Let the suffering begin.
My lasting impression is not that of smiles yesterday. Challenge Kraichgau certainly appeared to take its toll on everyone. It was a day to remember.
Morning came with a full sun in a cloudless sky. After 3-4 weeks of cool temperatures and lots of rain, Germany opened up to the hottest day of the year. Sunny and 28 degrees. The 9:00am start had us running in the heat of the day which was a treat.
Warning: Those things that look like professional firework cannisters with caution tape around them are just that. My surprise came with the first wave and the cannon type blast just over my right shoulder. My body was shuddering for a good couple minutes after that.
Swim Start - I really like racing in Europe. Swim starts are easy here. For the 2nd race in a row, I did not get touched in the swim. Not once. Nobody tried to swim over me. Nobody smacked my head with their wild right arm. Just a clear open shot to the first turn. Lets talk about that first turn. It took forever to get there. That big yellow thing floating in the water didn't seem to get closer for a longgggg time. Once around it though the others went by fast. Sighting on the finish was just a bit difficult. Direct sun and no flags or finish banner made it tough. For most of the swim I was in open water. Rarely did I have anyone around me. I found a tempo that felt hard yet comfortable and just picked the straightest line.
Bike - First notice of the day was wind. Not super heavy but enough to feel in the face and on the cross. Seems like the big section where we were hidden from the wind was the section that would have been a tailwind. No complaining though. I can't say there was anything special for me on the ride. My fueling was good. I had plenty to drink and held a steady pace. The ride was definately hillier than most races. In fact it may have been the most hills in any race I've done. These were not the typical short super steep hills of most of Germany, they were 4-5 minutes of climbing at 8% or so. Then their were the hills that were flat enough to not look like hills but long enough to work you. The only way I really new I was climbing was that I caught all the guys that would pass me on the flying downhills. Challenge Krichgau is part of the ever growing Challenge series of races. Not quite all the pomp that the Ironman name has Challenge brings unique things to the events. One thing heavily adverised is the Hot Spots. Their goal is to get crazy, beer drinking fans in the places where riding is slow. One such place I can only call one thing, The Wall. As is with every screaming down hill entering a village there is a 90 degree turn at the bottom. It's becoming predictable. This one however threw a big surprise at the turn. In the 53-12 at the turn I was faced with a Wall rising at an estimated 14% right at the go. This wall continued for 400-600 meters and was jam packed with fans screaming in your ears. It was a treat to have all those fans watch as I switched from that 53-12 to a 39-24 in a flash. Try it sometime on 14%. The bike doesn't like it. One thing quite interesting happened on my ride (note to wife, it may not be safe). About 20K into the ride my index shifting went away. It came back for a short time but for most of the 90K I was old school shifting by feel. Wow, I can't believe I used to have to do that all the time. Like the swim, the ride was a complete solo effort. No group no riders on the exact same pace just a wide open affair. I was happy to see the 80K mark but new there was one big hill left. That hill was roughly 4K long with a super steep middle section (hot spot) thrown in. The last 5K was rolling and seemed to take forever. Even though I passed the most people of the entire ride in that last 5K it didn't feel all that fast.
Run - Generally when I'm coming off the bike I'm excited. Ready to hit the run. This time I had an strange feeling. That bike was hard and oh my gosh, it's really hot in this transition area. Quick transition and I was out running. The run course was a 3 lap affair with roughly 2 minutes of shade on each lap. The rest of the run was in direct sun light with the hottest part running through the windless village. The run profile on the website didn't match the course. That doesn't mean they had the wrong profile or that they fooled us. It simply means that hills are not always as advertised on the profile. In fact this run course was quite hilly. As in the past I used the first loop to get comfortable and fuel up. Dread set in a bit when I realized I had 3 laps of this heat and these hills. No worries though I felt good (not great) and I was moving along. After a conservative first lap I opened up the pace on the second lap. Or at least I thought I did. Results show that my first lap was the fastest. Things don't always appear as they seem. I didn't feel terribly bad just not fresh. Things like, fueling were becomind difficult. I didn't really want it anymore. Nothing hurt but nothing felt great either. With 2K to go I sucked it up and began to push the pace. 8 minutes of running and this thing is over. Ouch that long hill hurts but there is an equally long downhill just after, keep pushing. Coming up with 600 meters to go, what's that someone is pacing off me. I can feel him. Through the last aid station neither of us take anything. Now he's moving up on my shoulder. Come on buddy, you are hurting just like me, lets not race this thing in. Sure enough at the 90 degree turn up hill on grass with 100 meters to go, he tries to surge past me. I find one last 1/2 gear of energy and then, silence. He cracked. Cross the finishline, check the time and think That Hurt. My happy smiling family are right there at the finish to greet me. Marco with my Recovery drink in hand. Mary with a happy birthday smile on her face and Scout wagging her tail. A welcome sight for sure.
Run Time: 1:37:01
Total Time: 4:57:25
Place Overall: 129
Pace Agegroup: 17
Walking around the finish area, everyone had the same look on their face. Not many smiles only relief. A big thanks the the Challenge group for putting the cold pools at the finish. 5 minutes in the pool felt great. The big tale tell sign that it was an effort was cramping in my feet. I got out of the pool and my right foot was in a solid cramp. I couldn't move my toes and they were spread out as far as they could go. Luckily the recovery drink kicked in, cramps gone. A quick shower, quick transition to normal guy and we were off towards home.
Final thoughts: This wasn't as fast as I planned but I'm really happy. It was a tough day and I managed it well. I can tell by the quick recovery. Sure I can feel the race in my body but nothing hurts and I could run today if I had to. I will say that this is the second time under 5 hours so I can take that home. This ends my spring racing campaign. Rest and recharging is what I need to tackle the real goals in the Fall. More on that in future posts.
Big, huge thanks to Mary, Marco and Scout. You make it all fun. Thanks again to coach Gordo and all the folks and Endurance Corner. Thanks to my running shoes again. My feet don't hurt.
It's a good life.....