Finished the Challenge Triathlon

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Mission accomplished. What a race it was.

Let me first start by explaining why it’s taken so long to post up dates. The internet sucks in Europe, its unreliable cuts out all the time the speed is super slow. North America invented the net and that’s where the bulk of the users are. Then I got home and had to travel out to Kelowna to assist my parents with some medical issues, so it’s been awhile since my last post and finally I’m getting to tell my story.

We left for Germany on the 7th of July on Condor Airlines, a division of Tomas Cook Travel, all the flight attendants were Germany and apparently didn’t care much for my Canada t-shirt as the service to me was not so good. We arrived to check in our bags and I had a bike bag and a carry-on. They didn’t like the fact I had a bike bag for a checked in bag so they charged me $160 to check my bike. Strike 1 and strike 2 before I even land in the country. The plane is delayed by 45 minutes so by the time we arrived at the car rental location Sixt (car rental) told me that our rental was cancelled for not showing up on time and I would have to set up a new rental agreement. All good, right, no not so good. I had booked the car on line at a cost of $750 for 2 1/2 weeks. The new rate is $1500, strike 3, and I haven’t even left the airport. Already well over budget at this point. Oh well, I’m here to race, no, participate in the largest triathlon in the world. And the beer is the best in the world as well.

On to the Autobahn to reach our first destination, my relatives in Turinger Province north of the race for some R&R and peace and quite. Well it’s 34C and 100% humidity from all the rain they’ve had and no air conditioning. Sleeping was wet but the beer was wet too and good. Unfortunately my son and I got reactions to the down pillows and came down with a nasty cold, not good a week out. Get hypo allergic pillows and hope I come out of this cold before race start.

Thursday we head down to our next destination Nuremberg and our rented apt for the next 5 days. On the Autobahn again this time, we try and make some time and clip along at the same pace as everyone else.

IMG_3146 I was in my element. This works in this country, no red necks, no slow drivers hogging the fast lane, the Autobahn is so efficient everybody knows their place. Yes, I had to check my review mirror before I pulled into the fast lane to make sure no one is coming from 1k away. The BMW’s and Audi’s and Mercedes’s would go bye me at 200plus kph and I would feel their draft. Crazy! You had no time to look at your phone, or make a sandwich, or eat soup behind the wheel as you would find yourself in trouble asap. I really enjoyed the Autobahn.

Then of to the side roads and that’s a whole new experience. This is why Germany makes rocket cars that handle like F1 cars. The roads are truly amazing, smooth, twisty turny and so much fun to drive. All this in a Minivan, yes a VW minivan called Alhambra, that was our rental.

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Nuremberg is such a beautiful city, like most cities in Europe. Real world charm and great hospitality. Quite a bit of history, the old city is 1000yrs old and most of the city was bombed during the war and rebuild over the last 50 plus yrs. The markets are a great place to hang out, people watch eat some ice cream or eat local food (which is quite good) and drink a nice cold beer. We rented an apartment here to be as close as we can to race venue. However we are still out 30 minutes to the south so it was a bit longer to get to Roth than I had anticipated. The apartment was very cosy and quaint and just outside the door and down the hill was a sports complex with an outdoor Olympic sized swimming pool. I though this would be great to get morning swims in prior to the race. So Friday morning I go down to have my swim, pay my 3 euros and dive in. Holy Crap Batman, someone didn’t turn the heater on in the pool, temp sub 20C and I’m swimming in my speedo. Shrinkage city here, boy oh boy was I freezing. I swam my 500m and got out of there. I asked the lifeguards why the water was so cold and he tells me that it’s been quite and no one’s been coming so they turn the heaters off until the weekends. Well, I’m one day to early.

Off to check in to race venue and pick up my race kit and check out the course.

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The swim portion of the race is 3.8km long and they hold it in the Danube River cannel. As you can see by the picture above the river boats travel from Holland to Turkey on this river, so the morning of the event they close the river to boat traffic and it opens to swimmer traffic. the 4 other photos are pics of the athletes village and check in locations. It’s held in a giant park and the village is the size of Chinook centre, they sell every thing under the sun related to triathlon and sport. Off course their are beer tents everywhere so you’re never far away from a cold beverage.                                                                                                                      .IMG_2937

Swim Start: 5300 people starting in heats of every 5 minutes, Pros first and teams last. The pros started at 6:30 am and I was set to go in the 13th heat at 7:45. I was able to enjoy the pros starting the bike portion of the race before I even put on my wet suit. It’s 7:30 and I should get my suit on cause the water is a balmy 19C, like swimming in a tub of ice. Little bit of some background here, I’m a pretty good swimmer, usually in the past I’ve covered the distance of 3.8km over a time of sub hour. That puts me in the top 10% of the field, so why start in the 13th group of this event, I have no idea. I can only assume that I’m from Canada and one of only 30 in the race from Canada. Ok, then, I guess I get to swim through the field only to be passed on the bike down the road (pardon the pun). So it’s finally my heat, we walk up to the start and it’s a set of concrete steps to the edge of the water and , one,two,three jump, no warm up no easing into it, its a full jump step into the chilling waters of the Danube River canal, where just yesterday I watched a stream of river boats and cargo ships sail. We tread water for 3 or 4 minutes before the cannon goes off and away we go. Of course I take of in the lead group and in no time I catch the group in front of me. Now I have to navigate around them like an ocean tanker trying to navigate a crowed bay. I make it through tath group only to come across the group in front of them and the group in front of them and the group in front of them. I believe I’ve swam through 4 groups to come out of the water in 1:10. My hands are very cold and I can’t feel my feet but it don’t matter I’m only in this water for an hour or so. First portion of the triathlon accomplished. Now to remember where I placed my bike. Remember there’s 5000 other bikes in a sea of carbon fiber and rubber.

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I get out of the water and collect my bike gear that’s been placed in a transition bag and proceed to pull my wet-suit off and put on dry socks on wet feet. Every tried that, its a lot of fun, and your adrenaline is working overtime casue your so exited to be one element and move to the next, 180km bike ride through the Germany country side. I run to where my bike is placed and grab it, proceed to the exit of transition and run past my first beer tent inside transition. Must be serving cold beer to the volunteers, didn’t see any athletes sitting at the tables enjoying a cold one at 8 in the morning. I sooooo love German culture. Up the hill onto the road and off I go for a 6hr ride.

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The bike course is made up of 2 laps of 90km traveling through 20 villages and all are serving ice cold beer and grilling meats. Most spectators are probably hammered before noon. 250,000 spectators are lining the street to watch this spectacle call the Challenge Roth Triathlon. Most intersections are controlled by pay-duty police and even they were sitting on cases of beer enjoy the beverage. The roads are beautifully paved, they must put lots of rubber into the asphalt, its super smooth which makes for great rolling resistance. Half way through the first loop there’s a little town with a hill that’s about 2 or 3km long, you turn the corner and you can hear the speaker blaring out the top hits and an announcer announcing the names of the athletes climbing this hill. Once again fans lining the hill, meats being grilled, beer is flowing and the atmosphere is electric. But that’s just the start of the excitement. 80km in you ride through the town called Hipolstein and approach the Solar Hill. You can hear the roar of the crowd 1k out and it gets loader and louder as you approach the hill and the town. I make a right hand turn and there in front of me is 30,000 load and screaming fans  all cheering you up the hill. It’s 500m of pure adrenaline, I slow down to take it all in. Correction, I’m fat and slow anyway, I just climb it and take it all in. Complete strangers look you in the eye and congratulate you for the madness you’re participating in and help cheer you to the top. Ever wanted to feel like you are in the Tour De France, this is the closest to it.

First loop done now just one more 90km to get off this bike that I’m starting to hate.  Not sure if I mentioned this earlier or not, but I had developed a wicked head cold leading up to this race and I wasn’t feeling great at the start of the race but I didn’t come all this way to not start. So here I am on the second loop and I’m starting to feel the effects of this head cold and it’s starting to play mind games. I’m getting tired, I’m feeling week, I have no fluency to my pedal stroke, I’m watching people go by me like I’m standing still, I’m looking at my speedo and it’s gone from 32kph to 22kph. My mind is telling me I should quit, your done, you’ve done your best you gave it your best shot. Just pull over and put the bike down and call it a day. So I pull over get off the bike and reassess my thoughts. At that moment it was all negative and then I remembered that this happened to me once before. It was 2010 at the Penticton Ironman and I went into the race thinking I could do the race on virtually no training. What a mistake that was. Had a great swim but the bike was a killer. It was 40C of the pavement and I was slowly breaking down, the first big hill climb, called Ricker pass, my speed went from 20km up hill to 6km up hill. The heat and the wind tore me apart and I finally conceded and passed out on the side of the road in the ditch waiting for the Lantern Rouge to rescue me. I had the worst ride back to transition in the back of a van, ever. Never again would I do that. Anyways, back to the moment, I’m on the side of the road and some of my Calgary friends go flying by and see me and ask if I’m OK. “Yes, no problem, have a great race” I say. At that moment I make the decision to get back on the bike and just put pedal stroke after pedal stroke and make it to transition and decide then if I should pack it in. Transition to run coming up and I’m so stoked that I’ve made it. I pull into transition and hand my bike off to a volunteer and go seek out my run bag. I run into the transition tent and look around to see if I’m in the mens tent or the ladies tent. The volunteer informs me its a unisex tent, everyone changes in the same tent. OK, this’ll be fun

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I’m running into the tent, sorry, correction, walking into the tent, (I just rode 18ok and my ass and back are killing me) and I’m looking for a bench to change into my run clothes. I always strip out of my cycle gear and put on fresh run gear. It gives me a feeling of being refreshed for the task at hand, run 42.2 km. This elderly lady grabs me by the arm and she ushers me over to a free bench near the exit. I’m saying to her It’s ok I can handle this myself. She persisted and finally I give in. I follow her to a spot to change. She tells me it’s ok to change here, she’s seen lots of penises and bare bums. I tell her it’s ok, I got this but she doesn’t leave me alone. I look around the room and everyone is being helped in the same manner. So I give in, but not without a fit and a bit of a strategy for disrobing in front of a total stranger.  On a side not, some of my readers might not know this, but the ones that do would consider this normal for me to disrobe in front of strangers and prance around naked. As a teenager and youth I spend the better part of that time in a Nudist Resort. Not by choice, this was my parents decision to partake in this kind of society, so I’ve been scared for most of my life, seeing all those old people running around naked, playing tennis and riding bikes. Getting off track here, back to the moment. So I figure if I take my jersey off first and pull on my running singlet  I won’t feel as exposed when it comes time to take the bottoms off. So here it goes, I turn my back to the old gal and proceed to pull my cycle shorts off, well their wet and its a bit tough to pull them off. so she proceeds to help me take them off. I’ve got my run shorts laid out ready to pull up in a hurry. Well now I’m tring to pull up dry tight shorts on a wet sweaty body. Its a struggle, so what happens next, I get assistance from my old gal volunteer, I should have asked her to go get me a cold beer. We get the shorts on and she’s yelling at me “snell, snell, snell” go,go,go. I’m in no hurry, I just want to sit down and take 5 minutes to rest, but noooo, I get kicked out of there and I’m on the run course.

Where is my family!!!!!

Their eating bratwurst, drinking beer and enjoying the festivities. Cheering the athletes on, waiting for their Superman to show up. So I get 200m down the road and I run into them in a local beer tent enjoying themselves as I slug it out in the race. My son asks me if I want anything, “stupid question” a cold beer and one of those bratwurst you’re eating, would be preferred choice. He hands me my prepared gluten free peanut butter sandwich and sends me on my way, this is going to be a long run. So off I go and the first really large beer tent has about 1000 people drinking, eating and cheering us all on. Seems to be a theme in this country, have a festive time all the time. Anyway, back to the marathon, it has a T shape to it. You run through this forested park for 5km till you reach the canal and head left along the canal for 8 or so km to the first lock, cross the lock and run into this quaint village do a tour of the village and head back to the canal and run back to the T, then you proceed the other direction for another 8 km to a section where you run in the forest and end up in another town only to loop around that town. Every where we ran we had loud music, announcers cheering us on and motivating the crowds to cheer for us. This region really gets behind the athletes and does a great job in supporting this race. That’s probably why its the most popular triathlon race in the world. Most of the marathon was along the canal on soft gravel, easy to run on but a bit boring because of how far you can see to run. Once you come back from that out and back you head back to town the same route and enter the host city of Roth. We get to run on cobblestone for about 2 or 3km and then hit the finish line. As I near the T intersection to return back to the town of Roth, I get a surprise visit from the 12th place finisher, my good friend Jordan Bryden. He came out to help run me in the last 7 or 8km.  What a welcome site to see him and to stick with me for the remainder of the event. He did the race and had a long day as well and for him to come out to help was awesome. A big Thank you to Jordan.

So many things go through your mind when your out there as long as I was. It tests your limits, mentally and physically, the ups and downs, trying to stay focused, you think about everything and analyze everything.

Nothing compares to this finish, it’s Iconic, 8000 screaming fans, loud music, a crazy light show and you feel like your a Rock Star. I have a tough time describing in words how I felt coming into that stadium. I’ve never seen or felt anything like it in my life. Ironman Canada in it’s heydays was close but not that close.

The race is done, time for rest and a cold beer. Again the Germans got it figured out. I walk into the athletes finishers tent and the first thing I see is glasses and glasses of beer, then walk into the tent area and they have buffet tables of food, the selection was extensive and they have showers and change facilities so you can go have a hot shower and walk home spotless and clean. As you exit the athletes tent they award you with a German Beer stein as a souvenir of your finish. At 11pm the fire works go off and it’s like the 1st of July back home. It goes off for a good 15 20 mins to music, absolutely fantastic. and as usual at 9am in the morning they open it up to new entries for next years event and it fills up in a matter of hours. Guaranteeing another great event for 2017

Challenge Roth, Germany. What a great time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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