Challenge Roth ironman – DNF

AM. Challenge Roth ironman. Brisk, HR138(166)

Swim 59:25 (1:34/100m) __ HR142(157)
T1 2:42
Bike 5:02:28 (35.7 km/h) __ HR143(165)
T2 2:06
Run 12.5km/1:05:04 (8:23 min/mi)__ HR131(145) + stopped at 19km (2:07:03 = 10:45min/mi), walked to 22km.

Total time to 19km = 8:13:43

Another early start. The race briefing said you had to be at the start by 4:50am. That seemed very early, but we got parked in a field just off the course by 4:50am, and many people arrived after long that. Breakfast was some rolls and jam, and bananas and chocolate mini croissants bought the evening before, all washed down with coca-cola and a couple of caffeine tablets. No tea or coffee – our budget hotel didn’t have such facilites in the rooms and we couldn’t be bothered to test out the 24-hour bar-service.

We strolled over to T1, and after finding the loos, I checked into transition and unwrapped my bike and checked in my red (swim/bike) bag, which was empty for the moment – it’d have my wetsuit in it in an hour or so though, and my green (street clothes) bag. Then it was time to get suited up. We could hear the excitement as the opening pro waves started out, and after saying goodbye to Jules I made my way over to the swim start.
Body butter
Dipping into the water after the previous blue-hatted wave had left, I found the water very warm – it was slightly steaming in the morning gloom, very atmospheric. I found myselft a good slot near the front and slightly to the right (nearer the bank) and we were quickly off at the hooter. I sprinted the first 200m to get clear and soon found myself in a familiar position, just off the feet of the fastest swimmers. There wasn’t too much aggro and I just concentrated at settling into a steady rhythm. It was easy to keep straight – you could just stay the same distance from the bank. Coming up to the far turn at 1500m we started to come up on the previous wave’s slower swimmers and from hereon it was a struggle to weave your way through them and the wave before that. I wasted a lot of energy sighting here, but it was important to pick a good line through the slower swimmers without bumping into orange-hatted swimmers from my own wave. I started to get a  hint of cramp as we came back under the bridge past the start but managed to control it and then only had to deal with a bit of a biff as we turned for the finish.
Swim view

I undid my wetsuit, picked up my empty red bag and headed for the change tent. It seemed much easier getting my wetsuit off sitting on a bench. I had to adjust my timing chip and then was on my way to my bike and quickly out of T1, getting a shout from Jules as I passed her at the exit. She’d got a great shot of Chrissie Wellington on her way to a new world record.

I took a few kilometres to get into my stride, as did quite a few of the other guys around me, but we were soom pressing on. The roads, rolling though the trees and fields, were smooth and even. After about 20km we were fairly spaced apart and it was easy to stay clear of any drafting violations. I started drinking almost immediately, conscious of carrying a large weight of 4 bottles on my bike. There was a fantastic level of support in every village and town we passed through. Knowing that my run was likely to be compromised, I wasn’t too concerned about racing and was only too glad to ham it up for the crowds we passed on the way – it was important to relax here. The only major climb, at Greding, wasn’t too bad. I spun up it in 42×19, but there were quite a few kilometres of headwind before we got a chance to enjoy the descent.

The next major place was the run into Hilpolstein, and the Solarberg straight afterwards. That was incredible. The bottom of the climb, turning through the town, is barriered off and the noise is incredible, and then you hit the crowds. It’s just like the Tour de France used to be – they part just in time for you to get through. I had such a huge grim as I climbed up here, it was fantastic. There’s a bit of a loop out and back after that, and then you’re back past the exit from T1. I saw Jules here, and hammed it up for the camera again ;-)
Not taking it too seriously

The second lap was more of the same, only carrying fewer bottles, and with the faster riders from the relay teams out on the course who’d started much later than us and were on their first lap. There was a bit of nip-and-tuck with a few guys here, and I was also constantly passing and being passed by no. 749. I subsequently discovered he just nipped under 10 hours – something I’d like to have done. I got through my food OK – four or five Powerbar gels and a couple of GO bars – without any gastric problems. I was past the exit to T1 for the second time and then T2 was looming ahead. I freewheeled down the slope, got my feet out of my shoes and slipped off the bike which I passed to a helper, jogging into the change tent.

I got my socks and shoes on – I had my old trainers and they had laces – and I was reasonably quickly jogging on to the road and into the unknown. I saw Jules again as I passed out from under the motorway bridge here and I was off into the run.
Starting the run
I felt good, slightly bloated from drinking on the bike as I always do in a longer event, but I knew that’d pass. I settled into something that felt like a 10-minute-mile pace, keen not to stride out and damage my ankle. I the first time I’d been for a run in 13 days. It was very frustrating to be being passed by runner after runner but I knew that if I was going to get anywhere I had to nurse my ankle along. I stopped to walk at the aid stations and drink and this gave me the opportunity to see if I was limping as I walked – I’d decided that if I was, I was going to jack it in. There was no point in doing major damage just to get to the finish, I had other events to do this summer.

I passed through the 10km mark like this in about 61 minutes. It was hot, but I was OK. Plenty of energy but none of it going into my jogging. Then, as we passed though the far turn, 12.5km, at Schwanstetten, I started to get a lot of pain from my ankle. It was starting to “go”. I was also noticing some stiffness coming into my left achilles tendon and also my right quad – I was getting compensation injuries from the weakness in my ankle. I had a little walk and then started jogging again. I continued like this for another few kilometres, more and more walking and less and less jogging. I got quite a few cheers from other runners which was great, but I wasn’t lacking energy or willpower, I was just in pain. Eventually, at 19km, I abandoned jogging altogether and walked/limped the remaining 3km back to the 22km point where I knew I could get some assistance.

I found a marshall, telling him I needed to abandon and get back to Roth. He found a Saucony rep who had a van nearby and who drove me back to the Triathlon Park. I thanked him for the lift, and wandered over to a meeting point I’d agreed with Jules. Sure enough, on the hour, she turned up and we gathered my bags and clothes and bike and we cycled back to the car at T1 together.

After sorting out my kit and a getting a shower we headed out into Nurnberg for a few beers, some crepes and ice cream.

I’m very disappointed, but not entirely surprised not to have finished. I felt I did as good as I could to have got to the halfway point in the marathon and I could probably have walked the rest of it and finished in about 11½-12 hours, maybe hurting my tendons even more in the process, but that’s not what it was about for me – I wanted to run the marathon. It’s swim-bike-run, not swim-bike-walk.

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