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Coach Troy's Ironman Austria Race Report 2011
 

Race Splits

Swim: 58:19 (1:31/100 meter pace for 2.4 miles)
T1: 3:57
Bike: 5:26:32 (20.58 mph for 112 miles)
T2: 3:42
Run: 3:27:02 (7:54 per mile for 26.2 miles)
OVERALL Finish Time: 9:59:35

Pre-Race

Preface: I tend to write these race reports for myself so I can learn something from each big race. I definitely learned a lot about myself, my family, and my life throughout the training for this race and the race itself. I have left out a lot of pre-race details and some race details, but the core part of the story is here. I love this race and have had the best race of my life in Austria. This is definitely a long winded race recap, but it is just my thoughts and I tend to have a busy mindJ. Let me start this race recap by saying that this race has never been on my radar until the “St. George Ironman 2010” Austin athlete celebration dinner we had about 4 weeks after returning from St. George last May. There were many of us that participated in this event and in the beginning; nobody had plans for a full IM in 2011. By the end of the meal, it had been determined that we will all go to Austria in 2011 and have a great time racing together. I have to say that without knowing anything about it and now having experienced my first international triathlon and IM Austria, it is by far the most amazing race I have ever participated in and is on a very short list of races I hope to do again one day. This has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world…more details to come throughout the report, so read on if you have some time to kill.

 

The plan this race was for Tonya and I to enjoy a little vacation time together and my in-laws would keep our two boys while we were away. Given that I have more vacation time at work than Tonya, we would actually be arriving in Klagenfurt Austria about 2 days apart. I departed Tuesday around noon with no travel hiccups and arrived in Klagenfurt on Wednesday around noon. My flight to Newark was un-eventful, walked straight across the walkway to my next gate and had a mere 4 minutes to kill before jumping on the plane to Munich Germany. Then after a few hours of downtime and meeting up with some good Austin friends in Munich, we boarded some puddle jumper for the hour flight over to Klagenfurt. Once arriving in the smallest airport I have ever seen, we discovered they could only put 3 bike boxes on this airplane. So they are loading all the bikes up in Munich on a truck and driving them the 4 hours down to Klagenfurt and would be delivered to our hotel. Sure enough at 10:30 PM that night the hotel called my room and told me my bike had arrived. Needless to say, I stayed up to get it put together to give me piece of mind before calling it a day. Was I jetlagged…about 24 hours of travel door to door...I'd say just a little bit J. We used a travel service for our accommodations that many of the previous athletes had used in the past and Deepak was great the entire vacation. It helped a lot to help us acclimate to the environment and learn our way around (not to mention take some travel stress off our shoulders and put onto his). The days leading up to the race consisted of 2 amazing swims in some of the cleanest, clearest water I have ever seen. I could see the fish swimming around 15 feet below me in some spots and definitely when standing on the docks. The water was somewhere around 70-73 degrees and felt just amazing. I honestly couldn't believe how awesome this swim would be after hearing stories of Ironman Texas and the mud they swam in or remembering Ironman St. George and the 52 degree water we braved that day in 2010. That St. George swim took 2 of my race partners hostage and never let them get out of T1. I got out on the bike twice, once ended in some rain so I called it quits. I was able to get out again later that day and things seemed to click really well. A nice easy run along the run course/canal was again very peaceful and my legs were feeling awesome at this point. There is no lack of pizza, pasta, beer, and wine in this country to fill your belly, but even I started to get tired of all the Italian by the end of our 2 week trip. (Note…would KILL for some tex-mex right now as I still have 18 hours left in Austria). We had a few hiccups with our team that was here regarding many lost bags, a lost bike, a lost gear bag, and many other things, but MOST (not all mind you) of it all came together in the end.

One of the highlights of my week happened on Friday. When I boarded my flight in Newark, I noticed a guy in an Ironman Mexico jacket. I'm somewhat of an observer and people watcher, so I notice little things like this. I also saw him on our Munich to Klagenfurt flight and then at the airport. I saw him a few times throughout the week, but at one point I had walked into a bike shop that was 2 blocks from our hotel to pickup something and noticed he and his friends were in there. Earlier that day we had noticed there was some bike box in our hotel lobby that nobody had claimed yet. We attempted to contact the owner without luck. The interesting thing that struck me is the bike was from Mexico, so I asked the guy in the bike shop “Habla English” and he said “no, no” and pointed to his buddy. So I asked him if they were from Mexico, if they were here doing the Ironman, and if they all had their bikes (after all, how many people could really be from Mexico right?). Turns out, the guy that doesn't speak English didn't have his bike that it had been lost somewhere and they were a group of 4. They said only 1 other person was from Mexico. Long story short(er), I took the guys back to the hotel and the guy almost started to cry when he saw his bike box sitting there. The airport had delivered it to our hotel accidentally and he was actually about to BUY a new bike at that bike shop that day. We like to think that was good karma coming my way for the race (one can dream right?). I was happy that he had his bike now.

The problem at this point was one of our own from Austin (Jen R.) still didn't have a bike and was not having much luck with her airline. We were all feeling for her in this stressful time as she tried to track down where her gear back and bike box were. We did our best to loan her shorts, wetsuits, swimsuits, etc. from our group to get her moving during the week. In the end, the people putting on the Ironman loaned her a bike for race day and she was able to get her gear bag and buy some new shoes. Not ideal, but better than no bike I guess. We had some great team dinners, some great bus rides, and overall just a great time together with everyone. Deepak scheduled a bike course tour for us on a nice bus and I must say that this is one of the top 3 most beautiful drives I have ever seen. I know it would not be hard to just look around on race day and realize I am riding the most beautiful IM bike course in the world. I really can't put into words how beautiful the countryside was for the bike course. Pristine roads about 95% of it, some good climbs, some stellar descents, and overall just beautiful.

By Friday night, Tonya had arrived a bit late due to delays, but nevertheless, finally there with me. We had some dinner and allowed her to settle in before calling it a night. Saturday was filled with as little activity as possible, trying to stay off my feet, showing Tonya around a bit, and bike/bag drop off in the transition area. Nothing much to report other than by Saturday I was getting a bit of the “ants in my pants” and just ready to get the show on the road. After the taper and all the downtime this week from not working, I had a lot of energy ready to explode on race day and just get the motions and muscles moving again. I think this was a good thing for me and proved to help me mentally prepare. An early dinner and off to bed before the big day.

RACE DAY!

Race day started with my normal breakfast and the bus departing at 5 AM to take us to transition where we got our bikes ready, nutrition, last minute stuff setup in T1/T2/special needs bags/etc. Then a short walk for Tonya and I over to the beach area to just chill for a bit, take a few pics, and just try to calm the mind, body, and spirit. It meant so much to me to have Tonya there by my side during these last few stressful moments before the gun goes off. One can never describe the feeling you have to have someone out there supporting you for 20+ hours. They have to get up early, be on their feet all day, and really only catch a glimpse of you for 5 seconds at most 8 times throughout the day. That is unreal support, love, and endurance in itself and for that I am forever grateful to have her as my wife and to support me during all my races. I long to see her face throughout race day and I always know she is standing there waiting for those 5 seconds of me frowning in pain or smiling in triumph with only the pieces to pickup in the end. A few prayers, hugs, kisses, and photos later, the race time was rapidly approaching so I eased my way onto to beach to find a good spot between the right side docks in the middle.

SWIM

I was lined up pretty much in the middle of the right side group about 1 person back from the front. We were told the pros would start 50 meters in front as they all entered the water to swim out to their start line in colored caps (age groupers all had on white). There was another starting line we were supposed to swim to and then stop. They started easing us into the water but by the time we had hit the start line, I think we started 5-10 seconds early and I just kept swimming trying to avoid getting trampled. Sighting in open water is usually a challenge in choppy swims or very tight swims or even when facing bright sun. This swim was only choppy from the 2600 people that were swimming, otherwise it was like glass every time we swam. The first 2k meters was super easy sighting as well b/c the first 1400 you could sight off a HUGE radio tower on top of the biggest mountain surrounding the lake (tough I know), then the next turn, you could sight off a huge white castle/church looking building (which was good since the buoy was blue…really…blue?). There wasn't much anything special about these first two sections. I would draft when I could, swam on my own some, not the roughest swim, but nothing I hadn't experienced before. By the second turn, it was another 600 meters maybe? Maybe more? To the beginning of the canal. This second turn was difficult b/c you stared right into the sun and the sun was glaring off the water horribly. I couldn't see anything even with mirrored goggles. I knew there was a huge house on the left of the canal and could pick out the smooth surface of the roof amongst the trees. Without that it was just following the crowds. The last 850 meters is in a canal about the width of a high school track. Once we got in there, you could see fine b/c it was shaded, people lined both sides of the canal and you could hear them screaming like it was the TDF or something, and you really didn't have to site…just swim down the canal. This was a very cool part of the swim and something I won't soon forget. We exited the water onto a very small beach area behind a new hotel and had about a 400-800 meter run into T1 and I noticed my watch was less than 1 hour!!! I had set myself several little goals for the day and this was the first, to see if I could break 60 minutes in the swim. Later I found out a friend of ours took a picture of the clock when I exited the water and it read somewhere around 54:xx, so based on my official time, I'm assuming the timing mat was up by T2 somewhere. This day is getting off to an AWESOME START! I was pumped. I saw Jen R. as soon as I entered T1 and she looked like she had a great swim as well.

T1

Very uneventful. I grabbed my gear, volunteer threw my wetsuit and stuff in the bag and I was off. Grabbed my bike, took off running and noticed some guy in T1 changing his flat tire that obviously happened while we were swimming…not his day so far.

BIKE

As stated before, I had a few mini-goals setup for the day and this one was just to execute a good bike ride like I had practiced so many times the past 4 months. I had planned to go out easy the first 45 minutes to ease into it and not have back problems like previous races. It was actually simple to ride easy b/c the first part of the course is pretty fast with a few small rollers to keep you honest about “keeping it easy”. Many people passed me, but I wasn't going to let that get to me. I knew there would be some blistering fast times in Europe with all the “uber bikers” over here. So I let them roll their speed knowing I would either see them later or they would smash my time. This is a 2 loop X 56 mile course with special needs pickup around 92k. Each loop has many rollers, but there are really 2 pretty good climbs that make you go “ouch” and make you stay honest through the first loop. The best part of the bike course is each time you go up, the descent is 10x as much fun going down. There are some REALLY fast descents that just make you love to be on a bike, on good roads, and racing blazing fast. I kept it easy going up both of the hard climbs and just spun up to keep my muscles ready for the second 90k. I hit the road into town and was amazed at how fast the last 10-20k of the each loop was. I'm talking 30+mph of easy steady riding…MAN that section is fun! Once I hit the turnaround I was feeling good and had plans to hit the special needs, grab my extra stuff, and then step up the effort a tad into my race effort and hold it as long as I could. Special needs went fine without a hitch and probably only took 15 seconds. They are very cool here b/c they radio ahead when you turn around at the half mark and then there is a guy standing out in the road with your bag and number. SUPER EASY! North America should implement something so smart! 2 miles down the road…BAM…dropped all my powerbars and my extra gel flask that I had just picked up. Oh no, I can't lose that so early in the bike course. So I turned around and some guy handed them to me. Turns out the Jack and Adams jersey (tri top) with its slanted side pockets don't hold up well to heavy items. The only other hiccups happened between 60-70 miles when I stopped once to “relieve myself” and then an official stopped across the street from me and I was afraid of getting penalized so I rode off. Later I realized, it's the European way to just go wherever you want to go and there are no penalties apparently. So between the special needs brief stop, the 2 “relief” stops, and the nutrition retrieval, I probably lost 2 minutes or so along the course. I rode on and around mile 70, I lost every single powerbar I had and my entire tube of Thermolytes (salt tabs). I had already switched out my gel flask so I was okay even if I had lost my empty flask. So now the question is what do I do. I have all my fluids and can pick up more water, no issues there. I don't think I need salt tabs on the bike b/c I wasn't heavily sweating here so I think I am okay on that one. The real issue at hand is calories. Well by the next aid station I had already started to deteriorate and could tell I was in calorie deficit at this point. So I started grabbing every banana and half powerbar they handed up and started eating. 2 aid stations later I was feeling good again and just in the nick of time with the last major climb ahead that was just close to 2 miles long. This last climb hurt quite a bit more than the first loop, even though I tried to hold back on loop 1. I managed up that last climb and then hit the hammer on the descent and on the way into town. Quite honestly, my goal for the bike course was to break 6 hours since I had never done that before. When I saw how my first lap went, I thought I might be able to break 5:45 and then it just got better and better from there. This was sport number 2 of the day and I have now smashed both of my first 2 goals of the day. This day is just getting better and better. I was feeling awesome, killed the swim, bike went great with NO FLAT Tires or incidents, and now I was about to smash my bike goal time. I knew that many guys in my AG had passed me since they cycle much stronger than me, but quite honestly I couldn't care less at this point what everyone else was doing b/c I was having the best race of my life out there. Roll on! A special shout out to Drew and James from Jack and Adams bike shop that helped me work with Scott Bikes to replace my bike frame in the final 2 weeks before race day due to a cracked frame. Not only did they get it warranted and get me a new frame that rode like a dream, they rebuilt it with all new components for me in time to drop 150 miles on it before boxing it up and being able to break it in.

T2

Just about as uneventful as T1, racked my bike, saw Bob Hanford as a volunteer, hit the “can”, and then grabbed my gear to roll on. Something I had been thinking about since last September is finally about to come to fruition. I had been thinking about how to make this Austria race even more memorable and having been born and raised in Texas, I had to do something BIG! It just so happens, a training partner and fellow Texas Iron athlete decided to do exactly the same thing for Ironman Texas and he mentioned how awesome it was. Well, it was decided, I would wear my cowboy hat for the entire 26.2 mile marathon run of this Ironman and show a little Texas cowboy pride in Europe. I am still getting asked today, did you really wear your cowboy hat the entire 26.2 miles or just the last mile or so? Folks…I wore it from T2 all the way until I got back to the hotel to clean up, then back out to see more finishers come through and then finally set it down before bed, so yes…all 26.2 miles were run in my cowboy hat! NOTE: GREAT DECISION!

RUN

I started this run feeling great. This was the first time in 6:30 hours that I had seen the face of my beautiful wife and finally I got to see her. I had wanted to see her smiling face so bad and now I knew it was all going to be okay. She had been there in the morning with me to the race, before the race, saw me exit the water and leave on the bike, got some pictures of me at the bike turn around for loop 1 and then finally I found her in the crowd when I was coming out of T2. AMEN! My angel is in the crowd! And she's married to this Texas Cowboy, so watch out! I always have a sigh of relief when I am off the bike in a triathlon b/c now it is all up to things I can control. You can't control if someone knocks you out cold in the swim (Kevin), you can't control if your bike chain snaps in two (random guy on the bike course) or if you have a flat or if you crash b/c of some other stupid cyclist (another random guy on the bike), but once I get my running shoes on, I feel a calm come over me and know that this is the sport that makes my heart tick and drives my passion and that I can control most things b/c it is just about one step in front of the other. Yes you may experience some nutritional issues, heat illness issues, or something running related, but at this point it is really mind over matter. I went into this knowing my legs felt awesome, but I had a big day ahead of me and I had better hold back the throttle. This decided after realizing I was running my first mile at 6:45 pace and felt easy. I wanted to hit somewhere around a 7 minute pace and just see how things rolled from there. I fluctuated quite a bit the first 13 miles running 6:20-7:30 pace, but I was feeling really good and confident so far. I was passing all those uber bikers that raced passed me on the bike and that is just good for one's confidence during an Ironman race. Lesson learned a long time ago that now I realize the meaning behind it from Jamie was when he said to me one day “it always scares me when athletes talk about skipping the aid stations in an IM marathon”. I always wondered what he meant and now I know. My plan was to run this like an open marathon that I have done so many times in the past by hitting an aid station every 15 minutes (or approximately every 2 miles). This was working like a charm until I hit somewhere around mile 16. Granted the cheers for “go cowboy”, go cowboy troy, go Texas cowboy, Go Austin cowboy, and even the one lady that made an Indian “wha wha wha wha” sound with her hand and mouth (really are we really doing this lady?) were all quite inspiring and quite honestly made me smile throughout most the entire 26.2 miles. I loved all the yells and I think the crowd equally loved my cowboy hat so it was nice to have random people cheer for you other than just your name. So back to mile 16ish. I realized the error of my ways as I started to get extremely dizzy, walking LIKE I had more than my share of the Austrian beer, and feeling quite faint. I realized what Jamie taught me years ago is coming back to haunt me now. I realized all my glycogen stores, caloric stores, etc. were all used up and I was running on only the fuel I was putting in my body at this point. Makes sense after 8 hours huh? Yeah, I should have thought about that. So I decided to start hitting every aid station I could find and anything I could find that I had tried before, it went in my mouth – coke, powergel, salt tabs, water, powerbar isomax, watermelon, bananas, etc. This wasn't a tried and true method, but I knew if I didn't get something in me soon, I was going to be passed out on the run path begging for medical. I happened to walk past Tonya at this point and was telling her that I was pretty dizzy and needed some calories. What's the best IronWife in the world to say to that “Come on, get moving, you can finish this strong, suck it up!” Now that's a good wife, not exactly what I had expected to come out of her mouth, but it no doubt got me thinking positively. Later she asked me, “I wasn't sure if you wanted some sweet wife that gave you nice motivation or someone that would light a fire under your butt to get moving”. Needless to say, whatever she said worked. By the time I hit somewhere around mile 19, I had started jogging again and started looking at my watch. By mile 20 I was feeling okay again and running some 7:30 minute miles, still hitting the aid stations. Then it hit me, holy crap, I can break 10 hours if I get off my a$$ and get moving. So I started running harder with the plan to go as fast as I had to in order to see sub 10 on the clock. Now granted at this point I had gone some 134+ miles throughout the day and trying to calculate splits in kilometers (remember I am racing in Europe) and figuring out how many miles is that left, how much time, what do I have to run per mile, etc….not the easiest thing I have ever done. Trying to do the km to mile conversion, then pace from km to mph pace conversion, all while making sure I am still eating, drinking, and running hard. Then I finally realized I had just over 1 mile to go and had less than 7 minutes left. So I dropped the hammer after the last station and was feeling awesome. I saw a few low 6:00 minute pace efforts on my watch and was ready to hit that finisher's chute. I saw Tonya one last time as I rounded a corner and knew it was going to be close to 10 hours. I guess I was way too focused at this point to break out the smiles. The finishers chute in this race is even better than the one's I have done in the past. It is an absolute madhouse and they are all awesome. I turned the last corner and the clock said 9:58:58. So I had 1 minute 2 seconds to run about 50 yards. OH THE GLORY! There was a family running in with the guy in front of me, so I let him go up a bit to have his moment in the spotlight and I slowed down a bit. The guy on the PA said “Come on Cowboy Troy, if you want to break 10 hours, you have to cross that finish line quickly, we are close”. I yelled out with my hands held high, don't worry, I'll beat 10 hours, just giving this guy his glory. So the guy crosses and then shortly after, so does this born and raised small town Cowboy from Brady, Texas. Guns up for my Texas Tech Red Raiders, cowboy hat on top, wearing black and red for the support from Jack and Adams Bicycles in Austin, Texas. This day was done and I couldn't have planned it any better. While I didn't hit my run goal of the day (3:15 or lower), I think I could have if I had paid attention to my nutrition better. However, my other goal of the day was to break 11 hours since I had yet to do that in an Ironman. Not only did I break 11 hours, but I broke 10 hours and shaved over 66 minutes off my previous best Ironman race time. Smashed the swim, smashed my goal bike time, executed a pretty good run time with a very strong finish, and smashed my goal overall time and set a new PR by over an hour! Today was my day and I seized it! It was not hard to smile throughout the entire 140.6 miles today and if you saw the scenery around here, you would understand why.

THE FINISH

After having a difficult time finding Tonya, I went to the recovery tent, got my dry clothes, finishers shirt and some food. We sat along the run course for awhile cheering on some of my fellow race buddies after chatting with a few of our new friends from North Carolina. Finally got my bike and stuff out and made our way back to the hotel to get cleaned up, grabbed some really crappy food and back to the race to see the rest of the group finish their day at IM Austria. We didn't make it to midnight, but I did manage to make it to about 11 or so and we cheered at the finish line and man is that a freaking party! Those spectators are absolutely amazing! We saw everyone from our crew come across the line and everyone else was tired and headed back as well. We got back to the hotel and had a few drinks before the restaurant kicked us out and closed the doors for being too loud on the patio (WEAK!)! It was a great day! Tonya and I had decided to stay around there for another day to let her see a bit more of Austria and we supported our friend Kim at the awards banquet for winning her age group and getting a Kona slot. We departed via bus on Tuesday to Venice, Italy and then a few days in Florence, Italy with some Chianti Region mixed in for good fun and relaxation. We feel like we have had our history lesson for the next decade, but the buildings, history, and cities in Italy were really amazing. We did a lot of walking (good for post-race recovery!), a lot of eating, a lot of sightseeing, a ton of picture taking, and think we both have a good idea now what we enjoy about vacations…the relaxing part. I think if we ever come back for this race or similar, we would probably choose to stay in Austria. It really is a beautiful country and considering how much we prefer country vs. city, we might just rent a house or villa in the mountains next time. Italy was amazing and is a must see for everyone. The Chianti classico region is beautiful and we learned a lot on our tours. Venice is beautiful and a little complicated to navigate, but is a must see and can probably see it all in 24 hours. Florence is much more spread out, but has some very beautiful vistas, buildings, history, etc. We loved our time in all three cities and hope to return one day. I hope to do this race again one day as it truly was the most amazing race I have ever experienced and a complete blast! I highly recommend it for any of you Ironman aspiring athletes that want to venture across the big pond.
I want to thank Jack and Adams crew for their unlimited bike support and help they provided these past years. Without you guys, I would not have had a bike for this race, but you pulled it off once again. I want to thank my family members, my race buddies for all the good times including Betsy Tieman, Laurie Hahn, Denise and Kevin Trybalski, Kim Hanford, Lori Keith, Anita Henry, Jen Reinhart, Heath McBride, and all the training partners that pushed me along the way this past year.
Most of all I want to thank God for all He does and of course Tonya, Tyler, and Logan for being the most understanding wife and boys in the world when Daddy leaves for a 6 hour bike ride on a Saturday or is really tired after Church on Sunday afternoon b/c he got up at 4 AM to run before service. Without my wife and boys, none of this would be possible and I would not want to experience this without them by my side. Now…onto new adventures…wherever that leads us…
~Coach Troy

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