In Australia, there are some serious insects: spiders the size of dinner plates and tiny spiders with red stripes on their backs that can kill you, plus ants so big they’re called “bull ants”, and cockroaches as long as your index finger.

In Germany, insects aren’t really a problem, but in summer, there are Bremsen. These nasty horse flies can sting you through your clothes.


When I get stung by one, I have a bad reaction about 24 hours later, with a racing heart, dizziness and trouble breathing. In German, “bremsen” also means “to brake”, which is about right, because I feel these flies put the brakes on me when I get hit by one.

Or by three, which is what happened on Saturday afternoon. 24 hours later, I was at the start line for the Q-Tri in Bornhöved, struggling to breathe and feeling like my heart was going to pound out of my chest. Put that together with the usual pre-race nerves and I was on the verge of an all out panic attack. But there wasn’t time to think about it, because the race started.

I could barely swim, and even had to stop at the first buoy and hang onto a lifeguard’s board for a minute. I asked her to follow me, and she kindly did. I somehow managed to get through the swim, thanks to the help of the Bornhöved lifeguards. Without their assistance, I would have stopped.

The rest of the race was tough. It seemed I was fighting for air the whole time (and riding with the brakes on). Not a nice feeling when you’re racing and trying to do your best. It was satisfying just to finish, 24th in the end, which wasn’t so bad, given the circumstances.

And Germany is not that safe after all. The country needs some big spiders that will eat the Bremsen.



Back to the Bardowick Beach

Last year, the inaugural  Bardowicker Strand Triathlon helped (briefly) restore my faith in the sport. The second edition of this fantastic race wasn’t quite as low-key, with a few more competitors, but it has retained its relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere and smiling participants.

And it’s such a delight to be involved in races like this, because they remind me of everything that’s good about triathlon. Most weekends, I find myself at races with pumped up, hyper-aggressive, very serious competitors who elbow and kick you in the swim, yell at you to get out of the way on the bike and generally make the entire race a stressed-out, unpleasant affair. Not to mention that their impressive feats and surprising times may be the result of chemical help.

So, it’s really nice to suit up at this race in Bardowick and just enjoy it. To compete for the fun of competing and to not have to worry about all the ‘roid rage’. Credit has to go to the organisers, who told me they want to keep this race as a family triathlon. There is even a stipulation that holders of a German Triathlon Union ‘startpass’ are not allowed to participate. That’s another really nice thing: the participants talk with each other and half a laugh together.

Bardowick 2017

Normally, at other races, the athletes keep to their triathlon clubs and focus on the event. If there’s any talking, it’s all about the course. There’s a lot of sizing up of the opposition and giving some hard stares, but not much relaxed conversation, and no laughing. I’ve always thought this was a bit sad, because it really should be just a bunch of folks on a Sunday morning doing a race together. No, it’s seldom like that. These races make me think reputations are on the line, bragging rights need to be won and that there’s a very large amount of prize money on offer.

That’s not the case in Bardowick, and that’s such a pleasant relief. You even get a bag of carrots when you cross the finish line. Participants interact with each other. People actually smile while they’re running. And there’s absolutely no sense that anyone is cheating or gaining an unfair advantage.

Thank you to the organisers of the Bardowicker Strand Triathlon. I wish there were more races like this one.