As the name suggests, the Coburg Run and Bike Team Marathon is for teams of 2 athletes. According to the rules, they can change as often as they please during these 42.2 km and 600m of elevation gain, while the bike is used as “baton”.
It was Dany’s idea that we do this race as a team and I happily agreed. It was something I had never done before and it sounded like fun! Plus, my training plan for the ultra marathon in August prescribed a half marathon for the weekend in question, so it fit in perfectly. We quickly found a team name (“Dany/i²”) and registered for it.
I had initially thought that each of us would run 21k non-stop. Luckily, Dany has a wise coach on her side who advised us to change every 3km in order to be able to run at a faster pace. That was our plan. We tested it two times to make sure that the change-over, i.e. the transfer of bike and helmet, went smoothly. It worked quite well so that was it.
To be honest, I didn’t think too much about it. My mind was occupied with work, ultra training, my trip to Scotland… the big day arrived sooner than expected!
The whole logistics for our participation in this event were a bit of a task, and I was glad that Dany organized the bike, figured out how and where to store the water bottles on it, reminded me not to forget anything and was willing to drive. By doing so, she unknowingly qualified as potential crew member for the West Highland Way Race 2017, but that is another story J
Coburg is about 100km away from where we live and the race was due to start at 4.15 p.m. so we could sleep in, pack our stuff without any pressure, before heading off around noon. Some words about the weather: It had been crazy hot the days before but luckily it was only 27°C on race day and it got a bit cooler in the evening. Phew J
Dany had the ambitious plan of a 3:45 h finish, which I found quite impossible due to the 600m of elevation gain, the course profile, my lack of proper speed training in the weeks before (my slow jogging up and down Schwanberg hill for hours didn’t really count as proper preparation for a half marathon but it turned out really helpful later in the race).
We had agreed that Dany would cycle and I would run the first 3km. The cyclists started 10 minutes before the official start of the runners and waited to be reunited with us after approx. 1.5km to prevent congestion on the first kilometres. I felt quite nauseous while waiting for the start (which may or may not been due to the driving style of my team mate J) but as soon as the gun went off, I felt fine. Knowing that I only had to run 3km before I could take some rest on the bike, I speeded off as fast as I could… not my wisest decision but yeah…
The first kilometre was on a flat biking part and we soon saw the first cyclists waiting on the side of the road, ready to join their team mates. A few teams were changing already… what? It turned out that our strategy of short intervals wasn’t quite as unique. In fact, most, if not all, teams were changing after 1 or 2 kilometres. Hm…
Dany was now cycling next to me and we had to concentrate not to run over other participants on foot or bike. It was quite a mess. We ran up the first hill and I was determined to keep the pace around 5 minutes per km. Suddenly another biker fell down right next to me. We both stopped to help him up but he assured us that he was fine and we could continue. Phew… the first scary moment of this race.
Initially, we did stick to our plan of changing every 3km but after the first change, it dawned to me that this was not practical. Our changes were quick and we didn’t waste any time; therefore, we decided to change every 2km from now on, which turned out perfect on the first kilometres.
Around 10km in, the first real hills started to appear. We agreed that I would run most of them since I was the stronger runner and Dany the stronger biker. It went quite well.
At 11km, the field was divided – the bikers were sent on an easier path around the forest, while we runners headed right into the woods. A lovely and quite technical single trail lead us to the top of this hill and I managed to pass a few runners here. However, it was not easy and I could feel my legs tighten up once I was on the flat road again, so I was happy to see Dany and change with her. This was when the second scary moment happened: while sitting on the bike, bombing downhill next to Dany, I tried to get rid of the left-over adhesive tape with which we had fixed one water bottle on the bike frame. The very next moment I was almost somersaulting over the handlebar. Luckily, I didn’t. That would have been the end of our adventure…
We continued to run and bike through the villages and suburbs of Coburg and a beautiful park with meadows and lakes. Lots of people were standing on the side of the road, offering us water and other drinks. We refilled our water bottle whenever possible as the sun had come out again and we were needing lots of water.
Things started to get a bit harder around 25km. I struggled to keep up the pace. Dany told me something about another big incline coming up, which didn’t really brighten my mood. We had just changed the bike again and it was my turn to cycle, when the climb up the castle hill started. Damn… I hadn’t recovered well enough to run again so Dany headed off. However, I completely underestimated how tough cycling uphill with the MTB was. I was soon out of breath, my legs burning, struggling to keep up with Dany. I panicked, afraid that I would not catch up with her in time for another change so that she would have to run the entire hill and, even worse, I would have to cycle it. Luckily, there was a short flatter section where I could jump off the bike, hand it over to Dany and run again.
Surprisingly, this was my strongest section of the race. The hill training in the weeks before really paid off (as did Dany’s hill training on the bike, btw). We managed to pass several teams here, some of whom had been running with us for quite a while now, including another women’s team who had looked quite strong. We were sure that they would catch up with us again on the downhill and flatter sections but they never did. A small victory J
We reached km 33, 35. The course was now taking a loop and we met the first teams who were already on their way back, almost there. They looked super strong whereas our strength was dwindling… The hill had taken more out of me than expected. We agreed on changing every kilometre now, to make it easier. We ran through a lovely forest but had no eyes for the beautiful nature around us. It was clearly tougher than a regular half marathon, I realized that I had completely underestimated the biking part of it. Oh well. We were almost there.
One last incline, one last change. I was running now and we could hear the finish line. A couple of metres to go, hands up, smile, done!
When I checked the overall time on my watch for the first time during this race right after the finish line, it showed 3 hours and 44 minutes. I couldn’t believe it! I would have never thought that we could run this fast on a course like this. Yay!
We ended up on 7th place out of 18 in the women’s category and also left quite a few men’s teams and mixed teams behind us. When we drove home, we were tired but happy with how this race went. A good day in the office J
The race organisation was perfect, the participation fee was relatively low with 44 € per team and we got a nice goodie bag and bright yellow race shirt. The course is not easy but has some really beautiful sections, and the overall atmosphere and the spirit of everyone involved was great. I can definitely imagine doing it again!