*** thanks to Guy Coghlan for this race report ***
I entered Wiesbaden 70.3 in March 2012 to compensate for the loss of my Challenge Roth entry due to illness which lasted for all of January & February and then saw me in hospital with my Crohn’s disease in March. I simply missed too much preparation for Roth and didn’t need the pressure to be honest so opted for a shorter race.
It really is a lovely part of Germany, located about 30 minutes drive West of Frankfurt in the federal state of Hesse. The city has some fantastic architecture and the countryside is wonderful and a wee bit hilly too!
We decided to leave the kids at home in the UK with my parents and have a trip to Germany as a couple for a change. With all the kit and a lot of walking to follow the race it made sense to keep things simple.
We arrived in Germany on Friday 10th and for our entire time in town were looked after like family by Stefan Spies and his superstar girlfriend Anja who, like him, is a keen Triathlete. They introduced us to a great group of their friends many of whom also raced on the Sunday. All in all we felt very much at home and I still remembered parts of the city from my time working there in 2003.
With the bike rebuilt we headed out for dinner with the gang on Friday night and ate at a lovely restaurant by a big river which was either the Main or the Rhine, anyway It was big and wide. Once back at the hotel I began to have a few mild stomach pains, nothing serious but enough to make me reach for some medication. This worried me a bit because it was close to race day but I slept well and by the following morning it had passed in good time for us to get the 15’s sorted.
I drove over to Stefan and Anja’s place on the Saturday morning and following a quick chat we decided to forget about a 15 minute swim. The lake where the race was starting was a long way away and the only other option was going to be the Rhine (far too scary!) or a local pool, so in the end we decided just to bike and run. The weather was amazing during the entire trip and we hardly saw a cloud for 3 days. The temperature was perfect at around 26 degrees. Stefan likes his bike rides and so 15 minutes became 45 but I wasn’t complaining as the scenery was fabulous, especially after a summer in Dubai! We followed this with a short run and then after lunch went to rack the bikes and drop off our kit bags.
My wave (45-49) went off at a leisurely 0815hrs with Stefan starting 10 minutes after me. My first thought was how soon I would be seeing him. Hopefully not until we were on the bike at the very least!! As we walked to the swim start following the Ironman branded arrows, I couldn’t help laughing at the official sign on a tree which said that swimming was forbidden…..??!!
I had a good start near the front but over to the left as I like some space. The water had zero visibility but tasted a lot better than seawater and the temperature was pleasant with a wetsuit on. After a little bit of pushing and shoving I found some clear water and was soon climbing out of the lake at the 800m mark for a short run across a spit of land before diving straight back in again for the second leg.
I noticed that I was passing some of the swimmers from the earlier wave and one or two from the wave before that so either they had stopped to play beach volleyball or I was swimming reasonably well. I exited up a piece of sandy beach which was so steep that they provided ‘helpers’ to pull you out of the water. Checked my watch and was delighted to see a PB as I headed for the 700 metres of running required to reach transition.
With the wetsuit off and into the blue bag I had decided to ride and run with my cycle jersey as it was a very sunny weekend and I didn’t fancy getting burnt in my tri suit. I had plenty of nutrition on board as the ride was pretty daunting. Off I went and the commentator soon spotted the Dubai Roadsters shirt so I was soon being announced across the race PA system to one and all. Fame at last. Wiesbaden has a looooong T1 !
The bike route was a little lumpy to say the least. I guess, as this was the European Championship race, they wanted to make it ‘challenging’. In my head I had estimated that this was a 3:20 ride for me. I am not great up hills but still I don’t believe that means that I should simply go and race on the flat all the time as I like a good hard day out. I had driven 80% of the bike course the day before the race so I had a good idea of what was coming. Hmmm.
The route was one large circular loop with around 10 or 11 hills and about 1500 metres of climbing (my Garmin said 1519m).
First impressions; the Germans LOVE triathlon and the support from the crowds were amazing almost everywhere along the route, even in the smallest villages.
I was feeling fine initially and was delighted to avoid getting ‘Stefanned’ until 24km into the bike. I knew he’d catch me but was pleased that it lasted as long as it did! The route was a series of beautiful rural towns and villages separated with some small, medium and downright large hills. The road surface was generally good (better than the UK) but the route was quite technical with some very sharp 90 degree turns and required a lot of care and attention. The brake blocks got a serious work out that’s for sure. I was happy to go fast downhill as I am certainly not quick going up them! I hit about 77kmh in one section but when you see the Pros doing over 100kmh it’s quite amazing.
Although the ride was hard the scenery was so wonderful that it helped to take your mind off the pain as did the amazing support and the groups of riders from all over the world. At about the 50km mark I suddenly started to get pains in my stomach. I knew it was my Crohn’s playing games with me and was suddenly very worried about my health. I carry medication with me all the time whether its work, holidays or sport so I stopped briefly to get access to my tablets that I keep in a little pill box on the cross bar. I knocked back some meds and had a good swig of water. The pain improved a little but I was now not feeling great and this really dented my confidence. 2 years of triathlon and I had never actually had a problem during a race. I had however had to cancel plenty a day or two in advance! I was really upset because this was my big race and now it looked like it was going to get a lot harder.
The remaining part of the ride passed by slowly and I was just happy to hit the last 8km of downhill into T2. Do I keep going? Would it be sensible to quit now and look after my body? Lot’s of questions running through my head. Pretty soon I found myself handing the bike over to the helpers at the entry to transition. I quickly remembered to grab my pill box before the bike vanished off to its rack.
This was right in the city centre and only about 150 metres from my hotel room, so the option to bail out was now if ever I wanted to. I made a quick decision to take a pain killer, some steroid and run as far as I could, as the run was 4 loops of a park in the city centre, if things did go wrong help was close at hand. I had my Road ID, the back of my race number had more medical details on it than a doctor’s report so I was well documented! I also had the benefit of my super-supportive wife standing by the roadside shouting me on and taking pictures.
I changed into my running shoes in the changing tent, put on my fuel belt and sun visor and then got some fluids inside me.
I left transition and immediately saw Fabienne’s big smile at the barriers as she called my name and took a few snaps. She looked delighted to see me which I learnt afterwards was because I had vanished from the live timing system at the 38km mark on the ride and she feared the worst having also seen the steep descents and tight turns the day before. Thankfully I had not crashed but I was not in a good place despite the smile for the camera and a reasonably quick first km split.
4 laps to finish this run, each roughly 5.3km and tons of support from the IM team and the spectators. The first lap was bearable and I managed to keep a steady pace but then the cramps started to worsen and a pit stop was required on lap 2 in one of the delightful race porta loos. Anyone who has used one of these things probably knows that they have a perfume that could melt hardened steel so it was not a very pleasant visit. I stopped my watch, and flopped down onto the seat. Clearly these plastic loos aren’t designed for 88kg hitting them with force so as I made contact below the door un-hinged, swung open and I was now sat being cheered to glory by the runners and a good number of highly amused supporters. The good news is that the air was a lot fresher with the door open! (Note to self on this)
Lap 2 was misery. Run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit etc. The support helped but after a while all I wanted to do was get this thing over and done with. I had forgotten to re-start my watch which also served to piss me off further. Laps 3 and 4 were much the same and the thought of a really poor race was bugging me now as I had trained hard and was originally in great shape (for me). Anyway, I had by now decided that come what may I was going to finish this, despite a second porta loo pit-stop, so on I went with the run/walk strategy until I had collected my 4th coloured arm band and finally up the finishing shoot in a rather less-than-impressive 2hrs 17 minutes.
Finish / Conclusion
This gave me an overall race time of 6:30:01 (that 2 seconds also pissed me off!). OK not my best result and 74 minutes slower than Antwerp the year previous year, however, a much harder course meant I was always going to be hunting Capt. Finn’s time of 5:45 from 2011 and at best I had hoped to be slightly faster. On the day that was not to be but I still enjoyed the overall event. It was without doubt one of the most spectacular courses I have raced and was brilliantly organised (German efficiency☺). The support from Stefan and Anja was brilliant and we all had a good debrief after the event and swapped a few stories. I had some positives to come out of my swim time and I managed to finish the event without getting hurt on the bike or doing myself any serious harm so all in all I was perhaps lucky. I love racing regardless; despite being disappointed with the time I was happy to have shared the experience with my so many like-minded people.
Big thanks to Fabienne for putting up with all the grief before, during and after the race. I can whinge and moan for England when I want to! You’re a real star Mrs. Cog! Thanks to Coach Pain for beasting me senseless on the bike the last few months and his advice along the way. Thanks to all my team mates in T2A for the inspiration and for sharing the pain each week and all my other triathlon buddies. A special thank you again to Stefan and Anja our local hosts; you made the event one of the best trips we have had and the hospitality and support was humbling.
I would really recommend this race; a good hard 70.3 which is very well organised and located in a lovely part of Europe.
Oh and finally, the family from Frankfurt with two teenage kids watching on the run course would like to thank the manufacturers of the Porta Loo doors for giving them the best laugh since comedy arrived in Germany!