Monday, June 15, 2009

Austria 70.3 Race Report

Sorry for the delay folks... I know you've all been waiting for this epic. Lots going on which I shall enlighten you with in a later blog (although promise this will come sooner then this took to produce!!)

AUSTRIA 70.3 Race Report

{NOTE: I take no responsibility for bad grammar or spelling in the following epic write up}

The Preamble;
With 8 associated people all booked in to the same accomodation it was a logistical challenge arranging how many cars, coming from what flights to get to where... but still we ended up with Jules "The Pirate" and Carole "The Meddler" flying down from Scotland to rv with Leanne "The Driver" and Karen "Doris" at London Heathrow. Anita "The accidental hero" was flying out from London Gatwick and would already be there. Dan "The husband and who looks like that guy from Band of Brothers" flying in Sat morning... and two more people, let's just call them Iain and Kirsty who were driving in a campavan from Holland! The scene is set... So Jules and Carole flew via LHR so we (Leanne and I) met up in the departure lounge. Despite Leanne leaving a bag by check in and us nearly being involved in a security scare we made it to the plane. As we were on the plane I noted that a bike box hadn't been loaded - my friend Leanne and I were pleased to note it was black box and not the colour blue of our boxes.... .thank fully it wasn't either Jules' or Carols either;... but there was one poor bloke whose bike box it was, he was a bit miffed at Vienna, lucky though there was a later flight which they carried it over on!!!.. Got to Vienna and boyo was it warm!... Boxes and bags loaded into two cars we drove the hour and half, past St Poulten and on to the hotel where we RV'd with Anita, and the guy called Iain and his other half Kirsty (these are the two had driven in a campavan from Holland)... the only one left to arrive to the party was Leanne's husband Dan who was flying in Sat morning from Oslo!! Had scoff and put the bikes together and agreed we'd go for a test ride Saturday morning, for some dumb reason the allotted meet for the ride time was 0645... Anita's fault entirely!!

Saturday came, the village bells rang and off we set on the wrong side of the road (well the right side for there) for a spin out... I had a mechanical within about 50m as I realised I hadn't tightened up my handle bars... DOH! Still we had a glorious ride down the Danube which sorted things out. Quick 10min brick after then breakfast then a bit of a kit check, Leanne arrived back (having done a return trip to the airport) with Dan and so we all loaded up the cars and headed down for registration, racking etc etc... by the way, temps at 0700 on the bike were high enough to get a sweat on despite only wearing tri kit and cycling easy (by now I was praying for some kind of miracle to take the heat away!!)

Drove to St Poulten taking in the "climb" on the bike course. Nothing as bad as parts of Wimbleball (UK 70.3) BUT it was an 8k climb and it went on.... average gradient 1:20 but there was about 2-3k of something more like 1:12, it was quite a grinder!... and the joy of it was that you hit the hill at about 60k!! Yikes.

Spent Saturday afternoon down at the race venue, pretty well organised I must say. Split transition areas were a bit of a pain but necessary. In order to rack your bike you had security chips put on your bike, this was swiped along with your wrist band and then your photo was taken - so pretty secure which was reassuring. Despite my new Carbon stead (aka "Max") I still think my bike was one of the "cheaper" on view... BLIMEY there was a lot of Carbon on show and some serious wheel sets, bike bling for all to see! Finally finished up having had the race briefing (which I thought was a bit random compared to how precise they were at Wimbleball) and made it back to the hotel... most of us felt like we had already raced having spent the day pfaffing in the sunshine!

Race Day;
There were quite a lot of racers staying at the hotel - including the owner - so they laid breakfast on from 0430! FAB! Jules came with the obligatory loaf of white bread and jam mind.. I think he managed 8 slices which I didn't think was a bad effort! We left about 0510 and I was very pleased to see overcast skies and even a spot of rain (thank the tri lords - at least the day started cooler!)... We got to the race venue which was a hive of activity and a fairly big queue of cars.... slight panic set in as we were still queuing at 0610 and we had to be out of bike transition allegedly by 0630!! Finally parked up we bomb burst out and headed to T1 to sort bikes etc It was a bit rushed to say the least and we all kinda separated either whilst in transition or from the way to the swim start ( a good 800m or so hike)... .

All the girls were off in the same wave (there were 7 waves in total with about 2000 competitiors!).... Jules, I think pulling up the rear of our team in Wave 7, the girls were off in Wave 4... literally got in my wetsuit, handed my "streetwear" bag to be put in a truck and I was in the pen about to be taken into the water! Timing is everything! .... The swim is a strange one - one lake of 900m, out over a bridge and down into another lake for 1000m... We weren't sure if the actual swim distance was 1700m + 200m running or 1900m + 200m running... all the times though suggested a full swim distance so still couldn't work it out... may be they had a timing mat out and in the lakes so the run part was void... no idea... The swim itself, esp in lake 1 was pretty rough, I even got chinned (nice)... Anita who did the race last year said it was certainly rougher then the year before. Needless to say between lake 1 and 2 I took my goggles up so I could see then had a really crap seal for the second swim.... very bizarre swimming along with water in your eyes, sound of a helicopter when I breathed to the left (low flying taking footage) and speaker system when I breathed to my right.. very odd!

Exited the swim feeling like it had gone ok (didn't know my time at the time but is was something like 36mins+ and top third age group)... Picked up my bag from the rack, all I had to do was strip off my suit and throw on my helmet and socks as shoes were already on the bike ready for a flying start... Despite this I had a slowish transition mainly because I was applying copious amounts of suncream I think!!! Still out of the tent I screamed it through transition (most people were wearing their bike shoes and clip-clopping through). I picked up bikey (which had a fair few bikes around, in fact I think I was first out of my rack of 10) for a flying start and off I went and to wait for everyone else to zoom by!

The start of the bike course is excellent as you go pretty much straight out on to a motorway (they do shut it!) ... it's amazing, can't imagine a motorway being shut in the UK for a race!! Needless to say lots of people overtook me... Anita caught me about mile 6, Carol at mile 9... despite the headwind this was a fast section of the course (although not too pretty!).... My idea was to manage by HR not pace... I wanted to keep HR in easy zone 1 for the first 20k or so. Coming off the motorway start going through some lovely scenery and then a small but nasty hill climb up to the first aid station. I re-caught Carol on the hill which gave her a bit of a fright (she then took off never to be seen again), and I thought I'd stop at the porta-loo for a quick one at the aid station... except there was no porta-loo to be seen.. Nightmare! By now the sun was out and we were traveling through vineyards, really stunning, some fabulously scary descents (although not like that one at wimbleball!)... and we finally dropped back down to the Danube and spent I reckon a good 20k alongside - really nice! Eventually, despite trying to wee whilst riding I had to bail and take a break behind a bush (that's what cost me my sub 6 I'm sure)..... but I figured I needed an empty bladder for the 8k climb which was waiting!!.... Somepoint during the Danube section I really thought my legs were toast (despite pretty good pacing), mainly because I felt the London Marathon still in my legs (Phil at La Santa did indicate a 70.3 4 weeks after a marathon may be a challange!)...still... The hill approached and I spent some time thinking it was going to whip my arse... it's a bit of a long grinder - nothing as steep as wimbleball but it goes on (and on and on and on)... about half way up Dan caught me (his heat started after ours) and actually we spent the second half of the climb having a nice chinwag (in between puffs), we went past ALOT of people, evidently the continentals don't train on hills! To the top I stuffed my face with half a banana from the aid station replened my water bottles and headed down the hills (and up one minor beast) to transition... again the scenery was stunning and the downhill quite epic!!

Heading into T2 I did the decent thing and slipped my feet out of my shoes for a flying dismount! Made it - phew! They don't take your bike off you in Austria but yell and point at where you can rack you bike!

Having been yelled at in German I figured where I needed to throw my bike. I ran over to the bag pick up point grabbed it and headed to the change tent. Socks off, copious amounts of vaseline on (to my toes I may add - in a bad way from London), new socks on (the long compression variety, look stooopid but have had calf strain/ niggle for weeks now and would rather look silly then risk a tear), lashings of sun cream... FINALLY exited T2 in just over 4mins - pathetic and must do better!

OH MY it was heating up now well and truly! A lap around the 400m track, in and out of the finish horseshoe and out on to the course proper... up one side of a SMALL river (not to be confused with the Danube Jules!!). I had a small "incident" at about mile 2... to cut a long story short I had had a "salt stix" electrolyte tablet on the bike at about the 3hr bike mark and it had got stuck on the way down... at about mile 2 it had opened up and unstuck itself - I had a moment of panic when I thought I must be having a heartattack, but figured I'd run through it.... ummm... so just over 2 miles I was feeling rather crap and wondering where my running legs were. Up over a foot bridge and into an office type area where there was feed station 3 and the 5k mark just beyond. It was at this point that I realised my pace was actually ok. Through the office area and back down to the river, aid stations 4 and 5 and then a longish stretch back towards another bridge, through the athletes village and towards T2... it was on the back stretch of the river that I had a moment when I thought I may indeed crap myself, quite literaly (sorry gross I know.... which is when I also decided one gel on the run would have to do - wasn't going to risk a tummy moment with another sugary sweet laxative!)... so I headed back to T2 and although I hadn't crapped myself seeing a port-a-loo as I ran back through transition I thought I'd stop just to ahem.. make sure... frustratingly enough this resulted in nothing more then a pause as I needed to pass no bodily function (other then wind!)... LOL... round the 400m track, through the finish horse shoe and back out on lap 2. During lap two I decided (wisely) to walk through the aid stations, format being; change shoulder sponges for fresh, throw cup of water over hat/ head... two mouthfuls of electrolyte drink (risky given tummy!), eat a morsel of banana or orange, throw another cup of water on hear.. and trundle off. Needless to say this slowed my second lap a little but meant I survived the run!! After the last aid station on the main part of the course I had planned on taking a walk break across the bridge (it's about 2miles from the last aid station to the end), but when I got to the bridge I actually thought "fawk that just RUN DORIS RUN"... so I trundled on, one final time around the 400m track and this time heading into the finishers shoot... WHOOOP!

I was completely made up to have finished that one - in the heat and in one piece! I think the salt stix certainly helped and think I got my nutrition pretty much spot on! RELIEF ALL AROUND. At this point I still had no idea about my times or splits or anything.

Missed all the rest of the gang who were waiting in the finish area (no idea how I missed peeps), grabbed a bottle of water and headed off to the lengthy queues for post race and T1 bags... Having queued for an age I ended up having to have a little rest (because I felt like I was going to barf) in the hall before I ventured back out to try and find the others. Whilst resting (and consuming a rego) I decided to get my medal (which by the way is fabulous, the best yet) engraved... That's when I saw my time... 6:00:36... DAMN those 36s but seriously, took me about 4 hours to be, but I was well chuffed with the time!!

Finally bumped into the rest of the gang - all of us hot, probably slightly heat exhausted, getting sun burnt but generally all completely happy with our day of adventure.

As a result of the day and having gone so close to the 6hr mark I've decided to ditch the ETU long course champs in Prague in August in favour of Antwerp 70.3 the weekend before. I'm still going to visit Prague but as tri-sherpa for Jules, which I think sounds like much more fun!!!

Here's my splits, position overall (from 1932 starters) and in age group (from 48 starters);
SWIM 0:36:46 863/13 (.. and swim split winner in our little gang of 8!)
T1: 0:04:37 ???/20
BIKE: 3:11:42 1634/32 (.. boy those AG woman are FAST! fastest bike split in AG 2:40:01!)
T2: 0:04:03 ???/37
RUN: 2:03:26 1556/34
OVERALL: 6:00:36 1549/32

Very happy with my days work!!

Next Antwerp 70.3 and an opportunity for more bling!