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Offenburg 2004

“Worldclass MTB Challenge” in Offenburg

This was my very first marathon race in 2004 and it was probably the hardest, too. I had already trained for over 130 hours (3000km / 30000m uphill) this year and thought I was pretty fit, so I chose “The Ultimate Challenge”. The profile (see below) looked harmless enough and I had done races like this before. I would just have to climb 500m higher than usual - that didn’t sound too bad. It was, though.

I started the race with Thomas Reischl, a good friend, and we quickly moved ahead in the densely packed field of about 125 racers. I felt pretty good and Thomas had to remind me to pace myself. He has much more racing experience than me. We took turns at taking the wind (actually, it was me uphill and Thomas downhill and on the flats most of the time, which meant that he pulled me more than I pulled him). Soon, a French guy and a lovely Swiss Woman (who would be second in the end) caught up with us and joined our little group. Thomas and I whiled away the time by making little jokes and admiring the nice scenery ;-). Everything went quite smoothly until I felt a cramp building up in my left leg and had to slow down a little. Luckily, this was after we had crossed the three highest mountains.

Thomas began to show signs of weakness as well and I had to wait for him to catch up on some uphill sections. On one of the next climbs I was riding along pretty slowly but Thomas was even slower so I just had to leave him and ride the remaining 30 km alone. My memory of this part of the race is pretty dim. I vaguely remember endless climbs, more climbs, and the some uphill sections for a change. I briefly came to on some cool descents (I think I whistled “Ring of Fire”) but the next hill was always waiting just around the corner. This was hell. And I had actually paid to do this! Well, I finally climbed the very last hill - what a feeling!

Somehow I even gathered enough strength for a quite impressive sprint over the finish line. The speaker said something along the lines of “Wow, here’s someone who’s still got strength for a sprint.” and even mentioned my name and my sponsor (my local bike shop). I finished 29th, which is quite good, considering that there were 35 racers with a licence. I was 8th in my age group, which only means that 21 seniors (age 30 and and older) were faster than me. The two best women were also 17 & 14 minutes faster and I greatly admire their performance.

Here’s part of the winners list.