Challenge Roth 2023 – Dave Pennington:

July 13th, 2023 by

2023 was going to be the year where I was going to join the annual full distance event that JBR run and Tri club attend. The chosen race was just happened to be the iconic Challenge Roth, not only was this a race I had done before it was also my first full distance race and had a special place in my heart so I jumped at the opportunity to return! 

Jon brown (chairman of JBR) had managed to secure 19 places for the race and sent a link within the club Facebook for members to get a place at Roth on a first come first serve basis. I was happily(at the time) to be one of them. Whilst I was filling out the entry form I noticed a section where you can set out your intentions for a time of going under 9 hours. I thought to myself, could I go under 9 hours for the full distance? Was it even possible? Could I even get close? At this point I still hadn’t finished outlaw full and wasn’t doing much running volume as I was still paying close attention to the injury on my tibia. I would also need to knock over 35 minutes off my previous best at challenge Roth! 

But after a long 45 seconds of thinking there was only one thing to do, enter that category and set the bar high!!


Fast forward to 11 months later and it’s race day morning, the nerves, anxiety and pressure have well and truly set in, I have never been so nervous but it know I have to hold it together not only to race well but for Jennie (my wife)! As she is also competing and she will be just as nervous, as me or even more so! I do my best to look cool, calm and collected but I’m sure she saw through it all. 

Whilst at transition I go through the usual routine of putting bike computer on the bike, going through all the gears and making sure the bike is in an appropriate gear for the start of the bike. Put my water bottles and nutrition onto the bike that I need to get me through the event, which I can never actually fit all the nutrition I need on the bike so I will happily pick up more of what the event have on course. It pays off to have an iron gut sometimes.


The swim was the usual melee of arms, feet, legs and bodies everywhere, the first 400m was more of the WWE’s royal rumble than the start of a 3.8k swim thankfully it soon calmed down and I could just focus on the job at hand. 

Getting out the swim I looked at my watch and noted I had 1hr 4mins on the clock, this was about what I thought I was going to swim, so I was happy with the time (even though I wish it had been slightly faster but I think the royal rumble at the start had put a stop to that) 

Transition went smoothly although with a little more practice I’m sure I can knock 1min to 90 seconds off this.


On to the two lap bike course and it’s nice and fast straight out transition so I settle into pace quickly and feel good. I somehow manage to hit the 1 and only pothole in all of Germany and my bottle ejects itself and straight under my back wheel testing my bike handling skills whilst at speed and on the TT bars, my only thought was SHIT! That bottle has my carb drink in and I need it, I also notice an official who could DQ me for littering so I can the snap decision to stop and get the bottle. As I stoped and got off my bike, I thought is this the right decision? maybe, maybe not? but I had stoped and the decision had been made, the stop didn’t cost me too much time in total. (About 30 seconds in total but I need every second I have and can’t afford to give any away) 

The first lap of the bike I was having to do a lot more surging than I’ve ever had to do before on the full distance events. Not only surge but hold that surge for a while otherwise the rider I had just overtook would let their ego get the better of them and re-pass. 

There is a good reason why Roth is so hard to get entry to and that’s Solour hill, I suggest you Google it. As you approach Sollar hill all you can see is a sea of people and the noise is incredible! It’s like something from the Tour de France with the crowd sparring infront of you 10 deep on both sides for the entirety of the climb. As I start to climb I switch down onto the little ring to keep the legs spinning and the chain drops, it’s ok I shift back to the big ring and pedal slowly trying to get the chain to jump back on the one of the chain rings but it’s wedged underneath so I will have to stop and get off the bike AGAIN and sort it out manually, I jump off the bike grab the chain, pull it free free and place it back onto the small chain ring, jump back onto the bike and a lovely official gives me push for 10 meters. Now this really is like the Tour de France 😂. The second lap was a lot more controlled than the first and less eventful than the first, even with there now being many more athletes on the course. 

Coming into T2 the legs were feeling it and I couldn’t wait to get off the bike and start to run, I had hit the target time on the bike and the hours I had put on the turbo and out on the road had paid off and now all I had to do was run a marathon PB. Yep a a marathon PB by over 10 minutes 🫣

Transition (T2) 

Not a lot to report about here apart from praise the lovely volunteers that take your bike from you, help you with getting your bag and everything ready for the run. They even put sun cream on you as you’re putting on your running shoes. 


Out on to the run course and the legs feel ok, not good but ok, I look at my watch at and switch to the overall time screen. I have 3hours 3 minute left to complete this marathon, It’s a big ask after a 3.8k swim and 112 miles on the bike but I feel this is still within my ability as my running has been better and stronger than it’s ever been. I try to settle into my pace and heart rate but I keep noticing my heart rate is a little high for the pace I want to run, I tell myself not to worry about it just relax settle into the run and it will drop a few beats and be within the range I have been set. 3 miles in and the heart rate is still slightly too high, I make the decision that I need to slow slightly and let the heart rate come down, I accept that that sub 9 was not going to happen! But if I didn’t get my heart rate power I could possibly not be finishing and would most likely end up walking later in the marathon. Fast forward to 18 miles and I am struggling, really struggling, to tell you the truth I had been struggling since about the half way mark, which I know is not a good sign. But I continue to struggle and suffer. For a couple of miles I was running with a German lad who was also struggling but moving better than myself so I focussed on his feet to get me up and over the hills on the back end of the marathon, however he soon succumbed to the suffering and was frantically drinking all the cola in sight and was soon walking, so I was back to just taking my mind else where and getting on with the job. The desire to walk was almost overwhelming, but I had to keep going I must keep running! I always try to take myself away when things get tough in the back end of the marathon and the thoughts of Jennie getting the sub 12 that she was chasing, thoughts of my late Dad who I had felt before was with me around the 23 mile mark, I was going to keep running for them. 

Running into the stadium for the last 200m is an amazing experience with the crowd cheering and the MC calling out the athletes names I was just wanting that finish line but also trying to take in the atmosphere. Crossing that finish line was such relieve and joy. I had well and truly given the race everything I had and had to be helped to the recovery area, (standing was a real struggle).

I finished in 9hr13:44. (Swim 1hr04 / Bike 4hr47 / Run 3hr15)

I was soon sitting on a massage table thinking about what I had just achieve, I may or have got the sun 9 hours I had set out to achieve but I had given everything I had to that race, I really couldnt have pushed any harder without blowing up and completely sabotaging my race. 

I had knocked 23 minutes of my PB from 2019, I had taken 40 minutes off my time last year at the Outlaw Full distance. I had also completed a third full distance event going under the 10 hour mark. 

A big thank you to my coaches Paul Hart and Paul Whittaker for all the coaching and advice. For coaching and advising me coming back from injury and getting me so close to that ultimate goal. The journey is not over and I will keep chasing that sub 9. 

Hart Performance Coaching, Unit 1 King Georges Court, Billericay High Street, Essex, CM12 9BY


Phone Number: 07528 681085

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