Farnham Triathlon Club Copyright © Farnham Triathlon Club (1985-2020)
Site Map

Race Reports 2011

Regensburg Ironman - Sunday 7 August 2011 (David Tiplady)

It Did. It Was.


What I did on my Summer Holiday


A Grand Day Out


Einer Grande Tag

Regensburg is a medieval town north and east of Munich in Bavaria, Southern Germany. It lies on the Danube which draws a line between the hills to the north and the Danube plain to the south. Regensburg is 722 miles away and the drive there involves 16 hours of autobahn, Belgium, the Netherlands and dancing with wasps over lunch.

We arrived at the apartment late Sunday evening. The apartment is in the small town of Falkenstein, 25km beyond Regensburg. A small Schloβ and sculpture park to its fame. Race preparation didn't really start until Wednesday:

Mittwoch: Brilliant sunshine and temperature in the high 20s. We met the Richardsons at the Guggenburger See, the swim venue, for a pre race swim try out and bike course recce. "Guggi See" is a picture in the warm and dry with large sandy beaches and several beach bars serving the hordes attracted by the nearest stretch of inland seaside. Frensham Ponds have nothing on this place. Water temperature was about 21 degrees; warm but no issues about being able to wear a wet suit for the race in a few days time. The atmosphere was relaxed the joviality added to by nudity in transition (though not mine or that of the supporters’ club). The bike course recce was a single lap of 80k. The warm and dry conditions gave no indication of what was to come on Sunday. The usual bike teething issues ensued: Schwalbe Ultremo puncture again (that b*****d’s getting replaced before the race), mildly entertaining time with the "sports" tyre pump which, seen from the rear, must have looked like I had stopped to amuse myself at the roadside whilst having little discernable effect on the amount of air inside the tyre (OK, so I'll get some gas canisters) and drive side pedal clicking - pedals last forever but these are screaming to be repacked with grease (that I didn't bring).

Donnerstag; Another fabulous day. Pool swim in the local outdoor 33m pool. Registration; mildly stressful moment scrabbling for the race licence buried in the bum bag. A bit of relaxed shopping buying tyres that won't puncture (GP4000s), pedals that wouldn't click and gas canisters. The Expo having pleasingly keen pricing - in fact, some of the best I've seen (bit of a shame I didn't buy the tyres there). Followed by a trail around Regensburg old town to find the best Italian restaurant for the start of the carbo loading extravaganza. All still fairly relaxed and remaining firmly in denial so far.

Freitag; Final mechanical faffing; change of tyres and pedals, attaching the gas canisters & inflator (is that going to fall off?) and a change of battery in the bike computer because it had decided to die that morning (I'd actually come with a spare battery). 16:30; Obligatory appointment at the pre race briefing in Regensburg. All going fine until the traffic ground to a standstill on the autobahn 10km short of the town with 30 minutes to go. Half a mile later down the hard shoulder (folk seem to worry less about that over here) and 10 minutes to go we're looking for a parking space in a full car park with any number of other equally freaked out athletes. At that moment the god of freaked out athletes smiled as a local decided she'd had enough of Regensburg for the day and a space opened up before us. The supporters’ club is out of the car before you can say "Keep that space" and is ready to try for 4-Nil before giving up the vacant slot. Car parked without conflict we make the briefing with a few minutes to spare. An hour and a half later, my head is in my hands as I try to remember all that has been said; routes , rules, penalties, penalty cards - 3 different colours, penalty boxes, drafting boxes, location of aid stations and toilets, cut off times, parking directions, timings, weather report, schedule for the remainder of the weekend and a whole host of other really important stuff that just didn't stick.. That freaked out feeling is here to stay and the race isn't until the day after tomorrow. The only thing to do is lose myself in three hundred weight of pasta at the Pasta Party.

Samstag; Weather's still fab. Final tune up ride; no punctures, nothing falls off. Two things to do today; rack the bike and pack the right bags with the right stuff and check them in. The race has a split transition so this is the last time I'll see the red run bag. How many times did I check that the shoes were in there? Back to the Guggi See for Bike Racking and the Ironman organisation is in full swing. Very impressive. (shoes) Over the weekend they find, organise and use 2,500 volunteers putting on this show - and they're all smiling. (shoes) Everyone gets their photo taken with their bike. The "before" photo (shoes). Red bag is (shoes, shoes, shoes) thrown in the back of a van (I hope my shoes are in there). A blue bag full of bike kit is left under a bowl under the bike. the Ironman branded plastic cover is wrapped over the whole show and we're off back to the apartment to share another helping of pasta early afternoon. Nothing much left to do other than double check the swim kit is organised in the white bag take the Andrew's liver salts to ensure everything goes without a hitch in the morning and have a small pasta snack before retiring (did I put my shoes in that red bag?).

Sonntag; Race day. 3:15 alarm. Dark and raining. Warm but raining (I can't find my running shoes, they must be in the race bag). Where's the bike? No, that got racked yesterday. Car starts (and why wouldn't it?). No hold ups on the Autobahn (did you really think there would be?). Off the motorway and the promised plentiful signs to the car park are there but they're not fluorescent which means, in the rain and the dark, they become invisible. We follow a police car until the car in front of him decides to pause to check directions in the middle of a traffic-light controlled intersection. It's 4 a.m. and the Muppet show has started. The car park is found without any problems other than an early dose of fretting. Parking for 5,000 cars so this time no problems finding a space. There's a choice of shuttle bus or a 1.5km walk to T1. We miss the bus by seconds but decide to wait for the next, under the umbrella, rather than disappear down the dark path into the maize field. The bus seems to take forever to return and when it does is immediately filled with steam of hyperventilating, carbo loaded, stressed athletes. The atmosphere is highly charged, no naked flames allowed. End of the short bus journey and it's starting to look like I've made it to the start line with plenty of time for faffing. The skinny wet suit no longer fits over my thighs so I've brought the comfy QR and I'm already looking forward to a relaxed T1. I'm racked next to number 2103 still no sign of him or her, perhaps we'll have some extra elbow room. Slightly disappointed to see short young shiny RAF Tri athlete turn up but happy to be next door to a Brit who isn't a Muppet. Final check on tyre pressures whilst taking shelter from a particularly heavy downpour. Bottles filled, computer reset, gear selected, helmet ready, sunglasses ready, optimistically selecting the dark lenses, final decision on arm warmers - no, number attached to the bike, against the rules to wear it in the water for reasons that continue to escape me. White bag deposited into another truck along with a small prayer for the iPhone. What did I do with those run shoes? Moving down to the water's edge. "'Ere mate, could you do the honours?" is almost as easily internationally translated as pointing a waving finger into the palm of the opposite hand is for can we have the bill please? I'm surprised to see half a dozen folk without wet suits. Pro's start in the water 10m up on the age groupers. Turns out the head start didn't help them as they would all be beaten out of the water by an age grouper starting back on the beach.

10 minute, 5 minutes, 1 minute deadlines are all announced & the race can start at any time in this minute. Rain damped "phut" from the VIP area and - that's it! I'm not a "DNS". It's 10 months since entering and all that training is not for nought. Minor fireworks go off in my head as I realise all there is in my way is an unspecified amount of time not drowning, not sliding off the bike and not grinding to a halt on the run.

The washing machine cycle has started. The beach is 200m long. which sounds a lot. In fact, it is a long beach for a lake. Plenty of room. Plenty of room for 2,700 athletes at a mass start? Hold on, that's at least 10 deep at the water's edge, and that's before the lane narrows at the first buoy. Carnage. Plan was to stand back let the Muppets flap it out, use the swim as a warm up & get out nice & relaxed for some hard work on the bike. Hmmmm. What I hadn't figured out was that with that many on a mass start I was going to catch up with the washing machine and swim the first 1km through the back end of it. Only thing to do is keep calm, swim as straight as possible and relax. May be difficult to do when the Muppet 3/4 of a body length in front left decides to tack right at 45 degrees for no reason other than being a Muppet. I wasn't to know until later but last year's female pro winner pulled out at the end of the swim after getting a kick to the head. He didn't like the gentle squeeze to the thigh. I could tell that when he turned and shouted at me but at least it meant he got his feet out of my face. 2.8km to go.... Is that PowerBar bottle small or is it just a long way off? I could swear it was moving further away every time I sighted on the giant inflatable marking the route back to the beach. Final swim past the lakeside bar where we enjoyed several diet cokes after the recce ride a few days before and finally standing; a swim time recorded at 1:11 about as expected - if not a few minutes quicker. Quick pee on the way to the bike, kinda interesting with a wet suit still round your hips but try as I might I still can't widdle with a wet suit on when in the water. Back to the bike to find shiny RAF struggling as much as I would with the wetsuit. Couple of encouraging words shared, both happy to see each other. He disappears off only to return while I'm pfaffing (that's German) with mitts (final decision; no arm warmers but mitts in case everything goes sideways in the wet, it's 20 degrees so it's not cold but still raining) calling himself a Muppet for having forgotten his Garmin. Gentle jog to T1 exit only to notice that I've left the glasses behind, leave the bike with an obliging official (who I just know is thinking "Mupfet") slightly more than a gentle jog the 100m back to the rack, Muppet, Muppet, Muppet, praying that one of the (just brilliant) volunteers hasn't already bagged and collected all my kit. Still keeping an optimistic stance on the mirrored lenses at this point (Muppet) but happy to have the glasses on, return sprint through T1 to obliging race official who on seeing said mirrored lenses is once again thinking "Mupfet" and finally we're on two wheels passing the supporters’ club - a couple of Brit blondes screaming their heads off from the crowd. They were apparently relieved to find that I hadn't drowned after all this time.

First quarter of the bike lap is uphill. 10% at it's max rising from the Danube to about 680m at Brennberg. The next quarter lap is downhill, back to the river, the second half, all south of the river is flat; 3 sides of a square heading south, then west, then north back to the start of lap 2 & repeat. The laps are 80k with a 20k (or less) run west into Regensburg town centre & T2. Apparently, if it rains it's not supposed to be windy. This isn't true. A hearty westerly got up which might have provided some help up the climb if it hadn't been for the shelter of the Bavarian pine forest. The exposed Southern plain was a different matter. The plan was to take things fairly steady in order not to blow up for the climb at the start of lap 2. Drafting rules suspended for the uphill sections so no worries about yellow cards this early on.  Up the first climb and there's a fair amount of testosterone on display. I'd be curious to know what happened to the brave champion who came past me puffing like a steam train, at speed and carrying nothing but a few extra pounds and a bottle of coke in the bottle cage. No clicking from the bike, it's changing gear like it should, nothing has fallen off, yet. Beautiful road surfaces - it's worth driving 722 miles to ride these roads. Nil vibration (other than from the 11 tooth cog on the rear cassette). When they patch the roads they dig down about 2 feet, if you had your eyes closed (not recommended) you'd be hard pushed to feel where the patch stopped and started. First marmalade sandwich at the top of the climb in Brennberg and settle in for the downhill. Settle in? This is where I was very glad I'd gone back for the glasses in T1. The max speed I recorded was 81kph. Not as fast as many. It would have been entirely possible to tuck in and stay on the bars and off the brakes the whole winding way down but, for one thing, it hurt too much. Hitting big lumps of rain in a tri suit at 50mph stings! for another I didn't want to be the one singing Ave Maria in the showers at the end of the day as the warm water hits the road rash. OK, I bottled it - but stayed upright all day despite getting the line at the bottom of the hill completely wrong on lap one (Muppet) so having to levitate over the chevrons painted on the road surface through the blind right hander. Lap two I just screamed all the way down. No, that's not  metaphor for travelling quickly. I mean I literally screamed all the way down. Got the line right that time though. By the end of the first down hill the field has started to thin out. The encouraging thing about being a relatively slower swimmer but stronger cyclist is that you get to overtake for 5 hours. Happy days. The aid stations are fun; four on each lap and taken at a fair speed. Chuck your empty bottle in the approximate direction of a bucket at the start of the run in, aim at a volunteer shouting either "Iso" or "Wasser" and grab a new full bottle as you cycle past. Brilliant.  4 stations on each lap so plenty of opportunity for entertainment. The guy who got it completely wrong has had his moment recorded on the post race video. Not sure he's smiling as he gets up and Mark rides round him. The aid stations also offered fruit and PowerBar bars. All of the bars contain ground almonds, great for some, not so great if you've a nut allergy. Marmalade sandwiches are the food of champions.  Very happy and slightly surprised to see the supporters’ club at the start of lap two. thought they would have long since left for coffee in Regensburg. 160km and another two marmalade sandwiches later and I'm feeling good and strong. The Berocca has long since been drunk & I'm on the fourth bottle of Iso. I think I'm absorbing water through osmosis. Despite the weather it's been a good bike. Turning for the last 20k into town feels great. I've stayed upright, so far, not been penalised, so far, and not drowned, so far, although with the rain there's still a chance of that.

Turning into the headwind it's time for a last blast into town touching 40kph just to make sure I'm getting off the bike in less that 7 hours from the start. Couple of roundabouts, chap in kit with GBR printed in big letters goes down 20 yards up (Muppet - tune up that singing voice for the showers) he's getting up smiling more embarrassed than anything else as I go by. Friendly Polizei waving as I get closer to into town. They're actually waving at the tram lines at 45 degrees across the road. Minor adjustment to line of travel and mental attitude called for. Slightly calmer and more controlled through the last few bends (happy to see that mad couple of Brit blondes from the supporters’ club screaming from the crowd again) before dead slow into T2 6:55; 5:34 split for just over 180km & 1,400m climbed.

Remembering to pick up the last marmalade sandwich (number four) and the final bottle vitamin C that I've been carrying all day. Couple of swigs of Vit C, empty the bottle down a drain on the way to pick up the red bag and into the change tent. Blokes down the right, women down the left, don't want to get that wrong. Apparently, once inside the tent there was nothing to screen the men from the women. I didn't notice. Perhaps it's something about a 180km bike that makes men asexual, or I was just too made up over having remembered to bring the last marmalade sandwich (these things are important) but the biggest surprise was white socks I'd put on in T1 had been replaced with a black pair. Once again, the volunteer holding the change bag was brilliant. There's my run shoes! We shared no oral language but the mutual sentiment wasn't wasted. Whatever he said I knew what he meant. I hope he felt likewise. With a pat on the back, clean & dry socks and that last marmalade sandwich we're off to run a marathon.

Hold on, Run a marathon?

Yes, run a marathon....  You knew that.

Hmmmm, hold on, let me check.... No, I'm happy with that bike, that's fine thanks.

But, what are you going to do with that last marmalade sandwich?

22 minutes, 4km and half a marmalade sandwich later I've discovered the cobbles. No-one advertised the cobbles. This just gets better.

Scrunchies! The run course is 4 laps. This works for me as, just when things are getting really tough at about 20-21 miles you're starting the last lap and doing everything for the last time. Coloured elasticated hair bands was how the laps were counted. Starting out as a newby, you pick up your first, dark green, scrunchy half way round lap one.

Hold on. Half way round?

Yes, half way round. Problem?

Yes "problem" how do you expect me to figure out how many scrunchies I need to collect before I get to turn down the Finish chute?

Don't worry about it, you've got at least 4 hours to figure it out.....

The not so good thing about having a relatively strong bike and a decidedly mediocre run is that you're counting back the places as skinny athletes bounce by. Shiny RAF runs past me before the end of lap one.

Start of lap three and I see another Farnham Tri kit coming out of T2. Surprised and very happy to see it but, bugger, I've got to pick up the pace big time to say Hi to a very up Nicola. A tap on the shoulder and a few words of welcome and mutual encouragement is all I can manage. Nicola towed me for a good few km but then did that right thing by disappearing in front. Strong running Nic.

Lap three and the wheels are falling off. Doesn't feel like energy or hydration, just sore. I've a full stomach and can't do anything to go faster. Just grind. Head down. The world shrinks to an oblong 6' long and 3' wide in front of my leading foot. I'd have paid a lot of money for purple and a light green scrunchies at that point. Grinding back past shiny RAF helps (he's still way too perky).

There are loads of Pirates out on the course. We love the Pirates. They have a huge supporter contingent. Happy for every Brit but in particular Farnham.

Purple (3rd) scrunchy collected and it feels like you've just earned your sergeant stripes. that's real promotion. Remember this is a 42.something distance & not just 4 x 10km laps. Bugger. Distraction of mental arithmetic once again to figure out when you're in single figures and counting down to the finish line. Going past T2 for the last time and time to pull myself together. Second widdle of the day. Trouble finding the equipment meant a slight scare for those following on line and at home as I appeared to put in a couple of 7 minute km in a Portaloo. Back on the course and picking up on that final lap Coca Cola treat I'd promised myself at all of the aid stations. OK, so that worked; two mouthfuls of coke lasts the approx 1.7km to the next Coke oasis. Warning to the supporters’ club that the final lap "could take a while". At this point it's becoming almost as hard to slow down to pick up the drinks as it is to keep running, almost. Last scrunchy. Realisation that if I push on the last 10k I'll be looking at close to 11:30 dawns. Self made promises of enjoying a final walk/run lap are crushed as I  get over any final self pity. This is what we do. Last aid station. I realise that the guys at the aid station are saying "well done David" for a reason. They've seen the 4 scrunchies. they know what it means. They know what it means better than I do. I'm overcome. And not for the last time in that last 3km. Turning for "ZIEL" I catch, out of the corner of my eye, the Ziel Gestapo counting the scrunchies I've collected. I welcome their vigilance. I am accorded the path of the righteous. For this lap only the shouting of acclaim will not recede. Children high five. There's a blonde from the supporter's club who seems pleased to see me.

There's an arch.

It houses a clock.

The numbers are red.

They say 11:33:50.

Through the Arch I take two steps backward and am immediately surrounded by 3 pairs of supporting hands. The weight of the medal has put me slightly off balance.

"Alles ist klar?"

I'm clearly not focusing as I repeat the phrase in response as an affirmation.

"Alles ist klar?" comes the question again.

Whilst the thought of a little lie down and a hydration drip seems quite appealing at this point I catch sight of the seemingly endless line of wheeled stretchers arrayed to the left and behind the arch. The sight is worrying enough for me to start moving forwards and away and out. I'm joined by another volunteer whose job it is to talk, make sure I'm making sense and point me in the right direction. A couple of minutes later I'm wrapped in a foil blanket, the rain has abated but the temperature has dropped a few degrees, and am aiming at the post race refreshments. Slightly disappointed at the limited buffet I'm searching for the massage. A pre massage shower is obligatory. The atmosphere is distinctly continental as athletes strip, shower and dry. I realise that I haven't done any planning beyond the finish line. I use the T shirt I wore first thing in the morning as a towel and put on my finisher's shirt. Only for the second time that day I find Mark who has finished in front of me in time enough to already have enjoyed a massage. We compare notes as I queue. He disappears to find the supporters’ club as my number is called.

"Anything in particular troubling you?" seems like a redundant question from the masseuse at this point. My response seems to surprise.

"Periformis Bitte"

"You want me to massage your ass? "

"Jawhol; sicher."

"You want me to go hard on your ass? "


I think the point was made as I could walk the following morning.

Reunited with the supporters’ club we find a pizza before settling in to watch the drama unfold from the stands lining the finish chute as the 15 hour cut off time approached. Dark now, the carpet steamed under the heat from the spotlights as the final athletes bounced, crawled, walked and joked down the final few metres. Some of those Pirates left it a bit late but we were very happy to welcome them home. At least half of the supporters club noted that the comely Fraulein in the opposing stand must have been cold.

Grand finale laser show was a "quiet" affair. the cities regulations restricting noise levels after 10pm.

We were happy to leave after the curtain closed.

All that was left was to pick up the bike and the transition bags and wobble back to the car.

It smelled like there was something fermenting in the transition bags.

After putting everything to bed it was 1a.m. before setting the alarm for 9 the next morning to be in time for the awards ceremony.

Monntag: The trip to the awards ceremony was less stressful than the trip to the pre race briefing. The "breakfast buffet" was a bit weird. Pasta, rice, chicken nougats, chopped up sausage, bread rolls, cake, free beer. Happy days.

Finishing at #199 the Hawaii role down was unlikely to be personally dramatic. We were very happy to see a Brit female athlete scream "YES!" just after the third time of calling. She really didn't expect to be going to Kona (and almost wasn't). There was a whip round amongst her compatriots to find the E470 cash required to send her on her way.

Mittwoch: Day 3 after the race and I can move from seated to standing without wincing. The sciatica is back but no surprises there. I'm sat on a tennis ball as I type.

There were 2700 entries, 2500 athletes on the start line and 1983 finishers. I finished 199th in my age group, my heart rate average was 158bpm and I consumed 8,156 calories across  a duration of 11:33:50 taking in a swim of 1:11, bike of 5:34, and run of 4:34.

Does this tell the story? Is there more to tell? Is completing an Ironman an end in itself or just a beginning?

Well, I may have told a story. I hope there is more to tell. I'm happy to have completed the first Ironman that I entered. I suspect there will be more, Ironman races included.


By the way: There's a fair amount of technical detail above. It's not intended as advice - particularly the Andrews Liver Salts which are an osmotic laxative and so could easily lead to dehydration on a hotter day.