Sunday, July 20, 2008

IM Austria 2008 Race Report - Chad

The above picture is my new favorite ice cream treat, "Bum Bum"! It does have a strange name but it's really just a strawberry candy coated ice cream treat with gum in the center of the stick. I couldn't not try it after seeing the name....

IM Austria, final time 11:04:22

Swim 1:01:25
Not my greatest time for an Ironman swim but there isn't much I can change about it now. I felt "off" during the entire swim and I think it has a lot to do with not being able to do a proper swim warm-up.

In Austria the place to toss your street wear bag is a quick 2 minute walk to the beach start. I changed into my wetsuit and walked towards the swim start. Only my walk was more like a penguin shuffle, the line across the timing mat didn't seem to move at all. There seemed to be more spectators smoking in the line than athletes too. I wasn't very happy when they announced that there was 5 minutes left prior to everyone getting out of the water, I just couldn't seem to get across that damn timing mat. Finally they announced that there is 15 minutes left before the start and everyone is supposed to be out of the water. 2 minutes later I crossed that timing mat and entered the beach.

I was mad at myself for missing the swim warm-up but I thought that I would get at least a second shot at it. Every age-group athlete is to wait on the beach until they lift the tape, then we are supposed to swim out to the flags about 25meters into the lake and wait there for the cannon to fire. They made us wait until less than a minute before we were allowed to enter the water. Just as I was causally swimming out to the real start line I felt a tremendous urge to pee (all that morning hydration and standing in a wetsuit for 30 minutes will do that). I slowed to have my little pee break prior to the cannon blast, only the cannon blast went off before anyone even reached the actual swim start. There was no time to slow down for a pit stop now. The rest of my swim didn't feel quite right (a full bladder will do that). I got bounced around a bit and was forced to the outside edge. I took horribly wide lines around the two corners but I managed to fight my way to swim in the middle of the canal during the last 800 meters. The canal was insane! It was lined with loud cheering crowds. I thought I might go deaf in that canal if it were any longer. All I could hear was a mixture of shouting and whistles. It was the best part of the swim. I finished the swim and was hoisted up the exit ramp by 3 large Austrian men.

T1: 4:42
This transition time includes a 2 minute pee break. I really needed to go....

Bike 5:46:27
With a completely empty bladder I settled in for the 180km bike ride. The ride consists of 2 laps (90km each) with 800 meters of climbing per lap. All was well for the first bit, the draft packs were moving past me and I had a few officials traveling beside me watching the packs move around. And the spectators were amazing yelling, "SUPAR! HOP, HOP, HOP!".

At the 40km point in the race I felt something break and fall off my bike. I looked down at my rear wheel to check it out and noticed that I had a spare tube wrapped around my cassette. Somehow my xlab straps had loosened on the ride and started to drop my repair gear. Without panicking I stopped and untangled it as quickly as possible, that was when I saw that the noise I heard was my tire levers being thrown through my wheel and into the road. So I stuffed my fallen tube in my shorts pocket and hoped that I didn't need to change a flat. I figured that if I did need to change a flat tire I would find a stick, fork, or anything and I didn't need to go back to find my two levers on the road.

During the first part of the ride it was raining a fair amount and the roads were becoming very slick. I was coming into a off camber corner and was judging how much I should slow down and still carry some speed through when I looked up and saw a cyclist slide through the corner. I decided to go a lot slower than the 40km/hr that I was traveling at. This course is littered with many twists in the road and before the ride was over I counted 5 cyclists down in corners (many looked like they were calling it a day). There are two right hand corners that had mattresses set up across the road if you overcooked the corner. Luckily I managed to navigate the corners well and I didn't slide off in any corners.

The end of the second lap was a like riding through a natural disaster. It was a crazy lightening/thunderstorm with buckets of rain fallen across the road. Most of the spectators on the bike had called it quits the rain was so bad. The roads became increasing worse in the corners with running water everywhere. I had to take my sunglasses off to see the roads as the cloud cover made everything so dark at 2pm. Since we were biking in mountain passes, the lightening strikes were also very close, it was a surreal experience. I am certain that if this event were held in North America, the race officials would have called the race off.

I biked the first lap (90km) in 2:45:00 and thought a 5:30 could be possible if I maintained my focus and held my pace. This thought lasted all of 10km, after which I realized that I was starting to weaken and could be in some serious trouble. I felt like things were getting worse and worse, I stopped riding in the aero position and rode upright while figuring out how to get nutrition into my stomach. I lost 15 minutes on the second lap, some of this time I can contribute to riding through a nasty lightening/thunder storm but mostly I was mentally not riding well. My head wasn't into racing. My hands hurt from having to shift gears (my shifters have stiffened up and I need to figure out why) constantly on this course and my chain seem to be skipping every time I shifted as well. I ran over some discarded water bottles through the an aid station and lost my other spare tube.

At the end of the bike ride I was starting to get frustrated with the drafting that I was seeing. I saw draft packs, but those didn't really bother me since the officials seemed to be following them closely. It was the random, blatant drafters that got to me. I saw a roadie that had no number on himself or his bike with 2 triathletes in tow and they were tearing up the course. I also witnessed a wheel sucker for nearly 9km, eventually I passed the individual and I pointed to the 6" gap that he left and yelled that he was drafting. He yelled back something to me in Italian which I ignored, but I memorized his race number to see if he ever got a penalty and to see how quick his run is. Number 990, no penalty that I can see, but he finished behind me (Karma does happen).

T2 3:42
This was a smooth enough transition, although I had to wait a few seconds to hand my bike to the next available volunteer to rack it before I could get my running shoes on.

Run 4:08:06
When I started the run the rain was in full force! There was no way I was keeping my shoes and socks dry for the run. I just concentrated on putting on foot in front of the other and after 13km it somehow stopped raining and the sun was poking through. The run went well enough, I had some antacid tablets with Tylenol to help get me through some of my problems, and had walked a fair bit of the second lap. I crossed the finish line exhausted but happy.

Just as I was being walked to the food/drink/massage area I saw another athlete in my age group with a finishers medal that crossed the line in-front of me. He had a bit of road rash on his arm and legs from a bike crash and a cigarette smoke in his mouth. I was stunned! Thats not something that I have ever seen in an Ironman.

The days after the race were spent packing and traveling back to Victoria. I feel that my muscle soreness from the race disappeared quite quickly. And I feel ready to train and race, but I'm staying off my bike for another week at least.

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