– Spanish east coast. Calella, northeast of Barcelona. Strong winds whip up the water and the beach is closed to mere mortals. Swimming is too dangerous. But somewhere there is a bunch of a few 100 people who have to go straight into the sea. For them, it’s about proving yourself again after months of drudgery in training. But also about tickets for the Mecca of triathletes: Hawaii, World Championship.
Of the several hundred men and women at the start line at Ironman Barcelona, who had to swim less than one instead of the usual 3.9 kilometers in the sea as a precautionary measure, the helpers pulled dozens out of the sea. Two people from Bad Windsheim made it safely to the shore and then had a lot to talk about: Christian Kessel and Thomas Demann.
“The athletes literally washed ashore,” says Kessel. It was “brutal”. “You have to be very stable” in order not to lose your orientation and your composure. Kessel, a good swimmer, got along quite well, although knowing that in strong winds there were still 180 kilometers to complete on the racing bike and finally a marathon.
For Demann, Barcelona was special in every way. Not only is swimming not exactly his favorite discipline, it was also his first ever long-distance triathlon. What the 60-year-old didn’t know when he arrived: The constellation was almost perfect for him that day.
Happy after the race: Christian Kessel (left) and Thomas Demann.
In 2016, Demann, known as a doctor in the spa town, started endurance sports. Initially with races over shorter distances, but at some point an Ironman attracts most triathletes. He wanted to give himself a present for his 60th birthday, and the race in Barcelona took place two days later. He had traveled there with the family. “They also supported me as much as they could.”
Even Kessel – the two know each other from the training group from Bad Windsheim, but it happened by chance that they both competed in Barcelona – not hidden. Demann was continuously informed about the distance to his pursuers along the route. Because, as unusual as that sounds: The debutant was not the fastest in swimming, but soon took the lead in his age group on the bike course between Calella and Barcelona. This is relevant in terms of the fact that in the races of the Ironman series a certain number of starting places for the world championship are allocated per age group. In the case of the AK60-64 in Barcelona: exactly one.
Demann did his thing and in the end was actually a superior age class winner. After 9:44 minutes he was at the finish, 40 minutes ahead of the second, an Albanian. And also well ahead of Kessel, who already has a lot more experience, was in the AK35-40 and completed the race in 10:13 hours.
The big question immediately arose: should he or should he not? The starting places are only reserved for a few days. The effort involved in participating should not be underestimated. The entry fee alone is over $ 1000. Demann never expected that he would have this opportunity at all. Hawaii “is not why I’m doing this”. He started triathlon to do something for his body and clear his mind. But given his age and the fact that he might want to try other sports, the 60-year-old decided: “I’ll drive.”