IM Austria ‘04
Pictures are all here
I was travelling with Nick Campbell and Lisa(his wife) for this one and we hadn’t actually met until 2 weeks before for a ride out to Audlem, needn’t have worried, we’re triathletes after all, get on with anyone. Simon Mac was going to make it under his own steam.
We had managed to avoid all the carnage of the previous 4 months heartache with Ryanair by deciding to travel to Slovenia with Easyjet landing at Llubjana(sp?). Free carriage for bike and only an hour from the race by hire car it turned out to be the best option after listening to some of the horror stories in Klagenfurt from Ryanair transport. Also at £30 return including taxes it was a great choice.
Arriving on the Thursday to a downpour that resembled rainy season in the Carribean wasn’t the best start, this continued all of Friday reducing the IronCity to a muddy swamp and our own little Glastonbury, if this was what was instore for the race we were in trouble.
Nick and Lisa were staying in another hotel a bit further down the lake so we kept in touch via mobile and arranged to meet at registration on the Friday.
A few of the others we went with decided to ride the course, not for me. I was still nursing a tight hamstring I decided not to ride the bike course but take it easy with some retail therapy in the IronCity, which subsequently earned me IM Merchandising champion !!.
Almost forgot, got a text on Friday morning from Si at around 1.30am, still partying and why wasn’t I drinking ??? haha
Saturday arrived with all of the prep for the racking bikes and arranging transition bags with everything you needed.
And yet another text from Si, had been drinking Friday night and hoped we were all tucked up in bed, a bit earlier this time at 12.30am
Decided to put everything in both bags for either a hot day or a cold rainy day so waterproof cycle top, arm warmers etc accompanied factor 40 and spare socks in case of sweaty feet off the bike !!
Let air out of tyres because by now the Saturday afternoon temps were reaching unbearable levels and risks of exploding tyres were high.
Race day came around all too soon with alarm at 3.45am so we could eat at 4am and slowly start to take nutrition ready for 7 start. Made my way to transition to check everything, sort out bottles, tyres, set bike HRM.
The organisation of the race was so good that we didn’t really have too much to think about on the morning, put all of your stuff you don’t need for the swim in the bag, leave it near the Schenker van and make your way to the beach, deciding where to stand in amongst 2000 other people was a bit unnerving, I am a reasonably strong swimmer but having done IM Switz last year it is all too apparent that there are the wide variety of start tactics, most of them are the ‘go balls out for 400m and then try to climb over anyone in your way until you get to the first buoy’
Needless to say I didn’t really make the best choice as I started bang in the middle on the second line of competitors. With about 10 mins to go with the obligatory nutcase on the microphone the tension starts to build, double check everything, hat, goggles, wetsuit done up (and on the right way round!) then pee and wait!
The gun sounded and it was just a mad rush for the first bit of open water I could find, I know there are a few people worried about the swim leg and its probably best if you turn away now, or better still start at the back, its safer!
This was quite possibly the first time I have ever ‘considered’ stopping in a race, the constant battling to find open water and trying not to get my goggles knocked off in the first 1000m was so uncomfortable that for most of it I drank more than I intended doing on the bike leg! Every time I tried to breathe someone next to me was on the down stroke and covered me in their wake meaning I was only really getting half the air I needed, I haven’t checked my heart rate yet but it would have been around 20 beats too high at this point. I say ‘considered’ as I would never give up but certain things cross your mind when you are being punched, kicked, scratched and poked.
However, (the weaker ones can look now) it was really down to bad race strategy and you really don’t have to go thru that at all, if I had just done what I planned to do and start further right I would have had to go round the buoys a little wider but had a better swim all round. Anyway, once I got to the second buoy it calmed a little as I remember seeing one of the frogman and actually managing a smile.
Reaching the beach was a good first check, my goggles had misted so I swished them in water and put them back on as I ran thru to get back in, unfortunately managing not to seal them properly and ended up doing the next 1800m with one eye shut. I don’t know why I didn’t stop, it would have lost me perhaps 25 secs but you don’t really think straight when you feel as if you are trying to make up time from a bad start.
The canal was great, lot of support for 800m and no pushing of any sort, very peaceful, like a training swim really; I reached the ramp in 1.01 and ran to the tents to change
The girl sorted my wetsuit out, helped me get all of my kit and then left me to get on with it, brilliant organisation, and this was to be a feature that has made this race stand out as one I would definitely do again.
My strategy on the bike was to chill for the first lap and take on water/electrolyte for the first 30 mins. Problem was there were so many huge groups of riders JUST going a little too slow so you have to try and pass them all or risk being carded for not passing fast enough, this started to irritate a little but I am sure the guys going a little faster than me were feeling the same so I tried to ‘externalise’ the annoyance and concentrate on HR and feel factor.
The bike course is a very fast, undulating but in the same breath, challenging mix of long uphill drags, short steep climbs and sweeping downhill’s. This mix was great for the first lap, which I managed in a time that was a little quick for my plan but made me feel good. My only problem on the bike at this point was I had decided to try and pee ‘off the bike’. Doing something you haven’t practised and up to that date thought was a tad gross didn’t mix well but I had a go.
The problem was every time I tried to go it took ages which was losing me time freewheeling and people started to close up behind and I then started to get conscious of letting loose over someone’s front wheel. When I did manage to go I couldn’t get enough out which meant I was putting pressure on my bladder, then trying to go through it all again was slowing me up so eventually I stopped, best thing to do all round but it meant I ended up stopping 4 times cos as you know, once you go the first time you can’t stop.
The turnaround point at the end of the first lap was a great sight; lots of supporters, and loads of noise, almost made you forget that we had to do it again, twice! I heard Lisa for the first time, which was a real boost. The second lap was harder as the wind had started to pick up and all of a sudden the slight downhill’s into the wind weren’t 22mph but 18mph and you were really pushing to get that, the hills seemed longer and steeper and because I was peeing so much I had stopped taking so much fluid on and I thought this was affecting me energy wise so I moved onto gels. Good decision for me as I picked up a little after each gel and started to take them at regular intervals with more water instead of electrolyte.
I use a lot of mental strength and markers to get me round and although reaching the turnaround for the second time to some means they start thinking ‘god I have another 40 miles to go’ for me I know I am 2/3rds the way round and this is the last time I will see these hills today. Didn’t see Lisa this time, I think she was drowned in the other 500 or so people at the turn.
Doesn’t stop it being the hardest lap though and I was being passed by a few more than I was overtaking so I decided to consolidate and save energy on the up hills by spinning more instead of powering with higher gears, this meant I pushed harder on the downhill’s conserving what I had left for the run.
I haven’t mentioned the support on the rest of the bike leg yet but this was amazing, one of the villages that we pass thru was at the bottom of the T-junction that nearly caught one of our friends out on his training ride, this was packed with screaming, shouting, banner-waving nutty Austrians, Germans and Brits alike and was a great feeling climbing with people close enough to reach out and touch you. The longest hill which had the DJ shouting IRONMAN and WOMEN good morning all day was a great boost as well but I heard later that others just wanted to punch his lights out, I suppose you use things in different ways!!
Coming into transition was the only time in the race I lost my rag, which I try not to do, if you read 220 you know why, it can have bad consequences for your performance if you start getting annoyed with others when you should be concentrating on your race, anyway as we came in I thought we were to rack our bikes where we picked them up but as the transition was split into two sides, they had roped my side off and guided me round the long way, I assumed I had to run all the way round just to get to my bike point, what they were actually doing was taking your bike off you and racking it for you. How I felt like a complete t*at just after I had shouted some obscenity at the general direction of the marshals pointing us to the waiting bike collectors, I don’t think they heard me as there was a lot of noise but I still feel sh*t now, and I promise not to do it again. In fact for someone that marshals at my fair share of races its unforgivable really but things happen in the heat of battle
The run to the transition tent was still overshadowed by me shouting at the marshal but I was trying to concentrate on what to take out of my transition bag. Once in the tent I decided to use my race belt and change my socks, as a fresh pair was as good as a fresh start and it actually worked, felt great. Cap on (nice and bright as if you have people looking out for you it pays to give them good warning if they can spot you early, never underestimate the power that a friendly voice has!), glasses on and off.
I decided to use the markers on the run to pace me and not my HR to start with as I knew the incident in bike transition was elevating me above what I should be (still thinking about it) so I went with perceived effort and trying to do each km marker in around 5.30 pace. I had come off the bike in just over 6hours 30mins total so I knew if got under 6min km’s that would give me a 4-hour marathon and a 10.30 split.
I started quite well, the first turn around was heavily supported and at one point took us through a holiday complex sunbathing area, scenery took a turn for the best, gave me a lift anyway!!
The first turnaround was about 6km out and it was at this point that the usual negative thoughts start to creep through all the good thoughts.
Why am I here?
What on earth made me consider doing a double next year?
Luckily it was at this point that I started seeing people I knew, some behind, a couple in front. High fives were followed by grins, renewed beliefs and the push for the other end of the turnaround at Klagenfurt town.
It was a few km later that I first saw Simon, he was already walking and had only done about 4km, I tried to shout a bit of encouragement but he looked totally dejected, I found out on the next lap that he had strained his knee and hit the wall very early as he wasn’t sweating or peeing it was defo dehydration.
The run was a two lapper which started at the lake and then went out to Krumpendorf to the west and then back past the lake start and out to Klagenfurt in the east (sort of anyway) This meant that even though on the first lap you were also seeing all of the KM signs from the second lap, you knew these were at least 20k away from you now but kept reminding you it was a long way
My race nutrition for the run was to carry my gels on a race belt and take one every 1/2 hour with water, loads of sponges as the temps were reaching 30deg and survive on this until my stomach started to grumble and then use the coca cola and oranges. For the most part it worked but I couldn’t pee anymore even after stopping for 2 ‘ghost’ attempts so I thought I wasn’t drinking enough. More water required but I was still feeling reasonably strong and I also knew from the minute I left my bike that I going to finish so its always nice to have that to look forward to.
Got another boost from Lisa at the pass in Klagenfurt, lots of people screaming is always a good thing to hear.
The first lap came and went and the heat got hotter, I found myself checking peoples bands to see if they were ahead of me or behind, also still seeing 2 of my other mates in front of the 10hour pacer was a great boost as well.
I saw Nick at the far turnaround on my way back out on his first lap and he looked quite fresh, another shout at Simon who was still walking at this point but looked a little better.
I was starting to slow halfway thru the 2nd lap and use the time to try to work out what times I had to do for the next 10k to beat 10 and 1/2 hours. By the time I had worked it out 10 or so times I realised I had to do the last 5k in 5.20 pace to have a chance and that was without stopping at any water station.
From Klagenfurt to the finish hurt like hell, I felt I was sprinting but I didn’t come here not to beat last years time and I wanted 10.30 at the least. I managed to do every km home in 5.20 or thereabouts so reached the 42k point in just under 10.30, unfortunately the 0.2 took me another 30 secs but for me it was pure joy to stand on the finish ramp with 10.30 exactly above me.
Thanks for all the text messages of support, you know who you are, Tom, have a great race mate, having the lads there will be a great boost as well !
My 2 mates that had travelled over with us as well were waiting just over the line having done 9.51 and 9.54 which made me feel superb that they had come out to wait for me, now it was time to do the same for others. I waited with Lisa for Nick and Simon but was more concerned about big Si as the pace he was doing meant he would be finishing later that night.
Miraculously at 13.10 big Si came round the corner, possibly the alcohol from Sat had worn off!, the knee healed a bit from walking, I don’t know but he looked a happy man, closely followed at 13.14 by Nick. At this point Lisa hurdled the barrier and ran screaming and dancing with him to the finish line for a great family photo.
For me this year I was determined to stay till the end. Once my last mate had crossed the line at 13.29 we went back for a shower to return for the fireworks and more beer, I think I was already on my 3rd at this point and was ready for more.
The last person over the line at 16hours and 50 minutes had an almost deafening ovation, as did practically everyone but the last person it quite a special event, then the fireworks started, quite spectacular. A few more beers then bed
The party night on the Monday was something to behold. All the clan from my hotel, myself, Nick and Lisa descended on the tent with an awesome effect. We were beaten to the table dancing by the Mersey Tri guys (who were absolute stars) but from then on it was a joint Brit affair.
Lisa showed us her dancing skills on the stage; stole a bouquet of flowers off Jason Shortis, Nick showed us his air guitar and drinking skills.
I just managed to get absolutely bladdered, fall flat on my face whilst doing the Irish jig and cover the nearest 5 people in the filthy sloshing glasto-type sewer water that I landed in, I was wearing a white shirt, so were 2 others and one of the women was wearing white trousers.
Great trip, great race, great to have Chester Tri support there as well, ready for the next one!!!