IRONMAN Austria 2018 – Niall Connaughton
I had originally planned to do IM Frankfurt this year as I’m in Frankfurt with work most weeks but a German public holiday spent in Frankfurt city centre last summer knocked that idea on the head and before I knew it there was a huge Pulse Austrian bandwagon that I jumped on.
I travel a good bit with work and knew a prescribed plan like Don Fink wouldn’t work so I enlisted Oliver Harkin from Primed Coaching who was great and his training plans were varied with monthly testing to see your progress.
A big group from Pulse flew to Munich on the Thursday morning and we met a few others heading for Klagenfurt via a nice relaxing & scenic five hour train. John O’Donnell and myself were staying out on the bike route right on the lake and went for an easy run after arriving. Friday went pretty fast – registration, expo for the mandatory race bling, collecting the bike and a lovely practice swim in the Worthsee lake. Saturday we had a mini-brick session and dropped off the bikes – as we were staying a little further out, we skipped the pasta party and went local. Early night had and alarm set for 3.45am for race day. I was rudely awoken from my slumber at 04.15am by the landlady & John wanting to know why I wasn’t up, so I jumped up had my breakfast quickly and left my sports drink behind (first mistake of many on the day).
Down into transition, pumping tyres, putting nutrition on the bike etc and met a few Pulsers. Everyone was in good spirits and we made our way down to the swim start. Having completed the Iron distance Swim Athy a few weeks previous, albeit very slowly, gave me good confidence looking out onto what seems like a huge swim route. All went well, found feet and got around the first 3K at a pace I was happy with without ever raining the HR too much. We hit the canal for the last 800/900 metres and it was very congested and narrow and we all lost some time here. There was a fair bit of pulling and dragging but I avoided most of it. Swim done in 1:14 odd.
There is a longish run to T1 and the Pulse support was in full voice, out onto the bike without any issue and seen lots of Pulsers, all happy to have the first milestone down. I was working off 85% Max FTP on the bike and was concentrating on not going over this too often. The bike route is very scenic with lots of support and the first lap passed without issue, second lap a headwind picked up and I lost a bit of time but made it off the bike under six hours.
Into T2 feeling fine and mentally prepared to break the run down into 2.5km sections and not think of it as a marathon. Felt strong for the first 8k or so and then my ankle started throbbing, I had gone over on it a few weeks before and the physio told me it would be fine and to get it strapped if it acted up, stupidly I didn’t check what was and wasn’t allowed and didn’t bring my own strapping. The first aid guys told me they could strap it but I wouldn’t be let continue. I felt very sorry for myself for the next 20k as I walked and occasionally shuffled along trying to work out different time permutations. With about 12k to go, Alan Carolan & Dermot Duffy passed me and roared at me to join them, I jumped in with them and we made it home all together just under 12 hours in 11:57. I was very grateful for their moral support!
It was a great feeling crossing the finish line and getting the medal. I met up with all other Pulsers and we had some beers and food, followed by a shower and a massage.
The next day we all met up in Klagenfurt along with the great Pulse support crew who travelled over gave us a huge boost on many occasions and enjoyed some Austrian beers and dinner.
Plan A & B was to finish, Plan C was finish & enjoy it all and then I had some time targets – I can’t say I enjoyed the run on the day but the seven months training flew in and the whole experience was great, made even better by the large Pulse group who travelled and trained together over the winter.
KIagenfurt and the Worthsee area are very beautiful and well worth visiting and IM Austria is a fantastic race. I have unfinished Ironman business and the plan for next year is IM Lanza in May followed by IM Cork in June before I give my weekends back to my family!