I love long distance triathlons. Ironman. Nothing better than an Ironman to push yourself to the limit both physically and mentally. This year I participated at the Ironman Austria in Klagenfurt. My preparation was not optimal, but here is my story !
The venue is in Klagenfurt, in the south of Austria, very near to Slovenia. The swim, 3.8km long, was mostly in the Wörthersee but with a final 1km in the Lendkanal. The bike is a new figure of 8 loop type, with almost 1600m elevation riding both sides of the Wörthersee. The run is a two-loop course going from Klagenfurt to Krumpendorf, along the lake. The area is absolutely stunning, and the course is surprisingly fast!
My preparation was not ideal. I knew that signing up for a September Ironman would be tough to train as the summer is my busy period with the camps, but I decided to go ahead as this was an opportunity to race that course, which is normally held at the beginning of the summer when I can never do it because of my kids camps. I kept a good level of fitness through the summer but I knew I was not going to challenge for a PB but my goal was to have fun, and see how I feel on the day.
Unfortunately, as my training was ramping up 3 weeks before the race I became very ill. I tested negative for COVID (I am doubly vaccinated but we never know…) and it turned out to be a sinusitis. Not great. I could not train properly, was really tired and was coughing and had big headaches and ear pains. The worst episode was actually the night of the race. I woke up at 2am with a sever headache and ear pain, and I thought I would pull out the race, but came my alarm at 4am I felt better and decided to “see how it goes”.
My dad made the journey with me. It was great to share this weekend with him, we really had a great time and he is such a great supporter. The evening before the race we played minigolf – I won – so whatever happened the following day I had bragging rights for the weekend !
Just before the swim, I was putting my wetsuit on and realised there was a massive hole in my stomach… it was definitely not my day. Ah well, as they say, sh%t happens ! My time came and I started swimming, the water was actually quite hot and very clear. It was a real pleasure and was taking it easy. The final 1km in the canal was amazing. The atmosphere was fantastic, people cheering on both sides of the canal, and swimmers everywhere. I exit the swim and my watch reads 1h and 7minutes. I matched my best swim time in an Ironman. Perfect start and time to go on the bike !
I jump on my bike and immediately find a nice group to (legally) ride with. We might not be at the exact 12m but far enough. The ride is just stunning, the weather was great and loads of people cheering on the side. My bike was in great condition, fantastically prepped by my friend Tom at Veloclean.ch ; it was rolling beautifully and looked brand new, not bad for a 12 year old bike ! I knew I would not sustain my expected power so I was around 10w lower and finished the first loop (90km) in 2h35min, only 5minutes behind schedule. Not bad considering my condition. But the wheels started to fall off, very very quickly. Soon I could not push the pedals. I was depleted. Nothing. The second lap was hillier and it was just agony as it took forever to finish the course. I rode the 180km in 5h33minutes, far off my predicted time, but considering my illness this was OK. But I knew I was in trouble as the marathon was now approaching…
When you start running in an IM, you feel surprisingly good, at least this is how all my races felt. I kept and easy pace for the first 6-7km and had to actually “slow down” to keep energy. However, soon I was walking more and more after the aid stations, and my body simply refused to run, I was shutting down. I pushed through by simply walking, and running a bit. I was determined to finish the race by hook or by crook. My marathon time would be disastrous but who cares? My dad was encouraging me on the sidelines, it was always a great relief to see him and talk a little, share my pain… I could tell he was worried about me but in mean time he was very positive and encouraging.
The final 7km something strange happened. I negotiated with myself to run 400m and walk 100m in an attempt to run more often. It worked wonders. All of a sudden my splits were much lower, and I was running much faster, overtaking a lot of people. My splits were not blistering fast, but I was moving, and in fact I probably had a better final 7km then first 7km ! What a change in attitude and strategy can do to your race.
I gave my all in the last kilometer and finally crossed the line in a total time of 11 hours and 45 minutes. Around 2 hours more than expected, but nonetheless I heard again the famous words as I crossed the line: “you are an Ironman!” It felt great and I was very proud of what I had achieved, battling through adversity to finish one of the toughest events in the world. My immediate thoughts were to my wife and kids. They “suffer” more than me as I train a lot but they are always encouraging me and supporting my crazy hobby. With a few tears in my eyes I saw my dad who was relieved and congratulated me. It felt great to share this moment with him. He’s always supported me in my life decisions, and I will always look up to him as my role model, so to see him so proud obviously made the moment even more special.
First and foremost my family. My beautiful wife and children who are always supporting me in good and bad times. I know I spend a lot of time training, but my hope is to inspire my kids to take up their own hobby, whatever that may be, as long as they feel passionate about something!
Big thank you to my dad who accompanied me on this long trip to Austria, more than 10h of driving each way… His support means the world to me!
My “team” : Petri for the amazing strength work and physiotherapy. Maayke for helping me with mental strength. Jean-Daniel for my bike service. Tom for cleaning my bike to absolute perfection (the bike is still spotless after a wet 180km!)
And also a big thank you to all of you who sent me words of encouragements before the race, it pushed me to completely defy logic and race despite my illness, and somehow finish the race.
My next Ironman will be on the 5th June 2022 in Hamburg. This time I am determined to make the preparation right and go for my long awaited sub 10 hours !
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