Warning – this is going to be a long post!
We got to Nürnberg on Friday and headed straight to the Messe to register for the race and get my numbers and stuff. I signed up for the shuttle bus at the 2nd attempt and was good to go! On Saturday I went for a 15min dip in Rothsee, checked in the bike and went back to the Messe to hear the race information. It was boiling hot, like 32°C and sunny so I think everyone was worried in advance about the run, I know I was.
After kind of sleeping/dozing for 4h, I was up at 4am and ate lots! 6 pain aux chocolat and a banana later, I was on my way to the train station to catch the first train of the day with other athletes and drunks on the way home after a night out. I had noticed on Saturday that I had forgotten my trishorts, so I was going to have to swim/bike in my bibshorts, then carry my run shorts in my back pocket and do a full change in T2. It was a bit of a nightmare situation, but I would have to make the best of it.
I made it to the shuttle bus on time and the traffic was crazy, but the bus driver just rode on the wrong side of the road the whole way, so got us there in no time! The journey only took 20 minutes, so I was at the start at 5:40am
My bike was wet from the dew, and my front wheel felt a bit soft. I am not a fan of high pressure tyres, but I decided that it was a bit soft, even for me. It’s a good thing too as it turns out I only had 3 bar in before then! It was 6:15am when I dropped off my swim bag, then I went to the toilet, dropped of my ‘After Race’ bag and got my wetsuit on and waited for the start. It was all very surreal, getting into the water I almost felt numb, but the cannon went off and the race was underway.
I got smacked around, grabbed and pulled a lot in the first 400m, but then it spread out and I could start to swim properly. The signs at the side were really useful so you always knew where you were. It all went swimmingly, my arms didn’t really tire, so it was just a case of plugging away until the end. I was curious as to how it was going, but didn’t check until the end when I got out and saw 1:08 on the clock, right in the middle of my guestimated time.
I had a slooow T1 as I had to mess around getting my running shorts ready in my pocket. I had also packed lots of stuff ‘just in case’ in my swim bag, which the helper emptied out, only to be told that I didn’t need them! After that was sorted I found my bike, turned on my Garmin and ran to the bike start line. I had a good long fiddle to get my shoes on properly, but then got moving.
There were a few turns at the start, but then we hit the longer straighter roads. The road surface was perfect, it was rarely flat, but the hills were easy and the downhills fast! After 30km I checked my average speed and saw it was 35km/h, but my power was 240w, a bit high. I was eating and drinking all the time, which is abnormal for me, but I knew that I had to to keep up my energy for later. After Greding, a climb that is half as difficult as people say it is, the wind seemed to be helpful, so I was flying and my average speed was increasing.
After 70km or so, I came to a hill. Music was playing and some people were at the side of the road, so I thought it must be Solarer Berg. It was ok, but but a bit of a let down. Then 2km later I came to what I realised was the actual Solarer Berg! It was mental, people were everywhere and the atmosphere was amazing. My face hurt from smiling so much.
Fool me once – no drafting
I was really careful to avoid drafting after Worms Triathlon. I never got close to anyone, and when I drifted a bit close, I passed them straight away. I only saw one small group riding together after 90km, but it was only about 5 guys. The 2nd loop went much like the first, except that I tried to control my power a bit more. My speed was great for me, I was smiling to myself as I really hadn’t expected a 35er average.
After 120km I was eating a banana when my Garmin flew off. I had to stop and luckily someone was at the side of the road who gave it back to me, it only cost about 20 seconds, and it didn’t break either, so it actually worked out quite well considering.
After 140km or so, I was still feeling fine, but fellow TCECler Marcus Jores came past me, despite starting 10 minutes after me. The 2nd time up Solarer Berg wasn’t quite the same as the first, not as many people were there and there were some very slow relay riders blocking the way, and overtaking with the crowd on either side was tough.
After 172km I was scared that I had missed the turn off to Roth, there seemed to be fewer riders around, so I worried that I was on lap 3! I asked someone who said that the turn was in 1-2km, phew! The last few km into Roth aren’t well signposted and lots of normal cyclists are on the road, I was never 100% sure that I was on the right route, until I saw T2…
After arriving in T2 and promptly taking the wrong bag for 5 seconds (number 1349 instead of 1439 – like Katja’s sign!), I did my full change into running shorts and set off. The start was downhill, but I went off stupidly fast. I saw 3:45/km on the watch, a suicidal pace. I was talking to myself, saying ‘slow down you idiot’ but my legs wanted to go, so I was at 4:15/km pace for a long time. I kept to my ‘walk the aid stations’ plan, so I didn’t blow out my legs. The stations are sometimes pretty close together, so I had a 30 second walk for the close together stations and a 45 second walk for the further apart ones.
I assumed I would need a poo stop, I mean I almost always do when I run, and I really needed to pee, so I held off on the pee so I could do both at one – efficient! I didn’t need to crap somehow, so after 9km, I finally took my pee break. Before then I had found Katja, she was at about 3km on the run course. We had a ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ system so I could let her know how it was going. I gave 2 big thumbs up, I was feeling great! After 5km I saw 22:30 on my watch, so fast, surely I couldn’t keep that up, but maybe I could…
Katja was at about 8km again, so I stopped for a kiss before heading off on the way back. There was a decent downhill (that I couldn’t remember climbing) on the way back to the middle of the run course, which is two laps of an 8 shaped loop. After 12km the course goes past the Marktplatz where we had been on Friday night, I laughed to myself, I couldn’t believe that I had done 12km so quickly and so easily, I remembered the Macca quote ‘when does this start to get hard?’
The 2nd half of the run loop was tough, there is a nasty hill that starts off easy, then gets steeper, then continues on up for a while more. My lungs weren’t happy at all on the steep part as my HR peaked, so I slowed a lot. The turn around in Büchenbach is a loop of a small pond/lake, it was brilliant there, maybe even better than the Solarer Berg. It was so loud and so many people, again I smiled all the way around. The downhill back to the end of the 1st loop was good too, nice easy running.
After 24km I saw Katja again, I still gave a thumbs up, though it was getting harder now. My 1st half was in 1h38, so I had 2h01 left for the 2nd half to break 10 hours. On the short canal part I saw Ralf and Karl-Heinz from TCEC. Ralf ran with me for a few metres and took a photos, before wishing me well and letting me run on. After another short kiss stop, I was off on the way back down to the middle of the course. I was worried about the hill coming up this time, I was starting to struggle now, but time was on my side.
I decided to add a walk break on the steepest part of the hill, a 45 second walk. I think it was a good idea, I didn’t need to push it too hard. After reaching the top I felt like I had the hardest work behind me. I also worked out that I could average 7mins/km and still break 10h. I looked at my watch and saw 4:50/km, granted on a downhill, but I felt pretty confident.
The last few kms were just basic maths and survival. 4km in 30mins is a fast walking pace, I had it in the bag. I finally turned off the looped course and onto the finishing part. After crossing the railway line I knew it was only a little further to go, then I was on the carpet. I was so happy, I had my hands in the air, I was pumping the fists and was just ecstatic. I had done it and with time to spare too!
I got my medal and tried to calm down, my lungs were really tight, but I was fine, that just seems to happen to me sometimes after a hard session, and Roth was a hard session. I walked off to the finish area and saw Bevan James Eyles from IM talk there. I said ‘Hey, Bevan! How’s it going?’ so he asked what my name was, I told him Richard ‘Stinger’ Rae, the nicknames are given out to patrons of the show. So he interviewed me, which was really cool, even if I probably just babbled rubbish! (starting at 73:15)
I got my instant finishers certificate, it showed my 9:49:02 finish time. I also knew from the run course that I was the fastest TCECler, so all goals were reached, and lets not bullshit, surpassed.
It was just such a great race for me. I have never done a real endurance race where it went really well. My marathons have been okay, but this was like a 2:45 marathon for me. The atmosphere was great, the best I have experienced in any race, the bike course is so fast, and the run was pretty good too, except for that nasty hill in the forest. I think I got lucky with the weather, it was probably more like 29°C and a bit cloudy than the predicted 32°C and sunshine, though I drank so much and threw so much water on myself that I think I would have been fine anyway.
The end of the Road to Roth
So, that is that. I will almost certainly have a bit of a come down from this high, but I am proud of what I have achieved. I set a goal, I worked hard and I achieved all aspects of it. I don’t even see how I could improve on it, I mean I could swim faster, I could maybe knock a few minutes off with better training over more time, but this was it, this was my race, and I’m not sure that I want to do another long distance, as it can’t really live up to the day that I just had.