… Brag for the rest of your life!

That’s the official Ironman slogan. Even though the Quelle Challenge in Roth was not an official Ironman Race (as the sponsors moved the race from Roth to Frankfurt 6 years ago to reach a bigger spectator crowd), it still involved swimming 3.8km, cycling 180km and running 42.1km. Here’s a short report of my experience as a participant.

Too make a long (13:07h) story short: I finished! 🙂
Detailed (individual) results:
[The winner took 7:54h, the slowest time was about 15:05h.]

There were about 2,500 individual starters (or at least people registered). About 2,200 finished. I came 1792nd, but that doesn’t really matter for me. Throughout the race I was always closely monitoring my pulse too avoid going too fast at any point to simply ensure a safe finish.

Still, it was undoubtedly the biggest physical challenge of my life so far.
Marvin the robot might say: “The swimming was horrible. The cycling I didn’t enjoy at all. And the running was the worst.” 🙂

Well, but that’s not true.

Swimming was generally ok, except for the usual kicking and pushing in the crowd of several hundred swimmers at the beginning. That’s (for me) always very stressful. Not so much because I mind being pushed but because I’m afraid that I might be in the way of someone else (… especially as I have a talent for not swimming straight).
Even though it was in a canal and you could see the banks on either side, I still had (occasional) problems to swim straight. I touched the ground at the right side a couple of times with my hand and a boat in the middle (left side as seen from the swim course) had to point me in the right direction too 🙂 Anyways, the water felt quite warm and with the neoprene suit my legs didn’t have to do anything. Here I was certainly not even close to my limit (and I didn’t want to be).

Cycling was loooong (almost 7h). Especially as I didn’t want to go too fast, it was even a bit boring at times (when there were no spectators). But at places with spectators the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. Going up the “Solarer Berg” (try Google image search) is an experience, I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Even the slowest cyclist is celebrated like a Tour de France star.

Running is usually my strongest discipline, partly because I pace myself well enough to have energy left at the end. The first 20km went pretty well and took me pretty much 2h exactly. But at km 25 I really started to understand the “challenge” in “Quelle Challenge”. I slowed down a bit (from 6 min to 7 min per km) but it became more and more painful and was really not enjoyable anymore. From km 30 onwards I was just trying to postpone the moment of walking as much as possible. At km 38 I finally had to give in and started walking, but at least pretty fast (about 8:30 min per km). At km 40.5 I started running again and was still able to fly across the finishing line (see attached picture)! Overall it took me 4:40h for the marathon, which would usually be a horrible time but, given the swimming and cycling before, is perfectly ok for me.

After finishing, I shouted a loud “Danke Roth!” into the crowd and was awarded with a nice applause. Really amazing atmosphere.

Except for my legs, I was first feeling ok. I couldn’t eat anything for about 2 h though. 1 h after the race there were (short) moments were I really thought I’d collapse or throw up. Today (= day after the race), I’m feeling ok. Even my legs aren’t too bad. Probably thanks to the (free) massage after the race.

Anyways, I made it. I’m glad and admittedly very proud.

Currently, I’m not sure if I’ll do it again (soon). If I do, then I’ll certainly train more than I did for this one, so that both the (faster) cycling and the (less painful) running become more enjoyable.

Oh, I was also very lucky in many respects: The weather was amazing. Dry and (mostly sunny) but not too hot and hardly any wind. But most importantly: I had the most wonderful host family imaginable! Of course, I found them through the hospitality club. They even gave me a ride to the race at 5:30 in the morning and picked me up at 22:00 in the evening. And they gave me my own room and cooked for me. Thank you Sabine, thank you Hannah, thank you Frank!

PS: This was clearly one of the most intense experiences of my life with much more up and downs than mentioned above [and also including the trip there and back by car and the stay with my host family]. Maybe I’ll at some point find time to write more about it. Even better, try to experience it yourself.