Training for an Ironman is a long, tiring and sometimes soul destroying process so it was something of a relief to finally make it to the start line in one piece with no injuries, knowing that realistically I couldn't actually have done much more (although resisting the temptation to do that one last long ride/run is always hard)!
Austria is a beautiful country and the race takes place in and around the small town of Klagenfurt, popular with Austrians as a tourist destination. The swim is in a lovely clear, warm, fresh water lake. The bike (contrary to what you might think) is 2 laps with only 800m of climbing on each lap, and the run is a flat figure of 8 loop which you do twice.
Lining up on the beach with over 2000 other triathletes is always a bit daunting, but when the cannon fires it's just a question of getting on with it, making sure you stick to your plan and don't go off too fast! The swim is very much like being in a washing machine, I think I got kicked, hit and swum over more than ever before, but you just need to keep calm, remember it's nothing personal and keep going. The swim finishes in a canal which gets very congested, murky and weedy but there is terrific support from the crowds standing on the banks. On getting out and looking at my watch I found (to my relief) that my timing was pretty much spot on - so far so good...
My transitions (never that great) are always much longer on IM, after all you need to be comfortable - it's a long way to go if something starts rubbing, or you start getting sunburn! The bike course is lovely - quite fast at the start of the lap with undulations and hills later on. I worked out what I needed to do to get to my 'what I think is possible if I have a really good day and everything goes to plan' time and pushed on. I reached halfway a bit ahead of time, my only concern was that maybe the pace was going to be too hard and it would affect the run - there was only one way to find out...
I knew I had to start running by 3pm at the latest to have a chance of getting under 13 hours - that allowed me 5 hours for the marathon - this was going to mean that I had to do more shuffling and less walking than last time. T2 - Vaseline on the feet (and everywhere else) and off we go, a bit ahead of target - 2 disciplines down, one to go.
In IM, the word 'running' can really only be applied to the Pro's - the rest of us do something called the 'Ironman shuffle' interspersed with (hopefully) short bouts of walking to take on nutrition. It was a hot day, and lots of people were suffering on the run so on the first loop I passed quite a few. I got to 10K in 55 minutes and started to worry - this was way too fast. Half way in 2:05 and I was still shuffling... Out to the turn point on the 3rd loop of the run, then the wheels started to come off - 30K and I had to walk. The advice in the book I had read was to keep moving at all costs - after all, every step forward is a step nearer the end! I knew I had to do more running to get the time I really wanted, so from that point on it was a question of mind over matter. I employed the '10 steps shuffling, 10 steps walking' approach, the 'telling myself to get a move on because it's way too expensive to come back and do it again' approach, and finally the 'constant and repetitive counting to 10' approach, and... it worked! In my wildest imaginings I had thought 12:45 was possible so I was over the moon to come in at 12:40:54.
How do you feel at the end? Elated, relieved, shattered, aching - all of those things and more. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone for their help and support, especially Sue and Brain for their training advice, Karen and Sally for all the massages, and my long suffering husband for his patience and understanding!