Ironman Austria 2017 – Miriam Staunton
Austria 2017 Race Report
2016 was the tea and ham sandwiches tour of Ireland, so 2017 called for a bigger goal. I signed up for Austria when it opened and put it to the back of my mind til November, post DCM recovery.
Time is in short supply for me, so I knew I wanted to be coached, mainly to help with scheduling my time and not having to spend too much time thinking, just doing what was on the plan. I checked out a couple of options but landed on Connect2Perform, based out of Athlone. We had a few chats through goals and likes/dislikes before starting out into formal training in mid November or so. Initially just easing in, getting into a regular training rhythm.
Things did not start out too great, in early December following our (now) traditional Jingle Bells Run I managed to give myself a stress fracture in my left foot pacing Tom to a sub 25min 5k and was off running until end February/early March as a result. I worked with Xela in Sportsmed and Philip from C2P on rehab, this involved plenty of biking, swimming, strength and functional work. I very, very gradually built back up my running to ensure no risk of re-injury.
This was to be my 3rd Ironman event, and I know from previous experience that it’s all about the training for me. I actually love the discipline of training for something like this and feeling the body become stronger and fitter. There was a great crew together for long spins on the bike. Myself, Matt, Leon and Mark biked together pretty much every week, sometimes hooking up with Ciat and the rest of the Lanza crew. They all peeled off in May, leaving myself, Leon and Mark to finish out the last 6 weeks together. A big thank you to those guys, it makes the journey fun!
Running rehab involved split run days, that is, run morning and run again in the evening. This helps the body build up the mileage with reduced stress on the body. We were constantly mindful of avoiding re-injury. I had never done this before but I have to say I am completely converted. I did one single 26k run in my training, but several split run days covering 26-27k between morning and evening runs. I was nervous about this but it was definitely easier on the body, than running in one go.
IM Austria is a great race in a stunning location. It is a little tricky to get to, so we all ended up taking slightly different routes to get there. Myself, Dave and Anne-Marie were on the same flight to Vienna. On my two previous Ironman events my bag had been lost by the airline, resulting in pre-race panic, on this occasion I had my key race kit in my carry-on bag, but happily my bag arrived on schedule. I took this as a great omen!
We picked up a car at the airport and drove to Krumpendorf, where my Airbnb was. It took the guts of 4 hours, with a short stop on the way for grub.
There’s always a lot to do in the couple of days pre-Ironman. We had arrived Thursday night, so on Friday I went down to register and do my Ironman merchandise shopping nice and early. I collected my bike from SMTB and headed back to the house to put the feet up for a while. Headed back to the lake later for a practice swim, we were all nervously watching the water temp as it hovered around the wetsuit cut off temperature. We swam without wetsuits, out to the coffee boat, shot of coffee and back to shore. The lake is really beautiful to swim in. I was still hoping for wetsuit though, for the additional buoyancy, which helps me sight a lot better.
Nerves were kicking in big style for me at this point. I suffer badly with pre-race jitters. I tried to remain calm as I knew I was race ready and repeated my internal mantras “if it was easy, everyone would do it” & “I can and I f**king will”. I was getting a lot of support from home from my Pulse support crew Matt, Derv & Nockers and from coaches Philip & Charlie from C2P. The love, support and belief was brilliant guys. A big thank you!
Next day was race briefing, bike and bag racking. There’s no split transition in Klagenfurt, which makes for a much easier pre-race day. You can also access both your bike and run bags on race morning. The briefing was great and fired us up to start, David Adams also started to really embrace the whole Ironman experience and let go of all his Ironman hangups 😉
I had a quiet evening in the apartment. My husband Dave and two boys were travelling to Vienna. They planned to stay in Vienna overnight and get the train down on race morning. Ailbhe was missing out, being in Dingle at the Gaeltacht. I had an early dinner, prepped all my race nutrition and hit the hay early. I actually slept OK, think I had dispersed with the worst of the jitters the previous night. Alarm went off at 3:30, it’s race day!
I had my usual breakfast of porridge with seeds and berries, juice and coffee. Leon was going to collect me at 4:30, we had VIP parking courtesy of Mark’s wife Laura. We got into transition and got busy pumping tyres, adding water bottles and checking gear. Great news as it’s announced that wetsuits will be allowed. Smiles all round! The weather is playing ball too, it’s overcast, even a little chilly about 14C. I am pretty nervous at this point, but I know I have to face the fear of starting if I want to have the joy of finishing. It’s a rolling start, which I have never done before, but there’s definitely less of a sense of fear as athletes start rolling through the gates. Myself and Leon head into the water together having seeded ourselves in the 1:10 to 1:15 bracket. So then we are off and we are swimming. The nerves just drift away at this point, and I have to say that the rolling start is great. No washing machine and occasionally getting onto feet. The course is one big loop, out 1.4 k before the first turn to the left, then another left turn and head towards the shore, the last 1000m are in a narrow canal. The canal is the first area where it is pretty crowded and my goggles get knocked off my eyes. I stop to fix them. At this stage I just want out of the swim, there’s a sharp right then swim exit and out of the water. Quick glance at the watch 1:18. That’s OK. I’ll take it. Swim done.
It’s a long enough run into transition, pick up the red bag and into the women’s section of the change tent. One other woman in there and several men in various states of undress. Roll of the eyes and get on with sun cream, helmet, cycle jersey, and race number on. Collect the bike, and get motoring. Aim of the game is to get the heart rate down at this point, but I am up at Zone 5 and it’s not budging. Breath, relax out on the bike leg now. HR finally starts to settle about 20mins into it, so start eating and drinking. I’m not feeling 100%, tummy feels quite full of air and concentrate on just eating and drinking, not pushing the discomfort. Luckily it’s cool, about 17 degrees or so. It’s just like what I’ve trained in, so I am not having to take on huge amounts of fluids. I pass a couple of aid stations without taking anything as I have 3x750ml of my own drink on board.
So the bike is a 2x90km course. There’s two climbs in it. It’s 4 years since I last raced this and the years may have dulled my memory of the hills. As I hit the second climb at the Rupertiberg and I am out of the saddle, I’m feeling guilty for having said to Leon ‘ they’re not too bad, you don’t need to get out of the saddle!’
I hear a big shout out at one point and I look up and see Steffi Steinberg, our coach from the training camp in Mallorca. I was very surprised to see her. Then at 80k or so Mark’s support crew have set up an Irish support area with flags everywhere. I give them a shout out. You loop back into town at the end of lap one and the crowd just lifts you. I am smiling ear to ear and I spot Anne-Marie and Bianca. I am happy out going into the 2nd lap and feeling strong. I know what’s coming and I start picking people off. The kms are ticking by. I know I had the first lap done in just under 3 so I am still on track to hit under 6 for the bike leg, this is one of my key goals. I get another shout from Steffi in a different location on lap 2, spot a pig with an Ironman logo painted on it and a family barbecuing on the side of the road. Each of these makes me smile. Back up the climbs again and pushing into T2. I spot Dave and the boys arrived in from Vienna, big smiles, delighted to see them. The dismount line catches me by surprise and my feet are out of my shoes in the nick of time, dismount. 5:54. OK this is great, we are on track. Rack the bike and run up to collect my blue bag. Change into fresh clothes, quick spray of sun cream, out and go on the run. Dave and the boys are at the exit of T2 a quick hello and off I go.
So the run. My nemesis. I’ve not run past 26k since last October’s marathon. The plan is 6 mins per km. Control it. So I do. I am feeling very lucky with the weather, it’s overcast and in the early 20’s. In my head I am out for 10k run, heading towards Krumpendorf and looking out for support crew at various locations, as well as seeing other Pulsers on the route. I’m feeling good, but need to make a quick pee pit stop at one of the aid stations. The more temperate weather means the portaloos are not quite as disgusting as previous Ironman experiences. 10k done, and mentally I am on just another 10k run. At this point I begin walking through aid stations taking 1 water and 1 coke at each one. I am running well between aid stations and passing people. First lap done and I see Dave and the boys again. 21k to go I tell him and I am still feeling OK. A little later my tummy starts to cramp so I have to make 2 more pit stops. I check the time and see that I am well on track to hit my sub 4:30 goal. Body is holding together well and HR is comfortably in zone 2. Just keep chugging away. Now I am covering the same ground again and seeing the km markers creeping upwards helps. I’m into the last 10k and still feeling good. I know there’s a crew tracking back home, I’m thinking of all the support that has been sent through to me over the last week, and it powers me on. I hear Derv and Matt in my ears. I’m on the home stretch, I spot Bianca and she gives me a tricolor as I round the bend into the finishers chute. I run up the chute, tricolor aloft and cross the finish line. Get my medal and check the garmin 11:54. Boom. I let out a cry of joy. Hit all my goals, sub 6, sub 4:30, sub 12. Life doesn’t get better than this!!
Thanks so much to home support crew Dave, Ailbhe, Tom and Aidan. Love you all so much. Thanks to Matt, Derv and Nockers for the support and laughs along the way. Thanks to the Ironman Austria crew Leon, Mark, Dave, Kim and Vinny. The journey together has been great. I absolutely love this shit!!