*** thanks to Marie O'Neill for this race report! ***

Firstly, I’m a virgin to writing race reports and was a 70.3 virgin until 2 weeks ago so be patient with me and don’t expect fireworks first time round, hopefully though this will be the first of many!

A little bit on who I am and my background…..this time last year I could not swim the length of a pool without stopping and had never rode a road bike however I had run a few half marathons so at least I could finish one of the 3 triathlon disciplines!  In September of last year I got it into my head that I wanted to give triathlon a shot and stumbled across Tri2Aspire so I joined and that was the beginning.  To say that triathlon has changed my life is an understatement; it has changed my life hugely and in the most positive of ways.  I’m a different person, a much happier, positive and more motivated person with a new love in my life, that is triathlon!  Ok enough about me and more about the race….

So Zell Am See, Salzburg 70.3, my first half ironman just under a year after I started the sport.  To say that I was nervous prior to the race is an understatement (this was double the distance I had ever raced, I had never raced in a wetsuit, only swam in one once and my friend Jacque can tell you how inexperienced I am here as the week before the race I decided to try on my wetsuit and what did I do, I put in on back to front! and I had never swam in a lake..ahhh!).  Preparing for races is also very stressful so it’s important to not leave everything to last minute which I usually do before I travel!  Pack your bike at least 2 days before your flight, this gives enough time to ensure that if something goes wrong it can be fixed.  So Tuesday night I packed my bike (thanks Henry) and Wednesday I packed my bags, all ready for my flight to Munich on Thursday morning.  I flew with a few old team mates and training buddies from Tri2Aspire which was great and we hired a car from Munich and drove down to Zell Am See together.   Wow what a stunning country Austria is and Zell Am See is a beautiful little town surrounded by mountains.  So we arrived on Thursday evening, plenty of time to prepare and rest before the race on Sunday. 

My thoughts the night before the race… it’s a trial run for Busselton Ironman in December, I’m not as prepared as I would like to be but I’ll give it my best shot.  I had a time of 6 hours in my head and would have been delighted with a time of 5h59mins! 

Race Day…the race start was not until 10am which was great, initially I thought this would be a bad thing as I’m very much a morning person and like to get up early and train first thing so mentally I prefer early starts.  However I now realize that this was a much better time as it gave enough time to eat breakfast and relax before heading to the race start.  I was a little nervous but not so bad as I had imagined I would be, the grey clouds were what terrified me most…rain and biking, not a good combination and my worst nightmare!  I had never cycled in the rain before and the thought of it scared the hell out of me, how would I brake safely?  My mind was in overdrive and I came close to pulling out of the race but something inside me said Marie just give it a shot and try your best and that’s what I did.  The following quote came into my head…’the only real failure is the failure to try’ and there was no way that was happening to me! So I headed on down to the start with my Dubai buddies, went & checked my bike, double checked my transition bags, did some stretching and then it was time to put on the wetsuit (thank you Kate for pulling me in!) then a double caffeine GU gel and I was all set to go.  I was the only person from our little group starting in the first wave and I must say I found it very hard to say goodbye and head to the water, that was it my support network was gone and I was all alone, just me in a maze of triathletes, does daunting and terrifying come to mind!  As soon as I got into the water my nerves went and the adrenaline just took over.  There were 1800 athletes racing, the swim start was broken up into 3 starts with 600 athletes in each, I was in the first start at 10am and before I knew it I was off and being kicked, shoved and swam over my several athletes but I tried to ignore everyone around me and just concentrated on my swim which surprisingly I did, I couldn’t believe how comfortable and confident I felt in the water and straight away I got into a rhythm and kept it.  The only thing that wasn’t the best was my citing, actually it was brutal (Kate you know how bad I am!), does anyone have any tips here as I need to drastically improve on this?  Before I knew it I was out of the water and in shock when I looked at my watch…39mins, I was well happy with that as I was aiming for 45mins, I thought ok this can and will be a good day, go for it Marie!

My transition was ok besides having a struggle to get off my wetsuit and almost fell over, some practice needed here for sure.  My transition time was a little slow but I can improve on this.

The bike….it was raining, my worst nightmare but I was on a high from the adrenaline and having a good swim and I just said go for it, all my fear just went out the window and I actually loved the rain for a change!  I couldn’t believe how fast I was going on the bike and kinda thought do I need to slow down, will I be able to run, but I felt good and strong and comfortable and to be honest I was loving every minute of it, it was the fastest 90km I ever rode, literally!  Can I ask a question, what is it with men when they get chicked?! (for those of you that are unfamiliar with the term it means when a girl overtakes a guy)  I overtook several guys on the bike, some of which were not very happy about this, one guy in particular, Ralph from Germany was not impressed and we ended up passing each other 6 times, I would overtake him, then him me and so on but I got him in the end and never saw him after!  Guys just realize that there are some tough bitches out there and you will get chicked!  Shortly after overtaking this guy I thought my day was over and for a second my life!  I was doing a speed of around 35km’s, it was raining heavily and I was approaching a steep hill down with a bend under a bridge which came too soon and I was going too fast so I braked hard, bad idea!  The back of my bike locked and spun and I just do not know how I kept the bike upright, I went all over the road and if there was someone riding close to me I would definitely have crashed into them, the man upstairs was definitely watching over me, thank you big fellow!  After this little incident I did slow a little but I had only 6km left on the bike so not so bad.  Before I knew it I was off the bike and in the transition tent, a faster transition this time which I was happy with but of course always room for improvement!

The run…I started off feeling great and maintaining a pace of 5min15 per km despite the fact that I could not feel my feet for the first 15minutes, they were completely numb from the bike but I just ignored this and the fact that I was soaked and got myself mentally prepared for the 21km’s ahead.  I just took it 1 km at a time and in my head kept ticking them off, I didn’t think oh no I have 2 hours of running ahead of me, I thought after the 1st km, ok 1 done only 20 to go and so on, this mental game works a treat for me, well it did until I ate a half banana from an aid station 7km to go (see my note below!)  Anyways I managed to continue on without a toilet stop, in a little pain and my legs really were starting to hurt but I was almost there and that run up that carpet to the finish line is such an awesome feeling, somehow you forget the pain!  Glory in sight, a time of 5h26mins which I was over the moon about and a little shocked to be honest, it really is amazing what your body can do, the saying “your body knows no limits, it’s your mind that needs convincing” is very true!

And the after party/celebrating…let’s leave that one untold, as they say what happens on tour stays on tour, but let’s say a Irish bar was involved and one too many ciders!

A special thank you to Kate Willoughby for being an amazing supporter before, during and after the race, can you come to all my races Kate?!  Also thanks to my old coach Jason Metters and my new coach Stefan Spies, I would not have performed a fraction as well without you guys and of course to Seth for helping me drastically improve my swimming, all those lessons are paying off!

So I have now doubled the distance from Olympic…next step is from half ironman to full ironman so double again…what after that?!!

It was a fantastic experience for Busselton, the whole thing from packing in Dubai to crossing the finish line!  It has given me that extra motivation to train even harder for my first ironman.

So what next….Busselton Ironman on December 9th, wish me luck!  I’m doing this/my first ironman to raise funds to purchase a school bus for a school in Ethiopia, you can watch the video and meet the kids – or read my blog.  Every donation, no matter how big or small really does make a difference so please do help me in making a difference and donating.  Your support really is appreciated.

Yours truly,

‘Tipp Tornado’!

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A few tips and notes from my experience that may be of interest to beginners:

  • My nutrition, what I ate and how much I ate during the race, I had a GU (2*Caffeine) 20 minutes before the swim start, 3 GU’s and 2 cereal bars (which I struggled to open, in future I will make sure to have them open before the race) on the bike.  I only drank water and did not eat on the run until 7km to go I took a half a banana from an aid station which was a big mistake, 10 minutes later I started to get cramps and thought oh no this could be trouble but I just blocked it out and focused on counting down the km’s, 1 at a time, it really is a mental game!  If I did have to use a toilet it would not have been pleasant, as my roommates for the weekend well know after 5 days of non-bowel movement a porta-loo would not have been a good idea!!
  • If you are traveling to a race the fly and plan to arrive 3 days before so that you have plenty of time to prepare and most importantly rest
  • Pack well in advance and plan, you don’t need any stress and if you are like me and tend to be a little nervous prior to races then getting stressed does not help matters!
  • I would strongly recommend going to a race with other triathletes as it makes a huge difference, the support is amazing and having people to bounce questions off is great plus it makes the celebrating more fun!
  • When booking your flight I would recommend Emirates, even if it is a little more expensive it will work out cheaper as other airlines will charge you a fortune to carry your bike.
  • If you are planning a 70.3 next year then put Zell Am See in your calendar, it’s on September 1st 2013 and is a great race.
  • Never eat or drink something you haven’t practiced with in training on race day, I had a close one!
  • ENJOY the journey and every minute of it all, the training, the preparation, the race and the celebrating after!