Challenge Roth is one of the world's bucket list iron distance triathlon events. This year, a group of super fit HUBsters made the trip, Tim Riding reports.
With near perfect conditions forecast and the promise of tumbling world records, the pressure was on to pull out something big at Challenge Roth. Sadly, however, as that was not an option for me, Claire and I decided to target a solid race performance instead. A little extra spice was added to the event with the ‘2 up challenge’ against fellow Roth competitors Steve Legge and Frank Burrell, and Team Pie aces Wayne Booth and Stef Cornish ‘competing’ at the Outlaw the following week.
Race day started well with news that Leggy had been in and out the toilet all morning and had vomited all over the grass verge on his walk down to the swim start (Editor: Was Frank doing the cooking again?) You could tell from his pallor this was no last minute attempt at sandbagging as well. All that was left now was to mess with Frank’s head a little (by telling him his predicted swim time was, well, OK… for a girl) and we should have this one in the bag. And then, before we knew it, the race was underway with the sound of a cannon I can only only liken to a previously unexploded WWII bomb!
The great thing about the Roth swim for the more linearly challenged amongst us is that you swim in a canal. So, whilst you can still zig zag a little if you really insist on it, you're never actually gonna get lost. No real drama in the swim other than for Claire physically assaulting a fellow female competitor who may (or may not) have deliberately clipped her over the head whilst thrashing her way through the first 3.8km, and then dunking a male competitor from a later wave who had the audacity to invade her personal space as he sliced past (Editor: She punched a squirrel on a trail run last year, she is known for aggression). Claire was out the water in 1:26, not bad in light of the two full hours of swim training she’s done over the last six months, and I was out in 1:12*.
If you're a long course triathlete then Roth needs to be on your bucket list for the bike course alone, or more specifically for the half mile of tarmac known as Solarer Berg (or Solar Hill). Here, 25,000 spectators stand ten deep either side of the road screaming your name, patting you on the back, blowing whistles, rattling their rattles and generally making you feel like a superstar. Emotions got the better of Claire at this point as the tears started to stream down her cheeks; bettered only by Frankie B who apparently sobbed uncontrollably on his way up the hill (Editor: To be fair, Claire had punched him when he tried to go past). Bike was otherwise uneventful except for Frodo going past me like I wasn't moving, and Claire striking up a conversation with the vomit which was by now slowly rising in her gullet. I completed in 5:22 and Claire in 6:38.
First thing to hit you on the run was the heat. Not the kind of searing heat which makes an otherwise level-headed Ethiopian doctor guzzle a bucket of Epsom salts (and maybe add 5-10 minutes to his overall time), but hot nonetheless. As ever, the run is the place where you really find yourself alone with your thoughts. Me, waiting for an unspecified catastrophe to strike at any minute (cramp, bonking, GI problems, hyponatraemia, etc etc) and Claire looking down wondering why the feet below her were moving so much slower than the ones in her head. The long trek along the canal was punctuated by reassuring sightings of Steve and Frank, should we say in a ‘non-threatening’ position, before a final circuit of Roth, into the stadium and across the finish line.
So that was it. Job done, and first stage of the 2-up challenge completed. Our combined time 24 hours 37 minutes. The focus now shifts to the very flat and fast and temperate Outlaw and the sandbagging which has become so much a feature of the Cornish/Booth partnership. They may do well, they may even beat the Ridings (particularly if Pavel is racing) but one thing they will do for sure is boost the hostelry trade in Nottingham! (Editor: We now know the outcome of this competition, with a fail of epic proportions from one half of the pie duo. This means that the Ridings are indeed he champions).
*This is not a real swim time, it's just what my Garmin said. The explanation remains elusive, but the official swim time was later corrected to 1:22. A new PB, and certainly moving in the right direction, but still some way short of where I need to be. (Editor: Maybe you just need some lessons from Pommy?)
Well done to Tim, Claire, Steve and Frank. Awesome effort from everyone and a bucket list event ticked (even if Legge spent more time with his head actually in the bucket...)