Ironman Austria RR - Pre-race + 2.4 mile swim

After we checked in our bikes and racked our transition bags, we headed back to our flat in downtown Klagenfurt, prepared our nutrition for race day (powder in bottles to fill with cold water in the am), put on our compression and comfy clothes and prepared dinner around 4:30pm.
Karel had chicken, rice and veggies which is a typical pre race meal for him along with minestrone soup. I had the soup as well, along with a veggie and basmati rice mix that we made the other night. I felt very fueled for race day thanks to enjoying my typical low fiber/fat diet in the 2 day leading up to the race, with plenty of easy to digest carbs that leave my tummy happy.
After we ate around 5pm, we got together our things for the morning, set the alarm (more like multiple alarms for me) and laid in bed around 7:30pm and fell asleep between 8:30-9pm.
Alarm #1 woke us up at 3:45am and it was finally Ironman Austria race day!!

Although I was not super nervous, I could tell that I had some butterflies flying around in my belly for the unknown of the day was quickly approaching. I had been experiencing waves of excitement and nerves over the past 24 hours and I kept reminding myself that all would settle itself out once I got into the water. Karel, on the other hand, was quite calm for his second Ironman. 
The day before the race we both talked about our “perfect” day and what times we thought we were capable of. We also shared these times with my mom and brother since they would be tracking us throughout the day and would want to try to see us finish online.

Karel’s “dream” time was 9:40 and my time was 10:35 (although secretly I wanted to break 10:30 because it just sounds super duper fast to be under 10:30 since there was a time that I never thought I’d go under 10:50!).
We both remained ourselves as we prepared our pre race meal in the morning. Karel had a bowl of muesli with milk and I had my normal WASA crackers w/ Smuckers Natural PB (which I brought a small Tupperware container of from the US), raisins/granola and banana. I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the solid food so I opted for only 2 dressed-up WASA crackers instead of my normal 4 before an IM and because I knew that wasn’t adequate calories for me to replace liver glycogen, I decided to prepare 1 bottle of 150 calories of ISIS hydration from INFINIT as well as 1 packet of OSMO hydration. I could then sip between the two liquid calorie options in the 2.5 hours before the race. We both had coffee with our pre race meal and Karel also had 2 gels in the 1 hour before the race (spaced out).
Oddly, I felt very fueled without any feelings of bloating or heaviness so I was starting to recognize some signs that I was race ready (or at least I was trying to convince myself with positive thoughts that I was ready for this race despite having a modified training plan over the past 5 weeks to prepare for this race)
At 4:45am we packed up our swim gear and street wear bag (post race clothes) and  bike pump and we drove the 6K or so to the parking lot at Minimudus. We arrived around 5:05am and there was plenty of parking at that time with no traffic (although it was getting busy with 3000 athletes planned to race).
We walked the less than ½ mile or so to transition with our nutrition for the race, bike computers and bike pump. 

For nutrition: 
Marni prepared nutrition:
4 bottles – each with 2 heaping scoops of my custom formula from INFINIT (which I created and have tweaked twice over the past 2 half IM races and I have used with every long training session)

2 Enervit gels (we received a box of gels/bars from a friend here in Znojmo so I had one for back-up. I have never tried these gel before and typically do not use gels but I had this just in case I lost a bottle on the course. I prefer to bring nutrition with me even though I am OK to rely on the aid stations if needed)

1 pill purse of about 7 TUMS (for the bike/run – I was not planning to use them all but always better to have more than you need of any pills)
2 gel flasks (in T2 bag) and 2 gel flasks in special needs bag (for run)
Each gel flask with 2 ounces of NAPALM caffeine (grape flavor) topped with water (100 calories each flask). I have used this product in every run and run off the bike so my tummy is very tolerable of this product. I have tried using more calories in one flask (concentrated flask) and then water in another flask (or set-up aid stations during training) but my tummy does much better with less nutrition in a flask and then using multiple flasks. I can get by with 2 flasks in a half IM (150 calories) but I opted for 4 flasks for the IM and using special needs for the very first time.

Karel prepared nutrition:
Bike – 3 bottles each with 2 scoops of his custom INFINIT formula which I created for him

2 packs of 3 aminos (Hammer nutrition) 
1 pack of 3 aminos (hammer) + 2 race cap supreme (hammer)
(these packs were wrapped in saran wrap and placed in his Trek bento-style box.

We noticed that our bags were rearranged on the racks (originally they were not in order but instead just on a rack on the respected bib number ranges) so we found our bags and mentally focused on where they were on the racks (we were not allowed to put ribbons on our bag to easily identify them). I put my bags on the rack with all four strings so it was a little higher than the other bags so it was easy to spot.

After we put our nutrition in our bags, Karel and I took a quick bathroom stop before the lines got long and then we each went to our bikes (which were fairly close in the big transition area).
Since everyone has to run in the same direction exiting the transition area to get on their bikes, there were barricades set-up  in front of Karel’s rack since his rack was right by the bike-out arch.
We were not allowed to put on our shoes by our bike (carry our shoes) or by the mount line so Karel and I put our cycling shoes in our T1 bag with our helmet (helmets were required in the bag) since neither one of us prefer to leave our cycling shoes on our bikes.

After I removed the rain cover from my bike, I placed my four bottles of nutrition on my bike (2 frame cages and 2 in the rear – all of which are easy to reach, the cages are tight to prevent bottles from slipping on most bumpy roads and well-practiced in training), I put my bike computer on my bike and made sure that my Stages power meter was recognized by my Garmin Edge 500 (Karel always has an extra battery on race day just in case). Also Karel charged our bikes to 100% the night before the race for our electronic (Di2) shifting. I had my cassette in a comfortable gear to exit transition area (in small chain ring, middle gear) and made sure my breaks were not rubbing. 
Karel came over and pumped up my tires (which were deflated a bit for overnight in the warmer temps) and double checked my bike.

Since transition area closed at 6:20am, we were very efficient with our time and I dropped off my run special needs bag outside the transition area at 6am and made our way about a ½ mile or so to the swim start.

First we headed to the Irondome across from the swim venue and put on our wetsuits with spray body glide as well as caps and goggles. We put our clothing in our street wear and we both held on to 1 throw away sport bottle with liquid calories to sip on for the next 40 min or so before our wave start (since we were not in the first wave at 6:45am).

We then made our way to the swim start and pushed our way through the crowds to get some room to warm-up the body with some active stretching. We made one more stop at the potties before the first wave went off and with beautiful conditions (in the low 60’s outside to start our morning), we both wished each other the best of luck and for a safe race day, gave a kiss and a hug and parted ways.
Around 6:50am I found myself to the right of a pier and stood about 3 rows back. Although only a few girls around me (not to mention only less than 400 women in the entire race), I found myself comfortable with the male swimmers around me. Like it or not, we were all about to get to know each other really well for the beach, mass start.
After the Austrian anthem, the 3 minute countdown began.
Then it went to 2.
With my goggles readjusted one last time (with anti-fog liquid just applied in the Irondome), I whispered to my dad above me to enjoy his front-row seat for the next 140.6 miles and then the 60 second countdown began.
3, 2, 1….BOOM!! We were off!!

(Following Pictures from Google and Finisherpix)

I started my Garmin 910XT on Multisport zone and slowly “ran” my way into the water. The water felt amazingly, refreshingly cool and comfortable with my full-sleeve wetsuit.
I made sure to not start out too hard and with about 1.5K or so until the first left –hand turn buoy, I made sure to focus on good, efficient strokes in the water. I wasn’t sure how my swim would turn out for the day in term of time so I just stayed confident as I was feeling very good in the water as I was enjoying pushing just enough to stay with a pack of speedy men.
I wasn’t spotting that much because I trusted that the mass of swimmers that I was swimming with was staying on course but as I was bilaterally breathing, I noticed that there was a pack of swimmers to my left in the far distance.
Am I off course so soon in the race? Well it quickly dawned on me that I must have started on the outside of the far pier instead of the pier closest to the buoys! I guess with the massive amount of spectators, I had to push my way through the crowd to enter the timing mat for the beach that I didn’t even realize that I was on the outside. Oh well. I didn’t really have any plans as to where I would stand, I just didn’t want to get clobbered in the swim. Little did I know, Karel ended up starting by the closest pier, near the buoys (and he mentioned it was pure chaos over there!).
I noticed that our group was heading on a smooth path to the first turn buoy and with my Garmin 910 auto lapping every 500 yards on the swim (the water was so clear that I could see my watch in the water) I was quick to realize that I was swimming a great pace for the start of this race.
As I made my way around the first of two turn buoys, I found myself getting a little off course as I was no longer with my group of speedy men. I guess the water was pushing me a bit away from the buoys on my left so I had to give a little bit of a stronger effort to swim closer to the buoys and to find a pack of swimmers.
I managed to link up with a small group but had to continue spotting for I was out on the outside and kept getting pushed away from my group. This part of the course to the last turn buoy felt long as I wasn’t sure how long it was until that buoy. I stayed focused on my stroke and making sure that I was catching the water and efficiently pulling through with a strong exit from the water. This lake made for comfortable pool-like swimming.
Once I made the turn for the home stretch, the sun was straight into my eyes and even with my tinted Speedo Vanquisher goggles, I could see nothing ahead of me. I was warned about this from the race announcer at the athlete meeting but it was incredible that I could see absolutely nothing ahead of me for the 1K or so until the cannel.
Because I was so worried to get off course, I found myself stopping (and breastroke kicking) three times as I removed my goggles from my eyes just so I could get a good glimpse of where I was going. Once I knew where I was going, I was fine but then a few yards later I was worried and stopped again. 

I managed to spot to the cannel and finally I was officially on the home stretch.
Again, I wasn’t sure how long the canal was so as I glanced at my watch, I nearly smiled ear to ear that this could be the day when I break 1-hour (which I have dreamed about since I started Ironman racing). 
The cannel was craziness. It was so tight with swimmers jammed in that it was hard to find any open space for multiple full strokes. 

It was so cool to see all the spectators on the sides of the canal for the past 45 minutes or so, we were all alone in the crystal blue lake.

I spotted the bridge that I had remembered we passed when biking out of the parking lot (for our bike warm-ups) so I knew we were close to the swim exit. Since I wasn’t able to see my watch in the merky waters, I picked up the pace and just hoped, wished and prayed that I could get this dream over with on this day. Of course, this was the start of a very long day but I figured that if I was going to break 1 hour, today would be a great day to do it.

As I made a slight right hand turn to spot the exit arch, I was pushed down by another swimmer and kicked at the same time. Ugh. It took a few seconds to gather myself as I took a few more strokes and quickly stood up with jello-like legs as the volunteer lifted me out of the water. I looked at my watch and oh jeez….

Although this was a PR for me, I was laughing at the 14 seconds that kept me from seeing 59 minutes for my 2.4 mile swim. Oh well,  it was time to check the swim off my to-do list for the day for it was over and done with and a thing of the past. Nothing I can do or change so on to the bike.
Karel had a great swim for him and he swam 1:07:10 which is a great PR for him!
Karel battled with his normal hyperventilation-feeling when he entered the water (he’s still working on his experience in open water with a land start and this was the first time for an IM start with a mass start – Lake Placid had a seeded time trial start where we walked in, sorted out by anticipated finishing times). Karel said that he felt good in the water but when he got to the cannal, he hated every stroke for he said for him, it had nothing to do with swimming for it felt like a boxing match. He just wanted the swim to be over with. He was very happy with his time but even more happy that the swim was over with and he could get on his bike.

Because there were no strippers and we were required to run with our wetsuits on (they could be pulled down to our waists), I made the .4 mile run to my T1 bag as I removed the top part of my wetsuit (unzipping in the back with the string ) and pulled down to my waist. I had removed my 910 from my wrist and stuck in my mouth as I took off the sleeves and as I ran, I put my watch back on so that I didn’t have to tug on my wetsuit and risk stopping my watch on accident.
I grabbed my T1 bag with my bike gear and made my way into the female changing tent.
Well, I guess it was a co-ed tent because with so many guys and so few women, there were guys in our changing tent (which was also very open to the T1 bags. Oh well.
I sat on the ground and a volunteer stripped my wetsuit off of me (I don’t think she spoke English but she knew what I was asking her to do) and I put on my helmet and sunglasses and wiped off my feet as I put on my 110% compression sock (Karel wore his compression calf sleeves under his wetsuit which was allowed).  I put on my cycling shoes and bib number with race belt (bib number required to be on our back for the bike) I had my nutrition in a zip lock baggy so I grabbed the bag as I exited transition area. I handed my T1 bag (with swim gear inside) to a volunteer at the drop off bag area outside the tent (which was new for me since typically the volunteers put your stuff in the bag as you leave the changing tent) . I emptied the contents of my nutrition into my back pockets of my tri suit (which I wore my Trimarni tri short bottoms and Trimarni tri top under my wetsuit w/ Brooks running sport bra) as I was running to my bike. 
I had positioned my bike facing the way I was supposed to run out of transition whereas the other bikes in my rack had the rear wheel facing the direction we were running. This made it very easy for me to power on my Garmin Edge on my bike, lift it out of the rack (not hanging racks which was great!) and then run in the same direction as my bike was facing. 

Marni T1 transition time: 5:18
Karel T1 transition time: 4:10

I ran by Karel’s bike as I exited transition area and wasn’t sure when I would see him but I looked forward to the moment that I could chat with Karel on the bike. Seeing Karel on the course is my biggest highlight of my day when we race together.

When I got on my bike, there was a short section by the screaming fans before we made a turn around to head out to a short out and back section before the start of two laps of our 112 mile bike course. My body was feeling good and all nerves were a thing of the past and I was super pumped to see how all my hill training in Greenville (over the past 5 weeks) with a body that hasn’t had a physiological (injury) setback in almost a year, had paid off.

Time to bike 112 miles on the beautiful, fast, yet challenging, Ironman Austria bike course!!