Monday, June 25, 2012

Ironman Regensburg


We had entered Ironman Austria one year before as it is up there with Challenge Roth and Hawaii as one of the iconic triathlons in the world. It sells out in minutes so we had our very kind hotel owner Jakob from our Austrian Digs at The Mohrenwurt enter us on site the day after the race the year before.  We planned to hang out in Austria for most of June training and then race Austria. Then we heard Regensburg wasn’t selling so well, so we looked at the numbers and they still had 50 slots, with about half the entrants in Austria (only 1,300). Also Woody’s girl Doro was entered so it would mean a weekend away with those guys, who had become good friends, so that would be great. We knew that it was only an easy €30 train ride to Regensburg from our base in Austria, the hotels were cheap and no car hire was required, so it would be a cheap one to tack-on, so we pulled the trigger.

The Colless's are back for redemption...or at least to vomit and shiver all over your city again
 After we had pulled the wrong rein (from a Kona qualifying standpoint) by entering IM Melbourne (under-prepared, cold swim and every fast Ironman in Aus and NZ entered) and Hawaii 70.3 (unsuitable race conditions and tough competition) when we would have had better chances of a slot in IM Australia at Port Macquarie (slow qualifying times in mine and Ness’s AG), and the Ironman Cairns  which was on the same day as Hawaii half  (in my AG 10.15 got you to Hawaii and I went well under 4.30 in the Half IM on essentially the same course last year). We have both been pretty unlucky not to qualify already, but coulda, woulda, shoulda, you got to get it right on the right day is all it comes down to.

I coulda been a contender I tells ya...I coulda been somebody

 Anyway, we decided to enter and use it as our main chance to Kona Qualify and have Austria as a back-up.  We’d both raced Regensburg the year before with both of us having shockers, Ness getting freezing and not warming up and me a puncture and then sick on the run, so we fancied our chance at some redemption.
Beautiful old town in Regensburg

The event in Regensburg is a really cool one; the town is really old with lots of cobblestones and narrow winding streets in the centre of town. We met an older Canadian guy on the train who was staying at our hotel. Turns out he has done 128 Ironmans! John Wragg was his name, “He has done them all he said, and IM Canada was his favourite – he’d done it 28 times. Most people not in the sport think wow what a super-human feat, but triathletes just think “Wow where does he get all that money”.  I googled him and he is a school teacher! Must be a good saver with no kids. He had a truck back over him on his bike a few years ago and has a big limp and he walks the whole marathon, and was planning on doing Regensburg, then IM France the week after. He ended up doing a 7+ hour marathon, but getting another finish. He reckoned it was one of his hardest races ever and was asking himself the usual questions during the race (why the firkin hell do we do this??).

If you've done 128 Ironmans you should look like this.

Due to the reduced female numbers they changed the Kona slots from last year’s 35/15 men/women split to a 41/9 split. The girls were not best pleased.  In my age group there was 8 slots the previous year and it stayed at that number in Ness’s they reduced it from 3 to 1. Damn that made it much tougher, as there was a girl in Ness’ age group (Inga Haude) who had gone top 5 in Hawaii and won her AG easily in Regensburg last year in a time Ness was not capable of.  Still the weather was predicted to be 30 and hot and we had gotten her a new wet suit made of Green Goma rubber, not neoprene which is supposedly warmer, and a titanium undershirt, recommended by Bella Z (thanks Bella !) which was keeping her warm in the practice swims, so we thought she still had a good chance.

Swim was a lot more civil this year

SWIM 3.8km 55.20 (Ness 1.07)
The swim start at Regensburg is from a narrow beach, but it is a pretty straight 1km to the first turning buoy and it is really well marked with massive buoys, so easy to navigate. I lined up off the side a bit and so did Ness, as she was really worried about the rough treatment she had the year before, and I was keen to avoid the agro too. I got a good start and lead my group of guys before merging into the main group after about 400m. It was all very civilized which was nice and I was relaxed the whole swim. The swim in Regensburg is a really honest one, aside from the sometimes rough start it is as fair as can be and times here are really legit. The top 3 swimmers (Bockel, M Raelert and Halksworth) went 45mins flat which was pretty bloody insane. I had been working on my wider arms in swimming and drafting better and was pretty happy to get out a minute faster than last year, feeling really fresh. Ness had a solid swim too, staying clear of the rough stuff, but 5-10 minutes slower than most of the girls aiming for Hawaii.

If Ness gets out of the swim's Game On!

BIKE 180kms 5.06 (Ness 5.39)
The bike course in Regensburg is not a fast one, but it has something for everyone, slightly favouring the climbers. There is 10-15kms flat out of transition then about 25kms of hills, mostly up, then a long downhill and flat, back to the end of the first loop then repeat. I got through the hills OK but there were a few packs of guys I went past before the hills and they went by me up the hills. Reading all the Euro names on the bibs provided entertainment. Monfort (FRA), Pavel (SLV), Thomas (GDR), Jonas (SWE), were all going by me in the familiar formation. The when we got to the point the hills were over, I started a good strong effort getting super aero, pushing 290-300 watts and went by them all. I rode past the point where I punctured last year, and soon after went right over a little pyramid shaped rock, pointed up and was sure it would have given me puncture, but the tyre and tube held strong, I was thanking my sponsors Bontrager 19mm aerowing tyres and Michelin latex tubes. My fans will be thanking you guys too.

Made a bit of a mess of my number and the ref chased me screaming some crap in German. I said OK OK and rode on......The Germans are like the Japanese - things have gotta be perfect or it's time to freak out!

The same two draft- busters controlled our area of the race, one guy and one girl, and that worked well. I heard there were heaps of penalties handed out, but I was sweet as bro. Every time the saw me, instead of sitting with Monfort’s Men I was on my Pat Malone between them and the next group ahead (Alexander’s Army). As both busters saw me a few times and could see I was riding with some balls, I doubted he would bust me if he came upon me later in a 50/50 situation. The good draft busters get an idea of who is riding with balls and who is not rather than handing out a card based on what they saw in a 5 second snapshot. I reckoned I had plenty of brownie points with these guys.  I ended up catching up and passing the group ahead too and although I had no idea how many were up the road; I thought I must have been coming top 5-6 in my age group. 10th was the magic number I had in my mind for a slot, as I was pretty confident it would roll down two form the 8 allotted pre race....If only there was 8 in Busso I was thinking I wouldn't need to be doing this shit.

You know me know me...I'm a good bloke.

When I got back for the second loop, I had the misfortune of coming across Friendly Franck the German was just rejoining the course – “Did you get a flat” I said – “That sucks – happened to me last year here” I said as I passed him when he was still getting up to speed. He re-passed me straight away and I thought, well he might be a gun let’s see if I can work with him. Unfortunately he instantly dropped the speed to 35kph when in front. So I went round him and was keeping it at 39-40kph and he passed me straight back, not even after 5 secs. I told him as he passed that the rule is he has to wait 30 secs to repass, and to make it worse he dropped it straight back to 35kph again. So after lecturing him, I couldn’t really re-pass straight away myself, so I waited 30secs and went by him again, and the bastard did the same thing – three more times! Overtake me at 42 kph, drop speed to 35 forcing me to slow to that speed and wait the legal time before passing him again. “You firkin arsehole” I was thinking, maybe he misinterpreted my attempt at showing empathy about his flat.
Stuffed pockets

I started shouting at him from behind when he was going 35 - andre andre reeba reeba...oh shit wrong I changed it to "hop, hop, hop". Neither worked, I should have just shouted "hurry the fuck-up or stay behind me". It was costing me serious time and Pavel’s Posse was still thick as thieves and caught me at the foot of the first hill. Faaark.

Forgot about all these hills...not really a great course for the 80+kg guys
They went by me up the hill and I never saw them on the bike again. I think there were about four guys in my AG in that group so I guessed I was still just top 10. With about 30km to go in an IM bike it gets really grim and you can’t wait to get it done with. I ended up with a group of 4 or 5 all of us struggling, with me and Thomas doing all the pulls, we were all going too slow.

30+ degrees and only one competitor in a jacket.......

 It was getting hot and each aid station I was grabbing a sport drink (shouting ISO!!) and then a “Vasser”, to spray over me. At 50kms to go I was calling for wasser and they pointed me to the guy at the end, where it always was and he handed me one, I sprayed it all over my face, head and body, before I realised it was sports drink. Lovely! I did the last 30+kms with hands so sticky I couldn’t even touch the bars, just riding on my elbows with fingers interlinked.  Bloody Franck the Fucker even ended up catching me with 500m to go as well. Shizer.

Sticky fingers, hair, chest, bike...yeck

RUN 42km 4.14 (Ness 3.38)
I had been hoping to get a sub 3.30 run and Woody thought I had a 3.20 in me, which I guess is possible looking at my run times at other distances. I had done a heap of run training recently with about 6 x 100+km weeks. In the race in Hawaii two weeks ago, my motto on the run was “don’t dip into the pain well”, in this race my mantra was “Send yourself to the hospital”, I was prepared to really suffer like never before to get the Kona qualify. My plan was to start out at 4.30k pace for the first 5ks and then hold a steady 4.40-4.50 pace as long as I could, hopefully not dipping over the 5min pace until the last few kms, if at all.

So far, so good.

In the first km or two a guy was running on right on my shoulder. I was thinking to have a bit of a chat as had enjoyed the run in IMWA running with my now mate Gavin for 30kms. Only 1km in we passed a guy walking already, poor bugger I was thinking, I hope he's 40-44. The guy who was running next to me shouts out at him like a teacher to a naughty student “No, Newer Valk, Keep Running!”. "Right, don't think I'll be having a good chat with this guy" I thought. I then looked over and I'll be blown if it wasn't Franck the Plank! He had already displayed definite strong wanker tendencies thus far and now he wa categorised. I'm sure he was not 100% wander but what I had seen of him made me put him in that 100% box. “Easier said than done sometimes mate” I said. “You never Valk” he spat back at me “Even slow run but newer valk”.  If he had shouted that shit to me during some of my low periods on the run I would have found enough energy from somewhere to give him a flying head-butt – "How’s that for valking vucker?".

Vast valkers

The whole ‘never walk’ thing is one of those wanky myths that everyone knows is bullshit but they try and pretend it’s true to seem tough. Like in Niseko people go on about – “You can’t have too much powder – it’s never too deep”, even though some days the snow is so deep it’s almost impossible to turn on the way down and you get stuck wading out for an hour in flat bits – that was radical dude!  The real truth is about 95% of people walk at some stage of the run – even Pete Jacob who did a 2.41 in Hawaii last year (3rd fastest of all time) walked a few aid stations. Still understood some guys are proud of how they never walked, and fair enough, but some who boast about it do a 5 hour marathon. you're better off running 4.30 then taking a walk for a minute and going back to 4.30 pace, than 'running' the whole thing at 7 min k pace.

Let's twist again......

Anyway I was going along really strongly for the first 18kms and felt like I could run all day. I had some new spongy shoes ‘Hoka One One, Bondi B’s’ (really!) which were super light, with no support, but lots of shock absorption- designed for the ultra-runners, I had read good reports of heavier guys finding them really helpful in the Ironman run as after 30kms the impact on the bones wears you down.

Hoka One One....Time to Fly?? Well......

 I was already a fan of flipping the conventional shoe philosophy around and doing almost all my training in racing flats to strengthen the soft tissue and toughen the bones and then races in more spongy shoes, so these seemed perfect to me. The did feel really good apart from hem being ½ a size too big and requiring me to wear thicker (highly water absorbent) socks – not ideal when dosing yourself with water all day, and post-race my toes reached even greater heights of completely smashedness (no I didn’t think it possible either), but here I sit, five days post-race with my toes in a bucket of ice.

Anyway I had run away from Franck and Thomas and two other 40-44 guys so I thought I might be about 5th in my AG. When I saw Woody he just said I was doing great and I was right up there, about top 30 overall and to keep it up. He also told me Vanessa was having a storming day and that gave me a big lift too. Then about 20kms in a friend called out “Go Bevan, you’re coming 10th in your AG!”  It was a bit disappointing, but I still felt good and thought ”Righty-o, all I need to do was hold this pace for another 18kms and I’ve got the Golden Ticket”.  Turns out if I had run 3.25 I would have got a slot, and it rolled down to 11th.

The object of our desire

 I missed one aid station and on the next one grabbed some sports, drink, red bull and also coke and downed them all. About 10 seconds later they all came back up, a huge chunder. I felt myself get sweaty and a bit feverish, and I was shitting myself too. Almost every shocker I have had on an IM run it has involved extensive vomiting. And the only times I’d run OK was when I never spewed, at least until after the finish line, so I was dreading it. I kept the pace up but then next aid station spewed again, and I was walking. Spewing and walking for 15kms is not much fun, and that was pretty much my life for the next 2 hours. It’s ironic that the German word for run is Lauff, as most of my runs in Germany a far better word would be Krai.

No lauffing matter

I was looking at families lying on the shore of the lakes sunning themselves and wading in the water – damn – I gotta give this shit up – I wish I was one of you guys instead of walking along here like a chump hoping that my heart will stop beating and I’d drop dead right there, just to end the pain. Where is Franck the Plank when you need him, a well deserved headbutt would cheer me right up now.

The simple pleasures are often the best

 I eventually managed to keep stuff down, but I need to get better at digging myself out of a low hole when I go into one on the run.  When you have a shocker on the run, everyone wants to tell you why it happened, but the truth is no one really knows. “You biked too hard, dude”, “Mate, you ran the first 5kms too hard”, “Bro, Not enough calories” “Too many calories, buddy” “Too little training, comrade” “Too much training, homeboy”, you are asking all these questions of yourself too and it drives you fucking nuts. I went past Woody at the 36km mark having just had another spew I was hoping he didn’t see and managed to shuffle a bit by him I was embarrassed as hell. He shuffled along with me for a bit and told me how good Ness was going and just to try to run as much as I could.

It did give me a lift to hear Ness was going well, but it made me do the math in my head. She must have swam say 1.05 at best, Woody said she rode 5.35, on her best run day she could do 3.35 I was thinking so I had 10.20 to get to the line ahead of her. It helped me pick up the pace the last few kms as I was thinking “She couldn’t run sub 3.25 could she…shit I’d better keep shufflin’. In the end I was counting down every last 100m totally spent thinking “It’s only a lap around the bay”, it’s only a 20min easy run I’ve done that a thousand times”, right down to “It’s only 400m Cathy Freeman does that easy so keep running”. I enjoyed the finish chute as you always should, and the post-race area was really cool.

Kona Qualifier! That's what Im talking' bout!

I eventually found Ness and she had been told she had finished anywhere from 3rd to 7th in her AG. They eventually posted to results on the wall of the finish area – she got 2nd! We gave each other a big hug, but knew there was only one slot in her AG for Hawaii. After I missed a slot on some dodgy calculations in Busselton last year – only 4 slots in my AG of 400 compared to women 35-39 having 40 people and 4 slots, and the race organiser had basically admitted to making a mistake, I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I told Ness to find the guy and ask how he worked it out. She tracked him down and he was pretty ruthless, German style, brushing her off. I went up to him after and was asking to see the calculations the next day before the Kona ceremony. He didn’t want to saying it was an “internal document”, but when I said “We would have never entered this race if we knew there was only one slot in the women’s 35-39 and we’ve spent a lot of money and come a long way (about 30 Euro and 200kms….)”, but eventually he relented and offered to go through it with us the next day.
Ness on stage! Dude that won the 35-39 is an Austrian ex-pro cyclist has risen Le Tour....before he was thrown out for doping....damn dopers one strike, life ban for all sports I reckon.

We got there an hour early for the ceremony and spoke with a different guy (the main Race Director) and he said he would look into it and get back to us. I thought we’d put enough pressure on the guy without following through and standing over him while he showed us the details, so we decided to leave it at that and keep the fingers crossed. Turned out no women over 60 finished and they gave an extra slot to Ness’s AG so she was in. Happy days! We thanked the guy we had been moaning to and he gave a little smile as we did. I still think something strange went on as by my calculations there were 9 slots so:

18-24 – 1
25-29 – 1
30-34 – 2
35-39 – 1+1
40-44 – 1+1
45-49 – 1
50-54 – 1
55-59 – 1
           = 9/11
….but supposedly to no lady older than 60 finishing the 35-39 and 40-44 ended up with 2…so 11 slots to the girls rather than the reported 9, we’ll take some credit for our bully boy tactics in getting it over the line.

Found this on the bridge in Regensburg before the race - cheesy I know - couldn't resist!

So form here we have the IM Austria left in two weeks. Ness is unsure if she will race the whole thing but will do the swim and start the bike as the swim is her weak pint and the swim there is supposed to be the most famous of all IM swims – finishing down a canal with thousands of people lining the narrow canal. I’ll give it a go a try and sort out my nutrition, got some advice from Woody and Brett Sutton (old hard-arse Aussie try coach) more real food this time methinks.

The race in Austria is like Roth, a big 2,000+ filed and a really fast course with lots of guys going sub 9. The last few year’s spots in 40-44 have stopped at about 9.05 with a slowest run of 3.10, so I don’t hold much hope for getting one there, but will give it a crack and see. We’ve got our apartment booked in Hawaii and I’d always said if Ness qualifies and I don’t I would still be a very happy-chappy to go to Kona and take it all in…without the heat and pain of the race. Still if I keep chipping away, my time will surely come.

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