There were a few reasons why I chose Ironman Frankfurt this year. Timing, more Kona spots, more opportunity to travel this year, and I’ve been told that racing in Europe is an amazing experience. And an awesome experience it was! From race organization, media coverage, huge finish line and spectators, this race had it all at the next level!
I arrived 5 days before the race (Tuesday) to try to fight the 9 hour time change, as well as not feeling overwhelmed in a place I have never been. I have never travelled outside of North America, so this was a huge new experience for me. Wednesday was a little rough as I really didn’t want to get out of bed, but by Friday, I had beat the jet lag and felt I was on the right schedule.
Going into this race, I was nervous and worried. Not because of the race itself, but a heat wave had come through Europe and the forecasted temp for race day was 39 C. I have NEVER had a good race in extreme heat, and they usually end with me puking my way through the run. I have been working on my hydration and nutrition very closely since last year, trying to figure out patterns and causes for things. It is inevitable that heat will affect everyone, and I really felt that race day was going to come down to the one that could handle the heat the best. In training, I have really been focusing on getting my stomach used to large amounts of fluid, putting an emphasis on the first hour of the bike. Everyone has a different sweat rate, and I know that mine is extreme. My plan was to have two super-bottles of my F2C Glycodurance + Electrodurance for the 5-ish hour ride and pick up water at every station. Thanks to Ventum’s built in hydration system, I can hold 1.5L at a time. My goal was to drink 2 bottles of water in the first hour while it was cooler. I usually don’t take in that much in the first hour as I’m really not thirsty at that point. However, I if I wait till I’m thirsty, I know I’m behind, and catching up without getting sick is super tough, if not impossible for me personally. I was able to get those two bottles in, and picked up enough water at every station to fill my built-in reservoir. The heat didn’t really start to kick in until the second loop, but knew I was hydrated as I peed 3 or four times during the ride. Usually I only go once, and that’s in (usually) cooler conditions.
Let’s flip back to race day morning. Ironman had organized Pro shuttles to take us out to the swim start/T1, but these left at 4:30am, meaning wake-up was at 3:15. This was a little earlier than what I was used to, but an 8 hour sleep isn’t something that ever happens the night before the race! We were at the lake by 5 and race start wasn’t till 6:30. This was A LOT of time to hang out in transition, but I stayed relaxed and made my way to the warm-up swim early. This ended up being more of a cool-down swim. The water temp was 25.5 degrees, but the air was quite cool, and I got super cold. A volunteer was nice enough to give me his jacket so I could try to stay warm. Swim start was a beach start, which is usually pretty disastrous for me. However, this start went well, and I found some feet right away. The field here was a little stronger in the swim, and I knew I was one of the slowest in the field. My goal was not to be last out of the water, so I really needed to hang onto those feet. I was able to do this until the last km, where I got separated from the group on one of the turns. I still had a 59min swim which was nothing to complain about in my books!
I tried to whip through transition as fast as possible to bridge the gap to the group in front of me. I was only about 60-90 seconds behind by the time I got on the bike, but those girls took off and literally vanished. Once again I didn’t let this get to me and focused on my plan, hoping those girls were riding too hard and I would catch them later on. Unfortunately this never happened. I was having one of those days where I just didn’t feel comfortable on my bike right from the beginning. Maybe I was stressed about the heat, but I just couldn’t relax. My back seized up by 80km and my legs were burning. I’m not sure if my legs were burning because of my back or if my back was seizing because of my legs. The longer I rode, the worse it got and the lower my power was. I even had to stop and stretch on the side of the road so I could continue. I honestly thought about dropping out as I really didn’t see how I was going to be able to run well with how my legs felt. At the end of the bike, which was 185km, I was much farther behind than I wanted. My ride was a good 10-15min slower than I had wanted it to be.
I knew I was somewhere around 6th place heading out on the run. It took a good 5km to get into a groove, but my legs and back felt a lot better than I thought they would. Every aid station I put ice down the front and back of my suit, sponges tucked in my neck and water over the head. Stay cool and hydrated was what I kept telling myself. I was not expecting a fast run in the heat, and kept my pace conservative as I was terrified of overheating. By halfway, I had moved into fourth and no one had caught me. I wasn’t feeling the heat barely at all and my stomach felt great. While 21km was still a long way to go, I knew I was in good shape. The run here is a four loop course with spectators on every inch of the course. There was no chance to get bored or feel alone! By the time I was half way through my last lap, I had lost all hopes of making the podium. I had no idea how far ahead first and second were, but I had a feeling they were out of reach. It was a HUGE surprise that the third place biker jumped out at me in the last KM, informing me that I was now in third! Unfortunately Sarah had collapsed with less than a km to go. I was devastated for her, but excited for myself. This was not the way I wanted to make it to the podium, but it was how it worked out this day. Third place at the European Champs felt amazing, but unfortunately was one spot out of Kona Qualifying.
There were no PB’s set, and some very good and so not so great take-aways from the race. But, the fast that I performed well in the heat was enough to make me extremely happy with my race. I now have the confidence to race in super-hot conditions, and I know I could have pushed a little harder. Now it’s crunch time to Ironman Canada to get that Kona Spot!
Thank you once again to my family, friends, coach and sponsors: Ventum, F2C Nutrition, Skechers Performance Canada, Swagman Racks, EnergyLab, BlueSeventy, Pioneer, Wattie Ink, Podium Imports, ISM saddles, The Bike Barn, Nuvista Chiropractic and Wellness, Zizu Optics, Zealios, Frontier Coffee Company, Okanoggin Barbers, and JonnyOcoaching.