*** many thanks to Elliot Lewis for this race report ***

It’s not about the Race, it’s all about the race..

I had for some time said that I would not do an Ironman and that if I were to, that I would really require six months off work to focus on training and keep the family, work, life balance, as adding a another element to ones life is no mean balancing act. My getting the time off work or it happening in the near future was increasingly looking less likely. Then just over a year ago while sitting in a bar in Singapore (the starting place of all challenges) I agreed with an old married friend with young children to do an Ironman and as I looked around at others that worked, had family and trained I assumed that it must be achievable (Ass U ME).

Adrian and I initially agreed on Busselton though as it got to the end of last year and talking to the Tiger about his intentions to do Austria Ironman and further to discussing with my very understanding wife, I decided to go off piste and sign up for Klagenfurt Ironman, I hasten to add with no real thought to the course. At the same time I enlisted the support of a coach to whom I am indebted for his time support and encouragement. Coaching is not just about putting a training plan together and leaving the coachee to get on with it, coaching requires listening, understanding the challenges (family / work / travel / illness / mood / environment) and developing a plan that works for the individual on an ever changing basis further to analyzing the feedback after each session.

Warning – Before entering this sport consider when you will train and whether you are happy to do this in the dark at highly antisocial hours, on your own for the majority of the time and with limited sleep and no sympathy “you chose to train for an Ironman, I didn’t”.

Most race reports fast forward to “T” minus 1 or 2 however it is not all about the race, in fact to put it in perspective it is not about the race at all, its all about the training.

Discipline             Training               Race                     Percentage

Swim                    84.564 KM           3.8km                   4.5%

Bike                      3466 KM              180km                  5.2%

Run                       690.4 KM             42.2 KM               6.1%

Suffice to say it is all about the training, supportive friends who will come out riding with you come lightening rain or time of day, a great coach to motivate you and keep you on track, a very understanding wife and of course a great bike, you can’t ever build up that relationship with a pair of trainers!

In summary on the training, it is grueling and depending on when your race is can be down right awful, luckily Klagenfurt is the end of June which meant that only one month of the training, the last week of which was tapering was is in the real heat of Dubai.

Before any race I like to be as prepared as I can and in the case of Klagenfurt everything was ready a week before:

  • Swim kit out on spare bed (with spare set) – Goggles, Cap, Tri-Suit, Wet Suit, anti chaffing substances, something to wear on feet to the race start
  • Bike in box with spares packed – Peddles off (this is always a challenge even though I do this on a regular basis to grease the bolt and keep a “how to” note in my bike box) wheels deflated, Seat post out, head set off, de-railer off (I didn’t used to do this but it is a great discipline thanks Ian),
  • Run gear on spare bed (with spare set)

T-3 After an easy flight to Austria, Ali, Sarmad, Guy and I were to be found hovering over the oversize luggage carousel nervously awaiting the arrival of the bikes, relief for all as they piled of the conveyor belt and we were off to Klagenfurt, a three hour drive from Vienna.

T-2 After a good breakfast of porridge, it was off for a 30min swim with Ali and Sarmad in the lake which was superb, clear water easy sighting, apart from the rising sun which was going to make for a challenge on race day for the final leg home and a nice espresso out on the water from a moored boat (kindly put on by the organizers). Confident that it would be a wet suit swim it was time to go to registration to pick up the numbers 1881 (I won’t forget that) etc and then off for a easy 26km ride along the lake and back to test out the start of the ride course and check that the bike, built the night before, did not need any adjustments. Happy with the ride it was time for lunch…

Post an excellent lunch we went for a drive of the course, which was invaluable, in terms of getting a feel of the hills the sharp turns of which there were a few and the down hills. What makes Klagenfurt such a fast course as I was to find out was that the hills are relatively short and steep and the down hills are longer and more gradual (I would have had to upgrade the software to present this graphically later so you only see the topography over time).

T-1 I woke up early and took the opportunity to load up my bike with GU’s Cliff Bars and prepared my fluids (electrolytes) and then headed off for a gentle 6km run around the start area and along the lake following the run course. The weather could not have been better and if this held up for tomorrow we were going to have superb conditions.

After a good breakfast it was off to the Race Briefing and to meet the other 2890 other participants. It was at this point that the enormity of the day ahead really hit home.

After some Ironman Retail theory it was off for a Pasta Lunch and to get the feet up for the rest of the day before my kit check in from 16:30 to 17:00.

Bike photographed (so nobody could steel her) I racked the bike, covered her up, and hung up my bike and run bag, then did a few run through’s of the route that I would take to the bike from the swim and from the bike to the exit and then back in for the run.

T – The big “T”est day.

  • 04:30 - Wake-up
  • 04:45 - Breakfast
  • 05:15 - 05:30 - Check bike load Water, pump wheel, final check of bags
  • 05:45 Back to hotel (the SeePark hotel is excellently located for transition)
  • 06:00 – Walk to swim start
  • 06:15 – Drop off dry bag and put on Wetsuit (lots of Vaseline for the neck, the only real protection)
  • 06:30 – at swim start
  • 06:45 – Pro’s off – circa 400 swimmer
  • 07:00 – Mass start circa 2490 swimmer!!

With all the preparations complete I stood on the beach, bottle of water in hand, GU ready to be consumed with the nerves building, to find that Ali, Sarmad and Guy were all standing by me which given the crowd was comforting. We gave each other big hugs and worked our way into the crowd and a row or two from the waters edge. The option was to either start between the piers or on the other side of the pier to the top of the picture which seemed a slightly less direct route.

The Swim

The horn went and we were off, jostling to get forward in the crowd and into water deep enough to swim. I have never experienced a swim start like it and in all honesty had a small panic attack as I was bashed about in the washing machine of arms, legs and the odd fists. After 50 meters I was clear and getting into a rhythm when we hit the first bouy at about 400m when the melee started all over again. This time someone decided that they were just going to hold on to my left ankle (clearly a new form of drafting) which was also the ankle with my timing chip on it (cunningly secured with a safety pin). Any way one solid kick with my right foot and I was away again. After that I focused on my stroke and regular sighting and got into a comfortable pace finding feet where I could. While the GPS would suggest that I did a 360 degree turn at the second turning I am confident that it was round the bouy and into the direction of the sun to work my way to the start of the canal (dirty seven meter wide ditch with some water and a lot of swimmers). 1KM to go up the canal and all hell broke loose again with everyone vying to get out of the swim a second quicker than the person beside them. I decide to take it easy follow feet and keep it smooth, okay so I may have had to clamber over the odd person though I always said “excuse me”.

01:07:21 – Out of the swim – (stretch target 1:13:28) Happy with that. Overall Position 1051

Out of the water it was through the SeePark Hotel up to the main road and into the adjacent parking lot, few people were respecting the changing in the tent so I changed by my bag and ran to the bike.

00:05:16 – T1

The Bike

I had put a lot of time into training on the bike and to getting my bike set up right, I knew where I wanted to be in terms of heart rate and what I needed to eat on the bike and that if I stuck to the plan I could get stage two behind me. The bike course – I loved it, the course had something for everyone unless you are an all out lover of the flat which I am not, I like to move around a bit on the bike, which the hills gave me the opportunity to do and because I am light, I relished the climbs and the great support from the side of the road at the top of each hill plus the DJ’s who played some great tunes and it was great to see the same faces, Guy would take me on the down hills and I would see him on the uphills.

While the course was tight given the number of people the draft marshals’ were superb and kept a watchful eye of the Italians and the drafters, though it did give you the chance to chat to the odd person along the way which included me chatting to a chap from SA 10 years my senior who only the week before had completed Ironman Nice, he finished 3mins after me and gave me grief on the run for going too slow!

All in all a great course, superb scenery, good variety even with only two laps and from my perspective well executed in terms of nutrition and heart rate monitoring.

05:37:35 – (stretch target 05:45:00) Overall Position 1077

T2 – 00:03:32 – Slick even if I do say so.

The Run

This was never going to be fun and it wasn’t. I once ran a marathon in a clown suit and it took me about 4 hours and 15minutes and all I could focus on was “beating the clown”. I went out at a 5min per km pace that felt comfortable and tucked in. At 6km I saw Ali, who had been round the first turning point and was headed back, I marked the time completed the turning loop and calculated that I was 15mins behind and about 2km behind him. This gave me some good motivation and I kept on plodding (I should note that I was sipping away at my camel bak and my electrolytes (possibly not my favourite tipple though one that works for me while running). I know that 99.99% of people do not run with camel baks, in fact I think that I only saw one other person with one on the run though for me it means that I can run through aid stations and most importantly I don’t get my feet soaking wet. It is also something that I have done for years and it works. Back to the run, I now have a good target in addition to the rest of the runners who I work at picking off, I keep plodding. At 15km I see Ali again and again I take the time, head through the old town center and the cobbled streets of Klagenfurt with the restaurants lining the run course, ring the bell and loop around a monument to come back on my self back to where I saw Ali, I am now only 10mins behind him and about 1km.

So far I have had nothing on the run other than my electrolytes, though I have two GU’s strapped to my camel bak and two bulging tri pockets full of them I can’t bring my self to eat another GU for fear that it will come back at me. So I decide to give a miss to the GU’s!

With Ali now in my target I push on though for some reason I did not see him at the next turn 27km and could only assume that I was dropping pace and he was increasing. With the bit between my teeth I focused on two lads that we running at a good pace and tucked in behind them. By this stage I was starting to get cramps in my stomach and resorted to taking half coke half water at all the aid stations, bar the last two at circa km 39 and 41. By the time I got to about the 35th km I realized that I could get under 11hrs, which I had never imagined, if I really knuckled down and focused. With a new found goal I left the two lads and started picking off faster runners ahead of me focusing on nothing else, clearing my mind of my stomach cramps and visualizing reeling in the runners ahead and finishing under 11hours I even stopped looking at my pace and switched to total time and pushed for the last few k’s starting to sweat so much that the salt was stinging my eyes. I passed through the rain forest a long arch of showers and turned left for the first time along the lake and then left again up into the finish chute with the grand stand on either side and up through the Ironman finish arch to the scream of “you are an Ironman” 10:49:04, finishing 709 overall taking 368 people on the run and finishing 170 in my age group, I could not believe it, I had surpassed my aim of sub 12 broken my stretch target of 11:09:28 and come in under 11 hours.

To Ali, Sarmad and Guy, congratulations on your amazing achievements, it was quite something to have gone through that experience with you.

After a good stretch and a beer I went back to the finish line to watch the amazing feats that took place that day through to 16:59:59 when I watched the very final finisher coming in.

Again to all those that supported me in my training, my coach and my family thank you so very much I could not have don’t it without the training and the support that you gave me to do all that training.