When I started my Race Force blogs my goal was to be Ironman ready for this year. With a bizarre twist of fate I won a place in the Kona World Championships through their lottery and had to seriously reconsider my approach and ambition for the Austria Ironman- as I really wasn't sure about completing one, let alone two, full distance triathlons only a few months apart. Prior to June I had done a fair amount of training but nowhere near as much as I should have. I wasn't really getting any better on the bike or run and the couple of minutes improvement on my swim wasn't going to make that much difference. So I decided to play the long game and with Kate's encouragement planned out the Austria swim and bike and decided to really do my best to complete the race to that point. Knowing I could get round to begin the run would be a good starting point for my Kona training, but realistically I knew it was going to be difficult to hit the short 10:10 cut off. We flew out to Klagenfurt on the Thursday and had a brilliant time with Kate and the other people travelling with Race Force. The swim & bike recce were fantastic, the weather perfect and apart from a rather strange meal (I shouldn't have trusted the trip advisor status without reading the reviews!!) it was all going very well. The night before the race, Matthew and I had the most incredible 90 minute massages at the expo by some Austrian physios and I felt pretty good. Our hotel was supposed to be 4-star but it wasn't - although we forgave them when we found out that they had a bus to take us to swim start at 4:45am. (If I went to Austria again though, I'd probably stay in a camper-van with Kate at the lake to avoid the commute). I pumped up my own tyres in transition, without letting all the air out (a first) and wrestled my way through the crowds to the start. Luckily the women's wave wasn't last, so it took quite a while for the last wave of men to swim past me and that meant I could draft for short periods as they swam by. The sighting was really difficult on the way back in towards the canal and I went way off course, but once I was in the last kilometre up to the finish I was sucked up by the current. Kate ran the length of the bank screaming at me and the atmosphere was incredible. It certainly motivated me to try and swim a bit harder and I smashed my swim goal by 12 minutes. It was also a new experience coming out of the water with people behind me; I wasn't alone in transition and there were still people cheering at the start of the bike. That glow didn't last for long though - eventually all the slower swimmers overtook me and I was back to my usual spot in last place. Hey-ho!! Some things don't change.
The bike was long - much longer than anything I had even contemplated before. I hadn't cycled over 76 miles so I had no idea what it would be like. I really wanted to not stress too much about the time and Kate had got me to plan achievable times for each 10k. So I just did that. 10k at a time; easy on the uphill (not that I have much choice over my pace uphill) and really going for it on the downhill using the momentum. I did have a little bit of an advantage as my brakes were rubbing when I came out of T1 so I lifted the little lever up which made braking quite difficult, so I maintained my planned averages pretty much all the way round. At about 130km I was willing the officials to say I was too slow and make me stop and sure enough along came the official car who slowed down and crawled alongside me. But instead of pulling me up they said "you're doing great - keep going". Bugger! I had to keep pedalling then as my own golden rule is never 'choosing' to stop. So plodding on, I eventually overtook another cyclist who was thinking of stopping - the Ironman guys were having none of it and they made her keep going too. So the rest of the way into T2 I knew I wasn't last and if you've ever been in the bottom percentile you'll know how motivating it is to stay ahead of the last man (in the nicest possible way). Squeaking into T2 a tad over the 10:10 and very pleased that I had finished the swim and bike with no major issues I couldn't complain. I was even thinking about having a beer and something nice to eat while I watched Matthew finish. An official was just explaining to me that I had to stop, when another Ironman referee rushed over and said to keep going. I realised that there were still quite a few people in the tent and at least one person behind me so I put on my trainers and started jogging with absolutely no game plan. At this point Kate wanted my bike so Race Force could get packed up and get on the road. A couple of kilometres into the run she found me and asked me what I was doing??? I had worked out that if I could somehow maintain my jog, walk, shuffle routine with a pace better than 9mins/km then I could finish under 17hours. So I'd made my mind up - put my head down; got in the zone and kept moving forward, hoovering up the food & drink at every aid station but never stopping.
I had the most amazing support on the way. The lovely people that I had met through Race Force, those I had met on the course, the spectators and officials all willing everyone to finish. So I did. I became an ironman without really meaning to, but it was so worth it. The atmosphere on the red carpet was electric, a big hug from @Kayeman. Kate had stayed and missed her ferry so she could run the last 500m with me and watch me finish. It was just BRILLIANT and so exciting and I've walked a little bit taller and felt more awesome ever since. I wasn't even last.
So a couple of weeks on holiday; July has slipped away and suddenly I'm into a serious 7 week countdown until the week that I fly out to Kona. I've been watching the Kona movies, planning what to wear, reading race reports and I've even started some serious training. I met a fabulous couple in Greece who do ultra-ultra silly long runs and Dave does an IM before his breakfast according to his Strava on most days. They introduced me to Strava, [I'm under Slowcoach Co] as well as motivating me, giving me lots of top-tips and making me cycle for hours in 40degrees on holiday they have also lent me some super flashy PlanetX carbon wheels for Kona. (Thank-you Dave & Rach X) I got the recommended cleats and super wheels on and had a practice at the London Triathlon taking a not too shabby 50 minutes off my PB for an Olympic distance. I've got a plan to do 12 hours a week training as a minimum now for 3 weeks. Have a little rest week. Then another 3 week block and then I'm off. I know from race reports from proper athletes that the winds in Kona can seriously slow down the bike time, so my plan for the next few weeks is to focus on getting stronger and more confident on my bike and just generally fitter so that I feel good in myself. It's such an unexpected privilege to have this opportunity to go to the World Champs - I really want to make the best of it. I know I need some luck on my side, but as the lovely Samuel said to me in Austria - "something happens that you can't really explain". That's so true and it's certainly my experience. The strength, determination and power come from somewhere when I need them the most, as long as I stay calm and keep believing that it will happen. I have found something so fundamental and back-to-nature about triathlon. Being at the mercy of the elements, appreciating the cleanliness of the lake or sea; the power of the current, the scale of the mountains or beauty and smell of the forests. Fully experiencing the impact of it all on my body and mind - for or against me - it is all part of the day and rather than fighting it, just allowing it to be part of the experience makes it just such an amazing, feel good thing to do.....in a terrifying, sadistic kind of way.
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February 24, 2017
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