Ironman Frankfurt would be a highlight race for me heading into the second half of the triathlon season. Being a European Championship, this would mean double the usual qualification points for the Ironman World Championship (Kona), a bigger prize purse and ultimately a higher quality field which would test where I am at racing against the best. The pressure to perform for me was not so much nerve racking, more exciting, as a top 5 placing would secure my spot for Kona. The carrot was there to be chased!
I had a great preparation heading into the event taking confidence from 70.3 Ironman Vietnam (4th place) and 5150 Subic Bay (3rd place) in the weeks prior to my touch down in Europe. I travelled to Germany 3 weeks prior to the event enabling me to train in cooler conditions as well under the watchful eye of my coach Jürgen Zack in his hometown of Koblenz. Being able to experience where he trained throughout his career was not only a great change, but an opportunity to meet his life long training partners over the years, ride famous bike and run loops where there was no chance to hide from embracing the pain, and not to mention sleeping on the “leopard” sofa! A new bike was also revealed and even though the time was relatively short to adjust, my new Canyon courtesy of Z-Coaching is an absolute “rocket “and I am super pumped to have the opportunity to ride one of the best brands on the cycling scene.
I headed to the outskirts of Frankfurt 1 week prior to race day and stayed with Arndt and Claudia Hille. Not only great friends of Jürgen, but two great athletes in their own right with years of knowledge and success in the triathlon scene. Arndt also raced the Ironman so we were able to prepare and calm each other down in the final days in lead up to the big day.
Race morning was crisp and cool (11 degrees) but this still did not allow wetsuits for professional athletes (water temperature was less than 21.9 degrees – the cut off for a non-wetsuit swim). I was confident in my swim training in recent weeks and felt at ease swimming behind targeted competitors with minimal energy expended. I exited with the eventual winner of the race (Melissa Hauschildt also from Australia) whom I knew would be relatively similar to my bike time and one to watch.
Onto the bike and it was a matter of playing my cards right. A small delay in transition meant I had a small gap to chase Melissa down early on but I caught her before the first small hill climb for the day. For the next 150km I remained in striking distance around her and some other competitors maintaining 4th – 5th position. I continuously monitored my effort – putting on surges when required, as well as keeping my calorie intake regular with my Sponser nutrition. BUT without prior warning and merely a lapse in concentration, and to no fault but my own, I received a drafting penalty on the bike with 30km to go…something I am very disappointed by especially when I pride myself to race my own race under most circumstances. A 5 minute “stop and go” penalty would ultimately mean time lost heading onto the run.
Once again, and a usual occurrence as of late, I put myself into “no mans land” starting the marathon. This position not only tests you mentally but I had made the “carrot” so much harder to chase. Even though it was a 4-lap course, I was never able to see my competitors in front. I tried to keep myself focused with the use of my watch and the support from people I knew supporting out on course, but it is not as easy as one sounds and something I need to work on. A few stomach issues also played a part in the later half of the race also caused more frustration. I knew deep down inside that I had missed a good opportunity to call myself real competitor on the battlefield.
Reflecting on my race now one week later, I can say my frustration has passed and I am channelling all the positives from the event to move forward and keep striving for personal success. The carrot is still hanging but it is closer than ever to be caught!
In closing there are some special people whom I would like to mention and thank with regards to this trip:
- Jürgen – No words can really explain how much time and effort you put into me on and off the racetrack to make me the athlete I am today. I will be forever be in debt to you and look forward to you to keep pushing me out of the comfort zone! – We are getting there!
- Stefan Keul –Very grateful for you and the Canyon brand for getting my new Canyon race ready! I appreciate you being part of “Team Duke” and I look forward to working with you in the future.
- Claudia and Arndt – Understanding what it means being an athlete, made my stay at your place so much easier. I appreciate your hospitality and look forward to seeing you both again soon!
- Ladi Demko – Not only your support out there on race day was greatly appreciated but I am super pumped to be an ON running ambassador and thank you for having me in a new set of shoes for race day!
- Ruedi Wild – Proud to be part of the Sponser team and look forward to getting my small nutritional issues dialled to perform at my best.
- Arnaud Selukov – Not only your kind words of encouragement but your assistance with bike accessories gave me the “free speed” I needed. Thanks again!
To all my sponsors and fellow sponsors, you all have been part of this journey in one way or another and look forward to sharing more success with you all!
So in closing, I am now in preparations for my next confirmed events that include the 70.3 Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships (Cebu, Philippines) and the World 70.3 Ironman Championships (Mooloolaba, Australia). I look forward to taking on the worlds best over the half distance Ironman and finding some leg speed!
My “Road to Kona” is still in progress J