Andrea Smashes Challenge Roth ULTRA DISTANCE

I flew into Nuremberg Thursday morning and collected my bike and registered and had a little wander around the expo.  It was a slightly warm 34 degrees so knew we were in for a hot race, so plenty of fluid was the order of the weekend!  Friday morning was swim practice then Friday afternoon went on a tour of the bike course, which was the first time we got to see the lovely roads that had been promised, then Saturday was racking the bike & registration.  


Sunday morning was up at 0315 & got to the swim start at about 0430, which was rather early as my wave start wasn’t until 0700, but I’d heard the many horror stories of the traffic nightmare if you arrive later so I wasn’t taking any chances!  Had breakfast in the car then toddled into transition to set things up.


Asked kindly to borrow a pump from a neighbour only to find my front tyre wouldn’t pump up.  Queue the start of a minor meltdown but took some deep breaths & kept calm knowing I had lots of time & had brought a spare tube with me for such eventualities.  Went over to the tent where they had lots of pumps & with the help of one of the thousands of amazing volunteers we got it pumped up, but I then spent the next few hours anxiously feeling it every few minutes just in case it went flat again (hence why I ended up on the official video standing next to my bike with arms folded looking grumpy – oops!!).


Everything else went to plan though and saw Debbie & Dave a few times and Neil kindly wrestled me into my wetsuit.  I can’t really describe what it was like standing waiting to get into the water – I think my words were something like: “This is more like a circus than a triathlon!” as there were thousands of spectators, a guy coming in on a parachute & hot air balloons going off, and as if that wasn’t enough, instead of the traditional hooter to set waves off, they had a canon, a full blown canon, which made me jump about 5ft in the air every 5mins when it set a new wave off!!

Debbie & I were both in wave 7 so we wished each other well & got into the water.  I actually felt quite calm, possibly the calmest I’ve ever felt before a tri, but that’s probably because I was distracted & in awe of the spectacle around us!!  But very quickly off went the canon again & away we went!


We had the usual biffing within our wave, but because there were some 20-odd waves and we were only wave 7, it meant that just as the biff from our wave was settling, the men from subsequent waves started coming through and pretty much kept coming through right until I got out of the water.  A lot of them weren’t so gentle about it either so it’s probably the most beaten up in a swim I’ve ever been, including a hard blow to the head which stunned me for a minute.


But I survived and while I was disappointed with my time, a slower time was somewhat to be expected in all the biff and also looking back at my data I swam 2.6mi instead of 2.4 – oops!  But into transition and with the help of one of the volunteers I was soon ready & out the door & onto the bike.


I carefully controlled the first lap of the bike knowing it was going to be a long day and the mercury was going to rise.  I also wanted to savour the moments in the crowds, especially on Solar Hill, as the only word to describe that is simply “wow” and if you’ve ever thought about going full then Roth is the place to do it!!  Lance came past me during the first lap of the bike so it was great to see him too.


The second lap of the bike was a lot tougher though, as while the first lap had been windy it was cloudy & cool, but on the second lap the cloud lifted and it got hot, very hot, and it was a real battle.  What had seemed easy the first time around felt 10 times harder the second time around, and despite the crowds there were some dark moments & even some tears on that second lap and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see transition!

I know I’ve already said it but I just have to say again how wonderful the volunteers at Roth are!  In transitions one of the volunteers attach to you and lay all your clean kit out and pack away wet / dirty kit and generally don’t let you do anything except get dressed (despite my protests in T2 of going “no really, you don’t want to touch that jersey let me put it away!” and then grabbing my sunscreen and insisting on slathering me in it, to which I was ever more horrified as I knew how disgusting I must have been but she wouldn’t let me do it!).


It was then onto the run where very quickly it became an uphill to which I was like “hang on, this course is meant to be flat!!”.  Unfortunately as well, the last 10-15mi of the bike, while I didn’t feel sick, I think due to the heat my stomach closed up and didn’t want to take anymore food on board, but knowing I still had to do a marathon I forced it in and the consequences were as soon as I set off on the run I got an awful stitch / cramp.


Debbie came past me shortly after on the run so I waved her on, but the stitch just wouldn’t go and I ended up with one of the Kiwi (New Zealand), girls for company as she was happy to walk for a bit and then do whatever slow shuffle I could manage until the stich became too bad and we walked again.

I tried to keep putting nutrition in knowing there was still a long way to go, but as the stitch wouldn’t give up I made a decision to stop putting anything in for a while knowing there was a risk it would hurt me later, but thankfully it did the trick and finally after about 5 miles it subsided.  I saw Dave somewhere in all that and he was on his second lap and looking strong so waved him on to the finish.


My newfound Kiwi friend and I then got into a walk-run pattern, with a bit more walking up the hills and through aid stations and lap 1 was soon done (well, soon in a relative sense!), and we knew we just had to do the same again & we were done!  I had a portaloo stop shortly into the second lap and said I’d catch up to my kiwi friend, so once I got going again I set off at a steady run (well, jog!), and actually found myself feeling comfortable so just kept going at a constant run (jog), rather than run-walk.


Had updates that Lance was doing well & close to the finish which is always good to hear, and I caught up with Debbie who unfortunately was having her own stomach issues as well as blisters, so we did a swap of antacids for gels & I headed off knowing Debbie was still ok for time & she had a determined look on her face!  By this stage my Kiwi friend had found 2 other Kiwis and I was still feeling great constantly running (jogging), so knowing they too would be ok for time I kept on going and except for aid stations and hills I ran (jogged), the rest of the second lap & negative split it!


Started to feel tired the last few kilometres, but that’s also when the euphoria of knowing you’re going to make it sets in, and coming into the finish area and the finish stadium all the pain disappears, and while most people speed up / put on a run to finish, I did the polar opposite and slowed to a walk in order to savour every single second of it and that finish line (and the event in general), truly is everything they say it is!!!


Got to see Dave in the finish stadium on my way around, and I hung out in the finish area for a while with an Erdinger or two waiting to see the various friends I’d made on the course come home as well as Debbie, and we then toddled off to sort ourselves out.


As if everything during the day hadn’t been fantastic enough, my love for Challenge Roth was complete when I saw the huge bank of showers available, and I’m actually still salivating about the roll with ham, cheese & pickle that I had – seriously *the* best thing I have ever eaten in my life!!!


Unfortunately the shower was also the point where I discovered I’d forgotten to sunscreen my legs (my upper body was actually ok), so taking my calf guards and shorts off to discover to my horror the bright red patches from the middle of my thighs to just below my knees; those lines won’t be going anywhere for a while!!!


In summary though, a brilliant event with brilliant spectators and brilliant volunteers and is something you just have to experience for yourself!!  Roth has a time cut off of 15hrs which I was very nervous about making, but ended up coming home in 14hrs 13mins blowing all my worries out of the water, but I also know if I’d been more sensible earlier with my stomach & pushed harder on the run I could have done under 14 hours – but that’s the challenge for next year?!

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About Kate Wallace

I've always been involved with sport of some description, particularly adrenaline sports (skiing, boarding, kite-surfing, bungi jumps, parachute jumps, mountain biking) and endurance events (7 marathons, lots of halfs, Caledonian Challenge, London to Brighton bike ride, Moonwalk, played/coached rugby), but I'm relatively new to triathlon as it's actually taken the place of other sports after a couple of bad accidents! Although looking at the biographies of all you other Viceroys I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that all I've done are a few team traitahlons (running or cycling leg) and a couple of super sprints and sprints on my own, I'm hoping that being a Viceroy might persuade me that swimming in open water over 400m is actually possible. Read more about me in the May 2012 Triathlon Plus: