07-12-15 Challenge Roth 140.6

Holly

  • In 11 years and 80 something races I have never once experienced the level of crowd support experienced in ROTH. Whether it was running the canals, riding through the small towns or climbing Solar Berg, you could feel their love and utter joy in having the racers in their community.

Race report Challenge Roth 140.6

 

Quick Background – ever since my last 140.6 IM CDa in 2011, I had pretty much assumed I would take another shot at this distance. Although my effort was good, I felt there was a lot of room for improvement on my 15:28 time. My swim was fair enough but the transitions, bike, and run all could together potentially have a couple hours chopped from them. The biggest area was the run and I intended to spend some serious time working on that, which I did.

So after playing around a lot for the rest of 2011, I embarked on working with someone on my run. After about a year I decided to change directions as I wasn’t really seeing any improvement. I connected with Janet Leet @ Sub5 and we spent a lot of time together starting with undoing some of the “sins of the past” – most notably my feet.

For years I went from one Doctor or advisor to another and they all told me I needed orthotics of one kind of another and exercises of one kind or another. I calculated that over the years I have spent almost $4,000 on orthotics and really I wasn’t any the better of a runner.  Janet had a different approach and we spent 8 months strengthing my feet and working on form before she declared there had to be a structural problem. Finally landed on the core problem – my L4/l3 – basically my lower back. For how knows how long the L4 has been sliding forward and pinching the nerve structure which goes all the way down to the big toe. So much so my right calf is noticeably smaller. I spent about a year working on what I needed to ‘

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With kids (who were not coming) and work (which was not coming!), the trip to Germany was complicated. The week before the race I spent at boy scout camping helping the troop while both boys enjoyed camp. I perhaps over-enjoyed and in the first 3 days I logged over 30 miles of walking and I was in trouble. I couldn’t lift my right leg at the end of that and I had to scale back the rest of the week while working on rest, stretching, icing, and so on to get that fixed.

The Sunday before the race was my first run since the problem and last before the race. I had to call Liz to come get me 25min into. It was heartbreaking. It’s like I didn’t rest it at all!

I AM NOW OFFICIALLY FREAKING OUT

After some paniced emails to my Tri coach and Run coach and Sports Chiro we came up with a plan. No running before the race. Not a step.  Working on figuring out what the heck I am doing suddenly which is causing walking to be a problem. And multiple treatments by Dr Nick.  I also booked a massage for when I landed in Germany, just in case.

I have to say those days between Sunday (failed run) and Wed (flight out) were incredibly stressful. I was unable to figure out what was going on, I was running out of time, and all sorts of bad thoughts were going through my head. FINALLY I came to peace with doing an Aquabike  – if I must – and trying to be happy about it. I cannot say I succeeded but that was the plan.  I always knew that 8 months from ZERO to 140.6 Marathon was a lofty goal. I knew there were risks. I just thought I had cleared all the challenges so this got me by surprise.

Flight over was no problem.  We arrived and Challenge Roth Tours (aka Racequest) met us at the gate with smiles and paparazzi Chris clicking away. It was awesome. We tired but happy and managed to catch a nap soon after we arrived at the hotel (not too long! Need to adjust to jet lag!). Managed to run into Andy Baldwin (from the Bachelor TV Show) who has been stalking me (I kid) – we did a group run together in Knoxville a few months ago as part of the Challenge “day to remember” and then I saw him on the boat at Alcatraz.

I got Princess Tri-cycle assembled and checked over, that was a big weight off my shoulders.

I went to the evening activity in town where we did Registration (with ladies in Dirndl dresses) and then got some food and hung out in the Bier Garden with teammates. I saw tons of people I knew, it was awesome! The Bier Garden event was a meet and greet with Pros but that Challenge Family (like the REAL family – Mom Alice and Son Felix) where there welcoming everyone with warm smiles and open arms. It was great.  Go all the way to Europe and you see know 10+ people and you soon get to know many more. The hospitality was amazing. The only buzzkill was my inability to do all the walking. Had to stop and stretch and rest. That Sucked. Hung out with Emily and Ed from the team and tried not to bore my wife Liz and Gaby (Emily’s husband) too bad with tri-talk! I saw Jeff and his wife and baby, but it was past bedtime so they needed to go. Also got to see Jay, Holly, and Eric O from Challenge Family America who were there doing a relay (VERY competitive relay scene out there btw)

Back to the hotel on the bus and to bed. The hotels in Germany are different but the one that Racequest found (Congress Mercure) was pretty awesome – a REAL king sized bed (German king size is about queen in the states) and all the room we needed. And right next to a GIANT park.

Friday I had to drop off Princess to have “real” mechanics check her over and then head off to the practice swim and then bike course preview.

I got up early so I went for a walk in the local park and did some yoga and meditation to the sunrise (how very hippy of me right? Well you uptight people need to understand this stuff WORKS so add it to your arsenal of tools – I was broken and this was a tool to help fix It, maybe!) Got some amazing photos and took a walk. Experimented with position and so on and I had some ideas that seemed to work – so I practiced them. I needed to push out my gut (instead of suck in) and I had to lean forward (which actually when looking in a window – I was just standing tall). My hypothesis was that I was somehow going back to the FatMan Walk. This is how you see really fat guys walk bent back because of the big belly. That WAS how I used to walk but that is NOT how I walk now. Anyway, it gave me hope.

The Swim was great I got to meet up with Brittany, Jeff, from the team and Andy Baldwin (I told you he was stalking me) and Pete/Hannah (Brittany’s Sherpa-squad!) and Chris had us pose for some funny photos. The swim itself was great, everyone was freaking out because word on the street is it would not be wetsuit legal. However, it was going to be cool the next 2 days and it was already plenty legal. Water was not clear but the taste was fine and the sighting super-easy. This has all the elements of a solid swim, which is what I was hoping for. I’ve been working on the swim and although my coach would never let me sprint it to try to get a sub 1 hour, I was hoping to try to get somewhere near an hour taking it solid-but-not-too-hard.

After the swim we drove the bike course. Wow, how amazing the area is in Bavaria/Roth all these little towns with perfectly kept up houses and lawns and the roads were almost totally clean without big ugly American patching jobs. We took good notes about the key spots – some technical sections in town, Greding hill- the steepest on the course (13%+ for a while then a longer stretch at 6% – easier than the last big hill at Alcatraz) and the most exciting one – SOLAR BERG. Solar Berg was purported to have people 5-10 deep on either side for a VERY LONG section cheering their BRAINS out and although the grade wasn’t bad (6%?) it was one to take slow and relish. Just ride straight into the mass of people and they will part. No passing, Enjoy it. I planned on it.

Although this race is the fastest long course tri (140.6) I was not sure why. It was technical, it was hilly, it was open (which meant the heat would hit) and there were long sections they warned about wind. So how is that FAST? We will find out.

After the bike tour home for a nap then was going to go to the athlete dinner but since I was STILL having problems walking I booked a massage. The Thursday one didn’t happen due to a severe shortage but Racequest was able to hunt one down – but it was right during the meeting. I took it.

I got Princess back Friday night late, so Sat morning I took her for a test ride. My 15 minute ride turned into 1:15. OMG Nuremburg is SO bike friendly. They have separate bike and pedestrian sidewalks. All the lights are bike friendly. All the motorists respect bike rights at crossings. It was amazing. I rode some of town and then wandered some paths – which are EVERYWHERE – through the woods and just had the BEST time. I was just SO happy and at peace, a state I hadn’t seen in the last couple weeks unless meditating or doing yoga. It felt SO good.

After the ride I dropped her off and then we had a team meet up at Schmidt’s in ROTH which is apparently “the place to be” – it was pretty busy and we got almost the entire team there – Ed, Brittany, Jeff, Emily, and myself as well as Jay and Eric O from Challenge Family America  – and all the associated family members. It was great. Fun ordering too as the staff didn’t speak much English. We got an American Pizza – with corn, BBQ, Chicken, Pinto Beans, Onions, and some other stuff. That’s like no American pizza I’ve ever had! But the food was plentiful and it was much fun. At the end Chris managed to get one of the Race officials that was there to pose with us and his Motorcycle J

Next up was bike drop off and “Run Bag” drop off. All your stuff goes in bags and there are 2 transitions, so we had to provide one bag on Sat for them to place in T2 and Sunday AM we would bring our T1 bag and our “after” bag. The bike dropoff went smoothly, thanks to Racequest who had the bike there waiting for me I just grabbed it and went down. Everything was wonderfully marked, organized, and arranged. Even though they had TONS of people the lines were moving well. The thing that took the most was a detailed inspection of all helmets. NO defects allowed. Any defect and you had to replace it (which really is what you should do anyway but in the states they only will block you for a crack). The Germans are SERIOUS about the rules and expect everyone to follow them to the letter.

Once bike was dropped off to the course talk. I needed some stuff in transition (CO2 cartirdges, another pair of shoes,etc) so I eneded up being late – however, it was pretty standard stuff and done in German and Engligh, so it did take the full hour. I tried to keep hydrated as I didn’t like being on my feet in a hot tent at 7pm before race day!). Racequest got me back to the hotel, quick snack and last OCD review of all my gear, and off to bed I went.

Sunday was a 3am wake up because we had to LEAVE at 4am. With 3500+ individual athletes and 650+ relays (3 athletes each) that is a total of 5450 athletes and that is a lot of cars for 2 lane roads. They got us there in plenty of time and I was setup WAY early enough to find my teammates (including Breno!) and chat and wish everyone luck. Brittany started at 6:30 and I didn’t start until 8:05. About 200 per wave, 5 minutes apart, with a canon blast each time. I swear I peed myself a little every time it went off!

Lots of waiting around for my wave. I remembered to bring food as I knew this timeline would occur and I was able to stop and spend a little time meditating by the canal and get myself ready. For the first time in a long time I was nervous. Even this morning my leg was bothering me.  I was not going to allow that to impact my swim and bike and just accept the fact that I may not make it a ½ mile into the run. I had no intention on racing anything less than a great swim and bike and I would let the run happen as it may. There was nothing more I could do, nothing more to prepare, so I just had to keep my head in the game.

Finally it was our time to go. Got some help with the wetsuit, donned the cap and goggles and lined up. The event was VERY efficiently run. Every wave went off on time, to the second, with a canon blast. We crossed the timing mat, entered the water and did the 100ft swim to the start. I lined up front and left (counter clock wise course) because I planned to take it hard at first to break away from my wave. Until that, I treaded water waiting and controlling my breathing.

Soon as the canon went off, I went out hard as planned. To my surprise (and pleasure) I immediately broke away from the wave with about 10 others.  The nice thing about the wave start is I had 5 minutes of separation so I immediately had clear water which is something I needed to keep a solid pace.  The sighting was easy because the canal was 100m wide.

The first leg was 1500m and I started running into the next wave somewhere about ½ way through. Mostly random stragglers but at least one managed to punch me in the face which wasn’t awesome.  At the turn around I swung wider to the outside but quickly found out the edges of the canal were very shallow, so I had to get back to the middle – at which time I managed to again run into stragglers. TWICE I managed to get “stuck” in between 2 stragglers who were moving TOWARDS each other and I was in the middle. I had to drive a wedge between them to get through, which I did.  However, this took time and I added distance to the swim. However around here my lungs started getting tight, which is unusual for an open water swim.

The second leg was 1950m and at this point I was running through people constantly. All the stragglers from all the prior waves. So sighting became a constant challenge but I was still able to get clear water by staying somewhere near the center and navigating around the slower swimmers.

The reduced breathing was impacting my speed and starting to impact my stroke. Heart Rate was increasing too high for the effort level and in retrospect, it was because I wasn’t getting enough air. I reduced my effort accordingly really had to focus on keeping my stroke proper and kicking to keep my rotation. At this point I had to become much more mentally focused instead of relying on instinct.

By the next turn around my triceps were feeling it (which means my form was degrading and I was cutting my stroke short) so I started to try to extend my reach. However, it was getting more and more packed with swimmers so I ended up having to sight a lot more and things were simply not smooth. Clear water was harder and harder to find.

The final 500M I picked up the pace and I just tried to dodge people best I could. When I got to the swim exit I did struggle a bit to get to somewhere I could stand as there were a lot of people exiting – the volunteers were great – they were knee/waist deep helping us stand up and not fall over!

Once I stood I looked at the watch – 1:09. Not bad. Not the sub 1:00 or sub 1:05 I ‘hoped’ for, but as soon as breathing became a problem I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Getting to transition was slow. Now that I was vertical the breathing really became a problem and I couldn’t run, I needed to walk – which I did. I got my bag after yelling my number in German (well, each number in order since I had no idea how to say 3327 in German but I could say 3-3-2-7) and walked as fast as I could to the changing tent. I dumped my bag, I stripped the wetsuit, shoved my swim gear in and put my jersey on. The volunteers were great! I put on my socks and carried my shoes to the bike. At this point I was able to at least jog a bit to the bike. I was looking forward to getting my inhaler which I knew was in my bike bag (on my bike).

Once to the bike I got into my bike bag, got the inhaler, stopped a second to calm my breathing and took a nice big….. nothing. CRAP!!! The inhaler was dead.  I shook it, nothing. Crap, nothing I can do about it now. So I got my shoes on, started the GPS, and fast walked the bike to the bike out.

I mounted smoothly and checked my gearing – already in the small gear (perfect) and I spun my legs a while. Soon as I got my groove on I started shifting up. There was a reasonable number of people but not nearly as crowded as I feared. The first 5 miles I took easy, as per the bike route tour, because there were several technical turns, rough pavement, and congestion – and that’s exactly how it was!

Soon enough I was in the forest with these old tall pines lining both sides – absolutely gorgeous. Forests I’ve only seen war movies!

The pattern was pretty simple – we would have an open stretch, then a small town with a turn or two, and then another open stretch and so on. Each town had people out cheering. Kids, adults, elderly – everyone was out enjoying the race which was shutting down their main road to anywhere. I cannot imagine that ever happening in the states! Many towns had tables, umbrellas, banners and so on setup for the long haul. They were partying and cheering everyone that went through. If it wasn’t loud enough, I would whoop up the crowd and they LOVED it!

I passed and got passed constantly, too much to count, however, it never really seemed congested. They were SERIOUS about no drafting and they drew what 10m x 3m looks like on the pavement in several locations. Additionally, there were race marshalls ALL OVER the course. I saw several people get tagged for drafting. These guys were not messing around. If you get a drafting penalty you had to go to the next penalty box (there were 3) and wait 5minutes before you could go on. ADDITIONALLY you would have to run 1km extra late in the run. That extra run distance sure kept me on alert to not draft! However, I really found most people cooperated pretty well and obeyed the rules.

At one point an ambulance flew by me (which was odd, it is a CLOSED course) and later I saw why. Someone had wrecked and was off on the side of the road about 5ft in a bed of flowers surrounded by cops and the ambulance. That was a little chilling because he wasn’t moving and they were not moving him – this wasn’t a congested area, so I am not sure what happened but I hope he was ok.

As the course wore on I looked for the McDonalds in the distance. This indicated Greding was coming up and this was the most substantial hill on the course around 35km in (out of 180km). I did a double check and I was in good shape. Eating and drinking on track, exertion good, power and heart rate all in alignment. All systems good. I totally forgot about the fact that I needed my inhaler (when I get like this, it won’t resolve itself).  Greding starts with a sharp left and then the climb goes to about 13% pretty quick. This is the same as the big climb at Alcatraz so I was ready and able, all I had to do is keep the breathing under control. I took it a little aggressive at first (400+ watts) and then settled in and stuck to the plan (250watts and keep HR low as possible). After about 1/2 mile or so it changes to about a 6-7% grade and goes for another mile or so. It was a grind, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Plenty of amusing characters screaming HOP HOP HOP and AUS GEHT! To keep us going. Some people would run along side the bikes cheering you on.  Met a new pal John, from Toronto, who was wearing a jersey with a big burger on it. He had relatives in Schaumburg and I even knew where their house was. John was a trip as he was cheering on people passing him in various languages. We were evenly matched on the climb and it was fun to chat as we made the climb. Music was blaring and they even said a lot of people’s names over the load speakers, giving individual encouragement.

That wasn’t too bad, overall, and we got some flat space after to recover and then the downhill side which went pretty fast (I hit 44mph on sections) but would have been even faster if it was not for a series of sharp left-right-left-right turns. They had a “warning” hay bale attached to a sign post and then a bunch more hay bales afterwards. I passed a lot of people on this section, no surprise.

Up until 70km or so we were back to the clearing-town-clearing pattern. There was an aid station before the climb and this was the one where I decided to jettison one of my beloved Powerbar water bottles in favor of a water bottle purely for water to wear. The tempatures were climbing and my heart rate was showing it, it was climbing and the power was the same – so clearly I was getting hot. So from here on out, one bottle would be dedicated to water to wear. I focused on my head, neck, and shoulders.

Once we got near Hippolstein one of the guys near me said “OK, time for the Solar Berg WARM UP!” I had no idea what he was talking about, but it was another decent climb (6-7%) and there was music here too and plenty of folks having a good time cheering us on.  This climb was fun, not too long, so not much grinding. Once in and through town there was what looked like a finish chute all setup with people hanging all over it. THIS was the start of the Solar Berg climb. I was stunned. I knew there would be a ton of people but nothing anyone said nor the videos I watched had prepared me for the real thing. When I started into the chute the sound just starting growing… and growing… and growing. It was deafening. There was a literal sea of people. Everyone rode single file and directly into the crowd. They looked you in the eye and you say nothing but love and joy. I know that’s entirely hippie of me, but that’s what I saw. There had to be thousands of people on this hill screaming and cheering and dancing and singing and looking at each and every one of us (it seemed) with love, respect, admiration, and joy – all in one expression. I had never felt such raw emotion in my life and I felt like it was directed at ME. And we’re not talking one fan, we’re talking every-single-one that I locked eyes with. They would do the wave as you went though, they would gently pat your back, they were taking pictures or videos, they were just THERE for us.

Look, I’m normally a pretty stoic guy but I was overcome with emotion and trying my best not to just start bawling like a little girl. I have no idea how fast I went, no idea my exertion, no idea how much power. I was just “THERE”. I was in the moment and the moment was utterly wonderful. In my 11 years of triathlon I have spent much of it as a back of packer with limited crowd support. Plenty of times I’ve been “that guy” who finished after the crowds were gone, food was gone, and sometimes even they’ve been taking the aid stations down around (or ahead) me.  That’s a very lonely place. Solar Berg was the absolute OPPOSITE of that. I might as well have just WON the race, that’s how they made you feel.

The energy of Solar Berg was such a life-event I cannot even being to express it. Here is me, the fatman, racing half way across the globe. I’ve just experienced something so few people ever will. No matter how the day plays out, this is something I’ll never-ever forget. And one of the first things I thought was – how can I share this with others? I can’t believe so few people in the states are aware of this race. They all think KONA is THE race. They have no idea what they’re missing out on. Kona is nothing compared to this race.

After Solar Berg I noticed it was getting hot. Real hot. Once I began the second loop I also noticed the winds must have changed or picked up or both. Hard to tell the direction because this course has a lot of turns. I also noticed the first loop had 2400ft of climbing which means overall it going to be around 4800ft. Far more than the 3400 I was expecting.  At the next aid station I stopped to pee, took inventory of my self and supplies, and decided to reload my bottles with Powerbar Perform and water. A SUPER awesome volunteer dumped 2 bottles of COLD water on me, it felt awesome. I shoved some food and an extra gel in at this time too. I was a little light headed so even though I was “to plan” on my nutrition and hydration it was time to adapt the plan. I was doing around 700-800mg salt, 1 bottle every 45min or so, and 400 calories/hour. I upped the sodium to over 1000mg/hr, started introducing more water, and upped the calories to 500 when able by taking bananas on course whenever I could.

The second loop was more of the same, so I won’t go into big detail EXCEPT to point out a few things… firstly, the winds absolutely picked up. They were getting fierce. Well over 20mph because I saw flags straight out and even up (which means >20mph). Later I heard the winds hit 30 during times – I believe it. I was putting out a too-high heart rate, 250 watts, and I was going 10mph. It was a little disheartening. I reminded myself to stick to the plan – keep HR around 150 and the power should “end up” just under 200. This slowed me further – but I had to stick to the plan or I would burn up my running legs… and I still had a marathon to do.

I spent a lot of time reminding myself to STAY IN THE BOX – which for me is a 10minute segment of time – what do I need NOW and in 10minutes. That’s it. Had to keep pushing out thoughts of “Will I be able to run” or “am I going to overheat” or “did I go too fast earlier” and so on… thousands of thoughts tried to invade my brain and I just had to shove them out again. Trust my training, stick to the plan, and I will be fine.

However, as the second loop went on I was definitely tiring. The heat seemed WAY more than the low 80’s predicted. It felt far hotter than any day I had ridden in Chicago this year. It felt like 90+ but I don’t think it got that high. There was cyclists on the side of the road all over the place. It became a little scary. I stopped counting at 40. 40 people who were just DONE. And looking at their bikes, every one of them had – at most – 2 bottles. I bet they didn’t drink enough. Me, I thought like I was doing nothing BUT drink.  In the end I drank almost 11 bottles and peed 2x.

The second loop was much less crowded and I really couldn’t guess my position as I kept passing and being passed. There was a group of 8 or so that I saw again and again, we were very evenly matched.  But other than that, we would randomly see someone blow by us and we’d randomly blow by someone.

The end of the second loop couldn’t come soon enough. I was really getting tired of the bike, which is to be expected. During training I did a ton of 90 mile rides, but only 1 over 100, and none were 112.

I dismounted and handed off my bike to the volunteer and took my time walking to my bag. HOLY CRAP IT WAS HOT! Once I got my bag headed to the changing tent and dumped it and stuffed my things into the bag. I needed some help and a volunteer was there in a jiffy spraying me down with bug spray/sunscreen (Bull Frog – BEST STUFF EVER! I knew I would be out late on the canal and I knew there would be BUGS) and trislide for the seams on my tri jersey and nipples. Nipple chaffing is a pain unlike any other… not having any of that. Also I sprayed down a strip on my chest where there zipper has hit me before.

I ran to the bathroom and headed out. Once out I kept having this lingering thought that I was forgetting something. Finally I realized – OH YEAH! I didn’t stretch. So I grabbed the next street pole and starting doing squats, stretches, and all the stuff I’ve been practicing. Once done I intentionally walked a little while – focusing on using the tricks I had learned over the last couple days. So far so good… I started an easy run…. So far so good… so I decided to implement the 12/1.5 run/walk intervals I’ve been training under.

Did I mention it was hot? Yeah IT WAS HOT! The crowds were awesome but I needed to control my HR so I really had to get the body in sync with the feel. I was running low 12min miles – but I was supposed to be doing 14-15’s right now.  However, on my way they had a helicopter that was zooming in and out. At first I assumed a medivac but after seeing him come and go, I think it must be something else I think maybe it was helicopter rides?

So it took a while to get it sorted out, by the time I did I got to a hill that I didn’t realize was going to be there. A big long hill through the woods. I walked it. In training, we intentionally didn’t bother with hills. This course was supposed to be pancake flat so there was no point (given the time and other priorities). I saw my teammate Jeff coming in and gave him a shout out – he looked good but digging deep. Later I found he was coming in to finish – around 9:30. Amazing!

Once at the top of the hill it went off to pea-gravel trails and was basically flat. I started my run/walk intervals again and tried to stick with them even though the HR was getting too high. I changed to 12/2 in order to get the HR down before the next started – but quickly realized that until the heat dropped I was going to be walking more than planned.

At 4km I saw Chris and he got my photo. Apparently Liz was there but I wasn’t in great shape at that point because I didn’t see her. I kept thinking in my head, “ask Chris where she is and why he’s not with her” but said nothing. I was too focused on just moving forward. That thought bounced around my head for several Km – which is silly because they were long gone.

Around 7k or so I saw my teammate Brittany and gave her a big hug. Around 10k I saw my teammate Ed and talked to him a big. He said Fireman Rob (from Madison) was just ahead of me! Ed looked GREAT.

I started too fast at 12min miles, adjusted to 14’s and kept those a short while but I seemed to loose 30s/mile every couple intervals. That is clearly non sustainable! At this point I was doing 18min pace and even that was getting hard. (NOTE I am a slow walker. 18 is possible, but 20-22 is more normal).

I was struggling pretty bad. I just could not keep my HR down and my breathing was getting more and more labored. The sun was starting to be covered by clouds, mostly, and that helped but I had to take some time and taken inventory.  I was on plan for nutrition (1 gel every “odd” km 1,3,5,etc) and drinking ½ bottle every km. I was cooling myself at every aid station. My HR was too high, too often. Heat? Certainly. But then it hit me, I still needed my inhaler.  I tried to breathe deep – nope. Ok, I’m working on ½ lungs – that would cause the HR to rise.  I was not cognitively “all there” for sure but overall I was alert and able to think this through. In the end the conclusion was clear. I needed an inhaler.

I carried my phone with me so Liz could track me, so at some point I got smart and sent an SOS to see if Liz had one or if they could go get it and then meet me on the course. I got word they were on it and that gave me hope. The temps continued to drop which also helped.

I had to stop around 18k to rip off a toenail (part) which was digging into my toes. Mental note: TRIM YOUR NAILS BEFORE a race!

At 20k I met up with Chris and Liz and got the inhaler. I stopped and used it immediately. The announcer was screaming at me to move it because they were just starting to 10min count down. In 10 minutes this checkpoint was a cut off point.  I was now under the gun to pick up the pace. I didn’t know how serious they were about the cut off, but I didn’t want to find out.

At 22.5k I stopped at the place Chris stashed my special needs bag. I changed shoes, socks, used baby powder on my feet, refilled my belt bag with food for the remainder of the course. I stuffed everything else back in the bag and put it back. I had no idea if we would make it back for it – so I put a note in it which said “PLEASE DO NOT TAKE MY STUFF I NEED IT JULY 12. After that, it’s all yours! Thanks Ronbo”

Getting up was REALLY hard and a lot of muscles were officially PISSED OFF at me. I walked a while to get things going and as soon as they were started running. I went back to the 12/2 intervals and immediately found myself running 13min miles. This was what I had trained for.

I passed a few people, but at this point there was almost nobody coming my direction but there was a steady stream coming back. The running wasn’t easy, but it was constant and HR was staying at a reasonable level. The mind was strong, the will solid, and I was easily able to override the body wanting to stop. I trusted my training and the training shown through.

At 26k I saw Chris and Liz again. That was a fun treat! There was more music and we were entering a little side town to get to the 28.5k turn around. I was passing people now, they were all walking. Even my buddy Nick who I spoke with back at 15k when he was feeling down. He ran well ahead of me, but it looks like he was loosing umph.

I remember being told of a hill around 30k and as I started to climb the hill I switched to a walk. Soon after a motorcycle came up to me and the guy flashed a red card. I had no clue what he was doing and I’m sure the expression on my faced showed it. He said something in German, to which I responded – English please as I kept walking. He put his hand out to stop me and said I needed to give him my bib. I asked why to which he said he needed to pull me as I was going to make it. I pointed out the turn around was right over the hill and he said I had 3minutes, not enough time. Another guy showed up as well.  I asked if I could continue anyway and he looked at me like I had 3 eyes. He said no, I had to turn in the bib and my race was over.

My heart sank. OVER? I just got STARTED again! It can’t be over. I don’t want to be OVER. I was stunned. The other motorcycle guy started talking to me, I don’t know what about, but explained we could not continue. I was having a really hard time processing it all, but they were physically blocking me from moving on. I asked what they planned to DO with us, because if I have to walk back, I sure as heck am finishing the race. He actually didn’t have an answer to that. I explained there was easily 20 people behind me I had just passed – if you are going to pull people you need to transport them back!

Nick showed up and a few others. I realized Liz and Chris was not too far back, so I called to see if they were around and could take us back. They could. Nick was part of the tour – so I told him we could grab him too. Also Melissa, dressed up as a fairy with tutu, tiera and wand, joined us.

We left the officials and got into the car with Chris and Liz, we had to disrupt their wine and cake party with some of the locals and they took us back.

I really didn’t know how to process this. Of all the possible situations I thought through, getting PULLED was not one. I wasn’t going to make the 15 hour cutoff, but I didn’t think they would actually pull me.

So at 13 hours 25 minutes my day was done. 9 miles short of the finish with a body that was NOW willing and able to finish. By 15? No but certainly under 16. If things had played out differently I think it would have been 14:30, but alas they didn’t.

In 80 something races this was my first DNF (that wasn’t planned, I had DNF’s some races before intentionally not running but they didn’t offer Aquabike) so I was in new territory.

I do know that had I quit, I would be feeling very different. I didn’t quit.  I was still moving. Even without inhaler I would have finished under 17.

There is no question, whatever the reason, DNF sucks. We spend a ton of time and money for these races. We make sacrifices at work and home and not finishing feels “incomplete” and I might even say “inadequate” but I don’t really feel that way. I don’t know WHAT I feel, as I said it is just… different.

 

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