Pre-race, the city was teeming with yellow and stamped with skulls and crossbones. The question ‘who are these pirates?’ was asked in 25 different languages. The roadsweepers, the shopkeepers, the motorbike officials – all had a wave and a cheer for this motley crew. But how did they fare?
A sea of Pirates on the 3.8K swim
With the sun bouncing the heat off Frankfurt’s cobbled centre onto thermometers that showed 118 degrees the day before the race, there were justifiable concerns from every quarter. The announcement that – for the first time in European Ironman history – no wetsuits would be allowed, knocked the fragile confidence of several of the weaker swimmers. As they marched down to the water’s edge the smiles were tight, the faces pale. Then they were off, and flashes of yellow were soon obscured in the thrashing maelstrom that typifies an Ironman start.
One by one, pirates emerged – MisterM, IronMike and Medium Dave the first three, and strong times from several others – but as the cut-off neared there were concerns for the last few. Where were the novices Donald, Kanga and Plum? And where was Cougie, already 45 minutes over his last Ironman swim? Eventually three of them arrived within the time limit, but Plum was still out there. At last, the exit almost obscured by a thunderous downpour, he came, he swore, he clambered over the deflated archway and headed for the bike, allowed to continue by sympathetic officials.
The torrential rain marked a hard first hour on the bike. The road was slippery, visibility was poor, and many racers, including pirate Keg-Killer, could be seen shivering as they pedalled. But many had got off to a storming start, with five pirates completing the full course in under 5:30, another 13 of them in less than six hours. Iron Rose and RichardM, friendly but steely rivals at the top end, had just three seconds between them on the bike leg. Strong, steady performances were marred for some by falls – Zilla, chasing IM Switzerland DNF demons, came off hard but continued – and for others by punctures, Swiss Bobby within the first kilometer!
Then, disaster as the Pirate Ship of Fools was scuppered. An unusual cut-off for the first lap of the bike took eight prisoners, five of them novices, three of them with successful Ironman finishes in previous years. Shattered that their first IM experience should end even before halfway, Meldy, Bendy Jan, Keg Killer, Donald and Plum nevertheless rallied and lent their voice to the horde of pirate supporters later in the day, along with Ironwolf, Barley and Cougie – who completed the marathon ‘for fun’ anyway, and did his supporting along the way.