Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ironman Regensburg Race Report

Regensburg race report
This was our final leg of our Euro 2011 adventure and some chance for us to put a good race on the board after the disappointments in Roth and even a possible chance at a Hawaii slot if everything went great for us both.  After the China race was cancelled, athletes were offered a free entry to a selection of other Ironman races around the globe as well as a refund on entry fee and some travel expenses (that we’re still waiting for – WTC - quick to grab the cash……). We considered IM France (in Nice)  as the dates fit in with our already booked non-changeable flights, we’d  only need to be in Europe for the planned 18 days and it was before Roth, but Woody convinced us to do IM Regensburg as it would suit both Vanessa and I better, with only shorter hills and non-technical descents. The Froggies idea of a triathlon is to find a few of the biggest mountains they can and make you ride up and down those for the entire bike leg – not ideal for those who are more ‘generously’ proportioned or the less than stellar bike-handlers . So we extended our trip to Europe by 3 weeks and locked-it-in, Eddy. 

Regensburgians are diggin on their imaginary friend too.
This was only the second year of Ironman Regensburg and from what I had read from those that did it the inaugural year, it was a great event. Regensburg is a medieval city in Bavaria (actually only about 150kms from Roth) that is quite a beautiful town, with narrow cobblestones pedestrian streets winding through a quaint down town area, surrounded by lovely green Bavarian countryside. There were also plenty of dudes in knee length embroided suede shorts, so after our extended time in Austria and Roth we didn’t have to deal with any culture shock.

A comforting sight

We caught the train down from Salzburg to the race and it was pretty easy – we’d become experts in these trips with our bikes and luggage by now. Woody’s girl Doro was racing in Regensburg too – (she nailed it with a 5min PB and 11th in her AG – great work Doro!), so the four of us were staying in two serviced apartments pretty close to the centre of town. We met up with a big crew from a tri-club in Newcastle (Total Racing International) where Woody was the head coach two days before the race. We skipped the pasta party as the room and food looked a bit depressing, checked-in the day before down at the swim start in a lake 12kms out of Regensburg;  put our feet up to watch the London ITU race and were set to go. The Lake was big and a great temperature (22 degrees) so Ness shouldn’t get hypothermia but we could wear wetsuits. The entrance to the swim was a bit narrow and we’d seen the YouTube clip of the previous year’s start so we were expecting some fireworks early-on.

After the familiar super-early IM Race morning wake up, we got to the start in plenty of time,  got everything set up and then twenty minutes before the start and Ness and I decided to head to the port-a-loos one more time before the start. After a five minute queue, when it was my moment, it wasn’t happening for me in the dunny, so I started walking towards the swim start but pivoted and rejoined the queue to the port-a-loos. Ness was starting to walk in the same direction to the swim-start, stopped and looked at me like I was a weirdo (which I clearly was) and said in a loud voice “Didn’t you just go?” Five Germans and a few English queuing in front all turned to see my response…..’Awesome discretion Ness’, I thought….we’ll I didn’t have any luck first time, but my tummy rumbled just now and buggered if I wanted to have any more carry-on luggage than was absolutely necessary for this 226km journey, I was going back to the baggage check in counter.  I ended up getting some productive work done, as I’m sure you were eager to know, but we were a bit late to the swim start.

Highly prized commodity race moninng of an Ironman, forgot the Metamucil - D'oH!

Swim (3.8km) 55.30
Due to the late arrival I was about 4 rows back from the front. I was thinking of Alex Tanti's advice to use my 'rock concert skills' to get to the front but it just felt wrong to squeeze through, so I just had to start where I was.They had a lot of trouble getting swimmers back out of the water as this was supposed to be a sand start and the first three rows were standing waist deep and not budging. 

Not too good, not too bad

Finally the gun went off on time and it was on. It was a big mess, I could not swim hard early as there was nowhere to go, so I took it a bit easy and when there was a break between bodies about 100m in and I put the hammer down and squeezed through. I got one of my pet-hates when a bloke grabbed my calf and yanked back, I gave him a breast stroke kick and looked at him while breathing and he gave me a "How'd you like that?" grin which kind of pissed me off more, I considered a literal ‘smack down’ on his head or a wetsuit zipper opening swim-stroke technique, but thought “Bugger it – it’s a long day, there's no space for anyone here, just suck it up and get back into it”. I ended up leading the second pack before the first turnaround (1km in) and was feeling all right. I ended up drifting back a bit and the packs broke up, I ran out of juice a bit in the last kilometer ‘should have worked harder on my last couple of long open water swims' I thought as my arms were a bit jelly at the end. I heard from Ness and others that they had much more trouble in the swim than me, so all in all I was happy enough with the end result – 15th out of >350 in my age group.

Bike 180km (6.20)
The bike course in Regensburg is basically 2 x 90kms loops with 15kms of flat/rolling then 20kms of several climbs, then 55kms of flat/rolling into the wind. I got passed by about two or three guys on the flats before the hills and managed to keep my ego in check and let them go as they were doing around 45kph, but I had an eye up ahead and they never got too far away. Once we got into the hills I was taking it relatively easy, a few light guys were passing me and I was passing them on the flats between the climbs, and a few rode away. I was making sure not to push too hard on the climbs. 
Bloody Hills!

I passed the lead pro-female just at the end of the hills and once the hills of lap one were finished, I was pumped. I was thinking ‘OK now we’re done with the hills, it’s Business Time – 50+kilometres flattish into the wind, cool and showers, my time to shine. I didn’t have any socks on but if I did they would have just turned into business socks. ‘Look out guys I’m heading towards the front of the AG race’ I thought. With my unreliable run-leg, I knew I needed to ride sub 4.50 and hopefully low 4.40 if I was going to qualify for Hawaii, so now was the time I needed to make ground and come off the bike in the first five of my age group, hopefully top three.
My German business socks

I was by myself at this stage and was looking for some guys to ride with, so we could pace each other. I soon came along one heavier guy who had passed me on the flat before the climbs and had also been a bit slower on the hills and I said to him – ‘5 minutes each OK?’ In other words, I’d do 5 minutes in front going hard and he could stay 10m back and pace and get the wind-break available (there is a wind break still present at 10m). I looked at my watch and put my head down for my 5 minutes, feeling great and loving life. I looked back after one minute and he was about 100m behind me, damn – ‘I need another ally’ I thought. 
"On your left"
 I saw ahead a guy in full white sleeves who looked like a tasty rider, ‘This guy’s my man' I thought, 'We could be beautiful together'..... – as I came up to him ready to make my (indecent?) proposal I saw his race number – No. 1! It was Andreas Raelert who had won Roth and broken the world Ironman record 4 weeks earlier. This year they brought in a rule that to qualify for the Hawaii ironman you have to finish one “M-dot” branded full iron distance race, in any time to validate your entry.  He had stated he was doing Regensburg at an easy pace (47min swim and 5.07 bike - yeah real easy.....but 4.17 run was even slower than me.....that's where you do the real damage that takes time to recover from) and he was to donate 20 Euro to charity for every person that finished ahead of him. I came up beside him and said “I was about to see if you wanted to trade five minute pulls, but I guess not today?”. He laughed and we both pointed up the road and said at the same time “Go and find the next guy”, we had another laugh at the synchronized statement, and he gave me the thumbs up, wished me good luck and I went ahead.
Oi Raelert geezer, you got some five minute pull gear you selling? Promise to stay ten metres+ and do my five minute pull too. Innit.

About one kilometer after my exchange with Raelert, I felt my back tyre wobble around and bottom out – damn a puncture! - my first ever in a race and of all races and all times...it was cruel timing. I pulled over and started to change it – Andreas came past as I was pulling my wheel off, he slowed down and said “Mate I’m really, really sorry” with genuine empathy, as if it was his fault. Macca is right, he and his brother are class acts.  Although Crowie and Pete Jacobs are Aussies with excellent chances, I kind of hope he wins in Kona this year. I kept pretty cool, I was probably still a bit star struck and after my troubles in Roth, I was kind of getting used to being the chump on the side of the rode as the race passed me by, hell maybe it even suited me. I got the tube changed pretty quickly and screwed the valve onto the Co2 canister but never heard the top of the Co2 canister puncture. I screwed it all the way and there was still no familiar pssssst.. I unscrewed it and saw that it did not have the spike to puncture the canister so it was not opening it, it must have snapped off the last time I used it. Awesome! My little valve was busted so no air was going to be going in the tyre, and I was not going to be going anywhere until a found a way to get air in my tube.

Has your nozzle lost it's spike?

I then went to a marshal on the side of the road and asked if he had a pump or could call a mechanic. He called and told no worries, they are on their way. I thought OK just wait it out the cavalry is speeding here with siren blaring – I didn’t feel right asking the guys passing me at this stage for a pump as they were going for Kona and it was my own fault. Not many guys at the pointy end carry pumps either so would have taken a lot of explaingin that I needed a nozzle, not a Co2.

After ten minutes waiting I asked the guy who called if the mechanics knew about me – 'No' he said the organisers he spoke to just told him that there are some mechanics on the course who will find me eventually. Great I thought and rode up the road a few hundred metres on a flat as I heard there was an aid station ahead and maybe I could make it there on the flat. I went to another guy with a van spectating but he didn’t have a pump either. By this time I figured the athletes passing by might be OK to give up a minute or two or maybe wanted to stop and pee, so I stood on the side of the road making a pumping motion with my hands. After ten minutes one guy stopped and his Co2 worked and inflated the tire, but the tube went ‘bang’ and exploded. It must have gotten twisted riding on the flat…..awesome! I decided race morning to put another tube in my back packet, so put that one in and went back to my chump role of standin on the side of the road with my disc wheel between my knees, making the pumping motion. Not many volunteers – but fair enough, I should have been prepared, a few had a smile at me which I thought was a bit nasty, but maybe they were looking at my pumping motion I was making and thinking ‘yes you are a wanker’. 

My Kingdom for one of these....

Eventually another guy stopped, but his Co2 failed, then a guy with a tiny pump that didn't fit in the disc wheel cut-out but it got me to about 30psi, enough to ride on, but still bottoming out. He wanted to go so I rode up the road until I saw a house that had some guys cheering from their garage. I ducked in and asked for a pump. They brought out this clam style foot pump, that you’d use to pump up a soccer ball or air mattress, 'No way that’ll work' I thought, but the three of them went to work and pulled out an adapter while I ducked in the corner to hide from the marshals (outside help is illegal), but stuff it, I’d been waiting over an hour and my day was done, I just wanted to make it to the finish line after my last DNF.  Wouldn’t you know it they got it pumped up! Not the most pressure in the world but probably 60psi and enough to get me on my way! You beauty!

Beggars can't be choosers

I had to be careful getting back into the race as I was now riding with guys going 25kph and they weren’t expecting someone coming through at 40, so I had a few close calls as they were weaving around and eating while overtaking. As the ride was totally on close roads (both directions – awesome!).  I did a big percentage of the last 130kms on the wrong side of the road to avoid close calls – only moving when warned by the marshals.

Run 42kms 4.11

I started out on the run feeling pretty good and looking forward to it. I watched my pace very carefully early, doing between 4.30-50 min k pace. The first 20kms I maintained this no problem and felt like maybe today I could maintain sub 5min k pace all the way, I did the half marathon in 1.42 and though a low 3.30 was possible.
Cobblestones - easier to run on than to ride on. Garmin conked out...just as well I might have squished it.

At the 27 k mark I felt really ill and had to pull over and vomited about 4 or 5 times, all liquid, my stomach had had enough and shut up shop. I tried to get back to running but felt the fatigue hit me like a brick. I had some more coke and some oranges at the next aid station, but vomited that straight back up again. I was into the death march by this stage and tried two more times to eat and my stomach was not having it. I had to walk (slowly) the next ten kms totally spent. I’d never wanted to sit down and stop so much in a race before in my life and had nothing left in the tank. I had bonked before in races and of course slowed down on the back half of the marathon, but never like this. It was like a sledgehammer, one minute I was feeling fine running 4.45min k's, the next (after I was sick), I was completely spent, and could hardly walk.

Every time I was vomiting someone told me –“drink coke, coke”.  I was drinking coke, but also had smashed down two full cans of red bull, two gels and a lot of maltodexterin from the fuel belt......"I have been - why the hell do you think this chunder is black!". I wanted to spit back. "Damn Macca must have sold a lot of copies of his book" I thought. For the non tri-geeks Macca is Aussie triathlete Chris McCormack, arguably the greatest ever triathlete who just released an autobiography “I’m Here to Win” (he’s the shy retiring type) and he talks about drinking only coke on the run to save the stomach.  or to quote from the book:  'Later in the race the blood starts to go out of your stomach. After a while on the run you can no longer break down the more complex sugar molecules, like maltodexterin, so not only do you have stomach problems, but you’re running out of energy. Welcome to cramps, fatigue, bonking (running out of glycogen energy) on the run. Game Over.' Indeed at the 30km mark it was Game Over for me.
I know, I know....

In hindsight I had taken in way too many calories in the first half of the run, as I was a bit paranoid about bonking and was thinking taking in lots was going to be the secret to my dogy run-leg. I guess the search for my run-woes continues - maybe I need to try running 120+k's per week......tough to do for big guys.

I tried every aid station over the next ten k's to get something in but vomited it straight back up every time.  I must have vomited more than about ten times. On with the death-march....I finally managed to get some coke in and keep it in with 3kms to go and shuffled over the line. I was so spent and glad it was over. The post-race area was a real disappointment; there was nowhere to sit, no tent to chill out in and it was freezing cold with athletes forced to sit in the gutter or stand. Normally the Euro races do the post race thing really well, so it was a surprise.I think the sit down area was back at T2 500m away where supporters could join but who could be arsed going all the way over there after the race...I prefer the athlete-only VIP-feel post race area. Just sayin'...

Anyway Ness also had a bad race getting smashed on the swim, freezing on the ride and never warming up, but we've not been too down about the poor performances, just keeping the eyes ahead and focusing on the next one, which for us is the Beijing world age group champs in September. Hope I don't finish last in that one, there will be some quick guys there! Then we have Murakami, Tour De Hokkaido bike race, Taiwan 70.3 and back to Busselton. Surely the bad luck/performances are done for the year..Giddyup!

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