What a weekend. I achieved what I wanted and ended up with a proper Brucie bonus at the end.
We travelled to Austria with Nirvana Europe, something I’ve never done before. I’ve never booked a package for any kind of holiday but was overall impressed with their service.
Arriving in Austria was a bit worrying. The temperature was around 5-6ºC and there was wind and sleet, not an auspicious start to the weekend. We went for a wander around St Polten on the Thursday afternoon and were stunned how quiet it was, almost like a ghost town. It was only later we found out it was a bank holiday and that was why everything was shut!
Registration followed on the Friday along with a practice swim in the Viehofener See. It was nice to swim in warmer water that the UK has been recently. The day continued with putting the bike together and a short ride to check everything was OK.
We went on a tour of the bike course the day before the race and got a look a the Gansbach. The section of motorway would be a boring but quick part of the route, three steep hills including the 8k Gansbach and the stunning undulating miles along the Danube. After checking in the bikes and handing in the transition bags it was off to bed for an early night.
I slept really badly and only got a couple of hours sleep before the alarm went off at 5:30am and we headed to the race site. Both John and I were in the last two waves so had plenty of time to get ready and watched the Pro men and women head out of the swim and into transition before heading round to the swim start for my 8:10 start.
There were 300 or so in my wave, my first year in the 40-44 AG despite the fact I’m not quite yet 40! The first lake took us in essentially a rectangle around the perimeter of the lake with the first turn being only 200m from the start and the second 100m further. I decided to stick towards the edge of the lake and take a wide line around the first buoy to avoid the inevitable crush. Although I probably ended up swimming further than I needed I did have a very stress free swim.
I wore clear goggles which on reflection wasn’t probably the best idea as sighting was difficult into the sun however it was manageable. After 1k of swimming we got out of the water, ran over a bridge for 250m and into the second lake, the Ratzerdorfer See for the last 900m.
I started to catch stragglers from the previous wave who started 15 minutes earlier just before the turn buoy at halfway. After one particlaur kick to the face by somebody doing breaststroke I paid more attention to what was in front of me. I even managed to find a set of feet to follow and did so for most of the last 400m I was out of the water in 32:32 – a good time considering the run over the bridge and the struggle to get out of two lakes rather than one.
32:32 (21/277 AG, 275/1600 Overall)
T1 was slow due to the run from the lake and the large transition area but 4:21 compared well to others and it was out onto the bike course. After getting out of the residential area, waving to my wife and other supporters, and onto the main roads the first thing I did was look down at the power meter and slow down. It is so easy to over do the pace early on and I tried to keep it in check.
When we hit the motorway section it became apparent that the wind had changed direction overnight and that we were heading into it. The first 18k which should have been a chance to be both quick and to settle down into a rhythm was instead a slog into the wind. Looking back I could possibly have pushed harder along this section, I averaged 189W over this, however it might not have been a bad thing.
I was passed by one group of 8-10 riders working together but this was the only instance of blatant drafting I saw and there were riders waiting in the Penalty boxes as I rode past them.
The first climb came just after the motorway section, a ‘British’ style climb that was quite twisty and with some steeper ramps. It was about 3k long with the first aid station at the top which was where my first issue of the day arose. I had elected to only take one bottle held between the aero bars taking a new bottle at each station. I took a new one OK but about 1k afterwards on the descent I hit a pothole in the road and the bottle jettisoned out onto the road. Fortunately I missed it but had nothing to drink for the next 30k. Bugger.
That descent was fairly technical with one particular corner that was tight. As I crested the hill I was passed by an ambulance heading for somebody I saw sat in the field looking a bit dazed having not made the corner.
After the descent came the undulating section along the Danube which was stunning. Forested areas with castles dotted around, it was a a shame I didn’t see more of it. It was good though as we turned South again and had the wind behind for a change. I pushed hard along this section, overtaking plenty and enjoying the ride.
Nutritionally for the ride I used 4 High 5 gels and 2 750ml bottles of the supplied sports drink. It would have been more except for the bottle loss! I had 1 High 5 bar broken into 4 and ate when I fancied a bit eventually eating half. I also took 4 Saltstick tablets.
The turn for the Gansbach came too soon. The first 3k of the climb was fairly easy before the road turned upwards more severely. I was catching people from all the AG waves by this point and the road was pretty congested. I stuck it in the 23 cog and ground my way upwards continuously overtaking cyclists from earlier waves. I was relieved to reach the top not only to finish climbing but to finally get something to drink! It was really only on the Gansbach that I felt hot in the Bell Javelin, however the temperature were in the high 20’s and I think I would have been sweating it up whatever I had been wearing.
There was one final 2.5k climb which was hard on heavy legs by that point before the final 10 or so k that was predominantly downhill and I was glad to wave to my support team and head for T2.
2:41:49 (38/277 AG, 350/1600 Overall) 33.4kph, 201W, 152HR
T2 was uneventful at 2:58, a time which again compared reasonably well to others, I donned a visor and sunglasses, grabbed my gels and more Saltstick tabs and headed out.
It was around 30ºC by this time and felt every degree of it as I began to pick off the runners in front of me. Just as the bike had been a constant time of picking off people from earlier waves, so was the run. There were also quite a few from my age group who had ridden well but were not running as fast as me for me to pass. I took a look at all the bib numbers as I passed and took particular pleasure with those I was competing directly against. I had been passed on the bike by the top 5 or 6 from the age group behind me and re passed a couple of them as well.
My first km was a 4:20 and I pretty well maintained a similar pace through the first 10k which was 44.13 mins and through halfway in 46.28. The bulk of the route was up and down either side of a river but at either end were lots of twists and turns through a shopping centre at one end and the finish area which slowed things down considerably as we went round sharp corners and doubled back on ourselves.
I got into a routine at each aid station in a bid not to slow down. I took a sponge first to squeeze over my head and a cup of the sports nutrition drink of which I took a mouthful and threw the rest followed by a cup of water with which I did the same. Finally I took another sponge which I generally squeezed over my head over the following 100m or so before discarding. I took 4 High 5 gels during the run and another 5 Saltstick tablets, all of which I took just before aid stations so that I got some liquid to dilute them. At times it was difficult as those who were walking or had stopped at the aid stations got in the way and it occasionally took a great deal of weaving to get through.
I tried to pick it up on the second loop but it was hard. It was hot and I was tiring but I pushed on the best I could – at least I was still passing people and had plenty of rabbits to chase. I was only overtaken by 2 people on the run. After the final very complicated final couple of km (more on that later) I crossed the line with final run time of 1:32:19 and a negative run split. The second half of the run was 45:51, 37 seconds faster than the first.
The final piece of drama was at the line when in the final few metres I felt somebody trying to out sprint me. I won the battle but we both tripped over the line for me to find out he was from Wave 4 and was about and hour behind me anyway!
1:32:19 (20/277 AG, 238/1600 Overall) 4:28/km, 155HR
Final Time 4:54:01 (16/ 277 AG, 238/1600 Overall)
John had started in the wave behind me so when he finished – achieving his goals as well – we hit the food and drink tents and joined the long queue to collect the bikes and bags. Talking back at the hotel I was persuaded by Mario that 16th in an age group with 7 slots for Las Vegas was worth heading back to the Awards Ceremony so we duly did.
It turned out that it would be a while before the slot allocation would take place as because of the confusing and poorly signed end to the run about 10% of the field had run 1k short and they were manually adjusting the times. It was announced that if you wanted to register interest for a slot and it rolled down then they would contact you over the next couple of days.
I didn’t think much of it really but the phone call came the following day whilst I was wandering around the lakes we had swum in with my wife. I couldn’t quite believe it but said yes and arranged the entry payment. I’m off to Las Vegas – cheers Mario!