IM 70.3 Kraichgau, Germany - Mike Stead

Last year was my first year of triathlon where I completed both the IM 70.3 in Kraichgau, Germany and IM 70.3 Zell Am See in the Austrian Alps.  This year my goal was to complete the Kraichgau race again with the aim to improve on my previous time and to use this as a warm up to the full IM in Hamburg. which would be later in the year.

My journey for Kraichgau began in December 16.  This is a pretty harsh time of the year for training as I live in Munich, Germany not far from the alps and winters here are long and super cold with lots of snow and ice, this year we had a really cold winter with an average temp of -16’. Due to the temperature, running outside is only possible for a short duration as the cold air sets your lungs on fire, biking is near impossible because of the ice and outside temps. Focus and motivation are especially hard this time of year due to most long sessions being indoors which can drain the mind (thank goodness for Netflix)

I have a pretty busy job as well, which involves a fair amount of international travel and a busy family life I have two small kids (2 and 5)  Most of my training take place at around 5am until 7am when the kids wake up.  My second session of the day is usually from 7:30 pm.  The weekends are also early morning sessions so I can get back home and spend time with the family.  One thing you definitely need when training for these type of events is a supportive family.  Without this, the amount of training is a real no go…I’m fortunate to have a wife who is really supportive and 2 kids who think all dads spend their time swimming, biking and running.

My training through the winter months went pretty well with a decent level of consistency.  Coach Richard Lawrie is very supportive and balances my training well and keeps me motivated. He can also give me a kick up the backside when needed!
In general my training is pretty well balanced in terms of swimming, biking and running.  I’ve always struggled with swimming, as a Yorkshire-man, this is not something I did a lot of growing up. At the beginning of last year I could barely swim 50m and now I’m training to swim 3.8km, although my swim pace could well be compared to a turtle running through peanut butter
A week before race day my groin started playing up, this was not in the plan, I took most of the week off training wise and just took it easy, at this point I was not sure if I would make the race.
The family and I headed off to the race venue on the Friday, summer had all of a sudden arrived in Germany and we were looking at temps of over 30’ for the whole weekend – coming out of training for 4 months when temps barely hit double figures, this was going to be tough!
The normal pre-race nerves kicked in, I did the usual bike check in etc. I was pretty apprehensive about the swim (this is normal for me) as I had not had much opportunity to get in any open water swimming, this was mainly due to the winter dragging on longer than expected but I was hoping to beat last year’s swim time due to the hard work I’d put in at the pool. The groin was still giving me a little trouble as well so I was also just hoping that this wouldn’t be an issue during the race.
On race day we woke up to the weather predicting a high temperature of 35c, I knew it was going to be hard day out there in that heat.

The swim start went ok; it took quite some time to get in the water, as there was a rolling start. Once in the water I got into a good rhythm but at the 1km mark I had a few issues with my goggles steaming up which I resolved but this then happened a further two times.  I was pretty irritated by this as I lost quite some time and it had never happened with these goggles before. However, in the end I managed to shave 4 minutes from my last year’s swim time, which I was very pleased with. Once I get out of the water, I can relax; my race really starts when I get on my bike.
I got through the T1 transition pretty well and got on to the bike.  The course here is pretty tough as its quite hilly with 1000m of climbing.  The terrain is constantly changing so you never get settled into a good rhythm.  The atmosphere on the bike was great as there were quite a lot spectators to cheer you through all the villages. During the bike I kept the power setting that Richard recommended and finished around 15 minutes quicker than last year.
Transition to the run was pretty smooth, the run course is quite tough as this is also up and down meaning it chews up the legs. By this time the temperature and humidity had really kicked and I knew the run was going to be tough in these conditions.

The run is great because I get to see the wife and kids, the bike always takes me out of town and its not possible for the family to always see me during this part of the race.
 For the first 14k I was running pretty well and was on for a good personal best but at 15km I began to get cramps.  Most likely due to the heat and dehydration (I have a high sweat rate) I managed to run through the cramp but it came back and started to really slow me down.
 In the end I really struggled for the last few km’s and saw my pace drop badly.  In fact this is the slowest 5km I had run in a long time, those last 5km were long and hard and I had to dig deep to get to that finish line!

However, I crossed the finish line beating my run time from my previous race by 2mins and ended up with a 5h33 overall time, which was nearly 20minutes faster than last year! I was very happy with this time, considering the heat and my groin.
I would never had been able to achieve such a great time if it wasn’t for Coach Larry and my number 1 support crew – the family.
Training is now in full swing for IM Hamburg, which is in just over a month, so lets see how that goes…

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