If Kona seems a bit far away for us Europeans, then its Roth that is the holy grail for all Triathletes. Quests such as this always turn out to be adventures and this one was not about to disappoint !
It all began way back in 2013 – having heard so much about Roth from Ex-President Bob, Veteran member Lynn, and super quick Michael, Nick decided that is would be good to go for it in 2014 and
sent out reminders to everyone to sign-up (as places go quickly) unfortunately he forgot to send a reminder to himself, and when the 5000 place race entry sold out after just 3 minutes he thought all was lost. Lesly, Val and James had managed to get spots though.
Luckily there was a second chance entry later in the year and thanks to some nifty clicking from Lesly, Nick got a spot a few months later, as did a surprised Rich who received a place as an early birthday present from Kristine. So the scenario was set – 5 go to Roth in 2014……. or do they ? in fact no, finally due to many reasons, but mainly medical, both Rich and James had to pull out, so finally just Nick, Val and Lesly, but happily Lesly’s parent’s and girlfriend (the lovely Cynthia) were coming to fill the places left so there was still a good support team.
The next ‘bump in the road’ came about 2 weeks before the competition, the ‘AirBnb’ house was hit by water damage and was no longer available, this caused a special problem as there are not many hotels in the area, and things had booked out quickly – nothing was available and camping in a field was looking likely. Then lesly did something that nobody else had though of – contacting the tourist board ! they quickly found us a place in a ‘Stables’ at a very cheap rate, so all were happy to have that sorted…….until……….
So lets be clear, the people running the stable were very nice, and its great to be surrounded by nature, horses, dogs, cats, but the flies, the damn flies, they were relentless no matter how many were killed there was still another one. We lost count, but think Val was the champion fly swatter squashing 20 at a single dinner sitting ! Lets just say that the place was great as a last minute cheap place to stay, but you get what you pay for and I wouldn’t recommend staying there unless you have 4 legs and a mane.
However this was the least of the troubles for Nick, who had managed to get food poisoning and as a result could not eat or drink anything – even having difficulty climbing the stairs (although this is nothing new !). With the race in 2 days it was not looking likely that he could even start – let alone finish the race ! Val too was having trouble sleeping but it didn’t affect his appetite, Lesly however was feeling strong – it was clear that he was totally ready for action !
Race day cometh,and the boys were up at 4am for a light breakfast (or not for Nick) – Leslys dad kindly drove them to the start for 5am, and they joined the other 5000 competitors in the eerie half-light of Ironman distance triathlon race preparation. The start for the boys wasn’t until 7am so there was loads of time, which is important as you need to relax at that point, take the time to set-up, check, double check and re-check your tyre pressure, fill bottles, empty bladders, prepare nutrition and listen to those around you for any last minute info that could help. Its a very interesting time as you get to see what everyone else does to prepare themselves mentally, some listen to music, others go for a jog, some even strap hotdogs to their bikes !!
The swim itself was beautiful, in a long straight canal, down for 1.5km, turn 180° then back up to 400m past the exit, turn 180° again and back to the exit. As expected Lesly was right at the front, finding a good group and out of the water in under an hour, then Val a couple minutes later, and then surprisingly Nick had not sunk and was only a few more minutes behind Val ! but that was where the fun stopped. Perhaps he was a little too excited to get onto the bike (as its his favourite sport) or perhaps just a bump in the road or a loss of concentration, but on the first corner (a sharp 90° turn) Lesly lost control of his Scott and went sprawling into the barrier smashing his bike beyond repair and losing a good deal of skin with it. Race Over 🙁
A few minutes later Val went speeding by but didn’t see Lesly (he was up and getting himself fixed) Val attacked the ride and was making good ground, nice easy hills until 40km then a sharp tester of a hill – no problems. The same could be said for Nick, smugly overtaking P5 Cervélos and all manner of other TT bike (which were about 98% of the participants) on his good ol’ faithful Fuji road bike, but by the 50km mark something was up. Nick had tried to eat straight away on the bike, but nothing was going in thanks to painful stomach issues and so the energy levels were now low and not getting any higher… the P5 caught him back up. Although faring slightly better Val was beginning to experience the same problem as stomach cramps took hold this would be the story for the rest of the race.
A silly anecdote – around the 90km mark, Nick decided to have a nosebleed as well and was forced to stop at an ambulance, the German medic was very nice and fixed him up no problem, then as Nick was about to ride away (his head spinning) the medic spotted the GB flag on the dossard and said ‘Good luck and God Save the Queen’ ‘thanks’ Nick replied smiling and wanting also to participate in the cultural exchange ‘Hiel Hitler’ was all he could think to say, next time should probably just keep his mouth shut.
You can’t talk about the ride in Roth without mentioning Solar Hill, at about 70km (and 140km as its 2 loops) you turn a corner and find yourself heading between barriers and into what can only be described as a Human tunnel. (see photos) The cheers from the crowd are deafening and you are forced to cycle single file between them as they shout your name, slap you on the back and just generally rejoice in the effort you are putting in, amazing experience and a real inspiration for every athlete, Nick was considering quitting the race at 69km but by 71km there was no way he was stopping, just because he wanted to do Solar Hill again !!
By 160km he was once again considering stopping – just make it to T2 and quit then, that was the plan, but on arriving at T2 they helped him off the bike, a pretty young girl helped take off his shoes and socks and put the new ones on, so he kinda felt compelled to go tackle the marathon – couldn’t give up now, even gulped down a gel to give a little energy, this was a mistake. The stomach permitted running until the 1km mark before fully rejecting the gel, and we shall skip over what happened to Nick for the first 21km of the marathon, only to say that the stomach got its revenge for whatever it was that had irritated it, and Nick now holds the record for visiting every toilet on the run course – 2hrs 30 for a half marathon firmly being his worst ever !
As it goes the same had more or less happened to Val, who ran his first half marathon in 2hrs 10, the boys saw each other as they ran along the Kanal – Nick at the 8km mark, Val at the 17km mark. The second half marathon was slightly less painful although as it turns out no less slow, the boys saw each other again at 26km/34km – Val roughly 1hr in front of Nick, neither of them had any idea what had happened to Lesly, all they knew was that they wanted this damn race finished !!
At around about the time Val got to the finish line the heavens opened – until that point the weather had been glorious sunshine (a little too glorious in fact – dehydration probably the root cause of Vals issues) but now came a quasi-tropical storm and nick had his final last hour of running drenched, however as it cooled him down it actually helped him to run faster, and split times confirmed an increased pace towards the end. The last 2km are through Roth centre itself, people line the streets of the whole town, once again an amazing atmosphere can only be seen to be believed.
Then the finish – a real champion setting – somehow Nick found the strength to sprint the last 200m in-front of a huge crowd to at least look like it wasn’t such an ordeal, which was a good thing because the whole world was also watching by live webcam – apparently the competition website was amazing and timing updated immediate, so parents and friends were able to see the finish. The boys reunited at the end and found out what had happened to Lesly, bittersweet as the race had gone nothing like anyone had expected, and both were disappointed with their times, but given the difficulties and pains kinda proud to have made it round.
Final word must go to Lesly, who even a week later will still be having difficulty laying on his side, but right now is actually having a lot of fun because now he gets to choose which other Ironman distance competition he does this year, so he gets to go through it all again and before the year is out he will undoubtably be an Ironman – and i’m sure this next time he will look where he is going 😉
It was all worth it on the way home, when we stopped off for a rare delicacy only available in ‘not France’…..