Monday, July 9, 2012

After the rain comes sun! Ironman Frankfurt

So, I think its fair to say that preparations for this race was as close to perfect as it will ever get. Legs felt good and rested, mind felt positive and the days before the race I was just confident that the parameters that I could influence in preparations had been optimal. But as you know, this is not always the full equation in Ironman racing - I have all the respect in the world, to the outside parameters. And I am learning to improve how to cope with this in every training and every race i do. Ironman Frankfurt was about to becore a big lesson learned on this!

The swim was amazing - dark clouds lured above us, the lake was hot (almost 24 degrees which is warm in a wetsuit). I started with the pros and 300 age groupers which was definitely an advantage. Not even one fight in the water, but I also had a hard time finding feet to draft on. Hence, ended up swimming most of the time by myself. Exiting the water, I was quite certain that I did not reach the expected goal of sub 60 minutes. Running in to T1 I asked a German about the time and he shouted "FIVE NINE" which made no sense to me until I was a few kilometers into the bike and saw that I had swam in 59.30 minutes - my best ever.

Quickly found a good and planned pace of 218 watts on the bike, legs were on fire and I overtook many athletes going around 42 km/h on the flat first 30 km. Then came the rain ... and the wind. I recall the stings of raindrops hitting my arms, but it was quite "hyggelig" and still had a good time and kept pace well. Hitting the first cobble stones in a small village and had to hold on to everything, bottles and gels which were jumping up and down. Midway through this cobbled village, I realize in horror, that the screeen for my power meter is gone. Break and start to run a few 100 meters back and a nice lady had picked it up. Chain fell off. Shit!  Back on the bike and I started regaining the lost terrain again. Rain now really got bad and for the first time ever, I had to pee badly - and so I did ... 5 times in all on the bike, like a race horse. Not a big issue as the rain quickly washed everything clean. Nutrition went really well and I felt good in stomach and body.

Around 80 km, going fast downhill into a roundabout, a pony-tailed gentleman in front of me, realize that he is coming in too fast - he blocks his breaks, slides and crashes like 2-3 meters in front of me. I have the option to go over him or try to find a "soft" landing, BUM!  Later in the goal area, a German guy called Marcus told me he saw me crash and said "it reminded me of a MotoGP crash" I think I was sliding like 10-12m on the wet asphalt - but to my surprise I had only little pain and only small scratches on the right elbow - pfew, lucky - keep pushing!  Still heavy rain and so, like around km100 I am going at a fairly slow and controlled pace into a turn and my front wheel just disappears, without even touching the breaks. BUM again. Same elbow, but now also the hip and I hear the helmet slamming hard into the asphalt. This time I am in big pain and stay on the ground until some nice spectators come over to help. I am shaking in pain and cant even answer their question "Are you OK?" - wait, I am not OK ... not at all, but 25 years of skateboarding, you slam a lot. So back on the bike. Now the elbow is bleeding badly and its painful to be in the aerobars on the bad asphalt and going over bumps, so I took a painkiller, which relieved  the pain slightly.
Finally, 5 km before T2, the disaster completes itself, as I have a rear wheel flat. I cut up the tubular with a small cutter, but struggle too long to get the tubular off - it´s glued so hard. This was probably the moment where I gave up the fight, be it wrong or be it right. But struggling 5-6 minutes with the tire, I could see that this was just not my day. So rolled down to T2, changed and started the 42 km run.

Andy Raelert Crashing in the same corner at 10 km/H

I can only say I was not too motivated, now this was my 4th Ironman  (St. George, Zurich & Calella) in a row, where I was not doing too good - but at least I wanted to take some lessons on running and nutrition. Must admit it was harder than expected to maintain the planned 4:40 min/km pace, maybe slightly due to pains after the crashes. With 10 km to go, I could see that I could probably sub the 10 hours if I kept a pace just around 5:00 min/km. And so I did, finally finishing in 9:55, around 4 minutes from my personal best.

Good mood though - you win some and you loose some. Motivation is already back!

Cheers - Thomas