I am sure anyone taking the time to read this has heard me cry about the fact that I couldn’t take part in the run on this event thanks to a stress fracture in my back… but just in case you didn’t know, you do now. I should also add my replacement race is Vichy later this summer.
I signed up for this Ironman in June last year and have been itching to do one for the last 3. I spent all winter on the bike putting in the miles; my usual trail runs and forced myself into the pool (and lake in recent months). I don’t think you really appreciate how tough the training is until you’re into the meaty months, the weather is awful, you have to sacrifice every single weekend social plans, and you’ve been training before work by 5:30am everyday – its tough going, It’s even tougher when a little niggle is actually something pretty serious and your Ironman plans and last 7 months of relentless training is taken away from you in one trip to the physio.
Despite the obvious disappointment with this race, I had the best weekend ever! If you’ve ever been to an Ironman event then I’m sure you will understand, words cannot describe how incredible they are! All bitterness and disappointment (just about) goes out of the window, I was so happy to be part of it in any shape or form, and even more great full when I reminded myself that this was going to be the best training day I could possibly hope for 8 weeks ahead of my race.
We arrived on Friday afternoon and immediately went to register and mooch around the expo, I wanted to buy everything as usual. We headed back to our hotel to put the bikes together, which resulted in breaking the piece that fits around the height adjuster on your saddle (can you tell I know nothing about bikes and the technical terms?). At this point I was actually quite calm, what’s a broken bike compared to a broken back?! We decided to go to the nearest bike shop in the morning, and for now we were going to head out for some delicious vegan food…..
The day before the race
We got up and had a good spread of the hotel ‘help yourself’ breakfast, a hungry triathletes dream! Off we went to the bike shop to solve the problem, where I also met another panicked Ironman competitor with a much more serious bike issue – he was also a physio and gave me some good advice for my injury!
Bikes fixed, now for the practice swim in the lake. The lakes here are absolutely beautiful, I have never enjoyed swimming so much, it definitely made me feel more relaxed about race day.
After our swim we went back to fix my bike and pack up all our race gear/stick stickers on etc. It’s actually quite a lot to organise as you have 2 transition bags and a street wear bag. We rode our bikes down to T1, racked them and got our timing chips before heading out for another vegan feast…
With a 4am alarm we got up, I braided my hair and then we headed to breakfast. You may have read that I am eating a very heavily plant-based diet at the moment, though I still regularly eat dairy/fish (about once a week), so that my body doesn’t freak out in situations when it has to eat it/ it is the healthiest option. My race day breakfast consisted of oats, nuts, seeds, yogurt and fruit, with a side of scrambled egg on rye bread, water and a coffee.
We hitched a lift with some guys in the room next door down to where the bikes are racked to pump up tyres etc., before dropping our street wear bag off at the finish and heading to the start line! The forecast had said thunder and rain all day, but so far so good and it looked like the sun was coming out for us. First issue of the day: I forgot my earplugs! Luckily there weren’t age waves for start times so I was next to dad who split his with me.
The swim was the nicest tri swim I have ever experienced, I barely touched anyone and the water was so blue and clear. I was absolutely terrible at sighting and ended up turning the 2.4-mile swim into 2.57 – but apart from that it was a great start to the day. I got a 1.21 for my swim time which I was happy with considering I took it easy, had loads of energy left and had actually swam quite a bit further. I probably shouldn’t admit this but I hadn’t actually swam this distance before race day (do not try this at home), luckily the distance didn’t bother me at all, though I’m definitely planning on getting a few 2.4 mile swims in before Vichy!
Transition was so smooth, plenty of people helped undress me and lay out all of my bits, I think it was around 8 minutes but I would imagine 7 of those were down to me fighting my wetsuit off! (I bought the wetsuit when I was two-stone lighter…. Snug to say the least!)
The bike…. Someone told me this was a “very flat and very fast course” !? I am from Yorkshire, I am pretty used to hills and I would definitely not call it flat! The bike went well (apart from the hills), until we got to issue 2 of the day: my back breaks jamming on my wheels. I got off the bike twice to try and amend the situation but there was no use, it made it a difficult ride! Issue3: I couldn’t get into my smallest gear properly without a terrible noise that was definitely waiting to break. And issue 4: my back injury means I can’t stand up out of my saddle, which was very hard going on some of these hills! I think the problem with the bike leg on an Ironman is the actual time it takes… 112 miles is really quite a long time to be sat on a saddle without much talking to people, and pushing yourself, it doesn’t go as quickly as you imagine! I had some great views though and I did love every minute of it (6.35 hours) – even when the torrential rain came!
It was hard to finish the 112th mile and get off feeling as strong as I did and not be able to set off for the run, it was really hard seeing the disappointed and pitying faces of all the spectators/organisers who must have thought id just given up, but I was ready for that (okay I cried a bit too). I went to get my street wear bag to change, and enjoyed some of the watermelon they had ready for the athletes before calling my mum and boyfriend to update on how my race went.
After eating my body weight and more in melon I decided to head to the finish line to get a good spot to cheer my dad coming in and all the other athletes! Watching people come in across the carpet as an Ironman is the best bit and so I was pleased I got to support my dad through the finish line. I was really happy with how my race had gone, despite the few small issues. – It’s given me all the motivation I need towards being excited for my race at the end of August. I would definitely recommend Austria for anyone looking for an Ironman to do – I know I will be back to make up for this time!