“We are triathlon!”, is one of the official banners of the Challenge Roth. I know what it means now!

The pre-race week here in Germany was uneventful. I did little bit of sight seeing here and there with my girlfriend Jennifer. We made our way to Roth on Friday for registration and the pasta party. No matter which way you drive into Roth, a small town near Nuernberg, Germany you will find huge banners welcoming triathletes.

Welcome triathletes!

I started to feel that this was going to be a very memorable weekend. A friend of mine, Andreas Herrmann, who was also racing, and I get our goodies. Athlete wristbands were put on and we were now officially ready to race. From here we went to check in with the family in Eysoelden who we would be staying with. It was yet another very warm welcome. We were honored to stay with Family Beck who offered us their upstairs and took great care of us serving breakfast and making sure we had everything we needed.

with Frau Beck at our home for the weekend

The whole county of Roth supports the race. Families in all the little villages surrounding Roth offer their spare beds to make everyone feel at home. Families make sure to get the race numbers of the athletes staying at their houses so they can cheer them on as they ride by during the race.

That evening in Roth was the pasta dinner where the 5000 athletes had opportunity to meet and eat.  Everybody gathered in a huge Octoberfest style beer tent near the finish line down town Roth. The pros came out for another round of pre-race interviews. Everybody was very friendly and excited for the race.

On Saturday we were able to do a pre-race swim in the Main-Donau canal. It was only open for few hours in the morning, as it is normally  used by ships traveling up and down for business.

Bike checked in!

Later that afternoon we checked our bikes in and then drove the bike course. Andi brought his GPS and was giving us all the elevation changes along the two loop course. Having done the race previously, he also knew where the majority of spectators would be, where to be careful on certain downhills and turns, and which sections would be the hardest.

Race day for me began Sunday at 2.30 AM with a big breakfast. I was getting really excited, I had done the hard work and I was ready to race. We got to the race site with plenty of time to spare. Most athletes seemed relaxed but were ready to get going.

over 10000 people at the swim start

I could not believe the amount of spectators that make it out for the 6.30 AM swim start that gathered on the bridges and along both sides the canal. Hot air balloons and the rising sun made this an amazing site. I was lucky enough to start with the pros in the first wave. I warmed up a little bit and was feeling great. I felt like all the work of the past couple of months, whether in the pool or getting ready mentally, had really paid off. I was amazed at how smoothly everything began, the cannon went off and the first wave was on their way.

Pro swim start, I was somewhere on the far right

Nobody was swimming on top of each other, which was helpful since that causes me to feel anxious and struggle with swimming. Right from the beginning I was able to settle into a steady pace I cannot say of many swims that I ever had fun, but during this swim I was:). The course was 1500m down the canal, turned around at a bridge, then back up the canal for 2000m, under another bridge that had probably more than 10,000 spectators on it, then another turn around and 300 more meters to go.  The conditions were excellent. The water was very clean and smooth. The sun was rising so I was forced to breath on both sides, so my eyes could get a little rest. I could see people from my wave the whole time I was swimming, which doesn’t usually happen. I had a great swim, exiting the water after 1.06.17. All the work in the pool and overcoming the anxiety by practicing swimming on top of each other with Jennifer paid off!  I missed looking at the clock in transition and after getting settled on the bike, I looked at the clock on my powermeter and how long I had been riding for and realized that I had a fast swim time.

Andi Raelert @ Solarer Berg

The bike course was spectacular. It is not possible to imagine how great it was to ride through all the villages with people cheering you on. I was set to race smart while also having fun and enjoying the race experience. The loop went south east of Roth on mostly rolling hills. It had two major climbs and a few more bigger rollers spread over the whole course. There was so much spectator support out on the course that it’s hard to mention it all. The German military had an aid station, and was saluting people in route. A local radio station had a huge party with music and live coverage. At Kalvarienberg, the longest and steepest climb of the course tons of people were supporting the riders and a trailer with announcers was setup to call out names of athletes. The spectators along the course used wooden ratchets to make noise, I figured out early on the ride that if I waved my fist in the air, people would go crazy making noise. It was simply amazing, even sitting here writing the blog, I have tears of joy running down my face. The ride continued towards Hiltpoltstein, where the Solarer Berg climb is. It is hard to put the experience there into words. I rode into the bottom of the hill, where there were 25000 people or more. I threw my fist into the air to get the ratchets going, people were everywhere. You are unable to pass anyone during this climb, simply because there are too many spectators, so you can only ride single file. I saw Jennifer in the middle of the hill, my godmother and my younger brother little bit further up the hill. This made me very proud, I hadn’t expected that they would come to the race, but everybody did. Even my older brother with his two girls and other friends were finding their way through 180,000 spectators to cheer me on.

Thanks for all your support, you made the training and all the work going into the race well worth it!

After the first loop the second loop of this craziness started. The winds started to pick up some and the sun made it through the clouds. My race was going according to plan, racing smart with sustainable effort. Only my stomach wasn’t cooperating, cramps started to repeat more frequently. After riding up Solarer Berg the 2nd time, my stomach decided that it should empty itself in an unconventional way, by vomiting all over the road. I felt better after that and finished the last 10 miles on the bike. Determined to finish the race I slowly started drinking more water and getting in a little nutrition to settle my stomach. T2 was approaching, 5.30.22 for the bike split. The 2nd loop was slightly slower than the first loop, but everything is still on target. Riding into T2 the helpers grabbed my bike and more helpers in the changing tent assissted me putting on my shoes and applying sunscreen. The helpers were amazing, I have not seen as knowledgeable and caring people on a race course before. There were 5300 helpers supporting this race. A big thank you to all of them!

My friend Hannes and his girlfriend Tanja were cheering me on coming out of T2, while I was busy fiddling around with my Garmin.

Just coming out of T2

I felt good and slowed myself down some to get into a steady pace. I ran through town up to the Main-Donau canal, where the longest stretch of the run was on a gravel road. Spectators were everywhere!! My stomach wasn’t feeling super bad at this point, but I had trouble holding my pace and every mile kept getting slower. I will save you all the details on the trips to the bathroom. I made it to the turn around point #1 through a little town that was set up for the cheering crowds. The stomach issues kept getting worse, a 10+ min mile pace, diarrhea and vomiting, signaled the end of my race. I start walking and Jennifer, who hadbeen supporting me and following me around on an old mountain bike was right there. I sat down at an aid station at mile 11, the sun was beating pretty good at this point. All the supporting words from Jennifer and all the caring helpers didn’t make the decision any easier, but 15 more miles of walk/running is a long way. This may sound bad, but I simply wasn’t ready for a 14h finishing time!

The first aid team got me back to the finish line where the medical tent was. I saw people crossing the finish at the time I was expecting to come through. I sat in the medical tent and changed into clean clothes and then met with all my supporters. Everybody who was out on the course cheering was there and we took some family photos. Thanks again for coming out!

Family support at mile 107 on the bike, you guys rock!

My brother and his family made a banner that I missed on the course, bummer!

While waiting for Andi to finish it started raining as a large storm system was approaching the area. Jennifer and I waited by the finish area through the strom. Chapeau, he finished the race with cramps, running through the heat and through the cold rain.

He did it again, in the rain!

Be proud Andi, you are once again part of the Challenge Family.

The next morning started with another great breakfast at our host family’s house. Mrs Beck did an extraordinary job in making us feel at home. She and her family were a prime example of everyone in the area, making this a special event and very pleasant experience.

Later that morning we went to the awards ceremony, we are back in the jam-packed beer tent by the finish line. There had to have been several thousand people there.  A few words about the race organizers and their team. The Challenge Family, is a family owned race series and I hope it stays that way forever.

The race organizers, Felix Walchshoefer and his family at the awards

Felix Walchshoefer did an amazing job, the race did not only have joyful moments. It was overshadowed by an athlete who died during the swim. A minute of silence was observed at the awards for the athlete who had died and the race director was crying while discussing the incident.  He had even considered to stopping the race after the drowning.

They started the awards with the relays, age groupers etc in a very organized and quick fashion that did not get boring at all. The top ten female pros were called on stage, with the last being the female winner,  Chrissie Wellington, who had already been signing autographs in the beer tent for over an hour.

Awards speech by Crissie

She improved her own world record by another minute finishing 5th overall. The crowd went going crazy! She gave a great, insightful and emotional speech, reminding everyone that this is the most amazing triathlon family that we are all part of! Thank you Challenge Roth.

On to the men, the duel of the year, Sebastian Kienle and Andreas Raelert. Raelert was leading the race from the start, chased by Sebi to a new fastest bike split, followed by an uebergalaktischem run. Finishing in 7.41.33, Felix Walchshoefer, said “the World Record is back where it belongs”. It had been broken a week earlier at another race.

The new world record holders, tri history written!

You can only imagine how excited the crowd was in a small triathlon crazy German town, when the top two male athletes were German. Realert had to wait minutes for the crowd to calm down to give his speech. He was very friendly and humble like an every day person. He said that the the world record did not belong to him, but to Roth. This race was triathlon history, two world records in one day, elevating the race time to unthinkable levels.

The positive experience I had at Roth is enough motivation for me to look forward to another long distance race. Thank you Challenge Roth for the most memorable and amazing experience, YOU ARE TRIATHLON!

Thank you to all my friends and family who came out to support me or were at home checking results online, to my sponsors (www.LoveToEatRight.com) and my coach Alex McDonald. You got me to the race and I promise I will be back and finish :).

I will be back, pic taken pre-race day!

A special thank you goes to the most patient and supportive girl in the world, listening to all my tri stories, theories about nutrition and pushing me in training. Thank you Jennifer xox