Challenge Roth Ironman 2011 - Race Report from George Sherwood

13 July 2011


Below is a fantastic race report from Challenge Roth written by Club Member and Ironman George Sherwood

Challange Roth 2011 Race Report

For those of you not aware of Challenge Roth it was the origional Ironman Europe until they split from the WTC and set up their own race series. Its an iconic race steeped in tradition and a must do race after completing an official IM race. Triathlon is a huge sport in Germany and attracts all the worlds top athletes, Roth its renowned for being a fast course with unbelievable support.

The pro's were visible all week and World records were being talked up, World No.1 Chrissie Wellington was everywhere and Michael Raelert the German favourite was expected to go sub 8 hrs.

Race morning started for me at 3am ....yawn early breakfast which consisted of 3 Ensure Plus drinks some baby food yogurts [essential to keep the tummy happy] and a coffee. We had to get a 45 min bus to the race start, and was met with an erie silence of anticipation of what was to come.

Roth is split transition which means you need to fill 3 bags the day before - your run bag, bike bag and a bag with what you wear after the race aswell! The trick here is plan plan and plan again.

One poor chap burst 3 tubes - yes 3 tubes while pumping up his tyres before the race start, I think thats the sign to call it a day, but in fairness he got on with it.

My swim wave began at 7.25am so it was quite a wait from when we arrived, however we got to see the pros start and their 1min transitions! Organisation was fantastic, atmosphere sheer electric thousands of spectators lined the banks of the canal where the swim takes place.

The Swim was pretty easy to navigate 1500m down turn, 2000m back up turn and 300m back to start. Water was nice, clean and I enjoyed the swim for a change.

SWIM 1hr 15 mins, at this stage 10 mins ahead of last year so happy days. Wednesday nights in the Weir seemed to have paid off!

Quick transition once again forgetting the sun cream - big mistake and have serious blisters!

T1 3min 54 secs - what was I doing?? in fairness it was a bit of a run to collect my bike.

The first section of the bike is pretty boring but super smooth road surfaces and rolling hills, and I managed to keep my target speed in check, as I needed to average 20mph to get near a 5hr 30 min bike. The first major climb goes pretty well with lots of support, and are followed by super fast downhill sections.

Passing through lots of German villages with all the locals out creating a party atmosphere, then at 80k you round a bend and see the Solarberg - I had been looking forward to this all year, its the most famous bike climb in triathlon, real Tour de France stuff! 20,000 spectators in a 1k section of climbing, they are in your face 1m of road to navigate and single file up the climb. Goose bumps all round!

However reality soon bites at the top when you realise theres another 100k to go! The winner and new world record holder Andreas Raelert passes me on the bike as if he was doing a 10K time trial, we were left in his dust and in sheer awe.

On the bike I drank 3 more ensure plus drinks, 4 litres of water with nuun electrolyte tablets mixed in 2 flapjacks and 5 powerbar energy gels. I made sure to eat and drink every 15 mins by setting the alarm on my Garmin. This is key for me or there is nothing left in the tank for the run.

I rolled into T2 feeling ok happy and sub 11 hrs still looked on.

BIKE 5hrs 30 min - bang on target and looking back could have pushed it on a bit more I think but needed to protect my run.

T2 4 min 39 [Toilet break required! I also changed out of my tri top and shorts to my run gear just to have something fresh on. Mass nudity in T2 but who's looking anyway!]

Out on the run, as I was starting Chrissie Wellington was on her way to her world record in the opposite direction. The run consists of 20 miles along a canal and the remainder through the town of Roth. Along the canal the heat was building 30 degrees and no air. It was surprising the amount of walkers so early on - mainly the Uber German speed merchants who over cooked it on the bike. I aimed to run 8 min 30 / mile pace for the run, but even early on was struggling to stay under 9 min mile pace.

The first half of the marathon I had covered in 1hr 54 and knew I needed the same or better to reach my goal. This is where Ironman races actually start. When the body wants to stop and the brain is screaming to keep going, you remember the wet mornings falling out of bed at silly hours to train.

I kept telling myself don't leave it out there, don't let it slip away. I had trained for 7 months and had to suck in the pain. It was a real grind as I knew I had only a 10 min cushion to go sub 11 hrs, but even the maths becomes hard at that stage.

The last few miles are through the beer mile in the town of Roth where most have been drinking since 11am - lucky them. However I stuck to Coke on the run and cool sponges trying to keep my heart rate in check and stay cool.

RUN 3 hrs 54 2nd half quicker than the first, but again I need to be able to run faster off the bike was aiming for 3hrs 41ish

During the last mile and I knew I had it in the bag, enter the stadium specially constructed for the event, 10,000 people screaming and the place is rocking, 500m of red carpet and I finally cross the line........10:49:30 YES!

I received the obligatory medal and shed a few tears, the emotion took over at what I had achieved, the suffering, the pain was all worth it now.

I don't remember much of the first hour after the race as i was collapsed in the grass, nausea as usual for me, everything hurt............never ever again, never ever again.

Back in the recovery area it was a scene from the walking dead, people collapsing, medics rushing in and bodies strewn everywhere. Just 20 mins later a massive thunder and lightning storm struck and there was still thousands out on the course trudging now through floods, but albeit alot cooler.

2 World records were broken on the day and I have the utmost admiration for Chrissie Wellington who was 5th overall! and Michael Raelert who both brought the sport to even higher levels.

An iconic event there is no doubt and another box ticked, today I've registered for Ironman Austria 2012 and if I really really push it Sub 10 hrs and retirement! - I know I can do it as I was disappointed with my run time, heat will be a factor but also clever training and not just putting in the hours for the sake of it. I did 50% less training this year with a 90 min time improvement - work that one out!

Roll on 2012 - Remember you've got to have something to aim for in life.

Thanks everyone for the messages of support it makes such a difference!



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