After taking 2003 off from doing an Ironman, I decided 2004 would be the year to give it another go. I knew I didn't want to go back out to Madison and I was not ready to face the looming ski jumps of Lake Placid again. Ironman races in North America fill up usually the day after the race for the next year, so I started looking abroad.
Ironman Germany in Frankfurt...now that sounds like a good idea. One afternoon last summer, I signed up. And Claudia, who I train with and race a lot with, also signed up. It was over a year a way.
By January, 2 more friends of mine had signed up. Frank for his first Ironman, Paul fresh off his rookie Iroman in Florida just a few months before. Great now I have a posse. What happens if I don't want to go?
It was the end of January. Everyone was into their training programs. I was not sure I wanted to go.
This feeling lasted for a few months. I twisted my ankle on some ice and couldn't run, but I continued to swim and ride and lift. I was half-assed training in case I actually made a decision. It took me until about April to really decide, yes I was going to go. I had been training along and was back to running again pretty much pain free.
After a big race like this, I always write about the race itself, but the race it self is really just the Cliff notes of what goes into getting there. Training, almost every day, usually for about 15 hours a week. It's like having another job. It usually means working out before going to work, and working out after work. Spending all weekend doing a long run, a long swim, a long ride, trying to recover from each to do the next. I tend to socialize with other people who are training, or have friends join me for part of my long runs or come with me on my rides as long as they know that we are doing what I want, because I am training for an Ironman. We become very selfish. I don't know how anyone puts up with us.
The race itself, July 11. I flew to Germany on the 4th of July with Paul and Frank, wanting to get there in plenty of time to recover from the jet lag. Wewere among the first athletes to get to Frankfurt. It was refreshing to have the city to ourselves those first few days. The only signs of the coming race were posters. Nothing else was set up yet, not Ironman divas, which there is no shortage of, had landed. Over the next few days, however, we saw the city slowly transform itself.
July 8th, we went to sign in. In the States, signing in for an Ironman is like joining the military. They weigh you, they explain everything to you in exact detail, you sign your life away. That's what we expected. Here, you show your id and race license (or simply tell them you have one) and you're on your way. Now the mind starts to go nuts. Obsessing about the weather, what am I going to wear, what should I pack to eat, how will I feel. Why am I doing this? Who's idea was this? That was a hard one for me...this was MY idea.
The weather had been crappy. Cold, windy, wet. Enough to fill my mind for days. 3 days before the race, it's all about meetings and packing and bike check in and fretting. Wishing it was just NOW.
The morning of the race, it was cool. I got up at 4 am, ate breakfast in silence in my hotel with other people racing. I boarded a bus with Paul and Frank to take us to the swim start at 4:45. I wasn't too nervous; I was hoping the weather would hold.
As we arrived at the swim start, I went over to my bike to get everything sorted out. Here, you have the option of getting changed at your bike instead of the changing tents. That's what I decided to do. I was swimming with my bike shorts and my bra under my wetsuit, so it would be faster to just do it at the bike. Boy do the Europeans not care a lick about public nudity, even though it's a violation of Ironman rules.
Claudia and I squeezed into our wetsuits and headed down towards the start. I was hoping to be in the water a good 10 minutes prior to warm up for a change. There was a log jam of rubber clad athletes trying to get into the water. It took about 20 minutes. In this race, there were about 1900 people starting. Only 216 of them were women. I was being suffocated by large men in rubber suits who had no concept of a line.
Finally in the water. Colder than I expected. I fiddled with my goggles and swim cap and tried to get my heart rate down and find a good starting point. I looked up at the crowds on the shore, over 12000 people came to watch the start.
The gun went and we were off. I could hear the crowd cheering and fire works going off to my left. The water started to churn from the 7600 limbs moving through the water.
Now stop to considered that number. 7600 limbs. Triathlon swimming is a full body contact sport. I was in the water with what felt like some bizarre sci-fi creature with 7600 limbs. I got kicked, I got shoved. I was 1 in 216 women surrounded by 1700 men. I started to think of Grover from Sesame Street singing around around around, over, under, through. That's what this swim was like for most of the first half.
First loop, we get out of the water and run over a timing mat and get back in. The swim course looks like a twisted paperclip. I have a good pace, I feel fine. With about 200 meters to go, I breathe left and notice a very familiar stroke. It's Claudia, she's right next to me. Turns out, the 4 of us finished the swim with in seconds of each other.
Out of the water, up the ramp, into transition.
A nice German woman helps me get out of my wet suit and into my bike clothes. Fat rain drops start to fall.
On with the jersey, leg warmers, arm warmers, vest. Yes it's July, it feels like October.
On the bike, out you go. Claudia was right next to me as we left. I settled in, had a Clif shot and some water and started on the 180k (that's 112 miles) ride. Things were going well. About an hour into the ride, Paul caught me, we had a little chat. We went through beautiful little towns with the streets lined with people cheering and yelling. I had no idea what they were saying, but their enthusiasm was clear. I wish people in the States came out like this.
The course was mostly flat, a few rolling hills and three climbs, not huge climbs, but ones that you knew you were going up hill. The first, The Hell, was a short little climb, not really difficult, but to make things interesting, the street is bone rattling cobble stone. The crowds stand with in inches, cheering, giving that real Tour de France feel to everything.
The last climb was packed with people, 6 deep. Music was blaring are their energy lofted me up the hill. By this point, boy did I need the porto potty. I pulled over and heard Claudia yell to me as I got off my bike.
The city of Frankfurt was in view, about 10k (6.2 miles, everything in this was is measured in k, I found it much easier, except when I tried to do the math) away.
Here, we go again, the 2nd loop. It started to rain a bit. As I reached The Hell for the 2nd time, the cobbles were wet, it made me a little nervous. Crowds were still out. Kids lined the roads looking for high fives and yelling in German for water bottles, which they stuffed down their shirts like they were hoping to be a Domestique for Jan one day.
By mile 85, I was ready to be done. I was pushing it, waiting for the next kilometer sign to tell me where I was. I had to stop far too many times on the bike for female trouble I won't even go into.
The last big hill, up I went. Music was blaring. It was Bruce. For some reason, at the moment, Springsteen was the perfect thing for me to hear. I flew up the hill and looked for Frankfurt in the distance.
There is was, the 170k marker. 10k to go. One loop of Central Park, where I had put in endless miles. I looked at my watch and threw the hammer down, I would get in under 7 hours. It was great to ride through a city with no traffic, all the roads had been closed.
As I got off my bike, I looked at my watch, my ride had taken me 6:58. I wanted a 6:30, but I'll take it.
Into the tent where a German medic helped me sort out my running clothes. Only 42.2k to go. Yes, ONLY a marathon to get through.
The run course. 3 loops along the Main river right in downtown Frankfurt. Flat as can be except for the ramps to get us to the bridge to cross over.
I felt good, my quads had been worked on the bike, but I was ready to run. I settled into a good pace and had a Shot. The good thing about 3 loops is I was never alone. At the start of each loop, you get an arm band to indicate where you are in the run. Black for 1, red for 2, yellow for 3. Everyone wearing a little German flag on their arms.
Our names where on out numbers and it was interesting to hear the Germans call out my name, pronouncing it OWdra as I went by. I ran in my Run Against Bush shirt and the crowd ate it up.
On my 2nd loop, after collecting my red armband, a local radio station had a big booth set up. Most of the day I heard people cheering and had no idea what they were saying, it just didn't matter. As I went by the booth, I could hear German then I heard IRONMAN LAKE PLACID IRONMAN MADISON and realized he was talking about me. OWDRA FARRELL FROM USA. The crowd went wild and it pushed me on.
Let me take a moment to talk about the aid stations. There was water, some nasty powerbar drink, Coke, which I actually drank a lot of, and Red Bull. But the food. Oh the food. Sure, the usual bananas and power bars. But I have never been to a race that had small cheesecakes and butter crackers, brownies, and all kinds of goodies. I wanted a plate and a blanket. I wanted to have a picinic. I ate at almost every station. I got into a rhythm. Water, Coke, orange, crackers, water, sponge.
Because the course was loops, I got to see my friends and check into them. Usually after a turn around, I would see Paul, then Claudia, then Frank. It really helps to have these little things to look forward to.
3rd loop. I was very excited. I knew I was almost done. I could see the end. I got my yellow arm band and knew this was the last time I would be on this side of the river. As I ran by, a woman on the side of the path was cheering with such passion at me. She was screaming and jumping up and down. I have no idea what so ever what she was actually saying. It didn't matter, it made me smile, it kept me moving.
After the last turn around on this side of the river, I couldn't remember how many K this was. I was trying to do the math in my head. Finally, I asked the guy next to me. He looked at me strangely, and then looked at my number which had USA on it. He said, "OH, it's 42k. So from here, about 8k, 5 miles". 5 miles. I was almost done. LESS than a loop of Central Park. I looked at my watch. I could possible get the marathon done in under 5 hours. I started to get excited as the K markers passed by.
I crossed the bridge for the last time. I had one more turn around. I felt great. I had been walking a few minutes every half an hour which seemed to make me run better. I was bargaining with myself to just run the last 5k. As I hit the 40k marker, I saw Claudia across the path from me, she was at 41k and about to finish. I said screw it, I am going to run ‘til the end. I picked up the pace. I felt great. I started passing people I had been yo-yoing with the whole run and people I hadn't seen before.
41k. 1.2k to go. Spray painted in the side walk was the word ZIEL with an arrow, “This way to the finish,” a volunteer smiled and me and pointed the way.
I could hear the crowds. I ran by the bleachers and hi-fived people on the sidewalk. One more right turn and I could see the finish line slightly up hill. These things can never finish on a flat. It was a roar of noise as I crossed the finish line of my third Ironman. 13:30:52, over and hour and 20 minutes faster than last time.Swim 3.8K 1:17:02