Sunday, 28 July 2013

Ridiculously super awesome European driving adventure – Frankfurt and the IronMan

July 5-8

Some of my friends from home joined us for the next leg of our trip. More specifically, we were all coming together to support my friend Jon, who was attempting to become an IronMan.

No, not that IronMan. This is an extreme form of triathlon, which requires immense mental strength and resolve in addition to months of intense training. 

2.4 miles of swimming…

…followed by 112 miles of cycling…

…with a marathon to finish.

Needless to say, most of us will never do one of those arduous tasks, let alone having the desire to string those challenges together. Jon, however, has wanted to accomplish an IronMan for a while, and had entered himself in one of the biggest races of its kind in the world, in Frankfurt.

A popular driving route to Frankfurt is along the Romantic Rhein, a gorgeous stretch of road running low alongside the vast, pacy river. It is dotted with typical villages and some beautiful castles. Soon enough, however, the roads become clogged with traffic as you make a beeline towards the location of one of Europe’s busiest airports. That’s all I knew about Frankfurt, anyway, as well as the big race.

Of course, the rest of us had no need to train or prepare, so enjoyed the brilliant sunshine offered in one of Germany’s more international cities over the weekend. Though rather artificial and business-orientated in comparison to Düsseldorf and Köln, it does have some pleasant areas along the Main River which scythes through it.

 We had rented an apartment in the suburbs to the south of the river, which seemed a world away from the hum of the city centre. It was interesting to note that there were more pubs than supermarkets in the area – good to see German priorities are in the right place! For the record, the local brew is Binding, which tasted similar to Kölsch. Their speciality poison of choice is actually called Ebbelwei – apple wine. Or to our pallets, flat cider that didn’t taste particularly nice.

Having a car allowed me to take Jon around the cycle route for his race, and in the process see some of the villages to the north of the city. The hills that we needed to scale often seemed steep even in the car, emphasising the unenviable task facing the athletes. It seemed that the quaint hamlets, with their Tudoresque buildings and cobbled pathways, were the reward for the climb.

There were also some breath-taking views to be seen at the highest point of the course, before we snaked back down to Frankfurt.

Sunday was Jon’s big day. After a 3:45am wake-up to collect him and his girlfriend, we drove to a lake south of the airport, where everything was due to kick off at 7am. Professionals, who start 15 minutes earlier, try to complete these races in around 8 hours, so they take up most of a contestant’s day.

The start of the mass race is quite a sight. It actually looks more like a flock of gulls skimming across the water. All you see are red hats bobbing around and lots of arms flailing and splashing in chaotic harmony. It was obviously difficult to spot Jon from the rest of the pack, so I took leave at this point to return to the centre, getting a free hat for my troubles.

We headed to the centre and found a grassy bank from which to support him during the run, the final discipline. Once again, people can look very similar as they struggle along the banks of the river, resulting in us almost missing Jon run by on the first of his four laps.

This race, however, was not the only major sporting evening occurring on this Super Sunday. We had done some earlier scouting and found a place that delightedly informed us that they would show the Wimbledon final. It was thus rather annoying when this place was showing the triathlon, cycling and football from the previous season, before subsequently realised that they didn’t have the correct channel to show the tennis on.

After having a slight argument with the owners about the ethics of selling alcohol to people who are solely at a venue to watch a sporting event that they consequently will not show (the handcuff gesture from one of the waitresses resulted in us paying) and scampering across the centre, we found an Irish bar showing tennis, and joyously watched most of Andy Murray breaking one of British sport’s biggest hoodoos. I say most – we missed part of it to cheer an exhausted but smiling Jon over the finish line. An incredible feat.

As for Frankfurt, it’s a place that I imagine is pleasant for business folk, but in reality lacked the X-factor to make it a truly wonderful and appealing global city. It was lovely to have a bed for a weekend, but it was time to return to our tent and return to the road.

 Love you all


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