Ironman Germany 2009 : The IronHolgs Experience

Get comfortable, this may take a while to read….

We arrived in Frankfurt on Friday, too late for the mandatory safety briefing after the sat nav in the hire car tried to send us over a footbridge !! Dumped the gear at the hotel and went to register, caught up with Viking and then went for a look around the expo….met Faris Al Sultan the german ex world champ ( he finished 5th in IMDE ).

On Saturday me and my dad unpacked the bike and put it together, I rode it for a couple of miles to check that everything was as it should have been, it was. Caught the shuttle bus out to Langander Wansea about 15kn south of Frankfurt where the swim was taking place. Met Viking and family as I got off the bus and queued to leave my bike in T1, I got ushered into the “Pros” entrance, they must have heard about me ha ha. Left the bags for the run and the bike and then went and had a look at the lake with Viking, it was stunning, looked crystal clear.

Jumped back on an empty shuttle bus and was sat at the back with about 4 guys, got talking to an aussie sat next to me and something he said suddenly turned a light on in my head, “Are you Macca?” I said. “Too f’ing right mate” came the laughing antipodean reply. It was no other than Chris MacCormack, the world champ and race favourite. We had a good crack, told him about COLT and he wished the club well for the future, and he offered me some race advice. Wish I’d had my camera with me.

Race Day – got up at 4:15am, had porridge, said goodbyes to my family and heading for a shuttle bus. Met Viking in T1 and we walked through the process so we knew where we were going, he gave me some salt capsules which would be very useful later. We were both buzzing as we walked down the very steep sand dune to the swim start, we hugged and wished each other luck, it would be about 16 hours until we saw each other again.

The SWIM – 2.4 Miles

I had every intention of starting at the back and to the right of the field to avoid the whole “washing machine” effect as 3000 people battled for space to swim. Unfortunately with about a minute to go I looked around and realised that I’d drifted into the middle of the pack.

The gun went and I started my watch, like marathons I’ve done, I didn’t move for about 3 mins as I treaded water over the start line. The guy in front started swimming and I lunged forward, swimming hard to try and find some space. There wasn’t any. I kept getting kicked in the ribs, arms and legs, and I’m sure I left my mark on a few competitors as well. The water was clear and warm, we’d been very lucky to be allowed westsuits, the legal limit is 24.9 degrees, when the decision was made on thursday it was 24.6.

The washing machine swim

The washing machine swim

All too soon I’d completed my first lap, stood up, and ran along the beach and into the water for the second lightly shorter loop. There was a bit more room on the second lap, only getting crowded at the larger turn bouys. Again it was over pretty quickly and I emerged from the water in a better time than I’d been expecting, 1:26:22. Stripping the wetsuit down to my waist I walked up the first half of the sand dune before my legs woke up and I began to jog.

coming out of the water

coming out of the water

The volunteer came with my as I grabbed my bike bag, she stripped my wetsuit off and collected my swim stuff as I striped and put my bike gear on. I took my time, thoroughly drying my feet and going to the toilet, applying lots of sun cream ( which stung as I had burns from my wetsuit on the back of my neck ) which explains why I took 11:45 in T1, definately need to improve on that next time.

The BIKE – 112 Miles

Within a few minutes of getting n my bike I was aware of 3 problems, all of which were significant.

1. My HRM/Watch had been paused – had caught the button taking my wetsuit off. It would mean I would only be able to estimate my time, which would be a problem later on the run.

2. My speed sensor wasn’t talking to my computer, it said I was doing 7mph for the whole of the course, so I just had to guess from feeling if I was going fast enough.

3. My gears kept slipping, and I couldn’t use the big ring ( the one that gives you the most speed ). They’d worked fine the day before. I kept loosing momentum as the gears jumped, but there was nothing I could do.

I’d been warned by IronRose that the road from the lake to the city was very fast and not to overcook it along there, I took the advice and drank and pedalled steady to wake my legs up. I crossed the bridge over the River Main and started the first of two bike laps. I saw Em and my parents, and gave them a thumbs up and a smile as they cheered me on. At this stage I still though I was chasing Viking, I believed he was out of the water before me.

Once out of the city we started passing through lots of little villages and the support was amazing, everyone was out and there was a carnival atmosphere and music blaring out.  Racing on closed roads was amazing, no worrying about cars meant you could take the best line around a corner, it was a great feeling.

feeling good on the bike

feeling good on the bike

There were some significant hills on the course, “The Hell” was particularly tough as it was completely rough cobbles and I lost all grip in my hands ( came back 3 days later ) as the vibrations dulled my nerves. “The Beast” was just long and tedious, made worse by the soaring temperatures. But the most amzing thing I’ve ever experienced in a race was “HeartBreak Hill”, a long climb through the centre of a village just on the way back into Frankfurt. Thousands lined the road with cowbells, and they parted like the red sea as you rode into them, you really couldn’t hear yourself think.

I completed the first lap in 6:05 and felt really strong as I got cheers again from Em and my parents, a bit further along the road I got more cheers from Team Viking ( Lou, Jamie and Jordan ). It was at this point I realised I was ahead of Viking, up until then I thought I was still giving chase.

Nutrition played a massive factor on the bike and I realised that I had salt deposits on my lips, so I started taking on extra salt ( thanks to Viking for the capsules ). Feed stations were every 12 kms, you threw your empty bottles and got handed new ones, I also took on gels and ate gummi bears. By the end of the bike I’d drank 18 750ml bottles of water, sportsdrink and cola, and had about 10 gels and two half power bars.

going aero

going aero

I still felt fresh and strong on the second lap and despite a slight delay to reattach a slipped chain I completed the second lap in 3:10, so that was pretty consistant riding. I handed my bike to the official in 6:15:30, I’d hoped for 7 hours. I was over the moon with that time, it meant if I could run a 4 hour marathon I’d break 12 hours.

I ran into transition, this time it was mixed, stripped naked, stood inbetween two naked young women ( couldn’t tell you anything about them ) and just concentrated on putting bodyglide on my feet to prevent blisters and getting my run gear on. Put the cap on my head and headed out on the marathon.

The RUN – 26.2 Miles

Running out of the tent my legs didn’t feel jelly like at all, they felt suprisingly long. I started passing the fast boys that were on their second and third laps, and noted that they looked knackered. A couple of hundred metres down the river I saw Em ( gave her a kiss ) and my mam and dad and got words of encouragement.

The course was 4 laps of 10.5 km, with 6 km on the far side of the river, where you could literally see it in a straight line. The thermometer showed that it was 31 degrees, and this was at 4pm in the afternoon, I had to make sure that I drank loads. At each feed station ( every 1.5km ) I put a cup of ice cubes under my cap, by the time I got to the next feed station they’d completely melted, thats how hot it was. I also drank salt water, powerade and coke at each station to try to keep my hydrated…..unbelievably I only needed the loo twice that day, the majority of fluid I took on was sweated out.

just keeping going

just keeping going

The wheels came off big style on the third lap as the heat soared, I came very close to quitting as the doubt settled in, my ribs were hurting from being kicked during the swim, I had deep cuts on my chest where my tri top zip had cut me and I just wanted to curl up in a ball. Forward motion seemed to have deserted me, but my stubborn streak kicked in and I dared myself not to walk. Dad met met on the other side of the river, which was a godsend as I was suffering badly, he encouraged me and kept me going.

As I started the last lap I realised that if I kept it together I would be very close to getting under my pb of 13:04. I picked the pace up and grinned as I past Em and my mam for the last time, I said “I’m going to make it in one piece” which was a thousand miles away from my mood on the previous lap where I’d grunted “No” at Em when she asked if I was ok.

Got high fives off Jordan and Jamie, and a big shout off Lou, I asked how Viking was and they said he was doing great, that put a huge smile on my face as I knew my mate was going to make it as well.

I passed fellow pirate Ironwolf, and we exchanged encouragement as she kept running. On my previous lap another pirate, Jo had stormed past me as she went on to finish in 11:15, she looked so strong.  I also met Luddy, a german exile who posts on the pirate forum, was good to talk to him.

As I mentioned earlier my watch had paused so I had no idea how close I was to my pb. With 6km to go I asked my dad what the actual time was, he told me it was 7:15 and that I had 45 mins to cover 6km to beat 13 hours. It would be the last time I saw him for another 2 hours.

I didn’t stop for drinks in that last 6km, I just stared forward and increased my pace. I crossed the river for the last time and saw the sign saying 1km to go, I turned off the course and into the finishers chute, my feet touched the red carpet ( about 200m to go ) and the noise was defeaning.

I don’t remember much about the finish as I was sprinting as fast as I could because I had in my head that I was just about to miss out on my time, it was only when the electronic time at the finish came into view with 10m to go that I realised I as going to do it. The cap came off and I punched the air in sheer jubilation.

almost there

almost there

done it

done it

I was an Ironman, and whats more I was a sub 13 hr Ironman, finishing in 12:57:21 some 7 minutes inside my previous best time. I kissed my medal as it was put round my neck.

what it's all about

what it's all about

The Aftermath

As soon as I crossed the line my legs stopped taking instructiosn from my brain, think it was just going from sprinting to stopping dead. I was led away by a doctor, had my heart rate and blood pressure checked. They then looked at my tongue and decided that as I was dizzy I was seriously dehydrated.

I ended up in a huge tent with about 30 camp beds, each occupied by an Ironman. I laid down and was given a pint of saline through a drip into the crease of my elbow. The first litre was used up and they decided I needed another, so all in all I was lying down for an hour ingesting saline as my body rehydrated. Eventually I was let go.

celebrating with my amazing wife, Em.

celebrating with my amazing wife, Em.

Went straight to the beer tent and had my first pint of the year, it tasted great. Got my finishers shirt and my gear back and went to meet my family. Saw Em and got a huge hug and kiss, and then was reunited with my mam and dad, it was hugs and congratulations all round. Thanked them for all their support, I was grinning from ear to ear but still wobbly on my feet.

celebrating with the best parents in the world.

celebrating with the best parents in the world.

Met team Viking in the finishers grandstand and heard that he was hoping to beat 15 hours. The atmosphere was amaizing. Jamie and Jordan waited on the road as they were going to run over the line with their dad. At 14:59, Andy Greenhalgh’s name appeared on the video board and we knew he was coming, there he was Viking, about to become an Ironman. Screamed myself hoarse as he and the boys ran past. Its been a long tough journey for Viking, and I’m so pleased for him that he’s an Ironman. It was an honour to be there to see him do it – nice one mate. He also ended up on a drip for almost 2 hours and was quite ill.

The Ironmen : Holgs & Viking celebrate

The Ironmen : Holgs & Viking celebrate

Racing an Ironman in hot conditions takes it out of you, even though you’ve done more hours of training than you care to remember to prepare yourself. As well as having cuts on my neck and chest, my knees ached, I had burst blood vessels all around my left knee, no feeling in my left foot or both hands. Its tough but the pain is worth it for the medal.

Lance Armstrong famously said “Pain is temporary, Glory lasts forever”………..can’t argue with that.

Met Viking at the end and we hugged and congratulated each other, we’d done it.

Just like to finish by thanking everyone for their texts and messages of support – you guys are amazing : Mike, Jean, Pam & Andy, Dave and Suzie, Ironmin, Lucy and Will, The Greens,Aitch, Rich G, Lesley, Louise,Pat Foy, Helen Clish, John, Maggie and Matt. All the Pirates. And Sarah and All from COLT.

Just need to figure out now : Where’s next ????

It's official : 12:57:21

It's official : 12:57:21


6 responses to “Ironman Germany 2009 : The IronHolgs Experience

  1. Where next? Roth, of course!

    Fab report – goosebumps here! Must be something about that third lap of the run – that’s where I lost the will to live too!

    Proud of you huni – really very proud. Of Em too – it’s tough being an Iron Widow!


  2. Wow amazing report of your Ironman Journey well done Andy ‘Ironman’ Holgate feel all emotional reading your blog Love to you both

  3. Julie Oversby

    What a great read! Well done Holly – I think I’ll stick to walking that naughty dog of mine!

  4. geat report, and some useful info for me in embrun regarding heat, etc.

    fantastic effort!

  5. Great report Andy, and a fantastic effort. We’re just not built for racing in hot climates, but its great for the spectators at least!
    So, where next? How about the big one – hot hilly and windy, and plenty of time to double up with UK later in the year? Or alternatively the new Quelle Challenge Copenhagen? May be a one off apparently.
    Better still, go and race somewhere obscure, so it’ll look good on the COLT 2010 Tour Shirt!!

  6. Great read Andy

    But i have read your entire blog now and need my fix, more posts please


    (the guy who pmed you on COLT)

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