PrepI meant to write a training blog before Roth but didn’t have time. In brief, there were 8 weeks between the Ultra Brecon 40 and Roth, so 6 weeks hard training and a 2 week taper. The training would be almost entirely swim and bike as I reckoned that I had enough in the legs from a spring of long running races to cover the marathon. The 6 week block started with a whimper rather than a bang as my quads were trashed from the ultra so all I could do was a couple of swims before heading to the Lakes for the Man Tri annual training weekend, where I got in a couple of decent 60 mile rides with plenty of climbing; Whinlatter, Honister, Struggle (*2), Kirkstone and Wrynose. Into week 2 and I picked up a nasty cold that wiped out Mon-Fri before getting a couple of rides in at the weekend in a rare few days of good weather. The remaining 4 weeks were pretty solid with 3 swims and 3 or 4 rides per week and some token running (longest run was 10 miles!). I’d entered the Coniston Old Man tri but wimped out because of poor weather so Roth would be my only tri of the year and my first since Alpe d’Huez almost a year ago. I did one open water swim to check my wetsuit – 3.8k in 1:12 at the Quays which felt easy enough – and also a 25 mile time trial just to get an indication of my FTP, I rode 1:03:44 at 260W on a very slow day on J2/9. A few kit tweaks too. A new Met Pac pointy hat chosen after extensive research to find the cheapest one and also a wheel cover for my powertap wheel to make it into a (very heavy) disk. A new Selle SMP saddle on my TT bike and also raising the bars by 1cm and moving them in a bit were the changes I made to my bike set-up. Overall I was reasonably confident I was in decent shape going into the race, despite the fairly minimalistic training! Plans Pretty simple really. Swim steady. Bike at 180W (70% FTP). Run at 8 min miles for a 3:30. Bike nutrition would be eating every 15 minutes alternating between half a bar and a high 5 gel. Getting There Myself, Brian and Harsh drove to Roth in two days with an overnight stop in Brussels. A long journey but reasonably uneventful and we arrived in Roth at about 4:30pm on the Friday, registered and met up with the rest of the gang; John, Dawn and Rich who’d arrived the day before, Paul who’d flown out that morning, and Mark and Anna. Also Konrad and his friend Wolfgang who arrived a bit later). We (apart from Mark and Anna) were staying in a Pension (guest house) near Pleinfeld about 10 miles away which was a great place (thanks to Konrad for sorting it out!) and on Friday night we had a very authentic German meal in the restaurant next door entertaining the locals with our complete ignorance of the German language! Saturday was the usual kit sort out, bike checks and race bag packing. All fairly dull apart from some drama with the front mech on Paul’s bike. Bikes were checked in and racked in the afternoon which gave an opportunity to scope out the swim and transition routes.
Pre RaceA 4:15am alarm call to get into the usual pre race routine of P20 application, breakfast, P20 application number 2 and a few toilet trips. Drive to the swim start via a couple of wrong turns (although this did mean we got to do a part recce of the Solar Berg!) and a stroll down to transition (via another wrong turn which put my pre-race stress levels into the red, sorry guys!). On reaching my bike I almost immediately realised that I’d left my bottle of gels and my drink bottle in the fridge back at the Pension – doh! My pre-race drink had about 250ml left in it so that went on the bike and I figured I’d just pick up gels at the aid stations. But still, extra stress I could have done without. Wetsuit on and went to watch an earlier wave start before heading to the start area myself. The Swim Lined up in the middle, the cannon went and off we go. Not too much biff although I did clock a breast-stoke kick to the face which fortunately didn’t do any damage. Navigation is easy as the swim is up and down a canal so you just need to check you are keeping a steady distance from the bank. The top turn marks about 1/3 distance and was navigated successfully by all, apart from one guy who I saw swimming on and on into the distance! On the return leg I started to feel a bit rough in the stomach and got into quite a negative place, thinking about what my logistics might be if I DNFed! Bit pathetic really. Past the start and transition and under the bridge, was really hoping the turn would be the first buoy but no, there was another after it. Eventually back under the bridge and on to the swim exit; checked my watch and it had been accidentally stopped at 29 minutes so that was my plan for having a total time with me scuppered. T2 went reasonably smoothly; massive handful of lube on the underparts, jersey on, shoes on and off to my bike. From the time of day I reckoned I’d started the bike with 75 mins on the clock which was on schedule (although this turned out to be a slight overestimate in fact) The Bike Tried to get aero and into my riding as quick as possible after the first couple of miles which were quite twisty and mainly downhill. Quite soon we went through the army “ration station” being saluted by soldiers either side of the road and I grabbed a bottle and a couple of gels to cover my bottle snafu. Quite rolling for a few miles and riding to power I was going slower than most other riders on the ups and quicker on the flat and down. Heading towards Greding seemed like hard work with a block headwind all the way, and I was slightly dismayed to see my average speed for the first 20 miles or so had only been 18.5mph when I was expecting 20.5mph at least. Oh well, it’ll be what it’ll be and I just stuck to my 180W. Other than the wind, with cloud cover having rolled in conditions were good as it wasn’t that hot at all. The Greding climb was well supported and a good chance to get out of the saddle and stretch, then over the top a fun twisty descent down to some more rollers and eventually into Hilpoltstein, home of the famous Solarberg. On it’s own this would be a relatively minor climb but with crowds several deep lining the road like a Tour mountain stage in the Pyrenees it is something special. After that it’s mainly downhill to start the second lap and do it all again.
But this time the stretch to Greding seemed much easier and I was pushing 53*12 where before I’d been struggling into the headwind – in fact, looking at this weather station data the wind direction changed from SE (block headwind) to W (cross/tail) which explains things. I passed Anna and Konrad early on the 2nd lap and was feeling OK, food was going down OK apart from one time when I had to miss a 15 minute feed to let things settle, and I was still hitting my 180W, although doing a bit more freewheeling and out of the saddle as things were getting a touch sore down below! Had a slight altercation with a draftbuster when he said “No drafting!” to me, when I wasn’t drafting, but thought better of pushing the issue and talking myself into a penalty! 2nd time up the Solar Berg was a bit of an anticlimax as many of the crowd had headed off to the run, but at least I knew from there it was predominantly downhill to T2 in Roth. finished with about 5:35 on the clock so had pulled it back pretty well after the slow first 20 miles.Remembered to grab my Garmin off my bike before giving it to the T2 helpers, who very efficiently had my run bag for me. Bike kit off, run kit on plus some extra sun cream on my shoulders headed off onto the run feeling not too bad.
The RunFrustratingly the cloud cover that had been present for most of the bike rolled away in time for the run so it was going to be a warm one. Got into my 8 minute mile rhythm almost immediately as the route headed down onto the canal. Saw the men’s leaders coming the other way with only a few miles left to run (was rather jealous!). Turning onto the canal to head to the top turn it was clear it was going to be warm, with little shade, but good running on a hard-packed surface. At the aid stations I got into a routine of grab sponges, squeeze down front, squeeze down back, throw sponges, grab drinks, quick walk whilst drinking, then back into my running. The 10km mark was reached shortly before dropping off the canal path to descend to a crossing underneath a huge lock (an impressive feat of engineering this canal I must say!) taking us to the first turn in a small town. Saw Mark, Rich and Paul ahead of me here by about 5:00, 4:30 and 0:30 respectively. I’d expected Mark ahead but Rich had done an amazing 54 minute swim to overtake me in the water from a wave 10 mins behind me, and it turned out that Paul had started in the wrong wave, 10 mins ahead of me! It was tempting to up the pace but I held back and stuck to the plan, eventually catching both Paul and Rich at around the 20km mark.
Paul and I carried on together still on the 8 minute mile pace and feeling pretty good, apart from my left quad which was quite sore, but not impairing my running (a benefit of having done some ultra running is you get used to running on sore quads!). On past the turn back to Roth and down to the bottom turn at about 30km where we caught Mark. The aid station walks were becoming a bit longer but we were still running OK, and on the way out I pulled away from Paul a touch. Back onto the canal with about 10km to go and it was just a case of chugging along, keeping cool and managing my stomach which was doing OK on coke and the odd bite of banana (gels were off the menu by this point, I’d had 4 in the first 20km). The climb back into Roth with 4km to go was my only walk other than aid stations and halfway up Paul steamed past me saying “let’s run this in together!”. Over the top I put a burst in to catch him up again and that’s what we did, upping the pace for the last 3km round the town past the beer tables then in to the finishing chute. We ran down this side by side giving a few high-fives, before crossing the line together arms aloft – a great moment. I even remembered to take my sunnies off before the line and not look at my watch as I finished!Overall time was 10:25:10 so a PB by almost 20 minutes!
AftermathAfter a manly embrace we realised that we were actually pretty knackered; I was desperate for a drink but all they had straight after the line was bloody Erdinger alcohol-free beer which was really not what I wanted! We eventually found the food area and after a cup of water, a cup of very salty soup and a cup of Coke I was feeling basically human again. We met up with Konrad who sadly had DNFed on the run but did a great job at helping the rest of us out through the finish area. He set me up for a massage (which hurt my quads more than the run had!) before a shower and back for some food – overall I felt a hundred times better than I did after Barcelona, which was nice! Gradually all the gang came together to exchange tales from the course and we went to the stands to see Harsh home. Swim: 1:08:30
Total: 10:25:10 So, overall pretty chuffed with how the race went. Swim was where it should be, bike was fairly well paced – and the consensus seems to be that the wind made the bike a lot harder than normal, maybe 10-15 minutes slower – and the run again was well paced with no big explosion, although I probably could have manned up a bit more in the last 10km. That was the Ironman I wanted to do, and whilst I know I could get faster and maybe go for sub-10 hours I’m instead going to retire from Ironman for the second time (!) and return to Project UTMB. Next stop, the Northumberland 60 mile ultra in just over 3 weeks time!