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Race Reports 2012

Roth - Mike Billups (July 2012)

Recollections on Roth

This trip had been planned some time ago, but not soon enough to get a start slot booked before all places had been sold out in a matter of hours after being available. This event is popular! And so it was that I ended up booking with Nirvana a travel package that included a guaranteed place in the event. It was probably a blessing, as I found myself travelling out early Friday morning with fellow Farnham members Mark Norsworthy and Richard Brooke. We had a stress free flight and were effortlessly escorted back to our hotel in Nurenberg by the Nirvana team along with about at least a dozen other fellow Brits. A nice couple that I was chatting with turned out to live in Odiham and were recent members of Fleet Tri. They said they had done a few sprints last year and “thought they would give this a go”. Oh, the courage of the innocent!

Friday afternoon/evening was spent travelling to the event HQ in Roth and officially reregistering and getting our race packs and transition bags. Then it was on to the “Carbo Party” in a huge tent . I was amazed by how efficiently we were all fed and catered for. I guess it was Germany. There were a lot of people.

The next day also seemed a busy one. Sometimes it seems that all the pre event rigmarole is a test of endurance in itself! We loaded up our bikes on the Nirvana truck about lunchtime in readiness for another coach trip to Roth to rack our bikes. This was our first view of the canal and the swim start. I wheeled my bike through security where our timing chips were checked with our race numbers on bike and helmet. One jovial official checking mine asked if I was going to be a “long time on the bike”, and pointed at my back light which I had thought was not worth the trouble of removing. My race machine was not impressing anyone.

After that it was another longish walk back to the bus and a further trip back to Roth for the race briefing. This was in the big tent where we had dined the previous evening. For some reason it was conducted in long sequences of German, with a few gags thrown in…. as there was much laughing after what must have been some killer punch lines. Sadly the English version contained no jokes and little of interest in regards to helping with the race.

Myself and Richard Brooke decided to leave and we found Mark outside having discovered a Pizza stall. Dinner sorted.

More waiting and then back on the bus to our Hotel for an early night.

Race morning! After something to eat and a coffee at early o clock we all piled on the bus and left about 4.15am. The anticipation of the day ahead was palpable on the bus, but exciting! The bus dropped us off as near as possible and we were left to walk the last few hundred yards with the rest of the gathering crowds. This was a staggered start, with the pros going off first at 6.30 am and myself and Mark in wave number 10 an hour later. We could chill out and watch the pros start. The PA system was blaring out some unidentifiable anthemic stirring music and the tension and excitement were definitely building.

I fell in line for a last visit to the Portoloos and just as I made it to the front of the queue I was approached by a slightly harassed looking girl. “excuse me, do you mind if I go in front of you? I am a pro and my start time is in less than 5 minutes” Well, how could I refuse. It made me feel a little more relaxed knowing that even the pros feel the pressure.

It was nearly time to do battle. This became a very appropriate thought as 6.30 came….. and Bang! The sound of Cannon Fire! How cool is that? This is no ordinary event. The pros had started.

Well, my turn came and I got the same cannon firing routine. There is no way you can miss your start time with that going off. It was quite a relaxed start in comparison with the mass start of other events I had done and I avoided getting hit and found no trouble in finding water to swim in as opposed to bodies to crawl over. Yippee, we were off!

It was a fairly routine swim after that . All I can say is that the canal was wide and warm (at 23c) and easy to navigate.

There was a bit of excitement on my part when I started overtaking the pink hats (the ladies).

There was a slight worry before the finish of the swim when I realised that there were no race number markings on me at this event, which meant that you needed to remember it in order to find your bike transition bag. I had no desire to play peek-a-boo with the multitudes of bags on offer and so felt truly lucky when I did not forget my number and found my bag first time .

Wetsuit off and bike gear on I legged it out to my bike and off. So far so good.

It soon became apparent on the bike that it was incredibly windy and there was a strong headwind for much of the course. I heard afterwards that it had never been like this before for this event. We Brits have been lucky with the weather this year. Still, the roads were absolutely perfect with not a pothole in sight a perfectly smooth tarmac. The aid stations were many, (every 17Km) and well run. The first one I came to was manned by the military, complete with two soldiers either side of the road standing to attention and in salute mode for us cyclists. Respect!

I am pretty hopeless in getting my nutrition right, but for this one I decided on going for “Eat Natural” bars and bananas. No gels for me this time.

I helped pass the time on the bike by saying hello to all the girls that I overtook, as there names were clearly displayed on there race numbers. This lasted for about the first half a dozen or so and then I came upon a slim female with the name “Fella” how unfortunate, I thought. I gave up saying hi after this point and just got on with pedalling. I still studied the many names and nationalities that passed me. They seemed to all have much more exotic sounding names than the English. One guy passed me with the name “Carlos Jesus”, I thought he must be truly blessed.

It was a two lap course and after I was nearing completion of the first, I started wondering where this famous hill was that people had told me about. And then ……there it was! I could not so much see the hill as the hundreds, maybe thousands of people on it. There were barricades either side of the road and we were funnelled into the crowd in single file. Well, it was just awesome. These people were out for a good time and they were certainly letting us cyclists know about it. There were Mexican waves, whistles, bells and all manner of encouraging words being shouted. If I had hair , it would have been standing up, it was certainly a goose bump moment and quite emotional. These people were just fantastic! Then, eventually the hill ended and it was just back to the pedalling.

Another lap soon came, more bananas eaten and as much to drink as I could manage. I had been feeling fairly ok on the bike, just trying to strike the balance of maintaining a good pace, but keeping it fairly steady. The last 15 Km’s or so on the bike started to feel a real effort, though. I was tired, I seemed to be slowing down, what was going wrong? I am still not sure what happened, but I seemed to suddenly find myself in T2 unprepared and feeling in a detached dreamlike state of not knowing what was going on. I found someone taking my bike from me and just about retrieved my Garmin watch off the handlebars with much effort and time wasted. I then remember being in the transition tent with a very kind lady holding my transition bag and trying to help me with it. She turned into my personal dresser as I changed my tri top for a Farnham run vest, got my cap and shades on, telling her how tired I was and then announcing” I am off now”. I remember her shouting at me “shoes! Shoes!” I looked down and could see I still had my bike shoes on. Oh dear. She helped me correct this problem and I was off. I bet she remembered me for a while later.

After this, it was not with much confidence that I tried to find my running legs. It was only after about 1 km down the road, however that I realised that I had made another error in T2. I was still wearing my bike shorts! More fantastic help given to me at the first aid station in the form of a lovely girl helper who allowed me to lean on her whilst I removed them, thus stopping me from falling over. After this I was on my merry way and surprisingly seemed to be moving along pretty well. I was not feeling too good , but my Garmin was giving me times that I was quite happy with.

I seemed to be “in the zone”, a zombie like state where all you care about is keep moving your legs and little else. The aid stations were every 2Km or so and offered many options in nutrition. My stomach could not cope with eating anything, so I opted for a strategy of water at one and coke at the next. It was getting pretty hot at this point and there were cold wet sponges on offer which was a life saver. I noticed further along the route that many people were “wearing them” as seemingly bizarre fashion accessories……. as shoulder pads, under hats and places I dare not look.

The run course itself was fairly unusual in long distance racing, in that it was not multiple loops, but one long out and back in varying directions. Fortunately for me most of it was off road and along a tow path along a canal, making the run a little less hard on the feet. It was mind numbingly straight though and you could see a line of runners for miles ahead. This was not a good idea, so I just focussed on an area about 10 feet in front of me and just got on with it. After many miles we had a little excursion away from the canal and a tour round a little town and then fed back the same way that we had come. Roth has got a reputation as being a “fast” course, but believe me this course is not all flat!

The Kms went by pretty slowly, but bit by bit I felt I was making good progress and was maintaining consistent mile lap times. I made a brief stop off the trail for my first pee of the day. I had been going for over nine hours by then and drinking as much as possible the whole time (obviously not enough). Many people were walking and it was a good morale booster to keep passing people, but I was feeling really tired. I started daydreaming of just collapsing to the ground in a silently weeping heap. I tried to keep those thoughts out of my mind, that could wait for the finish line. In the words of Bruce Springsteen , it was time to “C’mon and take your best shot, let me see what you have got”. I kept running.

Well, the last 3 kms or so of the run takes you through a sort of lap of honour through Roth where there are tables lined up along the village full of cheerful people drinking beer. I made eye contact with several of these happy people and found them to be full of real compassion and willing you to succeed. It really lifted my spirits. A final bit of run left out into the countryside and the finish line came to me. I had made it! It was only then that I allowed myself to look at my finish time and it was 11.29, better than I had ever dared to hope for. It was all quite emotional. I got my medal and slowly made my way out back to the HQ. Somehow amongst the mêlée of people I was greeted by Richard Brooke who must have finished quite some time before me. I was not really feeling very well at this point, but did notice that they were giving out cold beers to everyone who wanted it. I managed to grab one, but then wondered why? As I just didn’t have the stomach for it or any of the wonderful food on offer.

It had been a truly fantastic day, but I would only begin to enjoy it after recovering a day or so later.

I would say that anybody who wants to take on a long distance triathlon for the first time, or who has done many, but not this one, this is a “must do” event.

Mike Billups