7/5/14

IM Austria race report - 112 mile bike


I think we can all agree that it takes a great amount of fitness to ride a bike for 112 miles. It doesn’t matter if you are riding 15mph or 25 mph because it takes a great effort to power your body for 4+ hours in order to turn two wheels, continuously, to move your body and machine in a forward motion. Throw in wind, heat, rain, rolling hills, descends, bumpy roads, potholes, etc. and it takes more than good fitness to ride smart (with a fit body) for 112 miles.

But the Ironman is more than being fit enough to ride your bike 112 miles.

The Ironman is not a bike race (if you don’t believe me, ask Karel). In bike racing, your primary focus is on the other riders and staying with them. There is nothing "individual" with a bike race for if you are not with the leaders or the pelton, well you are not in the bike race and unlike triathlons, there are no finisher medals in bike racing. A triathlon, unlike bike racing, is all about an individual effort. If you forget to focus on yourself, you will find yourself racing outside your abilities or perhaps, not working toward your pure potential. 

The Ironman is more than being a good cyclist for it is a day of swimming, biking and running. Therefore, the human body must be trained in three sports in order to swim, bike and run. In other words, once you exit the 1.2 mile swim portion of an Ironman, the bike is not about proving how fast you can be while riding 112 miles but instead, how strong and efficient you can cycle in order to run a marathon off the bike.



Our training for Ironman Austria over the past 1.5 months was a wee bit different than my last 7 Ironmans. Ok, more than 4000+ feet different.


Since moving to Greenville, SC from Jacksonville, FL, we never ride without an elevation change. Almost every ride that we do, from 90 minutes to 5 hours, includes at least 3000 feet of climbing, with the majority of our longer rides around 5000-6500 feet of climbing.

Because of this great stress on the body, we were able to perform many intervals throughout our "local" rides (especially longer rides) based on our riding terrain. I never saw an average speed for a ride more than 17.5 mph and most of my rides were around 16.5-17mph. Thus, our ability to incorporate our “train smart” philosophy into our IM Austria prep after moving to Greenville was quite simple for we were never big fans of riding for distance or chasing an average speed during a ride. Our power files were larger than while riding on the flat roads despite many opportunities to “rest” our legs while descending from a climb.

Over the past few years, I have found myself recognizing how much easier it is for my body to race on hilly courses. Now don’t get me wrong…..hills are very taxing on the body but they present ample time to pace an effort and perform “intervals” with "rest" while riding. 

I believe that athletes must be strong to ride on hills in a triathlete but not necessarily fast. And for those who enjoy hill riding but want to be faster, the goal is to not ride more but instead, to become more powerful while on the bike and above all, improve your skills on the hills/descends. The Ironman is not about speed but instead, who fatigues the least by the finish. Therefore, the Ironman race requires more than great fitness on the bike (or swim or run) but instead, knowing how to pace your day with your current level of fitness, all while staying mentally strong and consuming adequate sport nutrition to support metabolic needs during the bike and to fuel for the upcoming run and to minimize/avoid GI distress. Let’s also not forget that a course that has changing terrain requires the athlete to troubleshoot every situation for it is likely that there will be obstacles during the day on a “challenging” course, from changing temperatures and weather conditions to residual fatigue.

Ironman Austria bike course (1 loop shown above)

Karel and I rode around 42 miles of our 56 mile bike course (1 loop) on the Thursday preceding the race. This gave us a great opportunity to not only enjoy the beautiful sights of Austria (pics here), but also to get to know our terrain and how we would pace our own race on race day. Simply put, Ironman Austria (like most of my other challenging Ironman races) had a bike course that was challenging with the climbs but also presented plenty of opportunities to be fast with appropriately timed downhills. 

I never thought I’d say this but the 5300 total feet of climbing at Ironman Austria (yep – our “fast” course was filled with elevation gains) was not as challenging as I had imagined it would be for we ride much more difficult courses in our new hometown of Greenville. The main difference between our Greenville bike routes and the IM Austria bike course (aside from a closed course on race day) was that IM Austria had a great flow of climbing and descending so that with every climb, there was a great opportunity to recover. Although the IM Austria course was challenging, Karel and I were given the opportunity to race smart on race day.

On race day, we used our cycling skills for climbing/descending (obviously, Karel has much more experience in this area but I have been forced to become a more skillful rider in Greenville), we made sure to race safe and abide by race rules (no drafting) while riding with others on the same course, we love having electronic shifting which makes shifting gears efficient and easy (in aero bars and base bars as well as while standing), we enjoy training with power but we also know how to perceive our effort,  having a proper RETUL bike fit for an efficient and powerful position on the bike, we trust our well-practiced sport nutrition and we love climbing and on top of all the ways that we love to race smart, we trained smart for race day without risking injury or fatigue and thus we were both able to take a few risks on a perfect day of racing and race to our full potential.
Despite not planning 1 training ride over 100 miles in the past 7 months (my longest ride was 5:40, 93 miles), I felt extremely prepared for this race. 





After exiting transition area, I made a sweeping left turn to the turnaround which was flooded with spectators behind the barricades. This turn came soon after exiting transition area and then it was only a few miles until I made another turn around. Although this time, it was a right turn around as we had moved from the right to the left side of the closed road. I found myself with mostly male triathletes in front and behind me but there was plenty of room on the road to get my legs into a good rhythm. For this race, because of all the climbing on race day and my last 1.5 months of training only on hilly terrain, I felt as if having a power goal range was not going to work to my advantage. The effort had to feel right and with my experience in Ironman racing, I knew where I could take risks and where I would need to hold back and most of all, I needed to be sure I checked in with myself frequently as I also stayed consistent with my fueling.

I had my Garmin Edge 500 set on my normal interval screen so I could focus on my 3sec power, normalized lap power (my main gauge of how I am pacing myself), average speed, lap speed, current cadence and lap time. I did not wear a HR monitor in this race as it is not beneficial to how I pace my race. Every 30 min or so, I would hit LAP so that I would only focus on 30 minutes at a time over my 5+ hour race. This allowed me to go primarily by feel but every time I looked down at my screen or hit my lap button, I could check-in with myself to see how I was pacing myself. Certainly, if I was pushing watts 50+ higher (per normalized lap) than what I am use to, then I would need to back off. But if I was happy with how I was feeling and my watts were showing me favorably numbers to reflect my current level of fitness, I went with it and carried on.
My watts are always higher while climbing (especially since I prefer to climb out of my saddle with more body weight on the top of my pedal stroke) so the key for my ability to control my normalized power while riding hilly courses all comes down to pacing myself on all areas of the course. 


As for nutrition, I grabbed water at every aid station and once I finished my first INFINIT sport bottle, I tossed it at the aid station in the tossing zone and kept water on my bike. I made sure to finish my sport bottles every 75 minutes while consuming additional 16-24 ounces of water (or so) between the aid stations (and using for cooling to help reduce core temp). 

The day started off with cloudy skies and I knew there was a chance for rain and wind. This doesn’t bother me for it just presents another opportunity for me to use my trained body to race smart. I have seen many fit and fast athletes waste a great race day performance on just chasing a goal time or expecting more out of their body or when comparing fitness to others, instead of using current fitness to race smart with what the day presents. 

On our race day, the average temperature of the entire bike was around 67 degrees and we had a mix of sun, clouds and rain along with wind. There was a lot to battle on race day but I stayed focus on my 30 minute intervals so that I could simply break down the race into practical sections to race.

The first part of the course is fast. You are simply flying on twisty roads with a few bumpy climbs on smooth roads. I felt great on this section and this gave me a lot of confidence for the middle section of the loop which includes the longer/steeper climbs.


The course was lined with spectators at the popular sections of the course (climbs) as well as in towns and villages. There was a lot of crowd support which was great. I made sure to smile at all the doggies on the course and to moo and nay at all the wildlife (I hope they understood my English). 

There was not a lot of chatting between athletes on the course so I could tell that the athletes were taking this race very seriously. When speaking to another German athlete that we became friends with, he mentioned that because there are not of European Ironman races compared to North America, all the fast athletes flock to the races. So whereas there may be 10-15 top athletes at every North America Ironman, it's like putting all of those athletes from those races at one race and making them all race against each other. The competition was fierce at Ironman Austria!

Additionally, this course was not technical but with so much terrain changes and a few rough patches of road and the amazing jaw-dropping views, you had to stay sharp the entire time. I was happy we rode the course ahead of time and took time to enjoy the scenery for on race day I was focused on my race.



I wasn’t passed by many women which made me feel as if I was riding strong. I felt good and when I got to the first climb, I heard a voice behind me “Great job Babe!”
YIPPE!!!! Karel!!!!


What a great place for Karel to catch me from the swim for as we were climbing we were able to chat for a brief minute which made me super happy. Karel told me about his swim and that he was super happy with how it went but equally happy that it was over and he survived the mass start. He asked me about my swim and I told him I almost broke an hour and he said that was great. Then he was off on the climb and all I could see was the back of his Trimarni kit riding away in the distance.
Karel took a lot of risks on this bike course and he really pushed hard on all sections - climbing and powering down the hills (and his sub 5 hour time showed it!)



Karel said that by the start of the 2nd loop, he started to feel a bit low in energy but thankfully he was able to get over it. As for me, I felt good on the first loop but even better on the 2nd loop!
Although I was pushing and listening to my body, I really tried to hold back on the first 56 miles because I knew that there would be a chance of getting tired from miles 80-100 (after 4 hours of riding + 1 hour of swimming) and also, I knew it would get windy on the second loop as we were riding through many open valleys.


The course is two loops but is broken into two loops, a small loop and then a larger loop which connect in a small town/village away from the transition area. Every part of the course has something different and although nothing too technical, this course really requires good skills and power. Because Karel and I missed a turn on our pre-ride of the course, we didn’t experience the 1.5 mile climb that occurred around mile 40 or so of the bike (not positive on this distance of where the climb occurred) so we both were wondering what the body would feel like while riding this climb (for every climb is different). There was a steep but moderately short climb that first woke up the legs and then came the climb.  I was climbing, and climbing and climbing and surely, out of gears by the start of the climb. This was one loooong climb and my speed for the climb was well under 7 mph. Thankfully the crowd support alongside an on-site DJ made me smile during the climb. There was one short section when I could sit down and pick up my cadence a bit (and shift down one gear) but then it was right back up again for the last two steep sections of this long climb.



But what comes up, must come down. Weeeeeeee. After a super fun descend (with a few small “ups”) and then a few miles through valleys and villages, it was time to make the left hand turn into town to start the second loop.


Because I felt as if I held back on the first loop by my perceived exertion and had been doing really well with keeping up with my nutrition (the cooler temps made for a happy gut/digestion), I was wondering what my body would do in the 2nd loop. Gloria always tells me not to jump ahead with my thoughts on race day and I always listen but this time, instead of questioning how I would feel on the 2nd loop, I actually look forward to the 2nd loop for I was ready to start racing!

After I made the turn around outside of transition area and welcomed lots of screams by the fans and volunteers, I was out for the last loop and I was ready for 56 miles to push and to take a few more risks. 
Whereas Karel pushed from the start of the bike to the finish (he never wanted to ease up), I tried to be a bit more conservative on the first loop. By the 2nd loop, I found myself passing guys (although still being passed by plenty) and keeping a few strong girls in my view. With the last 56 miles a thing of the past, I kept my mind focused on the last part of my 112 mile ride, feeling as if this was the start of my 112 mile ride. 


I was having SO much fun on the bike. Even with the rain coming down (it wasn’t a downpour) on and off for around 30 miles or so of my 2nd loop (and on the big climb and several descend), I still was loving this bike ride. 

I had to pee 3 times on the bike and saved it for the downhills for it was the only time I could stop pedaling. I lost some of the girls that I had in my view when I was relieving myself while riding but I couldn’t keep holding it in for it was so hard to pedal strong with a full bladder. Karel also peed several times on the bike. We were both well hydrated J

I finished all 4 of my bottles on the bike as well as 2 gels and 2 additional bottles of water from the aid stations. I felt so good on the bike and for the first time in a long time, was really feeling confident for my run……despite not a lot of high volume run training (my longest run since Kona in October 2012 was 14 miles). 
Karel had his 3 bottles of custom INFINIT mix + 1 gel + 2 bananas + 1 bottle of water + a few bottles of ISO (sport drink from Power bar)  - taking sips of the sport drink as needed.
Karel is a lot more flexible with his fueling regime compared to me but he does rely on his INFINIT (liquid calories) as his primary nutrition for training/racing. 

As I was riding into town, I mentally checked in with myself to address anything and everything that may impact my pacing on the run. My body and mind felt good and this was a great thing. The day was simply perfect for fast racing but it takes more than a fast and fit body to race well in an Ironman. 


As I was nearing the transition area, I stretched my hips a bit (although I had done that plenty with all the climbing on the course and getting out of the saddle), took my last few sips of my customized INFINIT sport drink, poured a little water on my head for cooling and spun my legs to the dismount line. 

After I dismounted my bike, I took off my cycling shoes and carried them with my bike to my bike rack. As I ran by Karel’s bike (his shoes still on the pedals) I was so excited to see him on the run…. I just didn’t know when. 

As I racked my bike, I saw 4 other bikes in my rack. Not knowing how many girls in my AG started in the first wave, I was really excited about the chance to place top 10 in my first international Ironman. There were no body markings in this race so the only way I knew my competition was from the bib numbers. I checked the range of numbers for my AG in the athlete guide and also the bib numbers had age groups.

As I was nearing the changing tent, I made a quick stop in the port-a-potty to fully relieve my bladder. Because the potties on the run course in an IM are always hit or miss if they will be full or empty, I took advantage of plenty of potties in transition area. Karel also had a stop at the potty in T2. Neither one of us had any GI issues on race day, just simply full bladders from being hydrated. 

As I ran to my run bag in T2, I turned around my bib number and then entered the women’s changing tent. There was only 2 other women in the tent so plenty of room. I then took off my cycling helmet and cycling shoes and put on my run shoes (with quick release clasp). I put on my dad’s corvette hat and instantly felt ready to run from his presence on my head. I grabbed my baggy with my two gel flasks with NAPALM powder in each flask and water (a bit more than 100 calories in each flask) and I was off. 
I did not sprint out of transition but instead, I walked to drop off my T2 bag with cycling contents inside) and then proceeded with a jog and then with very fresh-feeling legs, once I stepped behind the T2 line, I was officially starting my run. I hit lap on my Garmin 910 for the multi sport function to change to run and I switched my screen to my run interval screen and I was off running to start the end of my Ironman Austria day…..only  26.2 miles until the finish! Now to find Karel!

I checked the total time on my watch as I was leaving transition area and the time was around 6:35-6:40 or so (from what I can remember). Ok time to do some math....if I can run a 4 hour marathon that will put me around 10:40, just 2 minutes off my time at Kona in October (which was a PR). But if I run a 3:45 (my best IM run time is 3:48 and I have always wanted to run under 3:45), that's 10:25 and a HUGE PR for me. Could I actually do this with my body and mind?
 
OK, no doubting myself....it's time to take some risks and run for a PR!



Karel stats: 
112 mile bike (180km) – 4:56:23 total time 
Average speed – 22.59mph (36.44km/h)
Division rank: 38th after bike
Overall rank: 202 after bike
Gender rank: 193 after bike

Splits:
25.2km – 40.43km/hr (25.06mph)
35.5km – 34.46km/hr (21.37mph)
55.4km – 39.65km/hr (24.58mph)
64.5km – 32.18km/hr (19.95mph)
92km – 37.16km/hr (23.04mph)
112.4km – 35.62km/hr (22.08mph)
122.7km – 32.36km/hr (20.06mph)
142.6km – 37.25km/hr (23.09mph)
151.7km – 30.36km/hr (18.82mph)
180km – 36.13km/hr (22.4mph)

Fun facts: 
Karel passed 143 males in his age group on the bike. He passed 649 athletes on the bike and he passed 596 males on the bike. Way to go Karel in your 2nd Ironman triathlon!!



Marni stats: 
112 mile bike (180km) – 5:29:07 total time 
Average speed – 20.3mph (32.82km/h)
Division rank: 6th after bike
Overall rank: 699 after bike
Gender rank: 34th after bike

Splits:
25.2km – 36.61km/hr (22.69mph)
35.5km – 31.11km/hr (19.28mph)
55.4km – 35.38km/hr (21.93mph)
64.5km – 27.72km/hr (17.18mph)
92km – 32.41km/hr (20.41mph)
112.4km – 33.02km/hr (20.47mph)
122.7km – 31.19km/hr (19.33mph)
142.6km – 34.33km/hr (21.28mph)
151.7km – 26.25km/hr (16.28mph)
180km – 32.82km/hr (20.234mph)


Fun facts: 
I was passed by 3 girls in my age group on the bike. I was passed by 396 triathletes on the bike and I was passed by 8 women on the bike. 
Time to see how many people I can run down!


7/2/14

Ironman Austria RR - Pre-race + 2.4 mile swim


PRE RACE
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:
BIKE: 
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)
Run: 
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….



 1:00:13.
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!! 


Training smart for Ironman #8


Over the past 8 years I have found myself standing at 6 different starting lines (IMFL, IMKY, IMWI, IM Placid, IM Austria and IM Kona). For all 8 of my Ironman races, I have felt the same flood of emotions as I wait anxiously for the start of my 140.6 mile racing day.

Despite feeling the same mix of emotions from a nervous belly to fully body excitement, I have discovered that every IM journey to reach the starting line is unlike the last journey. Sure, every Ironman journey shares similarities such as an investment in time and a greater investment in money alongside commitment, hard work and discipline but there are also many differences, specific to what is happening in life while training for an IM.

Over the past 8 Ironman finishes, I have learned that the pressure to arrive at the starting line healthy and hungry to race is always the ultimate goal because racing with a healthy body and mind is simply the result of my body positively adapting to the right amount of training stress alongside the right amount of recovery to foster performance gains.

A healthy, motivated and injury-free body will always outperform an unhealthy, unmotivated and injured body. Plus, it is a lot more fun to reap the rewards of your hard work effort when the body can train consistently well with proper recovery to reduce risk for fatigue, burnout and injury.

Because life doesn’t stop just because I am registered for an Ironman, I am constantly aware of the many outside stressors that can affect my training journey. Therefore, over the past few years Karel and I have developed a strategy for training for the Ironman to ensure that we minimize setbacks in our Ironman journey. Thus we train smart by training hard and recovering harder. And above all, we love to race smart with our current level of fitness as we find ourselves raising our limits by being challenged by our faster competitors.

Because hard work is only one component to arriving to race day with a healthy body and mind, I do not see training for an Ironman as a journey that involves only long miles and hours of swimming, biking and running. Certainly, I am well aware of the positive impact of hard work as well as a balanced and healthy, wholesome diet. More so, the timing of nutrition with training as well as the critical need for sport nutrition during training is a specialty of mine. Alongside my specialty of understanding how to fuel a body in motion, strength training, recovery tools and sleep have also contributed to my body tolerating the demands of Ironman training.

No matter what Ironman race I choose to participate in or what the conditions are on race day, my desire to improve within every Ironman journey provides me with the ongoing motivation to see what I am capable of as an age group triathlete.

Over the past few years, I have changed the way that I approach Ironman training and thus I have been able to help many triathletes enjoy their Ironman journey without focusing on weekly hours or miles but instead, finding enjoyment in the simple art of training the human body to improve. Through quality training sessions, the body adapts well to training and thus, habits are formed that are productive to race day goals.

In the last three Ironman races that I have done, I have overcame obstacles while training for the Ironman but have found myself with personal best times. Although different courses and race day conditions, I have gone from a 10:58 Ironman finisher, to 10:43, to 10:37 and now, a 10:17 Ironman finisher. Although this time drop has occurred over 4 years, my motivation to train and race in Ironman competitions has continued, with gains in fitness, despite the constraints of my life.

My message for any Ironman athlete (newbie or veteran) is to stop counting weekly hours or obsessing on arbitrary paces that “should” be performed by race day and instead, build a training plan that allows for maximizing your performance over a period of time, without compromising other areas in your life that can bring you performance gains AND happiness and balance in life. 

Because every age group triathlete has the ability to improve if dedication and hard work are grounded in your mindset, stop emulating  what everyone else is doing within their constraints  and freedoms of their lifestyle and do not compare your readiness to succeed by another athlete’s training hours, paces or miles.


On June 29th, 2014, Karel and I each executed a perfect race which resulted in personal best times for every sport alongside a total personal best time that will likely not be broken for quite some time. This isn’t to say that we will not get stronger, fitter and smarter as athletes but on June 29th, we found ourselves embarking on a day of racing 140.6 miles which was the culmination of training smart with the least amount of training stress to foster the largest performance gains to be used on race day. Because it is very hard to consistently improve in a race that lasts over 9 hours for most age groupers, I am incredibly thankful to my body for not only giving me 8 Ironman journey’s to enjoy but for also allowing me to push it to higher and higher limits as I try to discover my ultimate potential as an endurance triathlete.

Race report to come shortly.


6/30/14

Ironman Austria FINISHERS!

 

Preparation
The activity or process of making something ready or of becoming ready for something.
Things that are done to make something ready or to become ready for something.
A state of being prepared. 

We all have our own definitions for being/feeling prepared. For the athlete, it may be following an arbitrary training plan and for others, it may be putting all your trust into a coach to design the perfect plan for you to peak and taper properly and execute on race day. 
I'm sure we can all think of a time when we felt prepared and things didn't go as planned.
And of course, the times when we didn't feel prepared and it showed. 
 But then there are those times when we didn't feel prepared and we surprised ourselves. 



Some say that preparation is key to success. Failing to prepare is like preparing for fail. 
When it comes to carrying the human body for 140.6 miles, preparation is certainly key. There's always that person who can wing it but without preparation comes fears, uncertainties, doubts and negative "what if" thoughts. 

However, how much can one actually prepare for an event that involve 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking and 26.2 miles of running without risking injury, burnout or extreme fatigue as well as balancing life with good nutrition, proper sport nutrition, stretching, quality sleep and everything else that goes into "preparing" for an Ironman

Despite this being my 8th Ironman here in Austria, I went into this Ironman with a mix of emotions, including excitement and nerves. 

I have completed 7 Ironmans so far (three on the big island) and I still woke up on race day morning thinking to myself "can I do this...again?"

I've learned so much about Ironman racing over the past 8 Ironmans, including 3 Ironman World Championship races. 

And one thing that I have learned is that 140.6 miles is a long way to go and even those who feel they are best prepared, still must have the right mindset to start and finish the 8-17 hour journey that lies ahead. There is so much training that goes into a one day event so on top of doing the "work" that you may feel is needed to prepare the human body to perform the demands of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 miles, that training is no good without the right mental toughness on race day, combined with pure enjoyment for the sport and appreciation for the human body.And of course, the ability to overcome whatever comes in your way while racing for 140.6 miles (no race is ever "perfect", it's just how you overcome situations that will determine if you perfectly executed your day.)


I am proud to say that Ironman Austria was a great success for Karel and me. As for feeling prepared going into this race, we certainly did not follow our "ideal" training plan with everything that has been affecting us in our life over the past few months so I guess you could say that we didn't feel 100% prepared. I am not one for excuses and I find that with Ironman training, it's very rare for a person to give 100% for 6+ months to prepare for an Ironman. Ironman training requires a lot of time, money and dedication and for us age group triathletes, it is a fine line of training for an Ironman and still feeling balanced in life (and being able to still function well in life).

In our case, we had two half Ironmans (HITS Ocala in March and St. Croix 70.3 in May) which included some good "short distance" stress on our body before we started our IM build. 
However, our move in May coupled with the passing of my dad left us with our minds on other important things in our life. Nevertheless, we both have thoroughly enjoyed our new home in beautiful Greenville SC so we applied the most training stress on our body with ample recovery to prepare the best we could for Ironman Austria in just 5 weeks. Of course, we do have years of endurance training under our legs but this should never be a good reason to purposely over or under train. 

This means that we carefully overloaded our body with higher intensity workouts that were of moderate volume (even though we do no believe in large weekly volumes of training or "long" training days on the weekend). We each carefully stuck to our own taper regime (we both have our own 2 week taper routine) and then appreciated our time in Europe and considered this Ironman as a chance to take a few risks and to race among a very high caliber of athletes. Since we both were not racing for Kona slots (we are saving our Kona-qualifying race for IMWI in 9 weeks), we wanted to see what we were capable of with our current level of fitness on this fast, beautiful yet challenging course. 

On June 29th, 2014, we both raced the best that we could considering all circumstances that had affected us over the past few months. 

Every athlete will toss around the thought of feeling as if they could have done more prep work before race day, especially in the taper period and race week that precedes the important race day. 

Because every athlete is going to feel and not feel prepared at certain times in a racing season, it is always important that you follow a few of the following suggestions to ensure a positive racing experience: 

-Race only with your current level of fitness - minimize the risks that you take on race day so that you can finish the race with minimal setbacks.
-Consider your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executing your race day plan.
-Be sure you have a race day plan that is flexible. 
-Trust the training that you have done and if applicable, your past fitness/racing experience.
-Don't confuse your concerns/worries about not feeling prepared with hating the racing experience. I promise that even if you don't feel prepared, you are going to figure out a way to get to the finish and enjoy crossing that finish line. 
-Never stop loving what you choose to do with your body and with your free time. Your ability to train and race is a gift. 
-Enjoy the race day experience. Maybe you aren't having a good day but someone else is and you can help them out. Don't worry, that favor will be returned when you are rocking your course and others who aren't having a great day, are rooting for you to finish strong. 
-Never stop believing in yourself. 10% undertrained is far better than 1% overtrained. 




The day was not easy for us and after eight Ironman races, I can assure you that I have never felt as if the Ironman day was easy. This is one very important thing that I carry with me as I am racing for 10+ hours...it is NOT suppose to be easy!
The Ironman does not just hand out that medal to anyone, you have to earn it!

Karel and I gave our best effort and left it all out on the course. We love to train smart but we also love to race smart. This means that we are OK to take some risks at times but we also have experience in how to overcome situations when the risks do not work in our favor. We are also ok with our ego's in that if the day does not turn out as we planned, we are still going to fight to get to that finish line. Run, jog, walk, crawl...unless it is medically related, neither one of us our quitters. 

We both respect the Ironman distance. Feeling prepared is great but there are many uncertainties on race day and that is why I feel virgin Ironman athletes should not go into an Ironman with overly ambitious goals. Of course, this statement is coming from someone who wanted to qualify for Kona after her first IM and then I ended up winning the 18-24 age group by almost an hour....but still, I dealt with a lot of "new" things on race day that I somehow was able to overcome. 

The Ironman requires experience, good mental strength (you will realize this when you get to the marathon if you are currently training for your first IM) and the ability to overcome obstacles all day long.

But above all, the Ironman day is to be shared with many people and not just yourself. It requires a lot of people, friends and support to help you start and finish the race. 

I'm incredibly greatly to 110% Play Harder and Oakley Women for helping me race in style but also with quality gear to support my active lifestyle. 
My mom, brother and close family and friends, thank you for supporting this crazy lifestyle that Karel and I enjoy with our free time and disposable income. 
To all the Trimarni fans - thank you so much for your ongoing support. I am so proud to live my life so that I can help others reach personal goals and dreams.
Thank you Gloria for always having the right thing to say at the right time. It's the thoughtful, yet appropriate emails that I get before a race that really make a positive difference in how I approach my race day experience. 
And thank you to the Trimarni coaching and nutrition athletes who inspire me and Karel with your ongoing commitment and dedication to your sport as you balance work, family and life. 

The race reports will be coming soon once I gather the right words to talk about our perfectly executed day with two bodies that didn't feel 100% prepared BUT were super excited to race. 

The Ironman Austria140.6 mile course was filled with lots of cheering spectators, great weather conditions (even with the rain on the bike) and endless spectacular views. 
Ironman Austria, thank you for a perfect day of racing! 

Thanks everyone for your support, we channeled all the positive energy from our amazing friends, family and Trimarni fans!

We would also like to thank my dad, who is not with us, but loved the Ironman day when I raced and we both proudly wore his favorite hats and felt his presence all day (especially when we both needed his strength on the run!).

Final stats:
Karel: (2nd Ironman)
1:07:10 - 2.4 mile swim (PR)
T1: 4:10
4:56:23 - 112 mile bike (PR)
T2: 3:51
3:11:17 - 26.2 mile run (PR,wowzer- 9th fastest AG!!!)
Total: 9:22:51
22nd AG/439 starters, 124th overall
41 minute PR!! So proud of you Karel !!! I just LOVE sharing the excitement and pains of racing an Ironman with you! So sorry that you are way too fast and have to wait for me for almost an hour 

Marni (8th Ironman- thank you body!)
Swim 2.4 mile - 1:00:13 (PR....err, still so close to breaking that hour mark!)
T1: 5:18
Bike 112 miles - 5:29:07 (PR)
T2: 3:48
Run: 3:39:09 (BIG PR... Yay!)
Total: 10:17:35
7th AG/57 starters, 31st female, 18th amateur female
21 minute PR!!


And lastly, thanks to the best furry child ever! 
We love that you approach life with unconditional love and excitement every day!
Every day is a winning day for Campy!



Also a big thank you to INFINIT nutrition for keeping my tummy happy and my body fueled during my training To Trek Bicycles for making safe, speed machines for me to drive with my body. To 110% Play Harder for helping me play hard and recover harder. To Brooks Running for keeping my feet and hips happy and to Oakley Women for knowing how to help a woman in motion look stylish and sporty with quality gear!!!! And to Gloria for helping me stay mentally strong in life and in sport.