Wow, wow, wow, what an experience. This race was the toughest IM I’ve done. Considering a year ago I was hit twice on my bike within three weeks apart. I was training for IMBoulder. The last one I was hit by a car. All last year was recovery from whiplash, concussion and hip injury. I started working out again in March after getting a stress fracture in my foot. My reason to choose Frankfurt instead for IMBoulder was just me being an adventurist. I had no idea this IM had a finish time of 15 hours instead of 17 hours. I found this out the day before.
I landed in Frankfurt on Tuesday before the race. I flew with British Airways from Denver, CO. The good part flying overseas late in the evening is you can overcome the jet lag pretty fast if you follow the time schedule of the country you’re going to. My luggage including my bike did not arrive with me thou. This made me very worried and unnecessary concerned about the delay. I did not have to worry too long, it showed up later in the evening and they dropped it off at the hotel. The overall trip with my Trek Speed concept turned out to be more expensive than I realized. $200 R/T on flight. $100 to have it packed in Denver and $100 to have it reassembled. Then flight to Sweden another $100. ugh!! The reason I had help packing and unpacking my bike was due to the D2 gears. Eventually I ended up paying another $120 when I arrived home and my bike mechanic saw that one of the cables was broken, ugh! Totally an expensive trip.
Once arriving to Frankfurt a friend of a friend, Jürgen, who lives in Frankfurt, met me at the airport. He showed me the course and all around Frankfurt. Invaluable time. Thank you Jürgen!! 😀
I felt I was pretty prepared, and with three completed IM in my backpack I knew I should be able to finish. Little did I know I would barely finish! 😮
It was 40 degrees Celcius )104 F) and 66% humidity. Sweat was dripping down my spine. I knew I was going to be in trouble when I entered my hotel room and there was no A/C. But I convinced myself my body would get used to the heat.
My friend Jürgen took me around the whole bike course and showed me the run course. We went to swim one day and the water was so hot (25C) I was sure it would be non-wetsuit legal.
Two nights before race day, the night, of course, that is the most important night to get a good night sleep I had a lousy one. Every night had been very hot and we kept the windows open for hope of some breeze from the night air, but the outside was even warmer than the hotel room. I felt like I could not take a big enough breath, I began to hyperventilate. I had a panic attack, which I’m sure was a mixture of race anxiety and not being able to breathe. I don’t know how many showers I took and every time it felt like I was dry in two seconds. I was crying and twisting and turning. Meanwhile, my brother Richard, who had arrived a day prior was sleeping like a baby, nothing seemed to bother him. I finally passed out around 4.30am, exhausted.
The day before race day I turned in Khaleesi, my bike, along with the bike and run bags. The bus that would take us and our bikes to T1 was delayed and there was not enough busses, so we had to wait with all our packings and gears in this awful heat outside in bright sunlight. It felt like we all would get heat strokes right there. In this kind of humidity, you really don’t feel you’re thirsty, so it’s quite easy to get dehydrated.
The day ended up with waiting in long lines everywhere, but eventually I got everything dropped off. My brother and I had a bite to eat and rest of the day we just relaxed. I went to bed at 8.30 pm. No panic attack this night.
My alarm woke me up at 3.30am. Thank goodness I managed to get some hours sleep in that heat. At 4.am the hotel offered a small breakfast. Then at 4.30am I walked to the Host hotel to catch the shuttle to the swim area. It was about a half hour drive.
In the morning it was actually a little chilly, particular after my pre swim in the lake, Langener Waldsee. Since it was non-wetsuit legal, I decided to swim in my bathing suit with my sport bra under so I could quickly change into my tri-suit. I decided this since I was not sure if my tri suit was going to drag and I was worried my shorts would get air bubbles and drag as well. I felt I did a good choice. The Pros took off and then at 6.50 there were a small group of athletes who started. Someone told me if you register early you can ask to be in the early group. Wish I had known, I never knew.
7.00, the start shot sounded for the rest of us athletes, and we took off. Well almost. 2.20 minutes after start I finally reached the shore to start swimming. 3000 athletes starting, and I had stupidly enough placed myself way too far back. I was waiting next to my brother Richard and friend Jürgen, and by the time I decided to go down it was way too crowded to go further up in the front.
I have forgotten how many breaststrokers there are in IM in Europe. I ended swimming among so many, and trying to squeeze in between them was almost impossible. They spread out sideways and I got hit so many times I had bruises. This made me swim in zigzag rather than straight to the buoys. Despite this I felt great and strong. I passed many swimmers. My time does not show this, but that’s alright. Swimming without wetsuit turned out better than I thought.
Once out of the water, Richard and Jürgen was there cheering me on. It was a long transition hill to run up on, but that didn’t bother me, perhaps it was my altitude advantage, who knows. Swim time: 1.27hr
I grabbed my gear bag and rushed to the changing tent. Looking out to the other side I noticed spectators staring right into the tent. It was open to the whole world to see us change. No privacy here. I needed to change out of my bathing suit!! Well, I quickly turned into “I don’t care” mode and I changed into my tri-suit. T1 time: 8.07 min
Again I saw Richard and Jurgen cheering me on when I was heading out from T1 for the bike leg. Great course, lots of cheering crowd and pretty landscape. The course was two loops, the first obstacle was a cobblestones hill. I have never biked on cobblestones before so this would be interesting. Once on the cobble stones it felt like a hammer jack was pondering down on me. Unfortunately, the bike box opened and I dropped several items out of it. Shoot, there goes my extra nutrition bar, the tire tool, and a Co2 tube. But the climb was short and soon I was on normal pavement again. I had the same looking “devil” dress alike, like in Tour of France, running along side with me when I was climbing. Very funny. After a longer ride in smaller towns and lots of cheering crowd came the “Beast” (Bad Vilbel), an actually fun climb with lots of people cheering you on similar to Tour of France.
There was Jürgen and Richard again, such uplifting feeling to see them. Richard ran along side and cheered me on. After this we rode into downtown and then it was time for the second loop.
At this time it was 39-40 degrees Celsius (104F) and a humidity of 66%. I remember one time I almost fell asleep on the bike. I understand afterwards that it was probably the heat that got me. They had started to pour water using water hoses and handed out sponges that I used and stuck into my clothing. Water on my helmet and head helped a ton. By the time I came around to the “Beast” for the second time there were hardly any people left cheering. This time it felt heavy to climb and now I had started to get pain in my left hip. Bike time: 6.57hrs
I came in and saw Jürgen and Richard once again, all I could say was “Fan” repeatedly in Swedish which I’m sure my english speaking friends would easily understand what I said. I handed my bike to the volunteer, grabbed my T2 bag, and wobbled into the tent. I sat down and proceeded to change to my running shoes. Surprisingly, a guy sat next to me and took of his bike short, standing in all his nudity right in front of me. Oy, first now, I realized it was a mixed gender tent, or maybe I went into the wrong tent? Who knows. Ha,ha, it took me off guard for a second. The only volunteer I saw was a guy who I asked to help me with some sun screen. I must say there were very few volunteers around T1 and T2. Not like other IM I’ve been to. Then off I went. T2 time: 6.13 min
The run was a flat course of four loops of 10 k each with connection of two bridges.
I started out on the first loop and it went actually pretty ok, I walked through the aid stations. Second loop I could barely run due to the pain in my hip. I proceeded to run/ walk. I stopped at the med tent and laid down. I asked for ice to put on my hip. I could easily fall asleep there, I was so nauseated and sleepy. They told me I could quit if I liked, and I instantly jumped up and said no, I’ll never quit, I may not make the time cutoff but I wont quit.
Third loop I had totally lost hope to make it under 15hrs. I walked most of the lap. Every lap Richard, Jurgen and Ines (Jurgens wife) was there to cheer me on and encourage me. It was hot and my hip wouldn’t carry me, it was so painful. By the end of the third loop a young cute Italian came jogging up to me and proceeded to talk and encourage me. He was on his last lap and this was his first Ironman. We talked for a little bit and then he asked me if I was married. Omg, this cracked me up and I started laughing. I’m totally sweaty and look like crap, and he could probably be my son, lol!! Regardless, he got me started to run/walk again. We stayed together until he went off to the finish and I had one more loop left. Jürgen saw me and started running next to me and yelled I could make it, that I could do 15hrs if I only kept running. I first told him I needed to run/walk since my hip hurt, but he said: “no, only running”. I stubbornly argued that my hip hurt. And he let me walk 20 steps and run again. By the end I ran the whole way ignoring the pain and there, finally was the finish chute!! What an incredible feeling of relief, happiness, and excitement it was running up the chute. My adrenaline was so high, and all I could see was the finish line. I barely noticed the car they had parked in the middle of the finish chute to cut off athletes. I wanted to make it so bad. All the cameras was on me, I was on German television. I’ve never had this much attention in my life. So many people congratulated me at the finish. Sometimes it pays off to come in last! But I came in 15.01 hrs, that’s 1 minute after count down. The best part was however, I did get my medal and they did not DNF (Did not finish) me. I’m so happy for that.
This was the toughest race I’ve ever done. It’s a fast course overall. I’m a bit disappointed of my result, but it was all due to the hip issues and the heat. At the same time, that’s what an Ironman is all about. You can never predict the circumstances and that’s what makes us still want to do another one, and another….
I learned much from this race, and for next ironman I will again work on my weaknesses. One of them is my mental mindset, never give up!!
It has been a hard comeback and I have far to go to ever be able to qualify for Kona. But, I will not give up, one day I believe it will happen! Thank you to my husband for all your support and standing by me in all my crazy journeys. To my boys for believing in me, and to you, all my friends and fellow tri-peeps ,who cheer me on and make me believe that I can do this!! **Never too old. **
Photo credit: Jürgen Hertrich, Finisher Pix