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With all the hype and excitement prior to this big event I made sure to arrive a few days ahead of the race to give myself enough time to prepare and join in on some of the pre-events that the race has to offer. I was in Roth as a spectator last year so I knew how crazy it will get come race day.

Training wise I had cut down a lot on volume and intensity in the last 3 weeks leading into the race. Learning from last year’s Ironman where I felt a little bit tired and not 100% fresh on race day. This year I wanted to be 100% fresh and race ready, trusting in my hard work that I have put in the months before.

The days before the race I felt very relaxed and comfortable but at the same time I was also very focused and determine. My biggest worry was the weather forecast to be honest. It was predicted to be a very hot day and I know that racing in heat can be a big limiter. But rather than worrying too much I tried to focus on the things that I can control such as my pacing strategy and the fuelling. I had put down a plan for that so I said to myself there is nothing to worry about. On my 5-hour drive to Roth the days before I was listening to some of the podcasts from Matt where he discussed how to race in the heat and how to manage the terrain. That gave me some more confidence going into the race. I was well prepared.

To make sure I didn’t fall into a lethargic state prior to race day I kept the body active by doing an open water swim to check out the swim course, rode some of challenging parts of the bike course and went on two more runs. Nothing crazy really. The body felt good and that removed the worries. I was ready for it and probably in the best fitness and readiness shape that I have ever been so far.

 

Race Morning

I arrived very early on race morning to give myself a lot of time to set everything up and spend some more time with my friends and family who joined me in the morning. Everything went smooth and by the time I finished setting up T1 I had more than 1 hour to go before my wave went off. The place around T1 was filling up quickly with spectators and I have never seen so many people lining up to watch the swim start of a race. It was brilliant and the atmosphere was electric.

The warmup area didn’t really allow to do a proper warmup, so I did a few mobility drills to loosen up my shoulder joints and some breathing exercises to calm down the nerves and get focused. In the warmup area, there were also all the pros getting ready so it gave the feeling that we are all in this together as we must go through the same.

You could tell that the tension was building up and everyone was ready to race. The place by this time was pumping. Thousands of people lined up along the canal and on the bridge and it gave me some goose pumps when I entered the water to start the swim. I have never seen such a big crowd in a race before.

The Swim

Once the gun went off for my wave I let the fast guys take off and then I settled into my own rhythm. It was a big group with a lot of guys so the first few hundred meters were a bit hectic. I didn’t let myself get distracted and just focused on my own swimming. Finding a rhythm wasn’t that easy but after a few hundred meters I got into it and started to swim smooth and very controlled. Knowing that it will be a long and hot day out there I was swimming at a comfortable place. The rest of the swim was pretty un event full. It was an almost straight-line swim with 2 turns. By the time I was making my way back to the swim start I thought that it was a slower swim than usual. On the last few hundred meters you could hear the noise of all the spectators. Every now and then I took a glimpse on the side and there were just people everywhere. It was unreal!

When I exited the water, and ran into T1 I just had a look at my watch and too my surprise it showed a time of 59 minutes. That was a 1 minute quicker than my last Ironman swim. Happy with that I flew through T1 and by the big applause of all the spectators I got onto my bike and off I went for lap one of the 2 lap bike course.

The Bike

My plan for the bike was to not go out too hard on the first 15km and stick to my power. I was surprised how quickly I got into a good rhythm so it was hard to hold back and not get too excited. I managed the first 2 inclines on the first 20km well and my legs felt good. The road to the first longer climb in Greding was mostly flat. I put my head down and settled into a strong but sustainable effort. I was passing a lot of riders on the first 50km. Prior to the race I rode the Kalvarienberg climb so I knew what to expect. On the day, it was filled with a lot of spectators who were pushing you up the hill. I sticked to my plan and didn’t go overboard on this one. Controlled and strong, lower cadence, higher power, getting out of the saddle and pushing over the top of the hill. Easy stuff I thought, it felt good and the climb didn’t do much damage. From there onwards the ride continued to be smooth. I managed the technical downhill sections not too bad this time. Listening a couple of times to Matt’s and Paul’s talk about managing terrain helped 😉 Riding downhill is still a weakness where I lose time, so more practice needed. The road conditions were perfect and there were not too many riders on the road, so I kept some good momentum on the downhill parts.

One of the highlights was definitely Solar Hill. When I took the last turn before the climb I couldn’t believe what I saw (or didn’t see haha). There were just spectators everywhere. Thousands of them and it was almost impossible to see the road as it was just packed with people. I had no one in front of me riding when I started my Solar Hill climb and the crowd just went ballistic. I had a big smile on my face as I was climbing up the hill. Amongst the big crowd I spotted my family and friends which was awesome. I could tell they had as much fun as I did. I soaked up the energy I got from the crowd and it felt great. The last 20km of the first lap went by way too quick and I couldn’t believe that I was already on my second lap. This was too easy, right?

After the first lap, I did a quick check how I was progressing. My average power was spot on where expected it to be and I was also happy with my average speed knowing that I haven’t overcooked the first lap and still have plenty of energy left for lap two. I continued my second lap and pretty much executed it the same way as the first one. After the race, I checked my data and my second lap was only 20 seconds slower than the first one. I thought that was pretty good.

The first time I noticed a little bit of fatigue in my legs was on the last 10km into T2. It was expected but looking back I think I paced the ride well. Here are some data stats from my ride

Avg.Power: 182 Watts (FTP: ~250 Watts)
IF: 0.728
TSS: 267
Avg. Pace: 35.2km/h
Avg.HR: 145 bpm

Nutrition wise I stuck to my plan. I just drank a little bit more water than usual but calorie wise I stuck to the plan. There were no signs of any gastro issues and my energy level was normal. One change I made from my last Ironman was to use more fluid nutrition rather than solid food. I had 1 Clif Bar and the rest was liquid calories and 2 gels using my trusted source of fuelling from Hammer Nutrition. Added to that I had my electrolytes and plenty of water (Maybe a bit too much water, as I had a to take a toilette stop before I started the run to release some of the pressure that was building up at the end of the ride)

The Run

Before the race I put big hopes into my run performance as I have developed some good resilience and run fitness in the last couple of months. Looking back at my first Ironman experience last year, I experienced firsthand what it’s like to run a marathon in an Ironman. So, I was prepared to suffer and struggle but trusted in all the work that I have done.

It took me 2-3 km until I found a good rhythm. First, I experienced some pain in my left food sole which just dissolved and never returned during the race. I took on some nutrition at the start of the run and my plan was to stick with Gel + Water as long as possible. The first 10km went by pretty quickly and I felt really good holding my target race pace of 4:45min/km. I was confident to maintain that pace as the heat was not as bad as initially thought.

The new run course in Roth has its new challenges. In the 2 lap course there are longer inclines that are quite challenging. Once I passed km 15 I started to notice a level of fatigue and heaviness in my legs building up. At this stage I wasn’t overly worried and kept pushing. As the run went on it was harder and harder to maintain a good rhythm and pace. The up and downhill running made it difficult to maintain a good pace and I started to struggle. My pace dropped to about 5:00-5:10 min/km and it was a battle to hold it. After the first two laps (km22) my energy levels dropped again and I knew that very soon I need to get more sugar into my body to stay alert and focused. The temperature started to raise as well and at the km 25 mark the pain was real and the mental game was full on. The great support and the massive crowds on the run course helped me a lot to get through this part of the race. Knowing I still had to run out to Büchenbach on the last lap was hard to swallow (that is a long incline), especially as you run past the finish a couple of times during the race. I had to put my act together at this point. I took walk breaks at every aid station to take in nutrition. Coke and water on the last 1hr of the run. I cooled down the body as much as possible to avoid overheating. The legs were in limbo state and very stiff and heavy. Turning the legs over became a real struggle but I said to myself, it’s only 1 hr to go. Other runners on the course, the atmosphere and the thought of the pre-race food and massage lifted my spirit. I pushed through the pain and fatigue and was even able to pick up the pace again on the last few km.

The last 2km to the finish line were awesome. You run through the city centre where thousands of people are celebrating and cheering you on. It was such a good moment in my triathlon career. I really enjoyed that part the most, knowing I am so close to home and delivered a good race. I was just happy and satisfied. On the last few hundred meters I saw my parents and friends, I hugged them and everyone was just happy and proud as well. Passing the finish line in Roth was a moment in my life I will always remember. Crossing the finish line in the biggest and most spectacular triathlon in the world, was a good reminder why I love this sport so much.

 

Some after thoughts

At the end of the day everyone participating in such a race has their own reasons. I think you need to have a strong “WHY” to be successful in this sport in your own terms. I realised that when I watched the last finisher crossing the line and the emotions, celebrations and feelings that go along with that. It’s not about winning or setting PBs that make you a great athlete, it’s about what you create for yourself and other people around you. I was inspired by people who didn’t race to win, I was inspired by the impact they can have on other people. We are very privileged to be able to do this sport and I think to give back some of that inspiration and positivity to other people is very important. At least for me and I hope that my journey in this sport can inspire and influence as many people as possible so that they can find their own path to live a more passionate, fulfilling and happy life!

For now, I am going to enjoy 2 easy weeks of no structured training before I get all my energy focused again for the last built for Ironman Italy End of September.

Race Splits

Swim: 00:59:17
T1: 00:02:29
Bike: 05:03:59
T2: 00:03:12
Run: 03:27:41

Overal: 09:36:36

Overal Rank: 147 of 3456
Division Rank: 34 of 437
3rd Best Austrian of 98

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Blog, Ironman, Journey, Races

“Nothing comes easy, if you want something bad enough, you will get it, but don’t wait for it to come to you, you have to get up, get going and go after it.”

When the nerves kicked in a couple of days before the race, I always reminded myself of the hard work I have put in to get to the start line. I trusted in my training and I knew I was fit and in good shape. The excitement was definitely higher than for any other race I have done so far and my lead up to the race was good. No big setbacks like injuries or sickness, I could follow the training plan through which gave me enough confidence to race. But anyway, I was nervous and excited, which I think is normal and a good thing, as long as you can use it for your advantage. Alright, let’s jump into the race and how it all went. It was a long day in the office for everyone, not just me. My whole support crew did a massive job as well in supporting me throughout the day. I think without them, the race experience would not have been the same! You guys know who you are, so a very big Thank You at this point! You are legends! P1050820DSC_2869 Picture credit goes to Pia Dirnberger and Gernot Wiesinger http://gernot-wiesinger.at/

PRE RACE

Race morning was very well planned, so I felt relaxed after an early 3am wakeup call. The last thing you want is a bad surprise that messes up with your plan. A little something usually happens to me, so I was prepared. Well, this time I couldn’t find my race watch for the bike mount. It somehow disappeared and I spend a couple of minutes in the transition area trying to find it. It somehow slipped into one of my bike shoes. Luckily I checked again before I left transition and found it. A few deep breaths and I was ready to head to the swim start. I did my run warmup, toilette stop and then headed to the start where I did another swim warmup. After that it was time to give one last hug to my family and friends. I was running a little bit late, so I missed the queue for my rolling swim start wave. It wasn’t a big deal, I only had to start in one of the later waves and had to wait a bit longer. It didn’t really bother me too much. I was very calm, relaxed and focused. One thing my coach told me is to deal with the immediate task at hand. Don’t worry about the outcome, focus on the process. I think this is a great mantra for every triathlete. We tend to start asking our self a lot of questions during the race and lose focus on the immediate task at hand! DSC_2691

SWIM

I felt relaxed entering the water and my plan was to start smooth and controlled. I focused on my stroke, breathing and sighting for the first few minutes. I found a good rhythm quite quickly and settled into a solid and strong but controlled effort. There were plenty of buoys on the first 1.3km going out so sighting was quite easy. I overtook a lot of swimmers and felt good coming to the first left turn. After the first turn I picked up the pace a little bit to reach the next turn which was about 500m away. After the second turn we were already heading back and we had the sun in our eyes. That made it really hard to sight, so I followed a huge group of swimmers which were about 100 meters in front of me. I sighted more often on the way back to make sure I stay in line with the group. The gap to the group got smaller and a few hundred meters away from the shore I could spot the flags which mark the entrance to the lend canal Once I hit the canal I noticed the people lining up left and right of the canal. About 100m in the canal I could hear voices shouting my name. What the hell?? I turned to the right and spotted my whole support crew!!! I was literally swimming 2 meters beside them, all the way until the exit of the swim. Without much thinking my stroke rate increased and I was speeding past a lot of swimmers. I was in the zone! It felt awesome and the cheering helped me a lot. It was fun and I was thinking to myself, boy this is going to be a great day! After the last sharp right turn there was already the swim exit. I slowly walked up the carpet which led you out of the water before I started my run into transition 1. A quick look at my watch confirmed my good feeling. A 1hr swim! Bang, game on! DSC_2693DSC_2718

TRANSITION 1

It was a long run to the transition zone. I quickly located my transition bag and entered the tent to change into my cycling gear. I took my time. I wanted to make sure everything is in place before I got on my bike for the 180km ride. That was intentionally. Don’t rush and forget something, this is not a sprint distance race. After more than 5 mins in transition I was on my bike. Looking at my times after the race I think I left a little bit too much time there:-/

BIKE

My plan was to stay on the conservative side on the first loop and be vigilant about my fuelling and hydration. I wasn’t pushing any big gears on the first 15mins of the ride. Focus was to get comfortable on the bike and focus on pedalling and form. First it felt strange riding my bike after swimming for 1h and it took me a while until I found my legs and the power. I waited with nutrition and hydration for 30 mins. After that, I consumed water + food every 15 mins throughout the ride. For the most part I had solid food in the form of energy bars. No gels! Just real food and water and electrolytes. I pretty much stuck to that until the last hour before I introduced fluid nutrition (gels + carb diluted water). I was able to follow my nutrition plan throughout the ride and didn’t have any weird gut issues. It was all looking good. The first 20km were mostly flat with a few little inclines before we hit the first climb after km 30. Nothing too bad really. I kept a solid pace, my heart rate was in the right zone. The only issue I had pretty much right from the start was my neck! Damn, it was sore from the swim. This was bothering me and I tried to stretch it out to release some tension. It got a little bit better as the ride went on but it was still quite annoying. On the flats I kept the cadence high and made sure I had good tension on the chain. On the climbs I kept the power a bit higher but avoided heart rate spikes. The course is very technical and varies a lot in terrain, so you need to adjust and use all the tools and skills you’ve got. You can’t ride that course with the same power all the way through. The course gets really fast on the long and steady downhill sections, that’s where you need the big gears. My body composition didn’t really provide an advantage here so I had to work harder than the bigger and stronger riders on the downhill. I knew this is where I can make or lose a lot of time. I thought the first 90km took ages. I felt ok but not great! After starting my second lap I checked my time and pace. My avg. speed was about 34.5 km/h. That gave me confidence for the second lap. DSC_2842DSC_2919 Going through lap 2 I felt better than on the 1st lap. I tried to stick with some of the stronger riders on the flat sections. Towards km 140 rain set in. It was pouring down quite heavily which made the downhill sections very dangerous. I was surprised how some of the guys speeded down on that slippery and wet road. I saw the ambulance twice and I intentional took out the speed on the winding downhill sections. The risk of an accident was just too high and not worth it at any cost. I stayed conservative and my plan was to get to T2 in one piece. The last 2 climbs on the second lap were tough. I could feel my quads burning going up the Rupertiberg. It’s not a very long and steep climb but it’s still enough to suck out a lot of energy. Once I reached the top of the last climb it was time to take in some more nutrition before I made my way back to the finish. With 30km to go it was one more time to put in some solid effort on the descents coming into Klagenfurt. On the last 10km my focus was slowly switching towards the run. I tried to stretch out my back, got out of the saddle a few times and kept the cadence high to prepare my legs for the run. Before I reached T2 I had a quick check on my second lap time, it was slower than the first one which I expected considering the rain and some drop of power on those climbs. I was feeling good though and was glad to get off the bike and start the run!

TRANSITION 2

Similar to T1 everything went smoothly. Maybe I took a bit too much time tying my shoe laces and putting on my running socks. There is definitely some time to shave off in those transitions. But hey, I was a first timer 😉

RUN

So there I was, approaching my Ironman run. Some would say that’s when the race starts. The swim and bike was the warm up, now it’s time to get into the pain cave for a couple of hours. I was mentally prepared and ready. I did a lot mental preparation beforehand and went through some worst case scenarios and how to deal with it. My mantra was. Think positive, move forward, don’t stop, and keep going. I am strong, I have worked hard for that, I can do it. Let’s get going, have fun and embrace the pain! The first 15 mins are crucial in the run, it sets you up for a good or bad day. My coach told me to focus on form, posture, food speed. Run upright and don’t worry about your pace. Find a comfortable rhythm, have good posture and form and the legs will come to you automatically. That’s exactly what I did and I got into a good rhythm very quickly. I felt good, really good and I was running smoothly. After 2.5km I had a quick look on my watch. It was all looking good. I was sitting on a 4:40min/km pace and my heart rate was right there were it should be. All good I thought, if it continues like that this will be a walk in the park I thought. Well let me tell you this, things changed pretty quickly and I was up for a rollercoaster ride.DSC_2954 After the second aid station I felt some urge to do a toilette stop. No big deal I thought, I have practiced that in training. Stop and go. I was a little bit worried that I took in too many calories on the last part of the bike. Hence I avoided any calories on the run for the first 40 minutes or so. I had water, electrolytes and watermelon at the aid station. After my toilette stop things started to get worse. My legs felt stiff and heavy. I was struggling to get back into my rhythm and my pace. It was getting harder and harder to keep my target pace. From km 5 – km 20 it was an up and down. For a while I felt good but then my mood went down pretty quickly and the mind games started. I knew that if mood drops, it’s a sign of a lack of calories. So I topped up my calories with gels at the aid stations. It was too early for coke. Not yet. I can still manage it. From km 20 onwards things got worse. It was soo damn hard to keep the pace, it dropped, and I was forced to go a bit slower than anticipated. At that point I didn’t give a damn about my time or pace. All I wanted to do is to keep going, even if it’s slow. Don’t stop, keep moving forward. I can’t recall too much between km20-30. I was in big struggle town. I walked through every single aid station! The way I split up my run was to run from one aid station to the next. Set small goals. The support on the course was phenomenal. Everyone was cheering you on and every time I came past my family and friends my mood went up and I felt proud to take part at this crazy event. On a few occasions I was laughing to myself, thinking we are all a bunch of idots doing such a stupid race. DSC_2965 I watched other runners as well and I didn’t find anyone who was not struggling. We were all in this together. My crew was amazing, they pushed me forward. I was loving it that they had fun. I tried to look good when I passed them, didn’t want them to think I am struggling. It’s all good thumbs up. (Yeah if they knew in how much pain I was) I got this. When I started the last lap at km mark 32 I knew I will make it. I got a rush of energy from somewhere. At this point it was the first time I had a look at my overall time. Where was I sitting, what’s the time? I quickly did some calculations in my head and thought, well if you keep running with that pace a sub 10hr is no problem. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. That’s what I did on the last 10km. I enjoyed it, I got comfortable with the pain. It was still bloody hard and painful but manageable. 5km until the finish line, that’s awesome. Enjoy it. I saw my folks one last time before I took the turn towards the finish chute. We high5’d, everyone was soo excited, pumped up. What an achievement. The last 100m before I crossed the finish line were epic. It’s hard to explain what it feels like. It’s a rush of adrenaline that goes through your body. It’s that mix of pain, fatigue, relief and pride. For a few moments you feel like a hero. You have accomplished something special, all that hard work you’ve put in over the last months pays out at that very moment. This was a special moment and I enjoyed every second of it. I gave high 5s to people on my way to the finish line, goose bump moments. im finish pic After I crossed the finish I needed something to hold on to. I spotted me sister, she was at the fence waiting for me. I was totally exhausted and tired. After a few minutes my legs shut down and I could barely walk to the support tent. Once I reached the tent I just lay down and relaxed for a few minutes. I was so glad that it was over and done. DSC_2972 I spent a very long time in the tent, eating and drinking, taking a shower, relaxed my legs in the cold water. I fully enjoyed this moment. I was proud of what I have achieved. After the race it was time with my support crew, we exchanged stories, laughed and just had a very good time all together. I think everyone enjoyed the day, it was great, everything just came together nicely in the end. Thanks Ironman Austria for organising this amazing race, thanks to all the volunteers who put in such a good work. I was so surprised of how friendly and helpful the people were. You could tell, they had as much fun as we had. I am sure I will be back racing in Klagenfurt once again but maybe not next year 😉 DSC_1769 P1050822

REFLECTIONS AND OUTLOOK

People asked me a lot about my target time. I answered them that I don’t have one, I just want to enjoy the day and give my best and then we will see what’s going to happen. This was not quite true. I indeed had a time in my mind that I thought would be realistic. I thought I can go sub 10hrs. In the end I missed it by just 2 minutes. I blame the 2 minutes on my toilette stops, the long transition times and my watch that was showing the wrong time. Had I known, I would have pushed harder on the last 10km to make it happen. There was still something in the tank. Well I guess for my next Ironman I have a pretty clear target 😉 I learned a lot in this race about my limiters and weaknesses and what I have to work on. There are things to improve but this will take time. Time and consistency is the key in these long distance races. So I will be patient and keep working. I think if I keep training consistent, next season could be a really good one for another Ironman attempt. Before the race I wasn’t even sure if the Ironman distance is a good distance for me. I think it is, I did well and I am quite surprised how well my body recovered after the race. It took me a couple of days until the sore muscles were gone. I didn’t suffer any injuries. A week after the race I am back to normal, feeling really good. No sign of post-race blues. I am quite amazed how well my body handled all that stress. I think my secret is that I really looked after my body. I want to be fit yes but not at all cost. Being healthy is way more important. My nutrition has played a key role here. I have noticed it during training, I’ve hardly suffered from hard workouts for too long. My body bounced back really quickly. During all that training I haven’t had any injuries or sick days. Again nutrition and proper recovery is key. Often people are quite surprised when I tell them that I live on a plant based/vegan diet and train for an Ironman. They raise their eyebrows and get worried. I get the usual questions but I find it entertaining, yes sometimes a bit annoying as well but I am happy to share my experiences and tell what works well for me. If I can help someone else that’s great but in the end it’s up to everyone else to find out the right nutrition for them. Moving forward I’ll take two weeks off training to recharge the batteries before I move into my last build of this season. I have still 3 outstanding races (1 Olympic distance and 2 Half Ironman races) where I want to perform well. I am looking forward to do more speed and higher intensity work again and I want to have a good crack at the next races to get some new PBs. Will I do another Ironman? Yes I will but not this season. I will look into some races for mid/late next season. My big goal is Kona one day but I think it will take some time to get there. But that’s fine because I enjoy the journey and training. The right time will come one day so until then I keep moving forward and take one step at a time in the right direction. I hope you enjoyed reading, please feel free to leave a comment and some feedback. Cheers, AndyG IRONMAN AUSTRIA TIME SPLITS SWIM: 1:00:24 BIKE: 05:18:04 RUN: 03:32:05 OVERALL: 10:02:12 Division Rank: 73/337 Overall Rank: 342/2862

5

Journey, Training

Mallorca – An athlete’s paradise
It doesn’t come as a big surprise that this island is a cycling Mecca and great training ground.Especially at this time of the year where the weather is perfect and the mass tourism hasn’t quite set in yet!
Mallorca offers an amazing and very diverse scenery. From beautiful beaches and bays to high mountains with steep cliffs and winding narrow roads that take your breath away.  The roads are well maintained, they provide you with very challenging cycling routes which you can tell by the amount of cyclists on the road. I’d say there were more cyclists than cars on the road.

I had the pleasure to spend 3 full weeks on the island and dedicate all my time and attention to my training. Some might say I have the luxury of living a life like a professional triathlete. I take that 🙂 Although it sounds like a perfect set-up there were certain challenges I had to tackle to make the most out of my time there. My goal was to truly focus on my training and be fully committed to get me closer to my goal.

Training structure
The 3 weeks were divided into a 2 week building block of very intense training and 1 week with reduced load for recuperation to allow the body to absorb the work and recover. One mistake I didn’t want to do was to over commit and add additional training stress to my plan to risk an injury or too much fatigue and over-training. It was important to focus on the recovery between the training, limit my stress (sleep and nutrition are key here), so that I can hit every single training session with 100%.
The theme of these 3 weeks was – sustainable power and speed!
Oh boy there were some serious sessions that took me way out of my comfort zone and raised the bar of my pain level. I had to dig deep, be fully present during the training. I had some great break through sessions which lifted my fitness level again.
My coach put together a well balanced training plan. To give you an idea what a week typically looked like:

Swim: 3-4 sessions, 2 key sessions and 2 supporting sessions
Bike: 3 sessions, 2 key and 1 supporting session
Run: 3-5 sessions, 2 key, 1 brick and 2 supporting sessions
Strength training: 2 sessions

The idea behind this is to have 2 key sessions per sport. The key sessions are very specific to the training phase you are currently in (sustainable power). They are usually more challenging and ask you to dig deep and work your butt off.
The supporting sessions are less stressful and give your body some chance to recover. All all in all I did between 12- 14 sessions per week. Yes that is a lot of work for an amateur athlete (but well I am supposed to train like a pro right)

The amount of accumulated hours or distance was not a main indicator at the end of the week of how well or successful you have trained.
Factors like form over speed, efficiency on the bike and run, sustainability of power over a given time, switching between training zones, knowing when to work hard and when to go easy. One of the key things that I have learned is that more speed and power do not necessarily translate to better training success.

A typical training day
Just to give you an idea what a typical day looked like:

  • Wake up with sunrise
  • Breakfast #1
  • First Training session
  • Breakfast #2
  • Active recovery
  • Spare time
  • Lunch
  • Spare time
  • Second training session
  • Dinner
  • Sleep

Focus on recovery and reducing stress
I think the biggest advantage you have when you can only focus on training is to reduce your other stress factors in your life (unproductive stress) as much as possible and make recovery a priority. I usually had 8-9 hours of sleep each day and that is truly a big benefit when it comes to training. Sleep is your best recovery tool you have, it’s free so make use of it.

The second best thing in my opinion for reducing stress is nutrition! This is a challenge when you are not at home and travel. Eating only plant based doesn’t make things any easier. Well that’s what I first thought but I think I managed it very well and it’s doable to eat well and healthy while travelling.

I will explain how I managed to do it in a separate article. This could be interesting for a lot of people who travel and struggle with eating healthy while being away.

Wrap up
Apart from all the crazy training I did, I had also plenty of time to do other things. I explored a lot of different places on the island, I met some wonderful new people, I was running the household at my host (including feeding and looking after his cat, cleaning the house and playing with his son). Getting to know a shop owner, helping out my host with his new restaurant and have more time for reading, yoga and meditation was nice too.

The last week I spent with my sister and her husband. After not seeing them for so long, it was nice spending some time together and forget about training for a while.

All in all I think the 3 weeks of training helped me a lot. I have made some big fitness improvements, got more confidence in my approach of how I am doing things and got a clearer picture of where I am heading.

I am now 8 weeks away from the big race. The clock is ticking and the excitement is slowly building up.

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Journey, Training

I can’t believe how fast the time has gone over the last months. I am now 6 months into my new training program and 12 weeks away from my first IRONMAN. That sends some shivers down my spine and makes me nervous and excited at the same time.

My last block of training was 12 weeks long, it was the pre-season training phase and it has been the best training I have ever done so far. It’s fair to say that I have improved and hit the targets for this phase. The goal was to improve my overall cardiovascular and muscular endurance and get very fit but not race ready.

The intention from my coach was very clear, which was to deliver great endurance and to develop a feeling of being ‘fit and strong‘ without being fast or sparky. I have experienced the biggest shift of fitness so far and the training prescribed to me caused a steep curve of fitness, relative to my current state. That gives me a lot of confidence going into the next 2 phases of training and getting ready for IRONMAN Austria and the races that will follow.

My last 3 months of training focused mainly on the following areas:

  1. Endurance
  2. High Power with extended rest
  3. Strength
  4. Some VO2max efforts
  5. Swim Focus
  6. Evolved Functional strength work

The training was demanding and had a nice blend of neurological stimulation, high power work and some simple endurance training. A key was to be an active participant in your training process and to be aware of accumulating fatigue. It was important to understand the purpose and intensity of each session prescribed. When the plan calls out for VERY EASY, it means very easy. The intention behind that is to make you 100% ready for the KEY sessions which usually call out for some higher intensity. With that in mind and a proper fueling, nutrition and recovery plan, I could navigate through each week very well and hit my targets.

I am now progressing into the next phase of my training with the aim to sharpen my fitness and improve my power and speed by throwing in some sustained higher intensity work. This will be daunting and very challenging but with my level of fitness to this date I am confident to make it through and to continue to improve.

I have recently relocated back to Europe and will be spending the majority of my time in Austria. For the next 3 weeks though I will be heading to the beautiful island of Majorca in Spain where I will purely focus on training! For me it’s like living a pro life at the moment 🙂 Such a luxury isn’t it. Some might assume that with the time available I would increase my training volume but that is not the case. Nothing has changed in my training and my coach wants to me focus more on recovery and making sure I use the spare time to rest up and enjoy some time off.

It’s always a fine line and balancing act to get not caught up with training too much and forget about the other beautiful things in life. For my part, I want to make the most out of it and push things to find my own limits this year. I am feeling great, I am in good health, I am not too fatigue and my energy levels are high despite all the training that I do. I will continue to drive my passion for healthy eating and living, fitness and training to allow me to create a lifestyle that makes me happy and fulfilled.

Here is glimpse of Alcudia where I will be spending my next few weeks 🙂

Namaste,
AndyG

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Journey, Races

There is a particular history to this race.

In 2014 I was helping as a volunteer on the course and was watching in agony with a broken shoulder.
2015 turned out to be better, I finished and came 3rd in my age group M30-34.
2016 some good improvements from last year, a PB by 10 minutes and a 2nd place.
2017…???

I like racing in Karri Valley, it’s a course that suits me. Swimming in a lake that feels like home to me, a bike course that has some good hills with solid long and steady climbs (not quite as steep as those Alps in Austria haha) and a run that is a mix between trails and road which asks for strong legs and some grit.

The start of the race was quite hectic for me as I almost missed the start. Stupid me lost his wallet in transition and was desperately looking for it. Luckily someone found it and returned it to the race officials (thanks heaps to the person who found it and returned it)

Swim
Once in the water, it was game on. I went out hard for the first few minutes until we reached the first turn. I then settled into a more steady rhythm and focused on my breathing and a high stroke rate. I noticed that I wasn’t too far behind the first pack of swimmers. I wasn’t pushing too hard and exited the water pretty fresh. In transition I was told that the first guy is about 2 minutes ahead of me. That was good news and it confirmed that I had a good swim.

Bike
On the bike course you get straight into a longer climb which gets your heart rate up. I pushed up hard on the first incline and then tried to get into a steady rhythm, focused on my pedal stroke and my cadence. I got my heart rate under control and felt good. I made up time and overtook a few guys. The bike course is a 2 laps out and back loop. Throughout the first lap I stayed on the gas. On the flats and downhill section I tried to produce a lot of power and pushed the big gears.

On the way back on the first lap I spotted a few of the stronger cyclists, they were not too far behind me so I knew I had to keep up the pace to keep them off as long as possible. That’s what I did. I kept my pace, didn’t drop back. Only towards the last third of the bike leg the stronger cyclists in my group overtook me. That’s what I expected anyway but I also knew that the gap was not big after entering T2. It was a confidence boost knowing I was in the lead of my age group for most part of the race so far.

Run
By the time I started the run my legs didn’t feel to good. Very tired and heavy. I was not surprised at all and expected that to happen. I didn’t taper for this race and was racing on top of a few weeks of big training. My coach told me that. You’ll be strong but not fast. You’ll feel a good level of fatigue.

I guess that’s what B races are for. You are not race ready or in your prime state of fitness. Knowing that I took the run not too hard. I wasn’t trying to kill myself out there and go all out because I knew there is much more training ahead of me and I don’t want to risk an injury or too much fatigue. Nevertheless I had a solid good run I have to say. I didn’t pay much attention on pace or heart rate this time. I focused purely on form and smooth running. My perceived effort felt hard but it wasn’t that I was going all out. My legs were screaming but my heart was in cruise mode. So I kept going. I overtook a fair bit of people on the run, especially on my last lap. Not until the last lap I thought that I might be in for a podium. I knew that there was at least one guy in front of me. He overtook me early in the run and I didn’t see him again. In the end he finished only 5 minutes ahead of me.

After crossing the finish line I was pretty exhausted and tired but had a big smile on my face. I was glad that the race was over. I took a few moments to collect myself. Straight to the recovery box to get some nutrition in me.

Take away
Karri Valley is a though and honest race. I think it’s definitely one of the harder races that I have done over the past few years. Overall I was very happy with the result and where I stand with my training and preparation to this date. I don’t sit back and relax now, there is so much more work to do. Very soon I get into the race specific phase of my training year. This race was another small milestone and a step closer to become a better, more experienced and well rounded athlete.

I love the sport, I love the people involved and the strong community behind it. Thanks to everyone who make this event happen! Much respect to all the people who made it to the finish line. You are all winners! At the end of the day the rank doesn’t really matter, everyone is at a different stage in their own journey. Embrace it and enjoy every part of it.

To finish off here is a great quote that my coach put out there the other day:

“To succeed, TALENT is simply an ‘Invitation to participate’, but offers no promise of any real long term success.”Matt Dixon purplepatch fitness coaching

Race details:

1.5km swim – 00:23:38
60km bike – 1:40:46
12km run – 00:51:40

Total time: 2:59:53
Rank: 2nd M30-34

Some impressions of the race (photo credit: Focused Ninja Photography)

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Journey, Training

I am now well and truly in the middle of my Pre-Season training phase and training has started to “feel real”. I have been cruising through the first phase but I now things are getting tougher each week.

As I progress through each week my training volume and intensity has started to go up gradually. Each week the sessions progress from the previous week and I start feeling some level of fatigue creeping in. The focus has started to shift towards “real” endurance, strength and some high power work. I have started to hit some progressive mechanical endurance sessions on the bike, heavy big gear work, coupled with some heavy strength-endurance tempo hill repetitions in the run. Swimming has become very challenging and requires me to stay truly focused in the sessions to make sure I execute the sessions as prescribed. It’s very challenging especially when you have to do these sessions by yourself.

Functional strength training has also progressed and more load has been introduced. The exercises have started to become more “complete” which means you have to engage your whole body to execute certain movements. The foundation and technique is set, so now it’s time to add load and some explosive power movements into your routine.

With the increase in load and volume, it’s critical to monitor the level of fatigue and make sure I don’t accumulate not too much. It’s a fine balancing act. So far all good. I am still staying on top of things.

The other big challenge is to stay on top of your nutrition. It requires good planning to make sure you have nutrition available after each session. Skipping a meal is not an option. Discipline and planning is key.

I have decided to skip a few of my early season races. I have found that they distract me too much from training and add additional stress without adding much benefit to my overall training goals.

My last race here in Australia will be next month on the 19th of March. I am really looking forward to this race and it’s going to be a first “checkpoint” for me to see where I am at with my fitness.

From March onwards I can fully focus on my training as work will take a back seat. I will have to prepare a few things for my move back to Europe. Beside from training I will start to work on a sideline project that will keep me busy for a while and fill the gap between the training. Once back in Europe, I will spend a month in Majorca. I have heard it’s a pretty neat spot for triathlon training 😉

Other than that I will enjoy my last weeks here in Perth, soak in the beautiful weather, the beach, go on a road trip and catch up with friends. Can’t believe that the time is drawing to an end here :-((

Thanks for reading.

Cheers Andy

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Journey, Training

I will post more regular updates on how my training is going in preparation for the IRONMAN race in June. This is part of my fundraising challenge as well, so I want to keep everyone who is interested in my journey up to date on how everything is going.

I am now 13 weeks into my new coaching program and last week was the end of the 1st training block (post season).
I am now transitioning into the next block of training which will last for another 3 months (pre season).

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I follow a periodization training approach which I explain in more detail in one of my previous posts, Periodization – How to plan your training seasonSo far I have to say I am making good progress and my body is adapting to the new style of training. It took me a few weeks to get used to it but I can see already some benefits and improvements. It’s a gradual progress and the goal is to prepare your body to adapt to the training load, volume and intensity to get you in race shape. I really enjoy what’s been throwing at me so far haha. Also the education that I receive as part of the coaching is such a big value! And it’s fun overall as well!

The training so far has been fairly “light” and not too challenging. The main challenge was to get used to the new training methods. Especially with swimming where I have started to use a lot of tools to help me working on my body position and to become more streamlined and efficient with my strokes.

On the bike the focus has been on neuromuscular recruitment, making the connection between my brain talking to my body, by doing high and low cadence work, with most of the work in the lower end of the training zones (Z1 and Z2).

The running has been similar to the bike – neuromuscular recruitment, building up those muscle fibres to get used to more running. I have found that it’s frequency and quality over distance and volume. My longest run so far, was a 2hr trail run. Looking at the training ahead I don’t think I will be doing too many long runs. That’s an interesting approach and I am keen to see how my body will adapt to this to get me ready to run a full marathon.

I can see some good improvements in my swimming and cycling already. Very happy with that. Overall I feel very good, I am not too fatigue, recover quickly and haven’t had any injuries.

In the next months it’s all about getting really FIT!!! It’s going to get more challenging, more workouts, more sessions, more intensity and also a ramp up in the volume. The focus is definitely on swimming and functional strength work over the next weeks and months. There will be some very challenging sessions for me in the pool. For the running part I will start adding more strength and speed work and I will see more HIIT workouts for both the bike and run.

For anyone who is interested here are a few statistics from my post season training block

Post season stats

 

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Journey

Looking back at 2015, I think I would sum it up with the following two words:
discovery and consistency 

I’ve discovered my passion and desire of what I can and want to do. It has been a great year from that perspective. When I’ve first started doing triathlons it was a fun thing, nothing I was too serious about it. I didn’t think this would be something I could become good at or would enjoy doing. Yes I was wrong. It has set me off to a new path and this path will continue the next year and the years to follow.

It was also a year of consistency without major disruptions. I was able to train throughout the year for the first time, completed all my races that I wanted to do. I didn’t suffer any injuries or setbacks that left me out of training for too long. And consistency is so important in this sport in order to achieve your goals and results that you want. I will build on that going into the new year with a great outlook. My goals are set and I am ready to tackle them.

My highlights of the last season from a racing perspective

  • Completed my first ever Half Ironman where I placed 17th in my age group
  • Qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in my home country Austria
  • Raced 3 Half Ironman races with solid results
  • 3rd place in my age group at the Karri Valley long course triathlon
  • Major improvements in all 3 disciplines

Apart from my races there were some other highlights that I am grateful for

  • Made the transition to an entirely plant based nutrition. This was huge and played a big part in my journey. I think I gonna write a separate post about that and why it was such a big thing for me
  • Not only did I discover my passion for this sport but I also found out where I want to take my life and what I really want to do
  • I discovered what is really important and matters in life which influenced a few decisions for next year
  • I have never felt healthier and fitter in my life. My overall well-being, state of mind and compassion have evolved
  • Special moments with friends and family

Looking at the year ahead of me I want to fine tune my vision and continue to make it a reality

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You become what
you envision yourself
being

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Journey, Training

Purplepatch coaching introduced me to a well known paradigm in the athletic training world, Periodization. I somehow followed a periodization training approach before but not on a long term basis, it was rather targeted to single races and not on an entire season.

In general terms periodization can be described as:

…the systematic planning of athletic or physical training. The aim is to reach the best possible performance in the most important competition of the year. It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. (Source: wikipedia.org)

In order to follow such a training model, the first thing I did was to plan my key races and supporting races over the course of the season. In my case the season goes from October 2015 – October 2016. My aim is to reach 2 peak performances over the next 12 months. The first one is end of June 2016 for my Ironman race and the second one is at the end of September for my end of season race.

With this in mind I also scheduled in some supporting races (they are referred to as B races) throughout the early and mid season. I have to be realistic here and know that I won’t have peak performance for these early season races.

That’s a critical thing to remember when approaching the training, as you can’t be firing from all cylinders throughout the whole season and expect outstanding results. Hence why you have your key races, they are planned accordingly to allow specific preparation in the buildup to race day. In my case I have 2 periods where I aim for my best possible fitness and readiness for performance.

The season is structured in 4 phases:

  • Post season
    The focus here is primarily on skill development, foundational fitness, strength and form. This is the phase with the lowest physical stress. The aim is to prepare you for the heavier training in pre-season.
  • Pre season 
    This is where the heavy lifting occurs. It’s a very critical and fundamental phase in training. Focus here is on building muscular endurance and great overall fitness. It’s higher in training load, mixed in with some high power and specific intensity training.
  • Sustainable Power
    The aim in this relative short phase is to progress your endurance to high sustained effort and sharpen your fitness. Also referred to as “above-threshold intervals”. That’s where you do your classic interval based training.
  • Race specific season 
    The emphasis here shifts to become race ready. Primary focus is around race specific intensity and simulations. This phase is specific to your key races.

Splitting the year into different phases makes absolutely sense to reach peak performance for your key events. It allows your body to adapt and transform as you progress through the season. One thing that I noticed in my last season was that you can’t maintain peak performance for too long and it needs to be well planned to reach your full potential on day X.

So far I am well into post season and feeling good. As my main races are still far away, it’s hard to get not too caught up in early season races. As we approach the triathlon season here in Australia, it’s even more tempting. It’s key to stay focused, stick to your training plan and keep the bigger picture in mind.

 

 

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