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Cologne Triathlon Weekend

One of my favorites and thus - for me - a third time occurrence, we went to Cologne (Köln) over the weekend for the annual Cologne Triathlon Weekend. This race actually is not one race but a potpourri of various race distances. So there's a children's triathlon on Friday evening, a Sprint  and an Olympic distance  race on Saturday and a Half-Iron as well as an Iron distance race on Sunday which also may be combined with the Sprint on Saturday. the latter was my goal - Sprint (0.7+26+7) plus Half-Iron (1.9+90+21.1). Last year I made third in my division - just because there were just three women involved, so I hoped for a similar setting. Bummer. Five ladies. And for women doing Triathlon in Germany, usually are of the fast lot, I knew, there'd be no placement. Well, but that's not why I do this kind of crazy stuff. I do it for myself, for keeping up my motivation, actually for the fun of it. In most races you'll see me somewhere to the back with a big smile on my face. Yep. That's me.

So. Friday morning we set off, the boys and me, for as soon as I had mentioned the name "Cologne" two of the three came up with the memory of the Chocolate museum, while the youngest, who hadn't been there last year, insisted in going there. Well. Nothing wrong with chocolate so we planned on going. On a google-directed detour we found a nice Pizza place in some suburb, and then went to the Fuehlinger See, so I could do the package pickup and the bike check-in. Although being a German race official I inadvertedly marched out of transition, helmet on head, only to be stopped by the race officials monitoring the transition area. This is a big no-no: the helmet must be where the bike is. So, back in, I deposited the helmet where it belonged, and went out again. We left the car at the lake's lot and went downtown by train. I just don't want to fit our American car onto German-sized downtown parking spaces.

We shortly stopped at "station", the hostel we each time stayed, deposited the luggage and found our way over the various road construction places toward the chocolate museum where we not only took a good look onto the machinery and onto the 'chocolate lifestyle', but also had some custom made chocolate.

Afterwards we met Martin who had come in by train directly from Frankfurt. Dinner in a super nice Italian place (via sistina), some rounds of Canasta with the boys and off to bed.

We had given the boys some free space to explore Koeln  by letting them sleep in  on Saturday, so it was only Martin and me riding out to the Fuehlinger See. It was roughly 20Centigrade (68F) - no wind and decent weather. Rain predicted, though. While I set up, Peter, a friend from my tri-club also appeared - he was set to do the same combination race like me. Also his friend Jens was there who hosted Peter and his wife Anja, and who did the Olympic event in the afternoon. Peter and me prepped the bikes, set up everything and then, soon, it was time for the race talk and then for the start. Only a few orange swim caps of the combination racers.

The swim war really nice - pristine water with lines a yard or two under the surface - directing the way. There actually is no way to swim the wrong way. Actually - this swim was much too short...(just kidding) and I went out of the water, ran to my bike and off, onto the road. One of the first things I did is taking a sip of  sports beverage with the lid of my bottle coming off. I was so sticky ! A couple of turnaround points on the course, it went around a handful of corners on two loops. 26-ish km altogether, my motivation underlined by Martin's and my friends' cheer along the roadside close to the finish. Then the run - and focusing onto  the Sunday race I totally had forgotten that it was 7km, and not 5km. With the ideal weather I couldn't have cared less and just ran on into the finish. 

A nice medal and a floral wreath and this part of the race was done. They had cool finisher shirts, too, as well as a towel. As they say - always know where your towel is...

We watched Jens start the swim and the bike, then went downtown to re-join the boys.  I treated myself to a shower and then we went out to explore some more of the city. For it already was somewhat late we only could take a look at the Roman/Germanic museum from the foyer, but even the things we could see from there gave the impression that it might be a good idea to come back there. At 18:00h we met up with Peter, Anja, and Jens to have some after-and-pre-race food in a down-to-earth restaurant downtown. And then to bed.

The next morning we all had breakfast at the hostel and took the train out to the race site. We had bought an 48h group ticket so no need to bother with ticket dispensers. Martin had volunteered for the race so we went earlier than my starting time would have required. So he loioked around for his and the boys' job, ending up dismantling the transition zone of the previous day, and later handing out water and other goodies to speeding cyclists.

I stuck around with Anja, Peter  and Jens, treated myself to a roll (still getting used to starts at noon time) and to a gu-gel. Then. Time was up and I had to squeeze into my wet suit, listen to the race talk, to the devotion and to our National anthem. Into the water we went and it was as beautiful as the day before. We all slowly swam to the virtual starting line between two buoys and were sent onto the race course by a count-down followed by fire works. I had a bit of trouble with fogging lenses but again, it was a great swim with not too many or long de-tours.

I was out of the water in 45 minutes, ran to my bike - oh well, everyone else ouf my division already was gone. At least this means I could find my bike (It was at the end of the rack so I actually could find it - anyway...) Sometimes I wish, more people would dare to try this kind of race. I've never been a sporty person so if I can do it...

The bike course is flat, apart from some bridges and underpasses there are no hills involved. But it was windy. Not Kalmar-windy, getting bike handling difficult, but windy enough so I noticed a significant difference in speed going out of Cologne and into Cologne. And, as Physics goes, it never evens out. one is longer at the low speed than at the higher speed...

The loop far out is kind of boring - that's part of the mental challenge. When I'm around there, there are very few people left to cheer. And - going out - the route came with a head wind.

Someone drafted about 10km behind me and I noticed only because of a slight clank of his bike. He passed when I grabbed a banana at the next aid station.Else I really was careful with my bottle which was the same as the previous day - I had re-used it for I wanted to throw it out, eventually, and grab a newer, better one. Well, I still have it.

So, back into Cologne - through crowds of spectators and another 10km out to a turn-around and then the final ride towards the transition. I cheered to Peter, who already was on his first running loop. After getting rid of helmet and bike shoes and putting on hat and running shoes, running was remarkably easy, given the fact, that I'm originally not a runner. I needed some potty break but else it all went smoothly, me running on Cola and a bit of salty stuff. The run course consists of two loops which have changed a bit from last year. I actually like it better for the crowd support is more evenly distributed. There is alro a part over the railway bridge which is decorated my thousands and thousands of locks loving couples have fastened there and thrown the keys into the Rhine. Martin and the boys as well as Anja and Jens  were close to the finish area one was passing each round.

Peter caught up with me just before I entered round two. Still, running on Cola, km by km went by, only with the interruption of that notorious spiral staircase followed by a bit uphill up a bridge.  But after that bridge it is only a couple of meters to the finish - and there I was - finishing strong and happily and smiling. Yeah.

Medal + T-shirt + Towel + Food + Beer (no alcohol) + Massage = Happy!

I believe this was my fastest Triathlon-Half-Marathon to date, and I'm happy with it. So it doesn't matter that I took ten more minutes on the bike - I did not break in at the run - a goal I have worked towards for quite some time. I took a few planned half-minute walking breaks but no unplanned walking.

What a cool race!