Olaf Kasten finishes 3rd in the Frankfurt European Ironman Championships. Follow his story in his own words.
Race Preparation & weeks leading up to the race: After Melbourne on March 25th and a few weeks easy it was quickly back into training mode as I had two Olympic distance races in Ishigaki, Japan and Hong Kong only 4 and 6 weeks later. These more high intensity races and the consequent training proved to be a bit of a challenge to absorb. Not sure if this was directly linked to the training or not, but the following weeks I had several smallish injuries or other issues. It started with the right knee being painful for a couple of weeks, then I twisted my ankle running on trails, which was again painful for a few days. Then, just as I was supposed to fly out to Phuket for a week of vacation with the kids and training with Jurgen Zack, I had an ear infection, again several days of rest, 10 days without swimming, over a week of antibiotics, not ideal. Finally, as I was starting to get better and I really wanted to have a good ride with Jurgen and despite being still on antibiotics and to some extend despite the warning of my coach, I rode really hard and on the easy run afterwards, had a little tear in my calf. We were now 6 weeks from Frankfurt and I couldn’t do proper run training. This was tough. Thank God from there on things went really well. Andrew, my coach as usual very sensible with the training regime, stepped it up very gradually and the calf was ok. 5 weeks before Frankfurt I was back to 100%. Problem was that in the heat and humidity of Hong Kong it was becoming really tough to run and to do high intensity interval training sessions. So despite being able to step up the overall volume of running to a solid level, I was not able to step up the interval training to the desired volume, the key session of 21x1kms fell miserably short with only 11 done. We, with coach Andrew, also tested the limit of training volume and intensity that I could cope with, trying two weeks in a row to get up to 30 hours. With the humidity and heat, it turned out to be a bit too much and in both weeks I had to cut a session short. Was good to see how far we could go and didn’t change much the training quality. Last week before the race in Frankfurt: I was lucky enough to have my dear and longest friend Karsten living right next to Frankfurt and so went a week before the race to finish training and do the course reconnaissance. I was starting to feel really good running, being easily able to run close to race pace during training and really liking the long straight flat stretches along the river which is the race course. The bike was a different story, the course looked tough. There are several climbs, not super hard, but good climbs, a cobble stones section, many sharp turns through villages, always going up or down it seemed. I did a steady 80kms loop at 33.5 km/h average and with Karsten an easy one at 30 km/h, so doing 36 or ideally 38 km/h average seemed like a real stretch. I also had diarrhea for almost a week, not very severe, but enough to be really concerned as the fluid and mineral loss would be a real concern during the race as well as the possible inconvenience to say the least to having to go to the toilet during a 9h+ race. Thankfully it seemed to be under control a couple of days before the race. Finally I had a pain in the groin area, something I would feel when swimming and at the beginning of running. It was not a sharp pain, so I was not too concerned, but in these races small pains can become big issues, but that too was getting better before race day. I swam twice in the lake, it seemed reasonable cold, even with the wetsuit and despite the fact that at 23.8 degrees it was pretty close (1 degree) to the legal limit for the wetsuit. Wetsuits make the swim much faster, so it would really have a pain if it was a non-wetsuit swim. So all in all it was not an ideal preparation, but I had just enough good and hard training to feel ready on race day. Race-day: 8 July 2012 Getting up at 3.45am was tough and despite my efforts to keep getting up really early all week before race day and stay in between Asian and European time, I couldn’t fall asleep before 11pm the day before the race. I also sweat a lot having to change T-shirt twice, not usually a great sign of being relaxed. In any case at 3.45am it was getting up, toilet stop, breakfast was open from 3.30am, I was there at 4am. I ate 4 toasts with butter and honey and jam, a pretzel, water and some juice. I took another few pretzels to eat an hour later. Back to the room, final toilet stop, picking up grumpy Maggy and off to take the bus to transition area 1. We arrived pretty early so had plenty of time to get the bike ready, pumped and dry. I was number 1801 so was right at the end of the bike rack, next to the exit, quite cool as I wouldn’t have to run with the bike at all. Then off to the water. The pros and 350 age-group athletes started at 6.45 am, me and over 2000 other athletes at 7am. As the time approached it was getting more and more crowded. I was at the front of the line, deciding to try and get out hard. Swim: 1h 00mins 02secs Finally the time came and off we went. It was actually ok and I imagined it would be much worse. No excessive amount of kicking, no-one swam over me or hit me in the face. When I got really close to someone, we both moved a bit to the side, awesome. Even the first turn, a traditional area of massive chaos, things slowed down a bit, but maybe the German way, everyone was disciplined and it went very quickly. After 2100m we had to get out of the water and I had checked the times before, 37minutes would be 1h06 total time and 33 minutes would give an hour. I came out just under 33 minutes, awesome. Then came the second lap, same pace, as I got closer I saw that the 1h was possible, but I didn’t know that the timing mat was right out of the water. I got the only hit in the face 50m before the end of the swim and finally got out of the water in 1h and 2 seconds, beating my best swim time by over 6 minutes, awesome. Course was probably slightly short but that’s ok for me. The way to the bikes was quite long and a nice hill on a carpet laid over sand, so HR was going up nicely. Helmet, race belt, sunglasses, nutrition, shoes on and off I was. Bike: 4h 57mins 00secs The bike consisted of 12kms pretty straight into Frankfurt and then 2 loops of approx. 84 kms. My heart rate at the start was at 155 and I was flying. First 12 kms at over 44 km/h an hour, in hindsight it was too hard. The first lap still felt awesome. Contrary to the 2 training laps I did in the week before the race, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, making the second half of the lap harder than the first. So with some tailwind in the first half of the first lap I was flying and went over 39km/h avg. The way back of the first lap already was much tougher, the average over the entire first lap dropped to 37 km/h, but I was still good for a high 4h40’s. I was still hoping that this time the time wouldn’t drop in the second lap. There was hard rain since almost the start of the bike and strong wind as well. During the first 2h-3h of the race, when there is still plenty of energy in the body and the legs feel strong it was easy to push through the wind at 38 km/h, on the second lap that changed drastically and again, same as in Melbourne, I was 2-3 km/h slower. The last hour into a massive headwind was especially hard and I really struggled. I also lost a few good guys I was riding with before and was hanging onto guys that had low start numbers, meaning that they had started 15 minutes earlier, suggesting that I was indeed slowing down after a fast start. Nutrition wise, everything went more or less according to plan. I ate chomps regularly, on the second lap with caffeine. On the cobblestones in the first lap I lost half of the chomps in one of the 2 bags I had, I was more careful in the second lap. Otherwise I ate a gel every 40 minutes approx., 5 in total and I ate 2 big energy bars in 4 halves. I ate one half after 90 minutes, one half after the first lap and the second in the second lap. The second bar was a powerbar vanilla bar, as I had no more of my usual brand, but it went down well with water. Drink-wise I had one concentrated bottle of High-5 isotonic on the frame (eq of 4 bottles) and 2 bottles on the aerobars water cage. I took 3 water bottles during the ride that I mixed with the concentrated drink, so I must have drunk close to 1 75cl bottle per hour. As it was pretty cool, hydration wasn’t a big issue. I nevertheless took a salt tablet every hour. Finally I got back into Frankfurt and into transition. Socks on, shoes on and in a transition time of less than 2 minutes I was off. Run: 3h 12mins The run felt awesome at the beginning: I was at close to 15 km/h avg for the first 5 kms and I was already dreaming of a sub 3h marathon. I passed a pro quite easily (he was on his second lap though and therefore 45 minutes ahead of me … still felt great at that point). After about 7kms, this feeling quickly disappeared. I started to feel my right calf and this was a bit early to have a pain like that. My knees were also quite tight. But this isn’t supposed to be easy after all. After a few kms I passed Eric, who had started 15 minutes ahead of me, so that was great and a small boost. Then in the second loop towards the end I passed David, the other French I knew during the race, a fantastic swimmer that had also started 15mins ahead of me, cool. My heart rate also went down quite quickly, starting at over 140, it quickly went to 140, then 136, felt the same as Melbourne 10kms later in the race, so last 10kms were going to be hard. Then came what was really not necessary at km 24 or so. Just before an aid station there was a small sidewalk you had to cross. I had been careful the first 2 laps, but in the 3rd, I was just looking at the aid station and twisted my ankle. Quite painful, I limped for a couple of 100m, but then it got better and was bearable. 15kms to go and I was getting a bit slower. Stomach was painful from the coke I was drinking, same as in Melbourne, but also bearable and if flushing down with water, it was ok. I was also drinking some energy drinks and continued to take my salt tablets. Last lap and it was tough, but getting through it. It became clear that I would now be a bit slower than in Melbourne. I tried to force the pace in the last few kms, but I was starting to feel cramps, definitely not as strong on the run as in Melbourne, maybe also because I pushed harder on the bike and a bit too hard at the beginning of the run. My support crew was also awesome. Maggy and the kids were there, my father and family friends Helga + Norbert, Gisela and her grandchildren as well as Karsten my friend. I saw all of them between once and twice on each lap, awesome. Finally the finisher chute, there were so many people, Maggy and the kids were also there, so cool. 9h14mins in the end. It didn’t feel as great as Melbourne as the run was slower and it felt harder, but given the conditions and the training, a respectable time. As 400 athletes started 15 minutes before me and there were 4 loops of the run, so it was impossible to know which position I was in. The athlete’s area was great. Ice baths, showers, massage, sausages. Then you could get a certificate and big surprise, I finished 3rd in my age-group at the European Championships, awesome. My first podium and awards ceremony, it was a proud moment.