2017 Ironman Austria – July 2nd 2017
Race reporter Luis
This year’s Ironman Austria had approximately 3500 athletes, from about 65 countries. It is one of the biggest Ironman events in the world and takes place in Carinthia, a southern Austrian region in the eastern Alps.
My Ironman day started at 3am! Plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and get into my tri suit which I’d be wearing for a long time. Any extra sleep at this point wouldn’t really make a difference. I arrived at transition around 4:45am. At this point I still didn’t know if wetsuits would be allowed. The water temperature was about 24.5°C, which was right on the limit. At precisely 5am, they announced that it was a wetsuit swim! Everybody started cheering and transition was opened.
I proceeded with my final preparations. Tire pressure, bento box, water bottles, bike computer, everything checked and ready to go. I made sure my transition bags were ready, and then headed towards the water. It was about a 10 minute walk which gave me some time to appreciate everything I had done to get there and all the people that supported me.
I put my wetsuit on and went for a 2-3 minute swim. At precisely 6:40am the cannon wet off and the Pro men started. This was my 10 min warning. This year for the age groupers they made an optional mass swim start for the first 400 athletes. The requirement was that you could do a sub 1 hour swim. I lined up in the rolling swim start area in the sub 1hr10 section, which was much more realistic for me. The cannon went off at 6:52am and all 400 athletes ran into the water. Seconds later the rolling start began for the rest of the 3000+ athletes and my race day started…
I started out nice and easy. The water was very clean, clear, and blue/green in color. After a few minutes I found someone who was slightly faster than me, and I stuck with him. I swam right next to him, occasionally making contact exactly like Sylvain taught us in Cergy. This method of drafting really worked. For the first time I successfully drafted in the water and I did not lose him for over 2k. At that point I felt good and wanted to push the pace a little, so I jumped on someone else’s feet who was quite a bit faster. This took more effort but I was able to hang on for another 1000m. At this point we entered the Lendkanal. The Lendkanal is a long channel, about 8 to 10 meters wide. Here it got a bit crowded and exciting, but I just kept my pace steady. Finally, after 3,800 meters, I exited the water in a time of 01:07:04 (01:44/100m)
Transition Zone 1:
T1 was a long transition, but that is to be expected in an Ironman. There were after all about 3500 bikes. I made my way through T1 smoothly since I had already rehearsed it in my head several times. Hopped on my bike and off I went.
I started out again nice and easy, focusing on high cadence and finding my rhythm. For the first 20km I was getting passed a lot. I’m not used to getting constantly passed on the bike, but I knew it didn’t matter. I just thought I must have had a good swim to be up here. It took a long time for my legs to warm up, but since I had to cover 180km there was no hurry. Slowly I started picking up the pace, eating small quantities of food, and making sure I was taking sips of sports drink every 10km. My plan was to eat and drink often, but only bite size pieces. This seemed to work well. My energy level was good and I kept my pace steady. The bike course was hillier than I expected (2,800m d+), but I think it was to my advantage.
For most of the bike ride it seemed like I got passed a lot on the flats, but every time we started climbing I did all the passing. I wasn’t trying to hammer the hills, all I did was go into my lowest gear (38×28), stayed seated in the saddle, and kept a high cadence. One area where I really shine is the downhills and this race was no exception. I had lots of confidence in my bike and I really leaned into the corners at speed, sticking out my knee thinking I was a MotoGP rider at times. A lot of you know that I’m a bit of a tire snob, and for this race I chose FMB Service Course (Soie Naturelle) Tubulars which helped reassure my confidence. One of the best things about this bike course was the excellent surface quality, and some of the long gradual descents. There were lots of opportunities to use my 53×11 gear, which is a rare treat.
Towards the end of the bike leg I had gotten quite uncomfortable and was really looking forward to running. My TT position is a little aggressive for 180km, and my neck was sore. Also my left foot toes were a bit numb. These are issues that I don’t normally have, but then again I don’t ride in a TT position for 5+ hours that often. I finally reached T2, hopped off my bike and on to the next leg. Bike split: 05:18:01 (34.01 km/h)
Transition Zone 2:
T2 went smoothly. I didn’t waste any time and just went straight to the run. I felt ready to run and there was no need to hang out in transition.
This has always been, and continues to be the hardest part of an Ironman for me. For the first few kilometers, I felt great! I was happy to get off the bike and stretch out my legs. I thought I was taking it easy, but my first 2km’s were in the 4:40’s, then the 3rd in the 4:50’s. Finally I settled down and ran at about a 5:10 pace. I thought this was a good pace that I could hold for the remainder of the race. At 10km my pace was steady and I was confident. The second 10k was a little slower, I crossed the 20km mark in about 1h45min, which meant my avg. pace had dropped to 5:15, which was no big deal. I still had high hopes for a 10:05 – 10:10 finish.
At this point I had been racing for close to 8 hours, and things started getting really tough. Muscles everywhere started aching and I couldn’t help but slow down. I was battling myself mentally trying to find the will to endure. I felt I was pushing the hardest I had all day, yet my pace had now dropped to the 5:30’s. At the 25km mark, I decided to walk the aid station so I could properly swallow the food and drink they provided. As the race went on, I started grabbing stuff at every aid station. Watermelon, bananas, orange slices, salt crackers, coca cola, sports drink, and water. Every time I passed an aid station they (volunteers) were putting all this great tasting food and drink in front of my face and it was too easy to grab. I was desperately trying to regain my energy, but taking in all this food made things worse. Not only was I struggling, but now I had a full stomach and got bloated. 31 km into the race I decided to walk. I walked a full kilometer which allowed my food to digest and my stomach to go down. I decided to stop eating from that point on, only to drink water, and finish the race. I did not want a repeat of last year.
When I saw the 32km mark, with the motivational help of hundreds of people yelling, I got going again. Sticking to my plan I ignored the food and only grabbed water. I eliminated any unnecessary walking and somehow got through the last 10km at a slow but steady pace. As I passed the 41km mark, I could hear the announcer in the distance yelling “You’re an Ironman!” It’s amazing how powerful adrenalin is, because after everything I had been through in the last 10 and ½ hours, I ran the last 1.2km at 4:50min/km and did not feel any more pain. After many months of hard work and thousands of training kilometers, I finally arrived to the finish area. The final moment is so brief but well worth it, running on the red carpet, through the Austrian cheerleaders, up the little ramp to the 2017 Ironman Austria finish line. Marathon time: 04:01:22 (05:43/km)
Overall finish time: 10h35m08s