Frankfurt IronMan, June 30, 2019 (XL)
Race Reporter: Cecile
Uplifting. One of a kind experience.
My first Ironman. I still cannot believe it.
6 months of physical preparation, a full year of mental preparation.
I love challenges but here the bar was set super high.
I had done the bike part of Vichy Ironman in 2018 though, with my sister and one of my best friends, and it reassured me as I had made a pretty good time – 6: 11 with a heavy old bike.
And cycling is more than 50% of the race, right?
As the date approaches, I check the weather forecast every single minute starting 10 days before the race. There’s no other way around it : heat wave announced, the hottest day in Frankfurt for years. Between 38 and 40°C in the shade, with barely any shade on the course.
I adjust my initial goals – announced: 14h, but for real : 13h – to: I have to finish in one piece. I have 15 hours to complete it before cutoff time, time after which the race is stopped.
To make matters worse, the booked Airbnb apartment has no air conditioning, and hosts a nightclub.
We leave from the apartment at 4:15 am, after an obvious shitty night. The friend with whom I signed up is an experienced triathlete – it’s his 10th Ironman – he is calm and chatty, so that reassures me. But as we arrive on the beach close to rolling start departure lanes, I am stunned by the mass of people I see – 3000 participants! I have to leave my friend who goes to the one hour swim time lane. I go to 1:10-1:20.
The race starts at 6:30 – of course no wetsuit is allowed. The rolling start helps to manage stress, I start my swim being really relaxed, focusing on drafting to compensate my bad swimming! And what’s more, I am really enjoying this: the water temperature is amazing and fresh! I had planned to swim in 1:30, and then I look at my Garmin as I get out of the water to run to transition: 1h28. My first victory.
I make a fast transition – this is where I scratch places in general! I put a shot of sunscreen, and off I go! I feel strong and confident on my stylish flashy new bike for a 2-loop 185km ride. The first part goes smoothly, as expected I pass many people. I focus on not pushing it too hard though, as a friend wisely told me “it is not a bike race, it’s an ironman “.
However, starting from 110th km, I feel the heat and I begin to be a bit down. I refocus on the goal and refueling properly – drink and water at each stop, drink electrolyte drinks, have a bite every 30 minutes. Well, that helps to kill time! From the 130th, my feet start to burn. I try to lift them a little in my shoes, I wiggle my toes, and I think of something else. I get back in the race, while noticing dozens of guys on the roadside, making a break in the shade, or even giving up. The last kilometers are like hell – blazing heat from Southern wind.
I finally make it to T2 after 8 hours, and it’s impossible for me to run after getting off the bike. I rack the bike and take off the shoes, and it’s worse: the warm ground reignites that burning feeling.
For the first time in my race history : I go for a technical break at the porta-potty, but really it is to lift my feet off the ground: they are shaking all by themselves. I tell myself, “Come on, let’s run this marathon.” I hustle under the tent, I spread Vaseline on my feet, put my shoes on, and off I go to “run” 4 times 10 km.
And there, I think of what Fabrice had told me the week before: “if you have 7 hours left, you’ll finish it”. I make a mental note to myself: you run at least the first 2 loops. Because my friend also told me “you will always be faster trotting than doing fast-pace walking “.
6: 53, 6: 47, 7: 02, etc … the first kilometers are slow but steady. Suddenly, a colleague comes up and runs next to me saying: “You’re good, you’re on a 7 min / km pace, you’ll finish it in 13 hours if you keep it up.” 7 remains my target for the most of the first two rounds. At the end of the second loop I see that the target is moving away. I do not panic, but I recalculate even if the target goes to 8min/km pace, I can finish it in less than 13:30. Nevertheless, I feel the pain between the 18th and 25th .
That’s when I think back to all the sacrifices, all the preparation, the incredible support I have from all my family and friends, and I tell myself that I’m lucky to be here. After that, I get back to robot-refueling mode: water / iso / ice, then water / salt / banana / ice, and start again. It helps me stay focused.
Besides that, I know where my supporters are located on the course, and also: where the shade is! And finally, I see tattooed and overtrained triathletes around me, some of them lying on the side, being helped by medics. And I tell myself: you’ve got your 8-12h of training / week, your husband, your 2 children and your full-time job, and you’re still standing.
And then, a volunteer places the bracelet announcing the start of the last lap. From there, everything changes in my head. I feel the oxytocin rising. I am still scampering, but I know I will cross this finish line. I see it in my head, I see myself crossing it. From the 34th km onwards, I feel my body accelerating. I pass tons of people walking. I go back under the 7 min/km, I fly, I shout to people “This is my first ironman! “I’m going to finish in 13: 15!, I accelerate, and I see the last corner: I sprint on the red carpet screaming, with obvious rage and happiness on my face (I think the photos are going to be awful!) . I cross the finish line! That’s it ! I am an ironwoman! I never felt that way, not even during my first marathon.
I stop the Garmin well after I cross the line (as usual): 13: 14: 48. The official time is 13:14:39.
What an adventure. Not only did I finish it, but with the target time I set myself in the first place.
I would have never have done it without the unconditional support of my friends and family, which gave me the wings and the might to do it.
My training with the club and with Sylvain, who patiently organized my schedules to be compatible with my busy life and unexpected events along the way made this dream come true.
Uplifting. One of a kind experience.