The green whale

Saturday saw me in Brunsbüttel for the third year in a row. The Waltriathlon, which takes place in a pool next to the Elbe River.

With my eyes on Rotterdam, I decided to get into the Aussie spirit and wore my green and gold suit from the 2013 Age Group Championships. The good news is it still fits, though it’s a little tight around the middle. I felt a little like this:

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It’s also a bit attention grabbing. Athletes came up and asked me if I really was from Australia. One young participant wanted to be photographed with me. And then, wearing such a suit raises the bar of how well I should do in the race.

While I had fun, my time was considerably slower than last year.

I got through the 500-metre swim and onto the bike. A tailwind meant the first ten clicks on the bike were easy, and the second ten were laborious. I got passed by quite a few athletes on the way back. This continued on the five-km run. I ended up 16th, with a time of 1:08. Not terrible, but I’ve really lost a few minutes on the run, and I was a full ten minutes behind the winner. Four out of the top five were all over 40 years old. Make of that what you will.

The nice folks in Brunsbüttel shall be commended for hosting such an enjoyable race.

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Back to school

One of the great things about triathlon is using a race to take a weekend trip somewhere. Over May 6-7, the sport took me to Flensburg, near the Danish border, and what a fabulous place this city on the Baltic Sea is. Together with the Campus Triathlon, held at Flensburg University in glorious sunshine, it made for a enjoyable weekend away.

The first race of the season, a sprint, had the 500m swim in an indoor pool. Not a bad thing at all, given the awful spring weather has the German lakes at around 10° at the moment. And pool swims are good because they’re safe and no one is freaking out about having to swim in (cold) open water.

Now into my 42nd year (and never chemically enhanced), I’m starting to feel my age. Still, I felt good in the pool, had a decent swim and got onto the bike feeling positive about the race. Of course, the guys who passed me like I was riding backwards deflated my spirits a little, but I tried to focus on my race. (Seriously, they were going so fast, I wondered if they had motors; I thought their bikes were making suspicious whirring sounds.)

As I found out earlier in the week I’ve been selected to represent Australia at the World Age Group Championships in Rotterdam, Sept 14-17, I approached the Flensburg race with the attitude that every race is training for Rotterdam. So, on the bike, I worked on my form and maintaining a good speed without pushing too hard.

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If the first race showed anything, it’s that I haven’t trained enough and I’ve got a lot of work to do to prevent myself from finishing last in Rotterdam. By the time I hit the run, I was struggling, and this time guys passed me like I was running backwards. I was happy just to get to the finish line, to end up in place 17 (from about 100), and second in my age group. Sure, I was beaten by a guy in his sixties, and another in his fifties, and I was ten minutes behind the winner, and there were the usual dubious 20% who were going on far more than just power gels and Gatorade, but I was satisfied with my race.

Better than that, it was a great weekend away. Saturday was spent enjoying the unusual charms of Flensburg, which included all the small courtyards branching off the streets off the old town, finding some odd statues around town, and seeing shoes strung across the main street.

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The Campus Triathlon, and Flensburg, is a find. I’ll be back next year.