Athletes report: Gundas Challenge Roth
If there is a triathlon that should be on one's bucket list, it is Challenge Roth... It is the course, the atmosphere, the volunteers, the spectators, the final lap of the stadium, simply everything...
I went into the race simply with the goal of being faster than 2019 and sticking to my nutrition and cooling down plan. After having the amazing experience of first time cycling up Solarer Berg with Andi Dreitz when he was leading the race the last time and being better prepared, I was somewhat hoping that I might be past Solarer Berg before the race leaders would pass me. Starting 5 minutes later this year and with Magnus Ditlev and Sam Laidlow in the race, I said goodbye to that idea very quickly.
The swim in the canal went well. The water was a bit cooler than during the practice swim two days earlier, however it still felt like a bathtub compared to the Irish sea. I stayed to the side which meant that I did not get to draft of anyone’s feet but I did get into my own rhythm. This was definitely a good strategy since I took over 3 minutes off my swim last time.
In transition, I got to witness the magic of the volunteers for the first time that day. While putting on socks, helmet and sunglasses, my wetsuit, goggles and swim hats just disappeared into the transition bag.
Next up was the 180k cycle. Important for me was to ensure that I would drink regularly (yay, for the reminders on my bike computer) and cool myself down every aid station – basically not doing anything stupid. Most aid stations were located in such a way that you slowed down for them, for example at the top of a climb. This made grabbing the water bottle a bit easier and being a bit slower meant more time to pour water over myself before discarding the bottle in the litter zone.
50km into the race I could hear a drone above and just a few seconds later the two race leaders were flying by. So much about being only overtaken on Solarer Berg again – which is located around kilometre 70 (& km135) on the course. One person that was there again when I cycled through the crowds on Solarer Berg was Andi Dreitz who caught up almost at the same spot.
With almost 10 minutes taken off my cycle time, I was able to tick off my next little goal as well. Next time, breaking the 6 hour mark is definitely something to aim for.
Slightly irritated not to see a dismount line, simply getting off the bike before it was taken by the volunteers was the way to go and once I got to the transition bag a volunteer was already waiting with mine to hand it to me. While getting ready, having someone helping with the sunscreen (still looked like a lobster after the race though) and packing the transition bag for you is just one of the things that makes that race special.
The plan was just to go steady, cool down and take the nutrition as planned on the run – with maybe the one or the other pretzel stick, if I needed anything solid after hours of liquid nutrition. It took me until the canal that I got myself cooled down enough to be comfortable. The ice at the An der Lände aid station might have helped too. On the canal it was also a bit cooler thanks to some shade and a slight breeze. At every aid station I continued to cool down with the intention not to soak my shoes which I managed until about the 2nd or 3rd aid station. Since it were out and backs on the run course, I made sure not to look back at the kilometre signs in the opposite direction and focus only on the next sign ahead.
With 4 turnaround points along the route, you can see where others are in the race. A friend of mine was in the race as well. I did expect her to pass me on the bike but it never happened. On the 1st turnaround at the canal I saw her 2k behind me. At the 2nd turnaround it was down to 1.5k and after the last turnaround it was further down to 1k. This gave me some motivation to run a bit faster down the descents from Büchenbach to stay ahead. No idea where I found that energy after hours of racing but I did somehow...
Normally an extra lap at the end of a race feels just mean (like running around the carpark at the end of the Tallaght 5M last year). In Roth this is a lap of the stadium and it feels absolutely amazing. You just have to smile, especially if you also know that you took off almost 10 minutes of the run (which is my least favourite of the three) and stayed under 13 hours. In total, I took off over 30 minutes from my previous finish in Roth which in am really happy about.
A big thank you goes to Christine for the training, hospitality and cheers along the course. And to her friends and family as well for the cheers on race day.
And last but not least, the answer to the question you probably had... What does she mean by “next time”? Before and right after the race, the answer was “in 3 or 4 years’ time, I would like to race some middle distances as target races in the meantime”. At the very latest 8 days after the race in Roth that plan has gone out of the window and I will be back rather sooner than later.