On Sunday 14th August 2016 I, ATOM. from Team Atomic Hamster, took part in the inaugural Challenge Regensburg; sure, it was once an Ironman, and organised by the same team, using the same course, but this was to be the 1st Challenge outing. My usual sparring partner, Crash Hamster was taking a sabatical so this would be a solo venture.
This is my race report (abridged) of a day, which resulted in my 1st Long Distance DNF, which I like to precis as: Swim, Bike, Run, Ambulance.
For those that haven't been to Regensburg, it's a beautiful German town, North of Munich, nestled in the Bavarian countryside, and a UNESCO world heritage site. The Challenge event was well organised, with the town happy to embrace an influx of triathletes during their peak tourist season. The race has a split transition, with the Lake (T1) some 10km out of town, and the run (T2) taking place within the town.
To be honest, my training for the event had been somewhat haphazard. I'd enjoyed an injury free Oct 15-Jan 16, and was looking forward to capitalising on my fitness up to race day when work intervened, and I found myself 'on the road', both in the UK and abroad, for 9 weeks from Feb 16, then an additional 4 weeks in Jun/Jul. So I reappraised my goals and opted for, it's your 5th Iron Distance race, keep to HR and cadence and see what happens (ie sod the time, get the bling!).
Swim (1hr 22m 04s): Great open water gravel pit for the swim, 2 laps with a 100m run between laps. 3 waves (pros +, sub 11h30, rest) 5 mins apart (I was in wave 3), then the relay teams a further 25 mins later. Quite pleased with my swim, fairly comfortable throughout and starting to overtake wave 2 and wave 1 swimmers by the end of the 1st lap. Into transition feeling fine, quick (by my standards) change, and off on the bike.
Bike (7hr 04m 29s): The bike was 2 laps, and took us through the scenic Bavarian landscape. I think it's fair to say that this was when the wheels started to come off! Sun was already climbing (at 7:30am) and temperature climbing, and then, after 10 km, the 1st of 3 hills to 28km. Picked up 1 water and 1 energy drink from the aid station then flicked into a comfortable gear and spun up the climbs, keeping HR steady. Eat, drink, repeat, or so I kept telling myself. 1st error: noticed I hadn't got energy drink at aid station, but it was water; 2 water will be fine till next aid station I persuaded myself. Nice descent between 28k and 36k, then a gradual climb (minimal incline if truth be known) to 65k, sharp incline, then slow descent to end lap 1, in around 3hr 15m. Sun was now high in the sky, temps around 30. Was taking on fuel (or so my brain was telling me) but truth be known, turning the pedals was starting to feel tough even though HR was steady. Repeat long climb, collect drinks from top of climb, commence descent then watch in dismay as the water bottle fails to sit in the cage and bounces out onto the road; quick decision... 18k to the next aid station, stop and collect water or push on as it's only 18k? hindsight says I should've stopped but...! Continue on, drinking sparingly. Next aid station, refuel and keep going, however legs definitely lacking power, and looking at my tri shorts I noticed they was starting to turn white with salt crystals. Passed final aid station, 25k to go and my left quad starts to cramp. My addled brain puts it down to fatigue, gently massage leg, and press on. T1, lake, and then to the final 'sprint' to T2, which seemed to arrive after an eternity. Hand bike to helpers and run to the changing tent. 7 minutes in transition, involving drinking copious amounts of carbonated water (did I spot a potential dehydration issue here? Nope!), then onto the run course.
Run: Flat run course of 4 loops of the town. Aid stations at 0k (T2), 2.5k, 4.5k, 6.5k & 8k (repeat x4). Sun still beating down, and little in the way of shelter til the park between 4-8k. Lap 1, saw wife who said 'hows it going?' Me: 'Bike was a nightmare, I feel sh!t'. Shuffle along, taking water and drink at aid stations. By the start of lap 2 I was on a determined run/walk strategy, counting foot-falls to ensure I kept steady. Time was staying constant, and I still wasn't feeling great but managing to smile/wave to the many spectators along the run course. Met up with fellow strugglers, and encouraged/goaded them along. Lap 3: Still on a run/walk, still drinking and eating at the aid stations, but I could tell my pace was dropping (even more). Eventually, approaching T2 for the penultimate time and collecting the 3rd wrist band. Only 12k to go, and I was now in walk mode! However, everything still seemed fine and hey, it's only 12km. 2k later and a quick chat to the wife again, 'Hows it going?' Me: 'not good, having to walk, and I'm in survivor mode, just 10k and 2.5hrs til cut-off, see you in 1.5hrs.' Thankfully, or so I thought, the sun was setting. Approached aid station 1, thanked staff and drank water. approaching aid station 2, felt compelling need to throw up (never a good sign), crouched down and let nature take its course, only nothing came up, apparently I was empty (never a good sign). arrived at aid station but couldn't eat/drink, so said my thanks again and walked onto the next aid station. I saw walk, but more of a stagger/stumble, but I still wasn't believing there was a problem until I arrived at the next aid station where I'd primed the volunteers to have a glass of beer on hand and I'd celebrate my last visit with them. Sure enough, a cup of beer was offered but, for the 1st time in history, I had to decline, keep focussed on moving forward and continue my way towards the finish. Mid way to the next aid station and another bout of non-vomiting, and then I was at the aid station. Got chatting to the lead volunteer: Him: how are you feeling? Me: not great. Him: are you going to drop out? Me: No, 4k to go, just need to focus and keep moving. Him: do you want to sit down? Me: No, I need to keep moving. Him: OK, do you want water/food? Me: No thank you, I won't keep it down. Him: are you sure you don't want a chair? Me: No, I must stay on my feet (helper quietly places chair behind me), and midway through my 'No thanks, I must keep moving' my body sat down! At that point 2 paramedics descended on me, took vitals, took blood, took temp, wrapped foil blanket around me, then called an ambulance. One of the paramedics then said 'for you the race is over'; ok, maybe not those exact words, but he definitely wasn't letting me continue. Ambulance arrived, and I was invited to get on-board. From the chair to the ambulance was 10 metres, and I couldn't even stand up without the aid of 2 medics holding me up; it was about this time that I realised I probably wasn't going to finish the final 4k under my own steam. More checks inside the ambulance, then a pleasant ambulance ride with full blues and twos to the finish area to shuffle, with assistance, to the hospital tent. By this time, I was shivering quite a bit, vitals were taken again, wife arrived and I was eventually released into her care. 500 metre walk back to the hotel, then my wife had to head off to T2 to collect my bike and bag, then returned for a fitful night sleep as, apparently, I spent the night shallow breathing and sweating profusely; not that I knew as I was asleep!
Post-Race: Breakfast, ate lots, started drinking. Drank around 8 litres of water, couple of bottles of flavoured milk, 1 litre of coke, and eventually needed the toilet at 8pm in the evening, with pee the colour of orange lucozade (never a good sign). Arrived home to find I'd lost 0.5 stone, and after 3 days I could happily claim to be rehydrated, and had put on 0.5 stone!
Reflections on a DNF: Obviously, I was gutted not to finish, especially with only 4k to go. However, I've managed to identify some key errors that I made on race day, and in the lead up to the race. The disappointment is still there, but I'm actually quite pleased that the medical team were on-site, as I've no idea what state I'd have been in if I'd attempted to carry on. And on the plus side, I'm already planning next year's Ironman race, so it's safe to say I really haven't learnt too much from this experience