Race Reports English
Race Report RAI Ireland 11.09.2014:
Category: Long Distance: I finally made it!
After the coast to coast Race in Italy at the end of July with a total of 800 km and 11.000 m difference in altitude, my time as a solo biker was very limited heading towards the highlight of the year the Race Around Ireland (RAI) with 2150 Km and 24.000 m difference in altitude, which would count as part of my goal was to get back into the big league. The RAI race counts for the UMCA as Long-Distance European Championship and for the first time a European Champion was to be found this year. To race solo is a total different thing than racing in a relay team of 2. I had trained well throughout the year, but still found I needed the time after the race in Italy to recover. I was not sure about my fitness. In a relay team of 2 you have your regular time to recover. If you go solo there are no breaks. Each break you take as a solo racer is a loss of time for you that you need to recover in the next leg of the race. While you sleep time is running away making sleep your most feared opponent.
Leaving Munich on Thursday 28.08.2014 with the main team van and one hire car we headed to Dublin. Arriving Friday we went through the approval of cars and bikes and on Saturday the rest of the team flew in. The Support Team was totally new structure for this race, Conny was for the first time head of the team, and the rest of the team were students, and all were younger than 22 years old. This for me was a totally new experience.
Saturday was the official Briefing and presentation of a handful of crazy bikers, who all wanted just like me to race around the entire island on their bicycles. This was the first encounter with the other teams and the organizers.
After one last night to relax we headed to the starting line on Sunday. The starting line was the Castle of Trim, which really set the scene for this race with its incredible beauty, and finally the clock was running.
At 15.51 pm, my race started, with sunshine a light wind and not very warm temperature. Everybody was pushing to his limits and it was not very long before the favorites of the race overtook me. But the race was scheduled to last for 132 hours, a lot could happen in that time.
After the first 33h we had covered 625km and 4593 m difference in altitude and the going was quite smooth, with even some light rain and wind in the first night not really bothering us. Only once, after 24h I took a 20 min power nap as the noodles I had for lunch gave me trouble. The 33h mark then finally saw the first scheduled sleeping break in the night from Monday to Tuesday: 3hours of uneasy sleep. Including undressing and dressing the break took 4h20min, too long?? We did not know yet!!
So, again on the bicycle in deep dark night and off we went. So far all went according to plan: the change of the team between driver and the navigators worked out perfectly. The head of the team Conny and the cameraman Julius were fully in control and so went the second day. Again with a short power nap as again after a small meal energy went out and also my butt was giving trouble. I do not want to go deeper into the subject “pain”, just let me say it really really hurt .
But I kept on racing and tried to ignore my pain by listening to my music again and again! We were lucky as I could stand the pain and the weather was really good. No rain and no wind. This seems to be impossible on this island. But when angels are traveling. So during the day we could admire the beautiful rocky beaches, the bays, the green fields and incredible mountains and lakes and much more. Day 3 and 4 went according to the same routine, and we made good progress: during the day approx. 20h, 387km in one go (only with a quick change of cloth and small bites to eat) during the night a 4h break with sleep, food and small massage.
But then came the most problematic day for me, Day 5! In the night (3 am) I was ordered by the head of the team Conny to go on my bicycle after a very brief sleeping break of just one hour with the words (I lost many hour) “Now you continue to race and then we will see.” The temperature felt like 3 degree, it was foggy and my body was shaking. I felt to do whatever but not to continue racing. I was freezing; my legs felt as lead, my ass hurt.
But my team did not allowed me to make any break or to let me into the car so what to do? Fight, fight, fight. So I made into the dawn and found back into my rhythm! But at noon my ass was totally through and there was no way as I could not cycle standing up all the time. More than 3 bike trousers were not possible either! And so I discovered again the importance of my team they could go wild finding creative solutions.
From making a hole into my saddle to elevate certain points on my saddle with sanitary towels (the students were lowering their inhibitions by shopping that) to a pumped up inner tube to a wooden board, we did not leave anything unthought and untried! The total insanity but it did pay but we lost a lot time with finding these solutions and also my energy was a bit exhausted, so on Friday afternoon I needed another powernap and was asking Conny to give a message to my knee that. My team allowed me 30min and the message.
I guess at that point of time, the team calculated already that I was not able to make it to the finish line within the time limit. Also as the last 2 legs of the race included 3 steep mountains (18%-20% climbs)! I did not notice any of these deliberations, so I climbed my bicycle for the last time (200km without break) (by the way sitting on the sanitary towels) and was pushing with my last energy! Also motivated by a phone call of my dear friend Valerio Zamboni, who was partcipating himself in the race. He told Conny in person that she should tell me to finally move my ass as otherwise would not see the finish line! Clear message!.
Mountain Number one was still ok. At Mountain Number two for the largest parts my team was walking beside me and told me that we are still in the race. All at the sudden many officials were surrounding me and cheered for me so I did not have a choice but to continue despite the increasing cold temperature, moistness, fog, darkness and tiredness. I could not stop anymore, the chocolate bars were put in my mouth we could not lose any more time!
The last 80km I felt like being in a tunnel, with the 2 cars, some officials and some fans in the middle of the night. To cross the finish line at 3.24h in the middle of the night was just unbelievable. Approx.100 cheering Irish (maybe also some crazy ones) were waiting for us and at that moment I knew:
Each and every second of the race was worthwhile!
Thank you Ireland, I will come back!! And I am very happy that I made the race with the given time of 132h with 131h and 33 Min (9 Position in the European Championship!) !!!!
And I am looking forward to seeing the film Julius was shooting in November. He documented everything from the beginning to the end and during the race I was never sure on which tree he was climbing to get the best angle to film.
Many many thanks to Conny, Anna, Bene, Tobi, Fabi and Julius from the bottom as my heart: you are the best !
Happy biking Michi
Half Iron Man Rapperswill Swiss 02.06.2013:
DOS-Extreme 12.05.2013, yes, we did it! What a crazy experience!
We finished in 1 day, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 30 Seconds. Altogether 1229 km, 15000 meters in difference in altitude, an average speed of 25,6 km and we stayed under the 48-hours mark.
Firstly I want to thank our incredible support team.
Without your absolute commitment we would never ever have finished the race.
On Thursday, May 9th 2013, Edi and myself started the race in good spirits and well prepared, at exactly 21:19h, accompanied by a police motorcycle in Postojna. For the first 2 nights we have planned for each racer a rhythm of 4 hours/100 km and during the daytime a rhythm of 2 hours/50 km. The first night went fine, without any major problems, and still without need for a lot of sleep.
On Friday around noon, it started to rain. The support team was busy to get the respective racer fit and dry during the breaks. The follow car with 3 people was behind the racer all the time to protect him against overtaking cars. The extreme mountain stages with partly heavy rain showers, tookt heir toll. In the afternoon the first puller: at 14% slope, I broke wrongly and went into the bushes. My back tyre busted, sending me into a 360° loop with the bicycle. Thanks god I landed in a pile of brushwood that softened the impact. Lucky this time… within seconds on the replacement bike, and off I went back into the race.
In the second night, I had to overpass train rails, which ended up with a broken carbon rim and this time I landed hard on the street tarmac. That was for all of us a shocking moment. But again, I was lucky and got away with bruises on my elbow and hips. With a new rim I was able to continue the race. At the km 900 mark we met a team from Slovenia (513), thanks for the fair and comradely race. For the last 300 km we had an exciting head to head race until the finish line. Eventually won by 30 seconds! That is nothing compared to the long overall distance. Edi and I have been fighting like lions to stay below the 48h mark and we did it!
The follower car and the camper van crew cooperated perfectly and so we all raised our bottles of beers late Saturday evening celebrating our perfect race. We are very proud, and despite no sleep and pushing yourselves to the limit, we had a real blast.
The race was perfectly organized – thanks a lot to the organizers of the RAS/DOS 2013. And not to forget the many enthusiastic spectators, who even did not stop cheering us in the middle of the night.
Slovenia, we are coming back!
Two incredible days in a wonderful country came to an end – see you next year.
Happy day Michi