Wimbleball turned out to be as tough as ever and I had to work hard for the win. The day after the race I headed back to Switzerland. By the Tuesday I was back in full training and it continued like that right up to Ironman Austria. It was much more that I would have expected to do for both coming out of a race and for going in to a race but I trusted what I was told and just got on with it. Soon enough I felt like I was recovering and I began to feel better about the thought of doing an Ironman.
My journey to Klagenfurt is one I would rather forget, it involved flying to Italy and spending a night there on the way. Plus getting lost a lot with lots and lots of wrong turns, having trouble locating my hotel, eating half a jar of almond butter for dinner because everything was shut, getting lost again, getting a flat tyre in the car etc… but eventually I made it to the lovely Klagenfurt in one piece! I stayed in a lovely place about 10k away from the race venue in a beautiful apartment which I got through a local junior triathlete. It was perfect as I like being able to cook my own food leading up to races.
Before I left I didn’t have time to think much about times or records. I just wanted to go out there and do what I could do on race day and to finish as far up the field as possible. Soon enough race day arrived and the atmosphere was amazing but I couldn’t wait to get going. I love the sense of relief I feel when the gun goes off. We stood at the edge of a pretty high pier waiting for the cannon to fire. And when it did it was so loud that I almost jumped backwards before I pushed off for the dive start. I had perfected the technique the day before so thankfully my goggles stayed secure and I had what I thought was a good start until suddenly I felt like I was literally jumped on by a big group. I was pulled back by the shoulder, slapped, swam over etc. and soon I was spat out the back and was forced to sprint as hard as I could to get on to the feet of the group just in front. I made it and settled in to a steady and comfortable pace with the group. I stayed there until the second turn point when suddenly I got dropped from the group. I’m not sure if the pace elevated or if I died a little but by the time I realised what was happening it was too late and somehow even in a field of 3000 athletes I managed to end up swimming alone.
On to the bike and in my head I was telling myself it was just a 5hr ride. I set off at a comfortable but steady-hard pace and felt fine for around 20-30k. Then suddenly my legs felt pretty tired. After the first 30k I spent the rest of that lap riding alone and I felt so slow, one of those days when it seems like the whole world is coming flying past and there’s nothing you can do about it. I was sure I must have been losing a lot of time. I seemed to be getting slower and slower, my legs were tired and my back hurt. I was beginning to wonder how I would manage the rest of the bike if I felt that bad so early on. Then at 90k it was like a switch was flicked and suddenly I felt a lot better. It was about that time that I suddenly got engulfed by a group of age group men so I had to come out of my own rhythm and drop back. It became frustrating as I spent some time (and energy) surging to get past and then having to ease back out of the draft zone for fear of getting a drafting penalty. As we approached one of the main climbs I put my foot down a little and headed off up the road, I was feeling quite good at the time so I just kept moving along the best I could. I passed a few more pro woman and made up a few places before heading on to the run.
When I started the run I had no idea what position I was in and set off at a pace that was possibly a little too hard. I didn’t feel wonderful but I felt good enough to run at a good steady pace. I got through the first 10k feeling just about OK and made it up to 3rd place. By 12k I was feeling less than OK and by 15k I was thinking ‘oh no, this is a long way’. I thought that in the past I had gone through bad patches in races but this was the first time I have had a real bad patch in an Ironman. Everything hurt and my stomach which had been doing so well suddenly started to feel terrible. I tried to get a energy gel in but it just made me feel even worse. So I just kept trucking on hoping it was temporary and that I would come through it. Lots of people were shouting at me and I felt so terrible I could barely respond; I felt like I just wanted to hide away and sleep. It’s funny how quickly you can go from chasing positions to just hoping you make it to the finish. With 5k to go I was still in 3rd but I could see that Sarah Pimpiano was gaining on me. I managed to force myself out of a jog in to what felt like more of a run. I went hard, as hard as I could go. At that point in the race the KM’s go by so slowly, each one seems to get longer and longer and I was just willing the finish to be there. Eventually I made it to the line and I was so happy to see it! I crossed the line feeling pretty exhausted and unwell not really thinking about times and unable to make it on to the podium for the flower presentation. After some time I came round and was really happy to see some of the friendly faces of some of my old training buddies from Milton Keynes.
At the time I was so desperate to get over the line I didn’t think about times or records or anything like that. It wasn’t until about an hour later that I thought about the fact that I had new Irish record. That perked me up a little but it wasn’t really until the following day when I had time to think about it that I realised what I had achieved and I was really happy to be the new Irish Ironman record holder.
I was really happy that I decided to go to Ironman Austria. I know I can give a lot more over the Ironman distance but I have learned many lessons from the race especially with regards to pacing, concentration and nutrition but the main lessons I took away from this trip were: Sat Nav is a valuable tool and ALWAYS go for the full insurance option when hiring a car in Europe!