Ironman Frankfurt: The Closing of a Long Chapter

My friends told me to race hard, to kick butts, so I did my best and enjoyed every minute. It was Ironman Day. I am over the moon.
I stayed the last 3 hours in the public at the finish line, cheering fellow competitors and I seldom felt such true simple joy, without any selfishness at greeting them with my guts and heart. I cheered every one of them, until the last. What a party. This distance is magic. I love it.

But back now to 07:00 on July 4th 2010 in Frankfurt.

It was a big surprise for all of us at the pre-race meeting. No wetsuit because of a high water temperature was one thing. But also, as of July 1st this year NO tri-race suit with any neoprene or plastic of any sort. And you know what: it WAS GREAT!!! The good old way, most of us, like in the early 90’s just with a Speedo. Apart from the fact that I had a great swim, taking all corners rather wide from the buoys to avoid contact with the other 2351 athletes, the most interesting thing about this swim was to realise exactly how much the difference a wetsuit makes. I exited the water after 1:14 in 827th position. With the same time last year with neoprene I would be 1550!!! Now, last year the 827th position swam in 1:06:35. (I had planned 1:07). So it is confirmed. I swim close to 2min faster with a wetsuit per km! For all who asked my how big the difference is, this is it. It is huge in my view.

And now to the bike after a rather lengthy transition. The weather conditions were perfect for the bike course. Heavy clouds, low 20C, light North-West wind blowing 10-15k. The course itself is a relatively hilly one with 1000 meters of elevation over 4 hills: the Beast, the Hell, the Hünerberg and the real bad one; the Heartbreak Hill). Two loops (8 hills 🙂 and exceptionally, an additional 5K because of road works, hence 185 instead of 180. I had very good legs. I paced myself and stayed for the entire bike course at 144 avg bpm, NEVER going in the red. 31km avg over 185km is an excellent result for me BUT it was only the 1250th time. I lost basically 400 positions during the ride. OK, I derailed twice, went to the loo, had to unclip my front wheel due to a stone that was stuck between the wheel and the fork. But apart from that cycling remains my weak discipline and I need stronger legs. Morale was great all the way apart from KM120 to KM140, but I pushed through that too. I had excellent support from my former osteopath, who flew especially from Vienna and motivated me the whole time.

I had a good transition, the helpers were fantastic and when the one that was taking care of me asked me, whether she should hand-over the Garmin watch to me, I said: “ditch it in the transition bag”. I had paced myself during the swim and the bike, now it was time to run and listen to my body and to feel how much it could take for the marathon. So there goes the heart rate, the pace, etc…I had never done that before and yet it felt just right to do that. The first 10K went very well. Slow and easy. I was still kind of checking how my legs would take the rest of the distance. Just as I wanted to accelerate, I realise with shock that I have lost my chip/transponder. Will I get a total time? will I get a DNF? what’s next? So I run (fast) to the closest penalty box. The ref tells me to stay cool. I just need to check-in at every loop, in the meantime they will inform the data centre, get me a new chip and will scan the bar code at the finish line behind my bib number (so…this is what it’s for, this little piece of paper attached to the bib number..). I “lose” about 10 minutes in the process…but you know what. Great break and plenty of time to rehydrate (very well organised those penalty boxes). By the 2nd round the sun is back. And it is pounding. 29 degrees (86F) and the trend is up. With all these emotions I am out of my rhythm and I try to concentrate. Just then, I see Andreas, my support taking pictures, and this of course, vain as I am, puts me right back on my feet :-). Now I have a good rhythm, I guess around 5:30 per km. I do not stop at the aid stations, just take every time water and ice to pour over my head and soak my entire body. The last round is the hottest one. the last 5K are hard, but I don’t stop, I have lost enough time in the penalty boxes and posing for pictures. No it is all about thinking of the red carpet, the people, the music, the finish line. I start thanking in my head all people who have helped me in the last 12 months, especially Isabel. I think of our daughters. I also see myself in the hospital and realise where I am now. Behind my cool Rudy Project glasses a few tears come out. But now it is time to go over the red carpet. The noise from the crowd is deafening, I start shouting myself, raised arms, I am overwhelmed by emotions, I jump around, slow down, enjoy the finish line. It feels I stayed for ever in the arrival arena. I cross it with the time of 11 hours and 38 min. Better than I thought I would do. I covered the marathon in 4:13. Not great but good enough to make up for most of the 400 positions lost during the bike. End result 913th out of 2351. I could not ask for more. The Catcher at the arrival said that I looked fresh, I told him that I just looked happy, (and to myself: happy to have never given up in the last 13 months following the crash). The IM Frankfurt is a day to remember as the closure of a long chapter. But it is also a day to remember because the organisers, the helpers, my friend as support where just unbelievable. I could start again tomorrow. Realistically though I think, I will only do another IM in 2012. I think Madison, Wisconsin.

Vacation on Lanzarote Island

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We leave cold and rainy Vienna on March 27th and arrive in Arrecife (Lanzarote) some 9 hours later. Zoe (2) and Manon (4) have behaved like never before and the expected stress in the plane did not happen. We go first to AVIS to pick our VW-Caravelle bus. It did cost a bit more, but it was all worth it! Kids were happy and I was happy to put all luggage including the bike case inside. We make our short trip to the rented house. The first impression is great. Sixty year old stylish “Finca” with a nice terrace and pool. Rooms are charming and kitchen is functional.

The only problem so far: the weather. Cold and windy and 2 hours after our arrival, torrential rain. Hm, not exactly our idea of a vacation on the island.

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The next day is better. I ride my bike for the first time and discover the amazing landscape of Lanzarote. Very volcanic, very black, lava everywhere. On my first trip I discover the vineyards of Lanzarote and the bodegas (wine bars). The way they grow it is by digging a whole in a funnel shape in order to collect the dew and to protect the plant from the constant wind. On top of the funnel a small crescent wall is erected to further protect the plant against the wind. After the ride, I immediately propose to Isa to go have lunch with the kids at one of these Bodegas. And it was great. …lanzarote-204

Days 3: we discover the white sand beaches in the South of Lanzarote. The beach of Papageyo is beautiful and pretty well protected from the wind. Kids rediscover the joys of the beach and Isa and I relax….for about an hour before feeling that something is wrong with my stomach. We go home and the marathon between bed and bathroom begins. I leave day 4  without comment apart from the fact that it is Zoe’s birthday and Isabel is doing her best to organise a small celebration for her

Day5: I can stand up again and we decide to go for a short trip across Timanfaya (the volcan National Park). We all love it, adults because of the lunar landscapes, kids because of the dromedary ride we do in the Park.  We continue to meet the first edifice of the famous local architect, Cesar Manrique: El Jardin de Cactus. We did not know really what to expect, but what we saw was breathtaking. In a caldera shape of about 200m of circumference, a real cactus sanctuary with thousands of different cactus type spread elegantly on multiple levels and around elegantly shaped ponds. We decideto have lunch there before heading back home, with the firm idea to see more of Cesar Manrique’s creation on the Island

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Days 6: We do a day trip with the bus and discover the place where we will be staying the following week: the Club La Santa . I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting in the inside of my body.

Day7: Back to the beach of Papagayo. A very warm and sunny day. We stay a couple of hours, just time enough to dig a big pool on the beach for the greatest joy of Manon and Zoe. We head back for lunch. I have time in the afternoon to hit the road again with my bike and do a short run after that. At last the real vacation feeling is getting inside my body.

Day8: We move to La Santa, They claim to be the N01 sport & active holiday resort in the world. I don’t know whether it is true but the place is just freaking amazing. Next to the accommodation centre, there is a 1.5km lagoon for swimming and windsurfing, a beautiful 50m outdoor Olympic pool with 8 lanes,a sport centre for squash, badminton, volleyball, basketball, etc.. huge areas reserved for aerobics, taichi, etc.. an athletic stadium next to about 10 tennis courts and beach volley courts as well as a boxing ring. You can simply do everything. It is also the mecca for triathletes. The club is the organiser of the Lanzarote Ironman, supposedly the toughest IM in the world.pool_stor_4cycling_low_big

Day 9-14: Basically Isa and I just split our times to play with the children while the other indulge in some sport activity. What I really liked was the organized bike tours. I am used to train alone and this was great for a change, especially the possibility of drafting on such a windy island.

As said above, we still find time to visit the other Manrique’s main landmarks on the Island, which include his house and designed natural cave system in the north of the Island, both again, breathtaking.

The weather in the second week has much improved and the time for all of us goes suddenly much too fast. Before we know it, we find ourselves packing and making it back to the airport we have to give back to super minibus.

We come back to Vienna in time for Easter. Spring is waiting for us 20-25 degrees and sunny. We spend the hole time gardening and organising BBQ parties with our friends.