The race itself was a great experience yet a painful run. I had a good swim, a fair bike, and a super-lousy run. That's the way an ironman tri goes sometimes. A little background on Roth. It is a tiny German town in Bavaria near Nuremberg, which comes alive every July during the Roth Challenge Triathlon weekend. Some, including Chrissie Wellington, declare Roth as "simply the best race in the world".
simply the best
When April came around, I wasn't feeling very fit, having done only some modest running training for Tokyo marathon circa 40-50k per week. So I did the Japan half-ironman in June as a warmup race for Roth, and completely surprised myself with a big 30-minute PB (see below Nagoya the Magic Dragon blog). Hmmmm, could it be a double PB year? Motozo pondered...
I arrived in Roth 4 days before the race and soon was exploring the town and course with Dave and Mika. Many others from the barbarian horde could not make it for various reasons, so it was basically the 3 of us. It was nice to bump into Stefan, former nanbanner, and Alex from TiT Japan, who were both traveling with family to Roth.
willkommen to Deutschland
We got to hear some of the legends of the game talk about the challenge including Macca, Belinda Grange, and Juergen Zack. It was surprising to see so many Kona Ironman Champions at the arch rival company. Caroline Steffen, 2nd place IM Kona finisher, won Roth this year.
he's a fan
Dave and I stayed with a German family, the which was a good experience overall. Our host mother Claudia rolled out the red carpet and we really got a feel for the local culture. It was way more personable than a hotel, and very close to the race venue. We had an über BBQ Thursday night in Claudia's backyard featuring her daughter's boyfriend's cooking and son's expert commentary on German and US economics. On Friday, we did the pasta loading party which was delayed incredibly by a trucking accident (presumably it was carrying the coveted pasta). Saturday I feasted on carbs and some protein, dropped off the bike, and attended a really boring race explanation.
On race day, I woke at 4 am, stuffed a full breakfast down, caught the 5 am bus, and had 90 minutes to clear out my system before my 7:15 am swim start. Weather was nice and cool in the morning. I was hoping it would stay like that for the bike and run....
Swim, 3.8k, 2.2 miles:
The swim in Donau Canal is a single counterclockwise loop with a floating wave start. I got to the front of the group and swam hard when the gun went off, trying to get a little space from the main pack. After the first 50 meters, I relaxed, the fast guys started passing me, but there was adequate space, and everyone went pretty smoothly.
not so tyred.....
I got into a nice rhythm and decided to draft off a guy that passed me at 1k. I stayed with him for most of the swim, hit the final turn at around 1 hour, and landed 1:11:18, beating my last IM swim by 7 minutes.
Bike, 180k, 112 miles:
After a quick transition, I was in the saddle ready to explore the German countryside. The bike course itself is famous with lots of gently rolling hills, forests, and farmland, quite a peaceful contrast to the busy half-ironman course in Nagoya.
a long way from home
I was looking forward to the Solarer Berg, the signature hill with a narrow corridor of screaming fans. It did not disappoint. Around 70k into the bike, I could hear the noise of the crowd as I approached the hill. After a right turn, I could see several thousand spectators, and got a mad rush of adrenaline.
the hills are alive....
After Solarer and the first loop I came in around 34 kph pace, 2:40, or 5:20 full bike pace, which was slightly ahead of my goal. The bike was still fun and quick until 120k when a number of factors caused me to fade badly, not least being general fatigue. I had done plenty of long 5 hour rides, nearly every week in May-June, but I suppose it wasn't enough.
....with the sound of music...
The sun and wind also dragged down my speed. Last but not least, I had a mechanical gear problem for the last 40k where my rear sprocket failed to shift into lower gears which forced me to do Solarer and other hills in 5th gear and up for final 40k. Dave and Mika had started before me, so I had hoped to catch sight of at least Mika during the bike.
are we having fun yet?
I finally caught Mika around 170k. It was nice to chat as I had not seen any familiar faces for several hours.
My second loop slowed to 31 kph. I rolled in to T2 in 5:36:02, which was still nearly a 1 hour improvement from my last ironman.
hop hop hop
Run, 42k, 26 miles:
And than there was the run, which was my strongest suit many moons ago. I pulled out of T2 feeling relieved to be off the bike, but my body really ached from head to toe. Still, I was able to run a good clip for 5k at 5:30 per k pace.
das not good
Than it went pear-shaped. My whole body cramped at the 15k point including my arms! I tried the patented Jay Johanssen run/walk approach for 15-35k. I needed to run a 4 hour marathon to break the 11 hour barrier, but this faint hope went out the window at 20k. Despite the constant harassment from drunken spectators, I wasn't able to pick up the pace at 25-35k. I had to pull over every 200-300 meters for water, food, and rest.
It was all very painful and a fight to stay moving forward. Mika returned the favor to me about halfway thru, looking fresh. She is a great runner. At arond 40k, Joachim spotted me and shouted encouragement. I somehow was able to run the final 2k without breaks. Hoo Haa! I brought it home in 4:30:37 for the run.
はいラストスパート！ finish this!
My total time was 11:26:11, over half an hour PB, but don't feel like I crushed the race, rather the contrary. It challenged Motozo. Maybe I need a coach? Congrats to Stephan, Alex, Dave Sims, Mika. Simzee had a gutsy race on limited long training. Mika was the heroine du jour, running many men down and breaking 12 hours.
the 2nd ironman: Henley on Thames
Aftermath: What made it extra tough was a 2.5 week business trip tagged on the day after the Roth race. 4 am the next day, I was rushing to Frankfurt airport, flying to Geneva, and toiling the Swiss heat in a monkey suit. 2.5 weeks, 31,000 air miles, and several countries later, I returned to Tokyo. Kudos to Dave for taking my bike back to Japan!
incredible weight/height loss in San Francisco...
A big DOMO to all of you that followed the race live, and to many friends and family who supported me through thick and thin. Next stop, うつくしまトリアスロンin 会津, beautiful Aizu. The olympic distance tri should be a piece of cake!