Monday, 2 September 2013

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See/Kaprun 2013 Race Report

Since I last blogged, I came down with a bad head and very sore throat on Friday evening.  This was worrying as I felt quite poorly on Friday night.  However, paracetemol dealt with the head, if not the throat, my pulse rate wasn't too high and I didn't have a fever so I was hopeful that things could still go ahead if they didn't deteriorate.  On the advice of various medic friends, the aim of the day was to rest as much as possible to give my immune system the chance to fight back.  I had planned to do the Iron Girl run in the afternoon but that was ditched in favour of rest.  So on the Saturday we just went to the race briefing (which was very informative) and then rested, and then took our bikes over to transition and dropped the transition bags off (a confusing process for a first-timer or maybe that was just because I wasn't feeling tip top).  We rested again before an early dinner in the hotel (who kindly offered to make whatever we wanted for dinner - although our requests did get a bit lost in translation) and then off to bed by 9.30.

Race morning
We were both awake before the 7am alarm, with the usual pre-race dodgy tummies.  The condemned girl managed to eat a hearty breakfast (cheese and rice cakes and peppermint tea - the planned peanut butter was just too nauseating), and we filled our drinks bottles, I filled my bike snack box with biscuits and crisps, and I did a last bit of facebooking.  It was raining hard at one point but had eased off as we walked the mile and a half over to transition at the end of the lake.  Transition closed at 9.30 so we had to get there in time to put drinks etc on bike, and for Mr Tuna to give me a neckwarmer to wear around my sore throat on the bike.  We left transition, and found a quietish spot to sit, until in a moment of crisis I realised I was still wearing my glasses and would need them on the bike!  Although it was after 9.30, transition still seemed to be open, so I ran back in and popped them into my bike bag.  Being blind for the remaining 55 minutes was preferable to spending the rest of the day blind [yes, I know I should try contacts but I just can't bear touching my eyeballs...urggghhh] [in the pre-race plan, I'd expected it to be sunny and I would have had my sunnies in the bike bag and just left my regular glasses behind].  I delayed as long as possible getting into my wetsuit and handing my streetclothes in as it wasn't that warm, but eventually it had to be done.

The race started at 10am with the pros setting off; we had a little bit of time to wait as there was another wave at 10.10 before Mr Tuna set off at 10.20 and I set off at 10.25

The swim
Getting into the cold (ish, it was about 18C, but please remember that I had a horrible sore throat) water was particularly grim, especially as it had started raining again and I knew I wouldn't be dry again until I had finished the race.  The one thing that I can't stand when I have a cold is getting wet, even in a warm bath, so this was particularly unpleasant.  Weirdly, there was only a 5 minute gap between our wave and the previous one so it was a bit of a struggle for everyone to get in on time (I'd wondered about this and had made sure to be near the front of the queue).  Unusually, the swim start area was nice and wide, so it was all spread out nicely for once, especially as some people were still getting into the water and a number of people were holding back.  I managed to get lined up with the first buoy (900m away).  There wasn't much warning, suddenly the cannon went off, and I was wondering "is this it" but everyone had started swimming so it was time to do so!  It was pretty grim immersing my sore throat in the water and my nose started running, but I knew if I could keep going it wouldn't take me long to get around.  Almost immediately, I was catching up with the slower swimmers from the previous wave, and for nearly 600m to the first buoy I had to fight through them.  Round the buoy and towards the next one was more of the same, until I then started to run into some swimmers from the wave before that.  Then towards the last buoy.  In my slightly muggy head-state, I'd forgotten to check where we were getting out, so I lost a little bit of time looking for where to aim for the exit (in the process overtaking 2 swimmers from the very first wave), but I was out, in under 33 minutes.  Not a bad time given that I'd had to swim through a lot of swimmers, but it was slow for me, but then I couldn't have expected to go much faster given that I had never really pushed it hard in the swim as I knew I had a long day out.

Swim: 32:39

Transition 1:
Out of the water and around the corner into transition.  Transition was really very big compared to other races that I've done and it seemed like I had a long way to go each time getting in and out of it.  Struggled to get out of the top of my wetsuit, grabbed my bag, and went to the changing tent.  Found a spot to perch, and tried to get my clothes on and a bit dried out, so that at least I was going to be comfortable (ha!).  Out to the bike - pink tyres make it easy to spot - and deliberately ran past where Mr Tuna's bike was to make sure that he'd got away (he was a bit worried about the swim, and although I knew he'd be fine, I would have waited if his bike hadn't gone).  Across a now fairly muddy field, and then a good 300m of carpet to push the bike along (not fun in cleats) to the mount-line.

Transition 1: 8:44

Secretly, in my head I wondered if I could get under 4 hours for the bike course.  My best ride previously for 56 miles was 4h 6 minutes, but that had been on a much hillier course.  However, it was wet and I was under the weather AND still had a half marathon to do.  I had planned to take some paracetemol at the start of the bike (it being 4 hours since I'd last had any) but I forgot, and decided to push on, having a stop at around halfway or before if I started to feel thirsty.  I suppose the good thing about the rain was that it meant that I didn't get dehydrated.  But with water sloshing around like mini swimming pools in my bike shoes by the third mile all I could think about was my rooky error in not having put another pair of socks in my T2 bag :(  There's not too much to say about the bike course except that I tried to cycle as fast as I could.  With our names and nationalities on our numbers on our backs, I got a few shouts from some other GBR people as they passed me, and I tried to shout also for other GBR people (interestingly it was only the men who really cheered me rather than the women, with the exception of someone who is a friend of a friend of mine from tri-club who recognised).  Of course I did not overtake anyone on the bike, but I thought smugly as people continued to overtake me well into the second lap, that I had had a much faster swim than them (since I had been in the last wave to leave).  I eventually stopped for some food and drink just after the first lap was done, about 29 miles in.   I was sure that I would fancy something savoury so had packed crisps, but unusually for me I didn't, but luckily I had my Sainsburys Free-from shortbread (very low fibre too!) so I had three of those and a good swig of orange squash (none of those gross gel things for me). (There were feed stations but as they were positioned on hills they were too awkward to stop at)  This was the only point at which I felt cold but I had to keep on going.  I wouldn't have minded stopping again, but I did want to get around in a decent time and I wasn't too keen on getting cold again so I just kept going.  With 9 miles to go, I went past the run course (I was up high, so I couldn't see the runners) and Mr Tuna spotted me and yelled at me.  I was able to tell him that there were 9 miles to go!  The nearer the finish got, the more relieved I was that I had not had a puncture or a mechanical fault as I had seen a few people stopped because of that sort of thing.  I was looking forward to getting back, not least because the course had been full of spectators on the first lap cheering people on, but they had rather disappeared by the second lap.  Finally, I was turning off back towards transition, it was about 2k from the main bike loop back and seemed to take forever!  But eventually I made it!

Bike: 3:48:52 - I actually averaged 14.6mph - my previous "solo" best was 13.9, and my previous group best 14.5!

Transition 2
I got off the bike and was faced with having to walk in my cleats back to my rack - another 300 m or so.  I wondered if I should start running, but behind me was another GBR athlete, Jamie, who said "Don't run Verity, we've still got a half marathon to go", so we had a bit of a chat as we pushed our bikes along - it was his first half as well.  We also worked out that we had enough time to walk the half marathon if necessary!  I racked my bike and grabbed my remaining shortbread and drink, and headed off to pick up my bag - easy to find as not many left.  I decided on an entire change so dived into the women's section of the tent and stripped off my wet shorts and soaked top and replaced with my Mind running vest and my favourite skorts.  A nice 11 year old Austrian girl put my stuff back into my bag whilst I struggled with my shoes and shoved the shortbread in, and gulped a bit more squash down.  And then I was off and running out of transition (another 200m or so)

Transition 2: 9:12

So, out on the run I went, no idea at all how I'd fare.  After I'd managed to conquer my fears about getting around a 56 mile bike ride in training, my thoughts had turned to how I'd manage to run after that.  I just thought I'd see how it went and be prepared to walk some of it.  Unfortunately my back was hurting from the run (usually I go for a nice lie down) and it wasn't too many km before the hip problem that I've been struggling with joined in.  The run was a 3 and a bit loops thing, with 4 loops through the town (where you picked up a wrist band each time you went through, except the last time when you turned left and went down the finish line), this was a bit undulating as the town is sort of built on a slope, and then 3 loops out towards the top of the lake and back.  There was a feed station at the top of the lake that you went past twice in the space of about 500m, and then one in town which you went past twice, which was nice, as there weren't any points when I felt I was desperate for one.  I suppose that the cool and slightly damp conditions did really help at this point, my run would have been a lot slower if I had been hot as well!

Throughout the run I just kept bargaining with myself.  Run to 5k (with walks through the feedstations) and then maybe have a walk, then at 5k, let's try to make it to 7 as that's 1/3 of the way around, then to 10k, because that would be a respectable distance to have run to, then to 11k because that's more than half way round, then to 14k because that's 2/3 of the way, then just after 15k I saw Mr Tuna who had finished which really perked me up!  Each time that I went over the timing mat, I remembered that loads of people at home were watching the splits and I hoped that they were working ok, it really helped me!  I got to 16k, ran a little bit further and then started walking.  My friend Monika had sponsored the 16th kilometre for me as she says that she always finds that one the hardest, so I gave myself permission to walk, and actually enjoyed seeing the mountains and not hurting.  I had 4 jelly babies and wished my training friends were there with bananas and flapjack!  After that it was pretty much run/walk all of the way back, although I was managing 9 minutes for a km walking, so it wasn't really too slow.  When I got back to town for the final time, Mr Tuna walked a little bit with me and then headed to the finish line.  Unfortunately now most of the crowds had dispersed but I started hi-fiving a few people as I got nearer to the finish.  Final tiny uphill and then left down to the finish line!  Amazing!  I had such a big smile on my face as I got through the finish arch.

Run: 2:14:02 - about 18 minutes slower than my standalone half marathon time.  Interestingly, Mr Tuna's was about the same amount slower.

TOTAL TIME: 6:53:29

The finish
I sat down at the finish line and was wrapped in a space blanket.  Unfortunately, the volunteers had started to lose interest at this point as I nearly didn't get a medal!  And there was no obvious explanation of where to go to get a drink/my t-shirt/pick my bag up - but luckily Mr Tuna had done it an hour and a half before (5:42:41 on very little training - insane!!) - and we did these things before I sat down outside the expo and started sending a few text messages to let everyone know that I had survived.  Which everyone knew already, as there was a huge party going on on facebook and twitter!!  Mr Tuna then went to retrieve the bikes (another 3 mile round trip to the bottom of the lake) and I went home to shower.  Or rather, check facebook!

Wow - whilst I was out on the course, the lovely Liz had followed the tracker and posted updates, and it seemed that a fair few people had had quite a tense afternoon watching me go around.  I was overwhelmed by it all!

When Mr Tuna got back, we eventually went for dinner, where I disgraced myself by crying a lot into my dinner.  Ooops.  We then lay on the bed, too tired to do anything at all, and eventually put the light out at 9.30.  My sore throat returned and it was a very very long night.

Today we're off for some sports massages shortly, and then I hope to head up the mountain (NB we intend to drive to the bottom of the cable car...)!  I haven't really made it out of bed yet, so I'm not quite sure how sore I am, but I suspect pretty sore.  Hopefully the massages will help a bit!

Thank yous
This has been such a very big challenge for me - 237 hours of training over 5 months, and a big commitment financially, emotionally, and in terms of time.  I think it has been worth it - to raise money for Mind, and to give myself a distraction from the depression-demons.
I have had a lot of support along the way for which I am very grateful and so I want to say a few thank you's now (in no particular order!!) - I really hope that I haven't left anyone out - I may well be editing this as I remember other people who have been so kind!

Mr Tuna - an obvious one perhaps, but as ever I could not have done my latest challenge without the support of my husband.  Which this time meant helping me to learn to ride a road bike and putting up with the most immense tantrums and tears as I struggled to do it.  Seeing you on the run course at 15k and your pleasure that I was on the last lap really cheered me up.
Liz and everyone on facebook/twitter yesterday - thanks to Liz for keeping everyone updated and leading the facebook cheer-squad and for everyone who cheered.  I thought of you all watching the tracker everytime I went over a timing mat!
Martin - for the two excellent tridynamic swim camps that I attended where I met triathletes, and quite possibly picked up the inspiration for doing this event.  But also for the fantastic support along the way, reminding me that cycling was more important than swimming, even if I didn't listen to you as much as maybe I should have done :)
Dan - for last minute swimming/wetsuit advice, but also for getting my swimming into such good shape last year that I started to contemplate doing other things!  I'll be back to just swimming very soon
Mandy - for encouragement on twitter and for loaning me a saddle which didn't hurt my bum so much - that made such a difference!
Vicky and Tarsh - for being such inspiring fellow triathlete friends in entirely different ways.  My journey is only small compared to your own ones but I gain so much inspiration from following what you are both up to.
Oxford-Triathlon "beginners" cyclists and anyone who has had to put up with waiting for me on one of those rides over the last 10 months.  I really appreciate the advice and encouragement given and that no-one laughed at me when I shared my goal.  I can't say I ever really enjoyed any of the rides, but they definitely helped me get around yesterday!
Claire and Monika - the two best training friends and encouragers that a wannabe-half-iron-lady could hope for.  It's still probably a no if you offer me a banana, but it would have been yes, yesterday, the one time when you don't offer me one!!  The humour and fun that we've had this season on bike rides and going to the lake and unpacking my house-move have made it all a lot easier and more entertaining.  I didn't know either of you when I entered the race a year ago, but so glad to have got some new friends along the way.
A shout out to other twitter and facebook friends who have been especially encouraging - "liking" my training related posts and responding to despondent tweets - there are far too many of you to mention by name as if I did, I'd be sure to forget someone!
 Everyone who has sponsored me - at the time of writing this post this is 67 of you!  I hope that the donations will continue to roll in as I'm just over £300 short of the target.  Link is:  Mind is a charity very close to my heart, and I am extremely proud to be raising money for them for the 5th year running.

Everyone else - for understanding that I have not had so much time on weekends this year due to the dreaded long bike rides, and that I have often been tired from training.  This understanding has been hugely appreciated!

PS: Photos to follow - I really hope there'll be some official ones!!


  1. Thank you for the shout-out, I was honoured to be able to support you in this way! WELL DONE again. I am in awe.

  2. So, so proud of you, Verity! Congrats on completing your first HIM!

  3. Verity what an inspiration you are to all first timers bella! I am so proud of your achievement. Awesome swim time, I wish I could swim like you. Very impressed with your bike time, the weather was terrible and considering how much of a time you had starting out you should be very proud. The run, well done! You kept a strong mind and made sure it was okay to walk and run the course. Awesome day in the office! Great blog, I felt like I was with you whilst reading it. I am honoured to have inspired you just that little bit!
    Tarsh xx aka @Supergal007

  4. Nice work Verity! And a great swim :o) Shame I missed you completely - pretty hard to recognise people in the peeing rain. Really good idea to stay out a little longer in Austria (and isn't Zell a bit weird with the huge Arabic community and all the smoking outside?)

    That wide swim start must be why this was the least fighty swim start I've had in a mass or wave start race. I only got thumped once in the whole swim. Bit of a change from usual.

    Really well done for pushing on through the awful weather - just another little 70.3 some time next year maybe? Maybe a sunny one?

    1. We actually got married here in 2011, so it's a fond place. I have such mixed emotions about what I want to do next now because of the cold I have - I can't face swimming and since the next thing I wanted to do was a channel swim, I can't get my head around it yet! I would love to come back and do this course in the dry, as the bike bit suited me, I think in most other places I'd be struggling to meet cut-offs! I'm wondering a little bit about an ironman, but the bike training might kill me...

  5. A great post, well done for completing the race :)