Yesterday I raced Challenge Roth. It is an incredible race with an incredible atmosphere and I really wanted to experience that again for perhaps the last time. Unfortunately I didn't really get to enjoy the race. I did enjoy parts. Riding up the Solar Berg on the first lap was just incredible, goose bumps all over, but the run was very difficult for me. As I stated in my last blog I have been having a lot of difficulties with my stomach, a lot of sickness, a lot of GI distress and I have completely changed my diet and it has helped so much. I feel like I have made a huge step forwards in the last 6 weeks or so. I would suggest if you are trying to fix a bad gut not to race 2 iron distance races in a month! These were events I committed to a long time ago, and ill health or not I was going to honor those commitments. Racing an iron distance is definitely not the healthiest thing you can do for your body, but luckily I have some time now where I can go home and really try to come to the bottom of things (a little pun there!).
So here is how my day unfolded. The swim. I didn't really know what to expect as the last few months I have put a lot of time into my bike and run in expense of my swim, especially since it's not the greatest place to do swim training in Germany with usually no lane ropes involved. But I had a decent swim. I felt quite uncomfortable as it was a very warm swim. Perhaps too warm for neoprene. A few days before the temperature had been 24.5 of the water, but they were mixing the water to try and bring that down, and the day before they said it was 22.7 so wetsuits allowed. But to me it felt very hot, hotter than Cairns, and not too pleasant to swim in. I swallowed some of the canal water. Not a big deal usually when my gut was completely healthy, but at the time I wondered if this could have an impact later in the day. In the end I had a solid swim. 50 mins or so which is great for me. I was about 2.5 minutes back from Laura Bennett (super swimmer) and 1.5 minutes or so behind Anja Beranek which was more of a worry as she is a super biker.
Onto my Ceepo and I was biking really well and feeling great. The first part of the course was a bit of climbing, I had no speedo but at 40k there was a road marker and my time was 1 hr 4 minutes which is great for me as I always seem to feel better and better as the day begins. So I was very happy how I was riding, independently and strong. Unfortunately at about 45k a huge pack came past me. Before the race I had found out that we were to have 30 minutes gap to the AG athletes which was great news, and I felt we would all have a clean race with no interference. This group was all pro men and 2 pro women. They were much closer than 10 m together, and what was disappointing was a draft buster was there and did nothing. I get frustrated as Challenge made some great rules. 5 minute penalty on bike, 1k extra to run at 28 k in marathon, and they said 84 draft busters on course who are very experienced. Unfortunately in my opinion these draft busters need to get some balls. I saw no one in penalty tents. So for me, I got passed and had to keep dropping back the 10 m gap as usual, but I am a great climber and this pace on the climbs was too slow for me and frustrating as I want to give my all, at what I do best. I'm not as good on the flats or descents so I want to make the most of my climbing ability. I did a stupid thing in that I decided to try and pass the entire group back. 25 seconds to pass each person, I was sprinting for quite some time. It was not a good idea, but just my personality I cannot be content to "just sit in" for the remaining 75% of the race and save my legs for the run. So I decided I didn't want to be frustrated. I wanted to be proud of myself and do a fair race and by myself. And I did. I can be very proud of myself. Is it smart? Maybe not, but I didn't bend the rules like some did. I was frustrated though because I couldn't for the life of me understand why so many pro men were behind me. I'm not that great a swimmer they should all be up the road infront of me right from the beginning. Challenge made some great starts to try and make the women's race fair, but definitely now I think it shows that the women need a big gap from the pro men as well to get no interference, and for the draft marshals to do what they are there to do.
So once I was alone again I was enjoying myself, feeling strong and as I said the SolarBerg climb with all the spectators was amazing. I didn't feel so happy on the second loop as the course was quite congested and I was passing the whole way but people kept going to pass and not checking from behind and I had a few very close calls where I nearly hit age groupers and it was a bit scary knowing that last year Anja Beranek was taken out of the race when she was in the lead for this very reason. My goal was to bike under 4 hour 50 and I biked about 4 hour 58 I think, so I was frustrated I didn't meet my goal when I really did feel great riding all day. But it was a very windy and hot day by German standards and I know that if I compare my time with girls that do this course regularly it seems that the bike was about 10 minutes slower than previous years, so then I could have perhaps met my goal if the conditions had allowed. I will never know of course.
Onto the run and I immediately knew something was not right with my gut. I was feeling very sluggish as well so after 4k I stopped in the portloo and I thought it would be a one time thing. I felt great afterwards but then 3k later again. I think most normal people would decide it was going to be a very long day with a lot of portaloo stops but not me, I decided I would not stop and would have to go in my pants. Daniella Saemmler was just in front and I finally caught her at around the halfway mark and moved into 4th. I ran as hard as I could the whole way and so it is disappointing to run 3 hour 12 minutes or so when I have run 3 hours there before. Apart from the horrible stomach issues I was having I didn't feel bad. I felt strong and I felt I was running well. I started feeling quite weak at the end and just couldn't wait to finish. I really wanted to enjoy all the sections where we go through town with so much crowd support but I was just feeling so bad I couldn't.
So for me it is back to New Zealand, and further work to get my gut health on track. As I said I had made huge progress. I was running my 2 hour long runs with no toilet stops which is absolutely unheard of for me. So it gave me a bit of confidence and I didn't restrict my vegetable and salad intake nearly so much as I used to do in the days leading up to the race. I find that the worst part of embarking on an iron distance race is that in the days leading up you have to cut out on this healthy food. So since I was doing so well in training I felt it was unneeded. So I am unsure whether this was the reason I had race difficulties or the fact I swallowed dirty canal water, maybe a bit of both. But it is clear, I've still got work to do.