2015 Ironman Austria

Coach’s remarks: It’s a great report card here, it really sums up what its all about for an IM debutante, a great read. Was a pleasure training you Oz.

Coach – Firstly, a massive thanks for all your help over the last 4 months and welcoming me to T2A. It has been amazing. I would still be out there curled up in a heap part way up the Rupertiberg in Austria if it hadn’t have been for your training regime. I jumped in at the deep end going long in my first season and only my 3rd triathlon and have come a long way since I started. My Dad always taught me to set goals beyond what you think are achievable. This time last year I thought I’d maybe be able to run a half marathon so I entered a full marathon. Then I fancied the idea of a triathlon so I entered a full Ironman. Not only does this enable you to keep surpassing goals set when unfit or unused to a distance/event but it also means you keep asking your body questions and it’s only when you get training and start the journey that you begin to get answers and learn what your body is capable of and how it responds to the training. Achieving 13:30 in Austria when I look at where I started and where I got to in a short amount of time sits well with me and has left me confident and determined to get better because I know my body is still learning.

Flew into Venice from Abu Dhabi and drove nearly 2.5hrs north to Klagenfurt in Austria through the Italian Dolomites. This place is Europe at it’s best in Summer, stunning scenery and awesome weather. Met up with mates in a town called Velden on the west of Lake Wothersee, 20km from where the race start was. Great strategy as it meant enough quiet time away from the buzz of the expo/start area yet close enough to drive to in a few minutes. They also had a car convention in Velden so just about every Austrian and German Hugo Boss lookalike with a supercar was in town along with the trophy wife/girlfriend. Dubai would be jealous!
Settled into the motel – only place I’ve ever stayed with no reception, just an electronic check-in 24hrs. The swingers club next door and the pimp rooms with mirrors in strange places and pictures of titties on the walls all gave clues as to what really goes on here outside Ironman weekend! This weekend though it was full of triathletes and I’m not aware of any wife swapping that went on!
Friday, did the usual short bike ride along part of the course and went to Klagenfurt to register and have a swim in the lake, including a quick lesson from a few mates who swim 1hr splits. The scenery here is what brought my mates back to this place again this year and I don’t blame them. I stuck to advice and didn’t exert myself too much. Tried to soak in the atmosphere as much as possible and took full advantage of the carb loading by eating at least 3 pizzas a day!

Night before the race I slept well, good breakfast and down to Klagenfurt. Bottles and GPS on bike, checked bags then over to secret toilet at local campsite. A bit of faffing around with kit but made it over to the swim warm up with 15 to go. I probably spent a bit too long warming up as when I got out of the water, all my age group were lined up ready to go in the start area. I avoided the crowds and scared a few people by launching my 6ft6 frame over several security barriers and got to the beach with 30 seconds to go.

Positioned myself over to the right near the back as the course was anti-clockwise. At the start I took it easy and passed a few of the rubbish swimmers (that was the first confidence booster.. there were swimmers worse than me!!). I then hit a wall of swimmers and for 500m was fighting alongisde them. I can’t tell you how much fun this was though compared to swimming up and down at Hamdan! Sighting was fine for the first 1.6km, then turning back into the sun it was difficult.. literally couldn’t make out anything on the shore even after swimming there the previous Friday and making a note of buildings to sight from. Looking at GPS after the race, I was swimming in a straight line for 1.6km then it was all over the place. Total distance recorded was 4.3km!! Pace was 1:48/100 which for me is excellent and in Hamdan would have resulted in a 1:07 split.. Official time was 1:17. A lot of the swim (speed) for sure was down to the last 1km in the canal were it’s easy to draft and I tried to draft quicker swimmers from age groups starting after me by following the different coloured swim caps. I spent the whole swim anaerobic and the only problem was my left shoulder ligament popping but adrenalin got me through it (it was agony after the race!). Overall, I was bricking it about the swim thinking it would be awful. Really enjoyed it though and no problem with the distance.

10mins. No comment 😉

Spoke broke as soon as I sat on the bike. Tried ripping it out but it wouldn’t budge, even with the help of a supporter’s pen knife! A marshall told me there was a mechanic tent 500m down the road so I picked up bike and ran. A pair of bolt cutters later and I was off. Had to fully open the back brake as the wheel was wobbling around. Also heard a rubbing noise for the whole bike course which I thought was the back tyre but was in fact the front brake rubbing against the front tyre (only realised when checking bike out of transition after the race). I was left paranoid that the bit of spoke left rattling around in the wheel or the rubbing noise would cause a blowout! Heart rate whilst all this was happening was at 90%+. After I got going I started smiling, until 5km in when I hit a pothole and my pre-prepared bottle of electrolyte fell out.. off the bike again to pick that up!!
Absolutely amazing scenery and the course was awesome, as was Danielle from Brazil who I passed (followed) at around the 100km mark. Sand dunes and perfect road surface are good in Dubai but riding around Lake Wothersee was stunning and a privilege. A lot of the course was quick, but what goes up, must come down, so the 70km/h downhills and quick flats were matched with plenty of grinds up hills. Rupertiburg was the biggest climb but had nothing on Hafeet in terms of length. Lesson I learnt here (and should have learnt after Hafeet) is that a rider my size needs some extra gears on big hills. I had a standard 11-28. Doing this again, I’d keep the same rear ratio but switch to a compact. On the flats I was cruising and all the Al Qudra training was giving me some very quick splits on the flats! The weather was hot but this was fine after the brutal heat of UAE.
Looking at strava, first lap was 2:45 despite the mechanicals. HR was 77%. After the initial problem with the wheel, I had to make a conscious effort to relax and settle into the ride as the initial panic and adrenalin were sending my HR too far north in parts.
Second lap, I was very conscious about pushing hard but knew I had a strategy which I had practiced time and time again in training. I knew that if I raced up those hills for another 3 hours I would be cooked on the run. My strategy therefore was to still grind up the hills but then have a good drink and some food whilst coasting the downhills, bringing the HR as low as possible and settle into a good cadence on the flats at around 70%. My legs definitely needed the extra time-out after the 2nd loop climbs. I’d remembered an interview with Mark Cavendish who had said whenever you put in an effort, it is much quicker and easier to get the lactate out of the muscles if you keep spinning so on the downhills I kept spinning even if no traction. So overall heart rate on second lap was 72% bringing an overall time of 6hrs.
I don’t think I was able to show my true colours on that bike course. They say it is quick, but that is only applicable to people who can climb quick. Speed downhill is pretty similar for everyone. I was passing a lot on the flats but only had one speed (slow) going up the bumps. One of my mates put in a 5hr split and credited that to living in Italy and riding in mountains every weekend!

Another 10 mins. No comment 😉

Run course was hot but great with thousands of supporters getting more drunk and rowdy as the day went on. Highlight was the two old Austrian men with beer guts the size of a small car in speedos drinking their way through a crate of local brew. Started the run feeling great. Got into my pace and for the first 15km I was 2 seconds / km better that my optimal run/walk time so I was bang on the money and was keeping heart rate at 77-78% whilst running. Then it was pure frustration.. My guts turned on me. Luckily north not south. I immediately started on the coke and felt great again.. for about 5km then the guts hit me again but this time 10 times worse. For at least 10km I couldn’t run as I was retching so bad. Mentally I was in a good place as I knew my legs were ok and your words kept echoing in my head.. “Just keep moving forwards”. Every time a demon flew at me I just imagined my two boys standing on the side of the run course cheering me on. I don’t think I hit the ‘wall’ as my legs were ok.. it was just a gut problem. I kept the coke going, ditched the gels and anything vaguely solid and started on orange slices. By 5km towards the end I was back on pace (better late than never) and my stomach felt settled so finished the run just as strong as the start. 5:30hrs which is an hour off pace. Yes my body was a bit fcked but after a full Ironman who’s isn’t. Mechanically I was in a much better place than after Dubai Marathon though. I guess you only find out how your body will react once you do the race so I learnt a lot here.

Running into the finish area was a mix of emotion and relief. I’d done it. So many sacrifices and 3am alarm clocks all comes down to crossing this line.