*** many thanks to Roy Nasr for this race report ***

Although writing is not my forte, I promised Ian to write a brief report about my race in Austria. It is certainly not going to be as entertaining as David’s but hopefully it will provide you with some pointers and prepare you better for your next race.

Let me start by saying that I had an unfinished business with the Austria Ironman 70.3 as I did this race in 2008 and ended up bonking half way on the run and did not finish. It was due to lack of nutrition on the bike and I was simply empty on the run. So certainly that race scared me and shook my confidence about my fitness although I was in a very good shape. Actually that same year and only 8 weeks later I raced Ironman Roth in 10 hours:15minutes ! Since then, I always knew that I would return one day and complete my mission! Well little I knew, mother nature was conspiring against me!!

Pre-Race :

I prepared well for  the race  and did the following:

  1. I followed the plan of my new coach, Nick Tipper who is an advocate of quality training rather than quantity. His scientific and “smart” approach to training kept me relatively fresh and strong. Also I had good advice from Garth Fox at TriDubai camp in Hatta and after.
  2. I was consistent with my training over the 3 months leading to the race, did 10 Hatta rides and one week in Chamonix to prepare my legs for the hills.
  3. I recovered well after the training session, and tried to have a massage once/week as a preventive body maintenance. I also stretched more regularly and improved my flexibility. I wish I had more time to improve my strength though.
  4. I tried to sleep an average of 8 hours/day.
  5. I ate less and relatively healthy and lost 3 kilos and my body fat dropped by 4%.

I arrived to Austria on Wednesday and it was COLD and stayed so until race day. The temperature ranged between 4 and 10 degrees C and with the chill factor, it felt freezing. The silver lining is I could justify to Tina why I have spent so much Euros on my” Skin Fit” outfits :)

On Thursday Ali, Sarmad and I swam in the morning and the water temperature was around 18c. Cold but doable. In the afternoon, we rented a taxi and asked him  to drop us at kilometer 45  on the bike course and we biked the last 45k . We wanted to get a feel of the course and ride the steepest hill at kilometer 60. I felt good and strong but was cold despite of the three layers I was wearing!

On Friday and Saturday it was wet and miserable, so I opted to stay warm and avoided the training. On Saturday afternoon at the race briefing, it was announced that the swim was cancelled.  Basically the organizers based their decision on 3 factors : Water temperature which was 16C, air temperature which was 5C and the chill factor which was estimated at 40k/hr. These 3 factors made the swim unsafe and even worst biking with wet clothes! Obviously it was the right decision to make but I felt gutted!!

Coming to the race, I had three objectives :

  1. Smash it and finish what I had started in 2008;
  2. Go sub 4:45;
  3. Try to place top 10 in my age group.

Looking at last year’s results I thought I had a good chance to achieve my objectives. But I did not realize that I will lose my strongest weapon…the swim. However I approached the race with a positive attitude and hoped for the best.

Race:

With the cancellation of the swim, the start was “weird”. We were set off 15 at a time with 15 seconds gap in between. I had 3 layers again and gloves and was shivering before the start. Most competitors had their bike shoes on but I have opted to leave my bike shoes on the bike and try to beat everyone out of T1 and it worked!  Every second counts!!

The bike course is beautiful. It offers everything : scenic, fast, undulating and hilly. It is a biker’s course, but I loved it despite that my 808 front wheel was not the best choice for such a windy day. Honestly at times I sh***ed myself on some of the descents as despite my relatively big frame, my bike was wobbling heavily. And seeing some of the lighter competitors and less fortunate being literally blown off their bikes and crashing, didn’t make things easier!!

My strategy was to ride strong on the flat holding around 250 watts, ride hard on the hills holding around 300 watts = FTP level and ride easy on the descents. And  most importantly ride safe and finish the bike in one piece. It worked . My estimate bike time was 2:35 in “normal” conditions and I did 2:38 and averaged 34km/hour, not bad considering…

T2 was longer than usual as I had to undress ! 2:53

I started the run with a full bladder as I was hydrating well on the bike and not sweating enough, so I really, really needed that pee stop. I wanted to follow the rules and use the portable toilets and ended opening the door of an occupied one. It was not a beautiful view, let’s just say that the guy reminded me of Venny (yes he had a great sense of humor!!).  After giving up on the portables, I opted for the bushes to get rid of my 100 ml load. What a relief!  My first kilometer split was 4:58, my second was 4:28. Need I say more ?

My objective on the run was to roll the dice and hold 4:30/km for as long as I could. Based on my running form in the months leading to the race and my lighter weight, it looked possible, but it was not easy on race day. Well it is never easy anyway!  I started running feeling good but the legs felts sore. I think it was a combination of the cold weather,  hard effort on the bike and muscle fatigue.

I was worried that I could cramp at any time and therefore made sure not to neglect my nutrition neither on the bike nor on the run. I took 5 gels, 2 electrolytes bottles and 3 salt tablets on the bike, and 3 gels, electrolytes/water and 3 salt tablets on the run. Despite the cold, my outfit was covered with salt. We tend to neglect nutrition and hydration when it is cold, but I did not fall in this trap and was rewarded with a good run. I managed to hold a 4:28/k pace on the run and my time was 1:34

Overall time : 4hours : 16 minutes. Placed 12th of 300 (ish) in my age group and 193rd of 2500 (ish). Happy. I reckon with the swim I would have managed to break top 10 or even better as looking at last year’s results, my swim would have made me exit the water among the leaders and that would have changed the whole dynamics of the race.

Conclusion:

Austria is a beautiful place and the race is awesome. The organization is superb and the people are friendly and helpful. I definitely recommend it.

Thank you TriDubai for giving me the opportunity to meet and train with like-minded people, thank you Garth Fox for your sound advice, thank you Nick Tipper for your professionalism, thank you Maxifuel and Wolfi for your support, and last but certainly not least thank you Tina for all your understanding and unconditional support.