Jul 14, 2012

Deja Vu

When skydiving, if your parachute doesn't open and you land on your reserve chute, you are encouraged to immediately jump again to get the negative experience out of your head.

With this anecdote I contacted the organizers of Ironman Switzerland and asked for an entry into the Zurich race. Switzerland being Switzerland no discussion was needed, a couple of hundred Fränkli and I was in.

Although both Frankfurt and Zürich are rather large cities and both Ironman races are to a certain degree held in downtown, the first thing I noticed when I arrived on Saturday afternoon was the stark contrast in the organization. Zurich, though having the Zurich triathlon, an olympic tri which is now part of the 5150 series on Saturday, just felt a lot smaller. Registration and bike check in were done in one sweep within 15 minutes at the shore on lake Zurich. Transition bags? Yeah, you can just leave them here or bring them tomorrow, or whatever.

Early dinner, off to bed at the great hotel Engimatt, which also managed to serve an awesome buffet breakfast at 4 am on Sunday.

The swim - really

The Zurichsee is awesome. Clear water, not too warm. The race has a land start on a rather wide beach, so the usual washing machine at the start didn't happen. That unfortunately also meant less drag and no feet to follow. On top of that, there is also a decent current, so I actually had to swim for a change, which resulted in a 1:20 split.

Sufferfest, pt. 2 - the bike

Transition, on the other hand is shorter, so the time I started the bike was pretty much the same as last week. The course follows the lakeshore for the first 30k, then it is off to some hills, one of them a very nasty, long incline. Overall, hillier than Frankfurt, but not by that much. Then again, I wasn't any fitter than last week, so suffering was the name of the game again. Weather wise, Zurich was a little different than Frankfurt. Less pouring rain, more drizzle, and more dry periods, less sun, even colder and - as a special highlight and totally the norm for a nice Sunday afternoon in July - some hail. Let me tell you, nothing feels better on the bike than some hail. That awesome stinging feeling as if someone was constantly throwing gravel at you. Also, hail greatly improves surface grip which makes turning that much more fun. All bitching aside, the ride felt not as bad as in Frankfurt and - conditions notwithstanding - resulted in the exactly same bike split.

Bringing it home - the run

When I was changing in T2, someone next to me said that we had over seven hours to complete the run. That had two effects on me. One, I knew then and there that I would finish. Two, for the next four hours or so I wondered in my carbohydrate depleted head, why my pace - finish time - remaining time calculations didn't add up. I think it was at km28 that I finally figured that the seven hour information simply was wrong.

Conditions were not all bad, on the run it stayed dry and relatively cool, so I did not experience any further deterioration. On the contrary, I think nutrition wise I recovered to a certain degree and actually felt better towards the later part of the run. The run, in all fairness of course not being a run, but more a very brisk walk with some very short running interludes. The German military term best describing what I do is "Eilmarsch", the US special forces use the term "ruckmarch" for something that sounds very similar, although I doubt the use five fingers and I didn't bring an M16. I was tempted several times to increase the pace, but decided against it, simply to avoid risking another d.n.f. and also to keep recovery time short. NYC is not that far away.

Bottom line, 8:20/km on average gave me a 15:14:46 finish time in what I consider a very good race. How is 15:15 a good race? nothing has really changed from last week, I am still too heavy, I am still not trained well, I am probably not even recovered from Frankfurt. But under these conditions, on the day, I think the race was pretty good. I could MAYBE have stayed under 15 hrs, but with an unacceptable risk and for a price that I consider too high. The season is still long. I came for redemption, and redemption I got, so all is well in the jungle.

Jul 7, 2012

Reality Check

Last year sport certainly was the focus of my life, with project James and it's preparation. This year, not so much. James took more out of me, both physically and psychologically, and with a somewhat new job, other things took precedence. As far as I can tell - and the spring marathon times support this - I am well recovered, but I am also heavier (read fatter) than ever, with a whopping 20 pounds more than last summer. Combine that with zero training (other than some running), and here I am at the starting line of The Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt. Total swimming distance this year? Five km. Total bike? About 100 km, but only if I count the times that I rode the mountain bike to go for coffee.

Morning bath a.k.a. the Swim

What can I say, swimming still comes naturally and is probably about the only sport aside from sumo wresting where being fat is actually helpful. I found some good feet to stay behind at and some other body parts to push off from early on and had a very relaxing first round. Second round usually for me  is a bit harder, mostly because most other athletes tire and it is hard to keep up the speed if the pace line is constantly slowing and you have to overtake. Total split a little under 1:10, had I not talked to my loved one at the exit before stepping over the timing mat, it would probably have been a new best, but that, in contrast to the former, is utterly unimportant ;-)

Sufferfest a.k.a. the Bike

What can I say. I am untrained and fat. That may be just barely enough in perfect conditions, but today conditions were far from perfect. It started raining at about the time I left the water and didn't stop for 5 hours. From a light drizzle to heavy downpour, I had it all.

Weather like does several things. In general it means that you get cold and burn a good deal more calories that in warm weather. But, since you are not sweating so much, you are not as thirsty: Since most nutrition in sports come from drinking sugary water, you have to actively compensate by eating and drinking a good deal more that the body signals. I didn't.

Being heavy also means that climbing is not my forte, but once my considerable mass is accelerated, I make decent time on the downhill. Usually that is. In these conditions, I was constantly breaking (thanks to my zero bike handling skills) while I was being passed by athletes with much more skills and/or a much higher certainty equivalent.

When the rain finally stopped it was replaced by heavy head- and side-winds, an other condition that favours the big and unskilled.

Bottom line is this: Race conditions are the same for everyone. Some came prepared and coped well. I didn't. Finished the bike in almost eight hours and totally wasted.

Simple math a.k.a. the Run

Ironman comes with a 17 hour time limit internationally, in Europe it is usually 16 hours. Frankfurt has 15 hours, due to a lawsuit by some folks living near the finish line. This is just a fact, not a complaint, on the contrary, to a certain extend I even sympathize with their point.

For me, that meant that by the time I got out of T2, I had about 5:40 to run the marathon. That translates roughly to 8 minute kilometers. Doable? Yes. Walkable? No, just a tad to fast for me, I probably can do 8:30/8:40 for extended periods of time, but 8:00 is a no go. So the big questions was: Can I run? At least some? I gave myself half an hour of walking, to loosen up my stiff hip and leg muscles, then gave it try. It worked. At least for a couple of meters at a time. So far, so good. Only problem, it wasn't any faster than stiff walking.

I continued my race/walk tactics until the km19 marker, where - with the help of some spectators, since my body was so depleted of sugar that I couldn't do the math on my own - that I now had to run the remaining 23 km in under 8:00 each, which meant that I had been to slow for the first 19. My brain might have been to fried to do math in my head, but I was not delusional enough to believe that I could run significantly faster in the second half of a marathon than in the first half.

So, after twelve hours and 203 km I took the logical step and quit. I suck. Time to improve. Reality. Checked.

Tuna, candied and dried - An Alinea recipe

This one is meant as an amuse-gueule, in Alineas winter menu being served directly after the famous  hot potato/cold potato dish. ...