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Challenge Roth - July 2013

mhowoodby mhowoodDec 21st 2013
This needs to be a long report. It was a long race.
Challenge Roth 2013.
Billed as my A race of the year, and an extravagant present (to myself) for my 40th birthday, it almost feels anticlimactic now in the heat of summer. A season over by mid July?
With my mother looking after both our boys, in a house that resembles a building site (loft extension), my wife and I flew out from Heathrow on Lufthansa bound for Nuremburg; 20km outside Roth.
Bike shipping wasn't a problem as, along with 30 others, our bikes were driven there by Jamie of BikeBox Online. In fact, multiple Xterra world champ Sam Gardner even collected my Ceepo Venom TT bike! Fan Boy moment.
With one less headache to worry about, myself, Sheela and fellow Thames Turbo, Jayson landed and were in our hire car and bound for Roth in time for a late lunch.
Other Turbos dripped into the Arena Park hotel over the next couple of days both by plane and driving.

By arriving on the Thursday we had plenty of time to register and relax before race day.
The days broke down like this:
Thursday PM
Expo: food, alcohol free beer, an Oompa band, and Pro girls in Dirndl (female lederhosen)!
Early bed

Breakfast 1
Swim in the Kanal - very quiet. 10mins out n back.
Breakfast 2. Yup! ;)
Pasta Party - I'd advise skipping this next time. Barely any food. They had had a problem when a truck crashed earlier in the day, but still...

Easy spin on bike. 30mins
Easy run.
Relax and nap.
Drive to Kanal and Rack bike. Had to park at top of hill by supermarket. Good to see Pro's racking theirs too and having helmets checked. No special treatment here.
Race briefing.
Dinner at pretty much the only Italian in town - we hussled over as soon as briefing was finished, as they don't take bookings.
Bed by 9pm. Ear plugs in.

Up at 4am for breakfast: muesli with yogurt, croissant

Drive to race start... Huge traffic tailback, thank goodness for our satnav and 'Janes' Alternative Route!
Once there, things were pretty relaxed. Pumped tyres up to 110psi, and used the portaloos a few times.
Tip: the loos right next to Swim Start have no queues ;)

Much has been made the swim, as the waves seem to be abriteraly set by Age Group, with no relationship to pace. The normal bunfight insued, and I had my goggles elbowed from my face before I'd even crossed the start line, over the next hour they were kicked off as later waves and faster swimmers took turns swimming over me! Nevertheless, I emerged 1:31 later smiling and mugging for the cameras!
Challenge Roth - July 2013
T1 went pretty smoothly, and I'd opted for a cycle top to keep the sun off my shoulders and to start the bike with dry clothing. So no prizes for my T1 split; this is something I've consciously decided upon. With a 90min swim I'm never going to win my AG, so a bit of extra time in T1 costs me nothing. As I result, I opt for socks and dry clothing. It's a long day. No point starting the day in discomfort!
Challenge Roth - July 2013
Out onto the roads and they were everything we'd been promised. Super smooth but far from flat. Roth is an undulating course with some not insignificant climbs that are rarely publicised - these left me thankful for my 11-27 cassette, giving me a few extra gears up those hills.
Note: for future Roth competitors, I'd run Schwalbe Ultremo ZX at 120psi. Germany's worst roads are better than our best. At 110psi, I thought I was cycling through treacle at some points on the course.
The support from the locals and villages is everything you've heard about and more. A reported 250,000 spectators are in attendance and I can believe it. I think I high-fived most of them on the way up Solberg Hill.
Challenge Roth - July 2013
Towards the end of the first lap, the Pro leaders came through escorted by motorcycles. I sat up, applauded, yelled encouragement and received an 8 minute penalty for drifting too close to the bike in front. The Draft Busters are everywhere and there's no use pleading with them!
I pulled into the next Penalty Box and I had a lot of company. The Draft Busters had been busy.
I was pissed off. Yes, I hadn't realised how close I'd drifted to the bike in front but I don't think there is any aero advantage being sat up, pointing at the Pros and yelling, 'Goooooo Jamessssss!!!!' No chance of a warning?
Anyway, I served my 8 minutes. Used the portaloo, drank some water. Chilled out.

Back on the course I'd definately lost my momentum, as I tried to put aside my anger at the penalty, and focus on enjoying myself again. A 2:45 first lap (before penalty stop), soon became a 3hr second lap; as I seemed to spend the whole 90kms either looking over my shoulder or being overly safe with my draft zones.
Should have been a 5:30 bike split, but with penalty (8 mins) and paranoia (15 mins) it ended up as 5:54.
I'd stuck to my nutrition plan though. My Garmin beeped every 30mins to remind to eat a gel, 1/2 a PowerBar or banana. I also made a point of drinking more water and High5 than previous events, as I've been guilty of under hydrating.
Challenge Roth - July 2013
Suddenly we were hooking a hard right into T2. It was so sudden that I didn't have time to grab my Garmin 310XT off the bars before my bike was whisked away! Cue me chasing a German man around the bike racks! More lost time.
T2 was pretty smooth, and if anything the helpers are over eager. I've got my system. I know the order I want to take things out of my Transition bag but it took some work to get it off them, it messed with my head a bit, and wound up slowing me down.
There's a lesson there: learn enough German phrases to get by!
"Please give me my bag", "No, please let me do it", "Kindly bugger off", etc may help. ;)

The run along the canal is mentally hard, as there's not a great deal too break up the monotony of the miles. It's exposed and despite a milder weather report, temperatures hit over 30C as the afternoon wore on. Melt down.
For the most part it's an out and back run. Mainly along the canal, but taking in a some wooded sections before using villages for turning points. The wooded sections are welcome, if not hilly, and break things up a bit.
Again, stuck to my plan. Watch bleeped 25mins. Took a gel, but with an eye on my gut, and eating/drinking to thirst.
Something was wrong though. Despite walking every second Aid Station, my pace was off. Around mile 16, my gut was hurting. Thinking it was GI distress, I backed off the gels, but it didn't get any better. Knowing I'd bonk if I didn't eat something, I tried to at least take small sips of coke. Mile 20 came and went with no let up, and I was really starting to suffer.
At mile 22, I was vomiting, hoping to clear what ever was causing the problem. No help, but with the promise of Roth, the finish line and increasing crowds, I picked up the pace again.
Winding through Roth's streets and it's crowds was the best finish to a marathon I've ever had, and I've done London twice! It is a bit disorientating though, so I'd recommend having a good walk around earlier in the week to familiarise yourself, as you do start to wonder, 'the finish line HAS to be around here somewhere!'
Challenge Roth - July 2013
Before you know it, you're running into the stadium, unable to focus on faces due to the sheer mass of cheering people!

Finish time: 11:17:01
Challenge Roth - July 2013
Now where's the beer?
You see, I'd promised people at work that I'd have a beer in my hand by 6pm, and I did! Roth is sponsored by Erdinger, and there was trestle table after trestle table creaking under the weight of them! Zero Alcohol but damn tasty!

Finish line euphoria was short lived, as soon after I wandered into the Medical Tent which resembled a scene from Mash. I just wanted to lie down but not 1 but 2 IV bags were put into me. Felt great afterwards though!
I wasn't the only one, as I saw many fellow competitors be stretchered in. It was HOT on that run.
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