Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Ironman Frankfurt Race Report

I came to race Frankfurt for two reasons:
#1. I wanted the life experience of racing in Europe.
#2. In chase of Kona points.
I achieved #1, and Frankfurt landed me on the very edge of #2. I will write a separate post about chasing World Championship kona points as a pro - it is complicated. This post is about #1. Ironman Frankfurt is the European Championship and the field was stacked, but I had no reason to believe I could not race with the best of these girls.

The swim is two loops in a lake - one loop on the left, get out and run across the sand, then a loop on the right.

The pros lined up in front of 350 fast age group athletes and we started together. The first loop involved getting punched in the head by aggressive men and hopping from one set of feet to another. I was hot. Very hot in my wetsuit.

The second loop was less crowded and other than swimming beside a German man for a while who apparently got very angry at me (he smacked me in the head which made me stop and then he started yelling at me in German, at which point I swam away from him) - it was uneventful. At the end of the swim I headed toward what I thought was the finishing arch, but it turned out to be a smaller inflatable arch about 200m away from the real finish. Oops. Sharp right turn, swim, swim, swim, run up a very long sand hill and onto my bike. Swim = 55:54

The bike is two loops of winding roads through small villages with several climbs. The climbs were amazing with fans cheering similar to what you see in the Tour de France - I loved this part. Europe understands bike racing and they have mastered the cheering portion! There were a lot of corners, round-abouts and a cobblestone section that was brutal. On the first loop I did not feel horrible, but I didn't feel great either.

Photo: Marcel Hilger
The second loop was hot and windy, but I felt much better than on the first loop. I came off the bike in 16th. Bike = 5:14

I knew my position starting the run was far from ideal for earning Kona points, but I also knew a marathon is long and anything can happen. I set out to make it happen. Early in the run fellow American and Zoot teammate Amber and I ran together and I was hoping we could push each other the entire run. We got separated part way through the first of four loops.

I was teetering on the edge for the first two of four loops of the run. This is my job, this is racing, and I did not come to Frankfurt to run a comfortable and ultra-safe marathon. I came to Frankfurt to race, and this is what I did.

By the third loop my stomach was unhappy. Coke was the only source of calories I could get in, and it is not enough fuel to maintain a fast run pace. I succumbed to what felt like the slowest Ironman shuffle possible. Run = 3:27

The Frankfurt finish is amazing. It is much longer than what you can see here. I do not usually get overly emotional at Ironman races, but I cried running down the finish chute in Frankfurt. I came to Frankfurt incredibly fit and ready to have an amazing race. I did not have the race I wanted. (Welcome to life - this will happen more than you think - get used to it). But I raced an amazing course in Europe, made some incredible friends, and learned a bit more about myself. Finish = 9:44, 12th.

I like to learn from mistakes, figure out what went wrong, learn and move on. I am exceptionally skilled at putting a LOT on my plate. I want to live life beyond full. I want to do it all. Sometimes I probably do a bit too much. I trained hard leading into Frankfurt. Add in travel, working my other job and maybe it was too much. Or maybe it was just an off day. Hard to say.

I am currently ranked 32 for the Ironman World Championships. 35 pro girls will race the Hawaii Ironman in October. I must decide whether I try to race another points race to qualify, or I let the chips fall where they may. My goal was never to simply qualify for the World Championships, my goal has always been to race well in Hawaii. I need to decide if racing another high points race will compromise my chances for a solid race in Kona.

There are many people who have supported me along this journey. Especially when traveling solo abroad, I am so grateful for those who have made me feel welcome. THANK YOU: Jens & Susan for taking such amazing care of me in Germany!  Cannondale for creating an amazing bike, Zoot for outfitting me from head to toe, SKLZ for believing in my abilities and helping me recover, Profile Design for awesome aero bars, fast wheels and hydration, Powerbar for fueling me, Extreme Endurance for helping me recover quickly, Winsole for bike shoe insoles that put more power to the pedal, Rudy Project for protecting my head and eyes, Bont for stiff and comfortable bike shoes,  Sable Water Optics for making goggles I love, and Microscope World for time off from work to go race a thighmaster triathlon.

My travels are now taking me to France, Barcelona for some microscope work and London. I will share photos...