After competing in this race last year and having a great time, I was always keen to return. Second time around was quite different, as all the surroundings and race build up was familiar from the year before. Once again, the Austrian summer was lovely, with weather conditions set fair for race day, although with a chance of an afternoon thunderstorm. To race day...
I woke up at 4:00am, exactly 3 hours prior to the start. I immediately started tucking into my breakfast, which consisted of 1 caffeinated gel, 1 energy drink and 2 energy bars. This was my 3rd Ironman and my 3rd different breakfast. One day I'll settle on something! Once we were at the race site it didn't take long to go through the pre-race necessities - pump tyres, put an energy drink on the bike and clip shoes to the pedals. I did have one last check of my transition bags to make sure they were still there!
As with all my races, I was anxiously excited! Not nervous, but really looking forward to the day, with a hint of trepidation. Ironman is momentous event and one that you can't afford to take lightly. The last thing Dad said to me before the start was 'have fun', which was exactly what I intended to do.
Before the swim start
The 7:00am start
Lining up on the beach I'd seeded myself towards the front on the right hand side. Once the cannon fired I had a reasonably clear run. The plan was to take the first 500m at a higher pace and then relax into a steady pace. This worked out perfectly and I felt like my swim stroke was on. Approaching the first turn buoy there was much more congestion which slowed me down for a while. For the next 400m until the following turn buoy I found some good feet to follow and had a nice draft. At the halfway stage (1.9km) we turned to face shore and the entrance to the canal. Sighting was difficult due to the rising sun, but I was prepared for this from last year. On this leg I zig-zagged a bit, but made my way into the canal with a group of other swimmers. The last 800m is great, with spectators cheering just a few feet from the canal. I exited the water in 1:00:34, about 35 seconds slower than my goal.
Out of the water
Through T1 I felt I was quite efficient, until I got to my bike, where I stopped to put on socks and my road shoes. The reason for this was that I wanted the comfort and stability of my road shoes rather than the tri shoes. So, after a relatively slow T1 the bike began.
Once on the bike I noticed immediately that there were less people around me. Going a few minutes faster on the swim can really help here. The nutrition plan was simple - 1 bottle of energy drink/hour with water as desired. I also supplemented this with one salt capsule/hour. This worked well for the first lap, where I stuck to my target watts and felt good throughout. I finished lap 1 in around 2:25 and was confident of a 4:50 bike split. However, about 75 miles into the ride my watts started to drop and I was starting to fatigue. I think this was down to a lack of calories and inadequate endurance on the bike. Add to that that it was heating up and becoming quite uncomfortable. My position got sloppy and I started coasting down the slightest of inclines. With around 5 miles to go the heavens opened, which was very refreshing! I came off the bike with a split of 4:58:31, a little longer than I'd hoped for.
Just after the turn around point at 90km
Jumping off the bike my legs actually felt better than they have done in the last 2 Ironman races. Through T2 I was very organised and wasted no time.
My original goal for the run was to go around 3:10, but I knew that was going to be tough. I hoped I'd get close to 3:15 though. Within the first few miles I was concentrating on keeping the pace down and settling into the run. The nutrition plan of 2 gels/hour, lots of water/energy drink and salt capsules was going well. I soon found my running legs and continued along making good progress. I knew that I was starting the run in 7th position in my age-group, but was confident of making up places.
5km down, 37km to go!
Through 13km in 60 minutes I was feeling good and on target for that 3:15 split. The pace slowed a little as the sun came out again and I started to feel low on calories. I went through 21km in 1:40 and thoughts changed to hoping I'd hang on for a sub-3:30 split. The second lap was physically tough, but mentally I was there. I have pretty clear reasons for racing Ironman and there is no shortage of motivation for me being out there on race day. Despite finding it difficult I managed to keep going at a respectable clip, still making up places. Although I needed calories, I didn't want them. I switched to coke and hoped it would be enough to get me to the finish. Once I was down to the final 5km I knew that I should try to push, but I simply couldn't. My quads were gone. Continuing at the current pace was all I could handle. I came towards the finish chute and picked up the Seychelles flag from my Dad. The final run split was 3:26:11, for a finishing time of 9:31:33, good enough for 94th overall and first in the 18-24 category.
I was spent. I sat down with a volunteer and proceeded to pour water over my head. I soon made my way through the finish area to join my Dad, who told me I'd won the age-group. I was so happy, but so low on calories. I knew I had to get to the recovery tent for some food. About 20 minutes and 6 slices of pizza and a cheese roll later I emerged a new man, feeling chirpy. After picking up the bike and transition bags we headed back to our accommodation for a celebratory pizza and ice cream!
Exhausted after finishing, but had to call Mum to tell her the good news!
That night I didn't sleep at all well. My mind was going through the days events non-stop. The realisation of my achievement didn't really set in until the Hawaii slot allocation the following day. Going up to claim my slot and pay the entry fee was a very proud moment. After a relaxing afternoon in the Strandbad we attended the athletes party, which was really great. Once the prize giving started I collected my award and a giant 2 litre bottle of beer!
On top of the podium
Ironman Austria is a great race and I hope I'll get to return again one year. For now though, I feel that I've taken all that the race has to offer. Hawaii here I come!