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.