My 1st race abroad and my first A race since being coached from last August, basically everything I have been training for for 11 months…. Austria is a hell of a place to get to with a bike but, what a country, it is absolutely gorgeous! Everyone involved with the event and locals are all on board and buy into the event whole heartedly, they love it.
I got there on the Friday via. Manchester, Munich, Graz and then Klagenfurt! Got to the hotel and had pre arranged a bike build purely to take the stress out of this first trip, happy with the decision on that one, went for a quick run down to the Expo and then out for some tea into town, Bruschetta and Pizza with PH 1500 to start the pre-loading, no dessert 👎
Saturday was breakfast at 7, cold porridge with dried fruits and almonds before a piece of toast, streaky bacon, scrambled egg and a glass of fresh OJ whilst still sipping PH 1500 (I have been off caffeine all week in a bid to give it a greater effect on race day should I need it, this is only my theory too….) After breakfast a 30 minute bike spin on the course before testing the water in the lake with a 20 min swim between easy, race and above race pace. After that it was onto a guided coach tour of the bike course which I found invaluable, knowing what was coming, where it was and how to deal with it was such good prep for race day.
I was still really calm and headed for lunch, pasta Arabiata with admittedly an ice cream sundae to follow, sorry Stando, it was too nice to not have! Still calm I started packing up the transition bags and racking the bike, then I felt stressed, out of nowhere my mood changed quickly…. Transition was spacious and well organised, everything hung up and racked but I was now starting to brick it a bit! I was nervous about the race, what I could deliver, what I wanted to deliver and what could happen, I was overthinking every finite detail.
I decided to cast my mind back to 3 of the hardest sessions/events I had completed over the last 11 months and log them in my mind, sessions that pushed me to and beyond my limits, sessions I could recall if I hit the wall at any point and ones that I had to dig deep for, these were a few of the sessions that got me here today, this helped to calm me. The bottom line was, I was ready, I couldn’t of done anymore looking back and I had no regrets about anything, I was ready and feeling pumped!!
Back into town for an earlier dinner, same Italian restaurant as last night, bruschetta to start and a large Spag Bol for mains, no dessert again and PH 1500 throughout the day and night. Bed for around 9.30pm with alarm set for 4am, everyone’s dream…. I actually slept ok and was feeling good.
Straight up, no snoozing and down for breakfast with my 750ml’s of PH 1500…. My own porridge from home (60g+) with almonds and dried fruits again, a slice of toast with honey to finish it off.
Down to transition for 5am and feeling very calm, unusually chilled in fact. Topped up my tyres to 105-110psi, checked my bags were still on the pegs and down to the swim start. 45 mins of prepping, upper body stretching, some hip and leg mobility work and into the wetsuit. The pens were sub 1-hour and then 1.10-1.20, I had 1.05 in my mind…. do I go sub 1 hour group and risk being mauled or go to the 1.10 and risk being caught up with slower guys? I went for the sub 1 hour pen and surrounded myself with AWA athletes all wearing gold swimming caps, I thought shit, what have I done…. Still chilled, got myself deep into thought and just focused on what was the imminent start. 1 gel taken 15 mins before starting.
The pro men went, the pro women went and now it was us, 4 off every 5 seconds on a rolling start. Straight into the water and I found my rhythm very quickly, didn’t over cook it as I normally would and concentrated on my breathing, how I breath is how I know my pace. I stayed focused, concentrated and most of all calm, no elbows, fists, kicks or knocks stressed me, I just moved slightly and carried on. The last 800m of the swim is down the narrow canal which for people who have done Austria will either love it or hate it!! I personally like it, it’s bloody busy but the noise from the support is amazing!! Getting out after a good swim helped by what seemed like 8 volunteers (per swimmer) I looked at my watch to see a 1.04, happy with that.
Transition went well, still not got great speed through them yet but no problems which was the main thing. Onto the bike and the start was littered with spectators, amazing feeling! The first 20k of the course was pretty flat, easy to go too fast and although I was moving fast due to the shear amount on the start of the course, I stuck to my power numbers. I did so all day with the hill sections being the only exception, although still keeping them around FTP where possible. There was plenty of well stocked aid stations but I had all my own planned, clif shots and Torq gels mixed with water in my down-tube aero bottle, the products I had trained with. I had PH 1500 tablets to add to the water I took from the aid stations. The course is hilly in parts (2 main climbs done twice and a few up’s and down’s) but with decent run off’s and smooth roads surfaces all the way through making good splits possible if a bit of climbing suits. There was sections with some strong winds (to the point where I guy got off to check his brakes) but you just had to grind through those. I had the usual 65-80 mile doubts of what I was doing but got over that quickly whilst taking in the beauty that is Austria and trying to stay as aero as possible!
I ate well, drank well and finished well, a split of 5.18 including two wee stops, I was again happy with that. Transition went smooth but my feet were killing! My bike shoes haven’t been right for a while but I never sorted them pre-race, my mistake and not a time to dwell. The trainers went on and standing up, the feet hurt! I put my cap and shades on, grabbed my belt and 12x PH salt tablets and off I went onto the run.
Although my feet were in pain, this didn’t affect my pace, I just had to deal with it on every stride…. I started quicker than I wanted and despite trying to back it off, it took me a few miles to do so, I was also wondering whether I could hold this quicker pace as well! The run warmed up quickly, there was aid stations roughly every 3k with all the usual stuff plus wet sponges and ice on a couple too, well stocked and really well staffed by volunteers. For the first 10 miles I just took water and fresh fruit (watermelon and oranges) as I had my own gels and salt tablets, that was my plan. After 10miles, the heat really started creeping in and the shade lessened, I started to flag a bit despite soaking myself with water from the sponges at every station. I took on some coke, some fruit, some ice and tried to focus. I slowed a bit but was still in the game. Mile 17 came after a few rougher miles and that was it, ‘THE WALL’, I was gone…. dizzy, light headed, knackered, hungry, thirsty and very hot, I think I’d overheated looking back.
The last thing I wanted to do was walk but, I saw a loo about 75m ahead and decided to walk there for a pee and to try and get my shit together. I’d been here before, I had bonked at Bolton in 2016 on mile 10 for different reasons and pulled through so I knew I could, the mind always gives up before the body so I had to stay strong I was telling myself. A few minutes later and I was running again, I was a bit slower (30-45secs/mile) but I was running. I needed to see the 32k sign to mentally rationalise that I only had 10k left, I pushed though to 32k, walked through every aid station from that point taking water, sponges, fruit and ice where possible, I knew I was finishing, it was just a matter of whether I could creep the pace back up.
I stayed steady for a good few miles until I could hear the finish from what felt like 2 miles away and that helped massively, I sped up, was overtaking people quickly on their own way into the finish, I felt great again, the finish chute was immense, running in parallel but opposite direction to it I saw the people who had come to support me and flew through the last 200m to return back through the amazing chute surrounded with hundreds and hundreds of screaming and shouting people and cheerleaders to hear the announcer shout the words ‘YOU ARE AN IRONMAN’, something I could never tire of!!!! I’d done it, 10hrs 16! Way beyond my previous best and with a plan of sub 10hrs 30 I was extremely happy despite the wobble on the run.
I had done everything in my powers to get to this point in the last 11 months and not a day went by without me thinking about Austria and what could be. Through good days and bad days, I’d done everything I could from diet, training, all gym sessions, equipment, nutrition, regular massage, pure consistency (that above all else I would say) and prep races. Prior preparation preventing piss poor performance had certainly come through here. Everything I had worked for had come to fruition, everything was on point, went well and I am a very happy man! Next stop is Weymouth 70.3 whilst I think about long course further…. Hopefully improvements can be made across the board as I’m still in the early stages of being coached!
Post race…. A few beers, a cappuccino, a slice of pizza, some more PH 1500 and some reflecting!
Would I race Austria again? Definitely. Will
I race it next, no. Europe is definitely on the cards for he next one though, so many races, so many places to see and so many cultures to embrace. Loved every second of Austria and would recommend it to anyone.
Lessons taken? Work on warm weather training, even a couple of Sauna’s a week would help. Put sun screen on, I didn’t! New shoes or new foot position, comfort should just happen from well fitted good kit, there is enough going on in an IM without having to think about that. Always, always back yourself, if you stick to your figures, you can deliver them, never doubt yourself and never give up, your body can do unbelievable things if your mind allows it. Likewise though, don’t be tempted to stray too far from your figures as this will hurt you at some point.
Most of all…. DON’T BE SHIT!!!!