Challenge Roth 2022 Race Report
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a detailed race report and since this event was such a big deal for me, I thought I’d add a long form blog post in conjunction to my Instagram posts.
If this race is on your bucket list, the best way to get in is to buy a tour package. We used Race Quest Travel and I can’t recommend them enough. They have a couple of different packages. One where you stay in Nuremberg and one they call the Finish Line package where you stay in Roth about 1 km from the finish line. That’s the one we chose. Nuremburg is about 25 to 30 minutes from Roth so you’d have to get on a shuttle to get back to your hotel after the race and I did NOT want to do that. Race Quest looked after EVERYTHING for us. Roth is a two transition race so that always complicates things. I didn’t have to worry about getting to the race start or getting my bike to + from transition. They took care of all of that. We were driven around the bike course and given lots of great pointers from our tour guide. We also got the opportunity to check out the swim course and go for a swim a few days before the race. The hotel we stayed at, The Dormero was quite nice. The bed was super comfortable (always important) and we had a decent breakfast included. In terms of food, there were a couple of Doner places, an organic café that served salads and sandwiches, three Asian places, two Italian places a Mexican place and a handful of traditional German places. However, they weren’t always open. Most places were closed on Monday, some on Tuesdays, and not every place was open for lunch. If places were open for lunch it was only until 2 pm and then they closed. Just some things to bear in mind if you’re trying to stay on regular eating schedule. There is a great grocery store (Kaufland) within walking distance of the hotel as well and I went there several times to stock up on pretzel buns (SO GOOD). If you want to eat out for dinner the night before the race I highly recommend making reservations at your chosen spot. The starting field at Challenge Roth is about 4000 people, most of which are staying in and around Roth.
The tour ran from the Tuesday before the race to the Tuesday after the race. Personally I would have preferred a bit more time before the race to get acclimatized but that’s just me. I felt like it took me until Friday to get on to European time. One important thing to note, bike check in is on the Saturday afternoon and you have to bring your helmet and leave it with your bike. Your helmet *must* be in pristine condition. They do a very thorough inspection. If there is anything wrong with it, you will have to go get a new helmet before you can drop your bike off at transition.
In terms of race logistics, the day before the race you drop off your bike + helmet in T1 and you drop off your run bag so they can bring it to T2. Race morning you bring your bike bag and post race bag. I had my cycling shoes, socks, nutrition, sunscreen + chamois cream in my bike bag. My post race bag had my flip flops, a pair of Lulu shorts, another sports bra and a tank top in case I wanted to shower. Yes, they had post race showers! Your finishers swag was a t-shirt and a towel so you had everything you needed if you wanted to clean up before you went back to your hotel.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of the race itself.
The swim takes place in the Main Donau Kanal. It’s an active shipping route so you can’t just hop in and go for a swim anytime. Of all the races I’ve done I’d have to say this was the PERFECT place to swim. It’s pretty much a straight shot up the canal. There is a slight curve in it so I had to sight for a bit but once I got through the curve, I just used the shore to sight. There is no chop, save for what’s created by the swimmers. Historically the water is usually around 20 degrees Celsius. This year it was 23. The pros could not wear wetsuits but us age groupers were good to go.
This race is not a mass start or self seeded swim. You are put in waves based on your estimated finishing time (at least that is my assumption based on other people in my wave). There were less than 700 women in this race including pros and we were split up into 3 different waves. There was an early wave for women 65+ and then there was a wave of 250 women at 7:10 (my wave) and another 250 women at 7:15. Waves were 5 minutes apart which really allowed the groups to spread out. I felt bad for some of the guys on the tour with us. They didn’t start until 8:00 am or later and we ALL had to leave the hotel at 4:30 am to get to transition. So they sat around for a LONG time before they got to start.
We didn’t get a warm up swim, except for the 25 meters we had to swim to get to the start rope. Knowing that I did some mobility before I left the hotel and I also brough a mini band with me to do some upper body activation. We got into transition by 5:15 or so and by 5:30 I had pumped up my tires, filled up my front bottle and got my first round of nutrition into my bento box. So I had lots of time to kill. I wandered around transition trying to familiarize myself with the swim exit and where my bike was in relation to the change tent. I also had time to use the porta potty a million times. There were SO many porta potties I never had to wait in line. When you have the space, you might as well use it. I eventually found a couple from our tour group and I sat with them until it was go time for me.
Each wave started with a huge cannon going off. It was deafening. I couldn’t see the swim entrance until I got into the waiting area. Once I got into the line, I could see across the canal and I was totally blown away by all the spectators lining the shore and lining the bridge that goes over the canal. I’ve never seen anything like it. The wave before me went off and the next thing I knew I was walking into the water. I swam over to the back of the group, off to the side. My plan was to stay close to shore just in case my calf cramped. The cannon went off and the volunteers lifted the start rope so we could swim under it. That first 500 meters or so was crowded. I was swimming pretty slow for the first 100 m or so then I found some feet that were going just a bit faster than me so I stayed with them. My plan was to NOT kick for the first 1000 meters to see if that could hold off any calf cramps. I thought that would slow me down but nope. I felt like I was swimming really well. I had my watch set to lap every 1000 m so I could see my splits afterwards. It also gave me an idea as to where I was in the swim. I didn’t realize that they would have markers along the bank on the way back so you could see how far you had gone. I made it to the turnaround with no issues. I had my breathing and effort under control. I didn’t feel too bad in terms of temperature either, although looking at my heart rate, it was HIGH.
I was motoring along and felt my watch buzz again. That seemed fast! 2000 meters down, 1800 meters to go. I was more than half way. I still wasn’t kicking either. I could feel some weird little twinges in my calf. Almost like electric shocks. I opted not to focus on those and instead started to count my strokes. I didn’t want my brain to default to worrying about cramping. Just when I felt fully relaxed, BOOM. My left calf cramped SO hard, I abruptly stopped swimming and started yelling. It was excruciatingly painful. I had never cramped this badly in any of my other open water swims. They had been small cramps that had been manageable. This was not. I doggie paddled my way over to the side of the canal yelling in pain. Spectators came running. I tried to stretch my leg out but couldn’t. I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t come this far only to be pulled out of the swim. A lifeguard jumped in and swam over to me. He pulled my leg down and kept pressure on my foot to keep it dorsiflexed. He also kept pressure on the front of my shin and ankle. He asked me if I wanted to continue and I said yes, there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. I don’t know how long we sat there for but it seemed like forever. I told him I was going to stay close to shore and just grab / swim my way along the bank for a little bit. I did that for a few meters then stood up again to stretch my calf. Then I got back in and did breast stroke. I was so mad. I was having such a good swim.
I hit the 3000 meter mark and could see the turnaround buoy. I put my head down and started to swim again. Opting not to kick just in case. I made it around the buoy. I could see the crowds along the shore. I seemed to be getting pulled along by the current and all the other swimmers because I wasn’t exerting much effort to move forward. I saw the 3500 meter mark and almost starting crying. I kept saying you’ve got this PK, you’ve got this. 300 meters, that’s it. I started swimming a bit harder. The next thing I know I see the people in front of me standing up. I tentatively put my foot down. Nope. I swim a couple more strokes and try again. YES. SOLID GROUND. A volunteer sticks their hand out and I grab it, smiling and saying thank you over and over again. I MADE IT!
Final swim time: 1:26. Goal was 1:10-1:15. You can see where shit went sideways and then how inaccurate Garmin became once I started doing breast stroke.
I ran into the change tent and could feel the tightness in my calf. I did a number on it for sure. I was a little worried about the bike but all I could do was try at this point. I had my own personal volunteer who grabbed my bag and emptied it out for me. The first thing I grabbed was my chamois cream. I put a giant scoop of that on and then pulled up my tri suit. I dried off my feet, pulled on my socks, then put my shoes on. Followed by my sunscreen and then grabbed all my nutrition and started shoving it in my pockets as I ran out to my bike.
My bike was right by the exit and mount line so as soon as I did up my helmet, I only had a few feet to go before I could start riding. I hopped on my bike and started pedalling. I immediately knew something was wrong. My gears started skipping. I tried shifting. Nope. I contemplated turning around and heading back to the mechanics tent in transition. But I also knew that the first 15 km of the course was downhill and that the next mechanics station was at around 20 km. What do to. I opted to keep riding. My gears jumped again and ended up in the small cog on the back and the small chain ring. FUCK. Not so bad when you’re on the flats or going downhill. But when you’re someone who normally rides between 88-90 RPM and you can’t pedal more than 70 RPM without spiking your power, this is not good. I had also forgotten that there were two spicy little climbs in the first 15 km. The first one I rode up, which was likely not a good idea since I had to get out of the saddle. The second one I walked up. There was an aid station at the top and it was there I found an angel. I saw a woman in an official Challenge Roth top and I asked her how far the mechanics were and she said another 5 km. There were a couple of spectators that had come over to see what the issue was and I explained that my gears weren’t shifting. One of the guys asked if he could look at my bike and I said sure. He fiddled a bit with something and the next thing I knew, my gears where shifting! I gave him a big hug and I was on my way.
It was almost 9 am and it was already hot out and my body temperature was already elevated after that warm swim. I made sure I stayed on top of my hydration. As soon as I got on the bike I started drinking and eating. My goal was to eat every 15 minutes and drink as much as possible in between with the goal of 21 oz of fluid every 60-70 minutes. Nutrition wise, my plan was ¼ of a Maurten solid bar at 15 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes. At 30 minutes I would have one Awesome Sauce Spring Energy Gel. That combined with my EFS drink would give me 90 grams of carbs per hour and 450 mg of sodium per hour. I’m not a salty sweater so I don’t take additional sodium. It took me almost my entire training cycle to get a handle on my nutrition but I finally figured it out in my last few rides. Talk about cutting it close, ha ha.
I finished my first bottle at 90 minutes in. Not good. The stop at the aid station and the walking up hills put me behind. Once I started my second bottle, I ended up going through it fairly quickly. I was definitely thirsty. I was doing a good job staying on top of my food at least. There were a few points along the course where I took on nutrition early because I knew there was a climb coming. This is where driving the course ahead of time comes in handy. I knew we’d be hitting a big / long climb around the 40 km mark and timing wise, I’d likely have to eat somewhere along the climb. Knowing how steep it was at the start, I opted to get my fuel in before I hit the climb. I also figured there’d be huge crowds on this climb as well as a photographer so I didn’t want to be shoving food in my face. I wasn’t wrong. There was a DJ, a massive crowd and the mayor of the town was working the mic, cheering people on! It was AWESOME.
The Roth bike course is often referred to as a fast course so people automatically think it’s flat. It is anything but. My Garmin registered over 1500m of climbing for the 177 km. There are lots of flattish areas where you can get some decent speed but there are a LOT of hills. Most of these are not momentum breakers, meaning that you can essentially “ride the wave”. There are two notable climbs. The climb into Greding that starts out at 10% for the first few hundred meters and then gradually drops down to 5 to 6% for the remaining 2.5 km. Solar Hill is the other climb to note. It’s just over 1 km long at roughly 5%. There are a few other minor climbs that are short and quite steep so you have to keep an eye on your power. Other than that, there isn’t anything too crazy. I felt well prepared for the elevation.
The other thing to note is the amount of turns on this course. There are very few long open straightaways here. There were lots of little twists and turns as well as several sharp left hand turns. There were also three switchbacks. They weren’t terribly technical but they were enough to slow me down, especially since the pavement a little bumpy and shaded through here. If the turns were in full sun I would have had a bit more confidence to push a bit more. The course was mostly closed to traffic so we didn’t have to worry about cars which was LOVELY. Especially on those switchbacks.
The course is beautiful. It goes through 16 villages so you’re never out in the middle of nowhere for too long. There were always people cheering through the villages as well so if your energy started to lag, you’d get a boost through each village. Some villages were more into it than others. There was one village that I think they called The Beer Mile. I wasn’t quite sure why until race day. The bike course is two loops and on the first loop through this particular village there was a very long table set up in front of a restaurant and it was filled with people drinking. I saw a few empty bottles on the table already and it wasn’t even 10 am! On the second loop the table was completely lined with beer bottles and the crowd was LOUD. Going through there was SUPER fun.
The other highlight of the bike course is Solar Hill. It’s about a 25 minute walk from the swim start so it’s where all the spectators from the swim start go to after the swim. It’s at about 80 km on the actual bike course. They say they get around 50,000 spectators out to that climb and judging from the amount of people I saw, I’d say that’s accurate. You can hear the DJ and the cheering before you see it. I was coming up the road and I could hear music and crowds and then I made a slight right turn and then BOOM, I was into the madness. You rode through a barrier lined road and then started the climb. People were standing 3-4 deep here along the road and you basically rode through them while they were cheering you on. I felt like a rider on the Tour de France it was amazing. I couldn’t stop grinning. I was still surprised to see a bunch of people left on the second loop as well – that gave me a nice boost through there just as I felt I was starting to wilt.
Another thing that is unusual for this race is that they don’t have any special needs. However they DO allow on course help if you have someone that can meet you at an aid station and hand you bottles, nutrition etc. Since I can’t carry more than 3 bottles on my bike, my plan was to meet Gary in Greding on the second lap to get two more bottles of fluid. I also had two back up packets of EFS with me just in case that didn’t work out. Luckily the tour group was still in Greding when I went through (later than planned) so I was able to get one more bottle from Gary. I had stopped to mix another bottle earlier just in case. That was at about the 120 km mark and at that point I was starting to really feel the heat. I was struggling to hold power and I realized that I had somehow missed out on at least one feed. Possibly when I was climbing, or possibly when I stopped to pee and then I just forgot to eat again. Seeing Gary and our tour guides gave me the boost that I needed to make it up that climb.
The last 57 km was a bit rough. I went through good waves and bad waves. My stomach had started to get a little upset around 60 km and then just got progressively worse. It was gassy and a bit crampy. I brought a Tums with me and took it just after I went through Greding the second time. That helped settle things down for the rest of the bike. I still didn’t feel great but at least I didn’t feel like I was going to shit myself. Because you can never trust a fart in an Ironman!
I rolled into Ekersmulle, the last town on the bike course before I turned off to head back to Roth and they had a big cheering section at the turn off. That pumped me up. I didn’t have distance on my Garmin so I wasn’t sure how much further I had to go (in hindsight I should have had that on there). I just put my head down and rode until I saw people turning off and then I realized that we were headed into T2. I rolled up to the dismount line, stopped my Garmin and saved the file, got off my bike and handed it to the volunteer. I waddled into T2 feeling a little dazed. I stood by the bags for a bit to get my bearings and then a volunteer came running up with my gear bag. I grabbed it and made my way into the change tent. The tent was baking hot. I was immediately greeted by a volunteer who emptied my transition bag for me. I took off my bike shoes and helmet and she put them into the bag. I sat down, pulled on my shoes, stuffed my gels + tums into my pockets, grabbed my hat and visor and ran out of transition.
It was HOT. I grabbed some water as I ran out of T2. My plan was to walk through every aid station and keep my HR between 145-150 BPM. Coming off the bike, my HR was in the low 150’s which is totally not normal for me. Especially for the lower power I was holding. I was a little worried I may have over cooked the last bit of the bike but I’d have to wait and see.
I also knew the run was going to be tough. I had two injuries during this training cycle, one of which came just as my run mileage was starting to build. I missed almost three weeks of running. Not awesome. My longest continuous run going into this was 25 km and I had done one long run double day where I ran 24 km in the morning and 6 hours later I went out and ran another 8 km. Definitely not where I needed to be to have the kind of run I wanted to have. But I’ve been doing this a long time so I figured that had to count for something!
My legs felt pretty good as I headed out of transition. I was comfortably holding 5:15-5:20/km and my heart rate had seemed to settle down. I got to the first aid station and saw they had sponges so I grabbed two and shoved them down the neck of my tri suit. AHHHH. I decided that I was going to hang on to these just in case they didn’t have any at the next aid station. I’m glad I did because when I got to the next aid station they didn’t have any. Turned out that those sponges were going to be the key to keeping me cool.
The first few km were mostly shaded so that allowed my body to cool down a bit. Even though I was feeling good, I made a point of walking through each aid station. I took one cup of the Power bar drink (it was gross) and 1 cup of water. Before I left the aid station I grabbed another cup of water and poured it on the sponges. That was my routine for the first six or seven aid stations. Drink, drink, soak, repeat. I had brought 7 gels with me because I figured I’d be out there for a while. I brought two Spring Energy Awesome Sauce (180 calories, 45g of carbs), 2 Spring Energy Canaberry (100 calories, 17g of carbs), 2 Spring Energy Hill Aid (100 calories, 17g of carbs) and 1 Endurance Tap (100 calories, 25g of carbs). In retrospect that was likely a little on the light side for the length of time I was out there BUT, I also ended up walking A LOT so I was able to eat some solid food as well. They had pretzels, trail mix, chicken broth, watermelon + oranges and these delicious rice cakes. Kinda like a rice crispy square but not as sickly sweet. I stuck with pretzels, watermelon and those rice cake things.
The first 4 km meandered through some paved trails and into this weird industrial area. I was really surprised by the number of people spectating through here. Some company had set up two long banquet tables and people were sitting there eating, drinking and cheering. After you got through there, you hit another section that had an aid station and a DJ with this AWESOME announcer. He was great. He was calling out everyone by name and country (we all had country flags on our bibs). He actually got my name right! There was lots of cheering through there as well as people with hoses. I tried to avoid them because I didn’t want my feet to get soaked. There is nothing worse than running long distances with wet feet. UGH. There was no shade through here and I really felt the heat of the day. I still had my sponges so once again they got a good soaking.
After I made my way through that industrial area, I ended up on the gravel path that ran along side the canal. I had been pretty excited about that thinking it would be great for “saving my legs”. And it felt great for about 3 km and then I could just feel the life being sucked out of my legs. I chose to wear my Saucony Endorphin Pros. Probably not the best choice on that type of surface. They felt slippery, like I couldn’t get good traction. I had looked at the run course map but I had conveniently forgotten just how long we had to spend on this trail. We ran almost HALF of the race on this. 20 freaking kilometers.
The only saving grace was that by the time I got out onto the trail a lot of it was in the shade. The parts that weren’t were scorching. There were small groups of spectators along the trail so that was nice but for the most part, the only other people there were racing or volunteers at aid stations. I will say the volunteers through here were great. They were all cheering and very excited to get you whatever you needed. I had heard there were about 7500 volunteers, which translated to roughly 2 volunteers PER ATHLETE. That’s CRAZY. They weren’t kidding when they said that Germans love triathlon!
After a few km’s on the trail, I noticed my pace had started to slow. I was running closer to 5:40 / kms. Every time I tried to pick up the pace, my HR would start to climb. It was sitting around 140 which was a little on the low side for me but when I tried to get my pace back up to 5:20 it would end up in the mid 150’s. I knew I could run a stand alone marathon at that effort but I wasn’t sure how I would fare after a 3.8 km swim and a 180 km bike. I think the trail surface made it harder for me to stay at my target pace / effort combo. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be a lot slower through this section. I made it to the first turnaround just after the 7 km mark. I ran around the pylon on a bit of pavement and then back onto the trail for what seemed like an eternity.
It was a constant stream of people on the trail. I passed the entrance to the trail and had to keep going. I REALLY had to pee but every aid station I passed only had ONE porta potty and there was always someone in it. At the 11 km mark, we hit what seemed like another odd industrial area but there were TONS of people there. There was also a bunch of porta potties. I ran into one and proceeded to extricate myself from my tri suit. No small feat in a tiny hot box! I took what seemed like the longest pee ever and then wedged myself back into my suit. AHHHH. At least I knew I was hydrating well!
I continued to trudge along. I was still feeling ok. I started to let my mind wander through here. I remember seeing a beautiful river cruise ship go down the canal. Then a giant barge. I saw one of my tour mates, Diane, on her way back. She was laser focused. I kept looking up the trail, hoping to see the turnaround. I was getting close to being mentally done with this section. It was boring. Eventually I could see a row of flags and an aid station. I figured this *had* to be the turnaround. As I got closer, I realized we were coming to the dam so I knew for sure that was the turnaround. Back onto a bit of pavement (AHHHH) and then back on to the fucking gravel. I hit 18 km just as I passed the turnaround. The wheels were slowly starting to fall off the wagon. I wanted to stop and walk but I told myself to keep going until you hit the halfway mark, then you could walk. I got to the halfway point and kept running. I made another little bargain with myself. Next time you take a gel, you can walk. 2 km later, I took a gel and walked. I was SO done. I just wanted to be OFF this path. I got my wish roughly 1 km later.
FINALLY. I was back on pavement. I was heading back through that weird industrial area again. My legs did not feel great. My whole body was starting to hurt. My stride had changed and I was having a hard time lifting my right leg. It wasn’t quite as ungainly as Lionel Sanders but it wasn’t far off. I loped through the next aid station and stopped for fluids. They had PICKLES! So of course I had to have one. The volunteer suggested I dip it in the big bowl of salt they had sitting on the table so I did just that. Honestly after all the sweet stuff I had been eating, it was DELICIOUS.
I made my way through that section with the two big banquet tables. There seemed to be less people this time around but the folks that were there were lively! I ran back onto the shaded path I was on at the beginning of the run. I knew it veered off and went into downtown Roth so I figured I’d be getting close to seeing some crowds again. As I got onto the path, I started to walk. My legs just HURT. They were achy and nervy feeling. I wasn’t the least bit surprised at this. My run mileage was SO low leading up to this race. I had only run just over 600 km between January and July. That’s *barely* 100 km / month. Not ideal for an Ironman. I have the engine, I just didn’t have the muscular endurance that comes with logging the bigger miles. This has often been a problem for me when running longer distances. The only time it doesn’t cause me a problem is when I’ve spent a good amount of time lifting heavy. Which I did not do leading my training cycle. Lesson learned.
I started to shuffle again. We were on a somewhat shaded path with no spectators. I knew there was a turnaround ahead because there were people coming back along the same path. I kept putting one foot in front of the other, willing myself to get to the turnaround. A few minutes later I got there. I shuffled around the pylon. I realized then that we were on a false flat. I had been running downhill. Now I was headed uphill. I started walking again. I hit the 28 km mark and was like WHAT?? ONLY 28 KM?? UGHHHH. It felt like I had been out there forever. Oh wait, I had, ha ha.
I decided to power walk instead of the leisurely stroll I had been doing. So I picked up the pace, using my arms. As I came out of the path, I took another gel, thinking I would start running again when I saw this short steep hill. I had seen it on my way out and conveniently forgotten about it. Oh right. So I kept walking. And then I see Gary. That was a nice surprise! He gave me a little pep talk as I walked up the hill. I noticed the crowds getting bigger. As I got to the top of the hill, there were a ton of people. And there was a DJ playing Cotton Eyed Joe so of course I had to do a little two step. That seemed to help wake my legs up and I managed to start running again.
I could hear more music and the sounds of an announcer and I realized that I was running towards downtown / old Roth. I made a turn off the paved road and onto the cobbles that lead into the old part of the city. Not gonna lie, the cobbles were dodgy. I shuffled through here slowly because I didn’t want to wipe out. Also the energy through here was nothing short of fantastic. There was a line up of cheerleaders with pom poms and spectators lined up along the barriers. At the 30 km mark, it was just the boost I needed. I kept running even though every fibre of my being wanted to stop.
I headed out of town and made a left turn down this residential road. I wasn’t sure if there would be many spectators down here but I was pleasantly surprised. There were a couple of big groups sitting out drinking so they were quite loud. There was a dude with a hose spraying those that wanted it – he was nice enough to ask first! There were these two older women sitting out in front of a house that were extremely vocal. They were AWESOME. When they saw I was from Canada they cheered loudly. I exited the neighbourhood onto a path and I could hear another DJ and more cheering. Seriously these Germans love to party. There was also an aid station through here so I walked through that. And then I just continued walking. At this point I was on a beautiful tree lined path that was in full shade (YAY!). I passed the 32 km mark and thought ok, 10 km to go. Another 70 minutes maybe at the pace I was going. Fuck that. I need to start running again. So I did. It wasn’t fast but it was faster than walking. That lasted for about 10 minutes. Then I started power walking again. My legs just hurt like hell.
That path seemed to go on forever. I knew it was an out and back, I just didn’t know how far out we had to go. I could have figured it out but at that point my brain could not do any sort of mental math. So a trudged along getting crankier and more fed up by the minute. Where the FUCK is the GODDAMN turnaround?!?!? The quiet path started to show signs of life. There were a few spectators starting here and there, along with some houses. And then a few more houses. Oh wait, I hear music! PLEASE LET THAT BE THE GODDAMN TURNAROUND!
This was the darkest point of the race for me. I knew at some point it would likely happen and I thought it might happen on the bike but it didn’t really. I think on the bike, the scenery was enough to distract me from any sort of misery I may have been in. I’ve found changing my focus often helps me avoid those moments of misery or discomfort. Sometimes you’ve just got to let them happen and then move on. That is a skill that takes time to learn. Those 13 years between Ironman races served me well in that regard. Old me would have wallowed in that misery for the remainder of the race. Current day me, acknowledged the misery, sat with it for a bit and then found something else to focus on. Like the town I was just about to run into. More people. Lots of cheering. Kids with fun signs and balloons. Let’s do this!
I ran down a slight incline towards what looked like a park with a pond. I followed the arrows that pointed to a path. OH FUCK. More fucking gravel. HONESTLY. Onto the path that circled this big fountain. Once I got around that I was back on pavement. Thankfully that was only about 300 meters but it seemed way longer. I now had to go back UP that slight incline. Which now seemed like a giant hill. There was a little boy with a sign that said Tap Here for a Power Up so I hit the sign and said thank you! He was so happy someone hit his sign I could help but laugh. The hill didn’t seem so bad after that.
I made my way back down the longest path ever. Although this time around it didn’t seem that long. Funny how that works. I saw the 37 km marker and thought ok, that’s 5 km. If you run and average 6:00/km you will be done in 30 minutes. Once I realized that it was like a switch was flicked. I slowed down through the aid station and grabbed a drink and some more fuel. I had gone through all my gels. I shoved a rice cake into my mouth and washed it down with some water and flat coke. Let’s GOOOOOO.
I ran by one of the DJ’s playing AC / DC and pumped my fists in the air as I ran by. That elicited cheers from the spectators. I was chased by a dude with a hose who was intent on spraying me. He got me in the back just as I passed him. So much for keeping my feet dry. At least I only had 5 km to go! I ran back into the neighbourhood with those two ladies and they cheered wildly for me again. I told them they were awesome and they laughed and cheered even louder. So great. I ran up a short somewhat steep hill to get back to the main road into old Roth. I knew I had one more loop on the cobbles before I could make the turn to the finish line. I ran back into town, past the cheerleaders and announcer. I felt like I was flying. I turned onto the road I had run down to get into town and I saw Gary. Right by the Red Bull DJ station. I remember yelling I’m almost done!! And grinning from ear to ear. Then I saw a couple of the Race Quest tour guides and they started cheering. I was SO CLOSE. Less than 2 km to go as I excited old Roth. I could hear the announcer well before I got to the finish line stadium. I knew there were a few twists and turns but then the next thing I knew, I saw the green banners and carpet that lead you towards the stadium. There was a lot of congestion through here. People taking pictures (!?!?) so I slowed down a bit through here. The next thing I knew, I ran under the arch that lead into the stadium. I high fived every single person with their hand out as I ran in. Finish line here I come.
I crossed the line behind some tall dude who robbed me of a good finishing photo. My fault for being so focused on the finish line, LOL.
Final time 12:40:24. A 50 second PB from my last Ironman. Not even close to the result I had hoped for. But, given the day I had, I’m just happy I finished.
Now, I’m closing the book on Iron distance racing. It’s not a distance I enjoy racing or training for. Some people love that grind. I am not one of those people. And I’m ok with that.