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IM Germany Race Report

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Richard Allbert

Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 194
Location: Milan, Italy

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 2:41 pm    Post subject: IM Germany Race Report Reply with quote

IMDE 2008

Where to start? Last year, my first IM attempt after four months in triathlon was 11h18min. This year, after structured training since November 2007, I was slower... 11h25min. This in spite of a new bike (which is 3kg lighter than last years).

In a nutshell, for those who don't want to read on, I made a massive mistake of eating too much during the first lap of the bike, and threw up on the second lap. This ruined the race from then on.

Training Background

The training fro IMDE started Novemeber 2007, I started recording it in detail from Jan 2008. After taking some advice, I decided to use Don Fink's plan from "Be Iron Fit" as a guide, but with a few changes. I kept the splitting up of the base, build and peak periods the same, but reduced the running (running is ok - October 2007 I paced a friend to 3h13 in the Frankfurt marathon on the back of very little training after my Sept 2007 IM) and increased the cycling, which had been the problem in my first IM experience.

Swimming would also have to be changed - I simply don't have the pool availability, or time with my job / girlfriend, to swimming 3 times per week. Once is good, twice is luck.

And so, the structure took the following form:

Mon Bike
Tue Run
Wed Brick
Thur Bike
Fri Long Run
Sat Long Bike

Swims were added where possible.

I was planning to write a detailed description of how the training went, but it seems pointless after such a mess of a race - I'm in no place to say whether I did things right or wrong. Anyway, I averaged 9hrs per week from Jan 1st 2008, 60% of this was cycling, 30% running, 10% swimming. Come race time, I could run 4:45/km aerobic for two hours, and cycle four hours comfortably aerobic at 34-35kmh. Swimming was at an endurance pace of 1:50/100m. (without neo). I feel sad writing these figures out - it seems such a waste!

Anyway... onto the race. I arrived at 0600 in the morning feeling good, and not at all nervous.

The race plan was:

Swim easily, hopefully same as last year in 1h10.

Bike as in training - I had one aerobottle between the bars with water, to refill from aid staions, and one bottle on the frame with very highly concentrated high five powder (about 15 scoops to give 50-60g Carbs per hour) - already practiced on long rides in training - top provide my nutrition. Keep HR around 140 (Low Z2 according to Fink).

Run drinking at aid stations alternating water and coke. Run entirely on feel, not HR.

Target time... about 10h30-10h45.

Now for the race itself....


The swim is a two lap affair - the first about 2.3km (according to the race info), followed by a short run on the beach, and back in for the last 1.5km. The first lap is anticlockwise in a triangle, the second clockwise out and back. It's a pretty wide startline, so there is space, unless you want to swim the shortest path to the first turnpoint. The start is different from last year, where friends have told it was too narrow, and chaotic.

I have no experience of other MDot races, so the start was pretty much as I expected - I seeded myself about six people deep from the front, right in the middle, and for the first 700m it was a fight - mostly head up swimming - and the cause of the fighting was slow people in front - who had seeded themselves a little too optimistically. Overtaking was very difficult due to the overcrowding - I decided not to worry, and just stay calm.

The first turning point is a 60 left hander, and I was right on the inside - I was worried at first with such a crush of people, but the current caused by the mass of swimmers literally swept us all round the bouy - and onto the next 700m or so. I swam in a large group, a little off course here, again a lot of body contact, but I didn't mind it - whilst it isn't pleasant banging into other swimmers, there is definitely a good drafting effect in a large group.

After the second turn, I had a little clear water, and swam for a couple of minutes gliding as much as I could to save energy - the head up swimming for the first section had left my arms a little tired. Someone swam past me, just a little faster, and I draftem him/her to the beach. Before the swim, I was hoping for 42-43min at this point to be on time for a 1h10 swim - I was shcoked to see 36min on my watch!!! I've heard a whisper the swim was a little short, maybe this explains this. Onto the beach, MASSIVE 197bpm running !!! and then back into the water - here I swam really easily for the next 1.5km, knowing I had time in hand.

Total swim time was 1h03min, swim must have been short, and I walked out of the water into an amazing atmosphere of thousands (literally) of cheering spectators. Heard my girlfriend calling, found her, quick kiss, and then walked up the steep 100m ramp and on into the transition area.


Took about 5min - it's quite long, I'd say 400m running in total from swim exit, and I took it easy having been faster than planned in the swim. No drama here.


The start of the bike is a very flat, smooth ride to Frankfurt, about 12km or so. I swtiched my computer onto elapsed time, so I coudn't see the speed, and just rode by HR - keeping around 135-140bpm. The nutrition plan was drink aver 15min from water and high-five bottles. Simple. Worked in training, should work here. I had also ridden the bike loop three times during training (apart from the Frankfurt city center - you'd be mad to do this - one person did and ended up on the motorway), and felt prepared.

After reaching Frankfurt, the ride starts the first of two scenic loops, totalling around 1200m climbing. None of the climbs gain more than 100m, so they are not dramatic - I only needed my 25 on the back once towards the end of the course. What makes the course fast is the descents - gentle rather than steep means the speed lost climbing is regained. The first half of the loop contains more climbing than the second.

The bike course, especially the climbs, is fantastically supported. One of the climbs is a short stretch of about 300m over cobbles - massive crowd on both sides of the street - music, cheering, people dressed as devils shouting at you, horns blowing.... amazing. The last climb on the loop, Heartbreak Hill is like the TdF - single file riding most of the way up. Masses of cheering people. The feeling to be taking part is one that I have never had - goosebump stuff.

One thing that was tricky was the drafting - It's interesting to read the UK vs Germany (I live in Germany at the moment) point of view on forums. In the UK, we are really against drafters - in my opinion rightly so - but in Germany, they seek out groups to ride in - it's how they interpret racing.

To me, I am racing just myself. The people here are actively "racing" the other people - hence why the drafting is so bad. Being caught out is seen as bad luck. Ok - some people here hate it and complain (I heard some complaints on the course), but for the rest, I don't begrudge it them at all - and for some of the first lap, I was certainly in groups for many minutes - it was difficult not to be.

I did see a lot of marshalls, though, and a lot of warnings.

Anyway, the problems started for me at 60km - as I passed the 60km marker, I looked at the time and saw 1h40min elapsed. HR 140avg. My God, I'm averaging 36kmh with a low HR!!!

And now I started dreaming..... 1h10 Swim+T1, 5h10 Bike.... 3h45 Run... under 10 hours ??. I was so excited by this prospect, I became worried about whether I had enough nutrition in my bottle despite the fact that I had practiced in training. Stupid.

And so, over the next two aid stations, I ate 3 halves of Banana and two Powerbar Gels - thus breaking the cardinal rule of not doing anything different to training.

Going up Heartbreak hill for the first time, 90km in, I started to feel sick. By 120km into the second lap, I was actually sick - in a field by the side of the road. This really hit me hard - I've never had stomach issues, and pedalling on after this, with a stronger wind on the second lap, I was not happy.

I just couldn't get rid of the "feeling sick" sensation in my throat. I was passed by a lot of riders, and eventually finished the second lap 20min slower than the first - rolling in after 5h35min.


I made another mistake now - more of a mental one. As I got off the bike, it was difficult to stand up straight, let alone run, due to stomach pains.

I hadn't looked at my bike time before getting off the bike - and assumed it to be a lot worse than it was. At that point in the race, I should have been capable of 10h45 - the original target, but my mental feeling was "it's all over".

I made the decision to drink water, coke, and eat whilst walking through each aid station. Instead I should have just run, leaving the body to settle, and then started drinking.


Four virtually flat laps of the river in the city center, full of masses of fans, aid stations every mile.

The supporters, helpers, organisation all top notch. I saw Chris McCormack running - the crowd cheering loudly as he ran past. You could hear where he was on the course by the cheering. He was amazed himself - he basically ran the whole time accompanied by load cheering.

The TV here says there were close to 600,000 people in Frankfurt / On the bike course to watch the race. It made for great motivation.

Anyhow, I set off with the new "plan" and shuffled the first half of the run in about 2h05min - and feeling sick / queezy due to the amount of coke / water / red bull / apple sloshing around in me.

It's easy to predict that I slowed to more walking than running, and ended up taking 4h30 for the marathon. For someone who runs easy 4min45 / km, this is crazy.

The funny thing is, at no point in the run, did I really stop and think things through. I was completely in a "disaster mode" - when I was actually in a recoverable situation. It never crossed my mind - I assumed 12-13hrs was on the cards, and in the finish chute was shocked to see 11h25min on the clock.

Naturally, afterwards, I was annoyed at not thinking more clearly. After the first run lap, I never even looked at my watch.

Time: 11h25min


First of all, a thank you to my wonderful, suffering girlfriend, who was so supportive during the day, it bought tears to my eyes - she was there for the swim, at four points on the bike course (with friends as well) and twice each lap of the run. I also thank my friends who came to the bike and/or run, and were also a massive help.

Also a thank you to the nice English supporters, who told me how Chrisse Wellington was doing when I stopped to ask them! (anyone here?).

The race itself is flawless in organisation - one day I will definitely do it again. Next year, Switzerland!

I'm gutted with the time, to be honest. I made a silly mistake, and paid for it. The problem with IM being so full is that you have to wait a year to redeem yourself.

Next up this year:
Antwerp 70.3
Frankfurt Marathon (see if I can go under 3:00).

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions about the course, area, or organisation, please ask!

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Joined: 30 Mar 2005
Posts: 831
Location: Bristol

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bad luck, but don't beat yourself up about it too much (difficult I know when you've spent a whole year preparing for this one race).

I think dealing with the mental side of IM is just as difficult as the physical side - the problem being you never really get to practise the mental side until race day, which can catch you out. Sub 11.30 is a still a good time remember - maybe not what you were capable of, but still far from shabby (and better than I've ever managed dammit Mad).

Every race is another bit of experience, so all you can do now is learn from it and not make the same mistakes next time round.
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Joined: 06 Sep 2006
Posts: 1147

PostPosted: Tue Jul 08, 2008 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mattS2 wrote:
Every race is another bit of experience, so all you can do now is learn
from it and not make the same mistakes next time round.

And with a great analytic race report like that, you've probably helped lots of other people too.
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Richard Allbert

Joined: 10 Apr 2007
Posts: 194
Location: Milan, Italy

PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

xml wrote:
mattS2 wrote:
Every race is another bit of experience, so all you can do now is learn
from it and not make the same mistakes next time round.

And with a great analytic race report like that, you've probably helped lots of other people too.

Thanks for the nice reply... I hope it does help others.

Two IM's so far, and the two top mistakes Very Happy

Third time luck next year in CH!
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Joined: 22 Sep 2004
Posts: 5122
Location: Tooting (hopefully not for much longer)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done although its a shame it didnt work out as you wanted. I am also guilty of going for the 'everything is lost' mentality as soon as things go wrong.

Good luck next year anyway, you will be back and be great.
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Carl J

Joined: 07 Jun 2007
Posts: 309
Location: Cambs

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for being so honest on your report. Gives us newbies even more to think about.

Sub 1130 is such a good time but I understand your disapointments.
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Joined: 24 Sep 2007
Posts: 2664
Location: Back in MojoTown

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would place money on it being the bananas that did it - they normally do for me. on a long slow ride no problem but up the HR by even 5bpm for me and they're coming back out! At least you learned a few things from the race which is the main thing IMO whatever the result.

See you in Antwerp!
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Joined: 19 Nov 2006
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Location: Riding eternal, shiny and chrome

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry that you feel disappointed Richard but I hope that the experience helps you come good next time. Still a very strong result though - well done!
Walk like The Clash, sing like The Supremes...
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Joined: 10 Nov 2006
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Location: Sarf East

PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report Richard and great time - I know it's not what you expected but considering your frame of mind, well done - others might have ended up with a DNF.

'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger' springs to mind, so a valuable learning experience for all of us
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coastal controller

Joined: 25 Jun 2006
Posts: 1695
Location: back home

PostPosted: Sat Jul 12, 2008 7:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report. It's as much mental as it is physical - and you kept going. You say that your old bike was 3kg heavier.....what was it? Confused
"Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions."
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Joined: 08 Nov 2009
Posts: 40
Location: Ashtead

PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report, a somewhat late reply but I am doing IMDE in 2010 and am seeking out any info I can get! The crowds sound brilliant!! Very Happy

I think you give some great advice in that report, the whole don't change anything mantra is constantly repeated but often ignored! I think your other message is don't panic which again is sometimes easier said than done.

One of my biggest fears is to go through this whole process and for the event itself to be a negative one. I am determined for this not to happen because for anyone to complete an Ironman should always in my mind be a huge achievement done (as much as possible!) with a smile on our faces.

Cheers for the insight
Tenacity is at the root of all success
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