Ironman Frankfurt 2019 Race Report & Review: That was an evil joke (English version)

The truth is that Sunday 30th of June will be remembered by all the athletes competing in Ironman Frankfurt. The weather forecast during the race week called for high temperatures and heatwave in Central Europe, so we knew that the race day would be extremely difficult, challenging the athletes as well as the organization awareness. 

Let’s take the facts, step by step

IM Frankfurt’ official website, had special section the week prior to event called “Heat”.  In addition, 2 emails were sent to athletes one on Thursday 27th and another on Saturday 29th, providing useful tips and guidelines, about the very hot Sunday on 30 June.

Dear John Katopodis 

As you will be aware, we are expecting unusually high temperatures for this weekend’s race, as well as high water temperatures. 
Please take note of the following important information to prepare for the event:

According to our rules and regulations the use of neoprene-suits/wetsuits is permitted up to a water temperature of 24,5 degrees Celsius 
(76,1 degrees Fahrenheit). The water temperature is currently above this limit and athletes are requested to prepare for a non-wetsuit swim 
as per the 2019 IRONMAN Competition Rules section 4.02 and 4.03. The final water temperature reading will be taken 1 hour before race start
upon which athletes will be advised of the final decision by race officials. 

Athletes are reminded that in the event of a non-wetsuit swim, only 100% textile-based swimwear will be allowed. 
Athletes will not be allowed to enter the water with a wetsuit.

Please view the 2019 IRONMAN Competition Rules here for more info.

Heat puts additional stress on your body. We ask all athletes and people accompanying them to prepare themselves for an extremely hot race day:
Drink enough – during the race but also in the days before
Use sunscreen – apply before the race, after the swim and bike
Wear headgear – fill with ice and put it back on
Use gels and fluids – but little solid food during the race
Take a water bottle at the last bike aid station and cool your head and neck
Use salt – we provide salt sticks on the run course
Cool your body – we offer sponges and ice on the run course. Put sponges under your tri gear to help cool your body
Avoid sun – stay out of the sun in the days before the race
Regularly consume electrolyte drinks – under no circumstances should you only drink tap water during race day 
Please remember: It’s about your health and safety on race day. If you have any questions or need more information on race day, please 
contact our staff. If you are feeling unwell on race, please get to an aid station for evaluation.

We wish you a safe and enjoyable race.
Your IRONMAN Germany team

But, what did actually happen?

  • Race briefing on Friday, 28th June, at 34oC under the hot sun with no protection for the athletes, without the slightest alternative plan by the organizers to transfer to another, covered and cool area. Absolutely, reasonable because such a decision costs a few hundred euros. It is the organizers’ tradition of making the race briefing at that specific point (Romerberg) in the last few years, which obviously never changes. Nevertheless, the athletes had been instructed to stay .. in a cool and shady place!!
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Friday’ race briefing … 34οC !!
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Race briefing under hot sun, even the directions to athletes were completely opposite
  • Afterwards, in context of an informal conversation between athletes and organizer, we addressed  Race Director, from France, Mr. Pascal Morillon. The question we asked him was whether he did estimate the race conditions correctly and if he has in mind a Plan B: we specifically  mentioned the word “extend” concerning to the cut-off limit (15h) due to the high temperatures. With a very ironic and arrogant style, he replied: “It’s a race and as a race there are some rules,” something we leave it to athletes’ and readers’ discretion.
  • A couple of hours later, IM France(17h cut off)  announced updated race course info. Obviously having as its main concern, the safety and health of the athletes, announced that the bike leg was set at 152 Km and the 30 km run (with the swimming at 3800, but non wetsuit).   
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Η οργανωτική επιτροπή του IM France 2019, ανακοινώνει ότι αναπροσαρμόζει τα δεδομένα (αποστάσεις του αγώνα), με γνώμονα την ασφάλεια και υγεία, των αθλητών, εθελοντών και συνοδών/πολιτών
  • Sunday 29.06: Athletes were waiting,actually standing under the very hot sun, about 45-55 min on Saturday noon, in order to transfer their bikes to Lake Waldesee, 13 km far from Frankfurt. We kindly asked the bus driver what caused all that mess and we informed that ONLY 7 busses were on duty for 3200 registered athletes. On our way back the same phenomenon took place again. Most of athletes were suffering from sunstroke. Seems that nobody cares about them, even it was supposed to be such a hot day, only few hours before racing!
  • On Sunday 35 buses were on duty!
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on way to bike check in: waiting time 50-55 min, again under sun and .. 36oC
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transferring to bike check in: European championship experience
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Waiting time (again) up to 55′ on the way back to Frankfurt city (after bike check in process)
  • Sunday 30.06: Water tempruture 25.5 oC: Non wetsuit use (fair decision)
  • Was no water supply in T1, when it was supposed to be such a hot day! Only after swimming exit. We are talking just about water: something that is so so simple. I shared my 1lt of water with 6-7 athletes, that I really didn’t personally know them before, but they were almost dehydrated. 
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T1: before race starts
  • ONLY 15 portable WC in T1 zone, for about +3000 athletes, hundreds of volunteers (there were some others for the spectators, not in T1). Time was about 06.39, race had started since 06.30 and there were round 100 athletes on the “waiting list” (was one of them, waiting my turn since 06:05:00). 
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Limited place for WC, proven even by Athletes’ Guide
  • Swimming was supposed to be wave/rolling start: another joke, of the day. NO rules, ZERO control, volunteers were NOT stopping athletes by their hands every 5 or 10 seconds or whatever time limit was supposed to be the wave start (like it happens in other races). Check race video and you can see that in Wave start group 1.20.00 – 1.30.00 , all athletes moved to the lake, all together at the same time, like it happened in IM races, before 2015.  
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  • The worst of all, in the swimming start (check more detailed at the videos)  there were many women, kids, friends of the athletes, as there were NO control, by anyone! Of course, you could blame athletes for this kind of attitude (“guests” were their friends or relatives), but when there is no control, everyone can do what they might want. Personally, I complained many times to volunteers but was too late for them to control the situation. 
  • There were many injured athletes, from broken glasses or any other sharped things (bibs are at organizer’s disposal), as a result of being several people in athlete’s area with bags and many other things. Similar cases on what happened with Sebi in T2.
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  • Having the experience of 2013 race, I could not understand why the swimming loops was scheduled the way that you could not see on the way back towards to the swim exit (in both loops): Athletes could not see the buoys, due to the sunrise time of the day. Very bad planning of the swimming course.
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from 700m up to 1500m plus from 2500m up to 3500m, athletes were swimming towards the sun (limited visibility)
  • Same bad planning for the bike course of 185 km: no one of the athletes could understand why it should turn around on Friedberg city, while they could return back much earlier without these extra 5 kms..
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Official Bike course map: It’s obvius that there was no reason to enter to  Friedberg city in order to make the “U Turn”, so that extra 5kms could never been added 
  • In terms of aid station, was an important gab from 60km to 90km and from 150Km to 180Km where there was only water station and that was one of the most difficult parts of the cycling route and wanted more frequent support having extreme weather conditions.
  • Most of the athletes dropped out during the bike. The organization insistence direct the athletes to a health center or hospital to disclaim any responsibility on them, leaving the athlete alone to deal with the process, personally surpasses me. No one starts an IM race, having a credit card,cash or mobile with, in case of emergency. The thing they explained to me during my transfer was that I had to arrange my own procedures with the Hospital by myself and how I would return to my hotel after my discharge. Not having with me any money, no health card, no credit card or mobile communication. Let the “responsibility on top of us” go, and then “run on your own”, “your responsibility is yours” (the organizer clearly stated that all athletes ought to be insured on their own).
Medical support

The Medical Team of the IRONMAN European Championship guarantees an optimum level of medical support at any time. During the race doctors
and first aid personnel of the German Red Cross will attend the swim course at Langener Waldsee, each aid station along the bike course and the run course.
When crossing the finish line every athlete is taken care of by the finish area team. A doctor will check the physical condition.
Afterwards a member of the finish area team will lead the athlete to the Athletes Garden. Please obey the orders of the medical staff at all times.
Since hot summer weather is expected it is necessary to drink plenty of water and/or isotonic drinks during the race and after the finish.
Every competitor must have an own individual health insurance which covers medical treatment in case of serious injury or illness as well as 
the treatment in a hospital.
  • Concerning the run leg, the fact that the Marathon starts at 39oC and even at 42oC is recorded, I think there is no need for an additional comment from the author. Do you know many “regular” Marathons start and finish under these circumstances? The fact that only 26 of the +50 Pro Men finished the race,means a lot (just 12 with sub9h time, and 3 with a time over 10h). Check from the organizer’s official tracker the athlete’s abandon rate :
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Screenshot on the left was taken only 2h after Frodeno finish’ time. Screenshot on the right was taken after cut off time (15h): 2729 vs 2064!!

People were suffering from all these extremely hot weather conditions and it seems that the organization was interesting ONLY about the Pro’s race, between Frodo and Sebi. It’s a nice motivation story about Sarah Truth but honestly, athletes in most forums are still very upset about what happened, feeling unprotected or having the feeling that WTC is only taking care about money. Even so far, 5 people are already dead during 2019 within IM races and this figure could be increased. But as somebody wrote in a forum, if that happened, the Press Release was ready to deliver.

I am really curious, what IM Frankfurt race director said, about the fact that 900 athletes, dropped of the race, while 1 out of 2 athletes, after crossing the finished line, moved to the medical tent for 1rst aid help. Is he really happy for both figures and situations that took place during weekend? Is he happy about the fact that Frankfurt city, was like a War Zone, on Sunday afternoon from ambulances’ alarms?

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