My posting activity this past month has been nothing short of appalling, for which I would like first to apologize and second to offer excuses: following the Roth race, KT went to Switzerland for a much-deserved solo holiday; near the end of her time away, I had a quick bout of flu/sinus cold, which involved me trying to stay mobile enough through the chills to care for the ever energetic NP; then came the packing and preparations for our move back to Canada, all the while trying to keep up training for the Heidelbergman race on July 29th; and post-race came the move, with which we’re currently still occupied (at least the getting settled part) – ADVICE TO READERS: never make a transatlantic move with an 18-month-old child if it can at all possible be avoided! With all this keeping me busy, something had to break, and it was the blogging. But here I am back with a report on my race last Sunday.
This race was bittersweet for me: the race took place in Heidelberg, where I had lots of friends to cheer me on, but I also knew that I was soon to leave those same friends due to the move back home. That said, I was really looking forward to this race. The course was a hard but beautiful one: a 1.6km swim down the Neckar, a 35km bike with 800 metres of climbing over two loops up to the Königstuhl, and then 10km up the Philosophenweg with 250 metres of climbing (see detailed course information here). My training hadn’t been particularly good in the two weeks leading up to the race, as I’d been ill and wasn’t out on the bike as much as I would have liked, but I was nonetheless feeling pretty good as the weekend of the race arrived.
The weather in Heidelberg was great leading up to the weekend, until Saturday brought a torrential downpour and some pretty strong winds. When I woke up on Sunday, there was still a bit of rain and the mountains surrounding the city were covered in mist (as in the photograph above). I’m always happy to avoid the sun on a race day, but I was a bit concerned that the roads would be wet and visibility poor in the mountains, conditions which aren’t ideal for fast descents on twisty roads.
Now, one really great thing about this race is that the swim start was immediately outside my front door! I went down at about 7:00 in the morning to rack my bike and get things set up in the transition zone and then headed back home to relax in the comfort of our flat while others waited in the rain for the swim to start. At 9:15, I strolled out the door in my wetsuit and jumped in the water to warm up for the start at 9:30. Before I talk about the swim, here were my times for the day:
As the swim was about to start, KT got this photo from the Heidelberg Old Bridge:
The swim went under the Old Bridge. My time, on its own, looks really great for 1.6 kilometers, but it’s important to note that the swim goes with the current in the river, which is a great help. That said, this was a pretty good swim for me on the day. Given the current, my plan was to take the swim at a pretty relaxed pace, especially in the last 100m, so as to have more energy going into the bike (in previous races, I think I’ve gone out a bit to hard in the swim). I did feel very relaxed on the swim, but maybe too relaxed – this is something I still need to play with, as I think I could have had a better swim than I did and still have had energy, but hopefully this will come with experience.
NP and KT, after watching the start, headed down to the transition zone to cheer me on with some other friends. Given the weather, NP was a pretty stalwart fan, although at times she gave the impression (so I later learned) that triathlon spectating was not number one on her list of Sunday activities (that or she was just bummed that she wasn’t racing on the day):
One great thing about swimming down a straight river is that sighting is pretty easy. My line was great, right up until the end when I went a bit wide heading towards the swim goal (which was unfortunately black and not that easy to see in goggles). Here I am near the end of the swim, sighting while taking a breath:
With the swim over, I made one of the best swim to bike transitions I’ve ever done and was off on the road:
As you can see in the photograph, the roads were wet for the bike, although the rain had stopped. This made me a bit more tentative at times, especially on my bike that had a few lingering mechanical deficiencies, but I felt pretty good initially heading out on the bike. The course went along the river for a kilometer, then across the Old Bridge and through the city centre on cobblestones, and then up the mountain, past the castle, and onward to two loops up to the Königstuhl.
As I hit the first major climb of the first loop, I realized that this was not to be my best day on the bike – despite feeling okay starting out, I just didn’t seem to have it in my legs to push on the hills like I have done in training. It’s really frustrating to know that you have gone harder in training and don’t have that on race day, but I had also not trained well on the bike since Roth because I’d been ill, so I perhaps shouldn’t have been too surprised. Things were also a bit slower on the descents than usual because of the wet roads – when we reached the top on the first climb the fog was still thick, which also made for uncertain visibility. All in all, I was about 10 minutes slower on the bike than I wanted to be, but on the plus side, I felt like I got stronger as the bike went on and the second loop was a lot of fun!
With the rain out of the way, the roads down at river level were pretty dry by the time I came off the mountain and transitioned to the run. I was also pleased to discover that, perhaps due to my slower bike, I felt strong on my legs heading out:
The initial climb up the Philosophenweg is pretty steep, after which there is a less dramatic if steady elevation increase. My plan was to take the first section at about 90% and then pick up the pace heading towards the turn point. I had done a lot of hill running in training, especially in the two weeks following the Roth race, and this seemed to pay off: I was able to pass quite a few people on the run and generally felt stable throughout. After the 6km mark, we were then heading back downhill, which allowed me to pick up the pace with a quicker leg cadence. The increased speed was pretty exhilarating at this point, after the slower pace of the climb, and it must be said that the view of Heidelberg in the last few kilometers of the race is really something special.
I did have a few unexpected technical issues on the run: my right shoe lace came undone in the last two kms, which slowed me up a bit, and as I rounded the corner coming down from the hill, my Garmin watch fell off my wrist (!) – the pin had fallen out of the strap – so I had to go back and pick this up (I was not happy Garmin). That said, I was relatively pleased with my run in the end, even though I think I could have pushed harder up the hill – I wouldn’t have been happy with 45:22 on flats, but given the steep hills, this was a good run for me.
And perhaps the best thing about this race was seeing my family and friends as I came towards the finish. I was even able to give NP and KT a high-five on the way by, although, unintentionally, I dissed these kids looking for high-fives a few seconds earlier (I feel badly about this, but at least they had balloons!):
And with that, I was eating watermelon and chatting with family and friends, as I started to turn my thoughts to the final preparations for our move less than 48 hours after the end of the race. It’s been a great year in Heidelberg, and I’m really going to miss the many friends we made there. If you’re reading this, friends, keep in touch!