OK, so finally my hangover has cleared and I can just about string some sentences together!
Wow. What can I say?! Ironman Germany has to go down as one of the best and most memorable experiences I have ever ever had. The German passion and enthusiasm for the sport is unrivalled, and I revelled in the atmosphere that this passion generates.
I arrived in Frankfurt last Monday, 30 June – in time to attend the press conference the next day. It was funny because when Macca was talking about breaking the world record for the men, and I turned to Norman and said ‘What is the World Record for the women? Unfortunately he shook his head and said ‘i don’t know!’
I spent the rest of the week training, resting and eating a lot. The race organisers had given me a rather large passion pad at the Intercontinental that made me feel a bit like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Although it didn’t have a hot tub. Or Richard Gere. But it was the perfect place to watch my pirated collection of sex in the city dvds and listen to German commentary of Wimbledon. Das ist sehr gut. We found a great 50m open air pool to swim in most mornings (I was slightly disturbed by the German love of the speedo. Something that seems to have been relegated to the 1980 history books in most other countries, but is still worn with pride here). I also rode a lap of the course, and then part of it for all my other rides, so that gave me a nice taster of what was in store – although Hell Hill was rather more hellish during the race than it was in practice. The run was right in the centre of town, along either side of the river, so I could again pound the race pavements beforehand.
I went into the race feeling strong from a few months solid training in the mountains, although the thought of my hamstring injury did play a little on my mind. Thank the lord for hot water bottles, rubber pants, green clay and cling film. Utilised at different times to spread the love. So yes, although I was feeling good, and was determined to give winning my best shot, I never EXPECTED to win. Racing the Germans on their home turf is notoriously tough, and I didn’t want to rest on my laurels or take anything for granted.
You can never have the ‘perfect’ race, but I guess this one was as near perfect as I could hope for! The pros started bang on 6.45am with about 300 other speedy age groupers, and the remaining 2200 or so athletes went off 15minutes later. This strategy seemed to pay off, as it really did limit the amount of packs forming on the bike. The water was a tropical 23.8 degrees, so my rubber was allowed. I have been working hard on my swim, and was determined not to let all this work go to waste. I did loose feet after about 500m, and ended up splashing solo, but was really happy to come out as first woman. Onto the bike I felt good, but like a German sausage the Ironman day is long and so I deliberately didn’t want to go out too fast. All was great until the Hell Hill when my water bottle containing my special beverage was rocket launched into the air as I bounced over the cobbles, never to be seen again. Oh bother I thought. My nutritional strategy has gone ‘ to Hell’. What to do? There is no special needs. OK, ‘sod it’, was the next thought. I will savour the drink I have and then use whatever they give me at the aid stations.
I felt stronger as the ride went on, although i did get attacked by a rather large flying object – whether it be a bee, wasp or other airbourne beast – it hurt a lot and i spent about 5km scratching at the welt that developed on my chest. By the second lap I started to take on a few of the age group men with their very nice technical gadgets. The course was great, some nice drags and climbs, downhills (luckily not too technical for an incompetent nunce like me), some corners through the wee villages and a lovely beast of a headwind all the way home. I dropped a second water bottle at about 140km and promptly rode over it. Next time maybe I should use a camelback.
Coming into the run I was feeling good, but hungry. The only thing that concerned me was the fact that I hadn’t followed my nutritional strategy and I didn’t know how it would affect my run. But you can’t worry about things like that for too long. You just get out there and do the job. The run course was fantastic – 4 x10.5km laps – and flat, aside from a few bridges. I was blown away by the number of spectators and the support that I received. It was truly phenomenal, and very moving. As usual, I took one energy gel in T2 and then one gel every 25mins, although after 2hours I only had a few sips of cola as my stomach started to become a wee bit, well, loose. And yes, it did necessitate a flying visit to one of those lovely portable toilets.
Coming into the final 2km I felt like I was on fire, aside from stiffness in my buttock region. I honestly didn’t know how close I was to the World Record, but I don’t regret taking my time in the last 500m to savour that very special moment, soak up the atmosphere and show my appreciation to the 500,000 people that had turned out to watch the race. Records come and go, but these memories will stay with me forever. To top it all off I got to share the victory with my wonderful mum and dad, my cousin and all my friends who had flown out from the UK to…drink beer.
And the day didn’t end there. The finish line celebrations were absolutely fantastic and as I watched people cross the line and hung medals round their necks I was choked by tears and reminded once again why I do this sport – to challenge myself, reach my own goals, encourage and inspire others, and share in the joy, passion, determination and courage of everyone else that places their heart and soul on the line.
Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without the obligatory bottle of champagne. Or was that two? Washed down with a few German sized jars of ale (so sizeable that you need a forklift truck to hold them rather than a limp wrist), some thigh slapping local tunes, and yes, the odd oversized sausage or three, after all…when in Rome…..
I would like to finish off, by once again thanking Kurt Denk and his team for everything they did to make the race such a resounding success. A special mention goes out to Sven for being an awesome wing man for me and the rest of the pro athletes. Vielen schonen danke also to all the volunteers who gave up their valuable time to help, and to the sponsors, without whom none of this would happen
I am now back in the land of the Swiss. Less sausage more cheese – nursing my post race Champagne induced hangover and getting back into some kind of training. I will be toeing the line at Alp D’Huez on 31 July, and then will probably head to the US for Timberman 70.3 before starting the big count down to Kona. Life is good – especially if it contains beer, sausage, neoprene pants, cling film and an Ironman victory!