Race Report – Ironman Austria – 26th June 2016
Many comparisons were made…
“An excitable Jack Russell”
“Kid in a candy shop”
“Like your son Bear at Christmas”
These were all used to express how I looked in the build up to Ironman Austria. I was genuinely excited, not an ounce of nerves, just uncontrollable excitement. I think I’d put a lot down to my preparation. I was feeling fit. Simon has got me to the start line in great shape and with the consistency in my training, the CompuTrainer, the runs, the sessions in the pool… I felt strong. I was also very organised, I’d read the athlete guides and attended the briefing but this was also my second Ironman so I knew what was in store for me… Or did I?!
The feelings after my last Ironman were somewhat odd to say the least. Sure, I felt incredible that I finished but I knew my body was capable of more, I had the perfect 1st race and enjoyed a negative split on the run, but I wanted more, I wanted my mind to have to win the battle over my body and get it back on side; so that was my plan for Austria. I was going to get through the swim quicker than Bolton last year, I was then going to go hard on the bike and see how my legs would then perform on the run.
At 6:20 I was in my self seeded pen for the rolling start 1:10-1:20. It was a wetsuit swim and It took approximately 25mins and I was off. I was on someone’s toes, I was sighting every 4th breath and felt great. I was motoring (for me) and then the flippers came off. After two left turns my sighting continued to be in perfect sync with my breathing, the only issue was I was sighting the wrong point and went way of course. Not a problem, head down and I was now heading to the canal. The atmosphere was incredible and the fact it was a rolling start made sure it wasn’t too congested and I got hot on the heels (do they have heels?) of a swan… Yes a swan. We shared the canal with many local swans that we’re delighted to show us the way to the exit!
It was then out of the swim and with a quick transition by my standards, largely due to the incredible support of the volunteers, I was running down the carpet to my bike in my shoes, like a novice drag act in heels. I collected by bike ran towards the mount line which was through the Pro transition area. Although I was disappointed to see all their bikes were already out of T1, I composed myself and jumped on the bike… I was off!
Simon put a great video up for tri247 which was an informative narrative of the bike route. I’d also watched a few vids of the course and knew what to expect. I set off with a view to average 20mph throughout the ride and to see what was left in my legs. I felt great setting off and the support and roads were incredible. It was very hot and the aid stations were incredible. I remained aero pretty much through the entire ride except when approaching the aid stations. I threw water over me to keep cool and took onboard a Powerbar Iso drink at each station. I drank to thirst and ate 3 Powerbars throughout the ride. Rain came down as I started the second loop and it was welcomed. It had been about 27 degrees and it really cooled things down. I kept the pace up and rose as fast as I could but remaining in control in the now slippery conditions. A few people were now coming off and I didn’t want to be one. My Garmin had now lost GPS and was constantly pausing and starting and the beeping was driving me insane. I turned it off and rode the second half of the race to feel.
The views were spectacular, the descents were fast and over too quick and the climbs were a little more punchy and longer than I had expected… But the views!!!!!!!!!
As I approached T2 the rain had stopped. I dismounted and ran my bike in. My legs felt great and I set off on the run. I wanted to hold 5:15/km pace so i turned the Garmin back on and it was working. Great relief. It was now getting hotter and I knew the importance of taking on board the liquids and keeping cool so I walked the aid stations and kept running between them. The pace was slowing up and I could feel the onset of cramp. I’ve always been good and talking myself out of cramp and today was no different. It had gone and fortunately for me, only returned as I crossed the line.
Although my pace dropped slightly throughout the race I was happy with it considering how hard I pushed on the bike. I used the same strategy that worked for me in Bolton and that was to take on Iso at each station and have a caffeine gel. That worked up until about 30k and then my body no longer reacted well to gels so i switched to coke, melon and orange. My body immediately appreciated the real food and natural sugar and gave me a push. I threw away to gel bottles I was carrying since the ride, convinced the weight was holding me back like a hot air-balloon wanting height. Psychologically it worked and that’s good enough.
The course is flat and fast. I had some battles with a couple of people on the run which was a lot of fun and a great distraction and had enough less to open my legs with 1k to go and push on pass some more people on my way to the red carpet. The crowd was immense!
I crossed the line in a time of 10:30:09, with a 5:16:19 bike split which surprised me completely as I had no way of knowing until the end due to the GPS issue. I then had enough in my legs to hold a 3:46 marathon.
I was stoked! I was simply over the moon with my time. My goal was sub 11hrs after my 11:44 in Bolton.
I made a school boy error on the swim but I know I can push hard on the bike and hold a good marathon time. That’s what I wanted to conclude from this chapter. Now onwards to the next…
… LCW in Wales in July as a rec. for Ironman Wales in September. Between now and then I’ll continue to work on my swim, put the time in on the CompuTrainer with targeted workouts and work on my run, perhaps with additional double runs to work on those tired legs.
Thanks to Simon Ward (coach), Mishelle (wife) and Bear (son) for all their support, my friends and peers that push me at every swim session and training camp, the Alans at Leeds Masters who have helped me so much in 18months and my friends and colleagues with their words of encouragement.
The organisation of IM Austria and the volunteers were simply incredible and I can’t thank them enough!