*** many thanks to Guy Coghlan for this race report***
I entered Wiesbaden 70.3 shortly after finishing the 2012 event. It's a cracking race with a very honest bike course and a big field of circa 3000 athletes.
Last year, the tough bike route and my own stupid nutritional error, left its mark on me. In return I left my marks on the run course!
I'd had a disappointing race but finished eventually in 6hrs 30mins; not exactly what I was looking for. For 2013 I was determined to do a better job!
Preparation for me started back in the early part of the year with a great weekend at the Garth Fox Camp at Hatta. I learnt a lot that weekend; the beds are comfy, my kids know my iTunes password (£96 of games purchased) and the breakfast is still a cracker. We also did some Triathlon stuff and got tired.
My race prep is rarely a bed of roses. I am not a youngster anymore and bits tend to fall off me when I push too hard or don't do as I am told. So it was for Wiesbaden.
By June I had managed to collect a decent chest infection, broken a bone and/or tore a Ligament in my foot and made a mess of my Crohn's disease by drinking (forbidden) fizzy drinks; the local medical profession loves me; BUPA Intl. hates me.
Happily I picked up a cracking coach in the months before race day; Ed Hawkins will be known to many of you as great athlete, but he's also pretty good at getting other Age Groupers into decent shape. I had the programme, now I needed to get working.
In the 8 weeks prior to race day I managed to follow my programme and do all my homework like a good boy. Henry Clark had the Gold star and was teacher’s pet after his sterling race in Roth, so I was determined not to let the side down. Sending the family off to France for the final 5 weeks of training also gave me the chance to go and train like a nutter and lose some weight, the latter being more to do with an empty fridge and Ramadan rather than my iron will!
For UAE athletes, essential preparation for any race overseas is a few rides along the roads of Hatta. These are great fun and make a pleasant change from the flat and dusty rides in town. I find hills hard work and I am always the last one back to the Hotel but I love the challenge. Thank you to everyone who came to Hatta over the months it was great watching you all disappear into the distance :-)
TriDubai arrived in Germany with 6 athletes, 5 of whom were racing; Olivier Godart, Maarten Geerearts, Jasmijn Vaes, Paul Stevens, Stefan Spies (in support) and myself. In addition, Stefan's partner Anja was also taking part.
No trip to Wiesbaden passes without the fantastic support of Stefan Spies and Anja Kunze. Stefan spends most of his time in Dubai with Anja based in Wiesbaden. Their help and support is invaluable as well as their knowledge of the local area and most importantly the restaurants.
The city is located about 30 minutes’ drive west of Frankfurt Airport and the race and Expo are headquartered in the heart of the city with lots of hotels within walking distance.
Most of us stayed at the Radisson Blu Schwarzer Bok which dates back 500 years apparently; thankfully the rooms had been updated since it opened so the straw mattresses were gone and we got decent beds and a TV.
Saturday 10th August
The Saturday was a whirlwind of activity. Doing the '15's', making sure kit was ready, labelled and packed in the correct bags for T1, T2 and the Finish Line kit bag. Going to the race briefing
The swim start and T1 are located about 45 minutes’ drive out of the city. In my opinion the only slight negative in an otherwise slick race programme.
We'd agreed to drive out to rack the bike and kit in convoy with Maarten & Jasmijn. After a short case of 'I think we're lost....again' we eventually made it through the forest to the lake and bike racks; sorry M & J for the tour of southern Germany!
I did the usual trick of noting exactly where my bike was positioned. All of us 45-49's were corralled together in lane 9. With 3000 competitors it was a BIG transition and so despite the lanes being well marked, I was also 'sighting' my position along the rack by getting a bearing off the trees.
I took my road bike to Wiesbaden deliberately as I felt more comfortable climbing the hills than I did on my Cervelo AND it had much better brakes; very important on this course.
I had space for 3 bottles; one between the clip-on Tri bars containing just water and 2 on the frame. One of these held my tools, the other a large bottle of Hammer Perpetuem. I carried 7 hammer gels which I had budgeted for a circa 3.5hr bike ride with one spare (in case I dropped one!).
My tyres were inflated on race day but only to 100psi as the road surface was rough in parts and I wanted a larger contact patch on the high speed turns.
Sunday 11th August - Race Day
Swim: 1.9km, 30mins 3 seconds
I love the swim. I had trained pretty hard and in my mind’s eye I was hoping for a sub-30 minute swim.
It was a deep-water start with circa 350 in my age group. Despite starting at the front of my wave and staying out of trouble I felt I struggled a bit for the first 500m. I didn't have a panic attack but I felt constricted in my wetsuit (despite losing 5kg) and just couldn’t get my breathing to settle down.
Having got over that initial discomfort I got myself into a rhythm and felt good for the rest of swim. Next, I had a guy slapping my toes continually for a couple of hundred metres. It was beginning to really piss me off and I am sure that as I do not really kick, he felt nice and safe. I then remembered Crissy Harris's comment from a recent Hamdan session; 'National, you should kick a bit'. So I did, hard and he vanished!
At the 800m mark we had a run across a short piece of sand around a sharp U-turn and straight back into the water for the final 1.1km. This all went smoothly and having dodged a few swimmers from the previous wave, I was soon exiting the water and looking for my bike kit bag.
I must thank Johan Moolman for fixing me up with some anti-fog shortly before leaving Dubai; it really is helpful on race day especially when sighting is tricky. Decathlon prescription goggles also came in handy!
Bike: 91km, 3:28:41
The bike course in Wiesbaden is a cracker! If you are a good cyclist or generally strong on hills you will love it. It has circa 1,500m of climbing and is very technical with lots of twists and turns. The scenery is great and we had many locals supporting with cow bells and even offering us a beer along the route!
I am not the greatest cyclist in the mountains but I am pretty damn strong downhill! This was borne out by my 77kmh top speed on the bike; however 6kmh uphill in places soon brought me back down to earth!
The majority of the field appeared to be German or Swiss and I lost count of the number of ‘uber-bikers’ who overtook me on the hills. There was a no-drafting rule of 10 metres but sadly many competitors seemed to ride in packs with a lot less than 10 metres spacing. I couldn’t help laughing at the name of one of these guys whose name was ‘Knut’; he really was a total ‘Knut’ too………I’ll let you choose the appropriate anagram for that one!
The first 8km out of T1 is fairly flat and winds its way through a couple of small villages. Beyond that however, the road climbs and descends almost endlessly for the next 83km with virtually no flat sections; you are either climbing or descending. The road surface is generally good but in a few places it can be very rough and there are endless twists and turns. The scenery is fantastic so that helped take my mind off the climbs.
I knew that I had to treat the bike with respect or I’d have no legs for the run, so I set about pacing myself and making sure I was very careful in managing my nutrition. Hammer products worked really well. I’d made up a 3.5hr drink bottle and carried sufficient gels to cover the distance too.
At 70km I changed down to the small front sprocket for a hill and the chain jumped straight off and was hanging around the bottom bracket. No big deal. A quick stop and some greasy fingers and I was rolling again. I knew that if I could get to around 82k then the last section was all downhill into T2. The descent was fast and furious; I only had the b*lls to reach 77kmh but some of the Pro’s had apparently topped 100kmh which is simply insane!
The route descends as speed into the city where there are volunteers with flags enforcing no overtaking zones as the approach to T2 loomed. At the dismount line there were ‘helpers’ who took the bike from you, so I made sure my feet were ready to escape my shoes as I braked to a stop and gave the bike away.
Would my legs still be up for a reasonable run?
Run: 21.2km, 1:47:49
T2 was a slick affair. I got my running shoes on and carried 2 Hammer gels and that was it. I didn’t want a silly belt flapping around my waist so relied upon the water stations situated in the park.
The run course is centred on the beautiful “Kurpark” located in the heart of the city next to the race Expo. It is very spectator friendly as the course is 4 loops so it’s easy for friends and family to shout encouragement (or abuse!).
It’s not actually a flat course and has a gentle uphill gradient on one side and then a corresponding downhill on the other side. It is however well shaded on the inclines which helps when it’s sunny as it often is in that part of Germany in august. The temperature on race day was approximately 22 degrees which made ‘Knut’ and his European mates feel pretty toasty on the run; we UAE residents by comparison were lapping up the cooler weather.
I felt strong off the bike and decided to try and run a steady 5min/km pace. I didn’t care about the time or distance and just wanted to focus on my pace so set my watch so that only my pace displayed. I knew the distance anyway as it was 4 laps!
The support was great. My wife was there, camera in hand, as was Stefan Spies who was moving around and giving us loads of encouragement. It was nice to see Jasmijn and Martin on the run; Olivier was long since finished and Paul was apparently 2 minutes ahead of me, although I never did see him until the finish.
The aid stations had a good selection of water, sports drinks, salt, Gels and the Portaloos which thankfully this year were not required! I decided to drink only water and take 1 gel every 45 minutes. I walked whilst I drank as the drinks came in plastic cups and I wanted to get it all inside me and not down my front. I avoided the wet sponges; it wasn’t hot and I hate soaking wet heavy running shoes.
My pace was pretty consistent. I was managing to keep an average of circa 5min/km depending on whether I was running the incline or the descent part of the course. I wanted to get the race completed in under 6hrs and I knew that I needed to have a reasonable run to do this.
Each lap passed with the addition of a coloured hairband which was slotted onto your arm as each lap was completed. With 3 coloured bands collected I was now on the last lap and still keeping my pace. It was a great feeling to collect the last one and then run the final 300 metres up the shoot and across the line for a 5:52:29 finish.
Not a stunning 70.3 time in isolation and certainly over an hour behind Olivier Godart, but for me personally it was a triumph and I am absolutely made up with my race. Just for interest’s sake, the winner of the 45-49 AG did the following times. Clearly I need to train harder!
2171 Horlacher, Frank - Swim; 0:25:45, Bike; 2:37:34, Run; 1:21:52. Total 04:29:09
TriDubai that not only helped my race, but made the training so much more fun; endless swims in the sea, Hamdan and Dubai Masters, as well as the rides & runs with the regular crew which were all so motivational. The Tuesday swims in particular were fantastic; the breakfasts were even better :)
Hatta, Al Qudra & NAD all played their part in the bike training and runs were either solo or with other team members after a ride.
The Oscars Speech
Roy, Ian & Didge have brought together a fantastic group of people. It’s made training so much easier and great fun. Thanks to my regular training buddies; Henry Clark, Higgsy, Stevie Morgan, Seano, Capt. Carl, Chris McVicars, Venny, Johan, Hunty, Jon Comber, Vicky (and her amazing facebook posts!), Merle, Arturo, Talal, Patrice, Crissy H., Tim Hawes, the Hatta mob and all the guys who raced Wiesbaden. Thanks again to Stefan & Anja for the excellent local support.
I have to thank my family for allowing me the time to train and for putting up with a husband/Dad who is often half asleep. Finally big thanks to Ed Hawkins for bringing me back from injury and getting me a 38 minute improvement in my race time. Job Done.
Next stop I.M. South Africa :)
Guy (Mr. National)