Roth was and is still the place to do an Ironman distance race. At present it is a race from the Challenge Family, but in 1998 it was the European Ironman Championship and I really wanted to do it. So after my experience in Switzerland the year before I signed up and got a spot. All the German top triathlets were on the start list. Katja Schumacher (1.), Ute Mückel (4.), Nina Kraft (6.), Jürgen Zäck (1.), Lothar Leder (2.), Thomas Hellriegel (6.), Andreas Niedrig (3.), Wolfgang Dittrich (14.) and many more. 196 women and 2105 men finished the race.
I did the preparation with a plan from the book, Workouts for Working People, from Mark Allen and Julie Moss. But my training wasn’t always going to plan. Either I was parting to much or I had to work. Anyway I tried my best to get in shape with the 16 Week plan.
The Bike Check-in
The evening before the race I checked my bike in and was curious to see the bikes from the top athletes. Especially Jürgen Zäck fancy bike with the Softride Suspension System caught my attention. Everything seemed normal. My little outdated Quintana Roo bike was standing on the spot and waited for me. I had mounted my rims for tubular tyres. This type of tyre must be glued to the rim and is known for their outstanding rolling qualities. I had one spare tubular tyre attached to the bike. Just in case.
Race Day Morning
Before the swim start I went back into T1 to fill up my bottles and prepare everything. I straight away saw that I had a flat tyre. There was not much time left and I couldn’t repair this type of tyre. So I decided quickly to exchange the tyre with my spare one and I hoped that I will not get into any trouble later in the race. The flat tyre I stuffed into my saddlebag.
The swim was in the Main-Donau-Canal. Wetsuits were allowed, which was good for me. You had swim on one side up and on the other side back. In the middle were little boats, kayaks, canoes, rubber boats etc., to check if everyone stays on course. So there are only two turn at one end and the other end where you swim back to the exit. I was so sure that I swim straight that I didn’t look up often. The people on one of the boat where screaming at me, but I couldn’t hear them when approaching the boat in the middle of the canal and suddenly I was hitting the boat with my head. Good that it was a rubber boat. I had a good laugh with them and I continued the swim without any further collision. After 1 h 07 min I came out out of the water.
The Bike Ride
Glad that my tyres were still full of air, I started the bike course. Two loops whit a total of 1200 m elevation gain. I remember a couple of things. First, the Solarer Berg with goosebumps feelings riding through the crowds of spectator only a hand’s breadth away from me. Second, a flat tyres at around 70 km. I had to put on my already flat tyres, which I hoped looses the air only slowly. Third, the strong head wind on the beginning of the second loop, which was draining my energy. Fourth, the tyre started to wander on the rim, because there was not enough glue left on the rim and was building up a little bump, which I felt on every rotation of the wheel. Fifth, every 20-30 km I had to stop and fill up some air into the tyre. Eventually I made it into T2 with some back pain form all this bumps. It took me 6 h 12 min to complete this “hell” of a ride. But I was so relieved that I made it at all.
After this bike ride I was glad that I could start to run. I took it easy at the beginning and it stayed like that. There wasn’t much left for any acceleration and it started to get warmer. So I just enjoyed the race course along the canal and the exceptional spectator support. Some people offered bear and bavarian sausages, which was funny and of course illegal to take. When I think about it now, a cold bear wouldn’t have been that bad. 4 h 51 min it took me to complete the marathon, which is a long time. The last 10 km I must have been in some sort of trance, because I can’t remember anything. Strange.
No experiments on the nutrition side. I stayed away from electrolyte drinks, because I hadn’t used them in training. On the bike I got only water, the original PowerBar bars and some coke and bananas on the run. No stomach problems.
12 h 21 was the result of this adventure. A lot slower than the Ironman in Switzerland. But numbers don’t tell the complete story. What counts is the experience I gained. For example I will never use tubular tyres on my racing rims again. A more consistent preparation wouldn’t be a bad idea either, but you never know what life throws at you.