RACE REPORT: IRONMAN GERMANY
written by: Brian Quigley
So... The race is organized and managed flawlessly. If there is a "perfect" race for a first time ironman this has got to be it. I was up at 3:45 on race day, fixed myself my usual breakfast and took the shuttle down to the lake where we had set up our bikes the night before. I set up my transition area, donned my wetsuit and got in the water to be in a good position for the 2000 person mass start. I was treading water for about 25 min waiting for the rest of the racers to file in to the lake and got to check out the 5000+ spectators gathered on the shore while listening to the German national anthem (and chariots of fire... which, while corny, gave me chills)
The gun went off and it was f-ing pandemonium. During the first 5 min I think I took 3 breaths, had my goggles kicked off my face twice and had a guesstimated heartrate of about 400 bpm. After the inital sprint it settled down a bit and I tried to get into a rhythm, sighting as often as I could along the bouys, but it was still crowded. It was a 2 lap course and the first turn was murder. Everyone was jammed into the turn and it was impossible to swim. Every time I tried to take a stoke I hit another wetsuit. Stopping would have been suicide so I side-stroked around the turn (using my free arm to beat the living shit out of anyone nearby) and got myself way outside of the main pack. Once I had space I started sighting on the boundry markers of the course and I found my groove, turning in a 1:08 on the swim. About what I expected and not bad since I probably swam a couple hunded yards longer than everyone else considering my path.
T1 was huge but well laid out. I went through the wetsuit strippers, found my bike and walked it out to the bike-mount area resulting in nearly a 6:00 t-1 time.
I started the bike very easy, spinning at 90 rpm in the little ring. It is a scenic bike course layed out in 2 loops with a flat, fast 12 Km lead in from the lake. My goal was to consume 400 calories and still be in low HR zone 2 by the start of the first loop. I accomplished both, but was getting passed like I was standing still. By KM 20 we started hitting the first of the climbs and I was beggining to reel in some of the riders who had passed me in the flats. The crowd was awesome. An estimated 300,000 showed up along the course and in the city to cheer and a couple of the hills were like the Alp'd Huez (minus the spitting) with drunken Germans running along side of you cheering and patting you on the back and the crowd waving flags and parting just before you run over them. Around KM 45 my stomach started giving me problems and the next 100KM of my race basically turned into a series of sprints from porta-potty to porta-potty. I'll leave out the gory details, but I ended up with a 6:16 bike.
I handed off my bike at T2 (which was again, set up with typically pefect Germany efficiency) and got to see Norman and the leaders on the 3 loop course around the river with and aid station about every Km. It felt just like a long distance training run around the Charles. The set up is flat and could get monotonous if not for the DJ booths belting out euro-pop and more spectators, plus it makes it easy to see family/friends/teamates on the course. The weather was sunny and in the mid 80's. My heart rate monitor died coming out of T2 and after the first loop I began to feel the heat so I took it easy, started taking salt tabs every hour and just enjoyed the crowd. The finish is in the heart of the old-city where they have bleachers set up. I kicked on the final .5 Km and sprinted across the finish for a 4:51 run and 12:25 total.
I met most of my objectives for my first Ironman and finished in about the time I expected and found plenty of room for improvement and am already looking forward to my next one!