Race Update – Challenge Roth, July 2017

Challenge Roth – Steve Ellison

Well here goes folks, it’s now Tuesday afternoon and I’m currently sitting on train somewhere between Munich and Budapest and genuinely struggling to put into words what happened on Sunday. The actual race report may take some time, and a lot more words than I can muster just now….
Challenge Roth is one of the most iconic races on the calendar, and one that has been completed by a number of other club members over the years. I was one of the lucky ones to get a slot last July when the race sold out in less than a minute.
A plan was put into place with coach John, almost 9 months of training and it all culminated in the events on Sunday. As someone who has struggled in hot races previously the weather was going to be key and it all looked OK with a forecast of 24-ish degrees, cloud and some wind. However, 3 days out this changed dramatically, my pre race run and bike sessions felt like they were done in a blast furnace at 33 degrees and no wind. At the pre race briefing they made a continued point of getting fluids on board and that 20,000 ice packs had been obtained for the run course….
A rather ungodly hour of 3am saw me rise and get ready with my awesome support crew (aka Gillian) before heading off to the start around 4am. Although I wasn’t starting until 07:45, everything had to be in place for the pro’s setting off at 06:30.
Swim – Plan 1:10-1:16 – Actual time 1:17. I actually enjoyed this for a change, I’m not the world’s fastest swimmer, but I can get settled into a rhythm and just keep going. A toasty 21 degree water temp was lovely and I seemed to be one of the faster swimmers in my wave. Try to stay on feet as much as possible, swam in a reasonably straight line but found some sections where I did get isolated before catching up and overtaking swimmers in earlier heats.
T1 – This was all about getting ready for a long ride. out of wetsuit and trisuit, dry off, struggle into race suit, dry socks, shoes, liberal application of more sun cream and out onto the bike course 8 mins later…….
Bike  – Plan 5:45-6:00 – Actual time 5:49. The bike course at Roth is reputedly fast, however, flat it certainly isn’t.  I didn’t get a chance to drive/ride the course pre event so the first lap was very much a sighting effort. Incredibly smooth road surfaces though and despite being down on my anticipated average power by around 15w, plus a “comfort” break on each lap this went pretty much according to plan. Got fluids on board regularly and topped up at every aid station, along with food every 30 mins.
T2 – nice and simple, get off bike, hand it to a helper, dry feet, clean socks, run shoes on, swap race belt for one with nutrition attached and off we go…..
Run – Plan sub 4:00 – Actual time 4:19 This was the first time in 30 years that the run course was changed and frankly only one word can sum it up. Brutal. It is now almost a mirror image of the bike course in that very little of it is now flat unlike the previous coal path route. I held my pace for about 26km, including going through my half marathon in 1:56 but at that point my body just shut down. I physically couldn’t take on any more fluids or nutrition and ended up having another comfort break, walking the aid stations as well as a full km from 35-36k before running the rest at a slower pace. This was the first time I had ever run more than 30km, so at the end of the day I am happy with this. I genuinely couldn’t have given any more.
A very long, very hot but in reflection an amazing day. Overall I have to be happy, I went straight from standard distance racing to IM with nothing in between (the 70.3 box still needs to get ticked for the full set!). Before Roth my last actual triathlon had been the Europeans in Lisbon over a year earlier. IM box ticked and sub 12 hour box also ticked. Not bad for this old duffer…….
I feel incredibly privileged and very very lucky to have been able not only to do Roth, but to make it my first IM event. It is very much a bucket list race and the support for athletes in unrivalled. It genuinely doesn’t matter whether you are a pro at the front of the field or an age grouper at the back. The same support is provided by over 6000 volunteers on race day. I missed a drink bottle at a bike aid station and someone sprinted back up the road to give me one. On the run course, locals came out with water and set up hose pipes with sprinklers to cool athletes down.
The constant cries of people cheering you on, particularly on the run (and I include Chrissie Wellington here who was running for a relay team and gave me a few words of encouragement every time she saw me, as well as a high 5) provides that impetus to just keep going despite the pain. Solar Hill has to be unique in triathlon terms (although the steeper one at Greding is getting closer) and the videos really don’t do it justice. It can only really be experienced as an athlete. These are the things that make Roth special.
I have far too many people to thank in person here and was utterly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people who wished me well in the lead up to the race, but I will get round to everyone eventually, however there are a few who deserve a special mention.
Coach John Dargie – The man with the plan who got me ready and went over and above in terms of advice and guidance.
Ken Macewen – For devising a tailored S&C programme that laid the foundations for all the work required to be able to go this distance.
Deborah Kennedy – my amazing sports masseur who causes me great pain, but has fixed numerous little aches and niggles that may have de-railed the entire programme
and finally…
my utterly amazing support crew of Gillian. Her commitment to this has been even greater than mine and she can now officially class herself as an “Ironwidow”. None of this would have been possible without her unwavering mental, physical, emotional and financial support over the last few months, from kicking me out of bed in the mornings to train, to looking after me when I was broken on more than 1 occasion.
Thanks all and see you all soon at training (but only after a holiday and LOTS of beer……..)