BaseCamp alumnus Lucie Gallen shared her experience in the 2022 Challenge Roth bike leg in Germany.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the ride, I need to point out that I’m a cyclist, not a triathlete, so some things that may seem obvious to those of you liking a pre-bike swim/post-bike run in the mix aren't to me.
Roth is historically known as a fast course and compared to other Ironman distance events, has short cutoff times to reflect this. Back in 2019, when discussing this all with my teammates, I felt I could do the distance in the cutoff time for swim/bike based on our swimmer's predicted swim time.
Fast forward to 2022, when we’d planned to start after covid delays/deferrals, I lost both my swimmer and runner due to injury and a change in job not allowing for the time off to come to Germany. So I had to find a runner and a swimmer. A plea on Facebook led to me then filling the slots (great international effort). The stress of the athlete search led me to drop a ball in terms of cutoffs as I focused on the run cutoff, not the swim/bike cutoff.
Illnesses and other background stresses such as a crack in my bike frame identified at two weeks to go meant my focus shifted to just getting to the event with functioning kit, not completing it. What I hadn't appreciated at the time was that my perfect plan of three bottles on the bike with a large bento box for fuel would have to change to only two bottles of fluid. Another contributory factor in my demise, as I did have 2 10-minute gaps of no fluid available until the next aid station.
Anyway, back to the event itself. The bike leg is a two-lap circuit with a bit more to get you to T2, with two testy climbs and undulating road for the remainder of the route. I needed to average 16.5 mph to be happy (but turned out that would have ensured getting in on time too 🤣). I hadn't taken the weather into account in my planning, either, as this had a monumental impact on me, too.
The day started hot, and we were already at 20 degrees Celsius at 7:30 a.m. when we arrived at the swim start, and the temp continued to rise. Staying hydrated was key, but getting in and out of a skinsuit to wee in a portaloo was not my idea of being stress free while waiting for my swimmer. That and the disappearing shade at T1 meant annoyingly that I probably already started in deficit, which is never a good plan!!
My swimmer arrived as she had predicted, so off I went to get 112 miles done. Apart from doing a great Matt Stephens impression (GCN viewers will know) of not being able to clip in, I started okay.
The road surfaces in Germany are much smoother than the UK, which really make for a smooth ride, and my loan TT bike is fitted with 28c tyres that swallowed up the surface seemingly more easily than my bike with its 23c tyres might have done. And lap 1 went exactly to plan. I kept drinking, grabbing bottles at feed stations (impressed I didn't drop a single one during the hand-ups), and eating, as I knew the heat would make it a war of attrition (29 degrees Celsius).
I felt happy and started lap 2, but I hit a wall. My legs started cramping. At first I could keep riding and stand and stretch the cramp out, but I then ended up having to stop briefly once or twice as I was hit with full-blown leg cramps and had to unclip quickly before I would fall off.
This caused me some emotional distress, but I kept my morale up by telling myself that today was one year from my Everesting attempt that I didn't complete. I was not going to make it two in a row. And my runner had driven up from Vienna to take part, so that would have been a waste too.
The wind also picked up, which meant in some places I was getting battered fully so was unable to make use of the skis, and that battle fatigued me more.
However, I pressed on and embraced all of the road side support (really incredible), and that motivated me to continue. The aid stations became a case of grabbing everything I could get and taking any bottle showers that were offered. My calculations led me to believe I would make cutoff but only just.
Sadly (or so it felt in the moment), I finished five minutes over - I'd miscalculated. ☹️ I’m not going to moan about cutoff times, as unlike say a UCI bike race where the winning time determines the cutoff, triathlon has them set in stone, so I had no excuse to not know the exact timings. But I'll share what I wrote about what happened in T2 separately, as all was not for nothing.
Ultimately I had a blast and couldn't have done this without support, and while this does lead to a Gwyneth Paltrow moment, I need to thank:
Coach Mama Rita, aka Namrita, who helped me see beyond the illnesses that plagued me and keep it real on the training front
Shaw aka the Bear because he puts up with me and my cycling adventures
Mary for recommending her friend in Germany as my swimmer, what a lovely person she was too
All of my BaseCamper friends for the support, banter, and help. This is what makes BaseCamp unique!
Now peace out!!
Below is a picture of the beast I was loaned. Will be hard to return it!!