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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

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