2013 Ironman Austria

2317 Guy Higgs, GBR
Position in AG 45-49: 158 / Finish time: 11:18:06
Swim: 1:08:14 // T1: 5:51 // Bike: 5:37:09 // T2: 6:05 // Run: 4:20:47

Coach’s remarks: Great report Higgsy!!! Team, grab a coffee, especially for the newbies looking at racing tips. Higgsy is a complete soldier with our approach to training. He reminds me of athletes such as Capt.Carl and National amongst others who never miss a session I give them. I never realised he is now an “official Ironman” as I see Roth etc as Ironman events. That shows up my age and time in the sport as Roth was one of the very first established Ironman events staged alongside Canada, NZ, Australia, Japan and Kona. There, that’s your history lesson for today. Higgsy, I want you in Sweden Ironman 2014 if I have my way!! Great racing, a PB and came through safe and looking for more!! – CP

Dear Coach & Team,
Well its official “Guy you are an Ironman”. To hear those words boom through the PA and over the noise of the tens of thousands of supporters lining the finish area, is a truly emotional experience. A moment that encapsulates 8 months of hard training and self-sacrifice. Its been a tough 8 months for one reason or another mostly with home issues and monster work loads. Three and half years ago I weighed in at 107.5kgs and was diagnosed with obesity and high blood sugar. I had just had knee surgery and the curse of the Dubai lifestyle had got hold of me. Thanks to the physio I entered the fry and try Ghantoot in 2010. I haven’t look back since.

A few days before the race I have a long chat with coach. We discussed a race strategy based on 3 objectives. 1- Finish, 2- beat my distance personal best of 11hrs 22mins and 3- go sub 11 hrs.
I flew out On Thursday 27th along with the family. We were met by the Nirvana team and jumped into a mini bus for the 3 drive to Klagenfurt. The journey was long but broken up by the banter and chatter of our minibus comrades and fellow racers. Its a small world as one of them “Angela” is a mate of none other than travelling triathlete himslef Jordo!
Friday the 28th was registration day and familiarization of the start/finish and transition areas. This was a real goose bump experience as you lined up to register with 2800 other athletes. The race venue is the small southern Austrian town of Klagenfurt and this year is the 15th anniversary of the race. Klagenfurt is a beautiful town nestled on the shores of Lake Worther See. The lake is crystal clear aqua blue fresh water which the locals boast that is good enough to drink. The water temperature was 21c so that meant that on race day competitors would be permitted to wear a wetsuit. The lake is surrounded by snowcapped mountains and providing a stunning back drop to an international event that would be televised in over 100 countries via the ESPN and FOX channel franchises.
Saturday the 29th was bike and run course familiarization day as well as the IronKids and IronGirl events. IronKids is an important event as my 8 year old son Oliver was competing. In his event the race was a 50m swim then a 450m run. I had arranged a tour of the bike course and wow what a course. The course is supposedly one of the fastest Ironman courses and is where Marion Vanhoenecker broke the world record. Well, it became very clear that this was going to be a tough course. The course is a 2 loop 90Km course taking in 1600m of climbing and ascending the infamous hills (erm..mountains!) of Velden, Rosegg, St Niklas and St Rupertiberg and you have to climb them twice. The run course, again 2 loops, was flat and relatively shaded taking you through the suburban area of Krumpendorf and then into the center of Klagenfurt. The IronKids event was fantastic for the kids and really made them feel part of the Ironman family. Oliver did very well and came 7th out of 35 in his age group. Oliver Higgs you are an Ironkid. To see his beaming face when he received his finisher medal and t-shirt was a truly amazing moment.
Race day
Unusually, I had a good 8 hours sleep and awoke at 4am and ate a light breakfast of porridge oats and tea before taking the transport into Klagenfurt and the race venue. As I walked into the bike transition area the butterflies in my stomach began. Normally, I am quite nervous before a race and today was no different. The slight difference was that I was really looking forward to hearing the cannon go off and get cracking. I felt a bit like a caged tiger; I just wanted to get on with it. The transition area was busy with athletes making their final preparations. I have a set routine that goes back to my military days. I always do things in a set order.  I set my fluids and nutrition onto the bike, tied elastics from my bike shoes and double checked the all the bits that could potentially fall off.
The 10 minute walk to the swim start was full of nerves but the it was amazing to walk alongside thousands of athletes many of whom where racing their first Ironman. The chatter was excited and loud. Once at the swim start I put on my wetsuit and applied Vaseline to all the parts of the body that could rub and get sore over 226km of racing. I managed to meet up with Elliott and Tiget Tabal. The PA system banged out Euro pop and the announcer gave us the countdown to race start.
Boom! The cannon went off and 2800 athletes hit the water. To the spectator it is a stunning sight and is affectionately known as the washing machine but believe me when I say that being inside it was not fun. It was a war out there and every swimmer was battling for clear water. I could not get into any rhythm  at all. Normally, I breathe every 4 stroke but today I was breathing every stroke. Twice I had my goggles ripped from head so twice I had to turn onto my back and put them back on. The sad part was that there was a few competitors out to ruin race days for some as I noticed a few hands reaching down legas to rip off timing chips. After what seems an age I reached the first turn buoy at 1230m. It was only another 470m to the next turn buoy which went much quicker. It was only after that buoy did I manage to get into some form of rhythm. Ironman Austria has a unique swim finish in that the last 900m is down a canal. The canal is a bout 20m wide so if you have hundreds of swimmers entering the canal it can get a bit feisty and believe me it was no different. Eventually, I reached the swim exit and hauled myself out of the water. I checked my Garmin and it read 1hr8mins. Not bad. Not as quick as Challenge Roth last year (1hr4mins) but given the battles I just had I was pretty pleased with that. There were a few racers with blood on their faces and clealry the odd earring had been ripped out as well. An offical told me after the race that there were 2 broken arms and 1 leg!
There is a 600m run to bike transition. So whilst running I took off my swim hat, goggles and began peeling my wet suit off down to the waist. Into transition I picked up my blue bike kit bag and ran to the bike. Tipped out all the kit, took off the wetsuit and put that in the bag as per race rules. Socks on, Helmet on, sunglasses on; grabbed the bike and pushed the bike towards the bike transition exit. The crowd at this point is cheering and screaming out your name. The Austrians amongst the spectators were either blowing their little horns (which sound like a strangled duck) or clanging their giant cow bells. Onto the bike and I was away. Slipped my feet into the shoes (already clipped onto the pedals) and straight into the aero position. The first 30km was fairly quick over an undulating road alongside the southern part of the Worther See lake. The first hill is in the village of Velden which was Ok as was the second hill at Rosegg but the next was a killer. St Niklas is a long slow ascent over 3km climbing from sea level to 650m. All the way to the top the road is lined with spectators blowing their horns and clanging their bells, shouting up up up! The crowd gets very close to the racers and is considered the Tour de France moment. It was great to have that crowd urging you up but boy it hurt. My bike strategy was quite simple; keep it steady at 31-32kph on the flat, work up the hills, don’t pedal down hills to conserve energy and keep my heart rate at a steady 65% of maximum that’s about 110bpm . The down hills were pretty fast in stages with speeds of up to 70kph being reached. I was not different. By far the biggest and steepest hill was St Rupertiberg. A massive ascent of over 700m but very short and steep. By the time I got to the top my legs were burning and my heart rate was soaring. At the top the crowd is encouraging and there is a PA system pumping out Euro pop to keep you motivated if you like that sort of thing. The descent from St. Rupertiberg is a long and fast 25km back towards transition and the 90km marker and turn around point. The 5km in and around the 90km turn point is packed with spectators, family and friends urging athletes on and a great spectacle for anyone. At the turn all I could think about was I had to go up those hills again! The second lap was pretty much a blur and was just about keeping to my strategy and conserving energy as much as possible. The Rosegg hill went in a flash and St Rupertiberg came quicker than I anticipated. The long descent into transition was steady as I concentrated on conserving as much energy as possible and keeping my heart rate down. As I entered transition and hopped off the bike my legs went like jelly. I checked Garmin and it read 5hrs 36mins, 14 minutes quicker than Roth! A competitor in front of me collapsed with severe cramps in the legs and needed medical assistance. I racked my bike, grabbed my red run bag, tipped everything out. Sat down. Helmet off into bag. Fresh socks on, runners on, run belt on (carrying nutrition), visor cap on and off I go! Not so fast I needed the loo. I had managed to pee two or three times on the bike but this time I really did need to go. Sods law when you needed to pee it wont come out but boy when it did I pissed like a horse for what seems an age. Hence the long T2 time. Note to self. Pee whilst running next time! My race strategy again was quite simple. Try to get into a rhythm and keep a steady 6kph for 15mins and walk for 5mins. Ironman rules state that music IPods are not allowed. Normally, I train with an IPod so keeping a steady rhythm was going to be challenging. According to Garmin my first 5km I averaged 5.4mins per Km and an average Heart rate of 75%. Slightly faster than planned. However, I was feeling comfortable but I was conscious that with another 37km to go I needed to slow down a bit plus the sun was now at its peak it was hot. I soon got into my running rhythm. For those who know me when I get into that rhythm I am almost robotic. I soon forgot about the race strategy and just kept running almost Forest Gump style. The aid stations were every 2.5km so I just concentrated on running from aid station to aid station taking on water and ice cool sponges to keep the core temperature down. The first lap through Krumpendorf back through the race venue and into Klagenfurt was all about conserving energy and keeping to a rhythm. I ran into the cobbled square of Klagenfurt I was met with a throng of crowd cheering athletes on whilst sat in the café’s drinking beer and eating huge portions of Weiner schnitzel. So unfair! I rang the bell in the square. The sponsors would donate 1 euro per ring of the bell. A total of Euro 8360 was raised for charity. As I started the second lap I managed to connect with the family. It was good to see them and have them run alongside for a few moments. Garmin was telling me I was slowing down but that was OK I was still just over my 6min per km pace. At 36.63km the Garmin battery died so now I was really on my own. 6km plus to go and I had no clue where I was in my timing. I just made a mental note to keep going and go as fast as possible for the last 2km. As I hit the 40Km marker I could hear the announcer shouting “ You are an ironman”. This urged me on and I began to pick up my pace. As I entered the finish chute and onto the famous red carpet it was a truly emotional feeling. All that hard work. 6 months of training. 6 months of 2am get ups. 6 months of sacrifice all came down to one sentence “Guy….youoooooo are an Ironman”. A truly amazing and emotional experienced all wrapped up in 11hrs18mins and 5 seconds. A personal best and a finish. A medal. A T-Shirt and the knowledge that of the 7 billion people on this planet I am one of only 200,000 that become Ironmen and women every year. Above and beyond all that the best moment was at the finish when I got a big hug from my boys and they said ‘ Daddy you are an Ironman but are still our Daddy”
I would like to say a big personal thanks to all of your who sent me messages via facebook and sms. I would like to thank all of you who logged on to IMlive and watch my progress. Believe me it does help knowing that you are all watching. It matters. I would like to thank those of the team who trained with me and gave me the inspiration and support such as Capt Carl, Capt J, National, Venny, Stevie, Henry and Elliott. I have forgotten to mention you..sorry
So what next? I plan to race the Challenge Half Distance in Phuket in December. Abu Dhabi Short or even maybe long in March 2014 and dependent on coach, work and family commitments South Africa Ironman on April 6, 2014 or IM Sweden.
Best wishes and thanks for your support,
Higgsy

Ironman Austria took place on 30th June 2013 in Klagenfurt – you can find the overall results and information on the race here