*** many thanks to Paul Stevens for this race report ***
My Wiesbaden journey started back in February just a couple of days after I podiumed in the TriYas sprint. The week leading into TriYas I had been diagnosed with Pleurisy (a potentially dangerous lung infection) that had developed because I had refused to stop training whilst carrying a lingering chest infection for the previous 5-6 weeks. Stupidly I decided to continue turning a blind eye to my health and competed at TriYas anyway. This turned out to be a very bad decision and despite my podium finish resulted in almost permanent damage to my lungs and a 2 month layoff that ended my season in an instant.
A couple of days after TriYas I was sat on my sofa feeling very sorry for myself, rueing my poor decisions, and decided I needed to give myself something to aim for during recovery. April was my best case scenario for being well again and I decided I needed at least 3 months to train for something bigger than a sprint triathlon to save/restart my season. I started looking for triathlons over the Eid holiday period (free holiday days!) and as if by magic Wiesbaden popped up. European Championships it said..... great I said…. my mum has always said that I am a Champion, this had to be fate!
A couple of days later, still feeling sorry for myself but also happy with my new target, I bumped into Ian LP at work and proudly declared myself to be 'an Ironman (albeit 70.3) in training.' I knew immediately that I was in trouble when Ian shot back 'Wiesbaden.... have you seen the bike course? Have you read Guy's race report from last year? It's tough Paul!' OH DEAR I thought to myself (insert more colourful language) and scurried back to my desk to search out these obvious reference points that I had chosen to ignore in my event selection process. *I should mention here that I really hate hills* Logging on at my desk my head fell into my hands as I realised that my impulse booking had not been one of my cleverest of moments; not for the first time in my life I stood up from my desk and declared myself to be a **** IDIOT!
For a healthy person who has some fitness background I genuinely believed 3.5 months was more than enough to get ready for a 70.3. I still believe that now. But unfortunately the reality is that I didn't get the 3.5 months the calendar said I would have to train. I'm lucky enough to have a good job that has me travelling around the world to some fantastic places, unfortunately however this isn't very conducive to regular and consistent training. As my schedule started to fill up with more and more work trips I had another chat Ian LP in mid-April and booked myself onto the BlackRock Tri Camp in mid-May as a way to kick start my training. Looking back, not only was the camp amazing, I think that camp is the main reason I managed to finish Wiesbaden. I learnt so much that week from Garth Fox and the great TriDubai gang. I also climbed some big hills that ultimately gave me the knowledge and strength of mind to know I could climb hills if I really had had to.
Back in Dubai I aimed to cycle 3 times a week in the ever oppressive heat, run twice plus once off the bike and try to squeeze in 2-3 pool sessions. Unfortunately though 2 trips to Hatta (and maybe 4 at Qudra with a few short NAS sessions), a longest run of only 10km and probably only 6 swims in the last month was all that I managed in to squeeze in in the end. As it turned out, in the lead up to Wiesbaden, I managed to spend 8 weeks on the road out of the available 15 but 7 weeks and light training whilst travelling should still have been enough…. That is if my tendency for stupidity hadn’t caught up with me again.
STOP READING NOW IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH!
In the final push for Wiesbaden in Ramadan I ramped up the training and realised my training kit was too heavy/hot for the conditions so I purchased some new lighter kit and cracked on. However in the summer heat my head left me and in the hot stinky conditions I slapped on the new kit without a thought for Vaseline or similar products to protect myself. I nonchalantly trained in the new kit and the end result was that it broke me in instead of me breaking it in. With just 3 weeks before Wiesbaden I developed a rather painful condition that I shall call 'red raw balls' or more accurately open sores developed from rubbing between the new kit and my more intimate areas. Just like that my almost non-existent training regime was finished once and for all. In the following days and weeks I had to sit out the rest of my Ramadan afternoons on the sofa trying everything possible to dry the now rather painful and weaping open sores on my nether regions. These were sad times in the Stevens household I can tell you.
ANYWAY THE RACE:
With all my training difficulties usefully filed in the ignore section of my head I landed in Germany early on the Thursday morning preceding the race. This early arrival turned out to be very useful as with my injury just about healed I now had enough time to swim the lake, build my bike, test it, service the gears, drive the bike course (nightmares followed that night!), and most importantly get some good pre-race socialising in with the Wiesbaden TriDubai crew.
The day before the race was a blur, I honestly have no idea where it went, but come race day I found myself in T1 ready to go and feeling quite upbeat (oh how ignorant I was!). The swim went really well for me, I was worried about getting tired halfway in so held myself back the best I could. Despite only managing to get on the feet of other swimmers for about 20% of the course I still managed to get into a really good rhythm very quickly. I managed a much faster time than expected, 27m04s by effectively staying calm and making sure that I swam very straight.
T1 was reasonably quick, no real dramas, I had been very lucky to get easy to find bag and bike locations. I flicked a quick smile to Stefan on the camera on the way out and almost managed to drop my bike in the process, IDIOT! The bike section (read hell) was 210+ mins of pure agony for me. At 30 km the legs were talking to me, at 50 they were screaming and by 70km I honestly was considering jacking it in. The Wiesbaden course is pure evil, large hills to drain the legs but the worst part in my opinion were the deceptive never ending slight gradients that literally sapped all of my physical and mental strength. But I got through it, petulance and the good old Death before DNF monkey on my back somehow convinced me to finish it. One thing that I must say I really noticed, other than the legs, from my lack of training was how sore my neck got on the bike. It’s surprising how distracting that can be.
T2 was very small with bike catchers and again easy to find bags, I slapped on some socks topped up my gels and sneaked in a cheeky fluid release in the lovely portaloos before heading off out onto the run. The run itself was all about survival, I knew my legs were gone and I knew it was going to be a run/walk affair. The course, 4 laps, has a gentle gradient heading out which became more and more like Everest for me each lap, coming back down it didn’t seem to give back anywhere near as much as it stole from me heading up it each time. The 21km took a lot longer than I had planned but actually seemed to just fly by with the regular small run/walk targets to keep me going, as I approached the finish line I saw Stefan again with his VIP pass flashed a slightly more controlled smile for the camera and crossed the line. Wiesbaden 70.3 done, Paul Stevens definitely DONE.
So what have I really learnt from all of this….
- Training when injured is STUPID, resting 1-2 weeks (no training at all) will save you months and may just give your tired body a new lease of life. Seriously if you are ill or injured don’t train!
- 70.3s aren’t impossible beasts - 3 months is enough to train for a finish but consistency is absolutely critical, I think a coach would have really helped me stay on track and might possibly have prevented me from injuring myself both times over
- Breaking new kit in can be just as important as a training session, get it wrong and you will regret it
- If you are new to 70.3 or IM then travelling with a great group of friends from TriDubai is the only way to do it. The only time I ever had time to worry about the race was in the hours after I arrived before the others landed
- Sudocrem isn’t just for babies it is amazing; if you have any nipple, leg or ‘other area’ chafing it will cure you, creams from the doctors didn’t come close to matching this gift from the gods
- And finally….Wiesbaden is EVIL, if you fancy a challenge but can’t spare the time to train for a full IM this will definitely test you