July 1st 2018, and it was finally here. The day/event I have been planning and training for, for what felt like an age.
On Wednesday, Nath, Jade Tania and I jumped inside the Skoda and started the 2 day road trip over to Roth, Germany. We broke up the journey by staying in Liege, Belgium. On the morning before we left Liege Nath and I went for an easy little run round the páve streets to help keep the legs subtle and moving.
We arrived at Roth late afternoon on Thursday, which gave Nath and I enough time to go and register. The weather was pretty grim and we got soaked walking from one end of the event village/expo to the other. With the weather against us it meant that we would leave the mooching round the expo for another day and made our way to our accommodation which was in Stein near Nuremburg. An early night followed, but not before going through the goodie bag you get upon registering. As well as a new backpack, we had food, drink, toiletries, hat, timing chip band, mini foam roller, number belt, green swim hat with wave number and start time, and of course the obligatory branded bidon, amongst many leaflets and “throw away” material.
Early Friday morning Nath and I drove to transition 1 (T1) and headed out on the trusty steeds so we could do a small course recce. The course was a 2 lap affair of 56 miles each lap. We opted to keep the recce simple and just cruised the first 10 miles until we hit the first meaningful climb of the course before turning back on ourselves and heading back to T1.
We arrived back to here a little late and missed the “run with the pro’s” which was taking place this morning. Not a problem as I was sure I would be running and overtaking them Sunday morning 😉
We headed back to the apartment to meet the girls and then headed out for a walk around Stein. Stein review; Stunning little suburb of Nuremburg – we stumbled onto a wooded area that made it feel like you were in the middle of nowhere and not in a built up town, and even found the local graffiti wall with some amazing art.
After lunch – where I had to have a schnitzel 🙂 – Nath, Tania and I headed back to Roth to spend some time looking round the expo before Nath and I got to stuff our faces at the Pasta Party. A tradition on all long course events where the organisers feed the athletes with as much pasta, sauces, salads, sweets and drinks as they can manage for free (I say free, it is all part of the price you pay I guess). I did stock up on RedBull 🙂
Saturday morning we headed back to T1 to have a practice swim in the canal. The organisers opened the canal for practice on Friday and Saturday between 6.30am-9.00am. As the canal is a working canal and freight boats are constantly using the waterways swimming is prohibited outside of the event and these practice times. Unfortunately as we were running late we only managed 10 mins of swim time, but to be honest that was all I needed.
While there Nath pointed out a bridge in the distance and said the words that would ring in my ear for the rest of the day “See that bridge all the way down there? We have to swim to that and back again!”. Excuse the language, but my reaction was “You are shitting me!”. I know I had practised the distance in training a few times, but when you have a visual of how far you actually have to swim it hits you hard!! I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I just had to keep repeating it to myself.
Saturday afternoon we had to go and drop our bike and helmet at T1 along with the blue run bag, which the organisers would take to transition 2 (T2) ready for race day tomorrow. I had loaded and checked everything over 10 times when loading the run bag, but I kept having that feeling that I had forgot something. Nerves!
The run bag contained the following;
- Trainers. I was using my On Running Cloudflow. Absolutely love these trainers. I am not a seasoned runner and have not tried multiple brands. But for me, they just work.
- Run belt with race number attached – 3216
- 6 gels attached to run belt
- Caffeine shot
- Sun visor
After dropping the bike and bag off I went for a gentle run along the canal. The weather was a complete polar opposite to Thursday – with it being 28+ degrees and no breeze. Made for a sweaty run!
Nath and I then headed to the event village for the English briefing. Fully briefed up we headed back to Stein to finish prepping for race day and enjoyed an early evening, but not before indulging in vegetable pasta and bread – carb loading still, which I started doing 6 months ago 🙂
For race day we had 2 bags – green after race bag and red bike bag. The following were loaded ready.
Red bike bag:
- Cycling shoes – Fizik R4’s
- Number belt with number – no space for gels so keeps it light weight – 3216
- Caffeine shot
- Energy bars x 3
- Energy gels x 3
- Cycling gloves
- Muc Off Chamois cream
Green after race bag:
- Garmin bike computer – to put onto my bike in the morning prior to the swim
- Swim hat
- Swim goggles
- Body balm
- Carrier bag
4.00am wake up call. I consumed my premade Bircher Muesli with banana blueberries and honey and washed it down with a espresso shot. Applied the much needed sunscreen and checked the bags once again. By 5.00am I was dressed in my Castelli trisuit, fed, and packed ready to drive to the start.
We made it to T1 about 5.45am, where we had to drop off the bike bag by 6.15am. Nath had an early start at 6.45am, where I had a bit of a wait until 7.55am. I put the Garmin on the bike, put my sunglasses with the helmet. Checked the tyre pressures and then went and said my goodbyes to Tania.
I had a bit of time to spare so I got half way into the wetsuit and then went over to the T1 tent to watch the pro’s make their way out of the swim. I got to cheer on Joe Skipper and Lucy Charles, who were doing it for the Brits, before I had to drop my after race bag off at the truck and finish getting the wetsuit on. These things are never easy to get in!!
The Swim – 2.4 miles:
By 7.45am I was in the queue waiting for my wave to be allowed through and into the water when I looked to my left and saw Nath coming out of the T1 tent. He had gone and smashed the swim in under 1 hour! I was under no illusions that I would NOT be doing the same.
While in the queue the nerves started to kick in. Once again I had to tell myself to just relax and you will get through the swim. Then once you are out of the water the rest will be what it will be, but you will complete it.
Once in the water I enjoyed the much needed wee that always comes on as soon as the wetsuit is locked and loaded! And then made my way to the rope start. And then BANG – the cannon was sounded and we were off (yes they really use a cannon to set us off – awesome).
I won’t bore you through the whole process, but in all honesty I felt quite comfortable and didn’t feel like I was panicking at all, but when I looked up and saw that the bridge was not getting any closer and I had been swimming for 30 minutes, I did feel a bit deflated, but I knew I just had to continue. I finally hit the turn but not before enjoying my first ever in water cramp (first of 3 throughout this swim) and started on the stretch back. It was here I needed my first stop as I once again needed a wee break. And despite trying to go while swimming I just couldn’t. Every time I took a breath it broke the motion! After the turn I started to think a bit more about my stroke and I could feel that I wasn’t pulling well, or stretching the arms out well. So I relaxed once again and concentrated on the stroke in hand and started to feel like I was moving in the water better – albeit not in a straight line! This sighting thing is an art in itself. I could swear I swam more than the allotted distance thanks to my zigzagging! By the time I passed the start point and made my way under the last bridge I only had 350metres to go. I had nearly done the swim leg. The last section felt like my strongest part of the swim, and I came out of the water in 1hr 43mins 14secs. Yes, I know that is a slow time, but I expected nothing less, but I had just got out of the water within the cut off time and now I had the rest of the race to look forward to and to try to smash.
I ran out of the water and grabbed my lonely bag – there were not many left as most people were out the water a long time ago – and made my way into the T1 tent. Here helpers started to empty the contents of the bag and assist you in everything you need.
I whipped the wetsuit off and put my shoes and socks on followed by my number belt and the caffeine shot. Took a puff on the inhaler, loaded the pockets with my gels and bars and I was out of there on my way to bike. I ate a bar en-route and once at the bike I threw on the lid and sunnies and ran out with my bike until I was over the line and could mount the steed. I was off.
The Bike – 112 miles:
As soon as I was on the bike I felt at home. No longer surrounded by the unknown I was surrounded by familiar smells and sounds. This was going to be my race.
I exited the T1 road and hit the course just as some of the pro men were starting their second lap and then immediately I saw Tania on the side of the road cheering her heart out for me. That gave me another boost, that can only be explained if you have experienced it yourself.
I let the pro men pull away from me, and then I was soon caught by some of the pro women. Who I also let pull away 🙂 This part of the lap had the wind behind me so I was chugging along at a nice comfortable pace, keeping the watts around the 209 mark and the heart rate low. That soon changed as soon as we turned into the head wind about 15 miles into the course. This headwind felt brutal and made for hard work on the gradual climb where it hit us. This dropped the average speed down and by the time I crested the hardest climb of the day the speed had dropped below the 20.7mph target I had set myself. However I knew the tail wind was coming and we were on the flatter part of the course now. I powered on and by the mile 45 mark I was approaching the infamous Solarberg climb. This is where I would once again see Tania cheering me on, this time accompanied by Jade. Their signs were held high and the voices were booming loud and clear. I pushed on to the climb and this is where the crowds envelop you and make the road no more than 1 rider wide. The atmosphere is out of this world and I am getting goosebumps just remembering it while I type. Awesome. Bloody awesome.
I powered on after this short climb and before long I was on familiar ground and starting the 2nd lap.
This lap proved to be a slower affair than the first lap as I had started to tire towards the end. My neck and shoulders were feeling it the most, as staying in the aero position for this length of time really hurts! The head wind hit me once again and I could feel and see that my power output was not as high as it once was. However I was still eating the miles up and the end was approaching fast. I completed the 2nd lap and then hit the final 5 miles onto T2. By the time I hit the line and unmounted I had completed the bike leg in 5hr 33mins 49secs giving me an average on 20.0mph. Below my target but still something I am immensely proud off. The watts had dropped to 201 average, with a NP of 227.
I handed my bike to a helper and another helper went and found my bag and took me into the tent where another helper set about getting me on my way as quickly as possible.
Cycling shoes off, running shoes on and laces tied. Bike number belt off, running number belt on. Helmet off, visor on. Caffeine shot taken immediately and then I was off – only a marathon to go!!
The Run – 26.2 miles:
As soon as I set off I was handed some soaked sponges. Something I would be taking onboard regularly today! The temperature had been rising and rising throughout the day and I think it must have topped 30degrees in direct sunlight! That didn’t help with the zapping of the energy!
The run route was fairly flat, taking us up and down the canal before throwing us back towards Roth and into a wooded area which threw in the only real elevation, but that happened to be about 20miles into the run!!
I left transition and soon looked at the watch to see that I was currently running 8.00 min miles. It was a downhill stretch which didn’t help for the pacing, but I had to SLOW DOWN. The target was to run at 9.30 min miles today, and if I felt good towards the end I could try to pick that up. I eased up and soon settled into a nice rhythm. About .5 miles in I saw Jade who gave me a cheer. She was just on her way to the finish to see Nath who was on his way back 🙂 .
I made my way along the course heading out to the canal stretch when once again I heard a familiar voice calling and cheering me on. Tania was there once again. These girls did there own little event today. It definitely is not easy for the spectators, and I take my hat of to everyone who came out to cheer on loved ones and strangers alike today. Her cheering kept the motivation high, and the legs felt good. At the mile 7 mark I was still averaging 9.33min mile pace. It was here that I once again saw Tania as I crossed over the same point as earlier, cheering me on and at the same time telling me Nath had finished already in 9hr 31mins!! Damn fine racing sir. That is phenomenal. She asked how I was feeling and I was feeling OK at this point. The pace felt comfortable and I was fuelling well. She said she would see me at the finish and left me to continue on the well warn canal path cheering me on as I went into the distance.
The feed stops were a welcome sight as I constantly replaced the wet sponges, which I had shoved under my suit, with fresh ones each time. I was mixing it up at each feed station by taking on either Cola, water, redbull or the odd banana. However this wasn’t enough to prevent the inevitable, and that came at about mile 12! The wall, the bonk, whatever you want to call it. It was there. Now looking back at it, we were running along the canal for a long time and into a headwind, and I think that played it’s part. But either way, by mile 12 my legs had had enough and I had to start to ease off and slow the pace down. I started to walk through feed stations to get a bit of a rest and then the walking became more and more regular. The last 13 miles were a mix between run and walk. Both hurt, and hurt bad. I kept looking at my pace and time and trying to work out what I needed to do to get to the time I would have loved – sub 12 hours. I worked out I could afford some walking and so the walking became more regular. By the time I hit the climb in the woods I was a spent man – but I would not be beaten. Running up hill was easier on the legs than running on the flat so I kicked on and jogged up the hill before once again walking. By the time I got to descend the same hill on the way to the finish I had eaten up a lot of my buffer for the sub 12hour mark and had a decision to make. Run it home knowing it would hurt beyond belief or walk it and settle for a time over 12 hours. I dug deep and ran it. It hurt and hurt and hurt but I kept going and managed to push on. I could hear the finish line approaching and the crowds were getting deep once again. That gave me every excuse I needed to not walk again and I pushed. I entered into stadium for the final few metres and once again saw Tania cheering me on till the very last. I ran and I ran till I crossed that line. I DID IT. My run time 4hrs 29mins 50secs. I just completed a long course triathlon. Although it is not the brand, I can happily call myself an IRONMAN now 🙂 My final time was 11hr 55mins 56secs.
As soon as I crossed the line I had my hands on my knees. People have asked if I got emotional, but I didn’t. I literally had nothing left in my body to even cry. No energy to do anything. I got my medal and made my way over a small bridge. I stopped for a minute to give myself a pat on the back and take in what I had just done. Then walked to the finishers tent. A minute later Nath was there with a pint of Erdinger Isotonic non alocholic beer for me. However I couldn’t drink it. I felt sick – proper sick. He treated me to a water and got me a salt bath for my feet (helps flush the toxins out the legs). I sat there for 30 mins trying to feel normal again before having a shower and getting changed. I grabbed some grub and some chocolate milk and I then headed out to see my very supportive wife. We had done it 🙂
It amazes me how much you really have to consume on an event like this. I mean I was racing for nearly 12 hours. Thats a lot of energy I need to replace. Below is what I ended up consuming while racing.
- 2 caffeine shots
- 9 energy gels
- 7 energy bars
- 2 x 750ml tor vanilla flavour energy drink on bike
- 2 x 750ml water on bike – some over my head
- 1 x 750ml red bull water mix (which also ended up over my head when I thought it was water!!)
- 1 x 750ml diesel isotonic drink mix
- about 8 x cups of cola on run
- about 8 x cups of water on run
- about 3 x cups of red bull on run
- about 4 bananas
That many gels!! No wonder I felt sick afterwards!
I have to say what an event Challenge Roth is. I have heard and read many times that if you want to do a long course triathlon then consider Challenge Roth as it is one of the best in the world if not the best, and I can honestly say it was amazing. The set up, the support, the volunteers, the route, the scenery, it is all first class. If you can get a place (it sells out in 2 minutes!!) then I would recommend it highly.
What more can I say!! This has been the hardest thing I have done ever. The training alone was difficult. It was made even more difficult when in February my Mum died and I had to move my Dad near Tania and I so he was close to family. All this hit my training hard and made it difficult to get the right amount of training in.
Considering everything I had to deal with this year I am over the moon with what I have achieved. I look back to this fat, heavily drinking, 30 something from only a few years back to someone who has just completed one of the hardest sporting feats anyone can take on. And not only did I complete it, I like to think I smashed it compared to what I had set myself. Alright, it was not a time to set the world alight, but it was a time that set my world alight. This is one happy man.
Thank you to Tania who has had to put up with either not seeing me as I have been training or having to put up with a moody me as I was tired. Training for an ironman is difficult for family as well as the participant – that is now very clear. Thanks for the support.
Will I do another one?? Who knows. Right now, the answer is no. But never say never. 70.3 events are definitely on the cards, but I know the swim is something I need to work on hard before taking on this next year. I don’t want to be one of the last out the water this time.
Thanks for joining me on this journey. The blog is not over, I see it as only just begun. I will keep up regular posts about my life in cycling and now triathlon. And I am sure it won’t be long till I have another event I will be training towards that you can all read about………
Thanks for the patience on this post.