Swim, bike, run, write.

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See Kaprun Race Report: Mischief Managed

Guten tag from beautiful Zell am See. I'm so happy to be able to say I am officially an Ironman 70.3! Currently strutting around in my finisher t-shirt. Well, shuffling - sorry legs. Race report below, it's a long old ramble so you may want to grab some sort of hot beverage to get you through...

Race morning started with my usual ritual of coffee, porridge and a few quiet moments to get my head in the game. I'd been re-reading Chrissie Wellington's autobiography the night before and a quote that really stuck with me became my mantra for the day: "When things get tough, you get tougher". I kept repeating this to myself and it saw me through. If there was ever a day to put my big girl pants on and just get on with it, today was it.

The race didn't start until 11.10am - a really rather civilised start time when you've become accustomed to forcing down porridge pre 4am on race mornings! With our bags packed we headed down to Sch├╝ttdorf and decided to walk the mile or so towards the transition area and swim start. Bikes checked, nutrition locked and loaded it was time to get warmed up and get the wetsuits on. Queuing up for the swim start ended up being a bit mental. For some reason they'd loaded up the van to take the streetwear bags away early, meaning there was loads of us having to literally leap and throw our bags in to the van as they were closing the doors. The driver then decided to start reversing the van into the crowd of wetsuit adorned athletes waiting to get in to the lake. I have no idea why he thought this was a good idea, but almost being run over was not an ideal start to the race haha! 

Nervous and excited, we made our way towards the water. I was so glad to have my other half and partner in tri Graham by my side at this point, he kept me calm and focused. Really all this triathlon malarkey is his fault (I caught the bug whilst watching him race IM Bolton and Wales in 2015!) so it was a special moment to be able to start with him. He's much quicker than I am so this was the last time I'd see him until we passed each other on the run course. I really enjoyed the swim - Lake Zell is so beautiful! There was all the usual bumping and barging that you'd expect from a race of this size, but nothing that bothered me too much. It's hard not to enjoy yourself with such incredible scenery around you. Before I knew it I was making my way out of the water and heading towards T1 with a swim time of just under 38 minutes - around what I was expecting as I always just try to stay calm and relaxed on the swim.

The bike course at Zell am See is pretty spectacular. The first 20km features some nice, long downhill sections which gave me a chance to find my rhythm and get some nutrition on board. I was feeling great after the swim and grinning away to myself thinking 'I'm actually here and doing it!' 
The infamous 13.5km climb up towards Dienten/Hochkonig kind of lulls you into a false sense of security, starting with a fairly gentle steady climb for the first 10km. We'd driven the course earlier in the week so I knew what was waiting for us closer to the top - it would have been easy to go up this first bit a lot faster but I knew I'd suffer for it later so I stuck to my planned power output and focused on spinning up, staying comfortable. I like a good climb so I was enjoying myself at this point. The sun was shining and the Austrian landscape provided some amazing views. We made our way through Dienten and with the locals' cries of 'hup hup hup' ringing in our ears it was time for the real climbing to start. I won't lie, this last 3.5km or so is pretty damn steep and there's a certain amount of digging deep required to get up it. This is where I was so thankful for the rides we did on training camp in Majorca because I knew that I could do this, no matter how much my quads were burning. There were a few people stopping and walking around me but I was determined to just keep pedalling. When things get tough, you get tougher. There was some great support from spectators near the top which definitely gave me a little boost and suddenly I was at the top, feeling good. The descent is steep and a little bit technical to begin with, with a few sharp turns so I kept my wits about me and just concentrated on getting down safely. The rest of the course is great, with lots of fast flat sections and a few little hills to keep things interesting. I could feel the climb in my legs by the end, but I was way ahead of where I thought I would be and generally felt good. I rolled into T2 with a 3hr 16 minute bike split. Considering this time last year I was still clinging on for dear life whilst riding around at 16kph, not even able to get my bottle out of its cage without stopping, this was a pretty big achievement! 

Just the small matter of a half marathon to go. The weather was fairly hot while I was on the bike but thankfully it clouded over making the temperature a little more comfortable for running. I felt great for the first 2km, running a good 10 secs faster per km than I had planned without pushing at all. 'Awesome', I thought to myself, 'it's going to be a good running day'. Hah. Famous last words indeed. As I headed out of Zell am See and collected my first lap band it was like someone flipped a switch and I was hit with all the pain. Everything hurt. My running has been feeling strong recently but clearly there's still a lot of work to be done. I quickly ditched my pace plan and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other, running as much as I could and walking the aid stations. The long uphill to Thumersbach felt never ending but I just kept going. It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty but I knew I was still on for a sub 6 hour 30 mins overall time. Finally I was coming towards the end of my final lap. 1km to go. 

And then the storm came. I made my way past the last aid station and was suddenly stopped by a woman shouting who eventually told me they were stopping the race because of the storm. With about 800m to the finish line I was being told I'd have to stop and wait for 30 minutes. I'd got to the point where stopping was not an option, I just needed to keep moving and get to that line. I'm usually extremely polite and don't like to kick up a fuss (seriously, I once almost just ate a half raw burger in a restaurant because I was too polite to complain - my friend had to frogmarch me up to the waitress!) but this was just not going to happen. Cue me sobbing on the side of the road like a maniac, begging with this woman to just let me finish. Turns out kicking up a fuss works a treat because another marshal came along gave me a little shove forwards and said 'ok, lauf lauf!'. Tears streaming down my face I ran as fast as I could to get to the finish before anyone else could stop me. I think I was one of the last lucky few who actually got an official time - by the looks of things the people that did stop ended up with DNFs in the official results. The finish line itself was a massive anticlimax. Throughout training, during all those winter rides not being able to feel my feet; the interval sessions that made my lungs feel like they were about to explode; the turbo sessions that made me feel like a chocolate teapot in a log burner; I'd had this image in my head of running down that carpet with people cheering and my name being read out. It had spurred me on all through training. Instead, everyone had left to shelter from the storm and the announcer was talking about the weather. I collected my medal with no idea where I was supposed to go next and ended up just wondering around in the rain feeling like a lost child until Graham found me! Not my finest hour haha. 

So there we have it. Definitely not the finish I had in mind, but a finish nonetheless. 6 hours 26 minutes after I started, I was officially an Ironman 70.3 finisher! When I think about how far I've come, it's hard not to be happy with what I've achieved.  Overall, the race was great despite the melodramatic ending and organisational quirks, but I feel like I've got unfinished business. I want my 'you are an ironman' moment! 

And with that in mind, IM Copenhagen 2018 here I come! Time to reset, give my body a little bit of recovery and then get cracking with winter training. It's time to get stronger, faster and more powerful, ready to step up to the full distance. Zell am See, you were a good start but these little lamb chop legs have definitely got more in them. 

A big thank you to my friends, family and work colleagues for putting up with all the constant triathlon related chatter. I know I've become a lycra-clad weirdo who always smells a little bit like chlorine so your support and patience is much appreciated. To my lovely clients for not laughing at me too much when I've gone to demo a squat and almost ended up getting stuck forever due to achy legs. To my Mum and Dad for always being there to provide words of encouragement, dog-sitting duties (Lord Rizzo say thanks), support, perspective and a much needed cup of coffee. To Campbell at Re-leaf MK for not laughing in my face when the girl who was terrified of cycling turned round and said she wanted to do a half Ironman. And last but not least, to my lovely Graham - my boyfriend, best friend, training partner, bike mechanic and voice of reason. You've been on hand throughout to help me to believe that I can, to keep me focused, inspired and to give me a kick up the backside when I needed it. I literally could not have done this without you by my side. I owe you big time. 

Okay Jenny it's not the Oscars, have a beer and calm down.

Bis bald!


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