Neil Price: Ironman Germany Race Report

This is a guest blog by coached triathlete Neil Price, who Rob has been coaching for the last year. Neil bagged himself a PB by over 80 minutes, coming in on 10.29! Lots of hard work has gone into this result - but he's a great example of getting the work done and reaping the rewards! Well done Neil - back next year for a crack at sub 10? :)

IM Frankfurt – A ruthlessly efficient race

Alarm call – 330am.

Perfect! I’d not managed get to sleep until 1230am due to the noise of fireworks following Germany’s obligatory penalty shootout win against Italy. After forcing down porridge and coffee it was time to waste 20 mins pacing up and down between the loo and my race bag, which I unpacked- and re-packed several times!


If, like me, you suffer from nerves and a twitchy colon pre-race, try getting to the start early. For some reason the free busses ferrying people from town to the lake were sparse. I managed to jump on one at 0515, and arrived only 30mins before the scheduled start. Not ideal and as I rushed around placing bottles on my bike and dropping off my bag I was sure I’d forgotten something essential. I made my way down to the start pens with seconds to spare and jostled into position. And…….breathe.
    
Paddle– For the first time ever I was not intimidated by the distant buoys marking out the course before me. The thrice weekly swims Rob Wilby had me doing for 6 months gave me confidence that, even with my dodgy technique, I could get through this.
My plan was to start slow and relaxed, building to a steady rhythm and then increase pace in the second half of the swim if I felt like I wasn’t drowning. Oh, and SIGHT. Last year in Lanzarote I was so far off course I had to be corralled in the right direction by one of the Marshalls on a kayak!
The plan seemed to work, even the occasional sick burp, brought on by drinking too much lake water, couldn’t stop me and I emerged onto dry land only mildly disoriented and nauseous and a good 10mins ahead of my previous PB.
    
T1. Step out of wetsuit elegantly-clip on race belt-find bike easily-throw on helmet with nonchalance-sprint to mount line and jump on steed like a pro!
That was the plan. In truth, I just about got the race belt on without falling over and have no idea how I didn’t crash jumping on my bike!

Bike. The Frankfurt course is advertised as FAST and punctuated only by:
The sound of disc-wheeled German bikers whirring past like a BMW 6 series on Ze-Autobahn!
4 short sharp hills, which allow you sit up, drink, eat and expel excess air from the swim before re-contorting your body into your best/worst aero position.
Cobbles. Yes, some bright spark decided to create the tour of Flanders on an Ironman! Always change into the appropriate gear before bouncing over these bad boys as you’re not going to want to let go of the drops once you’re on them for fear of crashing. Like an utter novice I was stuck in a quad bursting gear for this section on the first loop and burned far too much energy.
Overall the bike was cruisey as I sat in the target “power” zone and ate a couple of Snickers in between the sugary gels and drinks. I’d read that Chrissie used chocolate too and thought if it’s good enough for her why not me……I’ve since read she ate only a couple of small pieces and did NOT wolf down 2 bars! Who knows, maybe she could have gone faster had she followed my lead.
One thing to note is that there are a number of long speedy descents off the hills, where you may run out of gears running a Compact chainset. I’d definitely consider switching to a Standard set up if I do this again.


T2. I was getting worried as I actually felt fine. This hadn’t happened before. I usually dismount, swear at the bike and then roll into T2 bow-legged. Not familiar with the excess energy in my legs, I sprinted out onto the run course knowing full well it was reckless folly but that I might at least look good for the cameras!

Run Walk Run. Fast and pancake flat. The course not me! All I had to worry about was 26.2 miles now. I adopted a 9-1 run-walk strategy as per Rob’s instructions that I’d practiced religiously in training and headed out.

Lap 1 (10km) – My blistering pace lasted 200m, at which point I had a word with myself and assumed the desired IM plod. 3 gels downed and I felt good. Hell, I even had time to clear my head by mistakenly inhaling the Ammonia stench of a Portaloo. 
Lap 2 (20km) –The 3gph (gels / hour) strategy had my stomach curdling and I had to reduce my pace a little.
Lap 3 (30km) – “Who’s idea was this?” “I can’t feel my left foot” “Can I run and pee without anyone knowing?” These were just some of the thoughts swirling round my head. 
I was hurting. My heart rate had dropped and my gut was sloshing around like a washing machine. I also had the mother of all stitches. It now became a game of finding a way to run that hurt the least. It wasn’t pretty.
Lap 4 (42km) – Welcome to the tail end of an Ironman. It was now as much a mental as physical battle just to keep moving forward. I was hoping I wouldn’t hit the wall this time, as I’d never previously got to the final miles without feeling utterly atrocious! I’d migrated from gels to cola, which eventually gave me a second wind and I was able to quicken my “stomp” and push towards the finish. The last 2 miles saw me pass lots of people and this spurred me on more. As I ran up the carpet and through the grandstand I was almost galloping with joy, all that remained was to execute a stupid face for the finishing line photo.

Ironman number 3. DONE. PB bagged. Time for some Sauerkraut, Sausage and Beer!