The day had finally come that I had worked so hard for, right up to the end, with a traumatic 650mile journey across from the UK to Frankfurt having mechanical faults on the vehicle and limping into Frankfurt with no idea how I was going to get back!
Frankfurter Sparkasse Ironman European Championships 2012, Germany.
My wing man for the event was Nigel Winsper another fellow Ironman that was a great help during the week with logistical support and great race encouragement. 'Smash it' became the buzz phrase.
Frankfurt has an unusual setup whereby there are two transition areas that are 18k apart, making logistics a little time consuming with coach transfers to and from during race week. But after a couple of days we were blagging the trains and commuting to and from with ease.
Race morning was upon no sooner than I had rigged up some temporary repairs on the van to get us back to the UK... hopefully. It was an earlier than usual start to raceday as we had to get a coach transfer down to the swim start at 5am. So I woke at 4am cooked my porrridge and a brew and with swim bag headed of to Frankfurt am Main to get the transfer down to Langener Waldersee for the swim start. Quick check on the pre racked bike and nutrition, pumped the tyres and got changed into my wetsuit and headed down to the start..along with 2800 other athletes. It was a huge field the biggest I've ever seen, this was going to be carnage at the start of the swim leg. So I made the decision that I was going to just get on the front of the grid and go for it ! No point waiting or going wide as it was just so crammed. Once I'd swam to the front of the start (as it was a deep water start, I turned round and saw the masses of triathletes still wading into the water, had I done the right thing? I was thinking. Too late to change my mind so when the hooter went off at the start of the race at 7am I just swam, like crazy and manged to get a decent start and the swim was pretty much uneventful for me, no real kicking or brawling at all. I just got on with it and before I knew it I was out of the first, and longest loop of the swim in 37mins, which I was happy with, a quick jog overland and then back in to complete the smaller of the swim loops. I was out the water in 1:09 which was a personal best for me, so it was going well.
I noticed that the rain was starting to come down which was dissapointing as I like the heat. I'd only put arm warmers out for the bike leg so I had no choice, I was just going to have to suck it up! Well the first section of the bike leg is up the Autobahn (I hasten to add the whole 112miles of the bike leg section is run on closed roads ) It was fast and slightly down hill... with a tailwind. I was trying to hold back as this is where you can do a lot of damage to the carbohydrate stores if you go out too fast. But even holding back I was averaging 25mph! As we turned on to the first of two laps around the countryside north of Frankfurt the rain started to lash down and the winds were picking up. Not great for me as I was riding my rear disc wheel, but the air temperature was still around 25c so it wasn't too cold. But after 2:30hrs into the bike leg I was waterlogged, cold and miserable, I'd come all this way and the doubts had started creeping in early that I may not get round a second lap.. I fought the feeling but was getting colder and colder and had started to shiver..not good. I'd also had to pee three times already as I wasn't sweating out any of the Accelerade sports drink I was consuming. I just kept saying to myself 'Suck up the pain, it'll brighten up soon' and luckily it did at the end of the first lap, but it was still windy. My hands now started to thaw out and I was feeling positive once again.
I decided to try and push on a bit harder on the bike as I was down on my desired splits on the first lap. It was a difficult call but I needed to crack on. The second lap was better but I was still down on my predicted time and finished the 112mile bike leg in 5:26. I dismounted swiftly and safely handed my bike to the racking staff and was in and out of transition 2 within 3 minutes and my legs felt good.
The run course is a three lap marathon around the city's river paths and crammed with spectators, great for morale boosting cheering on. I ran the first few miles faster than my predicted average pace to try and set up the rhythm early and that seemed to work. Now the weather was getting HOT... (I'm sounding a bit like Goldilocks now, I know) The temperature around the run course was in the 30c mark with some shade in places and a cooling breeze on the section on the north bank of the river. But I was revelling in it. Then the 13mile point comes and it hits you that you've got to do that all again. I was digging in now and the pace was slowing but I was still pain free and managing to take onboard my Accel gels and anything else I could neck down from the ample feed stations without getting any gastro intestinal (GI) issues. I knew my goal 'A' target of 10hrs was gone by now but was still on for a PB if I could go sub 10:30. Eventually the last lap came and after receiving one more chant of 'SMASH IT' from Nigel, I was flying up the finishing chute to an amazing crowd of spectators . I had the lucky privilege not to be swamped on the line by a octogenarian finishing beside me... Always a bonus on your finishing photograph :)
My overall time was 10hrs 26mins 56sec . Finishing witha 3:42 marathon. 524th overall and 74th in category so no slot for the World Championships on Kona Kailua, Hawaii. This time...
It was done. I was tired but happy overall with the result. The great thing about racing is that anything can and does happen. I will return to the Ironman circuit and chase my dream again. 5th time lucky..
And just to point out I'm writing this race report from home after succesfully limping the van back across to the UK... Phew...
Many thanks to the generous sponsors Run&Ride, American Classic Wheels and Pacific healthlab nutrition for giving me the right tools for the job. And last but not least wing man Nigel Winsper for help come race day, the entertaining banter and general camaraderie.