7/2/16

IM Austria race report - 112 mile bike


(this picture was not from race day but the same view we got to enjoy for much of 112 miles!)


As I was settling into my rhythm on the bike for the short out and back section, I kept the effort very easy - light on the pedals.
Karel told me that my "race effort" would start after I left Maria Worth as I was nearing the round about by the town of Velden. I needed to give myself time before settling into my Ironman bike "race effort" as I was ready to give a very sustainably hard (relatively speaking for an Ironman) effort on the bike for Ironman Austria.

This year I have made/seen some big and exciting improvements on the bike - but as we all know, this didn't happen overnight. Seeing that I married a cat 1 cyclist turned triathlete, I really had no choice that I was going to become a good cyclist whether I liked it or not - thankfully, I learned to love cycling!
The truth is that my cycling has been an ongoing developmental process starting with an evolving bike fit (by Karel) to help my glutes work harder on the bike and to not tire out my quads. Specifically this season I did a lot of work on the trainer to help with my pedaling mechanics, with better chain tension with variable cadence (to help me climb better sitting and standing).  And of course, since moving to Greenville 2 years ago, I am more confident riding my bike in all types of terrain and know how to change my gears properly when anticipating different terrain.
So as much as I wish I could tell you a;; the magic key workouts that have helped my cycling, the truth is that I have not doing anything extreme with my cycling training - I simply dedicated myself to improving my skills, learned how to ride my bike and improved my confidence when riding on two wheels.
(Thank you Karel!)

My longest bike was 5 hours (about 85 miles) although I had one intentional overload cycling week (4 weeks out) where I did 3 long rides (4.5 hours, 5 hours and 4 hours within 7 days - all with a run off the bike. This same week I did a lot of run frequency as well. It was my biggest week of training in my IM training block (which lasted about 5 weeks) but the rest of my "long" bikes were around 3.5-4 hours with only a few 4.5 hour rides. 


I felt like I was flying through Maria Worth as the first section is fast. There are a few "bumps" in the road but overall, it's a great start to an Ironman after swimming for 2.4 miles.

I noticed in front of me that there was a girl with a motorcycle escort ahead of me. I was a bit confused by this because I was getting closer to her and I wasn't too sure of why an age grouper would have an escort. The first thought was maybe she was the top age grouper and they had a lead vehicle with her but as I  got closer and spotted her bib number around her waist on her back and it was a very low number (we were required to wear our bib numbers on our back - on our race belt - on the bike since we had no body markings. We also had 3 numbers on our helmet - front and both sides). I was able to see the back of the sign on the motorcycle and it read "3rd Austrian woman" or something like that.

While I have exited the water close to female professionals in the past at an Ironman, it was only a matter of time until I looked like I was riding backwards as they were riding quickly away from me.

This was certainly a first as I was staying very close to the professional female ahead of me. However, eventually she did ride away.

Seeing that I had no assigned watts, heart rate or speed to hold but instead, to just stay up with my nutrition (1 bottle per hour of 300 calories + additional water as needed from aid stations) and to go all by feel and occasionally check in with my metrics, when I approached the round about by Veldon I was ready to focus for the next 4+ hours.



As I approached the first climb, I felt good but didn't want to do anything crazy.
With two loops, 180K and 4-5 climbs (3 being significant climbs), it was really important that even though I was willing and ready to give an effort like I have never given before on the bike, I didn't want to ruin my race in the first 20K.

Compared to 2014 Ironman Austria, I felt much more confident on the bike course  And seeing that we were predicted to have rain later in the day (just like we had in 2014), I felt like I would be able to ride more comfortably in the rain on this terrain (in 2014 I rode a bit too scared).

I kept waiting for Karel to pass me but after finishing the Faaker See climb and then finishing the first loop of our course (see the map above to understand the loops within the loop course), I was nearing 50K and no sign of Karel.
I knew that there was a good chance that he wouldn't feel good on the bike based on how he had been feeling on race week but I hoped that a miracle would happen and he would be able to ride pain free. I knew how much he was looking forward to IM Austria, especially the bike course.

I can't say enough about this bike course - cute villages, the screaming spectators, the awesome volunteers at the aid stations (seriously - they were so awesome), the unbelievable breathtaking mountain views, the smooth silky terrain between the villages, the long fun and fast descends (nothing too technical) and the challenging climbs to break up the course.

I felt a little tired (sleep tired) in the first 90 minutes of the bike and I knew it wasn't from being low on calories but probably just from poor sleep habits on race week due to a bad case of jet lag. I stayed up on my nutrition with my liquid calories (4-5 sips every 10-15 minutes and as needed) plus water at aid stations and although my body felt good and I felt sharp, my eyes were sleepy.

It was around the time when I was having a little low that you know who rolls up behind me and I can spot a flash of orange right next to me.

The first thing he said was "Wow babe, you are doing great."

Karel passed me a little after 60K as we were nearing the last big climb (which is a long and tough one - it just keeps going and going and going)  of our first loop and later did he tell me that he couldn't believe that it took him that long to catch me on the bike. Usually he passes me within 30-40 min of the bike.

I told Karel that I thought I was near the top of the amateurs as he rode away....with a small group of other guys trying to stay with him (they didn't last long).

I could see Karel in the distance starting the climb and as he was switching from getting out of the saddle and then sitting and climbing, I could tell that he had his normal riding style - which was relieving (later did he tell me that his hips felt fine but he did feel a bit of tightness in his back but better than the days prior).

This was a great pick-me up and after the long climb, I was back to business again.

The last 30K of the first loop is very fast with a few slightly technical areas through villages (but nothing crazy hard or scary). The roads are wide open and you can almost always see where you are going with nothing significant to make you squeeze on your breaks for a turn or switch back. Despite the challenging climbs, if you can climb efficiently, this can be a very fast course (which it is known to be one of the fastest IM bike courses despite 5300+ feet of climbing).

As I was finishing the loop, in the last 30K, a girl rode up next to me (actually, this happened near the last big long climb) and I noticed on her bib number that she was in the 18-24 age group. While this didn't concern me that she wasn't in my age group, I wasn't sure how many female amateurs were close behind me on the bike so I used her as my rabbit and tried my best to stay with her. She was very strong on the bike and was able to stay with others a bit better than me (legally drafting) as I was still trying to manage my efforts and I didn't want to waste everything I had on the first loop.

With the rolling start, the drafting was much less of an issue this year compared to when we raced in 2014. For many times during the bike, I rode by myself for miles and miles with no one in sight. There were a few times when I was passed by guys or a few small groups of 4-8 guys near each other but never 20+ athletes riding in a pack together.

Oh, I forgot to mention that throughout the bike, I had a motorcycle next time me with a photographer taking pictures of me. He would stay with me for several minutes. At this point, I finally realized that I was somewhere near the top of the amateur race which just blew my mind. Seriously, me??...at Ironman Austria with very strong and fast females amateurs?

After a fun and fast 10K wheeeeeew, let's fly, aero-action ride, I was nearing town and the girl who I was riding with was out of my sight so now she was out of mind. Time to refocus and get ready for lap #2.

As I was nearing the "hot corner" near transition to start loop #2, the announcer yelled "Here is Marni Sumbal, our 2nd female age group athlete". 

Well, now that it was official, I was willing to take some risks and give it what I had to have the ride of my life. I paced myself as well as I could on the first loop (which is hard when you are about to burst with energy after taper) and fueled as well as I could on the first loop so now, I just had to sustain my effort. I knew that I would slow down due to fatigue (hills seem to grow on loop two of an IM course - always!) and with the sky turning dark, I continued to hit lap on my Garmin to focus only on 30 minutes at a time - that is all I could control.
I would often find myself thinking about the run and how my legs would feel after this bike but I forced myself to stay present.

I did stop at special needs for 3 more filled sport nutrition bottles and although it was quick (I asked the volunteer to put my bottles in my cages for me so that I could stretch), I really enjoyed this stop at 92K to just put my feet on the ground and relax for a few seconds. Then I was off again for a solo ride all the way to Velden (with maybe a small handful of guys passing me).

For some reason, I grabbed a coke near Velden thinking that it would wake me up but looking back, I don't think that was a good idea as I have done this in the past and have ended up with GI issues on the run (despite being able to tolerate coke on the run just fine). Perhaps with my GI system not becoming regular due to jet lag, the combination of coke + sport nutrition + effort was a bit too much in my tummy.

I didn't want to back off on my calories too much but I needed my gut to empty some of the contents so I gave myself about 20 minutes or so of no nutrition to see if I could get things to empty. While I wasn't too worried about it as it wasn't that uncomfortable while cycling, I was just a little worried about the run. 

I also didn't let it get to me too much as I know the IM is a long day and a long event and things out of your control (even if well practiced) may happen. If I have learned one thing after 10 Ironmans (Austria being #11) - things WILL happen on race day and you have to do a good job trying to deal with them when they happen. I've never had a "perfect" race day where everything went perfect for 140.6 miles - a great race is when you can overcome what comes your way.

I had a few more low moments in the second loop but knowing the course was really helpful as there were certain sections that I was really looking forward to and I knew that I would be able to pick up some speed and get into a good place again.

As I was finishing the first loop (within our loop) again, the sky started to drizzle.
Around 60K, the sky started to pour.

For the next 30K, I rode in a pretty heavy rain shower (with a few thunders) that only let up in the last 10K (although still wet roads). I was a little worried about what the run would be like but I knew that I needed to focus on the bike as the roads were wet and I still had one big long climb to do with a lot of fast descending (and a few villages with a few tighter turns) to do in the rain.

Thankfully, I remained confident in the rain which meant I was riding safe. At times, I was even descending in the rain on my aerobars as I knew that breaking in the rain, descending, was not safe. I did not ride stupid but smart and I was really proud of myself - this was a long time in the making!

Somewhere in the last 150K, I caught back up with the 18-24 girl that had passed and dropped me around 80K. I figured she was the first amateur female so I once again tried to stay with her.

But as I got to the last tight turn through a village, I knew that riding safe was my priority. She was riding close to a small group of guys so my chances of catching her were gone.

I continued my descend back into town alone and one by one, I was being passed....by guys.

Still not another female in sight, I eased up a bit as I got my mind and body ready for the marathon (or as ready as they could get after 180K of cycling).

I switched over my Garmin (for the first time) screen from my interval screen to total time and it read 5:16 as I was nearing the transition area....holy moly! In 2014 at Ironman Austria, I rode 5:29 and I was thrilled to have finally broke 5:30.

Sub 5:20 was my scary goal (which helped me put in the work for training) going into this race and I couldn't believe it.

As I dismounted my bike, I spotted Karel's bike and smiled with relief that he had finished his bike. I was so excited to see him again on the run and hopefully see him running. If anything, I just wanted him to finish and I know "just finishing" was his goal so long as he wasn't in pain. 

I racked my bike and then ran straight to the potty to see if I could help ease my stomach a little before the run. I struggled a bit with my short sleeve tri suit to get it off which was costing me some time but finally I was in and out (what felt like forever!). I also took the time in there to remove my HR monitor since I was wearing my new Garmin 235 (with HR built into the watch on the wrist).

I grabbed my run bag and then ran into the women's changing tent.
I guess they weren't expecting me because I didn't have a volunteer helping me - I was all alone.
Finally, after I put  on my visor, watch, shoes and hydration belt, a volunteer came in as I was finishing up and she took all my gear and put it into my bag. I thanked her, popped a TUMS in my mouth and off I went.

Like usual, those first few steps off the bike, with running shoes, are scary as you have no idea how your legs will feel - fresh or heavy?

Thankfully, I felt fresh!

But sadly, it didn't last long.
Five minutes later, my legs felt heavy and I was not feeling good on the run.

Ok body - 11th Ironman, let's figure this out!

We have a marathon to run, Karel to see, my mom to say hi to and a podium to get on to!


6/30/16

IM Austria race report - 2.4 mile swim


Although my alarm was set for 3:45am, my body woke me up at 3:20am. I stayed in bed anxiously awaiting my alarm to get me up so that I could finally start my Ironman race day.

I couldn't believe today was the day that I could FINALLY put all that training to good use and release some bottled-up energy that has been hard to hold on to for the past week.

Karel woke up stiff in his back and I could tell that he was concerned about what his body would let him do on race day. I had taped Karel's back and hip on Friday which made him feel better but I knew he was not feeling even close to 100%. The good thing was that he felt no pain or issues when swimming so for the first time, he was actually looking forward to swimming and not looking forward to the bike (as the bike was causing him some issues in his back since we arrived in Austria).

I woke up with a very nervous belly and the thought of eating was not on my mind. I forced down 2 Clif Bars, a glass of OJ and a banana for a total of around 780-800 calories. I also had around 8 ounce of water.

After I ate, I filled my sport nutrition powdered-filled bottles (bike and run) with cold water and double checked that I had everything I needed for a day full of swim, bike, run.

We all (my mom included) left our place around 4:50am to drive to Minimundus (about 10 minutes away).

We made our walk to the transition area (about a 10 min walk) and it was nice to be around all the other athletes. I think of IM Austria as a European IM World Championship with the level of athletes BUT with a much less tense atmosphere. You would be surprised how many Europeans were drinking beer at the pre-race athlete banquet on Friday!

Karel was not planning to use special needs for this race so he waited for me as I dropped off my bike and run special needs bags just outside the transition area.

Karel walked with me to my bike and pumped up my tires and did one last check to give me the confidence that all was good on my bike for 112 miles of cycling.

After he pumped up my tires, I gave him a kiss and a hug as we both did our own thing to get ready for the race.  

After I put my Garmin 810 and my three bottles (each filled with 300 calories) on my bike, I walked over to my bike bag to double check that it was in the right place and then to my run bag to put my flasks (each with 100 calories of Clif Hydration) in my Nathan Mercury 2 hydration belt.

The volunteers were absolutely amazing in the transition area - they were already cheering for us and with lots of high fives. Ironman Austria does a great job of making the athletes feel extremely special and to remind us that it is our special day.

After I left transition area, I walked over to the big white tent (where we had our banquet and athlete briefing) to put on my Xterra Vengeance women's wetsuit (half way up). I grabbed my new TYR pink Special Ops 2.0 Femme Polarized goggles. I only wore them once in open water to see if I liked them and absolutely loved them. While I normally use Speedo Vanquishers, I really searched for a better goggle for me for open water. I was worried that the non adjustable nose piece would be an issue for my small face but it is the perfect fit with just enough suction around the eyes and a wide lens for sighting. While I purposely only wore them once, I had a perfect 1 hour fog-free swim in open water for my practice swim in Greenville and then twice more when we swam on race week in Lake Worthersee.

I had a throw away plastic bottle of water (about 12 ounces) to sip on and I took a small swig of a Clif Double Espresso gel.

I then dropped off my "Street Wear" bag in my designated bin (with my before/after race clothes, cell phone in a baggy, sandals and extra pair of goggles just in case I needed them).

I ran into my mom and she wished me good luck and I gave her a big hug and thanked her for being there for us today. She's such a big supporter of Karel and me and loves supporting our very active lifestyle, especially on race day.

Because I no longer wear a watch in the swim portion of a triathlon (or turn one on if I do wear one for the entire race - for IM Austria, I did not wear a watch for the swim or bike, only the run), I had no idea of the time. I wanted to make sure that I got in a warm-up between the warm-up times of 6:10-6:30am.

I looked at the watch of another athlete and it said 6:15am. Oh my!
I quickly pulled up my wetsuit and put on my cap and goggles.

I hurried my way through the packed crowds to enter the Strandband building and finally made it to the area where we could warm-up.

I spotted Karel warming up but I had no time to chat as I needed to adjust my wetsuit (with water inside) and do my go-to swim warm-up with 10,20,30 fast strokes with equal strokes recovery. I do this a few times after smooth swimming for a few minutes to get the blood flowing.

I finally had a chance to talk to Karel in the water around 6:28am and I told him that I felt very nervous. I didn't want to talk about my nerves to him as I knew he was dealing with a lot but he told me I would do great.
We gave each other one last kiss for good luck and then both walked over to the corrals for the swim line up for the rolling start.

As I was walking over to the corrals, I had all the typical thoughts of "what if my body won't perform, what if I feel flat, what if I have a bad day" and I needed to stop thinking about the what ifs. I told myself that my body would know what to do and I was very anxious to just get started.

Karel ended up ahead of me in the corrals as we both lined up in front of the sub 1-hour group. For 10 years (since I started Ironman racing) I have been determined to break 1 hour for the 2.4 mile swim. I have came close many times with the last time in Austria with 1 hour and 13 seconds (errrr).

As I stood in line, more and more people were jumping over the fence and it was getting tighter and tighter. After the Austria anthem, the pro's started (6:40am and 6:42am) and then at 6:50am, it was time for the age group rolling start. I found myself around a lot of guys and some girls that I knew would be fast in the water (or else they would not have lined up where they did).

The music was pumping and the energy was building and as the line started moving forward, it was officially go time.

I absolutely LOVE the rolling start and I find it safe, much less stressful and scary and more relaxed than a mass start. Plus, with my experience, I have always swam faster with a rolling start compared to a mass start as you can line up with athletes of similar swim abilities.

I walked my way over the start line and then ran into the water. After a few dolphin dives, my 2016 Ironman Austria had officially started!


I absolutely love swimming in Lake Worthersee. Immediately, my stroke felt good in the water. It was a little chaotic in the beginning but in no time, I found myself swimming with a few girls (white caps and a few gold for AWA athletes) but mostly guys.
Karel said he saw me swimming (thanks to my black and purple wetsuit) but after a few strokes, he said I was gone and he couldn't hang with me. 


There were several orange/red buoys on the course and with the advice of Karel, I mentally broke down the first ~1200 meters to the turn buoy into 12 x 100 meters. While I had no way to know exactly where I was, this is all I thought about to help me keep a steady pace.
I didn't really have a race strategy for the swim except for to swim strong in the water.
As I was swimming, I actually felt fast in the water. I was staying with a group of guys and a few girls which was new for me as I typically have trouble drafting in the swim. I was staying on course really well (I was sighting and not relying on the group I was with) but sometimes I would find myself a little to the right where I wanted to be closer to the other athletes. I don't feel this affected me much as I was able to find clean water for efficient strokes for the first long stretch to the turn buoy.

When I saw athletes turning, I thought "wow - already?" as it didn't feel that long.

I made the turn and saw that I had dropped a few girls. I was swimming with another girl and still hanging with a lot of guys.

The next 470 meters went by fast. I still felt really strong and fast in the water and at times, I almost felt like I could pick up the pace. I was staying very present while swimming (and not thinking about the bike) and I was really enjoying this swim. While the water temperature was "warm" enough for the pros to not wear wetsuit, it was wetsuit legal for the age groupers. I found myself a little warm at times but nothing that was concerning. It was the perfect air and water temperature.
I felt like I was holding myself back a bit for the first 1600 meters, until we made our last turn around the turn buoy to head back straight to the canal (1100 meters) so I gave myself permission to pick up the pace a bit.

With the sun in our eyes, I was able to sight on two tall trees in the distance that Karel and I strategically picked out during our practice swim to make it easier to stay on course. While we were instructed to keep all buoys to our left, the race director set up another set of buoys to our right to help us stay on course as the sun can get pretty bright when swimming toward the canal.

I was still staying on course and I found myself passing a lot more swimmers. At times, I was swimming alone, which was fine to avoid being hit but I didn't want to waste any energy in the swim so I picked up the pace just a tad to try to catch a group ahead of me. While this didn't wear me out, it made me feel like I had more to give in the swim and with the canal approaching, I was feeling like now was the time to really give it a strong effort.

When I spotted the "white house" to my right, I new the canal was coming soon.
For the next 1000 meters, I was packed in with a group of guys in our tight 20-meter wide canal. At certain parts, the canal was shallow but I strategically wanted to get to the outside so that I could continue taking full strokes. I was able to move to the far left and found myself swimming really fast. I could see the crowds on my right and left and you could hear the loud cheers from the spectators.

The energy was building and after I went under the bridge walkway in the canal, I really picked up the pace. At this point, I had dropped the guys that I was swimming with and I was in clean water, all by myself.

Nearing the swim exit before the right hand turn, I was anxious to see the time on the clock to see my swim time. Part of me was nervous to see the time as I knew I would be disappointed to see anything over an hour but then again, like I tell my athletes, whatever happens in the swim, you have to forget about it and move on because there is nothing you can do about it.

As I made the right hand turn, I spotted to look at the clock and couldn't find it. I looked again and no clock.

I chuckled to myself and thought that maybe this was meant to be - I wouldn't know my swim time until after the race.

I swam to the swim exit and the volunteers helped me out of the water. I ran up the steep platform to get out of the water and then took off my cap and goggles. I pulled down my wetsuit to my waist and while taking off my right arm of my wetsuit, I left my goggles and cap inside so that I wouldn't drop them (and wouldn't have to carry them). 

I didn't hear my mom but she was there cheering for me and snapped this pic (no your eyes aren't messed up, it is blurry :) My mom apologizes about the picture- she said I was moving too fast!
Thanks mom for the cheers that I didn't hear!


I made the loooong run to transition and wasted no time. I grabbed my bike bag from the rack (while noticing that no other bags on my rack were missing) and into the female changing tent.

There I was alone in the female changing tent with my own volunteer helping me out.
I had her wipe of my feet with my towel to dry them off as I put on my helmet and sunglasses. I then put on my socks (I was wearing CEP calf sleeves under my wetsuit - I normally wear compression socks in an IM but I didn't want to waste anytime at this race in transition - it's free speed!) and my cycling shoes. I asked the volunteer to put some extra nutrition into my pockets (gels, bar, blocks) and she nicely told me she would pack up my bag (otherwise, I would have had to do it as instructed by the race directors and then place the bag in a bin).

Deep inside, I just needed some type of confirmation that I did or didn't break an hour and I asked her the time of the day (since we started at 6:50am) and she said 7:52am. I figured the transition took me at least 3 minutes so I thought to myself that there was a good chance that I broke an hour.
While I didn't have any way to confirm this, I was thrilled with the time of the day regardless of my swim time (1:02 after the race started and I was about to run to my bike).
As I was about to leave the changing tent, I asked her if she knew how many girls were ahead of me.
She responded "I think 6".

I figured age groupers so I thought that I was still in a good position in the race as I was feeling really confident (and excited) to be on my bike.

I ran out of the changing tent and made my way on the red carpet to my bike. I powered on my Garmin and then ran my bike all the way to the bike out. I looked for Karel's bike (just to see if he beat me out of the water) but wasn't able to locate his bike among all the other bikes. I guess I would see him on the bike, eventually, if all was ok with his back.

When I mounted my bike, the crowds were intense. For less than 1/2 mile, we have a quick out and back (with a turn around a cone) which is super spectator friendly. I spotted my mom on the other side of the barricades.
When I made the turn around to head her direction, the announcer said "and here is our first amateur female out of the water."

Although I heard him correctly, I was positive he was confused as the volunteer told me I was around 6th out of the water (based on her guessing).

Regardless, I gave him a thumbs up and then waved to my mom.

I settled into my comfortable aero position it was finally time to see if all my hard work on the bike was going to pay off as I was determined to see how close I could get to the other female age groupers who were ahead of me (or so I thought).

Off I went for 180 kilometers and 5500 feet (1680 meters) of challenging and fast fun on two wheels! 

--------------------
As for Karel's swim, he said he felt really comfortable in the water.. He really prefers the rolling start as it helps him stay calm when he enters the water which sets the tone for the rest of the race. Whereas in 2014, at Ironman Austria Karel swam 1:07, he was super excited about a PR swim of 1:03 this year. Karel wore his ROKA swim goggles and Xterra wetsuit.
Karel has continued to make huge improvements in the swim as he puts in the work in the pool by swimming at least 4 times per week, with specific workouts to keep him focused and excited to swim.
We have also done more open water swimming (Lake Hartwell at Clemson) this season, more than ever before.
In addition to his swim toys (snorkel, ankle strap, buoy, FINIS agility paddles), he has been wearing SIM shorts (by ROKA) in the pool for most of his pool workouts since the winter (sometimes he swims without them and sometimes he takes them off for the main set) and they have really helped him as he keeps his energy (and good form) in the water for each workout longer (whereas without the shorts, he would get tired and lose form faster) which has really helped him gain a lot of swim fitness this season.
 Yes, I said it - he actually enjoys swimming.
While he doesn't have the same joy as I do for swimming (especially early in the morning - he prefers evening swims), he has really worked hard for his swimming improvements. While it's not always easy in the pool or open water, Karel continues to put in the work and it's really paying off! 

6/29/16

IM Austria race report - Pre-Race



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.
Score!


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

6/28/16

2016 Ironman Austria finishers



Dreaming big is easy.
It's free, it it's not physically exhausting and anyone can do it, at any age or fitness ability.

Dreaming big is a necessary part of goal setting.

If you can't visualize yourself achieving your goals it's going to be very hard to believe your goal is worth achieving.

And if you can't believe in yourself, you will likely not work hard enough to make your dream turn into a reality.

Eight months ago I started my 2016 season (foundation phase) with one big scary goal.

To be on the podium at the 2016 Ironman Austria for my age group (30-34). 

For 8 months, I stayed present for almost every workout.
Sometimes I lost motivation, felt too tired or found myself "too busy" to train but I never lost sight of my goal.

I followed my training plan and took great care of my body to stay consistent with training.

I didn't question the workouts that Karel gave me because we had a game plan for this season.
 (and with the help of Matt Dixon with Purplepatch Fitness, who is Karel's coach) 

With 10 Ironman races behind me, including 4 Ironman World Championship, Karel knew that I didn't need any more endurance in my body.
Karel knows I can go long all day and will be happy in my comfort zone.

So this season - Karel took me waaaaayyyy outside my comfort zone. 

And I loved it. 
I trained like I have never trained before and that kept me excited to put in the work day after day, week after week and month after month. I loved seeing my progress week after week but certainly, I had those stale moments when I questioned if the plan was still working.

I swam more frequently than I have ever swam before as a triathlete (4-5 days per week).
I biked more on the trainer than ever before (weekly rides) and rode mostly my long rides outside. My longest peak IM training ride was 5 hours (about 85 miles) and most of my "long" rides were around 3.5-4.5 hours.
I did a lot of brick runs.
I did a lot of strength training, mobility work and hip/glute work.
I ran a lot - not long but frequently. And most of my running was on the treadmill. My longest peak IM training run was 13 miles (at Rev3 Knoxville).

I worked extremely hard when I was told to go hard and I went easy when I was told to go easy. My mind got in my way a lot and I had to learn how to use my mind wisely.
I never became gadget obsessed and didn't focus on metrics. I never trained with the intention of swimming, biking or running x-pace on race day. I simply trained as smart as I could to stay consistent with training. The more consistently I trained, the more anxiously, nervously excited I became that I was going to be able to do something amazing with my body on race day.
I never had to miss a workout because of a sickness or injury.

While I felt like I was doing a lot of "new" things this season, I constantly reminded myself that I've made a lot of mistakes and have overcome a lot of obstacles in the past 10 years as an endurance triathlete.
Thank goodness for those mistakes and setbacks!

Those were simply lessons in my athletic development to get me to where I am today.

Knowing that training consistently (and enjoying my training) would help me move closer to my Ironman Austria goal, Karel knew where I could gain the most with my fitness (swim and bike) and where I could possible lose the most with my fitness (running), depending on how we set up my training plan, workout volume, intensity and frequency and periodization.

This season I needed to get myself into great physical shape (while keeping myself very healthy) but I needed to mentally prepare to suffer like I've never suffered before - in training and on race day. 

Karel and I raced Ironman Austria in 2014 and we fell in love with the race venue, the crowd and volunteer support, the course, the atmosphere, the finish line experience and most of all, the high level of competition that brought out a level of racing that we never thought was possible in either of us.

In order to achieve something amazing with my body on race day, I needed to be in great health. 
I needed support from a team who believed in me when I questioned the craziness of this goal - especially when Karel told me he thought I was capable of breaking 10 hours (thank you Karel and Gloria for your ongoing support)
Thank you to my mom and close friends who "get me".

To reach a big scary goal, I needed consistency in training and a lot of ambition.
I am thankful for great triathlon guidance from Tower 26 podcast and Purplepatch Fitness, and our PT friends Chris, Drew and Kent and the amazing Dr. Cassas who always seems to have time for us despite a busy work schedule.

This season, I remained presently focused but not obsessed, with my training as life and happiness can not revolve around one goal.

I had a deep inner fuel to work very hard.
I needed this scary goal to help me stay motivated.
I needed great teamwork and teammates to keep me enjoying this Ironman journey (thank you to my Trimarni coaching athletes and my fun, girl power bike partner Meredith and the awesome Greenville triathlon crew).

You can't expect that everything will come easily when you are training for an Ironman but above all, you have to believe in yourself that you can do whatever it is you want to do if you are smart and patient.

Athletic dreams do not come easily, especially if you set a goal that seems impossibly possible to achieve.

On June 26th 2016 I not only conquered my big dream goal of placing on the podium at the 2016 Ironman Austria but I achieved more than I thought was possible from my body.

It's very hard to describe this Ironman Austria experience.

I've always loved racing a high level of competition but to combine it with this 140.6 mile course, I suppose the best was brought out of my body and mind on race day.

Amazingly, this course brought out the best in Karel too.
When I grow up, I want to be able to suffer like Karel.

Karel's body has been giving him some issues over the past year and every time he feels he is in the "best" shape, something comes up with his body which makes it difficult for him to train like he wants to train. This has been mentally and physically exhausting for both of us. It's been extremely sad at times and also frustrating knowing that he is trying to do all the right things but his body doesn't always cooperate.

Surprisingly, Karel shocked himself with his race performance at Ironman Austria. We say this honestly as Karel was in a tremendous amount of pain in his hip/groin in the 3 weeks leading up to this race after a MRI showed an impingement in his right hip so his training had to be significantly adjusted. Not to mention, he was in some agonizing back pain in the 72 hours leading up to this race but thankfully. Karel and I are against steroid shots and aggressive, quick-fix treatments so thankfully we have a great team of docs and PTs helping us out with good advice.

Most of the time, time just heals those injuries/niggles/issues.

But for Karel, time was running out before Ironman Austria so he came to terms with his body and just stayed optimistic that maybe all will be OK on race day and if not, he came to terms that if he had to pull out of the race, I would have to take one for team Sumbal and race my heart out for both of us.  

Although I still feel like this is all a dream, I know it's real.

To be able to share my on-paper, near perfect race day performance with Karel is an absolute dream come true.
(behind the scenes, this race was not so perfect for me so stay tuned for more details coming soon)

I am still so in love with Karel after 10 years of us living a highly active lifestyle together and for those who know me well, I love sharing this crazy, roller coaster of emotions, triathlon lifestyle with Karel.

Karel finished 9th AG (out of 500+ in his 40-44 AG) with a 9-min PR and his fastest Ironman swim (1:03) and fastest ever marathon run (3:06.0 - 5 minute PR).
Sadly, with only 5 Kona slots in his age group, he missed a slot by less than 2 minutes.
But that is ok as he is thrilled with his race and how his body miraculously performed here in Austria and it was never his intention to Kona qualify here as he has IMMT in 8 weeks where he hopes to Kona qualify.

While the real race day performance is best told by the athlete talking about his/her execution and what she/he had to overcome to get to the finish line, and not by race times and places, I am incredibly thankful to my body for what it allowed me to do on race day.

I just finished my 11th Ironman event.
I had a 11-min PR with an overall time of 10:06.
I had the fastest overall female swim (57.04) and finally broke an hour in the Ironman swim (it only took 10 years!)
I had an 11-min PR on the bike with a time of 5:18.00 (with the last 60+ minutes in the pouring rain).
And despite some major GI issues to start the run (which lasted for about 10 miles), after five potty stops (1 in T2 and then 4 on the run course), I overcome what I thought was not possible on the run (to keep running) and somehow I still managed to run a respectable marathon time for myself of 3:42:57.

I finished 10th overall female, 4th amateur female, fastest American amateur female and achieved my season goal/dream of placing on the podium at an international Ironman event (2nd AG).

As for going to Kona for the 2016 Ironman World Championship, I was not chasing the one Kona slot in my age group.
I went into this race to be the best athlete that I could be without any goals for what needed to happen to get me somewhere after this race.
All my focus was on this one day.

I went into this race knowing that I gave everything I could to prepare mentally and physically for this race and took risks like I have never taken before during an Ironman race. I did all of this because I will now take a temporary break from Ironman racing so I can focus on shorter distance triathlon races until I am ready to race another 140.6 mile event. As for how long of a break, my body and mind will let me know when it wants to return to this extreme triathlon event.

My body has allowed me to do a lot over the past 10 years and I don't take my good health, my love for pushing my body and my competitiveness for granted.

I often feel I am taking a lot of risks when I train for an Ironman so for my triathlon longevity and health, I'm giving my body a break from training to race for 10+ hours and I can now get my Ironman endorphins from Karel who is chasing his Ironman dreams. 

Thank you for your support and thank you Ironman Austria for making my dream come true in such a spectacular race venue.

      

RESULTS
Karel: 
9th AG (40-44), 68th overall
Swim - 1:03.05
Bike - 4:56.51
Run - 3:06.05
Total - 9:13.10

Marni: 
2nd AG (30-34), 10th female overall
Swim - :57.04
Bike - 5:18.00
Run - 3:42.57
Total - 10:06:54


30-34 men and women AG podium 


A beautiful AG award and a keg.
Euro style.