I am gonna call this the Spudman of Germany, or maybe the Kartoffelmann? Like the Spudman it is a downriver swim, an Olympic, and takes place in August to share a few similarities with the Burley Idaho triathlon. I chose this race at the beginning of the year because it was an Olympic, on Saturday, in August, and relatively close to our home (within 2 hours). I had previously chosen this race as my A race because I figured it to be similar to the Spudman and wanted to use it as a comparison of my fitness to previous years. As such, much of my training has been planned around this race. I will avoid saying something geeky like “I just trained right through it”, but due to the 70.3 in August, this race had been knocked down a notch in focus. My goals were two fold and can be broken down to pacing:
B Goal: 2:45:00
Swim: 1:45 min/100m = 28 min
T1: 3 min
Bike: 30km/hr = 1:20:00
T2: 2 min
Run: 5:20 min/km = 53 min
A Goal: 2:30:00
Swim: 1:30 min/100m = 24 min
T1: 2 min
Bike: 33km/hr = 1:12:00
T2: 2 min
Run: 5:00 min/km = 50 min
Going into the race according to my splits and workout times, my A Goal was quite possible, but I would need a little help from the river current. I would also need the conditions to be pretty good on the bike. I tried to look up beforehand how fast the current was in that particular part of the river, but I was unsuccessful. As is always the case, my B Goal is set up as better than a DNF, but only marginally, and can be mostly considered just better than a Zone 2 pace. By this time in my progression as a Hobbyist Triathlete, I should be able to clock a 5:00 min/km 10km run split, but so much is dependent on what occurs during the swim and bike.
Arrival and Pre-Race
One thing that I haven’t changed accordingly with my reading race descriptions and rules in a foreign language is the skimming I do. In the states when I read the announcements from the race director I usually skim a bit while paying attention to race specific details. I do this cause it is often the same information from race to race (I usually know more of the rules than others too). However, I shouldn’t do this in another language. Small details in a foreign language can change a lot of the meaning of the sentence. The information on the webpage stated that there was a mandatory pre-race meeting at 12:00. Normally the packet pickup goes until that time or 15 minutes before. Not this race. Clearly stated on the webpage (I checked afterwards) was that the packet pickup ended at 11:00 and that the athletes were to be in the transition area waiting for an hour before the pre-race meeting. That makes no sense whatsoever, but it was in writing, and therefore law. Because of traffic our 2 hour drive became a 3 hour drive, and I was running to get the packet and get in the transition area at 11:45.
Luckily I met with some nice people at the packet pickup that allowed it, but the race director met me at the transition entrance like a mad mother hen guarding her eggs. I had no idea who he was at the time, but he was clearly mad at me for disrespecting his rule. The thought going through my head at the time was, “should I play the foreigner card”. I ultimately didn’t and let him berate me as long as he was willing and he “graciously” allowed me to participate in the race. However, he assured that when he got the mike in his hands for the pre-race meeting that he once again told the whole group how little respect he had for people that came so late. OK, I got it. I was late.
After the lengthiest pre-race briefing I have ever been a part of, the Olympic distance triathletes jumped on 5 different buses to be shuttled to the swim start. Being as the swim was downriver, this meant upriver 1.68 kilometers the buses would go. I liked this setup more than the Spudman due to only requiring the logistics of one Transition zone instead of two as the Spudman does. I stated before that wetsuits in Germany are not allowed in races if the water temperature is above 22 degrees Celcius. The water temperature was 24 degrees according to the online reading, so I didn’t include my wetsuit. More proof of my low desire to bust my brain trying to understand every sentence of the race rules was that everyone else was wearing a wetsuit. Oh well… After another 15 minutes of standing around and wading slowly out into the river, it was time for the countdown. Then an alarm of sorts sounded and 400 people started swimming in a narrow river downstream at the same time. I wanted to go out slow and let the pack get ahead. Most people do differently, but I’m a slow swimmer, so I might just wait anyways. I also stopped after about 50 meters and assured I had pressed the start button hard enough on my watch while treading water. I hadn’t! It was after a little while that I noticed that the current wasn’t as fast as what I was expecting. I also noticed that I was swimming rather slowly in comparison to people in wetsuits. This is to be expected. I have seen statistically significant data showing the advantage of a wetsuit of anywhere between 5 and 10 seconds faster per 100 meters. So over 1700 meters that would be a time savings of approximately 1.5 to 3 minutes. After crossing under the second bridge, I finally noticed a good pull with the current.
Not much faster, but at least faster than swimming in a normal lake. The swim, other than the slowness of it, was rather pleasant and I wasn’t really that tired as I climbed out of the river at transition. I probably should have pushed a little harder, but I don’t think I could have bettered my time by much. My average was a 1:40 min/100 meters which is only a betterment of my normal speed by 20 seconds. By my rough calculations I figured the river to only be flowing at approximately 1.8 KMH (1.1 MPH). This is much slower than I had hoped for. Thus on exiting and pushing the lap button I saw the time of 26 minutes.
Having seen the time as 2 minutes higher than my A Goal, I figured I had to make those up on the bike because I knew I wouldn’t do it on the run. However, that still being the case I took my time in T1 cause I wanted to assure calmness. I ate a banana; I sat down and pulled on my socks. I turned on my computer and got a big drink out of my bottle. Then I trotted to the bike mount zone.
I started to pick my cadence up to the zones I wanted to hit early on in the race, but noticed that my HR was already higher than I wanted. I felt good though and felt really comfortable at the pace, so I kept at it. Slowly my HR settled down too. Made sense. After leaving Kitzingen, the wind started being felt. Like most people I have problem with wind. Much like hills, you never get back what the wind takes out of you. The HR started to pick up again and I started shifting down assuring I was as low as I could get. At one point, the wind was so strong that it had me on the small chain ring on a flat. Then getting to Frickenhausen and going through the cobblestone city center I thought, OK, where are the hills? The answer came at km 15.
Not too bad, not too steep, but 6 kilometers long. As said before, I am OK with climbing, but long climbs eventually eat up my strength. Utilizing the same data page I had set up for the Pressather Sprint, I noticed my average speed drop all the way to 25 KMH. That meant that the downhill would require me to get as much back as possible. The problem with the first immediate downhill was that it was directly into the wind. After the quick drop into the valley an abrupt turn had us climb back out of the river valley again. This time the grade was double digits. Oddly enough my bike chain jumped into the spokes and got stuck when I shifted to the top of the cog. Guess I need to make some adjustments; silly pre-race oversight. I wasted roughly 2 minutes getting the chain out of the spokes and getting back to speed. Then I continued the climb until I saw where the race director had painted a smiley face on the road. Supposedly that meant the climbing was over. It was all downhill from there (12 km remaining). I even got the full advantage of the wind on 2 straightaways. I really enjoy these parts of each race. My km splits were under 1:30 and I slowly got the average back up to 29KMH. Then just before coming back into Kitzingen it jumped to 30.2, and I figured, “OK, B Goal is now the only Goal”.
Quite deflating was that when I came into transition I saw the leading female competitor starting her second lap of the run course. Run your own race right? I was in and out of this transition rather quickly and the most of the time was spent getting to and from my transition spot. I did grab another banana though.
At the beginning of the run I held myself back on purpose. With the first km buzzing in at 5:06, I was a little scared I was going too fast. So I slowed it down. With hindsight, I did so too much. Were I to run this course again I would do it differently. I would use the hills to get up to the top of the bridges as my slow splits and the flats as my tempo pace. I know that might not translate to a negative split, but It would suit the purpose of this course just fine. I also stopped at every aid station and got water or a banana and some electrolyte drink. The most frustrating thing for me was that with my run heavy training, I wasn’t able to put in one sub 5:00 km. I think I could have early, but I decided against it due to the consistently present fear of cramping.
During the second lap I remembered some advice a friend of mine gave me a while back regarding the run portion of triathlons. Hi told me that the run portion will always just be a tad slow, but regardless of the distance, you should treat the last 3rd as if it was a race within itself. In fact he always chose someone with which to race. After the 7km buzz came through, I noticed two older gentlemen slowly cruising passed me. I picked up the pace and kept with them til the final 400 meters. This enabled some negative splits for me, but still not below 5:00. Oh well, all in perspective right, and I figure the wind took more out of me than I was expecting.
While the official time chip results are still not up, my watch results put me at just over 2:46:00 missing both my A Goal and my B Goal. Thus, my HR should have been within Zone 2 right? Nope. I account the wind as the biggest reason for my slower time and higher HR, but all is good for experience right? I also hear that my next triathlon has much more wind and much more climbing, so this experience should be helpful for that one.
Triathlons here in Germany have distinctive features that some of the ones in America I have participated in don’t: more of a hilly profile, and slightly faster participants as a whole. I can’t as of yet back this up with numbers, but I have never gotten to the post-race goodie table with one of the items completely gone (watermelon). It will be something to compare more in detail as I get more of a data sample. Nothing new came to me with this triathlon as far as something to do different, but it further solidified my desire to eventually save up the money for a power meter.
With that, thanks for reading.