Mal wieder der Rennbericht für QR:
“Four shall be the number…” – Race Report Challenge Roth Relay Competition
The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch
Damn, fate does not know Monty Python! It goes like this as far as I remember:
“First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it."
So no counting to four, dear fate. Nonetheless sometimes four is your number and it was our number on Sunday. Then again, I came in 3rd among all 4.000 cyclists of the day, so perhaps three is the number after all. But let’s start from the beginning:
How it came to be
What was planned a a supporting weekend for my significantly better half at her relay marathon at Challenge Roth turned out to be quite a close race for the podium in my own relay. A few weeks prior to the Iron distance race in the world (approx 3.500 individuals and 600 relays) I was approached by two very nice guys who needed a decent cyclist as theirs had had to pull out of the race due to injury. I had done a realy in Roth three times already and would do it again at any time. There is nothing like it. 30.000 people cheering you on at that famous hill called Solarer Berg gives me goose bumps every time even though I already did the race seven times.
So I hooked up with Pascal and Juergen from Warendorf in order to crash the top 10 at the male relay division. Regrettably both of them were plagued with illness (Pascal with a 6 week long flu, Jürgen with that nagging plantar fasciitis) so they arrived not 100% in shape. That was in a way just like me as I had shown some decent bike splits in shorter races but blown up badly at a local half iron relay I did with my family only three weeks before Roth. So neither of us was sure whether we could do what we had wanted to do and all added about 5min to our expected times. If this all worked out, we’d be in a range of 8:20-8:25h with a 60min swim, 4:35h bike and 2:45h run.
QR at the Expo
The day before the race I visited the QR booth at the expo and had the pleasure the meet QR's Steve Dunn and German QR distributor Bernd Adamski and chat a bit. It was really nice to finally meet you guys and chat a bit. I recommended triathlons most famous hill: Solarer Berg to Steve and hope that he made it there on race day. From the expo I head-ed over to T1 to drop off my bike and there was nothing left to do than to go to bed and hope for the best.
When the gun went off at 8:50am Sunday morning our swimmer Pascal was right on par with expectations: He finished his swim in just over one hour (1:00:18h) and already I was off with the time chip that served as our baton. I had not only blown up at that last half iron relay but also had surrendered 10min to fatigue on the second loop in the 2011 Roth relay.
Race strategy blowing in the wind
My plan thus was to really approach this race conservatively at around 280 watts in the flats. This worked out quite well until the 30km marker. From then on there was a stiff head wind in a 16km long section that usually is the fastest section of the whole course. Even though my wattage was at about 300 I had difficulty to maintain the 40kph that I had aimed at for ma average speed for the whole 180km. In this section I was actually overtaken for the first time and tried to stay within a save 15 meters dis-tance of the guy. But after some 5km I just gave up, his stroke was too powerful and I let him go expecting never to see him again.
At the foot of Kalvarienberg hill, at 5km and 5% grade on average the longest of the climbs in Roth, my average was already well below 40kph. And the hill was still to come. Damn! But it was the same wind for everyone I kept telling myself. And I wanted to take it out conservatively. I told this to myself a lot of times also. The ascent of Kalvarienberg though was great! We had a tail wind for the first time that day and I flew up the hill. Great fun! The cross winds on the following descent though were no fun at all and I had to really hold on to the extensions of my aerobars. Strangely the first signs of cramps in my quads started to show at 70km already and I was a bit worried. Then I remembered some words I had heard from Macca once about how cramps this early in a race are quite probably a problem of electrolytes only and can be fought with salts. I thus put in as much sports drink and salt as I could within the next hour an the cramps went away. During this hour I had the privilege again to climb triathlons most famous hill: Solarer Berg. I know what to expect and those goose bumps began to show way before I could even the crowd. Riding up the hill was fantastic again and it was over in an instant. I had a blast and witnessed the second coming of Christ in the form of my teammate Pacsal handing me the second set of water bottles full of Powerbar Isomax. This stuff really made a difference on Sunday as I was able to drink off the cramps after 120km.
Solarer Berg is at the 75km marker of the two loop course (2 loops of 85km + 10km from T1 to T2) and only 15min after passing the hill I got my split time for lap one: 2:09:31h. This was 4min slower than my first lap in 2011 but due to the wind and me taking it a little easier it seemed fine. Heading into the second lap I noticed that the wind had turned around 180° wondered what this would mean for the next 100km. For some time I was not sure what would happen but when I reached the point where we had had that strong head wind for 15km I noticed that the wind was now coming from behind and I was flying! Really flying at ~50 kph! Those 15km were over in three minutes less than on lap one and at a significantly lower wattage (~270 lap 2 vs. ~300 lap 1). Concerning wattage: surprisingly my wattage did not drop during the whole ride. It was 280 in the flats on lap one and two. I must have been the lower temperatures that remained in low 20s (Celsius) for most of the ride compared to the high 20s back in 2011.
So it was up Kalvarienberg for the second time at 125km. Right here I had blown up last year so I was very careful not to overdo it there. Surprisingly everything was fine. No signs of cramps, no heavy breathing, no blowing up. I was relieved and reached the top of Kalvarienberg in no time. Only 50 more kilometers to go. On the first lap I had passed a lot of the faster athletes on their second loop and in the end overtaken the second pro woman. On the second loop it was the relays and the slower age groupers only. The speed difference was big but in a harsh contrast to last year I did not see many groups sharing the effort in the wind. So even though there were some 4.000 cyclists on the 85km loop I did not see too much drafting going on. This though is just my personal experience as others told me that there was blatant group riding taking place. Luckily no one tried to suck my wheel.
After the descent to Karm on lap two (at 140km) I was began to really believe that this was going to be the day when I would break the 4:30h barrier for the first time. And – I did not really believe it myself – caught myselfcontemplating as to when to start a final push for the finish. Still you might even blow up with 10km to go and I had my bad days and know that when this happens it’s not fun at all. So I kept on pushing a steady 280 watts towards the second ascent of Solarer Berg. Once up there in Solar I grabbed one last water bottle, splashed it over my long sleeve Skins 400 cycling jersey (the best thing there is, period!), ate the last caffeinated PowerGel and started the last push. It’s almost 20km to go from there but there are no more hills to climb. Just two bridges and that was going to be it. And even last year I had been able to push an average of 43kph for the last 9km from T1 to T2. So off the cannonball went and just after that last aid station I saw him again: The only guy who had overtaken me had clearly blown up badly. I passed him at a speed difference of at least 5kph and went off. When I pressed the lap button for the second lap I was taken aback at what I saw: I had completed the second loop in 2:04:44h, just about 5min FASTER than the first loop. Must have been the wind.
I knew that it’s exactly 9km from T1 to T2 and had the wind in my back. It was great fun. On those last 10km the really tough guys of the day take it easy, try to get some last solid food in and prepare their legs for the run to come. Right there was the moment when I really cherished the fact that today my exercise was over after the bike. That was especially true as right there and then the cloud cover that had shielded competitors the whole morning was breaking up, the sun came out and the winds subsided. It was going to be a hard day for a marathon. Lucky me! My last thing to do was to hand my bike over to one of the great volunteers and run into transition to pass our timing chip on the our runner, Juergen. Not really sure where I would find him in transition – I had in the mean time forgotten my own bib – I went through there shouting “Juergen, Juergen, Juergen!” because there was a little doubt in my mind whether he was already there as I was some 10min ahead of schedule having completed the 180km in 4:26:38h. This had placed us in fifth position in the relay competition and we still stood a chance for the podium. The noble steed that is my QR CD 0.1 had carried me to the second fastest bike split among some 600 relays. And as the only guy faster than me is a professional cyclist riding for a continental UCI team, that’s fine with me. One guy though, carzy Konstantin Bachor was even faster than this guy, but Konstantin had preceeded the 180km biking with 3,8km of swimming and finished his day off with a marathon of 3:04h to finish in 6th place overall in the men’s professional division. Cudos to the bold old school Swim/Biker who entered T2 with some 10min over Timo Bracht and the eventual winner of the pro race James Cunnama.
So Juergen literally tore the timing chip from my ankle and was gone in a second. All I could do from now on was to hope for him to find his good running legs today. The athlete tracker that we followed closely had him in 3rd, 4th,5th and even 6th during the run. But somehow the times did not really add up all the time so we could only speculate. To me his marathon just flew by and when I received word that he approached the finish line after passing the 38km mark I really had to hurry in order to meet him at the spot we had agreed on some 400m from the finish line. Pascal and I saw him early and could prepare to get up to speed to run alongside him but when he went by he was still running very fast. As there were a few other competitors also running towards the finish we de-cided to run behind him and only on the last meters run side by side. Somehow though Juergen slipped away and left Pascal and me a few meters behind when he crossed the finish line at full speed. The finish line photo looks a little awkward:
Juergen’s marathon time of 2:51:56h had us finish a close 4th in a total time of 8:21:59h some 5min off that coveted third spot on the podium.
For me this race was a surprise. And a positive on in that! Never would I have thought that I’d be able to ride 4:26h in 2012. My best time had been 4:31h from 2008 and that year I went on to post the fastest bike split at the Ironman I took part in. If this is not a good sign I don’t know what else is.
The next weeks
It’s the last block of solid base mileage that is coming in the next four weeks until my last league race is coming up on August 12th. On the bike I think the power is there, it’S the run and swim that is going to get some more attention during this time.
For the numbers guy
Power file 2012: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/197430141
Power file 2011: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/98300271