We thoroughly enjoyed our venture to Austria and having now learned the course, I plan to race it again in 2010. As in Brazil, we booked our accommodation through Endurance Sports Travel, which makes it so easy. Upon arriving in Klagenfurt, we were greeted at the airport by our shuttle and transported to our cute Austrian hotel in Krumpendorf (about 2.5 km from the race start).
Our hotel was directly across from Lake Worthersee (same lake we swim in for Ironman) and it was the most beautiful lake water I had ever seen - aquamarine and very warm. The surrounding area was truly breathtaking and the days leading up to the race were sunny and warm.
Unfortunately I had contracted some sort of stomach bug on the trip over (despite being very careful about what I ate and keeping hygiene wipes handy). I tried not to get stressed about it and it seemed to get a little better each day. We quickly settled into a daily routine where we would have breakfast at our hotel (included) and then head up to a local deli for lunch (we found one with english menus) and found an italian restaurant where we ate at every night (because we could make out the items on the menu).
This routine continued to go smoothly right up until the night before the race. We had arranged to meet our friend Tracey from Penticton and another Tracey from Ottawa - at the Italian restaurant at 6:00. Usually I like to be in bed around 7:30 or 8:00 race eve, but two hours later we still hadn't received our order since they were evidently unprepared for the influx of athletes needing carbs. We waited it out, but by the time we got home it was after 9:00 so took a little longer to get to sleep that night. (Chad and I had discussed these perils of travel ahead of time, and had made a conscious decision not to get stressed about these things - and so just tried to roll with it).
Race morning - we were shuttled to the race start by Endurance Sports travel (once again, awesome) and took in the swim start.
I had been told by other athletes - not to start on the left side of the pier, because apparently that is where all of the slower athletes start and apparently it is a bit of a mad-house with people grabbing your legs, breast-stroking etc. So instead, I went on the other side, as far right as you could go, against the second pier. Apparently this is where many of the locals start as well, and I asked them their swim times. They varied from 1:15 to 1:18. This was perfect for me. I had a really nice start with open water on my right, and a nice safe draft. There was a little bit of a current pulling us left, which worked out that we swam in a completely straight line to the bouys which was great. On this swim course you swim out straight and then turn around and swim back into a canal (like the Penticton river channel except much narrower). It was extremely hard to sight on the way back and unfortunately I ended up with a small group on the far right and soon realized I was off course. Once I realized this, I managed to swim back to the main pack before we entered the channel. I could not believe how rough it was in there. I was breathing strategically - watching elbows, hands and feet - just trying not to to get kicked in the face. The saving grace is that it is so shallow that you can stand up any time, but it was the roughest 900 m I have ever experienced. Along the sides of the channel were thousands of people cheering, and blowing whistles. It was very, very loud but pretty cool. When you reach the end, they haul you out on this big ramp and off you go. Happily, I exited with no asthma problems and swam 1:18 which was a decent swim for me.
Once in transition, I took a look up at the sky which looked very dark and grey. The weather forecasts had changed several times and we woke up thinking we would be in for a very hot day. I could see that this was not going to be the case. Out on the bike course it wasn't long before the rain was pelting down and there were several bike crashes on the winding descents. We had at least toured the bike course with Endurance Sports Travel but this was the first time riding it. This is actually an awesome course for us Victoria folk, even though my bike time didn't reflect it. There are several steep climbs, which turn into long, long descents and I can see why it is generally a very fast course.
Because of the rain, I was too chicken to take the descents too quickly but I look forward to riding it again on a dry day. There is one part of the course in particular that was a highlight. It is the last steep climb and you literally feel like you are in the Tour de France as people are going nuts on the side-lines (especially if you are a women because this race is only 7% women - as compared to the usual 40%). At the top there is a DJ and whenever a woman would come up the hill he would just go nuts and yell "IRON-WOMAN" and the crowd would totally go off. It was so exciting, I actually forgot that I was doing a hard climb. At the top I thought that I couldn't wait to go up there again on the second lap, but unfortunately by the time I got there again, there was nobody there due to the lightening, thunder and pelting rain. After that, there were times on the course where I was completely alone - except I would see the odd athlete stopped on the side of the road, or getting picked up - or an ambulance would go by and I wondered if perhaps the race had been cancelled. On one of the descents there was so much water that there were literally twigs and leaves floating down as well. I tried not to think about how cold I was and just focused on trying to get back in one piece. Once back into transition, I was amazed at the amount of bikes already racked, and people out on the run course. I had some difficulty racking my bike, as you rack it yourself in this race, and I had trouble getting directions as to where it should go. I finally racked it, and was then told to go back and rack it somewhere else. It was different. There was so much water in the transition tent, that I stood on top of the picnic table to get my shoes and socks on, but my hands were frozen and it took a while. (This picture of transition is the day before the race).
Once on the run course, the sun came out and it was suddenly very hot and humid. I tried to avoid the big puddles, and enjoyed the warmth that radiated up from the ground. Unfortunately I spent the first 30 k in and out of the porta-potties (of which there were not many in this race) but my stomach finally came good and I was at least able to run the last 12 k at a more decent pace with no problems. Such is an Ironman. Since the sun had come out, there were once again spectators on the run, and they basically say two things: SUPA!!!! HOP-HOP-HOP!!!! It's hilarious and very loud with lots of whistles! In the end I finished in 12:53 and had my lowest placing ever, about an hour slower than my best time. But it was the best I had on the day and it is what it is!! Can't wait to go back!!
Next night was the awards and most importantly - free beer until 8:00 (of which I had copious amounts). Our friend Jill had come to watch the race and it was great to catch up, relax and enjoy!
Unfortunately 4:00 am came too early but our shuttle arrived on time, and we headed to the airport for our trip home. I miss Europe!!