. Tim & Geneviève did not only accepted that we block their main entrance, they also invited us for dinner parties, sport and cultural activities in town and Tim ended up even riding his bike with me a showing me some good roads around town.

For those who liked Santa Fe in the nineties this is how Taos looks now. You can find Spas, Yoga places, alternative cafes, alternative arts & crafts, some ayurveda shops and more than your average quantity of adult Peter Pans. On top you find the most ancient continuously populated pueblo of North America: The Taos Pueblo.

Personally, I found that indigenous people could have done more of this place, to make it more…thrilling. But the rest of the family just loved it as it is and told me that I should not expect a Disneyland. So I won’t say more.

Overall we spent a very relaxing week there. And it was difficult to leave. But we knew, South Utah was waiting for us.

Hiking in Lamington National Park – Part II, Queensland – Australia

The following morning, we decide not to spend the whole day in the Jacuzzi. We therefore put our shoes on, get some Powerade in the bag together with some granola bars and before we go, we check on Garmin Connect different trails that hikers have done in the park before us and decide to go for the so called “Waterfall Box Circuit”. We meet a bus load of tourist on the first few hundred meters and are terrified. Will it be like this all along? Is the trail so easy that these “shaped” people can do it in their flip flops? Well…no…the first crossing says to box circuit “left”, to botanic garden “right”. No one is taking a left.

The walk becomes more and more scenic, the forest become pristine, higher trees and at last rainforest. What we did not expect (mostly because we stand at the opposite side of a wild life expert) was all these encounters with animals we had never seen before and no clue what they could be. First we stumble on a 70cm big blue lizard (we learn later that it is a snake killer and understand better why he was not afraid of us at all…). We then stop of what literally looks like a mini T-Rex. It moves on its posterior legs like a T-Rex, it is not afraid like a T-Rex. Although it was quite small, I did not dare to go to near. Past this mini-dino, we walk a few hundred elevation meters down to the river and its waterfalls. Breathtaking beauty and we soon come to our next specimen: a blue sweet water langoustine surrealistically walking sideways through the forest (we learned later that we were quite lucky to see one of those crossing from one creek to another). After 2 hours of hiking, we arrive at the highest waterfalls. A few pictures later we make our way up back to O’Reilly. After 4 hours, we are back from our 2nd hike together since Bali.

The remaining of the week-end is spend to taste O’Reilly food (average) and O’Reilly wines (excellent) before driving back to the Sunshine Coast.

My Rating for O’Reilly

Value: ****

Accommodation:*****

Food: **

Beverage: *****

FATWorld – Hong Kong First Impressions

Haiphong Road, Tsim Sha Tsui

I have not posted anything for the last 2 weeks. And it has a reason… Hong Kong. Its is loud, it is crowded and it is good! What I like in a nutshell: the city, the food, the attractions, the island trails, the family friendliness, the hotel, the climate, the skyline. The three things I don’t like:  the non-queuing culture, the feeling of living in a henhouse, people pissing everywhere but in the toilet hole. Who thought that Hong-Kong is family friendly. Not me and I was proven wrong. First, people love Western kids especially when they are blonde. It gets sometimes too much and you feel you need to bodyguard your own kids as if they were some kind of stars. Our little ones turn already their head to avoid photography and frown when someone touches them. And then, there is the Ocean Theme Park, Disneyland and discovery trails. They love all the different means of transportation funny trams, ferries, railways, double-decker and other cable cars. It is safe to eat and drink everywhere, no mosquito bites, high medical standards, etc… The only concern we have is to lose them in the crowd and the very dense traffic. We feel Hong Kong City is best by night and kids, thanks to jet-lag have no problem staying up till midnight or later.

Hong Kong was given the World Shopping Award in 2008. And when you enter the city, it’s difficult to separate the reality from the fiction in Hong Kong. There is a consumption madness, it seems that Chinese (or people from Hong Kong) understand shopping as a way to live their dreams. What the dreams really are is difficult to understand. To be honest everything is difficult to understand here. We see the shiny surface, the glimmering of the skyline, the abundance of lights and shops but what lays underneath….?

We arrived during the Mid-Autumn festival. It is a time that celebrate’s season change. The traditional dish to eat is a Moon Cake…. Well…the mooncake is maybe the best way to describe Hong Kong. It looks beautiful, shiny and yummy. It is wrapped in a magnificent gold-ornated casing but when you take a first bite…well it is interesting…a totally unknown taste.

Hong Kong will remain in our memories as one incredible infrastructure for people to live and work effeciently. It is functional to the extreme. Could I live here, hell no…but I would love to visit it every year.

Bike Accident in Zeiselmauer (Tulln)

023I have neglected my blog for about a month now. It is mainly because my laptop and I decided to break down at the same time. On the 1st of June my Sony VAIO refused to answer to the power ON button and 1 week later a driver decided to mingle with my future plans by hitting me with his car while I was riding my bike. The accident happened on June 8th at 10h45 in Zeiselmauer a small village 40km away from Vienna.  I originally wanted to take a hilly road, but because of the time of the day I decided to avoid the traffic and take the cycling road alond the Danube. Unfortunately after 30km the road was closed due to roadworks and I had to go on the national road. That’s when the crash happened.  My knee hits the grill of the car. Both Bike and myself are fortunately projected away from the car my head hits the road hard. My Specialized Eye-wear enters like a cookie cutter in my eyebrow and nose. I loose orientation, concentrate on the breathing. I put myself in safety position and start screaming until the pain somehow recedes. I am laying on the street not knowing whether I am safe or not. I suddenly hear someone calling emergency and I feel reassured that I am well taken care of. The first emotion is anger against the driver. I cannot believe that my start at the Switzerland Ironman is being written off in this instant. I cannot believe what just happened to me. Then comes despair. I get quiet, start to localise the pain. I know that my left leg is injured and that the knee feels blocked. I hope at that moment that these are only multiple contusions and superficial wounds.

The ambulance comes after 20 minutes. The crew seems to be fast, efficient and professional. A few questions are asked, preliminary checks are made, infusion inserted with a heavy pain killer. The helm is taken off and replaced by a neck stabiliser. I am transported to the closest regional hospital: the Landesklinikum Donauregion Tulln.

The tests are very thorough I get x-ray-ed from all angles, I see half a dozen of doctors and nurse that either ask me something or inject me something. In the middle of all checks comes a policeman who asks me to blow in a rubber tube. Alcohol test. The test is negative. Powerbar Isotonic drinks do not contain alcohol.

The problem is that after 4hours of checks, no one tells me what is my status and what is the diagnostic. The funny part of it is that it is the person who pushes the beds, who tells me that I have a serious fracture of the upper chin bone and knee injurees. I get jiggy and ask to see the doctor. I see him in the room where casts are prepared. While the team is preparing the bandages for the cast, he tells me what has been diagnosed and that I need to be operated in the coming days. I am shocked by the abrupt news.

I decided at this moment to be transferred to a private clinic in Vienna, which is close to home. I also ask to get a phone to call my wife. She and my daughters come at the end of the day visibly troubled by what had happened.