City Triathlon Bremen, you’ve made my blacklist. This was easily the most dangerous race I’ve ever been in. And that includes close to 100 triathlons and the debacle in Berlin last June. Yes, certainly, some of the results were dubious (did I really only just beat that guy in his 50s who weighs over 100kgs?) but I’ve come to expect that from racing in north Germany. So, it’s no surprise to be beaten by two guys in their 50s, four guys in their late 40s, and five guys in their early 40s. Par for the course really. And I’m getting sick of documenting the super seniors that dominate the sport I love.
What dangers lurked in Bremen? Let’s start in the swim. 250 athletes in a very narrow course. Ladders from the pier for entry and exit (I cut my left big toe, the bottom of it, on something sharp near the pier, possibly some kind of barnacle or mussel shell, getting into the water). The swimmers were piled on top of each other trying to get around the bouys. It was madness. Elbows were thrown. I felt hands grabbing my legs as swimmers tried to pull themselves forward. One girl, swimming well but struggling with navigation, kept swimming straight into me, despite my best efforts at separation. It seemed she was following me, perhaps using me as her guide to the next bouy.
It’s difficult to swim fast and then try to negotiate a ladder. As that girl who followed me cut in front and took the ladder I wanted, it was tempting to grab the cord of her wetsuit and throw her back into the water. (Why am I still surprised by the selfishness of triathletes? Why do they think they’re doing the race all on their lonesome?)
Out of the water, we then had a long run on concrete to reach the transition area (that hurt my old man, basketball-ruined ankles). Now, here it gets dangerous. The transition area was a gravel pit, replete with small rocks. The organisers had laid (very thin) blue carpets but this made little difference. You couldn’t wheel your bike. It was too bumpy. You had to carry it while trying to avoid the pointy lumps under the carpet. Sure enough, I stepped on one and now have a massive bruise on the sole of what is a very sore left foot.
Onto the bike, and here it gets really dangerous. Hair pin turns, water grates and railroad tracks. Did I mention it was bucketing with rain? Four laps of the crowded 10 km course, with only survival on my mind. I almost came unstuck, getting over a double line of tracks and then negotiating a sharp turn with two water grates in the middle of it. My back wheel slid on the grate, but I managed to stay on the bike.
Back into the gravel pit transition area. Try as I might, I couldn’t get all the stones off my feet. So I’m running with rocks in my shoes. And the left shoe is getting sticky with blood. And the rain is still pouring down.
I finished in 2:19, for place 30. Not too bad. I raced with London in mind; trying to keep some power in the tank and thinking of the race as a training run. I guess the swim was close to how it will be in London: a washing machine full of slippery eels.
The first two finished in under two hours. How do they do that? Don’t answer. I don’t want to know.
Sorry, Bremen. Sorry, Roland. It’s a nice little city, but I’ll never race there again.