Having Lost my Ironman Virginity to Tenby, Wales last year and picking up a Nirvana Europe brochure by mistake in the Expo I thought maybe one more crack at a sub 12 hour IM may be possible. My wife Anne who had had a nightmare experience trying to support me in Wales finding it difficult to fit in the supporting around her spa treatments said she was going to do one next year, how hard can it be! So we sat down and researched fast IM courses and with the help of Nirvana booked up Austria 2012.
Our preparations started in November with the drawing up of the Annual Training Plan. Key events were training camp in Spain, Tewkesbury HM, Bala Middle Distance Tri in June and taper for the big event on the 1st July.
We spent hours trying to predict possible split timings based on hope and reality looking at past performances and drawing up complex graphs and matrix tables to help analyse the data. I eventually ruled out a sub 10 on the basis on that I'd need a rocket up my arse and came up with a prediction of 11:35:26. 45 mins faster than Wales and sub 12 earning me the right to get a Mdot tattoo. (my own rules for reward!) Anne was concerned mainly with making the cut offs especially on the bike.
On the 26th June we started the long drive to Austria. We stopped at Hythe in Kent, Stuttgart in Germany and arrived in the Holliday Village near Klagenfurt on Thursday leaving us Friday and Saturday to recover and do the registration, race briefing and Transition setup.
The weather was hot, I mean really hot, 37 degrees and getting hotter. The only time I'd ever run in this sort of temperature was in Egypt and that was about 3 miles around the block and it took me several days to recover from that antic.
We turned up to the race briefing all keen and worried. Everything was going as expected until the organiser mentioned water temperature. It had been measured at the 1000m buoy at 24.8 degrees, over 24.5 and wetsuits are banned. First time in 14 years of IM Austria and the tent was full of panic. Anne burst into tears as she'd never done a big open water swim without the comfort of a wetsuit and making the cut off was now potentially even more of an issue.
Up at 4am on Race day, transferred effortlessly to transition and before we knew what was going on we were at the waters edge at 6:45. The atmosphere was electric, air balloons and helicopters were in the air and then the gun went at 7am. The start was not as bad as I'd expected, no ripping off goggles or being battered from head to toe as I'd expected. The waters were warm and blue and after what seemed like hours of swimming, some attempts at sighting but mainly tagging on to other swimmers on the assumption that they were not opting for the same strategy we got to the turn and headed back for the infamous 800m canal. Swimming into the sun reflecting on the water made sighting impossible for me so latching on to another equally paced swimmer was my only hope at getting there and eventually after what seemed like several more hours of swimming we did. We'd been told that once you get to the current assisted canal the last 800m would fly by but my experience was different. Murky muddy water, an odd in ability to stay away from the left bank and constant bumping of swimmers. On leaving the water my new white Cheltenham Tri suite came out looking very brown scuppering any chance of a nice race photo to be proud of. My swim time was 1:42 ,12 minutes down and Anne made the cut off by a scary 6 minutes.
The bike course was lovely with a few steep bits and long fast bits in between. The second lap began to reveal the effects of the heat with bodies on the side of the road seeking shelter from the trees. Water was being used in copious amounts to cool heads and backs but the hills with the road chalkings were where you really felt the midday heat sapping the strength out of you body.
I arrived into transition at 2:38pm, which meant I'd made up a bit on the bike and on schedule for sub 12. Anne made the bike cut off with half an hour to spare. A quick change and plenty of sun cream and the bottle in my pocket I headed out. The first 3k were on target but the heat was now really beginning hit home. Mid day temperatures were now 38 to 41 degrees in the shade and my Garmin was showing 47 in the sun. 4k and my wheels fell off my cart. Despite being dosed with water from hose pipes and sponges galore I just could not run any more. I stood still for a minute or two to try and comprehend what was happening. I felt strong but just overwhelmed by the sheer heat. Something you can't train for in the UK. Realising by sub 12 was gone I turned round and starting walking back. After about a 750m I passed a lady spectator clapping who said well done you can do it, keep going. She obviously didn't know I had already given up and was walking back. It suddenly dawned what the event was all about, its the journey that counts and how deep you have to dig, PB's are important of course but finishing is everything. I couldn't quit, there was a T Shirt, Medal and emotions of the magic carpet yet to come and Anne would never quit so I manned up, turned round and began a new strategy of completing. This involved mainly heat management, run, walk, as much cooling as possible, maximum use of water and ice at feed stations and my favourite and most memorable was the part of the run that passed through a bathing park next to the lake. I saw a jetty and immediately went for it. Off the course I went taking a running jump into the lake. Unfortunately the water was only a few inches deep and so was surprised by the sudden landing followed by a face plant into the shallow water. It felt amazing, cool water all round, I rolled onto my back suddenly being aware that my detour was being on looked by several hundred bathers. It seemed like minutes that I just wallowed like a hippo in the water enjoying the coolness all over. Eventually I got up and climbed out, a man who had been slightly concerned by my suicide attempt came over and said just 3 words which helped me through the rest of the run. Don't give up.
I eventually crossed the line in 12:37 and after one of the best hour recovery massages ever by Pete arranged by Nirvana was able to enjoy the rest of the party on what felt like a new body. Anne came in to the" You Are An Ironman" screams at 15:53 and we stayed to watch the last athlete come in at 16:54 followed by fireworks.
So no sub 12 M.dot tattoo, will we be doing another one. Anne says no, ones enough, I'm thinking maybe one day but when you add up the cost, time in training and putting everything else in life on hold is it really it really worth it with so many other experiences out there to be had.