Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Ironman Frankfurt Race Report

Firstly apologies for the delay in writing this final race report, Ive been very busy lately and feeling abit down about the race being over and wanted to wait until I felt good to write an honest decent report rather than just rush it to get it over with.

So with the event over and done with now its time that I share my experiences of the race that I have been training for for over 6 months so grab a cup of tea, sit back and enjoy.

Thursday 4th July -

Went and picked up the hire car for the journey ahead of us, myself and co-pilot Jamie were about to drive 450 miles across 3 countries and was very much a venture into the unknown as neither of us had ever driven abroad but guided by the trusty sat nav we arrived at the hotel at around 6pm. After researching parking around Frankfurt prior to leaving I knew that it was going to either difficult, expensive or both. Jamie the eagle eye spotted a space right outside the hotel so we parked up and went in to see if we could leave the car there all weekend. The receptionist advised it was free from 6pm-8am and from 6pm Friday - 8am Monday, amazing luck knowing the car parks were around 20 euros a day but the bad news being you had to pay by the hour and only for 1 hour meaning 1 of us would need to go back to the car every hour to put in 2 euros on the friday.... step up Jamie who done me the biggest favour of doing this.

Friday 5th July -

I met up with Paul from tritalk forums who I had been chatting to about the race online before hand and knew we were in the same hotel, Paul and his wife had both done the race multiple times before and were a wealth of both knowledge and definitely helped calm any nerves I had on the Friday. Thanks to Jamie I was able to go out all day to register and see transitions etc without worrying about the car getting clamped or towed, I can imagine going out to the meter every hour from 9-5 was not fun!. I went and got registered and got the race day band put on and all of a sudden it became abit more real, seeing the finish line being built made me think that not finishing was not an option. Evening dinner and a beer and an early night as I knew this would probably be the last proper sleep id get before race day.

Saturday 6th July -

Woke up nice and early and had breakfast, I was keen to get all the bike racking etc done as early as possible so I could get off my feet and watch the all important lions game. We went down to the bus stop and climbed aboard with my bike and bike bag for transition. Typical German efficiency ensured we arrived in good time and before I knew it the bike and bag were racked. I wanted to go down to the swim start to see the venue/buoys and get a feel for race day, I also used this opportunity to go for a dip in the water, the temperature was around 22 degrees so wetsuits were optional for race day. After about 15 minutes swimming I exited the water and decided there and then to go non-wetuit for race day, I had been having issues with tightness in the wetsuit shoulders and did`nt want to risk my arms gassing out after 2k, also I knew that I had swam the full distance without a wetsuit many times before in the pool. We jumped back on the bus back to Frankfurt to find a pub to watch the lions game, seeing so many people on there way down there around 2/3pm I realised what a great decision to go early and relax for the afternoon. That afternoon my 2 good friends Tim and Helen arrived and had driven over from Oxford to come and watch me, that evening all 4 of us went out for an early dinner so that I could get a decent sleep. I went to bed around 10ish and think I got to sleep around 11ish.

Sunday 7th July - Race Day

Woke up at 3:30am and think I slept straight through the night which was good as I read alot that before a big race many people get 1 or 2 hours if that. Black coffee,porridge and a coating of factor 50 p20 once a day sun oil as it was predicted hot then went down and into reception to meet Paul and another guy we had met over the past days. We walked down to the intercontinental hotel where all the coaches were lined up ready to take the athletes to the lake to start this epic day. On the coach I was lucky enough to get a seat (thanks Helen) and as we drove along in the dark morning there was`nt much talk, just a sense of anticipation of the day to come, looking around I could see people visualizing their race or listening to their Ipod getting into the zone (like I was myself). The coach stopped and before I knew it we were out and it was bands only area so it was time to say goodbye, a quick hug with my amazing supporters and that was it... I was on my own from then on.
I found my bike where I had left it yesterday and all the worries of my wheels being stolen or eaten by a bear were put to rest. I borrowed someones track pump and pumped up my tyres (always good to let them down if the night before race as the cool/hot air change expands the air and bursts the tubes). I put my ipod on and then just started walking about busying myself for the hour I had before we started, I found myself walking around just wasting energy whereas I should have just sat down and relaxed. I bumped into lots of people I knew racing from Watford which was nice considering there were 2600 people I think I saw them all at least once, small banter and some good lucks and then it was the call for the first wave down to the lake. I was in the second (mass) wave at 7am start but that meant I only had 20 minutes to hand in my white bag (finishing clothes) and head down to the beach. I only say 2 others without a wetsuit and did get some funny looks from people walking past asif I hadnt heard the "optional" word in the build up... not to worry, I headed down and stood on the shore watching the elites get into the water, once 6:45 arrived the gun started and the race started, I now had 15 minutes to compose myself and really get into the zone. I met up with fellow backfish Helen on the beach and we stood together chatting and calming each others nerves, it was at that point I decided not to be at the front of the swim and to just go at the back and relax it was going to be a long day.......

The swim - 2.4miles - I walked into the water at literally the last minute and bobbed about, 2300 athletes all bobbing next to one another, all ready to race 140 miles for different personal reasons, mine was to prove to myself that I could do it, nothing else. Its a strange feeling being in there before the gun on a race like this, everyone is silent, ready to go, focused. The commentator then announced 1 minute to go and people started to get excited all wishing each other good luck and thumbs up, even to people you didn't know there was just a nod of appreciation of you and them both being there. 10 seconds to go and then the countdown 5,4,3,2,1....... The gun goes off... This is it...
We all started swimming and it was amazing, so many people all unison swimming together! I could still her the commentators g`in the crowd on to cheer louder and louder and it was a great sensation, After a few hundred meters it was down to business and I had that buoy in my site. I have done a few mass starts now and its always pot luck to weather you get some free space to move or get constantly cut up and bettered by everyone, unfortunately on this occasion.. mine was the latter. I was constantly getting kicked about by people doing breaststroke and trying to swim over me but did eventually find some clean water and was nearing the first buoy, when I arrived to my absolute disgust there were people cutting the corner and despite the marshals shouting and waving they just seemed to carry on, me on the other hand cut everyone up and swam horizontally across just to ensure I went round it properly, I could never call myself an ironman if I didn`t complete the full 140.6 distance. I know it was only probably 10 meters gained but its not the point, I dont know how people can train for that long only to cheat themselves, o well rant over..
The swim was going well and I had found some decent space and someone to draft off this kept me safe through to the Australian exit where we ran out under and arch over a strip of sand then dived back in for the second (smaller) loop, this was a really nice touch as it gave my legs a break and I knew I was over half way there. The second loop I found harder as without the suit my legs were sinking a little and conscious not to pump them too hard to waste energy to just powered my arms through the last few hundred meters as hard as they would go. I got out the water and then ran up the steep sand back into T1.

Swim time - 01:17:39 - was a little disappointed with the time but without a wetsuit I was never going to break any records.

Transition 1 - After running up the steep beach I swiftly found my bag and decided to use the porter loo, I went in and couldn't decide if I wanted to go or not, after around 2 minutes I eventually decided I did`nt need to go and went to the change tent (what a waste of time). I sat down and toweled my feet as they had sand all over them from the beach. I found myself just going at my own slow pace and taking my time here, I knew what 112 miles felt like and the last thing I wanted was to be uncomfortable in anyway. I put some bib shorts on over tri-suit and ran to my bike for the start of the bike.

T1 - 09:09

The Bike - 112 miles - After 1hr 17mins swimming I was actually very happy to be on the bike as I knew that id done the course and was confident that I could put in a good time. The first 10 or so miles are on a motorway style road that I remember being very quick the last time I rode it, then I realised that there was a big difference... the wind. When I came out in May I comfortably averaged 24mph across this stretch of road as its smooth and swooping however looking at my garmin I was struggling to maintain 19mph and was conscious not to fight myself and over exert too early on or I would definitely pay later on. The bike course is fantastic in Frankfurt, smooth fast roads with lots of opportunity to sit on TT bars in aero with a few climbs to keep it interesting, the heart break hill climb is tour de France style atmosphere with crowds closing in with only enough room for one bike at a time.. amazing . The first lap seemed to go very very quick and I just maintained a steady pace throughout conscious that I had a whole lap to go. When I eventually got to the end of lap one I was struggling, I saw Vicky (a fellow jogger) around 70 miles who shouted encouragement to me but I knew I didnt have much left, my speed had dropped to around 14.5mph, my legs felt heavy and I felt tired, not bonked tired as I knew I was eating enough but I think the heat of the afternoon was starting to take its toll on me. I carried on in the smallest gear I could find on each climb just concentrating on cadence and forgetting my speed, I used every aid station I could find to pick up water and bananas, this turned out to be great strategy as I accidentally picked up a bottle of flat coke instead of water (he said it was water), this was a game changer as the sugar loaded me up I began to feel good again, not amazing but a world away from where I was mid way through. During the bike course I saw lots of people off their bikes at the side of the road looking for some shade and rest, 112 miles is taxing on its own but bring the heat into play its a whole different game.

I was probably 20miles from the end and my feet were absolutely killing me, my shoe soles are carbon so theres no flex or give and after 5 hours this starts to really hurt, I had no option other than to take my feet out of my shoes and pedal on the top of them for the remaining hour or so. After the final assault on heart break hill I knew it was all downhill from then and I went for it as hard as I could knowing that I could make up some lost time, I probably averaged 26mph back into Frankfurt and by now the full force of the sun was out for all too see!

Bike Time - 06:21:10 - 6 hours was ambitious but given how rough I felt mid ride I am really happy with that time.. could have been alot worse.

Transition 2 - off the bike with my coke bottle and gave it to one of the support crew members who were fantastic the whole weekend, I trotted into T2 and picked up my run bag sat down and just gave myself a minute to think. I joked with the guy next to me "only a little run to go now" he didnt look impressed.. I was burnt slightly under my arms but had packed chamois cream + sun cream for this reason. I opened the chamois cream only to find that the usual paste had turned into a melted ice cream in the pot so I threw it back and opted for some factor 50 for the run, visor, knee support and trainers on and I was good to go.

T2 - 06:06

The Run - 26.2 miles - So with keeping with the previous trends I was happy to be running and to never see my bike ever again, with all my previous issues and ITB problems I knew it would be a matter of survival and do the best I possibly can with what Ive got left in the tank. The run course was hot.. very hot 4 laps of 10k, it felt like we were all running in some tropical country many miles away, I was conscious of staying hydrated and fueled as best I can without feeling sick so I opted for the same strategy at every aid station 2 cups of water, 1 cup of ice cubes (i read holding them cools core temp) and 2 sponges to put under tri-suit and keep me cool.

The first lap or 2 were not to bad, I am so lucky to have had the support of Helen Tim and Jamie out there on the course with me, they had positioned themselves perfectly to see me twice every lap so I knew it was only 5k until I would see them again, a massive massive motivator. I was comfortably pacing around 11.5 min miles which felt good up until around 13 miles when I saw Paul from the hotel, he was walking as he had calf issues. Soon after that the wheels just seemed to fall off, its very demoralizing seeing others with 2/3/4 bands on their arms knowing they are that many laps ahead of me but this is where I really had to start digging deep. My feet were really sore and swollen, my shins were aching and I could`nt run anymore, I tried to run as much as I could but the pain was simply too much to bare after a while. At around 15 miles I was pushed to powerwalk but this was good as I had been practicing it during training because of my knee, staring at my Garmin I was walking ~ 12.30min miles, this seemed to work for about 2/3 miles then my feet finally said no more. I walked the last 10 or so miles as quick as I possibly could, I was shuffling along trying different techniques to see which hurt less, this passed the time in between seeing my support guys each lap. At around 24 miles Helen from team blackfish (standing on the beach with) overtook me looking very comfortable, I said hi and tried to run at that point to finish with her but it just did`nt happen - my legs were cooked.
The last band was on my arm and I was determined to finish strong, I pushed the pace for the last 500 or so meters to ensure there was no-one around me so I could have my own finish line moment, I made that final turn to the finish chute and high fived everyone that I could lay my hands on

I turned the final bend and could see the finish line there in front of me, I ran across to high five Jamie, Helen and Tim who were all ecstatic as was I at that point, I will always recall Jamie Shouting "you`ve F*****G Done it!" as I ran towards the finish line euphoric relief came over me as I crossed the line to the words "Robert Bissland - You are an Ironman" - Works that Ive been longing to hear for many years

Run Time - 5:30:51

Total Race Time - 13:25:05

So Ive done it, the task I set out to do around 18 months ago that people just laughed at the words "marathon after bike". After a much needed holiday around Europe sampling some of the finer beers in life I am now back to reality which is ... normal life.

I got home from my trip and collated my thoughts of what had been and gone and the journey along the way, the picture below sums up the journey quite nicely

My three main races that have got me to where I am today. So the after thoughts.......

Firstly the Ironman was an amazing day, great support throughout and a very well organized event, I will always look back on that day with fond memories and am proud of myself for actually going out and giving it my all on the day to the very best I could have done. I know I could have done more training, I know I could have worked longer in the pool, I know I should have been following my plan to a tee.... but I did`nt, life gets in the way and injuries really do happen (from experience now). I think if you are going to tackle one of these races you dont need to be an elite athlete of any type but you need to have that mental strength that says "I will not quit or give up" at any stage, being able to dig deep mentally I believe is far greater asset to have than to do so physically. I had heard so much about "that finish line feeling" from everyone else and how it was the most amazing thing ever etc... I think for me personally it was more relief to make it in one piece and known that i`d done it, wimbleball gave me a feeling I have yet to feel again which I`m not to sure if it was because it was my first proper race or just the occasion of it all.

So what now...

They talk about Ironman blues and I must say since race day there have certainly been some empty holes in my life, nothing to train for and no goals set is quite a strange feeling. I have been driven by this race for almost a year and now its done I`m not sure whats next... another ironman? more halfs? something different? Who knows! I only know that I need something to aim for and work towards for next year, many others have entered another IM for next year, me personally its still too soon as the pain memories of the run still etched in my head, maybe once they go ill be better placed to decide to tackle another. I think in going into the unknown you have a slight mental edge as you dont know whats coming until it gets there however knowing what an IM marathon feels like now definitely puts me off doing another.

I keep thinking about tackling wimbleball again as I really enjoyed the race and it was challenging enough and besides now I have a PB to beat....

Ive got a monster relay half in 2 weeks which I am the swimmer which should be good and then a sprint distance with a mate in September.

Ill keep posted what the next adventure will be.....

Half Iron
Double Ironman? - ha!

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