Ironman Austria Race Report
I signed up for IM Austria as my first IM the day after last year's race as I have several mates who have completed it before and I wanted a European race to have my family there for the big day. I have raced 2 x ITU Abu Dhabi and 4 X IM 70.3 but nothing prepared me for the sheer scale of this race with close to 3500 athletes milling around the town of Klagenfurt for the 19th edition of the event. They claim to be the biggest IM in the world and it certainly felt like it with a really warm welcome from the locals.
Race day dawned a chilly 16 degrees which was a shock to the system after HK but brought the welcome news that the lake temperature was 22.5 degrees and therefore wetsuit legal. I was feeling confident so seeded myself in the second start pen with the 1:10-1:15 group. The gun went off at 6:50am and I got through the gate around 7am and immediately realized that the swim was going to be a bunfight as they got all the AG athletes through the gates in 25 minutes. Lots of jostling but I managed to find some faster feet and felt good - the usual problem in Austria is the rising sun in your eyes on the way to the finish but a bit of cloud helped and I was delighted to finish with a 1:16 (thanks to Fen and AM for the massive improvement since I moved to HK!).
Quickly through T1 and straight out onto the bike course which is 2 loops with around 1800m of climbing concentrated in 3 climbs with a lot of fast descents and flats in between. Great atmosphere especially on the climbs with supporters lining the roads and lots of good luck messages chalked in the road - real Tour de France feel. I was feeling fine despite being stung by a wasp after around 20km and witnessing a horror crash (drafting to blame unfortunately) but the roads were dry and smooth. All going well until around 120km in when I lost the chain 3 times trying to change into the big ring. No problem getting underway but ended up riding the last 60km in the small ring which definitely added a bit to my time. Ended with a 6:39 bike leg - nice and conservative for my first IM.
I felt great coming off the bike and had to hold myself back in the early part of the run. The course is a flat 2 looper through the town, again with loads of great support out there and plenty of banter from all the pubs lining the route! I was pushing hard passing a lot of people and couldn't believe how good I felt - just waiting for the moment when it all started to hurt! The wheels finally came off at 30km of the marathon when I was hit by some GI issues which meant I ended up walking for around 8km before managing to jog towards the finish for the last couple of km's. I finally crossed the line after 5:01 for a total of 13:10.
So I did it! The feeling of crossing the line and hearing those words was amazing and emotional. IM has been an ambition of mine since my first sprint tri in 2014 when I couldn't even swim freestyle and knew zero about the sport. It's been a fantastic journey and I have learnt so much and made some great friends along the way. Thanks to all at Tritons for making me welcome when I came to HK late last year and it's inspiring to train alongside so many top knotch athletes.
Definitely give Austria a go if you want a big IM in Europe - 2018 is already sold out though!!!