Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of Ironman races, preferring something a bit more personal and low key, despite the ‘less than ideal weather’ on the day, I loooooved this race.
It’s in a stunning setting – the swim kicks off in a beautiful Austrian lake with crystal clear water, and then takes you down a narrow channel towards transition. Whilst some found the channel too congested, I loved the feeling of being on a conveyor belt whisking me towards T1.
This was the first year of the new bike course, and I loved it with new course adding variety, rather than repeating the loop. It’s a good mix of big multilane roads to power down on the aero bars, and some big, rolling hills to add some spice, but never too challenging or technical. The support was phenomenal, young and old, sporty and all day BBQ drinkers alike lined the course, which reverberated to the cry of ‘hopp hopp hopp’. It’s a great lesson to all those towns that grumble about races, embrace it, celebrate that you cant drive anywhere that day, and make a day of partying and supporting.
Often marathon runs can be quite boring, with large parts disappearing into forgotten areas away from the crowds. But this did much better than most, with a lot of variety in the 2 laps – winding through the park and past bars down by the lake, back towards transition, then out to Krumpendorf where you dong a bell in the cobbled square to raise money for charity (far harder than you’d imagine by the end of the race). There’s a fair few ramps to cross over or under other roads, and again, these added to the challenge, but also broke up the monotony of 42k of running.
I did it the race as part of a big group from Windrush Tri. Although I’ve left London now, I’ll always be Windrush down to my core (like a stick of rock, it runs straight through me), and almost half the group were people who are no longer training with Windrush, either because they’ve left London, or time just doesn’t allow, but the #Windrushfamily goes far beyond training sessions. And having the support of others during pre race nerves, and the amazing support team on the day, all helped make it such a memorable event.
In terms of the day itself, as expected, it was a wetsuit free swim (personally I was happy, the lake was like bathwater and I didn’t want to start the bike already dehydrated). Many didn’t seem to have factored in how the lack of wetsuit would affect their swim time and (despite being a slow swimmer) I spent most of my time trying to overtake, great for drafting, less good as they break into breaststroke and kick you in your side.
For the first few hours of the bike the conditions were great, if fairly hot (but I’d been doing plenty of my heat acclimatisation training and could feel that making a real difference). But as I got the top of the final hill it began to change quite suddenly, there was a massive downpour, starting as rain which quickly turned the road into a rushing river, and then turned into hail stones so large some people had bruises the next day. The wind whipped around us, bringing down a tree just in front of me on a steep downhill, and visibility was down to a few metres. Down in town the wind was so strong they shut down the event village until it passed.
By the last few km on the bike I was shaking so much with cold I thought I’d actually shake myself off the bike and I was dying to put some power in, but we were down to a single file track crawling down next to the road, so I stayed in line and tried to think warming thoughts.
It was almost surreal coming into T2, the last hour had just been a grey haze, to the overwhelming soundtrack of wind and rain, and thoughts didn’t go much further than what was right in front of me, and wondering if my fingers would unfreeze enough to get my helmet off. Then suddenly my brain had to take in colour and music and the general hubub of the race. But the bikes littering the ground where they’d been blown to and people sitting round in space blankets looking shell shocked confirmed I hadn’t just imagined it all!
I grabbed a space blanket and went out on to the run. The Windrush support team was in full throttle just outside transition and it was so great to see them. After a few km I’d warmed up and it was only after I dumped the space blanket that I realised how noisy it has been! And then the slog! Whilst I love running I really don’t like marathons, much less after 180k bike, but the course was good and the multiple twists and turns meant I was always seeing people I knew (especially welcome today because it meant I knew they’d got down from the bike course safely). I’d not got my nutrition right and spent km 20-30 going to the toilet every 2km but even with the enforced sit downs I managed my goal of a sub 4hr run. And, as ever, left the course knowing that if I could only succeed in taking my own advice, on nutrition and pacing, I could actually take off quite a lot more time.
The last 10k were good, the end was in sight, my stomach had settled and I picked up the pace a bit. The finish is epic, into a stadium and a wall of noise, friends linings the route through, and onto a stage. And finally I heard those famous words, Lucy Hurn, you are an Ironman! And it was all worth it!
I decided now was not the time to make my points on the importance of gender neutrality in such terms, and instead had a mini emotional breakdown (based on the exertions of the day rather than lack of gender equality), followed quickly by a pint (turned out it was alcohol free, either way it hit the spot!), long sit down, and then found my friends. After a shower (where amusingly everyone was still covered in mud from the swim) and a very welcome massage and pizza, I went back out to the stadium to dance (well shuffle) to dodgy music and cheer in the rest. What a day, what a race (including meeting my goals of sub 4 hour run and 5th in Age Group), what a support team, and what a well deserved sleep that night!
For someone coming from the UK, with bikes etc, IM Austria is not the easiest place to get to. Here’s a summary of our plans to save me having to tell people each time!
There was about 15 of us, so we (mostly) flew into Vienna (Ljubljana was another option), and then picked up some hire cars, and then to a van hire place which was quite a trek from the airport, then back to the airport to pick up the bikes. And then a long drive to Klagenfurt. Having the van made things a lot easier in terms of getting to, and more importantly, from the race (roads shut early, but not too early to get into town).
We stayed in these brilliant houses a short drive from the race – Ferienwohnungen Allmaier and http://www.fewo-allmaier.at. (One of our support team was Austrian, not sure how easy it would be to book otherwise). We had individual rooms but essentially took over the top 2 floors of one house, and all of the other, and could use the outside space for shared meals, and as ski chalets in the winter there was more than enough space for our bikes. Our hosts were amazing and very chilled (they took down all our names to track us on race day!) and we were just a short walk from another beach by the lake, although a bit further from anywhere to eat, so if you weren’t cooking at home, be prepared to drive.