It was late on the Wednesday evening when the thought of racing at the weekend popped in to my head. Without much thought I entered Ironman 70.3 Salzburg at Zell Am See. I had no idea how far away it was or how I would get there and I didn’t know anything about the course but once I had entered I felt really relaxed about it all and was excited to be racing. It was totally unplanned, just over two weeks after Embrunman and I had done no real run training since late July so I was happy to go with the flow and see how things would play out on the day.
I checked the course profile and it looked fairly flat which is not my usual type of race course but I saw it was a different type of challenge and a nice change. Ritchie kindly lent me his Cervelo P3 Time Trial bike for the race. I hadn’t ridden it before but I managed to set it up in a fairly comfortable position and of course I put my own green bar tape on it. I took it for a spin the day before the race and it felt good. For some reason I couldn’t shift from the small ring to the big ring and after a long time with the mechanics trying to fix I decided that I would just keep it in the big ring for the entire race.
Zell am See is a really beautiful area and a great place to have a race but considering that the lake was surrounded by mountains on all sides it seemed strange that the bike course was completely flat. At the time I was wishing that they would take us in to the mountains on the bike but I guess it’s good to test yourself on different types of bike courses and with the weather we got on race day it was definitely better to be on a flat course. It was a lovely surprise to hear that the race didn’t start until 10am. Considering that my last race started at 5.50 am in complete darkness the late start was a real treat. It meant a nice lay in and breakfast at a normal time before heading to the race start.
The swim was fine for me, nothing special but I just did what I could and came out of the water in about 6th or 7th position. When we exited the water it was raining heavily and as I ran through transition I was thinking about the arm warmers I had in my transition bag but for some reason I decided not to put them on. I was regretting that decision at some points in the race as it didn’t stop raining and was quite cold but I stayed focused on the job which seemed to keep me a little warmer. The start of the course had a lot of corners through some smaller streets and it was very slippy. I saw a couple of people fall so decided to play it safe on the corners and not take any risks. I biked most of the first lap fairly steadily then pushed on for the second lap. Although I’m not used to riding flat courses like this but I actually enjoyed it even in the rain. I got to transition with a fairly decent bike split and in 4th position just over 3 minutes from the lead although I had no clue what position I was in or what the time gaps were at that time.
So on to the run which would be an unknown for me as my run training leading in to the race and in fact since late July has been pretty much non-existent due to a foot injury. I started at what I thought was a fairly strong pace and though I didn’t feel great my legs felt quite strong. There were a few turn points where you spot other competitors and I could see that 3rd wasn’t too far away so I had my first target in sight (Rahel Kung the super swimmer who held on to take a brilliant 4th). Then I moved up to second but there was no sign of 1st. No time gaps, no one telling me where the leader was or that I might be able to catch her so I presumed that she must have been way out in front and that I was probably running for a comfortable 2nd place. I thought I heard someone shout 5 minutes as I started my 2nd lap and that didn’t really fill me with confidence. I kept running and looking for the lead bike of the first lady but it was nowhere to be seen. I knew it had to be one of 2 girls either Sam Warriner or Eva Wutti, (the Austrian who recently became the 3rd fastest lady ever over the iron distance in 8h73). As I was starting my last lap someone shouted 2 minutes you can catch her and instantly the chase was on. I have never pushed like that in a race before. All I could think was run as hard as you can and see where it gets you. So I literally gritted my teeth and pushed on as hard as I could. Then suddenly I could see the lead bike in front of me it was still pretty far away but I could see it and it was getting closer and closer. At the furthest turn point I could see I had gained a lot of time in just 3k and I thought I might be able to do it if I could keep that going. I dug deep forgetting about anything but catching the girl in blue just ahead of me. I was breathing so hard and talking to myself that I’m sure I frightened a few people on the course and with 2k to go I took the lead from Eva Wutti. I didn’t want to look back, I just kept running to the line and it was quite a relief to cross it. (I must apologise to the English man who I quite forcefully shoulder barged just after I took the lead… Sorry!!)
So it seems that the terrible weather was a great for the Irish as Gavin Noble won the men’s race in his first ever 70.3. It was great to see him on the run and it was something that helped give me that extra push I needed at the end when things were getting tough. My last minute random decision turned out to be a good one and I am really glad I raced in Austria last weekend.
After the 10hr trip back to Leysin on Monday I had 2 days of training and then packed up the car again to head to my next race in France which is on Saturday. Two races in one week is not something I have done before so it will be interesting to see how things go over the tough course at Geraradmer Triathlon this weekend!