Almost a year ago I wrote my first Ironman race report after attending Ironman Copenhagen. This race report will be completely different, complete honest and take you deep into what was going on in my head within the 11 hours and 30 minutes I was racing.
I’ve heard a lot of things about Ironman Austria, “It’s an amazing venue”, “It’s a fast route”, “amazing views” so I was very excited when I signed up a year ago. My plan was to go to Austria, have fun, and beat my time from last year. When I signed up I hoped to be able to finish under 10 hours, but a few problems in the beginning of the year changed that goal to finish in same time as Copenhagen.
I traveled to Austria a few days before the race. To spare my legs and back we choose to drive from Denmark to Hamburg, Germany to drive onto the Car Train bound for Vienna. This would save us 12 hours of driving and I would get a good night sleep in the train. From Vienna to Klagenfurt was only a 3 hour drive.
Friday morning we set off to the race venue and did all sign up for our races. My son was doing the IronKid race (50m swim, 500m run) and my wife the IronGirl race (4,2 km run). What an amazing race venue by the Lake Wörthersee. A nice big Expo with the opportunity to buy all that you might have forgot or lost and of course the mandatory Ironman merchandize shop.
We were doing a bit of eye-shopping before my son and I headed for the swim start area. We both wanted to swim in the lake before our races. Wörthersee is an amazing freshwater lake with clear blue water. The water temperature was 23 degrees Celsius that day so still within the limit for a wetsuit swim. (Fingers crossed). I swam a bit with my son before heading out for a 1500 meters trial swim.
Saturday morning was Race Briefing (in English). A good briefing with a mix of humor and serious stuff. It’s clear that these guys know what they are doing and have tried it tons of times before. The only critique I can give is that they did not say and display the same as they prior to the race have send out in the athletes guide. Some time schedules and illustrations were different between the Athlete Guide, the Ironman App and the Race Briefing and that course a bit of confusions. We choose to believe what was said in the race briefing!
After the race briefing it was time to support my wife in the IronGirl run and later on my son in the IronKid race.
In the afternoon I checked in my bike in the transition zone and handed in the Bike and Run bag. I took a walk in the transition zone to memorize the optimal flow and where my bike was placed. I was ready and headed hope for a good night of sleep.
The alarm clock was set to 3:30 AM and race start 6:50. I got the normal start of the day. Race day breakfast, coffee, and preparation. One of my morning preparations is to empty my energy gel sachets into a bottle to save me from carrying trash when they are consumed.
At 4:45 we headed for the race venue. And from here on it actually started to go bad. Due to traffic “surprise” we got to T1 with only 15 minutes to closing time. I had to place my energy on my bike and get some more air into my tires. At the same time I started to get nervous so I needed to go to the toilet. I made it before closing time and headed for the swim start area. On the way (1 km) I remembered that I did not say a proper “see you later” to my family and I got a big urge to see them before the race. I rushed in my wetsuit, lubed up and handed in my streetwear bag. On my way to the starting boxes I meet my family. 15 minutes to start and normally I take a pre-race gel but today I forgot to bring it!
The first 2800 meter of the swim course was fairly easy. 1230 meters straight ahead away from the sun, 90 degrees turs left and then 470 meters straight ahead. Another 90 degrees turn left and then 1100 back against the morning sun. The lake was fairly calm and there were a bit overcast so the morning sun was not a problem. The last 1000 meters was in a canal where there were a bit fighting for the best positions and the water was very unclear. I exited the water in 1:14:37 a bit slower than expected but ok.
A run from the swim-exit to T1, pick up the bike-bag, get changed and on to the bike. T1 went smooth but a bit slow 7:13.
I started the bike ride easy. I had to refuel with an energy gel and a bit of water before easing into my planned watts. My plan was to push 230 watts in average as I did on my 70.3 in Herning. There is no doubt that the part of Ironman Austria that has made me worry the most was the bike ride. I’m not a very technical rider so I was very nervous about the decent. The first 30 km of the ride was easy, small hills and descents. I had no problem keeping my plan. At 32 km just before the first hill my entire race changed. I hit a big bump in the road with 60 kmh and I dropped my bottle of energy and my water bottle. I stopped and turned back to pick them up as I needed my energy for the rest of the ride. My water bottle was intact but my energy bottle was broken and all my energy was spilled out on the road. Nothing else to do than continue and try to adapt to the new situation.
We hit the first hill. I geared down trying to keep the cadence around 90 rpm and the watts around 230. The hill was not as bad as I expected and niter was the decent. I pushed my wattages downhill to gain some positions and to keep my legs going as my coach has told me. To mitigate for my lost energy I picked up a bottle of energy drink at the aid station. I wanted to get some gels but I couldn’t spot it. On energy drinks I pushed on hitting hill 2 and 3. On the decent from Rupertiberg I felt a sting on my left foot. I reached down and tried to adjust my shoe and then I felt another sting. A had a bee stuck in my shoe but I managed to get it out while driving. My foot was a bit sore but I kept pushing on. I passed the halfway I ok shape still within my plan.
Just before the Faaker See hill around 125 km I started to feel that I was running out of sugar. The energy drinks was not enough for me. I suddenly had to struggle to keep 230 watts. The hill was suddenly hard to climb. Luckily my family was waiting on the hill to cheer me up and that gave me a boost of “family EPO”. I knew my race from now on had changed from riding for a good time to riding for survival. I had to change my plan.
I tried to get some more energy on the top. I tried to eat some bars and decreased my wattages to 200. I tried to save some energy on the downhill and choose just to keep my legs going without pushing much watts.
Already at 135 km I was counting the km to T2. When you are struggling out there with 45-50 km left on the bike ride and a Marathon waiting you can’t help be break a bit mentally. I remember thoughts like “if just my chain would break it will be over”, “maybe a little crash would be ok right now”. When I get into this negative mind spin I have to find small reachable goals to break it. I started focusing on the other athletes out there. How did they look on the bike. What were their week spots. I found I girl that were a monster on the downhill but a little heavy up hill. I started my own race with her. I passed her every time we drove up hill but she caught up to me on the downhill. For about 30 km “we” played this little game, I’m not sure if she noticed it. With 15 km I started to feel some pain in my left leg and I could not keep up with her anymore. I started to focus on my upcoming run. Naive I hoped the all my troubles would be gone when I just put on my running shoes. My wattages has dropped to 150 at this point and I rolled the rest of the way to T2.
I took my time in T2. I needed some energy, salt and water in hope for a decent run.
I set out on the run with my planned startup pace 5:15. It felted ok the first few km but then it started to get hard like really hard. After only 6 km I had to stop running and walk for a bit. I tried to catch up on my energy by drinking coke in the aid station and eating a gel every 15 minutes but I didn’t seem to work. I had to break the marathon down in small pieces. First focus was 10 km. At about 8 km my left foot started to get numb. I kept going. I passed my family at about 12 km. I tried to keep an “I’m ok” face on but I told my wife about my sleeping foot. She suggested to untie my shoe. Off cause why didn’t I think about that, but the truth is that my brain at this point was completely scrambled. Looking back my foot must have been swollen from the two bee sting I got on the bike ride. I kept on moving towards the half way point. At this point my crisis was total and I was on the point of quitting. I was completely broken physically and mentally. I was walking more than I was running, I felt sick after taking a gel and I threw up a couple of times. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of my family. If I could just get to the halfway point I knew they would be there and I could stop. From 18 to 21 km I was sure that this was the end of this Ironman. I cried in a mix of feelings defeat, failure, pain. I got myself a bit together before reaching my family. I remember especially one thought I had before reaching them “Are you really done Peter, or are you mind just blocking you?”. I don’t really know what I hoped would happened when I reached my family. At this point my mind hoped for my wife to call it quit, but deep down inside knew she wouldn’t do that.
I meet them right after the halfway marker. I was deep down in a black hole. My wife asked me if I was ok. I was not. She asked me to look into her eyes. I did. She saw that I could focus on her. She gave me an ice tea and I took some of my saltsticks and some energy tabs. I looked over her shoulders and saw my son standing there with tears in his eyes. His words pulled me back into the game. “Dad, are you not going to finish, you can’t give up?”. I took a deep breath and told him. “I’ll do my best”. Off on the last 21 km. I decided on a new plan. I would run between every aid station but allow myself to walk 10 meters before and 10 meters after each station. I followed this plan the rest of the race and it seemed to work for. At the 32 km marker I meet my family again. They were worried but at this point I was actually feeling ok. I told them “see you at the finish line in 1 hour.
At 38 km I started to feel a bit dizzy so I choose to walk for 5 min nothing should stop me now. I ran the last 2 km to the finish line where my family was waiting for me. What a relieve turning the last corner seeing the red carpet and the finish line. What a victory getting there on a bad day.
By far the slowest marathon I have ever run but I did it. I am again an Ironman.
Final time: 11:34:42
I may not have finished in the time I hoped for but now I really know why it’s called an Ironman
It’s now more than a week ago that I raced in Austria and I have had some time to think it through. I’m extremely happy I made it to the finish line and I think that I’m actually more proud of finishing this one then to one I raced in Copenhagen a year ago. I finished Copenhagen in 10:37:43 last year and it was actually an “easy” race for me, this one I had to fight for.
So what have I learned?
Well I need a backup plan if this should happen again.
- Study aid-stations and make a plan B
- Use special needs bags for extra energy
- Use special needs bags for extra contact lenses
I’ve also learned that your body is amazing and can go a lot longer than your mind. I need to work more on the mental part of triathlon. I need so good mental training to make this easier.
I’ve learned or more confirmed that my family is my inspiration my mental EPO.
Ironman Klagenfurt Austria is an amazing race. Well organized in an amazing landscape. I can highly recommend this race. The swim course in lake Wörthersee is fairly easy and a great experience. The Bike course is 2 loops with each 900 meters of elevation spread out on more or less 3 climbs. It has long non-technical decent and all hazards are well marked. The run course is flat and takes you along the lake and into the city center. The finishing area is by the lake with a great vibe. The people of Klagenfurt is helpful and amazing an carries you along the ride. Thank you Klagenfurt for a hard but at the end great day.
This came to be a longer report. If you made it to here, THANK YOU.
Hope you can learn for my mistakes and make your Ironman journey better.