Team Race Force - Gregg - IM Frankfurt Race Report
July 30, 2014
So here it is, for the past 3 years now June/July means the only travelling I do is with my bike and usually to some part of Europe to play being an Ironman. So this year my chosen race was Ironman Frankfurt in Germany. The actual Ironman European Championships no less!!!!! I do not know why I chose Frankfurt as the Merseytri race this year seemed to be Ironman Sweden in August, but I decided Frankfurt.
Training this year has been very hit and miss, well more when I do it, it is great but when I don’t I can feel it. The start of the year, training was going well but so was my social life! That is two things that do not go together unfortunately. Training for Ironman racing and going out partying every weekend are polar opposites and they are two of my favourite things, as well as following Liverpool of course. That also did not help, Liverpool being involved in their first real title challenge for over 20 years. That meant more days in the pub celebrating(being normal). But all in all training had gone “ok” not brilliant just “ok”.
So anyway, 6am Thursday 3rd July and I was getting picked up with my bike to make the trip to Germany. This was my first big race racing for RaceForce, it felt quite cool to be part of a race team. The usual rig out for travelling to triathlons is you must wear something that shows the world you are a triathlete. You never see a triathlete just wear normal clothes, all will have a finishers t-shirt, Oakleys, some form of compression clothing and for some unknown reason they wear mad running shoes with jeans!! My obligatory piece of this kit was my Adidas Age Group Tracksuit Top with Great Britain all over(this will prove help later on).
So far everything had gone according to plan(besides training could have been slightly better). Kate who runs Race Force had put me in touch with another one of our race team, Grant Pettrie who lives in Weisbaden, 30km outside of Frankfurt. He had kindly said he would put me up for one night when I arrive. So the journey out was very uneventful, Manchester-Heathrow-Frankfurt(I use AVIOS to travel and can only use on British Airways). I did sh*t one at check in though, my bloody bike box weighed 29kgs(on BA it goes on as normal luggage and you can take a small case as cabin baggage, no need for paying for bike! Sound!). The lovely beautiful BA check in lady said I will have to see if you have to pay, and went to consult a colleague. She came back and said “Are you a member of Team GB?” I thought to myself, ah the tracksuit top…….I replied “of course I am, I am off to race in Frankfurt on Sunday”. She replied “ in that case there is no charge”. If it was not for the desk in the way I would have grabbed her and started kiss her as a way of showing my gratitude.
A couple of plane journeys later and a wander around Heathrow and here I was in Germany, it was bloody hot. Grant met me and took to Weisbaden and said he was coaching some Cross-country running for the local kids on Weisbaden Air Base. I tagged along and did some stretches and a little jog, I felt destroyed though…………must have been the 15 Bloody Marys on the journey…………..messing, I did not even have a beer. I was watching some of the runners, all aged around 15, I thought shiiiiiiiiiiiiit, these are quick. Made me definitely not want to join in. We had a good laugh and ice cream at the end which was a bonus, cheers Grant.
Thursday evening I went out for food with Grant and his wife Mabel in Weisbaden, it was great to be able to chat and not think about Sundays race, great chill out time. Friday, I woke up thinking it was about 6am, it wasn’t………it was 9am! I had slept for 10hours………I thought great because the night before an Ironman I can never sleep, so that was sleep credits in the bank.
Bike box and luggage back in the car and off to Frankfurt, here I had had another result. I never booked my accommodation until the week before, went onto Booking.com and bagged myself a King Suite in The Hilton for 3 nights for the remarkable price of £96!!!!!! Bloody great that isn’t it!!!! That was with breakfast too. POW!
Checked in and all that, and headed off to registration and a look round the Expo. Bought a few bits and pieces etc. Grant left and headed home. Time to chill and build bike.
Built bike, all was good besides cable for rear mech was hanging out. I thought, not right that, moved the gear leavers and nothing happened. Contemplated what racing an Ironman on my new fixie and thought nahhh! Went back to Expo to see if there was any bike nerds about(I mean mechanics). Not until Sunday morning apparently, hmmmm fixie!!!! Asked the lovely freulein at the help desk if there was a bike shop. There was one just around the corner. Went there, it was great, they did not speak English and I didn’t speak German. Thought this could end up with me having a Fawlty Towers breakdown and hitting my bike with a tree and doing the ministry of funny walks around Frankfurt. A bit of pigeon English and pointing at the rear mech and my bike was whisked away to the back of the shop. It re-appeared minutes later working fine. I went to pay and the nice German chap said something along the lines of me winning the race. I smiled and thought I want the drugs he takes if he thinks I could win anything.
Back to my suite, I ordered 15 bottles of Cristal and a load of hookers and thought lets make use of this palatial room, I actually never. I put my speedos on and went for a swim in the hotels 25m pool. All was feeling great.
So the Friday night and Germany were playing France in the World Cup, I watched this and headed for food just before the final whistle. Germany won, crikey it was like they had won the actual World Cup(which the week later they did). Just car loads driving round beeping horns and sitting on bonnets whilst driving and motorbike and dancing and singing and girls with tight tops! I was getting into this celebration. Then I realised what I was there for. Back to my room. YAWN!!!
So Saturday morning and part of the support team was arriving, well actually all of it. Kate from Race Force and her crutches, yes my support team could not walk properly as she has a stress fracture of the hip. Luckily Expo and everything was about 5 min walk from hotel, make that 20min with the crutches. So me, Grant and Kate went for lunch, I may have over carbed on the white bread that comes with every meal in Germany. I was feeling rather full. Grant departed, next time I seen him it was on the marathon and he was holding a cold beer L. Kate went chatting to everyone at the Expo while I went and bought more things. The highlight of the day was Kate bringing my Raceforce hoody!!! I love a good bit of STASH!
Then it was back to the hotel to watch Le Tour depart sunny Yorkshire that looked tremendous on TV. I then went and got the free bus service down to T1 with my transition bags, T1 is near to the airport next to the swim venue Langener Waldsee. Dumped bike, whacked the bags in and jumped the bus back. All very efficient as you would expect, pardon the Germany pun.
So myself and Kate went for some food and watch a bit of the World Cup, all very calm and I felt remarkably relaxed. Until I got back to the hotel room. I was very restless and decided I really wanted a coffee, so I had a f*cking coffee didn’t I, at 9:30pm before an Ironman. Well that made me sleepy!!!!!! What an idiot, must have got to sleep at about 1am. Ah well. So I was up at 3:30am for breakfast as I had a 6:45am start. Breakfast was ordered as they knew about Ironman etc. What did they bring, a bloody pack lunch and cold porridge…………..I was livid, proper spat my dummy out. My day was ruined wasn’t it? I cannot race on cold porridge!!!!
Anyway, we then bailed into a taxi to take us to the race start about 13km away, we must have got in the only taxi that had not heard of Ironman, Langener Waldsee and any other triathlon related issue. We stopped about 3 times to ask the way, I even showed him a map of a great big lake next to the airport. He was bemused. So we got there just before 6am, T1 closed at 6:15am. Kate was on crutches so I had to leave her and leg it to get my tyres pumped up and drinks and that on the bike. Sorted, tried phoning Kate to leave wallet, phone etc with her. No reception. All went into street bag and I went to sort my head out before the swim start.
Right so here we are, I was in the first wave with the pro’s, with all the good swimmers. This is because last year I was a half decent swimmer with a couple of 54min Ironman swims. Looked around and seen all these tall, EPO looking Europeans and thought ah well let’s get involved………I love the swim start, testosterone fest innit! Much to my surprise I was the one taking an absolute beating, punches, full on heel to my eye socket. The first 400m was a proper sprint which I just did not have in the tank. I tried to find a bit of clear water and get on somebody’s toe. It was not happening. So coming to the end of the first 2.1km, where you exit the water, dash over the beach in back in for the other loop. I was knackered to be honest, I did not look at my watch because I was fuming. I thought, right, just get round in just under the hour and sort my head out on the bike. The next 1.7km was uneventful. I was glad to see the swim finish which is unusual for me. Then there is this run up the sand for about 150m, I was ready to hit somebody at this point! Kate seen me and said I looked like I was going to kill somebody. Swim finish 1.00.33.
Into T1, grabbed my bag, wetsuit off, sit down to put HR strap on, the bench fell backwards and I am sat there in a load of sand, I thought it is going to be one of them days. Grabbed the bike and ran out of T1, that’s that. So I was riding a disc for the first time in an Ironman, which felt great. The plan was to stick to my level 1 HR of 133bpm. Settled into that pretty quick as the course is pretty flat to begin with. Nutrition I was using Accelerade gels decanted into a drinks bottle, 3.5 per hour and drinks bottle marked so I knew how much to have. Then I just had water on the bike and some electrolyte sachets. To be honest I felt absolutely horrendous for the first hour on the bike but then settled down. The weather seemed perfect, it was still early so not too hot and no wind. I went through the first 102km in 2hr 42mins. I thought right same again on 2nd lap. It was very similar besides about 30km from Frankfurt a slight wind picked up and my speed dropped 1.5-2kph. That was ok, the bike course is there to be attacked, the hills are nothing to worry about. I have ridden Switzerland, Austria, UK and Barcelona previously and this seemed the easiest(if you can call a 180km cycle easy). I was very strict and stayed within my 133bpm for most of it. My average was 127bpm so most probably there was more in there. In previous races I have gone too hard on the bike and it has all fallen apart. My nutrition worked perfect and hydration too. 750ml of water every hour, maybe a slight bit more as it started to get hot. The course was amazing, the spectators were amazing and Heartbreak Hill, I think there is only Solar Hill at Roth which can most probably beat it!
So at one point I thought I was going to roll into T2 with a 5hr bike split, this turned into a 5:15:13 bike split. A PB!!! Marvelous!!!!
T2 was straight forward, helpers took the bike, grabbed bag, socks on, shoes on, sun visor on and sunglasses on! 2:29 T2 was ok. The legs felt their usual self after the bike but I felt ok. I even had to slow myself down. There were thousands of people along the first few km of the marathon. As most people who know me know, if there are crowds I will try and speed up. Bit of a performing seal!!! HR creeped up to the 149bpm I was meant to run at, panicked as I was not sure where special needs were to collect gels for later on. I had enough for first lap but had others in the special needs bag.
Well the run on all 4 of my previous Ironman races have been, to be honest, pretty sh*t. My head always goes. It tells my body that I am tired and cannot do when I quite obviously can. Was this going to happen again???
So I got to 8km in the run, oh toilet stop needed. Dived in a portaloo, dropped tri shorts and went to sit down………….arrrrgggghhh! Cramp in both groins, it was like some comedy stretch of me trying to pull my shorts up in a portaloo without making cramp in both legs worse. I made it outside. Tried to stretch out, each time I stretched, the other groin got cramp. Tw*t!!! Ah well, let’s get running again. Could I get my HR back up? NO! Right the head was playing tricks, every time I went to get to my 5min/km my head was telling me no. So I got round the first lap off the pace, here are the thousands of people, and here are my legs running like normal…….grabbed nutrition and away we go. I was sweating like mad, it was well over 30 degrees at this point. They had hose pipes at each aid station and sponges etc to cool you down. I just could not get cool, I was resorting to run, walk, run, walk etc and this was only about 15km in. So it preceded like this for the 2nd lap, not even the bikini clad ladies lying on the river bank could make me run(I just wanted to lie down next to them to be honest). So here we go, I was on the 3rd lap of intervals! I spotted Kate(again), she was all over the run course using the foot bridge to go from one side of the river to the other. She shouted you can still go sub 10hrs if you get down to 4:45min/km. I said, I might go sub 11 if I can f*cking run. Not sure if it was the 2nd or 3rd lap I spotted Grant on the grass drinking beer. It is at these points you have the thoughts of why am I doing this.
My head had gone anyway and I knew I didn’t have the sub 4hr marathon which was my aim at worst. Plan was around 3:40 marathon. Ah well, just get round. The heat was getting to me at this point and I could feel myself getting dehydrated, I was putting salt sachets into water to help. That sorted my dizziness. So I tried my best to put my foot down a bit on the last lap but it just was not there. I missed quite a few long run sessions in March and April so I presume that is why I did not have the legs. Anyway, I was into the last 3km, and here the legs start to work again. I thought you are frauds, why can’t you just be like this all the time?
I was so happy to see the carpet and run up Romer Platz, there were crowds 5 deep. Must have been a good couple of thousand people at the finish. The run split was 4:26. Gutted. Overall time was 10:51:10.
Kate was screaming the bloody stand down with her 15 cameras and iphones etc taking pics. To be honest she was absolutely great support and I was so proud to be racing for Team Race Force.
I was so disappointed with the time though. I was secretly hoping for sub 10 but realistically 10:10-10:15. It was not to be this time, that is the glorious thing about Ironman racing. I am yet to have that race were it all comes together. It will do though, I am sure of it. With my coach Alvin Cooney and the support of Race Force and Merseytri I know I can reach my goal.
So what did I do when I landed back in the UK, I entered Ironman Barcelona for October 5th!!!! WE GO AGAIN!!!!!!