Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vegas bound and Ich Lieben Germany!

I will rewind a bit to June and my 5th 70.3 of the season: Mont Tremblant 70.3.  I went into the race a bit tired because the weeks leading up went down like this: 

Race three 70.3's to chase Vegas points
Jump into training for Ironman Frankfurt 
Race a 70.3 to chase Vegas points
Right back in the saddle training for Ironman Frankfurt
Race a 70.3 to chase Vegas points


There was no doubt I had accrued a bit of fatigue in the legs but I also felt myself getting stronger and I really needed one last solid 70.3 to solidify my spot to the World Championships in September. 

Overall Mont Tremblant was great fun.  The race kicked off with a bag-piper, a cannon and what I thought were fireworks (but that last part could have been in my head.)  I fought hard in the swim and found myself in good position heading out onto the bike. The bike course was beautiful and green which took my mind off the lack of power my little quads were able to push.  I struggled the entire race and was proud that I was at least able to fight off all the mental demons that were thrown my way.  When Christine Fletcher caught and passed me on the bike she offered some words of encouragement: "Don't worry Amber you will get off the bike and run some people down today."  And this is one of the many examples why I feel so lucky to be racing pro along side these awesome women.  I feel honored to call so many of them my friends. We push each other to the limit on the race course but in the end I can honestly say I love to see them succeed as much as I love to succeed.    When all was said and done, I raced myself to 4th on very tired legs but managed to get stronger as the race went on.  Even though I view 4th as the cruelest finishing spot in endurance racing I have to admit I was content with the placing as I stayed mentally tough the entire day.  I was also stoked to see the powerhouse Linsey Corbin dominate the field after dealing with injury.  Come backs like that are truly inspiring.   

In the end, Mont tremblant is a spectacular venue.  They absolutely embraced the Ironman which is important as they will host a staggering 4 world class races next year: a 5150 in June, a 70.3 in June, Ironman in August and the WOLRD CHAMPIONSHIPS for 70.3 in September! I am absolutely stoked for the change in venue for 70.3 and think that it will be a fabulous place to host a world championship race.
Amber, Magali, Linsey, Annie

So with my spot to Vegas solidified I went into Germany with nothing to lose. I knew deep down I was a bit tired but I was very excited to race my first full Ironman of the season and test out the old diesel engine.

We arrived in Germany on Tuesday via a red eye. Germany is 6 hours ahead of us and even though Dan and I were exhausted we made the executive decision to stay up and explore the city.  Like 2 little zombies we walked around Frankfurt and soon stumbled upon the beer gardens. It was a beautiful night on the river and with the excitement of being in a new country, the good beer and the fun atmosphere we perked right back up.

The next few days were filled with castle hunting in Heidelberg and Darmstadt and then an ancient bathing experience at Baden Baden. This involved hot tubs, cold tubs, german scrub downs, steam rooms and herbal aroma steam vaults.  It was slightly nerve wracking in the beginning until you embrace the sans clothing community bathing experience.

6 pretzels, 3 helpings of sauerkraut, 3 castles, and one big 'ole scrub down later it was Friday morning and I was getting blood drawn for the doping control pre race.  Next up was the race meeting in which I quickly realized I was not in Kansas anymore. The Europeans just seem to bring more intensity to everything and everything about the race had a world championship feel.

Swim: 52:14
Oh yeah! I swam aggressively in the beginning got in a good group of german guys and rode the draft to the finish. The transition started with a uphill sand climb and like lickety split I was well into the bike course.

Bike: 5:18
The bike was double loop style complete with teeth chattering cobblestone, winding roads, switch backs, sweeping turns, hay bails (in case you misjudged a sweeping turn), steep downhills, and steep uphills with crazy German fans who understand bike racing. It was Tour de France style!  

The basic truth about riding on cobblestones is the uneven surface KILLS your speed and forward momentum.  On cobblestones there is no place to hide, if you don't pull up your big girl panties and pedal hard and aggressively you might as well dismount the bike and walk home.  This is the place to apply some brute power.  And this is why I came to race in Europe. Test myself on a very difficult course against tough as nails competition.  I can't say I am master of the cobblestones but I will be back!

The bike course proved to be relentless and to throw another monkey wrench in the mix every time I asked for gatorade on the bike I got VASSER!  (Water!) Maybe it was the language barrier or maybe the Europeans are too tough for that silly electrolyte mix.  I kept thinking to myself okay time to problem solve. I love problem solving. So with sans gatorade I was force to ingest more GU's to get some sodium in.  And just before I turned into a little pot belly pig stuffed with far too many GU's I was gladly handing my bike to a kind volunteer. 

RUN: 3:30:01
UGH! The run started promising as the first 14 miles I was right on 7:15 pace. I had the pleasure of running with the speedy Charisa Wernick for awhile and we seemed to be rolling right along. And then something happened. Maybe the lack of gatorade/calories caught up with me but my leg turnover came to a screeching halt.  The one thing that saved me from cry baby status was Danny, Genny, Brando and Kyle and Greg on the side lines cheering their crazy heads off.  The run course was 4 loops around the river which were very populated with fans (and bier gardens!).  As much as I was hurting I was also loving the energy and, truth be told, I really do always enjoy a good solid butt kicking.  And that is what Ironman Frankfurt gifted me.  The last 10K was an absolute death march.  Everything below the waist was seizing and everything above the waist was crumbling.  
But the finish line is eventual and before I knew it I was running down the red carpet so happy to be  here!
Lucky number 13th overall
I crossed the line, hugged a volunteer and then my world started to slowly close in on me and moments later I woke up horizontal with a IV.  Oops.

Many FIRSTS in Frankfurt:
1.) first time racing on European soil
2.) first time completing the entire 112 bike portion with only water!
3.) first time on cobblestones
4.) first time hitting the real ironman wall
5.) first time in the med tent 

In the end it was an absolute adventure and I would jump at the chance to go back. I raced as hard as I could, learned a lot and feel even more motivated to tackle the second half of the season. And just to clarify, the second half of my season kicks off with a midseason break.  And let me tell you I am mastering the sleeping in, legs up, dessert indulging days.