Challenge Roth 2018 in Best Company

 

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. IMG-1877A 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! IMG-1882Roth 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.IMG-1878_2 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!orig-CRKP1996

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. orig-CRKB1110It 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!

 

 

 

 

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State of Health – 2 months before IronMan Western Australia

I set to myself a few goals before travelling to Busselton (150km South of Perth) to race IronMan Western Australia, to make sure I am on track. Those were basically 4 goals:

1. PR at Marathon Prague (May) – done, by 9 min with a time of 3:12:37

2. Improve my ranking at the Wassenaarse ZwemLoop (Aug), a 1km Swim, 10km run at the local beach – done! moving from rank 18 to rank 4 and retaining my title as Fastest Wassenaarian. The only title I will probably ever hold.

3. PR at the Olympic Triathlon distance (July) (1.5 Swim, 40k Bike, 10k run). Done! by 9min at the Olympic Triathlon in Friesland, The Netherlands with a great time for me of 2:21, and this in very strong wind conditions.

3. PR at Half-IronMan Cologne – done, by 8 min with a time of 4:51. I elaborate a bit on this one:

I travelled on Sept 2nd to Cologne for the race and slept at my cousin’s place in Bonn. She and her husband are dedicated to the sport of triathlon in general and Ironman in particular. Just to mention the level of my female cousin (42), she beated my at the half Ironman in Kraichgau (Germany) in 2011 by 32 min…. but it is great to spend some time with them. I learn a lot and they will always give me some useful tips as well as diagnose 1 or 2 things for which I have a blind spot. I had a great sleep. Never had such a good sleep before a race. It actually worried me whether I was really motivated. But Isa, my cousin, told me, sleep is the best doping there is in town. Go and race hard. So I travelled to Cologne to meet first with a friend that would race with me and together we went to pick-up our starting packs and rack our bikes next to each other in the transition zone.

The gun went off at 12:30. Quite late for a half distance (1.9km Swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run), but it was great weather and water temp was just below 21. Perfect. I took it really easy with a 17:30 pace, found “good feet” to slipstream and let myself drag during the whole course. At my last Olympic distance I took a 15:00 pace but it was too fast and came panting out of the water needing a few km on the bike to recover…. To my surprise, when arriving at my bike, I see my friend already there. He was not supposed to be that fit!!! so I hurry up and leave transition 30 sec before him.

The bike leg came with perfect weather conditions and only a 6kmh breeze. Great marshalling on the course to prevent drafting on this non-drafting course. All packs were immediately broken up. I have never seen so many yellow cards (even saw one black! -disqualified). The result list shows 40 yellow cards, meaning 40 people where warned of drafting and got a penalty of 4min! I wanted a negative split (riding the second half faster than the first), but it did not happen. I was enjoying this thing too much, riding at 36kmh on average. Still, I did not go all out and kept enough in the tank for the run. Very happy with the bike improvement over the last months. I wonder what pace I could have gone with a disc and an aero helmet…. Will I be going back to the triathlon candy store soon? Anyway..it took me exactly 2:30 to transition number 2!

I started the run with surprisingly fresh legs, no jelly feeling. I paced and felt really strong. After 2km I knew 4:45 total time was in the bag and I was pumped and thrilled, but at km 4 horrible pain in the liver area! I discovered later tthis typical pain kicking-in is due to lack of sugar. I had to reduce speed as the pain was too horrible when going under 5 min pace. It is so frustrating to have great legs but somehow the body says NO and you see your time flying away without being able to do anything. Finally, at km 10, I took some Coke and from then on the engine restarted and I knew what I had to take at every aid station. I finished strong the last 11km nearly 5min under the first half. Unwanted neg.splits….Very disappointed with the run. A 1:37 would have been easily feasible, instead I have to live with a 1:42. I saw my friend on the run course about 5km behind me. He had a great finish for his first Half-distance of 5:09. I finished in 4:51:02, 27th AG40-44 in the first 25% and 144/830 overall. Good lessons learnt for the upcoming Ironman in 2 months but need to review nutrition when at higher pace and start the run easy.

So far, so good. The big question though is, will this improvement be enough to shave nearly 40 minutes from my last Ironman to come under 11 hours of racing? This is the challenge I have given to myself.