61DTK – Ironman 70.3 Wiesbaden European Championship Race Report

Big day!

Finish!

Race Briefing
The race briefing was held in a beautiful concert hall in the Kurhaus. Typical race briefing – don’t draft, don’t litter, don’t flip it out and take a pee in the public park. But this race, like Regensburg, had this complicated system of “cards.” They had black cards, yellow cards, and red cards. Different rule infractions resulted in getting a different card penalty. Red = DQ. And different combinations of cards – one black, one yellow, two yellows, full house, I don’t know. I couldn’t follow it, other than peeing in the park gets you DQ’d, and it’s best to follow the rules in German races.

Check In
Check-in was reasonably organized. The race village was one of the biggest and most diverse I’ve seen. Had some great stands for beer and munchies.

The split-transition takes a bit of additional planning. This means that the swim-bike transition is in a different place than the bike-run transition. We had to get my bike and my Run and Bike bags out to the lake and T1, which was half an hour drive out of the center, followed by a 2.5-2k walk down to transition. Not that it’s too far to walk, just a bit of trouble to go through when you’re trying to chill before the event.

After getting everything situated, we found a nice German place and had a nice dinner with various meats, potatoes and beers. (not too many beers).

Morning Of
Up at 5, down to breakfast at 5:15. Not much of an appetite. Felt really crummy – woke up a couple times with night sweats, like I was fighting off a fever. Had a long mental conversation with myself about calling it quits for the race, but finally decided that I’d go down to the lake and see how it went.

Swim
The swim is in the Raunheimer Waldsee. http://www.tri2b.com/fotos/e_65685,parentE_65325

This body of water is located near some old industrial areas (some in the process of being bulldozed), and lays in the approach for Frankfurt airport. On the other end of the lake was a large multi-level mechanical contraption on pontoons. I’m guessing a dredger of some kind. Joe was giving me a hard time about swimming in industrial runoff. Interestingly, the dock had a big sign that said in German, “No Swimming.” And the water – it was neither brown and gritty, nor green and slimy (like IM AZ) and it wasn’t crystal clear like Regensburg. Instead, it was… well, I guess the only way to describe it is slightly “milky.”

This is a big race. 2500 people. So, they have wave starts that take a full hour to get through. Pros go at 7:30, my wave went at 8:25.

The swim was a similar ‘boomerang’ setup to Regensburg, where you swim diagonally across the lake, around a big barrier, diagonally back to the opposite corner (making a boomerang shape) then turn around and go back in roughly the same direction. This was different from Regensburg, in that it had an “Australian Exit.” When we finished the first pass of the boomerang, we had to run up on the beach, over a timing mat, then jump back in and finish the swim.

For me, swim went well. No goggle issues (picked up a GREAT new pair at the expo), held my line really well, got a couple nice drafts. I haven’t been in the water much this summer, so expected a weak time, and wasn’t disappointed. 46:19 for 1.9km, AHR was 1:43 – felt mostly level 3 much of the time. Not my best.

Bike
The bike course was fitting for a European Championship. I underestimated it going in. 1450 meters of climbing across 91k. There’s a hill there that I’ve heard they call the “hammer.” I saw several people who looked more fit than me pushing their bikes up the tougher climbs. Rather than just one massive climb (there was one of those, too) most of the course were big, relentless rollers. It wasn’t terribly different from my weekend rides in CZ, so that was good prep. But, still, big ride, and I held back until km 60 keeping in mind my goal for this race: run the whole half marathon.

The best part of the ride is the last 5k or so. After spending 85 km of up-down, the last 5k shoots you down like a bullet into T2 in the center of Wiesbaden.

I had about 6 or 7 pieces of hard candy, a couple slices of salty boiled potato, bottle of gatorade, 1 gel. So, a little down on the calories by the time I got off the bike. I really pushed on the hills – my quads were pretty fried by the time I hit T2. Not sure about HR – dang HRM wouldn’t track my HR while on the bike. I think I’ve purchased my last Polar device.

Out to the bike! Yes I will purchase these pictures.

Run
It was getting warm, but not overly so. The run is 4 x 5k loops through a really nice park / green belt in the center, so we were in the shade most of the time. We had a 4 loop course in Regensburg, and I really like this approach. It seems like it goes by faster, and it’s easier for spectators to hang out and cheer. Also, like Regensburg, each lap they give you something like a scrunchie to wear on your arm (different color for each lap) to help count the laps. That far into the day, you aren’t thinking especially clearly, so something on your arm helps with the counting.

Leaving T2 I felt really strong. Started running, found a nice pace to settle into, and (with my HR mon working again) I could see I was in high L 3/ low level 4, though RPE felt like I was at the bottom end of L3. I settled into a pace, and it felt sustainable, so I went with it, trying to settle my HR into high L2 when possible. This was pretty good, as I usually feel like crap coming off the bike, and the fact my HR was at a good level indicates that, low as my bike nutrition was, I wasn’t glycogen depleted yet. That said, I started to feel really hungry, so I knew I had to start getting some nutrition in. I have a hard time getting calories in later in the run, so I sucked down half a gel at each of the first three aid stations (2.5km apart), and sucked on my hard candies (5 or 6 of them) until I couldn’t stand them anymore.

First loop was steady and strong. I kept a close eye on my HR knowing I was low on nutrition. I also dropped a couple NUUN’s into my water bottle to cover some salt. Second loop also felt good. Third loop started to get a little tough on the up-hill parts. By the time I got to 4km to go, I felt my stomach flip. I had a feeling that by the end of the day, I’d be heaving. So, I kept up only sips of water, no more calories for the last bit. Despite the shade, it did start to get a bit warm (80 F). Thankfully, each aid station had a big bucket full if ice water and sponges. Smack a couple sponges down on yourself, and that will keep you going…

Look, Bill, I’m eating my candies!

Run AHR: 138. I would have expected it to be higher – most of the time when I checked my HRM, it was closer to 143 – 146.

Pushed through, and finished 7:37. Not impressive, even considering the difficulty of the bike course. But, I made my goal – I ran the entire half marathon. In fact, at 2:32, i was only 18 minutes off my last (stand-alone) half marathon in Austria earlier this year.

 
Post-Race

One thing I really like about these european races is that they have a big trailer they back up into the finish area – that is full of showers. So, right after finishing, I took a nice hot shower. I picked up my finisher’s shirt and medal in a different building – which was unexpected. Everything else was so organized, it was odd to have to go out of the finish area to track down a shirt and medal.

I texted Joe to meet me after I picked up my medal and shirt. When he found me, i was on the steps of the building heaving into my swim bag. Fortunately (I planned ahead), just dry heaves. I felt tons better after, so we walked out to get some food.

It so happens that Wiesbaden has a huge wine festival at the same time. It is billed as the worlds largest wine bar. I believe it. The big square in front of their main cathedral the surrounding streets, and connecting squares were covered in tables, chairs, and dozens – maybe a hundred- stands setup by area vineyards selling wine. The entire town of Wiesbaden and everyone in the region must come out to this – it is amazing! It’s worth a trip next summer, if only for the wine festival.

We started with water and a beautiful thin crust margherita pizza, then moved up to a wonderful glass of white wine with a 1 kilo plate of grapes, cheeses, meats, pretzels, breads, sausages – you name it. We sat in the grass and enjoyed our dinner, watching families and couples hang out on the grass enjoying the evening.

Unfortunately, we had to get back to Prague. We both had early meetings, so back in the car and back on home.

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