Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Holy Cow! (and cow bells)

No, really: HOLY SHIT! This was harder than anything I have done before or am keen on doing anytime soon.

But first things first: Thank you all for the many well-wishes!! And apologies for not having responded to the individual emails. I only have my smart phone and unlocked WiFi it hard to come by -- and without it, well... it isn't all that smart really. I am writing this on my brother-in-law's laptop with the WiFi we have here at the hotel in Bavaria.

We arrived in Immenstadt on Friday afternoon after having driven the longer part of the bike course already. This happened to be also the "easy" part of it -- although it appeared to be far from easy. Then it was already time to go to the registration, Team Canada meet-up and photo, and the Parade of Nations. When this was all done it was too dark to drive the rest of the bike course and we postponed it to the Saturday.

Saturday I did my mini-tri with a swim in the lovely Alpsee, met up with my family, and later in the afternoon, still drove the upper (and tougher!) part of the course. Again... holy shit! I could not really fathom that we were supposed to do this on the bike the next day. On many of the uphills I had to gear the car down to 2nd and still was having a tough time making it up the hills. Oh brother...

Prior to that, the most realistic goal would have been about 5 hours on the bike -- or 26 km/h average. After having driven the course I revised that estimate to 25 km/h average and was not even sure if that was anywhere near realistic...

The mandatory pre-race briefing in the evening was as usual somewhat informative but nothing really to write home about. More interesting was the fact that my brother arrived from near Hamburg while the briefing was on and we had still a nice - albeit short - evening together.

Sunday - Competition Day
Getting up at 4:30 AM with all the gear already packed the night before in the three bags we were provided with: run gear, bike gear, and training gear, I had a light breakfast and we were off by 5:00 AM. I was so nervous...!

I decided already before the trip that short of losing my bike, I would let nothing - and absolutely nothing! - bother me and take away from the experience. I was determined to have a good time even if I end up not having a good result. And I do think that this attitude helped me a lot to cope with the nerves.

We arrived at the bike drop off pretty much by 5:30 AM. Since I scouted the whole area the day before, this was all pretty quick including the bike gear bag drop-off.

Over to the swim start and run gear drop-off, we then met up with Team Canada team mate Kathy and her husband and sat around for a good hour to wait until 7:00 AM - and get even more nervous. The Elites and the 55+ AG competitors were off at 7:00 AM and only at that time were we allowed to cross the timing mat at the start to check the chips and enter the warm-up area. I was in the water by 7:10 AM to start getting warmed up.

Swim: Totally relaxed and exactly as I expected. Some slight drift off course every now and so often but not too bad. It would have been nice to have more buoys as the course was a U-shape of 1,800 - 400 - 1,800 meters and especially on the way back we had the sun straight into the eyes. As long as the swim was - and 4k is damn long! - I really enjoyed myself and it was only the onset of boredom that made me look forward to the finish. I expected to be done is 1:20 and beat that by 1 minute.

Garmin readout: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/43884954

T1: Long run into the transition - made longer by me forgetting to grab my gear bag and having to run back - and somewhat of a chaos in the change tent. We had to wear our run number on bike as well and so I packed the race belt with the number attached in my bike bag. When I put my bike cloths on I must have overlooked it and/or completely forgot about it. Right now I have Lara's voice in my head "I told you to wear it under the wetsuit!" but we were specifically told that this was not allowed. I am not sure how anyone would have noticed, but there we have it. I ended up coming out of the first transition in 0:04:39 without my number on. Oh well...

Garmin read-out: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/43884956

Bike: Did I mention "Holy Shit!!"? It started out tame enough for the first few kilometers until we hit Kalvariensberg... straight up for some 400 meters; then it went on rolling until it just kept going up and up and up and... you get the point.

Over the next 30 or so kilometres it basically went up with some short steep downhills and no flats. Also in there: about four more sections that were extremely steep. Forget the North Shore Trifecta... this was an order of magnitude harder!

Starting at about the 40k mark I had to go #2 real bad and there were absolutely no porta potties at the any of the aid stations. Weird -- and stupid frankly! So I was quite uncomfortable on the better part of the bike ride in that regard. This, then, caused me to stop taking in fuel as much as I should have. I had enough fuel for 5 hours and took in a little more than half that; plus some bananas and extra water. This all despite the heat: the forecast was for 26°C in the shade but it was much hotter I am sure! Actually the in-the-sun temperature up in the Alps was easily in the mid 30's.

On the plus side: there were supporters and spectators everywhere shouting encouragements and many had cow bells - some of the bells of enormous sizes. And I heard a lot of "Go Canada Go" shout outs. Really cool! And where there were no people with cow bells, there were, well, cows with cow bells... And the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

On the second loop of the hurt locker Esther and her family were at the lower part of Kalvariensberg to cheer us on. This was a real "Tour" experience... the spectators on both sides on the road and really in your face cheering and shouting like mad -- leaving only about a meter width to go up that damn hill. Awesome!

In the end I finished the bike quite exhausted and well sun-burned in 5:13:16. Pretty much the revised average of 25 km/h.

Garmin read-out: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/43884958

T2: I was sure that there had to be a toilet at the transition... and I was also sure that my run number must have been in my run bag since I obviously missed it in my bike bag... but alas, neither was the case.

For the number the race official in the transition decided that we should just pin the (heavy paper / cardboard type) number from my run bag to my tri suit. Sounded sensible enough at the time. As for the bathroom, my tummy hurt so much by now that the thought of strapping on a quite heavy fuel belt was absolutely out of the question! I decided I will have to make due with what is offered on the course. I know... huge gamble, but this was how it had to be!

And off I was out of T2 in 0:03:20. Despite what those transition times look like, they were actually not all that bad - considering the logistics and whatnot.

Garmin read-out: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/43884960

Run: Well, that cardboard run number lasted maybe 200 meters on my suit, when I dumped a cup of water at the very first aid station over my head. So I just held it in my hand for a bit and kept running.

After about 2km - in the city centre of Immenstadt - I could not stand it any longer... I had to go. And go now! So I just went off the run course into the next Café and used their bathroom. Quite relieved, I tried putting my tri suit back on and in the process of zipping it up (it zips in the back!) my little zip cord extension came off. Not a chance now that I can zip it. Oh well, screw it, after all it is hot enough and I am just fine leaving it unzipped. I also stuck the number under the leg of my suit thinking this would hold... nope.

About 30 minutes later I started to feel really good and had a good pace going. As for the fuelling and overall strategy, I planned to walk through all the aid stations and take in a mix of cola, isotonic drink, and water at each station. It always amazes me how awesome luke-warm, almost-flat, cheap no-name cola can taste in a situation like that :-) At some some of the aid stations I also had a bit of banana and this worked really well.

After 11k I even joked that this is too easy when I ran by where Esther and the family were. After 21k... not so much anymore. I finished the first 10k in about 1:05 including the bathroom stop, the second 10k in 0:55, and then I started to really struggle.

In the last loop I walked some even outside of the aid stations and even at the 29k mark for a bit to have enough energy to run into the stadium and finish. Finishing the last 10k in about 1:05 again and the whole the run in 3:05.

Garmin read-out: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/43884964

So I crossed the finish line with a total time of 9:45:21 with only 45 minutes to spare for the time cut-off and a DNF. Close!

I was really hoping to not finish slower than 9:30 but I am totally content with the result as I gave all I had. I know that if my fuelling and the bathroom issue would have worked out differently this could easily account for the extra 15 minutes - more even.

Anyway, it is what it is and I am pleased. And sunburned to a crisp. And sore as heck. And ready for some more Beer and Schnitzel - and rest.

It was also fantastic to have so many of my family here (brother, 2x brother-in-law, one with wife and kid, uncle and aunt) and have a Esther as a supporter and fan extraordinaire and photographer.

Here are some photos on Esther's Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/calla/ more photos will come when we have more time.

Also, here is a link to my brother-in-law's blog with some pictures (click on August): http://www.zytturm.com/notes/

Some Numbers:
  • 4k swim, 130k bike, 30k run in 9 hours and 45 minutes (1:20, 5:20, 3:05)
  • I finished 83rd in my age group (M40-44) out of 99 finishers and 116 starters.
  • Overall I finished 457th out of 579 finishers and 668 starters (not counting the Elite Athletes).
  • There were 12 Canadian Age Groupers (+1 Elite). I finished 6th Canadian and 2 of our team did not make the time cut-off.
  • One of the Canadians crashed on the bike and from what I hear had awful road rash down the side and back - and he still finished the race! In 8:39:44!! Ahh to be in the 20's again...

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