Inaugural ironman Hamburg 2017 – race report

Gutten tag

Firstly what a fab location for an event, first ironman here but they do ITU World Series. The city is amazing – such a eclectic mix of architecture, variety of bridges, old and modern blend together, street art, open spaces of parks & gardens, lakeside walks.

Plenty of cafes, restaurants and street food – became especially fond of the currywurst.

Apart from the first 48 hours heavy rain after we arrived when we battled to dry our clothes & shoes. Then the weather was kinder in race day and post race exploration.

Swim- fresh water, scenic swim under bridges, two different loops of two lakes with Aussie exit & my first rolling start – not sure I’m a fan 🤔

Went in 1:15 to 1:25 pen planning on 1:20 so I came out fresh all good, the usual bumps & punches, knocked goggles etc. That was my warm up. Fantastic views of buildings around the shore.

300m run in wetsuit on cobbles to start of the 850m longest transition ever !

Quick change no faffing, run to bike & long way out transition.

Bike – 2 loops to complete the 112 miles.
First loop steady & dry, couple of steep bridges 7-8% climbs and the two 3 mile drags at 5% a bit like A4 to Beckhampton White Horse tri route at home.

Saved my legs on downhills, ate every 10 miles and had drinks every 5 miles. Four feed stations so plenty time to top up on drinks & bananas.
Super organised and each volunteer had a vest saying what they were holding – water, ISO, COKE, fruit.

The course is rolling with a few short climbs – used nearly all my gears and both chain rings during ride.

We rode out of the city through the docks, industrial area, up and over canals on bridges and soon out into countryside with small towns & villages setting up own cheering points, fire brigades decorated their stations, rode past vineyards, corn fields & plenty of windmills.

Second loop I could see the black clouds approaching – seen in background of photos at the turn around point.

Many people were stopping to put on rain jackets, I didn’t have one but I was super cautious on the wet railway lines that we crossed multiple times in the dock area. After each set of tracks there was a debris field of bike parts to pick your way through. Great stash for eBay sale on Monday for marshals !

Concentration required to get the right angle over the tracks and not get caught by a side wind. The other tricky bit was through a new road that was still under construction and there was loose sand on a chicane – again many sideslides & debris.

The wind got up and we suffered on the long 3 mile  climbs into a headwind. I also then got caught in two cold heavy rain showers and a light shower. This may have been an asthma trigger ? Cold & wet.

Carried on to complete bike and dried out a bit on the downhill, then had flat 10km into finish to get legs ready for run. The view of the city skyline was awesome – again old & new towers, buildings & bridges.

Ride was comfy & steady & controlled as I rolled along supper smooth closed roads. Time to get into aero on the flats, stomp the peddles when necessary and free wheel on downhills. Perfect.

Back into longest transition again & quick wee & change.

Both my transitions under 10 minutes which was quick compared to my peers & age groupers, most were 12-15 mins.

Run – Out onto run and felt fine on first lap of four with about 1:15 for 10km. Sussed out feed stations & hills. Ran to each feed station then walked through eating & drinking what I needed – salted water at one stage with apple & orange segments. The isotonic beer was brought out on lap 3 and was a pleasant taste change to sugar drinks.

Lap two I started wheezing & had tight chest 1:45 for 10km. Scared the pants off my support crew as I was cold to touch, gasping & apparently looking like 💩 Sent them off to get my brown & green inhalers as ventolin which I was carrying wasn’t helping me. They weren’t convinced I was going to make next lap let alone 18 more miles.
Karen was with me last year at Outlaw when I had my first attack and though it wasn’t a good sign. Emma was scarred I was just going to stop breathing and didn’t know what’s to do – luckily she ran to get inhalers and sort of saved my race from DNF to a finish albeit not the time I planned for.

Asthma learning point – if you take a 12 hour medication at 4am you need more at 4pm !
I was feeling crap about 5pm so pushed beyond my limits. In future will get extras to leave in special needs & kit bags so available on course.

Conclusion- endurance  exercise with cold & wet from rain plus stupidity and poor timing & management of inhalers didn’t work.

Anyway back to the race – took emergency inhalers that Emma ran back to hotel for and within 15-20 perked and could breath again ! Support crew relieved as they saw a visible improvement in me.

Then it was run as far as I could before chest tightened & wheezy then back off pace and walk for a ‘breather’

I tried running slower but was all out of sorts. So was probably 4:1 running and walking trying to keep 13 min/ mile run/ walk for last half marathon.

Totally amazed I got a half hour PB for my final finish time.

At one point I was worried about making the cut off times as Hamburg was initially 15:15, this was extended to 15:50 with a rolling swim start. But I bagged enough time from swim & bike to allow a 7 hour marathon – I took 6 hours.

I floated down that red carpet with Jamaican 🇯🇲 flag flying to celebrate my 50th birthday. The finish line atmosphere was electric and a real party atmosphere.

Ironmans are hard enough and bloody tough when your lungs don’t want to play along.

What if ??? Possibly lost an hour with rain & wind & asthma ??? Will never know.

But lessons learnt in medication control.

Also if you drop ice into your sports bra you get ice burn -best to put in hat !

Lost in translation -thought I was being offered soup on the run but they were saying super / well done Zoe.

Finished with a huge grin & celebrating my third ironman distance finish. Well the country needs a new sporting hero now BOLT has retired !

Greeted & congratulated the other side of the finish arch by Paul Kaye & Konrad the race director – nice touch. As 95% racers from Germany local commentators took over most duties.

I am now a multiple international ironman ! Love it 😍- see anything is possible.

Watching the final finisher after getting warm clothes, proper beer & food in the athletes village we saw the heartbreak as an athlete was 3 seconds over the time allowance of 15:50 – no medal or tshirt or official time given.

The Germans are sticklers for the rules one of our pirate shipmates was 10seconds over on the bike split cut off and stopped.

Good to see the draft busters being effective and the penalty tents on the bike were pretty busy. Most had half a dozen riders in them for offences such as littering & drafting – rules are rules.

Returning back to the IBIS hotel after midnight I was welcomed with a big beer and a few more pirates to compare our race days. The girl in the bar/cafe went over & beyond her duty as she said that they had no food left as a bunch of athletes had eaten it ! Then she disappeared into the kitchen and rustled up a ham and cheese sandwich for me – what a life saver. She said there were no 24 hour food places open on a Sunday night and I deserved a feast !

Heading to bed happy from the race & fuzzy from the beer it was time for some sleep having been up 22 hours by now.

I’m not going long next year but will do 70.3’s I know I can keep my bike & swim fitness but really need to concentrate on my running & get asthma sorted, still less than a year since diagnosed.

Got all the gear no idea as I cocked up my Garmin by hitting T2 with 40 miles of bike ride left. Then didn’t stop it at the finish line. Good job I had a chip.

Had to turn around to see my name in lights to find my finishers time on the arch and saw ELF & GHOST in the stands. Brilliant finishers feeling.

Post race -Been for a gentle stroll around the lake at last in sunshine, about 6 miles walking replenishing with food & drink. One small blister on side of heel from a stone I couldn’t be bothered to stop and take out on the run – least of my problems yesterday.

I’m generally tired, breathing settling down but have come out in good shape. Like I said legs were willing & able on bike & run but bloody lungs not behaving. So nearly an uneventful day saved by the PB.

Spent a few days explore Hamburg by boat & foot. Harbour & canal tour & pedal boat on the lake.
Had cocktails in a beachbar and litres of beer & pork in Beerhaus with Nicky & Grant who also stayed on after the race.

Final scores on the doors –
Swim 1:21
Bike 7:02
Run 6:01
Finish 14:43:13 a 30 minute PB


A few photos from supporters & official ones trickling though which I will buy & download when I get home


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