Well, for almost a year now I’ve been training for my first Ironman and the day of reckoning had finally arrived.
The training (which I thank the Lincsquad members for) was done and although you always feel you need to do more I was glad for the couple of days respite before the race. Training along with pasta was becoming a little tedious. Four of us from my work (and two more locals) had travelled with Nirvana to the scenic lakeside resort of Klagenfurt.
Austria, as expected was a place of beauty and the whole Ironman vibe didn’t disappoint. I’d recommend Nirvana too, sure, they’re not cheap but they do take a lot of the pressure of you so you can focus on the 140.6 miles. We racked the bikes and 3 different transition bags in transition the day before but still had the opportunity to pump up the tubs and add all the extra gear I’d forgotten from the previous day before the race started.
The cannon fired the start of the 2.4 mile swim as the 2500 swimmers fought for clear water in the beautiful turquoise lake. Despite its postcard appearance the lake was soon host to a mass, no holds barred, washing machine scramble. The swim, on this occasion wasn’t to my liking. I’ve done a few open water swims before but had never experienced this amount of people in a mass start before. The lake actually funnels into a canal for the last 850m and here you were at the mercy of the swimmers in front, I just couldn’t get past them! By the time I exited the water I was down almost 5 minutes on my predicted swim time. Swim time…1-01- 37 secs …………3-4 mins behind schedule!!
Position at this time of race….34th out of 554 males in my age group…223rd overall.
Transition 1 was a bit of a belt and braces job as I shoe-horned out of my wet-suit before putting on cycling shirt, socks, suntan cream, talc, Vaseline, energy gel belt, a spare tub, tub gel…..I think I took ‘being comfortable for the ride’ to the extreme. T1 was slow at 8 minutes considering the winner’s combined transitions were less than 5 minutes.
The 112 mile bike ride (2 laps) was always going to be the making or breaking of any hope of a decent time. The scenery was straight from the Von-Trapps photo album and I really did feel privileged to be a part of it. There were two big hills per lap, the second, the Rupertberg was quite a climb but more so the second time around when I knew what to expect. This said, the course was still fast, due mainly to its smooth roads and the fact you didn’t have to worry about oncoming traffic as the roads were shut to the public. The long rides in training had paid off for me as I didn’t really suffer at any point and I was enjoying the fact I’d got almost 30 minutes under my predicted time of 05:30. Energy gels every half an hour along with bananas and flap-jacks kept me fuelled enough to ride at a decent pace whilst avoiding meltdown. Strong winds and heavy rain came for my last 10 mile making conditions a little hairy. If I ever do another Ironman I’ll remember not to get too carried away with the nutrition side of things. I had 2 x 750mls of water stowed in my bottle holders for the duration which I didn’t drink as I just grabbed it at aid stations and re-filled my front bottle holder. I had a cheese & ham bun, mini cheddars, a whole pack of jelly beans, peanuts, 2 X energy bars and 3 gels still in my possession at the end. All that extra weight!!! Like I said, I got a bit carried away!!!
Predicted time 5:30…actual time 5:02 ish Position at this time of race….41st out of 554 males in my age group…284th overall.
Transition 2 was also slow at 07:35 but I was pleased I’d packed a spare pair of running socks as my bike socks were sodden.
The marathon run has given me nightmares leading up to the Ironman. Running (and transitions) are definitely my weakest disciplines and the aches and pains I’d get when attempting brick sessions were a concern. I have to say the pain wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d expected as I actually ran a 7:38 for my first mile out of transition. The rain had now stopped and the temperature was nearing 30 degrees so the wet sponges (I’d always wondered what these were for in races in the UK) were a god send. Inevitably my mile splits slowed to 8 and then 9 minute miles. I seemed to get passed by everyone including the race leaders who were on their final lap.
A couple of toilet breaks were necessary on the run due to the amount of fluid I’d been drinking but apart from that I didn’t really stop on the run and although I was almost going at a snail’s pace I did start to pick a few people off toward the end mainly people were having major problems, Bella Bayliss being one of these. It looked at one point that I’d go sub 4 hrs when towards the end I put in a few 8.5 min/miles. My calves were killing but I knew I was within touching distance of the finish so I didn’t need to nurse them home. I was slightly demoralized when my Garmin bleeped at 26 miles and the finish line still seemed a long way off. I thought I’d gone sub 4 hrs but it wasn’t until my Garmin indicated 27.6 miles did I run under the timing clock. I must have cocked it up and not reset it properly before I set off!!! It’s not a very nice feeling though when you think you’ve done and you have to do another mile and half!! Needless to say the sub 4hrs was never really on!!!
Predicted time 4:15 hrs…..actual time 4:04 something. Position at end of race….76th out of 554 males in my age group…397th overall.
Finishing time 10:24:04 As soon as I finished I was handed my medal and was escorted into the finishing enclosure by a lady marshal. She didn’t believe me when I kept telling her I was ok, maybe my drunken stumbling was giving me away.
There was no time to reflect and get emotional as I headed to the beer tent and ordered a pint. I’d visualized this moment a hundred times during training…..How I’d grin to myself as I reflected on the race that has taken a year’s worth of training to achieve……how the cold lager would slip down! It wasn’t how I’d imagined!! I felt terrible I had to lay down quick. I found a little spot on my own outside and adopted the fetal position whilst feeling sorry for myself. I lay there for half an hour before going back inside to join a mate who was greedily tucking into some pizza. I forced some soup down and as if by magic I perked up. 4 bowls in total had me back in the land of the living as we spent another 5 hours watching the rest of the competitors crossing the line. Only then could I enjoy that pint.
The whole occasion was brilliant and something I’ll look back on with fond memories, even a sense of pride. Yes there were times when I was struggling but no more so than in other races when you’ve pushed yourself. Will I do another? Yes, probably, but I need a year off at least to catch up on jobs I’ve been putting off first. Good luck to you guys doing the Outlaw in a couple of weeks I hope you put enough into your race you can be proud of your time but more importantly try to enjoy it, All the best Steve Grocock
Read more at my blog http://steveironmanaustria.blogspot.com/