IRONMAN AUSTRIA

Posted on: July 9th, 2012 by admin

Inspired last July, by the reports of Ironman Austria (swim 2.5 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26 miles) and with slots still available the following day, I decided to enter the 2011 race.

 

Since then, it’s been an interesting journey, I started swimming in October/ November once per week and after 7/8 weeks, found I had rekindled my form, if not my speed and endurance. Cycling, was going to be a gradual build up and in the new year we started riding both weekend days rather than one longer day in the saddle. Running I have some regular runs and hoped that with an increase in miles I’d establish a good endurance base to see me through the marathon leg of the race.

I adapted my time trial bike to a less aggressive position and trained on it from March, so come race day, it felt as familiar as my armchair.

Come what race day, training had gone ok, I was confident about the bike, nervous about the swim start, but believed, I just had to get my head around swimming for a long time. Running hadn’t been as consistent as I would have liked and felt a little short of miles in my legs. However, I realise the ironman run is not like a normal marathon and it’s a case of just running….

Klagenfurt and the surrounding area, didn’t disappoint, a beautiful lake surrounded by rolling hills and the Alps providing the back drop.

Three friends of Team Bodylab joined me to take part, Richard, Dave and Ian. We were all pretty relaxed and not feeling too pressured to perform, we were there more for the challenge and to enjoy the event, a good relaxed atmosphere, perfect for the race build up.
Come race day, we were all slightly nervous, wanting our own space but trying to be there for each other, announcements count down, ‘15 minutes to the start’ etc, the start is situated between three piers, nearly 3000 people standing on a beach some 20’ deep. Between the first two piers are the slower starters, the next two the faster. I walk up into the faster starters and head to the top corner, looks like a lot of people thought the same, so i head down into the middle, not where i want to be, so I stand back, to let the initial frenzy go and then swim through it!

 

7am, national anthem, a blessing from a priest and then ‘bang’ were off. People are running into the water, it looks like a washing machine, I walk down, losing time maybe, but I’m relaxed and find i’m swimming slow, but calm enough to navigate through the crowds, I head for the outside of the group, clear water, odd swimmers to follow and a nice relaxed swim ahead. No real blips, I’m swimming along, thinking about the bike, the wetsuit, just getting into the zone. After 2900m the swim funnels into a canal, I get tied up behind a swimmer snaking along, very hard to get past him and he’s slowing me down, however, I’m also conscious about using up too much energy, so bide my time and eventually pass him. I had a few landmarks in my mind, a bridge and some boats, as these became visible, I could countdown the swim and reach the turn into the swim finish – 15m, I take my goggles off, only to find the water deepens again so have to swim the last 20 metre without goggles – schoolboy error!!

 

It’s a long run to the transition, by the time I get there, my wetsuit is half off and I can slip on my vest, helmet and shoes. I fill my pockets some energy supplies for later, and head off to the bike. It’s taken 8 minutes, not very fast, but my body is recovered from the swim and I am ready to go.

 

Trying to take the bike easy, the pace is fast, but I’m steadily passing people, going alongside the lake, speed hovering around 23mph, could go faster, but this pace feels good, little energy usage, preserving everything I can for later in the ride. It’s a two lap course, a few small hills and one largish climb with a false summit, i.e. you think you have finished the climb, only to find, you’re only halfway up. There were a lot of groups forming, not legal, and some people really benefitting from drafting, I tried to avoid, by either dropping back or passing them, which I found quite easy to do whenever there were any inclines. I’m disheartened, when I pass a sign stating 60kms down, but when I look at the time, I realise I’m doing just fine. Richard, has told me get over the big hill and it’s downhill back to Klagenfurt, I didn’t quite find this to be the case, but that thought picked me up and got me all the way back…90kms down.

 

 

First lap, 2:35, putting me on for around 5:10 total bike….. the second lap is going to be more of a test of my fitness, can i maintain this pace? It’s going well, strong on hills although working a little harder and generally passing other cyclists. I climb into a small village, I guess around 25/30 miles into the second lap, as I pass some cyclists on the hill, then, disaster, a puncture, the tyre is flat in a second, I roll to a halt and jump off. Then stand, frustrated, cursing and ready to throw the bike in the hedge and leave it. Then, I cool down and think ‘ OK, no problem’, I spill my spares out, sweep my hand around the tyre looking for any bits and then whizz out the tube fit it. The gas pump plus adaptor for the disc wheel is fiddly, but it’s inflated in 3 seconds and I’m away again, shouting my goodbye’s to a family stood watching. The big hill, seems bigger and takes some effort to get up it. But with 10-15kms to go, I open it up and try to blaze home.. Total time on bike 5:26 and 5:17 actual riding the puncture and toilet break has lost 9 minutes.

5 minutes to drop off the bike, and swap shoes. I set off running, it’s barely a run, back is tight, it’s hot and I’m drinking to cool down rather than quench my thirst. I make it to 1.8 miles, back sore, hot, I choose to walk, 10 metres, then start to run again. Next feed station, feeling the same I walk, drink, sponge cold water onto my arms to cool and run . The run felt like it was going to take ages, the water is sloshing around in my stomach, I’m hot and can’t get in the ‘zone’, where I’m simply running. I also notice, that the people around me are running slower, I try to slow down, but no way. So I run and then use feed stations as a recovery walk, I realise that when I run, I am running rather than shuffling, so I find myself largely passing other runners Not the way I wanted to run the marathon , but still effective.

 

I get to the ‘ironman’ park, 1km to go, I’ve ran well for the past 5-6, only a couple of stops and good pace around 7min30seconds per mile. I pick it up again, Richard having finished in 9:30, is waiting for me to pass, he pushes me on and I see the sign ‘to finish’, marvellous I’m able to run down the shoot to the finish line, supported by a few thousand people. This is the moment, you remember, the 6-7 months of cycling in rain, wind and snow, late swim sessions, the fear at the start of the day, the niggles, the frustrations of juggling training and life, suddenly, you’re there, quite an amazing feeling and the race for me comes to an end…until the next one.
Post race, I drink anything I can lay my hands on, Richard and I wait on the run course for Ian and Dave… both finish the race looking strong, both have had decent performances.

 

All our finishing times were very respectable, but, for me it’s not about the time, it’s the ability to endure and complete the challenge. Next year there’ll be more friends there competing, Dave, Richard, Paul, Richard S… I think i’ll be there to support and focus on shorter distance more appropriate to my training schedules.

 

Many thanks to
Dave, Ian and Richard, three great people to race with.
Phil Wilson for motivation and training help through the year
Richard Shilito for support on the day (and anyone else who shouted ‘chris’ as I passed by.)
Friends at home who helped and supported me – Garrett Turbett, Ben Pochee