||Quelle Challenge Roth
||Sunday, July 3, 2005
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Male 30 - 34
|Age Group Place:
||The magic of Roth...
Ahh...Roth...Welcome to the "best old race", says the Website.
The Quelle-Challenge is an Ironman-distance race in Roth, Germany (just south of Nurembourg in southern Germany) which has been in existence for ~20 years with various names. Roth is one of the largest Ironman-distance races in the world if not the largest with well over 2,000 individual athletes and hundreds of relay teams. The organizers estimate over 100,000 spectators watch and cheer on race day.
For me, my race went well all things considered and I was consistent with the times of my three Ironman races last year. My pre-race goals were to PR (<8:57), but this was not in the cards for me today.
For a number of reasons, this year has been an exceptionally challenging and uncertain year for me in preparing for and racing triathlons.
Physically, I have been plagued by recurring and nagging leg injuries that seem to migrate locations periodically amongst themselves for no rhyme or reason (although I suspect that they are all related). One week, my right hamstring is tight. The next week my right calf (soleus muscle) cramps up and remains tight while my left knee aches. The cycle repeats itself every couple of weeks. Because I spend so much of my day on a computer and sit with poor posture, I have also had recurring issues with tight shoulder and neck muscles (OK, so bike riding does not help either).
Mentally, I somewhere lost some of my desire to race and sometimes even exercise. My attitude became blasé towards triathlon in general. I felt like I was “just going through the motions.” I began to doubt myself and my fitness. I found myself unable to get up in the morning for early morning workouts - I frequently hit my snooze bar for over an hour before I rolled out of bed. This attitude rolled over into other aspects of my life.
In the last few months leading up to a key race like Roth, I typically experience “breakthrough” workouts where I swim an exceptionally fast set of 200m intervals in the pool, repeatedly climb a series of steep climbs in record time or "comfortably" run fifteen miles at ten mile race pace. I experienced none of these events in the months leading up to Roth. Using the Reston 1- and 2- mile lake swims (I did both this year) as an example, I had a decent 1-mile swim but was crushed on the two miler as my arms loaded up with lactic acid and my pace slows to what feels like a crawl. On the second mile, I am passed by packs and packs of swimmers from later start waves. I was frustrated and exhausted. Not good to be in this state of exhaustion before starting a 112-mile bike ride immediately followed by a 26.2-mile run.
Five weeks before Roth, I was riding with two friends on a five hour ride with two sets of tough climbs. On the first set of climbs, I was lagging behind and just watched them pull away. I rationalized that I am just not feeling well and cannot match their pace up the hill. They continued to ride and I continued to fall back even more as I wallowed in my own self pity.
"I'm 50/50 right now in not doing Roth. I'll just go watch and make it a nice vacation," I tell them. "I'll just call it a year."
An hour later in the ride, I began to wonder if this feeling of “feeling bad” was really just in my head. My legs actually feelt fine (they weren't tired or loaded with lactic acid) and my heart rate was not over extended on the climbs (per my HRM), both of which would be indications if I was really having difficulties. As we started the first of two more significant climbs, I was again lagging back, watching both pull away from me once more.
Nope, not this time.
I willed my legs to turn over and accelerate to drive me up the hill. The gap lessened and lessened as I quickly gained on both friends. My legs were moving like pistons: thump, thump, thump, thump as I drove my bicycle up the hill. I caught both guys and took the front. I kept driving and started to open up a gap. We finished near each other at the top of the climb.
At the base of the next climb, I needed to prove to myself that my feelings of despair and self-doubt were all in my mind. I stomped on my pedals to accelerate and take the front. Stomp and pull. Stomp and pull. My legs wee moving furiously as my heart rate approaches max. “Push,” I told myself, “Do not slow down.” My legs and lungs were screaming fire. I did not look back. The road twisted and turned as I climbed. As I approach the top, I shot a glance backward. No one in sight. I smiled to myself as I embrace the wind on my steep descent. I have achieved a breakthrough workout!
Two weeks later, my attitude has turned around. I start to feel “good” when I work out instead of feeling nauseous and unmotivated. I sleep better at night and feel more rested during the day. I am beginning to get excited about racing in Germany. I am starting to read through the messages on the RATS message board to see what the board members are writing about and even offer up my opinion (for what it's worth) on a couple of topics.
Why the change in attitude and performance?
First and foremost, I realized that most of the “bad” feelings I have had working out have been in my head. Realistically, I was "tired" from ten seasons of racing and my body and my mind were telling me that I needed to back off.
Second, I also realized that I am getting older (34) and, consequently, can no longer ignore my body as it tries to meet the demands of high volume and high intensity training sessions on top of normal responsibilities like a job, a deaf Dalmatian, and a new girlfriend. I really do need to stretch after every workout and throughout the day, especially if I am sitting down in front of a computer most of the day. I need deep tissue sports massage to loosen up my tight muscles. I need to do these things proactively rather than reactively to reduce likelihood of muscle soreness or injury.
Laura and I should have arrived in Roth at least one week before the race, not three days before as planned or two days before as actually happened. Because of storms in the northeast when we left Dulles, our flight through JFK Airport in New York was delayed and delayed over a period of five hours before finally being cancelled. We spent ten hours in the airport that day as we walked from queue to queue to try to get on a direct flight to Munich. Ten hours later after being assured that our checked luggage would arrive with us with us on our rescheduled flight through Charlotte the following day, we caught a taxi ride back home. Leaving Thursday (a day late) we finally arrived in Munich on Friday morning without any luggage. The race was on Sunday.
“Welcome to Roth” said the poster as Laura and I approached the door of our host family, the Spiegls: Annette (mother), Franz (father) and Annika (daughter) who warmly welcomed us at the door. Staying with a host family was a very rewarding and enriching experience. The Spiegls opened their house to us as if we were lifelong friends. From them, we learned about the local region, the culture, the food and, of course, the excellent beer and Frankish wine. Annette even arranged for a back up bike for me while Franz drove Laura and I around the bike course including a short stop in a small town for a Cappuccino.
My bike was finally delivered to the Spiegl’s house Saturday evening. I quickly re-assembled the bike, test rode it for about two minutes, then threw it in the car to take to Transition Area 1 for bike check in…about two hours past the deadline. No problems at all although a little stressful.
Lunch and dinner the day before the race were pasta with a light red sauce, bread, fruit and a weiβ (unfiltered wheat) beer. I dragged my feet the night before the race as I was reluctant to go to bed – procrastinating sleep until the very last minute was not a smart idea.
The swim was in the Main-Donau Canal which served as a transportation transporation channel for boats and barges onnecting the Main and Donau Rivers across a series of locks (due to elevation differences). The canal is straight and narrow, roughly 50 meters across, making it an ideal layout for a fast and easily navigated swim.
I swam in the first wave of 300 athletes at 6:30 AM including race favorites Chris McCormack, Lothar Leder, Luke Bell, Nicole Leder, and Belinda Granger to name only a few of the very talented field.
While treading water at the start I glanced up at the bridge to see solid masses of people across the entire bridge span. There were easily another thousand spectators lining the sides of the canals with several small zeppelins, hot air balloons and helicopters overhead. The gun went off and we were away!
There is not much to say about my swim except that I managed to find a small pack of swimmers about 1/2 a mile into the swim who I could draft behind for most of the rest of the way. I felt comfortable and relaxed the entire time. I was a little warm in my full suit so had to let in water though the neck (mid stroke) every few minutes but this did not seem to cost me any time. I exited the swim in a little over 55 minutes, a new PR for me by a minute.
After a quick transition, I headed out on the bike for the first of the two loops. I mistakenly thought that this would be an "easy" bike course...by no means was it the hardest bike course I had ever done...but my bike computer measured close to 5,000 feet of climbing when it was all said and done.
The bike course was ideal for me as it was a little bit of everything broken up by small towns with mobs of wild, noisy and crazy spectators. The crowds were so thick climbing up through the town of Hipolstein that I could only ride single file. The noise was deafening but so, so motivating as it conveyed the sheer energy of all the people.
"Hop, hop, hop! Super"
I sprinted around three relay riders on the second loop so that I would not be trapped behind them on the ascent.
I was passed by quite a more few riders than I expected which was a little frustrating. My experience at this race as well as at Ironman Austria in 2000 was that the European cycling bench is quite deep compared to US races. Surprisingly, my swim turned out to be my best overall split by position relative to the other athletes, not my bike which is what I would have expected.
I wanted to ride close to 4:45 but finished in 5:03. My legs just weren't there. I think the combination of training challenges (mentioned in the prelude) plus cramping, vomiting (to be expected for me) and exhaustion from jet lag held me back. I also made an unexpected stop in the bushes as my digestive system had not quite adapted to the new time zone(again, I highly recommend arriving at least a week early, not two days early...)
I started the run right at the six hour mark. Hmmm...I thought to myself, I can break 9 hours if I can run a sub three hour marathon. I did some quick math in my head to convert minutes per mile to minutes per kilometer. Note: I'm still undecided on whether I prefer running 26.2-miles or 42 kilometers as the kilometers go by faster but there's more of them. Six of one; half a dozen of another, I suppose.
The course was a T-shape: Run to a point by the canal. Do one out and back one direction along the canal. Do another out and back in the other direction along the canal. Return to near the starting point. Most of the course was along the Main-Donau Canal on a hard packed dirt trail. Mostly flat with a few gradual hills. Definitely a fast course as Chris McCormack and the other leading finishers showed.
My initial running pace was on target, but I quickly realized that a sub three hour marathon was not happening for all the reasons mentioned above for the bike plus the temperature was now in the 80's.
Again, the crowds were amazing. I saw Laura, the Spiegls and my mom (traveled from CA to visit German friends plus see the race) numerous times as they popped up at various points along the course. Lots of noise, lots of energy from the crowds. "Go David!" I heard many times in a German accent.
I felt like a rock star coming into a sold out stadium as I ran into the stands that were filled with thousands of screaming spectators. I ran around the track, pumped my hands in the air and crossed the finish line in 9:36. I am, once again, an Ironman.
My run was a little slow for me (3:33), but all things considered, I can't really complain. I also managed not to destroy all my toenails for once (I only lost one nail versus a typical 5 to 6 nails) so that was an accomplishment by itself. :)
We all came back to the finish line for the fireworks later that night. The stadium was still packed as we squeezed in with everyone else. This time, I entered with a beer, not a race number. I have a vibrant memory of John Denver's "Take me home, country roads" playing in the background with thousands of happy German's singing along with German accents. Absolutely, priceless.
So, why did I do Roth? Roth used to be a Hawaii qualifer several years ago, but pulled out of the agreement due to high licensing costs (so I've heard). I have raced at Hawaii so Hawaii was already checked of my "to do" list. Bavaria is a beautiful place to vacation which is a very good reason, but not the only reason. Roth is also home to the Ironman distance world record (7:50) which makes it a very fast course. I was hoping for a fast race and PR but that was also not the main reason for doing the race. The main reason is that I did it because I wanted to experience the "Magic" of Roth. I am not disappointed at all.
I want to go back next year.
What’s next in the near term? Vineman (Full), of course on 8/13! This will be my fourth time at event...another "must do" race. I am hungry again.