Race Day

July 13, 2014

So after over a year in the planning, it was a bit surreal to find myself actually in a car driving to Klagenfurt to race in my first Ironman. The last year had flown past with all the training, build up races and me reassuring myself that it was ok because I had x months left to train. Well now x = 0, and I was feeling very unprepared with the constant feeling that I should have done more training.

We were staying just outside of Klagenfurt which turned out to be a good escape from the Iron-bubble as we spent the day we had beforehand exploring the expo, checking in our bikes and doing some all important testing of the lake.

Testing out the lake beforehand

Testing out the lake beforehand

With all this preparation before the race, it actually left us with very little to do on the morning of the race. It started at 7am which meant a 4 am start to eat, get down to transition, pump up the tyres and wetsuit up. Nothing was rushed and all was very calm as we met our team of supporters by the shore of the lake.

The team before the start

The team before the start

We were in the 2nd wave, so after the first wave set off we said our goodbyes and made it to the start line. It was a perfectly clear morning and the lake was beautifully calm, the atmosphere was building as the reality of finally doing the race was minutes away. After a stirring rendition of the Austrian national anthem it was 1 minute to go. I was about 6 people back from the front when the cannon went off and it was time to race as we waded in and began swimming.

I think it’s fair to say that this was the calmest swim I’ve ever done in an open water triathlon. It definitely helped that the water was clear enough that you could see where you were going but there was no jostling for position, no real swimming on top of each other and no elbows in the face. The swim went out into the lake and back before an 800m section up the Lend canal which was lined by spectators cheering everyone on. I actually swam fairly quick, probably helped by swimming relatively straight for once, doing the 3.8km in just over an hour. After a fairly slow transition, making sure I had my suncream on this time, it was time to head out on the bike.

Starting on the bike

Starting on the bike

The bike consisted of two 90km loops around a closed road course with a couple of hills but nothing too extreme. It was a surprisingly quick course as I kept looking at my average pace on the bike and thinking that I shouldn’t be going this fast fearing repercussions later on. At one point the team all came together and we had a quick chat about the swim before each racing our own races. Around about half way through the second lap I was starting to feel it a little bit and by the end I was definitely ready to get off my bike but I definitely didn’t feel like I had overcooked it, it was more that 180km is a long old way!

After another transition that wouldn’t have won any prizes, I was out on the run feeling surprisingly fresh. I wasn’t out of breath, my legs seemed fine and I was running out onto the course proper. It wasn’t until after about 2km into the run when I realised what the challenge on the run would be. I found myself feeling fairly hot despite being very lucky with the weather being sunny but not too hot itself. I’d run for a bit, find myself overheating and feeling exhausted and have to walk for a bit. I’d then feel fine and then repeat.

Running alongside the Wörthersee

Running alongside the Wörthersee

There were aid stations about every 3km which were much appreciated, and it took a few of them to perfect my strategy but I soon had it sussed:

  • About 100m before the aid station, stop running and start walking
  • Take off hat
  • Pick up two sponges, putting one under the forehead of my hat and using the other on the back of my neck and face.
  • Pick up 1 cup of coke, 1 of water
  • Sip coke as quick as possible
  • Wash down with water
  • Put remaining water over head

Once I had this sorted, I settled into more of a rhythm and found the second half of the run much more enjoyable than the first, despite it taking almost exactly the same time. With about a kilometre to go it hit me that I was going to finish in a time that I would be extremely happy with, and as I turned onto the second last straight I started picking up the pace, really enjoying it and thinking what I would do when I crossed the line.

On the actual finishing straight I was so focussed on the finish line that it was all a blur and before I knew it I was being congratulated and having my hand shaken. All in all, I finished in a time of 12:36:29 which I was really happy with.

Coming into the finish

Coming into the finish

To anyone who’s thinking of doing an Ironman I’d recommend going for it and not being put off by the distance, we all really enjoyed the race and unanimously agreed that Alpe d’Huez was so much harder two years ago!

I’m also in the market for potential challenges for 2015 so any ideas welcome as I take some time off for the moment!