The A Race!

22 Sep

The time had come.  The van was loaded (by loaded I mean crammed full of everything I could think I might possibly need and a spare) and we set off.IMG_4567


We were Austria bound via a whistle-stop tour of Paris, a 10 hour disastrous stop in Zurich and a week in the Italian Tyrol (so beautiful, a fantastic place to stay).IMG_3937


On arrival in Zell am See the tension started building.  I felt the bile rising in my throat as we entered the town and I saw each lamp-post adorned with an Ironman branded flag.
Zell am See is a fantastic destination, I’ve never been anywhere on holiday where I’ve thought “yep, I’d gladly sell up and move here tomorrow” but Zell took my imagination immediately.  It’s a shame that my german is somewhat limited to ordering an assortment of alcoholic beverages and doesn’t stretch to explaining dental procedures to my potential Austrian patients!
We arrived in plenty of time to recce the bike route (in the rain, which would turn out to be an advantage) and swim in the lake on several occasions.IMG_4135
On the Wednesday we went to the Lido and found it closed.  “Why is it closed?” we asked, “Are you crazy? Its freezing cold” came the reply.  Freezing by Austrian standards is apparently 20 degrees and cloudy.  By British standards that’s stripped down to your skimpies, on the beach weather I pointed out!
“We want to swim in the lake” I said, “well get in the lake” he said. “Where?” I asked. “Where ever you like”!  Clearly the Lido manager thought I was a complete nutter!  The freedom of being able to just jump in the lake and go is so alien to us in this country. A lake here would be surrounded by signs like “Caution Deep Water” and “Swimming Prohibited”.  Got to wonder why?
Anyway I digress and potentially rant so lets get back on track….
A towel shuffle later and I was in the lake.  Unfortunately alone – well except for a group of 5 incredibly menacing swans that I didn’t really fancy swimming past! I admit I had a mini panic. The overcast day made the water look inky and dark which made me feel very isolated, alone and far away from the safety of the shore.  Consequently the swim session became a family affair with the boys joining me for moral support!
The following day the sunshine made a return in time for the official swim practice session and a family trip to the (now open) lido.


As I entered the lake for the practice session I said to Dai “Look they’ve got safety kayaks out for us”.  With the confidence afforded by a safety crew I happily swam off and did a large loop, all on my own around the swim course.  When I got out Dai suggested I have a closer look at said safety crew.  Turned out to be 2 kids, under 10 in crocodile shapes canoes!  Ah well, they did the job for my confidence and now I felt ready to race.

Friday came, I got registered.  By now the fitness level of the Zell population had increased exponentially and the compression wear/lycra combo outfits were reaching saturation level.  All week people had been asking Dai about how he felt about the race and how he was preparing.  It seems I don’t look terribly Iron.  Might be something to do with the constant presence of a glass of vino and a nutella smothered, Belgian waffle.  But now I was identifiable as an athlete (of sorts).  I had the purple band of doom that set me apart from the non-competitors and I’m not ashamed to say I was actually quite proud to be wearing it.

IMG_4214Saturday came and it was time to attend the race briefing.  Arriving, crippled with insecurity, woefully under-dressed in bog-standard street clothes, without an Mdot finishers shirt or any calf guards, I had to fight tears as the infamous “voice of Ironman” Paul Kaye began the race meeting.  Abject horror and fear gripped my every fibre at what I was about to attempt.

Actually the race briefing was fantastic.  It answered a lot of questions I had and allayed many of my concerns.  No time to dwell now, I had to leg it through town to the lake side and catch Will lining up for the IronKids race.  He had a 50m open-water, non-wetsuit swim followed by a 750m run through the town centre.  This is something Ironman do incredibly well.  They involve the whole family and inspire the next generation with these events and the kids had an awesome finish chute right in the town centre as we would the next day.IMG_4882
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No sooner than Ironkids was over it was time to go and rack my bike.  Bags packed, kit checked, double checked and triple checked we headed down to transition in the tipping rain. There’s an advantage to having a surname at the end of the alphabet in that all my bags and bike were on the last rack and consequently very easy to locate in the heat of the race.

I thought I was all sorted and finally a calm descended.  We went back to our apartment where I had a lie down and then cooked an early supper.  The great thing about Austria is that I could find all the ingredients I needed to make my favoured pre-race meal taste exactly as it does at home.  The downside being that I haven’t taught Dai how to make my Greek Pasta bake and so had to do the cooking myself.  Turns out Dai is an exceptional “iron wife” as well as “ironman”!  Half way through dinner, my stomach sank, an expletive screamed across the dining table that had William shocked!  I had forgotten to collect my timing chip.  This would be my only criticism of the entire event.  You were supposed to collect a timing chip when you racked your bike.  However, the small tent where you got them from was over the very far side of a massive transition and wasn’t obvious at all.  No one reminded me to get one, was pointing out the tent or checked when I left the transition for the evening.  Now I’m a huge one for self-responsibility and fundamentally it was my fault I forgot to get a chip.  I could easily have asked one of the many super helpful volunteers where to get one but in all the million things I had to remember, that one thing slipped my mind.  If the chip tent were near the exit, the athletes would have to walk past it and be less likely to make such a stupid mistake.

I was on the ceiling dear reader, I was apoplectic with panic and berating my idiocy which rarely fails to astound me with my epic levels of advanced muppetry.  Luckily the race programme stated you could pick up a spare on the Sunday morning.  Panic over, new swear words learnt by my small child and off to bed.

Race day dawned.  Porridge, retching, more porridge, more retching.  I’m so lush on race morning, I’m a sight to behold what with all the glamorous full body sweating and retching!  Down to transition, chip collected, sit around on the lake side chilling and listening to the dulcet tones of Kayeman as he builds up the athletes and spectators around.

Wetsuit on.  Kiss the boys goodbye and line up for the swim start.IMG_4266




The swim is in waves and I was in the last wave with the pink hats.  My goal was just to enjoy the swim, not to panic and not to breast-stroke.  I got in the water and was about to start my floating, relaxation routine when the “30 secs to go” alert was announced.  Barely time to have a pee before we were off.  The first buoy seemed an awful long way off but slowly and surely I was getting there.  At the turn I started passing other coloured hats.  That meant I was catching people from earlier waves.  Not very good swimmers from earlier waves but with my swim ability and confidence I took it as a win.

Out of the water, no stopping, no panicking and no breaststroking – super sloppy, muddy exit and into T1.  Bike jersey on, socks and shoes and  I was off.


It’s on the bike that I’m most comfortable and had to really resist hammering that first 20km.  Mark had given me power numbers to stick to and I was being very disciplined (well almost very).  I was also passing a lot of people.  20km in and we hit the climb.  There is 1000m of climbing on the bike course all in one go.  11km of easy peasy rise through very beautiful country and then 2km of hard as nails 15% climbing to the summit.  You get repaid though by a good 10km of fast downhill.  Unfortunately as I summited the climb the heavens opened and I couldn’t see a hand in front of me.  It meant I had to take the descent a little more carefully than I would have liked but that’s life.  I had to remind myself that this is my hobby, despite wishing I was, I am not, in fact She-Ra.  I am a middle aged dentist who’s quite probably living out her midlife crisis through endurance racing!  Slow down dear, this is not worth dying for!  Finished the bike strong and stayed on the boss’ plan.


Into T2.  Soaked to the bone.  Shivering despite having a jacket in my pocket as I was too damn stubborn to lose the time it would take to stop and put it on!  Quick change.  Massive thanks to the lady that fixed my race belt when I tore it with my cold, stiff hands!  Out on the run.

I asked a guy cycling along what my total time was.  4.15 he told me.  I wanted to go sub 6 hours.  I have been running for a while now and I know my legs.  I didn’t have a 1.45 half marathon in me at that point and I knew it.  Time to adjust the goal.  Right, we’re going for a sub 6.15 I decided.  Just need a sub2 half.  I stuck to the plan the boss had given me.  Didn’t deviate apart from a quick stop to get stones out of my shoe and a have a pee.  Theres nothing quite as distracting on a run as a full bladder!  Halfway.  Making good time.  Readjust goals again.  Come on Vic, sub 6.10 could still be on, but you’re going to have to work for it.  Run run run!!

The run course goes through the town centre and the support was fab.  Cowbells were ringing and the Austrian cheers of “hop hop hop” resounded.  I pushed to the very end.  I loved every second of the race except maybe the last 2 miles which were super painful!  I managed to finish in 6.08.IMG_4293 IMG_4292 IMG_4296 IMG_4907

Not the time I came for and left me with unfinished business.  But I loved racing 70.3 and am a convert to triathlon.  Whilst I’m a little disappointed, I also have to remember that 12 months ago I couldn’t swim 500m in 40 minutes and couldn’t ride a bike!

Zell am See is awesome, the crystal clear lake water that tastes like evian is superb for a first timer and the Austrian hospitality and organisation was sensational.  I will be racing in Zell again next year.  It is a superb holiday destination and the race being in school holidays means the whole family can enjoy the trip.

In the meantime I am stepping away from tri whilst I prepare for my next endeavour.  I’m off (with my buddy Angharad) to Marathon Des Sables. A 250km 6 day stage race through the Sahara desert!  The challenge for me now (and mainly Mark) is to arrive on the start line, strong and ready to race an ultra run without losing any of my swim & bike strength/fitness.  No pressure!!!



I’ll keep you in the loop

Keep Trucking

V 🙂

4 Responses to “The A Race!”

  1. Guy Mawson September 23, 2014 at 7:07 am #

    Great stuff Vicky 🙂 Looking forward to hearing about the training for MdS – plenty of time up in Ogmore and in the dunes around Oxwich/3-cliffs on the Gower? I’m sure you’ll enjoy shopping for the kit – I’ll bet you don’t have a venom pump yet!

    • Victoria & Dai September 23, 2014 at 7:39 am #

      I have so much to learn and to buy Guy. May have bitten off more than I can chew but we’ll see!!

  2. joeschmoe2000 September 24, 2014 at 12:19 am #

    Great report. I love your writing. It’s a visceral triathlon experience. Congrats on finishing. And thanks for sharing. Joe.

    • Victoria & Dai October 2, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      Thanks for such a lovely comment Joe. Much appreciated and has made my day 🙂

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