Karel and I packed all our gear bags on Friday and I also prepared my bike and run bottles with sport nutrition powder (and special needs bottles) which made Saturday much less stressful.
But nevertheless, the butterflies were not yet in formation in my belly as I was full of nervous excitement.
I was feeling a bit more nervous than normal as I normally don't get too nervous for an Ironman but I am constantly reminded by Gloria that nerves are a good thing - it means you care and you are ready.
On Saturday morning, I woke up around 5:30am as the sun was peaking through the window. After a few nights without AC, we purchased a fan which helped to cool off our bedroom as it was getting warm out (in the 80's during the day and 60's at night).
It's amazing how bright it gets so early and how long it takes in the evening for the sun to set. The days seem long and my jet-lagged body was not liking the already short nights.
While I felt I slept OK on Friday night (my first "real" sleep in 6 days), I knew I was still struggling to get my body into it's normal routine (sleep, GI system, mind and body), even after being in Europe since Monday of race week.
Around 8am, my mom and I made our way down to the race venue by bike so that she could start day #3 of her volunteer duties at registration. Renting a bike (for only 30 euros for the week!) was the best thing for us as we only lived about 2.5 miles from the race venue (in downtown Klagenfurt) so it was easy for my mom to get to and from the race venue on two wheels. And thankfully, we are in a super bike friendly area where everyone bikes around and there are many trails just for bikes. The cars really respect bikers and walkers which is nice (gas is expensive here!).
My mom is an expert Ironman volunteer as she has done it many times in the past and she loves helping out the athletes before the race. This race was unique as it was in Europe so aside from Kona for the IM World Championship, she had to help athletes who spoke many different languages.
After my mom dropped off her bike in the bike parking lot (yep - a section in the parking lot just for bikes), I continued riding for another 15 minutes before heading back to the race venue for the 9am, English speaking mandatory athlete briefing.
Karel started his ride after me and because of his back and hip pain, he wanted me to do my own pre-race warm-up so that I could focus on myself as he knows that I use a lot of my energy on him because I care about him so much and he wanted me to stay in my zone to get myself ready and to not worry about him.
Karel and I eventually met up at the athlete briefing at 9am which was very well done with a big screen and announcer to explain every little detail about the race.
Because of the predicted weather, the race directors were a bit nervous as we were suppose to have 100% thunderstorms all day on race day but thankfully, the weather changed to only storms/rain in the afternoon.
We were also suppose to have big storms on Saturday but it only rained a little over night.
After the 1 hour athlete briefing, I continued on with my pre-race warm-up and rode for about an hour on the race course through Maria Worth and included a few leg openers to wake-up my body. I was really excited about my deeper rear dish wheel from Alto Cycling (first time using it in a race but I rode several long rides with it to get use to it) and my newly fixed electronic shifting on my right base bar.
In case you didn't hear about my little freak out (while Karel remained completely calm):
Sadly, in route to Europe, my basebar Di2 shifting stopped working with the cause unknown. Karel thought maybe a cable snapped but all was good inside the bike.
While pre-riding the race course (60 miles) on Wednesday, we rolled by Triasport which looked to be a higher-end bike shop.
Thankfully, the owner spoke English so Karel was able to discuss what had happened. After the owner spent a long time on the phone trying to see what he could do, they were able to order me a new right side brake lever from Germany, for it to be overnighted to arrive on Thursday. They also gave us a great euro discount which was much appreciated as this was an unexpected purchase!!
Although I could have still raced with only my right side aerobar electronic shifting (the brake worked just fine, it was just the shifting on the base bar that wasn't working to change my small cassette), Karel knew that I was very uncomfortable with this situation. I absolutely love my electronic shifting and it has helped me become a more confident rider as I feel much safer and more efficient when I can shift from both my base bars and aero bars.
When we picked up the part on Friday, Karel was ready to get to work in the afternoon before the athlete pre-race banquet. Thankfully, I married the best bike mechanic in the world (seriously, he's that good) and with the tools that he brought with him from home (always thinking!) and from his dad's workshop in Czech, I played bike stand for over an hour while Karel rerouted the cables and installed the new brake lever.
And it worked!
Thank you Karel for once again, coming to my rescue and for taking great care of me and my bike needs!
I told Karel that I would ride extra fast for him on race day and use my gears a lot :)
After my bike warm-up, I returned back to our rental flat and transitioned quickly to the run. I debated between my new New Balance Zante which I have been wearing for the past few weeks (Karel got a pair back in April and absolutely loves them so I decided to try them out) and my Brooks Launch (which I wear on my easy run days). I left my Pure Flows at home (Karel and I each have 3 pairs of shoes that we rotate around for different workouts).
The Zante have a 6mm drop and Launch have a 10mm drop.
For some reason, I didn't feel the best running on Thursday with the Zante and thought it was just from the travel and my first time running since Sunday. But something in me thought that the Zante were not the best shoes for me for this race with the sand and the cobblestones. But then again, normally I wear Brooke Pure Flow (4mm drop).
I decided to transition into my Launch shoes for my pre-race warm-up and instantly I felt so light on my feet. It just felt good and if there is one thing you need in an Ironman, it's having happy feet in your shoes for 26.2 miles.
Yes - these will be my Ironman shoes!
After a 15 min warm-up on the run course with a few pick ups, I went back to the flat to try on the New Balance once more just to confirm my decision. I did a few more minutes of jogging outside and felt confident in my decision to wear the Launch, last minute, for the race.
Please be mindful that I don't suggest this strategy on the day before an Ironman - wear what you have practiced in training.
After a recovery drink (Clif recovery and milk and a glass of OJ) and a meal (eggs, bread w/ farmers cheese spread and fruit), I repacked my transition bags as I was officially ready to check in all my gear.
After Karel returned home from his bike/run warm-up (he said he felt OK but not great - his back was still bothering him on the bike), we both rested for a little bit before a light lunch and then we left for the race venue around 2:30pm (bike check in from 1-7pm)
We parked at the Minimundus parking lot and then walked over to the transition area. If you don't know much about this race venue, the transition area is huge to accommodate 3000 athletes and there is a very long run from the swim exit to the transition area.
Here we are in our euro "van" - perfect for all our stuff but not so perfect for navigating through the tiny streets and parking spaces in Klagenfurt.
And did I mention that this van is a stick shift?
Although Karel has had fun driving this around (even parallel parking it several times), he was ready to return it on Tues when we arrived back in Czech.
At the bike check in, we were required to wear our race belts (to be worn on us, while we are on the bike) and helmet. There are several checks to get through the transition area with the last check being the chip check to receive your chip.
It was nice to see my name on a name tag but sadly, my bike did not rest comfortable through the night as it was squeezed between two bikes on a very tight rack packed with female bikes.
Perhaps one day my wheels will touch the ground.
Maybe I should start dreaming big to grow a few more inches.
As for Karel, his AWA status got him a prime spot near the bike in and out area.
After racking my bike, I hung up my run bag in it's designated spot (with my run shoes in a plastic zip lock due to the predicted rain shower over night).
And then I dropped off my bike bag. Same for my cycling shoes and socks, I had them in a ziplock bag instead my transition bag.
You are not allowed to use ribbons or alter your bag in any way here at Ironman Austria.
I mentally walked myself through the big transition area one more time before exiting the transition area (with my chip) to see my mom who was waiting for us.
The volunteers were amazing in transition area. The girl who helped me told me that her school class drove to Klagenfurt from another area in Austria to volunteer for the race. She was really excited to help out and she had never seen an Ironman before. She was very helpful.
It's really incredible how the volunteers and spectators treat the athletes here in Austria - I constantly felt special and welcomed in Klagenfurt as an Ironman athlete.
And to top it off, all of the female triathletes at Ironman Austria received a beautiful rose.
Out of ~3000 athletes there were only 273 female finishers.
Girl power to the female athletes who raced in this male dominated race!
After bike check in, we made a quick stop at the Spar grocery store for some last minute dinner items (eggs and rice for me - keeping it simple like usual) and then it was time to rest, eat and sleep.
I received a great pep talk from Karel to remind me of my race strategy. While the strategy did not include any paces, watts or times, it did include words like suffer, stay mentally strong, you can do it, believe in yourself, you trained harder than you have ever trained before, you are in great shape and you will do great.
He also told me that no matter what happened to him during the race, to not worry about him. He wanted me to only focus on myself. Karel wasn't sure how long his body would last as he didn't want to race through pain and risk further issues going into IM Mont Tremblant. He was also prepared to withdrawal from the race if needed.
It was the perfect pre-race talk as I know I have a tendency to let my body get comfortable in the Ironman when it comes to racing. I tend to race with one speed and just hold it. This time, I needed to accept that although I may feel comfortable at times, I will not always feel comfortable and I needed my mind to be prepared for what I trained my body to do on Sunday.
I needed to mentally prepare for the hurt that comes with racing an Ironman at this level and to not let my mind be my limiter. I continued to remind myself that I am very healthy, strong and injury free. I could not ask for a better way to go into an Ironman.
While I consider myself a mentally strong athlete on race day, I knew that if I wanted to do something that I have never done before with my body, Karel was right - I needed to get my mind ready for 140.6 miles of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Before I went to bed, I received an email from Gloria and the quote she sent me was just perfect - I told her that I would carry it with me in my mind through my entire race.
"You must find the place inside yourself where nothing is impossible." -Deepak Chopra