Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ironman Austria-(Belated) Race Report

Ironman Austria Race Report
July 13, 2008


Anders and I boarded a plane for Munich from Philly on Tuesday evening July 8th for our fourth IM adventure together. This was to be my fifth IM in 44 months and my 8th race of the 2008 season. To this point I’ve had a decent triathlon season, but not nearly as good as my breakout year of 2007. In my five sprints I managed to secure four 1st places (AG) and one 2nd. My two H-IMs were characterized by extraordinary heat/humidity and my performance suffered a great deal. I managed to hold onto 2nd at Gulf Coast but faded to 21st at Eagleman (EM). Both races were among the slowest H-IMs of my career.

At the beginning of the year when I set my season strategy I decided that if I did not qualify for Kona at EM then I would focus on IM Canada as my best shot at a Kona slot. However, since Anders and I had signed up for IM Austria a year earlier I decided to race this IM as a “B” race (if there is such a thing!) to make sure I was ready to race at IMCAN which is just 6 weeks after IMAUS. Anders was focused on IMAUS as his “A” race and he was in great shape and ready to go.

We arrived in Munich late Wednesday morning and after gathering our stuff and securing our Volkswagen van, loaded up and headed south. After leaving Munich, Anders crashed and I struggled to stay awake during the 4.5-hour drive as neither of us had slept much on the red-eye flight (this would be a common theme of our trip). The drive south was beautiful—the Alps are amazing! We finally arrived around 4:30 in Portschach Am Worther See and checked into our hotel, the SeeHotel Porcia. This turned out to be an awesome place with just a dozen rooms situated right on the Worther See where the swim is held. We were about 10k or so from the race site.

We did all the normal pre-Ironman things from Wednesday evening until Saturday (built our bikes, rode the courses, did light training, ate very bland pasta, registered, bought some T-shirts, racked our bikes, prepared our T-bags, etc.). One thing we did very little of was sleep. As it turned out there was a HUGE festival that was nationally televised and attracted several thousand people to the hotel about 100 meters down the shore from us. We were treated to an all night rave, midnight fireworks and a total of about 10 hours of sleep over 5 days (part of this was the time zone change for sure). I was also on the phone after midnight quite a bit talking to doctors in Florida for my father. Oh well. We awoke at 3:30 am on the 13th, had some PB toast and coffee and headed off to the race site to do battle.

The Swim

The weather forecast for this race vacillated wildly from day-to-day in the ten-day lead up to the race. It went from partly cloudy and 74 to sunny and 89. Even though the last days prior to the race in Austria were very nice, race morning was forecasted to feature rain. However, when we arrived at the race site it was a beautiful partly cloudy morning with the temp at about 65 degrees—maybe (for once this year) we would be blessed with decent weather.

We arrived at the race site at 5:15 after securing a decent parking place and banged through our mutual pre-race preparation. It is a HUGE plus to have someone with you as you get ready for an IM and Anders and I worked like a well-oiled machine. By 6:30 we were on the shore of the See. I decided I had to hit the john one last time and left my wetsuit and all my stuff with Anders and told him I would definitely be back by 6:45—he looked pretty dubious with the 2400+ triathletes and about 4000+ spectators milling about. But I was true to my word and was back with him by 6:38. We helped each other into our wetsuits, hugged and wished each other well. He headed to the far left (buoy line) where all the big guns were and I headed to the far right where the timid line up. 300 meters and a large pier separated us—I wouldn’t see him again until about 7 and half hours later.

The swim at IMAUS is one of the best around. It’s in the most prominent lake of the Carinthian lake country of Austria. The lake is situated amongst the Alps in the Southern portion of Austria—about 30k from Slovenia and 50k from Italy. The lake is truly delightful. Anders and I enjoyed several great pre-race swims in its clear, clean and temperate (about 70-72 degrees) waters.

I knew that by starting to the right my swim time would be slower but I really wanted to take the attitude of a big training day into this race. If I thrashed myself today then IMCAN six weeks hence would be problematic. That said, I wanted a good result and hoped to swim around 70 minutes or so which would be my second fastest IM swim split. At 6:56 they told us (at least I think so because they were speaking some language that I guessed was German) to enter the water and as I waded out to what was advertised as an in-water start the gun went off. This was a bit surprising as I was only shin deep and still adjusting my goggles. No worries though as I was pretty stress free about this race and I fixed my goggles and waded another 20-30 meters and then began my swim about 15 people or so from the front of the pack.

Because the start is constrained between the two outside (of the three) piers it was pretty crowded at the start. That said, it was pretty mellow for an IM swim—no washing machine here. I’m sure this was in part due to my choice to swim with the timid folks. Anders told me later he was in Kung-Fu fighting mode for his whole swim. I found my place and stroke right away. I patiently waited for openings to develop and then moved up. It was clear that I was faster than most of the people around me. By about 500 meters or so I settled in to a nice, easy aerobic pace. I was also benefiting from a solid draft behind a group of 8-10 swimmers. I was at the extreme right of the pack and experienced very little contact with the other swimmers.

The initial part of the swim was very enjoyable. The clear waters allowed me to position myself precisely vis-à-vis the other swimmers near me. I hit the first (of two) turn buoys at 24:40. Although I wasn’t sure, I thought this buoy was at around 1400 meters, which put my swim pace at about 67 minutes. I was psyched with this as my PB is 66 minutes (IMFL07). I saw no reason to change anything.

I continued pretty much the same around the 2nd left-hand turn and began heading back towards the starting shore. I’m not sure but I may have headed a little off course at this point. I found myself having to swim between a bunch of sailboats and I noticed that all of the other swimmers were to my left. I also had no idea where to swim to and I kept looking up to see some sign of the entrance to the finishing canal.

The IMAUS swim course is unique in that the final 900 meters are up a narrow (barely 10 meters wide) and very shallow, weedy canal. I finally saw the two flags marking the entrance and vectored left towards the entrance. Once in the canal things were a little frenetic. I was in a fairly wide part of the swim bell curve so there were plenty of people in the canal with me. It seemed like the pace picked up as we were all squashed together. As I pushed harder to maintain my position it occurred to me that I had not been pushing very hard in this swim.

Along the banks of the canal people were screaming, clapping and blowing whistles and horns. It was loud enough that I could hear them distinctly through my earplugs. As I swam I occasionally bumped up against tree roots, rocks, etc but I have to say I really enjoyed this part of the swim—it was an adventure. Anders later told me he had a similar reaction.

At long last I reached the end and made the left turn to the very steep exit ramp and was helped up by a kindly volunteer. I hit my timing watch and looked at to see a 73:48 which I was surprised by how slow it was—I expected about 68 minutes given my first 1400 meters. My HR averaged 156, which seems really high for how easy I perceived the swim to be—I would have guess about 148. (I averaged 153 at IMFL when I did my 66:25). I registered this info with a vague feeling of disappointment but quickly moved on to the tasks at hand.

Meanwhile Anders was having an outstanding swim. Indeed he swam his best IM swim officially clocking 62:38 (which means he really swam around 62:11 given the distance from the swim exit to the timing mat. He latter said that he felt like he had a great swim and was surprised it wasn’t a sub 60. In any event, he had a great swim.

The bottom line for me is that this was my second fastest IM swim and it felt really easy. I think I’m pretty well positioned to go sub 70 at IMCAN and that is frankly all I need to do to qualify there (more on that latter). It was a very enjoyable swim and I was in good spirits as I headed off to T1. Find below the data from my swim and how it compares to my prior IM efforts:

Race Time AG Place, %-tile OA Place, %-tile

IMAU08 73:48 66/166, 61% 1400/2461, 43%
IMFL07 66:16 26/148, 83% 551/2283, 76%
IMWI06 79:50 90/257, 65% 1096/2439, 55%
IMWA05 85:47 45/64, 31% 417/586, 31%
IMFL04 77:26 131/210, 38% 1317/2116, 38%

Transition One

After climbing the steep ramp I moved purposefully down the path to the transition area. I looked up at the sky and noticed an ominous timber to it—“Tut, Tut it seems like rain!” At first I was walking briskly but I felt really good so I decided to jog a little bit (this was off my race plan as I had decided that it was fine to take a little extra time in transition for this “B” race). I came to the racks and quickly found my bag (#2578), which was marked by a black piece of tape that Anders had put on the strings for me to help me find it quickly.
I glanced at the changing tent and quickly determined it was pointless to go into it as it was very crowded and I didn’t intend to really “change”. I found a nice piece of asphalt and sat down and tried to open the top of my T1 bag. It is here that I discovered that Anders had inadvertently taped the two strings together and the opening at the top of the bag was too small to slip my bulbous Spiuk TT helmet out. I actually spent a few seconds thinking about what to do as I didn’t want to rip my bag apart and probably end up losing my wetsuit (and a fine pair of Oakley’s that I had already decided to not wear given the sky’s menacing nature). It’s nice to not be under “A” pressure and I need to remember this calmness and grace when I’m going for it up in Canada. I decided to rip the bag just enough to get my helmet out. This was on the side I had reinforced with duct tape so I felt there was a good chance the bag’s integrity would hold (which it did).

After getting the helmet out I dumped the rest of the contents on the ground and went to work. Shoes on. Enduralytes and gel flask in the back pocket. Helmet on and buckled. Swim stuff back into the bag. Sunglasses on and grab number belt. I ran to the bag drop-off area and deposited my bag. As I ran I put my number belt on and was soon at my bike that was racked very near the entrance to the bike rack area (which was unfortunate because I had to run 50 yards or so to the other end to reach the bike mount area).

As I pushed my bike I went over in my head everything I had wanted to do in transition and concluded I had done so. I looked at the SRM and it was reading my HR, distance, time and my speed (no power yet) so I was good to go.

I mounted the bike with a total T1 time of 5:25 and an average HR of 156 (this was 31 seconds longer than my official T1 time due to the run from the swim exit to the T1 timing mat). My T1 was 1:31 slower than Anders’ and this was probably 30-45 seconds relatively slower than it “should” be. At IMCAN I’ll need to be ready to push it harder during T1 and still avoid mistakes.

The Bike

The bike at IMAUS is basically a two-loop affair. My research prior to the race indicated that the course was a little short of 112 miles and that it had anywhere from 5000-9000 feet of climbing. Most estimates put the climbing at about 7500 feet. After the race, Anders and my SRMs showed just less than 110 miles and his Polar indicated about 8200 feet of vertical.

The first mile weaved through a walking path in the Europa Park adjacent to the Worther See. There were lots of triathletes mounting their bikes and trying to slip their feet into their bike shoes and weaving all around. The path was maybe 5 feet across and bordered by fencing on both sides so I spent this first mile trying to stay out of trouble. I had to slow almost to a stop on a couple of occasions. Normally I would have been highly irritated by this but this morning I was very focused on staying calm and riding real easy.

Finally we turned south and rode about 3 miles or so out of Klagenfurt until we hit the beginning of the loop. Here we turned right and rode along the south side of the lake on a very nice, smooth road that directly bordered the lake. The majority of the course was closed to traffic, which was very nice.

I focused right in on my HR and power. My HR was initially around 150 which was way too high (normally 150-154 would be my target but today I was trying to get it down to the 130s) but I expected it to drop as the effects of the swim began to wear off. I focused on keeping my power below 200 watts. The consequence of this was I was getting passed by a lot of bikers. This never happens to me on the bike and I really had to swallow my ego here to stick to my plan to just have an easy training ride during this race.

I soon fully embraced this approach and found myself really enjoying the ride. It is very beautiful and I found myself gazing out at one nice view after another as we paralleled the lake for about 15 miles. This part of the course is mostly flat. Unfortunately, into any sunny day a little rain must fall and around 6 miles or so into my ride it began to rain for the first time—not hard, but enough to make the roads slick and I became very conservative—I was determined to take no chances on the ride today.

We soon reached the resort town of Velden at the far eastern end of the lake and here the race leaders zoomed by me the other way. They were almost an hour ahead of me already and they were screaming down a descent even though it was now raining pretty heavily. Just seeing them do this made me very uncomfortable. Shortly after that I entered the no passing zone that was put in place for a fairly steep 500-meter descent that I sat up on and rode with my brakes on most of the way. Other riders were blasting past me and the whole thing was very scary. I breathed a sigh of relief at the bottom and hopped that would be the worse of it today—if I only knew!

Let me digress for a moment here and comment on my bike set-up. Based partially on Pete Reid’s recommendation and my desire to treat this leg as a training ride I had chosen to ride my Cervelo SLC-SL road bike in this race. The more stable geometry, while theoretically slower, was much more stable, especially on descents, than my TT bike. I had some clip on aero bars and was using my old (less aero) wheel set: 808/Zipp disc. I used one of my frame cages for my tire repair stuff and the other for water. On the aero bars we had hand made a nifty cage where I carried about 1500 calories in the form of CarboPro1200. I had a bento box on the top tube and in it had 36 Enduralytes and a gel flask.

At the bottom of the descent we reached the town of Rosegg and the course began to roll a bit. I had to really concentrate to keep my power below 200 watts. My HR was now down into the mid 130s and still dropping. It felt like a very easy training day. We made a left turn at St. Niklas and headed south away from the lake and towards the Alps that ring this lake region. Here we reached the first significant climb. The climb was packed with people cheering lustily. It was about a 6-8 minute climb where I went all the way down to my 34/23 (my Cervelo has a compact crank on it) and had to stand up to get up the hill. I was showing 250-300 watts despite my efforts to go easy and I’d estimate the grade in this section as well above 10%.

The descent from this climb was very nerve racking as the roads were constantly winding left and right and very narrow so many of the turns were blind. It had stopped raining and it looked like the sun was going to come out but the roads were still wet and very slippery. I was very focused and tense through many parts of this section. This “smaller loop” portion of the course was constantly up and down and left and right—the riding was very absorbing. The good news was that the rain had stopped and the sun was out and by the time I made it back to Rosegg the roads had for the most part dried.

We climbed back up to Velden and made a hard right and headed for the toughest portion of the course. I glanced at my average power on the SRM and noted 170 watts or so with an average HR now at about 134bpm—this was very conservative but with the Rupertiberg still in front of me I wanted to stay on the safe side.

Finally at about 38-39 miles I notice lots of writing on the roads and came around a corner and sure enough there it was, the Ruperitberg—the biggest climb on the course. We’ve obviously tackled much harder climbs but this was plenty difficult for an IM. The climb is in two sections. The first is about 1.8k long with a sustained grade of over 10% and up to 15% in several places. Then it dies down to about 4-5% for 500 meters and then jumps up above 10% again for another 500 meters. I was out of my saddle climbing in my smallest gear at about 5-6mph for the two steep sections. As a consequence the total climb took about 15 minutes.

There were quite a few people here cheering us on. Loud whistles. Chants of “Hoop, Hoop, Hoop” (pronounced “hup”). “Super” and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t understand. It was fun! No one passed me here as I was forced to sustain 260-300 watts and everybody was basically going as slow as they could to conserve energy.

Finally I reached the top and began what would be an amazing 13-14 mile descent back towards to Klagenfurt. Since it was dry and the descent was mild (2-5% grades) with several longer straight sections I let the Cervelo run a little bit and tried to relax. I had sustained sections where I never dropped below 30 mph. The miles were clicking by in less than 2 minutes each. I remember saying out loud “this is awesome”. At one point I started laughing—I really enjoyed this section and rode well and fast and felt comfortable doing so (this is what I’ll need to bring with me to Canada).

Back down we made a hard left and actually began heading east back towards Klagenfurt and the See. This last section was a false flat downhill and I continued to push along at 25 mph+. I roared past the turn to Velden wondering where the turnaround was. All of a sudden the crowds got very thick and I could see the big turn arch up ahead. The crowd noise was almost deafening—I could hear it over the hiss of the wind past my helmet and the tires on the road. I made the turn and crowds grew even thicker. We had to ride single file here as the path through the people was just 4-5 feet wide. I’m sure I was smiling like an idiot here. Good stuff.

As I made the turn at 2:54:47 which if this was truly 90k (56 miles) would have been an average of 19.2mph. I could see it was short and thought maybe there was some final added section I would get on the final lap. My power was at 170 watts and an average HR of 133. More importantly I felt great, like I was on a base mileage HR1 training ride. I decided to just push it a little bit harder—to try to get my average wattage up to 175 or so—on the 2nd lap.

I started the near lake portion harder than the first lap. The crowds were thinned out quite a bit now so I was passing and getting passed by far fewer competitors. About five miles into the second lap the sky darkened dramatically and it began to rain, this time much harder than on the first lap. The sound of the raindrops was quite noticeable on the hollow faring of my aero helmet. The rain was basically a constant companion for the rest of my ride. It was fairly steady but moderate for quite a while. However I was aware of a front approaching as the sky was getting darker and I could feel the temperature dropping.

I’ll spare you a lot of the details of the 2nd lap and pick it up at the base of the Rupertilberg. Here the sky opened up and it began to rain quite dramatically. I could hear very distinct and loud thunderclaps up ahead. I had to remove my glasses as it became difficult to see through them. I wasn’t really focused on the rain here as the effort of the climb was absorbing much of my attention. I became aware during this climb that despite my easy approach to this ride my legs were beginning to register the effort.

As I crested the first portion of the Rupertiberg climb the scene became quite surreal. The sky was lit up with chain after chain of lightning streaking across the sky in multiple forks and many times crashing to earth--literally all around me. The thunder would sound 5-7 seconds later and my knowledge of the speed of sound told me that some of these were coming down as close to a mile from me. Rationally it occurred to me that riding a metal covered bike across a mountain ridge at a time like this was probably not what made the most sense. Emotionally, I must admit I was beginning to get pretty worried. I knew I had one huge descent in front of me.

And then I was upon the descent. If anything it began to rain and lightning even harder. My speed jumped up above 30 mph. The raindrops slammed into my face stinging it and into my eyes making it very difficult to see. I sat up to air brake and begin using my brakes constantly but my braking power was severely compromised by the carbon rims on my race wheels. My upper body was very tense and my neck and shoulders ached as I tried to control my bike.

After a few miles of this I began to shake as my core temperature was rapidly dropping in the rain and the relative wind. I wasn’t able to pedal very much so I had no way to warm myself—I was just wearing a thin sleeveless trisuit. The wind started blowing hard and this was complicating my handling challenges as the wind would gust into my deep section front wheel. I noticed wide rivers of moving water flowing across the course.

What a nightmare! This is the worse I’ve ever seen on a bike. I was being as conservative as I could. My only other option was to just stop but I was growing increasingly concerned about hypothermia if I did. I distinctly remember thinking there was a good chance I would DNF. I was scarred and freezing and I thought that I didn’t have a special needs bag for the run so I had nothing for the marathon to warm me.

Finally I remember saying to myself: ”Stop it—you’ll be fine.” This actually seemed to work for a while. At last I was down on the false flat back into Klagenfurt. Here another nightmare waited. The last 5-6 miles we were in the right hand lane of a two-lane road going AGAINST traffic. The wind was gusting strongly trying to blow us into traffic. It was raining harder than ever. The cars were coming the opposite way at what had to be 40-50 mph—passing just a few feet to my right. I was very aware that if I went down that would be it. My arms, shoulders and necked ached. I was shivering noticeably.

In a word it was hell. And then it was over. The turn to the park suddenly appeared and I realized I was going to make it into T2. And I had a marathon to run. Oh boy!

My total elapsed time for the bike was 5:59:19, which meant my second lap was more than 10 minutes slower than my first lap. While this is understandable given the rain it still is a bit disappointing given how I felt and my expectations as I began the second lap. I guess I shouldn’t complain given how harrowing the ride was. My HR ended up averaging just 131bpm (a very low effort training ride number) and my power ended up averaging just 168 watts. Here is how my ride at IMAUS compares to my prior IMs (as an aside, the relative rankings at IMAUS are cumulative and not for just the bike split as they are at the other IMs):

Race Time AG Place, %-tile OA Place, %-tile

IMAUS08 5:59:19 84/166, 50% 1593/2461, 35%
IMFL07 5:06:14 7/148, 96% 270/2283, 88%
IMWI06 6:00:41 34/257, 87% 335/2439, 86%
IMWA05 5:29:24 9/64, 88% 132/586, 78%
IMFL04 5:10:16 18/210, 92% 211/2116, 90%

Transition Two

My first impression upon entering T2 was just how many bikes were already there—many more than half—this is not what I typically see in an IM. I should not have been surprised given my race approach but I was. As I ran towards the next open space (you rack by finish order) I looked around to see if I could see Anders’ bike. This of course was very silly and a reflection of how overwhelmed my brain was at this point. Later I would learn that Anders turned in a very credible 5:24. He also struggled with the dangerous conditions but he was able to avoid a couple of tricky situations and make out onto the run course safely.

After passing my bike off I walked the 100 or so yards to where the bags were hanging. After what I just went through on the bike I was in no mood to hurry through transition. In fact my prime objective was to just get warm.

I grabbed my T2 bag and entered the changing tent where it was a remarkable 20-30 degrees warmer. I was thrilled with this and frankly took my time to both warm up and regain my composure. In total I took 5:41 to complete T2. I believe this is the first triathlon where my T2 actually took longer than my T1. My HR only averaged 113 bpm during the transition. On to the marathon!

The Run

Shortly after exiting the changing tent I’m out on the marathon course. The first part of the course is a poorly designed, tortuous path through the transition area that leads to the top half of what is effectively a figure eight. With two laps, this means we must wind our way through the transition area near the finish line four times before we head for home.

I feel really good right away. With my extended stay in transition and the first couple of minutes of the run I’m no longer cold. It’s amazing how quickly my concern about being too cold on the run has dissipated. It’s still raining pretty heavily but this should prove to be an advantage for the run. I hit the first km marker in 4:45, which is a 3:20 marathon pace and I immediately throttle back. I’m not used to my legs feeling this fresh at this point in an IM.

I consciously try to run very easy over the next portion of the first 5k. I soon see Anders nearing the completion of the first loop of the first lap. I estimate that he is somewhere around 10k/50 minutes ahead of me. We slap five and I’m relieved that we both made it through the bike safely. He looks good but looks can be deceiving, especially this early in the marathon. I soon hit the 5k-point at 27:41 with a HR of 145bpm (this is just under a 9 minute per mile pace or about a 3:53 marathon pace). I struggle a bit with the metric math but soon conclude this is a pretty desirable pace. In hindsight, I recognize that I was running at least 15-30 sec per mile too fast, an adjustment I’ll need to make for IMCAN.

I continue cruising on what is a convoluted, crowded but very flat and fast run course. The rain lets up and soon stops. My second 5k passes in 27:20 with an average HR of 150bpm. So, I’ve completed the first 10k in 55:01, which is an 8:52/mile pace or about 3:52 for a marathon. I feel great and with this HR I’m feeling unrealistically invincible.

My plan for the run was to try to get through 30-32k of the run course running well (4:00-4:30 marathon pace) and then shut it down and walk/run to the finish to preserve my legs for IMCAN. The first 10k has gone so well that I’m actually thinking that maybe I should push the whole way (thank god this ultimately didn’t happen!)

I pass through the central area again and see Anders near the halfway point of his run. He slaps my hand with some vigor and I can definitely tell he is running great. He in fact is on a 3:44 pace and at the halfway point he is actually picking it up a bit. I also run the math and conclude that I’m running pretty close to Anders’ pace—I conclude I’m running really, really well.

I hit 15k in 84:10 with 29:09/151bpm for my 3rd 5k. While this is a little slower than the first two, I still feel great and I’m still on a 3:56 pace. It’s now stopped raining and I can sense it beginning to warm up. This is a bit of a concern given the humidity in the air. The good news is that the second part of the figure eight runs along a canal and is very shaded. There is excellent fan support and they yell things like: “Hoop, hoop, hoop” and “Super Randy” and many other things I can’t comprehend.

At the far end of the western loop there is a bell that I leap up and ring as this causes a Euro to be donated to some nameless charity. I head back towards transition and I begin to become conscious of the growing fatigue in my legs. I now I’m slowing down but I expect that I’ll hit the halfway point right around 2 hours. I skip taking a split at 20k looking instead for the halfway split. That split turns out to be at 21.5k, so 0.4 longer than halfway. Running the math post race I see I went through the half at 2:01:36, which is my best half-marathon split in an IM. It’s also faster than my two heat/humidity influence half-IM runs this year. My HR averages 145bpm for this 6.5k section. I’m pretty encouraged by this first part of the marathon although it’s probably about 10 minutes faster than I should plan on running at IMCAN. I soon see Anders again (as it turns out for the last time on the course) and he continues to look great—he is visibly pumped by how well he is running.

As I head towards 25k it gets noticeably hotter and my legs begin to quickly deteriorate. Aerobically, I’m under very mild stress but my legs are beginning to complain quite a bit. I have some decisions to make. I run the math and conclude that I can run around 7 minutes per kilometer (about 11:15/mile) and finish under 12 hours. While this is not a goal, it certainly would be nice to do so. I decide to run through 25k and then make a call on pacing for the last 9-10 miles.

I hit 25k at 2:30:10, which is 25:34 after the “half-way split”. The math is difficult but I basically figure out that I’ve averaged somewhere between 7 and 7:10 per kilometer over the last 5k. I ponder this for a bit and conclude that a sub 12 hour IM—about a 4:35 marathon—would represent way too high a physiological cost and would put at risk my IMCAN effort. While my ego protests I decide to shut it down a little early. I’m frankly disappointed in myself, especially given how well I was running earlier in the race. I also know I still have a long way to go and with a lot of walking I’m going to be out here for quite a long time. That said, it’s the right thing to do.

I mix running and walking over the next 5k and it passes in 38:58 (just under 8 minutes/k) and my HR is now all the way down to 120bpm. I make the executive decision to walk all of the next 5k (which really sucks) to make sure I don’t unnecessarily hurt my legs. This is a really tough stretch for me mentally and physically. I have to fight the urge to run and I’m actually yawning on the course as my lack of sleep begins to catch up with me. I see the first two women heading home at around 40k and conclude that they may set a new IM world record (which the winner, Sandra Wallenhorst, actually does and holds for all of 40 minutes or so until the first woman at Roth crosses the line).

As I enter the town square and head for home I decide to start mixing running and walking again. It’s quite a bit warmer now, although not excessively so. The crowds are thick and boisterous here and as I pass the bell for the last time I stop and ring it 8-10 times are so. The crowd loves it. I chuckle and gird for the trudge home. I take a split at 37k (5k to go) and realize my last two kilometers averaged 10:12 with a HR of 109bpm.

Over the last 5k I mix running and walking and as I get closer I begin to mostly run. I finally get back to the transition area and wind my through it. This time at the lake I get to take the left turn and head the final 500 meters for home. I round the bend and there it is about 75 meters ahead. The crowd is packed in the stands. There are about 20 cheerleaders. Some dude with a microphone comes out and slaps me five and says: “Rannnnnnndy!”, and then something else which I couldn’t understand. I run up the last 10 meters by myself and put an open hand into the air with my five fingers outstretched to signify my 5 Ironman finishes.

My last 5k has passed in 41:54 with a HR of 122. My overall marathon time is 5:04:14 which means my second half marathon was a whole hour slower than my first. Given the plan this is not surprising.

I’m pretty tired despite my “easy” approach to this race. I go into the finisher’s tent and soon find Anders who has been recuperating for some time from his 10:48 (he slowed quite a bit over the last 10k—having to walk a fair amount and ended up running a 4:08). We get our finisher shirts and certificates and gather all of our stuff (which is a real pain in the ass) and ride back to our car. Soon we are back at the hotel. We grab a bite to eat and have a couple of beers. It’s raining hard again so we decide not to go back for the midnight finishers and instead repair to an early bed.

The next day we hang in Austria and pack up. On Tuesday we drive to Munich and have a nice time there for 24 hours before heading back to the US, tired but satisfied. Here is how my IM Austria compares:

Race Time AG Place, %-tile OA Place, %-tile

IMAUS08 5:04:14 98/166, 42% 1741/2461, 29%
IMFL07 4:58:03 70/148, 53% 1228/2283, 46%
IMWI06 4:30:00 80/257, 69% 813/2439, 67%
IMWA05 6:38:54 53/64, 19% 546/586, 7%
IMFL04 4:51:58 106/210, 50% 1125/2116, 47%

Post Race Observations

1. A successful IM. I achieved my objectives and anytime you finish one of these it’s an accomplishment
2. A great time with Anders—we have been blessed to do these four IM together
3. The physical toll (post race assessment) doesn’t seem to be too great and I should be able to show up at IMCAN on 8/24/8 ready to rock
4. I think I’m well positioned for what I think I’ll need to do to qualify—something like: 70/5/5:30/5/4:40= 11:30

Sunday, July 27, 2008

28 days to IMC:The return to normalcy

OK I'm 28 days out from IM Canada. I took the week after IM austria real easy. At the end of the week I drove out to LA (2700 miles) to help my son move into his place. This week was intended to be a modest return to training. Early in the week I could still feel the IM in my legs, especially on the run. However, the last 3 days my legs have felt very good once again. I've had 3 great 40 mile rides in a row and was able to sustain 200+ watts for extended periods. Had a nice transition run yesterday. this morning I did a 2 mile open water swim at a 76 IM pace, which is fine considering i was out of the water for 10 days.

Looking ahead I have two big training weeks with a lot of biking including 3 6+ hour rides and two 2.5-3 hour run days. Also, I have 3 weeks of pretty good swim volume. The 3rd week will be part of my 14 day taper.

I'm excited and optimistic about IMC--I seem to be none-the-worse for my IM Austria adventure. Onward and upward!

Monday, July 14, 2008

IM austria day after

We are lounging and recovering today. We are both doing pretty well considering yesterday's affair. Anders is a little worse off due to pushing the bike and running hard through 21 miles. He also rolled his ankle during the run and it swelled a bit today and he is limping around. I'm doing quite well thanks to my easier bike and shutting down the run at 15 miles. I hated it yesterday but today I'm very glad I conserved my legs over the last 11 miles--there was a lot of walking which really sucked but today I'm actually optimistic about IMCAN--go figure!

We awoke about 9 am this morning after finally getting a decent night sleep. We did awake a few times as there was violent thunderstorms all night. We had a huge breakfast of bacon and omlettes and cruised the EXPO area again--picked up a couple of T-shirts. We said goodbye to the English couple we befriended who stayed at out hotel. Patrick made his IM debut and did a fantastic 11:50 which is pretty darn good for 55 years! they were very nice and hopefully we'll run into them down the road a bit.

I'll write a traditional race report over the next few days...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Home Safe and Sound

Well we did it! Like all IMs, IM austria was an amazing experience for AC and I.

Race-wise Anders has a great race going 10:42. He swam his best IM swim at 62 minutes and did a low 5:20 bike and was on a 3:50 run pace through 20 but faded in the heat. I swam a very easy 73 and biked at only 168 watts (vs 215-225 typical for an IM) and squeaked in just under 6. I had a great run through 13.1 miles (2:02 or so) but began to fatigue as the heat increased and decided to just shut it down after 25k to save my legs for IM Canada.

The swim was delightful. the bike was the scariest bike I have ever ridden--I am so thankful to be in one piece (and I took it very conservatively). The run at first was very gratifying but as the sun came out and the temp and humidity rose I melted. I probably could have thrashed myself and gutted out a sub 12 finish but would have probably blown IMCAN in so doing. I walked a great deal over the last 17k to secure my finish.

A couple of other observations: 1. the Euros are a cut above American triathletes. As great a race as anders had he still was only around the 70%. I was at the tail end of my AG. If I had done a 9:55 I still would have finished 7th (there were 3 slots in this race). The conditions on the bike were downright life-threatening and the bike boasted 7000-8000 feet of climbing and yet some guys went sub 5 in my AG--even Joe B would have had a tough time today; 2. This was my 5th IM in 44 months. I have another scheduled in 6 weeks which seems unfathomable to me right now. I would have expected my body to be able to cruise through 32-33k in the run, given my bike, before getting to the edge and so was disappointed in the fatigue I felt at 25k. this does not bode well for IMCAN. I'll need to think about this over the next week or so. Maybe it was the whole Europe thing again. I had 10 hours of sleep in the 5 days leading up to the race including just 1 last night and the night before--maybe there is something in that. all that said, I'm nearing the end of my IM career--it takes a big toll on my body and I've already decided to dedicate 2009 to just doing local Sprint races and having fun.

Not to say this race wasn't fun. IM's are amazing. I'm so thankful to even be able to do them. Maybe I have one more shot at greatness in me....I'll post a full race report in a few days as time permits.

I need to put this very sore and tired body to bed now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

First time for the Cervelo

My Cervelo hunkers down for the night. Tomorrow will be her race debut. I'm counting on here to keep me safe as the latest forecast has it raining during the bike....

Final Race preparation

2400 strong--do you know where your bike is?

AC hanging his T2 transition bag in place. I'm not a big fan on the hang 'em on a peg method of transitions but you gotta go with the flow.

After around 7 hours tomorrow give or take, this is what I hope I see. I am most interested to see what this old body can do on a marathon when I've gone somewhat easy on my bike--there may be a useful lesson to be learned. well I'm sure there is--just don't know what it will be!

Relaxing on Saturday afternoon

AC hanging by the lake doing a little Internet action. We went for a final 15 minute swim right after this. Pretty nice place this Austria!

Saturday pics

The war machines prepped and ready to do battle!

The pre-race meeting in the "Ironman Dome"

At the entrance to the Ironman Village--almost game time!

AC final run-Saturday

AC after our final run on Saturday--he is lean, mean and ready to go!

Klagenfurt-Saturday run

Sporting my "B" race hairy legs and face I'm ready to go with my final tune-up run:

Klagenfurt pics

This is a picture of my new front-end on my cervelo. this is a home made effort. Essentially it's a cut out piece of carbon fiber mounted between my bars and my arm rests onto which is bolted a Zipp bottle cage. this allows me to use one of my frame cages for my spares/tools and the other for water. the front cage is for my Carbo Pro 1200--I'm carrying about 1600 calories up there:

Anders chilling on Friday night in his HTFU hat:

Klagenfurt Saturday mid-day

About 18 hours to race start. It is still sunny and warm here. the showers we are expecting keep getting pushed back. The latest calls for light rain at the race start up through about 1 or so and then a clearing to partly cloudy until around 6pm or so and then heavy rain and thunderstorms. The temp is forecasted to be 63 at race start and climbing to the mid to upper 70s. Not the worst forecast for sure.

We got up and and did a final 20 minute check-out ride this morning after a fitful sleep--we both only slept about 3-4 hours as there is a big festival very near our hotel and they were dancing and partying until at least 3am. Unfortunately, the same thing is scheduled for tonight. we went to the race meeting and that was a waste of time as they just read the booklet they had sent to us a couple of weeks ago. finally, we went for a 15 minute jog on the run course and it looks like it is an excellent run course. Very flat and shaded and winding along a canal and through town--should be great (well as great as an IM marathon can be).

We are hitting the sack now and will get up and swim before taking all our stuff into town to check in this afternoon. I'll post some pics latter.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Klagenfurt-Friday afternoon

A beautiful day in sunny southern Austria! We had an easy swim for 20 minutes this morning. We lounged for a while and then went to the town of Velden, which is at the opposite end of the Worther See from Klagenfurt (our town Portschoff is halfway in between, about 10-15 km from either end of the See). Above are some pics from our visit there--we had a nice lunch of toast mit jambom and fromage....

The weather forecast continues to call for rain on race morning....if so the bike will be nervous...

Klagenfurt-Friday morning

Well we are now inside of 48 hours to race morning! This being two days before the race is the day we sit around most of the day and eat a lot--sweet! The only thing we have planned is an easy swim this morning--otherwise it's rest, rest, rest.

This morning is absolutely stunning here in Klagenfurt. It's about 72 degrees and the lake is calm and peaceful. we are staying at a fantastic little lakeside hotel with just 12 rooms. The people who work here are amazingly nice. There is an English couple who is here and the gentleman is racing as well--we have arranged with them to have breakfast at 3:45am on race morning--they'll make us coffee and everything--doesn't get any better than that!

The only major unknown at this point is race morning weather. There are conflicting reports but is calling for rain/thunder with a high of 80 degrees. Temp-wise, no complaints here but the rain would present a challenge. The bike course is VERY twisty/curvy and up and down. It's a real bike rider's course and i for one am glad I have my road bike. Anders has his tri-bike which will be a challenge on this course, especially if it's raining.

We drove the course yesterday and it's very beautiful and absorbing--it's the anti-Florida course. it has 3 significant climbs. None of them are long, the longest is about 2-2.5 km but they are quite steep, certainly approaching 15 degrees over extended sections. there are lots of swooping descents (like 25 of them per lap) that it would be easy to hit 40+ mph. Easy, if it was dry and you knew the course well and you were rock solid confident in your descending skill. i, for one, plan on giving my brakes a good workout! Realistically, especially given my race plan (easy, easy bike) this is a 6 hour bike ride.

Anyways, we slept well, had a great breakfast by the lake and are in good spirits--onward and upward!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Anders and i are settling in here in Austria. Some pics from today. Anders at registration at about 2:30 am east coast time. The swim venue is just awesome and we went out in played in it today--just beautiful...clear, clean and about 70 degrees. Nice run tonight before dinner--just 20 minutes with a few accels....58 hours to game time!

On the ground in Klagenfurt

Anders and I had a relatively stress free trip over to Munich and then a 4+ hour drive down to Klagenfurt. We have built and checked out our bikes, registereed and swam in the beautiful Worther See. This place is amazingly beautiful. the bike course is scary but otherwise it's a great place to have an IM. I'll post more later including some pics....less than 72 hours to go!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

IM Course Elevation Data

I went through the Motion Based database of GPS data on elevation gain for all of the IM courses in the world. There are a few missing. I took the first five "legit" GPS downloads for each course and averaged them. i was struck by the variation from download to download--frequently 2000 vertical feet. In any event, here are the results of that analysis (total positive vertical elevation change in feet):

1. France 11193
2. Lanzarote 10282
3. Lake Placid 7911
4. Austria 7829
5. Australia 7659
6. Louisville 7578
7. Switzerland 7505
8. Wisconsin 7353
9. Canada 6719
10. Coeur D’Alene 5851
11. Brazil 5419
12. Germany 5281
13. S. Africa 5182
14. Hawaii 4554
15. Arizona 3824
16. W. Australia 2538
17. Florida 2007

IM Austria Race Numbers

Anders will wear number 114 and I will be styling in lucky number 2578!!!!! Over 2800 numbers issued so if indeed that many start (or anywhere close to that number) this will be the largest race I've ever been in!

Austria--One week to go!

OK--we are one week out from IM Austria. Just checked out Macca's lead at IM Germany and thinking Ironmanlive will be displaying our progress at this time next week.

I'm into my taper now. This is a much less pronounced taper than the 17-18 day taper I did for IMFL last year. This week I'll actually do about 14 hours and I'll add another 6-7 before the race in the week ahead. I think this is the correct approach because I think I "over-tapered" for IMFL and also because this is really a training activity for me.

Out of respect for the IM distance, i'm treating this as a "B" race but it really needs to be thought off as a key long brick on my road to IM Canada on 8/24. Ideally, I'll just have 1 off week post IMA and then be able to get three pretty good weeks in before my IMC taper (IMC is 6 weeks after IMC). As a result, my race strategy is as follows:

Swim: I'm going to go as hard as I can. My 4 prior IM swim times have been 77 (IMFL04), 85 (IMWA05), 79 (IMWI06), and 66 (IMFL07). I don't expect to be able to repeat my PR of 66 minutes but I definitely expect to post my second fastest IM swim time. 70 minutes or so would be just fine for this race and if I did that then I think I would be well positioned for a 65-70 minute swim at IMC. Two days ago I swam 1.5 miles in the open water right on a 69 minute pace and it felt pretty easy so hopefully things will go well next week.

Bike: This is where my biggest change in emphasis will occur. Normally I'd plan to go as close to 225 watts as I could for an IM bike. The IMA course is pretty tough with a little over 5100 feet of climbing in it's two laps. This is a very difficult bike ride and at 225 watts my guess is that I would do closer to a 5:30-5:40. But my plan is to ride between 180-200 watts which is what I do frequently in my long training rides. this will probably yield more like a 5:50-6:00 hour ride. I want to get off the bike feeling fairly fresh. I don't want to push at all in this ride. Normally I'd expect a HR of around 152bpm for AN IM ride but I want this ride to be down around 140bpm or even lower--this is a HR 1 or low HR 2 ride for me. It will be tough on my ego to let weaker riders blow past me but that is my strategy and I'll stick to it.

Run: Hopefully as a result of the bike strategy I can actually have a decent IM run. My first objective is to run as easily and smoothly as I can. I won't push it during this run and just take whatever pace my body naturally falls into. It would be great if this is actually lower than my current IM run PR (4:30) but it will be what it has to be. I'll mix running and walking if I have to as the prime objective is to treat this as a training brick. of-course, with my body, the weather will have a huge impact on what my time ends up being. The latest forecast is for a high of 83 degrees which is a little high for my tastes but of-course 7 days out this can change a lot.

So that would yield something like a 12 hour IM which would be just great. However, given my focus I'll be content with something quite a bit slower as well.....

More latter.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Training Volume Update

Here is where 2008 training load compares to 2007 at 26 weeks:

2008: 229k yds(8.8k/wk)--93 sessions
2007: 287k yds(11.0/wk)--95 sessions

2008: 5385m (207/wk)--179 sessions
2007: 4728m (182/wk)--134 sessions

2008: 769m (30/wk)--119 sessions
2007: 716m (28/wk)--116 sessions

2008: 28hours (1/wk)--31 sessions
2007: 52 hours (2/wk)--55 sessions

2008: 543 hours (21/wk)--428 sessions
2007: 527 hours (20/wk)--410 sessions

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

we're it's at--mid-season

Well half the year has once again flown by. I've raced 7 times so far. Even though Eagleman was a heat/humidity induced disaster I've enjoyed some modest success this season. In my 7 races I've finished 1st 4 times and second twice--so not so bad.

My training volume until June has been solid. with the medical issues my father and youngest have had to deal with June was much less training then planned and desired. On well--life is like that.

IM Austria is a go for 10 days or so from now. Anders and I are leaving for Klagenfurt on the evening of the 8th via Munich. Anders is in awesome shape and if the weather is half-way decent I think he can pop a sub 10 hour IM despite the 5100+ of climbing on the bike. I'm in only "OK" IM shape but that doesn't matter too much as I'm treating this race as primarily a training brick. I'll swim hard, bike very easily and then see what the run brings. If all goes well, I'll be able to get another solid 2-3 weeks of IM-specific training before my last qualification opportunity of the year--IM Canada which is in late August.

My plan is to post daily blogs from IM Austria so stop back and check it out......