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Cologne, Germany Triathlon Race Report - Geek Turned Athlete

Cologne, Germany Triathlon Race Report

Beware!  This is a LONG post!

This was my view waking up in the morning!  It was beautiful!


Breakfast consisted of a bowl of fruit, a waffle, and half an omelet.  Experts always say, “Don’t eat anything new the day of a race.”  I would agree with this most of the time, but considering our race didn’t start until noon, I thought I would be okay.  This fueled me just fine throughout the race.  I did snack on a banana and a couple of fig newton’s about an hour before the race too.

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The Hubby and Renee’s family drove up to Cologne to meet us in the morning.  It was so good to see them!


This is me setting up my transition area:


Renee and I right before the swim.  We were both nervous!  We both hate open water swimming!!!  By the way, that is the Hubby’s wetsuit!  It is way big on me, but it is all that I have for this year!


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This is also about the time that the confusion on the race started.  We were not sure what time our wave started in the water.  We had heard 12:30 and 1pm by two different sources.  So, I decided to go and ask the race info area about what time we were supposed to start.  The race helper said 12:30.  I said okay, still not sure if this was correct because she seemed a little confused as well.  This race was touted as an “international” race.  It was promoted not only to Germans, but a range of other countries.  I guess I kind of expected more English speakers since it was promoted internationally.  We ran into a couple of English speakers (Brits and Aussies) before the race, and they were just about as confused as we were regarding the start time, course layout, etc..  They usually have an English briefing to go over everything on the course and rules at these things, but for some reason they did not at this race.  It was a huge race too.  It was really odd.


The wave didn’t end up starting until 1pm.  Renee and I found the area that we were supposed to enter the water, and waded in.  The rocks were so slippery at first, and we both thought that we would slip and hurt ourselves before the race even started.  The water was freezing, and my forearms and calves (which were not covered by the wetsuit) went numb.  We treaded water for about 10 minutes before the start.  I decided to pee in my wetsuit to warm up.  It actually felt really good!  All of the sudden the countdown began in German, and we were off!

It was a slow start at first because everyone needed to spread out, but then I found my rhythm.  It was a slow rhythm, but it was fine with me.  Then, I got kicked in my stomach from a breast stroker.  I was a little angry at this, but we were all so close to each other, I couldn’t take it personally.  I just wanted to pass all of these breast strokers.  The waves were choppy and every single time I picked my head up out of the water I would get a mouthful of lake water.  Yuck!  I tried to keep the ideas of getting diarrhea after the race because of all of the water that I had swallowed out of my head, and focus on the race.  In the last 100 meters, my stomach felt bloated and very angry at me because of all the water that I swallowed.  I was worried that this might affect me for the rest of the race, but that was the least of worries as I soon found out.

I took my time during transition.  There was no need to rush, and forget something.  I jumped on my bike, and pedaled off…DSC02490

Then, the clouds and the wind came in.  It was actually raining after the first five minutes of my ride.  I thought to myself, “I can handle the rain.”  Then, the wind started up.  I almost got blown off the road a few times because the crosswinds were so bad.  I felt great though.  I was taking in my nutrition and water.  I felt strong.  I got passed a few times, but I passed a few people too.  Life was great.  Then, all of the sudden I was being waved back into transition.  I could have sworn that I had another lap to go, I thought.  I racked my bike, and looked at my garmin.  I only went 7 and a half miles.  That doesn’t make any sense.  Maybe, they shortened the course because the weather was bad?  Maybe, my garmin is broken?  I went over to the only volunteer that I saw, and tried to ask her where and if there was a turnaround, and she just shook her head, and said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.”  She didn’t understand what I was saying!  I looked around, and saw really in shape people with aerodynamic helmets coming in.  I thought to myself, this is NOT right.  I definitely don’t belong here at this time.  They were supposed to wave to me to turn around at some point on the course and do another loop, but I didn’t see anyone else turn around, and the helpers waved me into the transition area.  Arhhhh!  I was so frustrated, and no one was helping me!  I started to freak out at this point, and just stood there by my bike frozen trying not to cry.  The tears started coming.  What happened?  Why hadn’t I studied the course before I came here?  I just wanted to quit.  I didn’t want anyone to think that I was cheating, because I was NOT. But I had no idea where to go with my bike even if I wanted to get back on the course.

I decided to put my running shoes on, and finish.  I wasn’t going to just quit because the volunteers made a mistake and waved me in, and I didn’t study the course.  I had trained for two months for this race, and 7 miles short on the bike was not going to upset my day.  I ran out of transition, and got directed down another area with a bunch of the runners.  All of the sudden, I was in the finishers chute, and there were people congratulating me in German and putting a finishers medal and a lay around my neck.  I tried to tell them that I didn’t finish, but I just got a finishers shirt shoved in my hand, and was pushed out of the way by the other “real” finishers.  They didn’t know what I was saying.  I was so angry and frustrated!  I started crying, again!  Thank goodness I had my sunglasses on at this point to hide the fact that I was freaking out.  I looked for the Hubby in the crowd, but I couldn’t find him.  He was probably off somewhere getting lunch.  I was way early finishing, and he wasn’t expecting me until much later.

I decided to try to run again.  I hopped over the metal road barrier, and back into transition.  I stuffed my finishers t-shirt, medal, and lay in my transition bag, found another volunteer, and pleaded with him.  “I’m not finishing yet, where do I go?!!!”  Again, I didn’t get a verbal response, just a flag pointed in the same direction that went before.  I was running and crying at this point.  It was a nightmare.  I noticed some other runners turning off on another path.  I followed them, still crying.  I was freaking out that I had missed a turn on the bike, and had already passed the finish line.  I cursed the race.  I was angry at the fact that none of the helpers were actually helpful, and they didn’t care either.  I was also angry at myself that I didn’t study the course intently before the race.  I had studied the course about a month ago, but then an email was sent out a few days before the race saying that the course had changed.  It was in German, and I tried to translate it via Google translate, but it didn’t make sense.  I just thought the race officials would go over the change in the briefing (which they didn’t even have one), and there would be clear signs up telling people where to go.  Boy, was I wrong!  I was feeling sorry for myself, and the confusing bike course was eating at me during my run.  I felt so guilty for something that I had absolutely no control over at the moment.  I started looking around, and noticing the beauty around me.  The lake was beautiful even though it was raining.  There were ducks were fishing and playing with their little ducklings.  Life was going on, even though I was feeling sorry for myself.  I looked down at my watch, and I was averaging 8-8:30 min/miles without even trying.  Well, at least I was making good time, but I really wasn’t caring at that point.  I finally made it to the finishing chute, AGAIN!  I was congratulated again in German.  I walked right past the medals, shirts, and lays.  I wanted to find my husband, and tell him what happened and how horrible my race was, and plus, I just needed a hug.  I couldn’t find him, so I went back to the transition area and took my time getting all of my stuff together.  I found a rock to sit on, and waiting by the transition area for Renee to finish.  I knew that she would be able tell me where everyone was.  It started to rain again.  I sat there, and started to feel sorry for myself again!  I don’t deserve to even wear this finisher’s medal, I thought.  I didn’t do the whole race.  I finally found my husband, and fell into his arms, and started sobbing.  I told him what happened, and he just started laughing softly.  He told me that it wasn’t my fault if the race helpers directed me into the wrong area, and I couldn’t get out of it.  It was just a little race.  He was proud of me for finishing even though I went through so much trouble.  He told me what I had been trying to tell myself the whole time.  “You are not defined by missing 7 miles on the bike.  You biked 20 miles the other day, and ran 5 after (way more than what this race was).  You know that you could have done it, and I know that you could have done it.”  I love my husband.  He is my rock.  Sometimes, it just helps to hear things from other people, and not just yourself.

Looking back on yesterday, I know that I did all that I could to get back on track after being off course a few times for the race.  The world didn’t stop turning after I made the wrong turn somewhere for the bike course, and I didn’t die after not completing ALL of the race. This was definitely a learning experience for racing in general and in Europe.  I learned:

  • Don’t assume every German knows English.
  • Don’t assume the helpers know what is going on with other parts of the race.
  • Don’t have a negative attitude if you make a mistake.  It will eat you up.  I spent so much energy freaking out, and crying for the last half of the race.  If you do happen to make a mistake, consider it a “training” day, and get on with your life!
  • Finally and most importantly, make sure that YOU know the course and the rules.

You live and learn!  For the record, I will be wearing my finishers t-shirt to work out in.  I DID earn it with all of the stress that I went through that day, and after all, I did have to cross the finish line twice to earn it!  🙂


{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Renee Champagne September 6, 2009, 12:21 pm


    We had fun! We laughed! You even laughed! We didn’t do it to compete and you rocked the swim and run oh and 7km of the bike. You are an amazing woman and I am so happy we did that together. You gave great advice at the end of your blog about what to do. “Live and Learn” great quote.


    • Nicole September 6, 2009, 12:39 pm

      Thank you, lady! I’m glad that we did it together too!!! You did great!! Now, we just need to work on getting you a road bike, and me my own wetsuit!

  • Heather September 6, 2009, 2:36 pm

    You are AWESOME! I’m really enjoying your blog. 🙂

  • caitlin September 6, 2009, 8:53 pm

    OH MAN! what a journey. i think you should like at this experience like “i raced in 1.5 triathlons today” LOL 🙂 good job on finishing and im really glad you kept your head up.

    i’m going to post your story on my blog soon!!

    • Nicole September 6, 2009, 8:56 pm

      Thank you so much!!!! Yeah, it was an interesting journey for sure!! I plan on doing more of these while we are over here, and I (hopefully) won’t be making these same mistakes!! I kept thinking to myself while I was crying, “I’m probably going to be laughing about this whole thing tomorrow!” And you know what, I am!

  • Holly September 7, 2009, 8:27 pm

    oh my gosh…you go girl. that is seriously amazing. i am so happy for you – you give me inspiration to do a triathlon of my own!

  • haya September 8, 2009, 2:50 pm

    you are a rockstar! i definitely would have had a meltdown in that situation.
    i think triathlons are confusing even when you speak the language properly! you handled it really well (hurray for rational, calm husbands) and i think your finisher’s medal (which you totally deserve!) is going to be a great reminder of overcoming adversity and finishing what you started even when things go wrong.

  • The Big Blue Dog September 8, 2009, 3:02 pm

    Wow! Congrats on the tri! I am training for my first. Just found your blog can’t wait to read more!

  • Kimberly September 9, 2009, 4:20 am

    Wow! I think you earned it, too, Nikki! Keep training and next time follow your own rules! I’m just as proud of you as Steve! I’m doing a 5K run this weekend. . .Yay for your way less athletic sister!

  • Mom September 10, 2009, 12:51 am


    Congrats on finishing the tri! Your persistence during the race has inspired me to be more athletic, even though I am already 53. Your style of writing is from the heart. I’m sure your readers can feel what you’re feeling as they read your blog. I especially enjoyed the lessons learned at the end of your writing. Steve is definitely your ROCK.

  • Tanya September 11, 2009, 6:05 pm

    hey girl — I loved this post…not for the pain or agony that you endured to finish your race, but for the mental stamina you wrestled to get through it.

    You are a TRUE GOTRIbal girl…. no doubt.

    Now we need to get you a wetsuit! Fortunately, that is ENTIRELY POSSIBLE with our XTERRA partner.

    Let’s make it happen.
    Onward and upward,

  • Maike Alberti September 15, 2009, 9:31 pm

    I’m German and feel so sorry about your bad experience back in my home country, since I just had a great time at my first Tri here in the US! I did the Pumpkinman Sprint Tri in Maine and everything was perfect – briefing, volunteers, course, etc. I really hope your next Tri is going to make up for it…

    • Nicole September 15, 2009, 10:04 pm

      Don’t worry about it!! I did a tri in Baumholder about 30 min from Ramstein about a couple of months ago that was great!!! It was my fault for not knowing German!! I’m glad that you had a good first tri experience in Maine!

  • Kathy June 22, 2010, 12:47 am

    I think it is so cool you got to go to Cologne. My husband and I are planning a trip to Germany in November and this will be our first stop. I won’t be doing a triathalon there though! I love the food on your site.

    We are updated our website this week and should have it up and running by Friday. Hope you will stop by. Our main website is actually, but it should be under construction for awhile. I am trying to get healthier myself. It is hard.

    • Nicole June 26, 2010, 9:07 am

      Thanks for stopping by! You guys will love Cologne! It was absolutely beautiful!

      Stop by and comment again when your site is up and running. I would love to check it out!

      • kathy July 2, 2010, 2:16 am


        Hey–our site is up and running now—check it out and give me some feedback or make a comment on a post—


  • Dave B August 19, 2010, 8:02 am


    I know your race report is a little old, but I just read it. Kudos to you for finishing up strong! It’s tough to do a race where your native tongue isn’t the same as the volunteers! Tri’s are tough in general – and I’ve done a few races where the bike course is multiple loops. It’s not easy to keep focus. Very well done.

    Don’t stop doing the tri’s!

    • Nicole August 19, 2010, 8:35 am

      Oh, I haven’t. 😉 Thanks for commenting! That race sucked! Hopefully, my half ironman will go better in about 4 1/2 weeks. 😉


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