Chairman John Birkens

After twice saying never again for some reason I yet again decided that I still had an unfulfilled Ironman dream that needed looking at. So, as Austria was always the race I wanted to try, in July 2014 I duly paid my money and started hatching my planned assault. Initially, there were a few other members who expressed an interest but gradually these disappeared with excuses such as I’m getting married (Duncan) and I’d prefer to go to Challenge Roth (G). So, in the end, it was Jason Rogers and I who made the trip.

I worked hard in September/October on writing my 30 wk programme which was based on previous experience and research in to the area I needed to improve. Finally the programme was set and around came the start date 1st December, June 28th seemed a long way away but I know it comes round soon enough. So 30 weeks later following 181000 metres of swimming, 3200miles of cycling and 400miles of running I was in Klagenfurt ready to race.

The couple of days before are always a little nervy but I was really glad that Karen had come along, and it was good to discuss race tactics with Jason. I had a plan and I was going to stick with it as long as I could and just hope that the training paid off. Ignore what I couldn’t control and be positive with what I could. The first good news was the swim would be wetsuit, this is always a worry at Austria as the lake temperature can get quite high. On the Saturday before the race it was 20.5c well within the allowable 24.5, however just 7 days later it was 27c, that would have been interesting.

Unusually I managed to get a good solid 4.5 hrs sleep the night before and woke up just before my alarm at 3.30. The usual prep then takes place ablutions followed by breakfast (porridge/banana/ zero carb electrolyte drink) followed by ablutions again. Karen was up with me and was there by my side for the rest of the day, I can never thank her enough or make her realise how fundamental she(and Grace) are to any success I have in these races. We met Jason in transition and then walked to the swim start for an anxious 90’ before the start of the race. For the first time in Austria they were having wave starts, Jason was off at 6.50, I was off at 7.05. Soon it was a quick handshake with Jay and he was off to join his start wave

SWIM: The swim was a beach start, so when the gun went off it was a slow walk into the lake, rinse the goggles out and then start swimming. The plan was to swim steady and keep controlled. The swim to the first buoy was around 1200m and was uneventful, reach the buoy, turn left and swim 400m to the next buoy turn left. After this it all got a bit more interesting as we were swimming toward the rising sun and couldn’t see a thing. I’d read that on this leg you should try and keep a little to the right, so seeing a group to my right gradually made my way over to them. Just as I joined the group a marshall was telling them they were too far right so we all started to make our way left to join the main group. The last 800m of the swim is up a canal which is reported to be a fast area of the swim. The canal is lined both sides with supporters cheering and air horns blasting, quite a sight. In previous years I’ve no doubt this would be fast but with the wave start I was now catching lines of slower swimmers from the early waves, whilst also being caught by the faster swimmers coming from behind. It all became a little frantic and more in line with a mass start. It probably cost a little time (maybe 2’) but was soon over and I was soon being pulled out of the water by the swim exit staff. Time 1.21.11

T1: Stagger unsteadily out of the water and start stripping off the wetsuit, great to see Karen giving me a shout, this does help enormously. There was about 400m to transition walk/slow jog/find bag/put on socks & helmet and away you go. Time 6.39

BIKE: The bike is advertised as being fast even though it has around 5000ft of climbing, I was now about to find out. My plan was to ride the flats at a HR of 135-139 and to try and keep the climbs to the low 150’s, my training suggested that this would get me off the bike in reasonable condition for the run. Initially my HR was in the 140’s and it took 10-15’ before it settled down in the 130’s and I was happy. The first 12-13miles were relatively flat so there was no need to panic and once I was in my HR zone I was soon averaging 19.5mph, but still a long way to go. My nutrition plan was 1/3 bottle of energy drink every 30’, energy gel every 45’ and a salt tablet every 60’. I pretty much kept to this although I did give the last gel a miss in favour of more energy drink. My stomach was starting to cramp and this seemed to help. The bike course (2 laps) is stunningly scenic and everything that it’s advertised to be. Whilst there are climbs, there is nothing too steep, and can all generally be climbed at a steady tempo, seated if you want. I used the hills as a chance to stretch my legs and back. It was also good to find myself passing lots of people on the climbs, all those bike miles paying off! The down hills and straights were fast and non-technical with only 2 90 degree corners. I think lap 1 was around 3.00.00 with lap 2 slightly slower at 3.04. The big hill at 100miles on lap 2 required a little bit of concentration but I just remembered my 13th ascent of Box Hill earlier in my training that was also at the 100mile mark, so be positive and get to the top. The last 8 miles to the finish are fast and allows a good finishing speed and a chance to get your breath back before the rigours of the run. I even managed a racing dismount, which impressed me more than anyone else! My average HR was 137bpm with a max of 159bpm, all pretty much to plan, the only surprise was my average speed of 18.1mph which I really didn’t expect. TIME 6.04.12

T2: With the racing dismount it was a quick jog to rack my bike, a toilet stop, pick up transition bag, shoes, visor, sunglasses on and out for the run. Time 4.40

RUN: On coming out of transition in 7.36.41 I realised that a 10’/mile marathon would get me round in sub 12hrs, whilst never in my mind it was interesting the way I was thinking, which was still positive. My run plan was to run to the aid stations and walk whilst taking on any nutrition. I saw Karen after about a mile which gave me a boost and she told me Jason was around 15’ ahead, so status quo after all this time. My early pace was mid 10’s /m and felt OK but was aware that sub 12hr was never going to happen. The run route was a 2 lap figure of 8 the first loop was longer and generally in the sun with the top loop generally being in the shade. The temperature on the run was around 28c with the odd bit of cloud cover. By around 10k I was starting to tire, I was also aware that I needed to reduce the amount of energy drink I was taking in as it was giving me stomach cramps. I went from drinking a cup of energy drink and a cup of water to just a couple of mouthfuls of energy drink, this definitely worked. Just after the start of the top loop on lap 1 I saw Jason, and he was walking, not good. On passing him I could see he was not in great shape, so it was a quick pat on the back and ‘dig in Jay’ and I continued my, by now, marathon shuffle. Unfortunately, while Jay showed just how tough he is by getting to half way, he was having a bad day and was unable to keep any nutrition down so had to stop and ended up in the medical tent for 90’. Top bloke that he is he was there at the end to see me finish. I got to 21k in around 2hrs 20min and was now just concentrating on keeping going and trying to beat the 5hr marathon mark. My strategy had changed to walking for a minute at the start of every mile and then running the rest of the way until my watch beeped to tell me the next mile was over. My lowest point came around 18miles were I just ground to a halt. I was in the sun, getting hot, my legs were on fire and my will was definitely wavering. I was stationary, bent over, head between my legs, and if I’m honest not thinking anything at all except I wanted the pain to stop!. Then the training and willpower just seemed to kick in, a talk to myself to realise if I didn’t stop feeling sorry for myself, not only would I not break 5hr for the run but I wouldn’t break 13hrs for the race, so I just started running to plan again. A couple of cups of coke certainly gave me a boost and the marathon shuffle continued. I then started to calculate the pace I needed to go at (I can’t call it a run) to break 5hrs and as long as I could be consistent I’d be fine. Not quite the case as the kilometre markers were out. At the 41k marker my watch showed a run split of 4.46.00 so 14’ to run 1.2 k sub 5hr in the bag, I gave a little fist pump and an internal yes you’ve done it. 7’ later I’m thinking where is the finish. I eventually got to the finishing area and sped up whilst high fiving the people behind the barrier, turn left in to the finishing straight, high 5 the MC and stop by him as I believe that’s the finishing line….mistake it’s another 20 metres along, start jogging again to get to the line. My watch which I stopped by the MC showed 4.59.59, I did think I might have done it! Cross the line, get your pictures taken, see Karen in the crowd, feel absolutely fantastic TIME 5.00.18

 

RACE TIME 12.37.00

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POST RACE:

Whilst feeling euphoric with a really good sub 13hr time I then feel absolutely drained and am led to a bench to sit and recover. A helper gets me some water and a space blanket while I sit there unable to muster the energy to move. I then see Karen waiting at the exit, and then Jason ( looking very good after his visit to the medical tent) and realise that Jason has had to pull out, I was devastated for him. But Jay being Jay he was telling how well I’d done etc etc and then proceeded to help me to the food tent and run around after me as I lie on a bench not wanting to move. Within the hour I’m on the mend and a very happy boy., I’ve just had, without doubt, the best race I could possibly have had and probably ever had. The training paid off, the plan worked, I managed a 50’ IM PB and I smashed the 13hr mark. I’m not saying ‘never again’ mainly because Karen just won’t believe me but I’ve ticked all my IM boxes and maybe just maybe that niggle that comes in the back of my mind might stay away.