Ironman Austria 2014
The target time? 13hrs.
Ok not a remarkable time for many of the racing snakes and decent age groupers but a realistic goal for a normal bloke, trying to fit training in around work and the family commitments that come with 5 kids. With my youngest being 4 months old.
The idea started at Christmas when I managed to grab a last minutes place at Austria. Christmas, a time full of beer, chocolates and other festivities not to mention the usual crap weather. Not the best time to begin ironman training for a race in less than 6 months.
I began in early January plodding on with my usual “training”. A couple of hours on the bike on a sunday when it didn’t rain or a quick run before work and zero hours of swimming. This continued through until around late March time when I realised I needed to up my game a bit if I was to even finish the race never mind hitting my target time.
After a quick couple of emails to Steve I had signed up to a 12 week programme all to be delivered via training peaks. This was getting serious now. Let’s get to it.
Driving over 1100 miles to a race probably wasn’t the best idea for a relaxing few days prior to race day.We left Yorkshire at 11pm on Tuesday night and drove through the night to hit Folkestone, Catching the early Chunnel at 5:45 ish. We arrived in France at 7:15 local time and I had been awake now for nearly 24 hrs! Oh well on we go. Copious amounts of red bull and haribo powered us on until we hit Munich where we kipped in the van for a few hours before carrying on to klagenfurt the next morning. After a few detours and wrong turns we arrived in klagenfurt at around 2 pm on Thursday. Camp set up for the next few days and it was time for some well deserved sleep and chilling out. Carb loading consisted of pizza from the takeaway on the site, half a toblerone we found in the vans fridge and various bags crisps and cans of coke. Proper athlete food.
4am sunday morning, race day. A quick bowl of porridge, half a bagel and of I went, trudging over to transition to sort the bike. A quick walk back to camp and it was show time. All wet suited up I made my way to the start and what a start it was. A huge stunning lake of the bluest water I had ever seen.
6:45 am, The nerves were kicking in now. Fifteen minutes till start time, on with the swim cap and goggles, new goggles that wouldn’t tighten up! Panic set in! I just about got them tied in a knot so they didn’t fall off and up went the tape. We’re off!
After the initial punch up that comes at any mass start I found a bit of space on the far left. I was hoping to swim the 2.4 miles in 90 minutes or so and set off at a steady pace. After a bit of a dunking on the turn buoys we headed for the canal. A 1km section of less that a couple of metres wide with spectators lining the sides. The atmosphere was amazing. Being mid pack probably wasn’t the best place to be as hundreds of bodies trying to fit down the same canal was chaos. I got punched, kicked, had my leg grabbed a few times and had someone try to swim over me! I couldn’t wait to get out. I rounded the corner, onto the blue carpet and out of the water. The garmin was showing 79 minutes. Happy with that.
A steady walk across to transition to time to get the bike gear on. Being a pasty ginger lad, I burn easily so sun lashings of sun cream was applied just in case. 7 more minutes down and it was onto the bike.
The bike course in Austria is as stunning as the lake, I set off at a decent pace but having not ridden the course I had no real idea of where the climbs were or what they were like. People say Austria is a fast bike course. It is and there are some superb downhills, however you pay for them with the climbs. Not being a mountain goat, I am not built for climbing and Austria has a couple of decent climbs. The first couple came without incident and I even managed to pass quite a few going up hill. This was a first for me. The last climb of the lap was a beast. Head down and grind it out to the top. I don’t think I went above 5mph on that one and I had another lap to do.
Second time round and the heavens opened. I slowed things down a bit as it’s not worth crashing out for the sake of a couple of minutes unless you’re challenging for the lead or a kona slot. 3/4’s of the way round and it was time for the beast again. A special mention has gotta go to the crazy DJ at the top blasting out the tunes. I hit the top just as Neil Diamond was ringing out sweet Caroline. Surreal! All fairly downhill now back into klagenfurt, arriving at transition in 5:55. (5 mins under my target time of 6hrs).
Another slow transition of 6 minutes or so and it was time to run. Having previously never being sporty and shying away from anything even remotely energetic, running has never been my thing. 26 miles of hell to go. The run is a two lap course, made worse by running through beer gardens and next to ice cream kiosks.
Just keep plodding, I passed the 1k marker. Only 41 to go. I planned to walk the aid stations and run / jog the rest. I took on coke, water and a cracker type biscuit at each station and carried on. Feeling surprisingly not too bad I trudged on not even checking the garmin or seeing what time I was doing. After 10 k and a few calculations I knew I was on for being well under my 13 hr target. A few high 5’s and banter on the run and I was well into on the second lap still on the feed station walking / run the rest strategy. That final turn around in klagenfurt was amazing, knowing I only had 5k to go and I was done. 4k, 3k, 2k and into the park, the lake was insight and there was the blue carpet, and the finisher. I crossed the line at 7:15 pm making a total race time of 12hrs 15 mins. Result!
Time for another pizza and a massive glass of chocolate milkshake. Hardcore!
Being 45 mins under my best possible time has now given me a new target….. Sub 12! Bring it on.
Thanks have got to go firstly to the family for allowing me to leave them for a week and also to Steve for the training plan which helped me enormously, keeping me motivated and giving me targets to hit each week. I probably managed to do 75% of the planned sessions but that was more than I would’ve normally done, when a lot of the time I would’ve just lounged around at home and eaten all the kids sweets, (thanks coach, I owe you a beer).
If anyone is considering an ironman, do Austria, you won’t be disappointed.