I don’t know a single triathlete who hasn’t got Roth on his/her bucket list. I’ve had it for about 10 years and 2018 was to be the year where not only me but 4 other friends would tick this race off the list. A Brit, An Aussie, An American, A Dutch and A Swiss. Our common denominators: our children go/went to the American School of The Hague and triathlon. We all met on Saturday in Nürnberg with our families after setting everything up in different transitions zones and had a last supper at the hotel. A bystander would not undersatnd how we casually talked about planning to pee on a bike while devouring a tomato-mozzarella. All shared their goals & anxieties. My fear was the ability to race the marathon after having been attacked by a blood thirsty swan! I kicked the bird so hard that I badly cramped and a large vein popped in the calf area.. Long story short we went early to bed, layed down, did not sleep (well) and before we knew it, we were driving by 05:00 towards the start…well actually 05:15 because The Dutch had to “quickly” go for No2 later than planned….. We nearly missed the cut off time to put our T2 bag in the zone. Unnecessary stress before a long day. I managed to breathe, pump my wheels, get my wetsuit right first time and warmed up.
07:15: boom! Roth lets the athletes go in waves of 200. I am part of the first wave starting after the ladies. Poor ladies (those who do not swim fast). After 1000m we catch the first ones and swim past and over them. The scratches on my legs confirm these are nails belonging to female athletes. In any case, perfect swim in a perfectly calm canal. I focus on 1 thing. keep cadence high while not pulling too hard under water. I estimate my HR to be in lower Z2 and I keep calm. I manage to actually look up from time to time and soak in the atmoshere. It is amazing. There are people EVERYWHERE along the canal and on the bridges clapping, dancing to the sound coming from T1. I never had a better long distance swim and by that I mean leaving the water after 1:08 hour feeling great & fresh. I should leave a bit more energy next time around. The long distance swim trainings in open water really paid off.
08:30: I leave transition feeling good! I pace myself immediately, starting easy, wind in the back. The wind hits us after 10k. It is not more than 20km/h but about 20 times more than shared via loudspeaker 90 min. ago. “Dear athletes, we have perfect conditions today: low 20’s and No Wind”. My morale is not good in the first 50k of the ride. Constantly riding against that wind with quite a bit of elevation. Kavalerienberg comes up and having studied the course, I know this is also the turning point of this 2 loop course. That meant from now on and for the next 50k it would be cross or tail wind. Yes!
I keep my watts under control and constant until hitting km70: Solarerberg. This is why Roth is Roth. 50’000 people packed along 700m of a 8-10% climb. From the top of their lungs they scream at you to get to the top of that hill. And indeed it takes zero second to be up there. I made the mistake that everybody makes, I bask in that cheering and forget to watch the power meter which is well above 300W. I am burning my matches as if I had just another kilometer to ride.
There is another 110….
By km 110, I tap myself on the shoulder for nailing my nutrition so well so far but the wind is back in my face with a vengence. Morale goes in the cellar and the PowerBar Coffeine Boost helps only marginally. I feel tired and rationalize that it was too much to taper and race The Challenge Championship in Samorin only 4 weeks ago. What was I thinking? taper 2 weeks for Samorin, train 2 weeks and taper again 2 weeks? blablablabla goes my mind. At the same time, The Aussie passes me….Oh dear. I manage to shut up my mind by km 160 and enjoy the rest of the ride but my temp indicator already shows 26 degrees. Low 20’s..second understatement of the day by the announcer.
14:00: 178 km are covered. 5:30 is not bad. This is what I had in the tank riding at 72% of my FTP. I actually was right on the money in terms of power and intensity factor….BUT my legs tell a different story… I don’t listen to them and blast through transition in 1:48. boom! Legs are still saying “no marathon today, please” but the mind is saying keep your pace at 05:00 m/km and cadence at 174. That works for about 10k. the next 10k are in the shade along a canal. Perfect for running but my cadence is slowing down and so is my pace: 05:23 on avg for the next 10km. The Aussie is 2 min ahead of me and I try to close the gap. I don’t because I pause twice for nature’s calls. The wheels come off after km 20.
My left leg wants to cramp (the bloody swan strikes back), my IT bands are screaming and my head is suggesting a long walk. BUT my family is there, my friends are there, my coach is thinking of me. There is also that lady from Loolaba Triathlon Club, who finished in 10:50 last year…. I decide, that I can’t walk, won’t walk. End of the story. And this is what I do. KM32 welcomes us with a 60m climb. It feels like going up the Eiffel Tower. The sun is now hot and at km35 the course goes back down 60 meters… which is worse for the IT bands.
Only 6km to go. All my salt tablets are consumed (12) all my coffeine boosts are consumed (6). I feel OK. No GI, no cramps. I try to pick up the pace and going into the beer mile of Roth, I meet Isa and the family. This tells me that I made it, I can smell the finish line. I enter the stadium, slow (further) down, soak it all in and enjoy the last 200m. It is 17:49. I end up 20 minutes later than orginially planned. My marathon, 3:49, is the slowest since my first Ironman in 2010. But I am happy, so happy. I have pushed harder than I ever did, I stayed mentally strong on the whole marathon. My legs are 100% toast. This is how I should always feel. I know that I would wake up the next day telling my self I could not have run another minute faster. Stats: 10:34 (1:08 / 5:30 / 3:49), 73rd out of 579 in my AG (Top15%).
The Aussie finishes 20 min in front of me… all others are still on the course. I enter the athletes garden and start eating sandwishes with boatloads of sauer gerkhins, go figure. I don’t think I got pregnant during the race. I lay on a massage table. The Aussie is magically laying next to me. We talk with big smiles on our face. Go shower and go back to the finish line to celebrate the day, our friend coming in. I could write verses and chapters about the quality of the organisation and the devotion of the 7500 volunteers. It was incredible. Roth lives up to its reputation. It is the largest and the best long distance triathlon on this planet. Period.
Finally, and as usual, the difference between being motivated and really mentally strong through out the race is the presence of the family, my wife, my kids and friends. They cheered during the whole marathon and when I see the pride of my children in their eyes, there is no way for me to give up, let alone getting comfortable. Its about them, the support they gave me for months. This gratefulness flls empty tanks and allows me to enjoy every minute of every race. Thank you.. I love you!