The lifestyle I’ve chosen and subsequently subjected Karen to (Love you Babe!) is quite different than what I could have ever imagined. Yes, I travel to scenic and far off lands to train and compete…I don’t just wake up, work and come home like I used to while in the Air Force. When you're working for yourself, there are very few days off and the pressure is always on. This journey has now led me to the completion of my first IRONMAN, finishing 9 hours, 13 minutes. I broke the yoke or popped my cherry so to speak. I chose to do it in Austria of all places, not entirely sure why…but it had to be somewhere, right? I suppose if I rationalize, it’s because for years I’ve known Rene Vallant, a former Austrian Professional Triathlete who would visit St. Pete w/ family and friends during Austria’s colder months. Through a large network of athletes, I’ve become good friends with him, traveling to races and training together often. I believe for me, the “unknown” is a thrill and I love the idea of being in Europe. It’s intriguing and ultimately a huge challenge I wanted to take head on. I think deep down it’s why the adventur-er in me took over. While in Austria, I’ve been hosted by the Pewag team staying with Gerhard and Sonja and another American guest David Frazier (also a St. Pete local).
Here in Austria you will not find any large Walmart sized super centers, Starbucks or ANY other common establishments/chains. I’ve been shopping at a local butcher, local baker and have had a total of 2 restaurant meals. Everything else has been home cooked! It’s awesome! I’ve eaten roast deer, some of the best-dried meats, a Noodle from a local market, a bunch of sauerkraut and more bread than I care the mention. Thankfully I've enforced some self control
, as Austria is known for sweets and cakes! I’ve managed to choose them wisely and in small portion…after 5 hour training days. The food is good, the company is perfect and the views are unforgettable. I'm ONLY missing my KAREN!
IRONMAN Austria Race Report
Preparation: The week before the race was probably a tad higher in volume leaving me quite tired until around Thursday race week. Not ideal, however with another IM coming up soon, I wanted to put together some longer sessions for mental confidence. The swim and bike I knew would be decent, especially if I was able to make a bike group (which did not happen) and I knew the run would be a ultimately survival or slowing down as little as posisble. My pre race goals were quite vague, knowing I’d love to swim under an hour, bike near 4:40 and run under 3:30. I think since I put together a open Marathon early this year @ 3:10, this should be doable. Just set the freaking cruise control on the run and deal with the pain! All in all, race week was great! The Pewag lounge and social gatherings are more than what I’m used to but really, I enjoyed meeting so many people. The owner of Pewag, Castelli, Stork bikes and other heavy hitters made appearances! Pewag, for those who don’t know, make industrial strength chains for tires and other heavy machinery. They sponsor a lot of athletes on a race team but specifically have Marino, the winner of IRONMAN Austria 8 times (as of yesterday). This lounge and the support on course were among the BEST I’ve ever seen. At one point I felt like I was in the Tour De France!
What did I do race week? Not much to be honest, mostly shorter efforts at race pace, plenty of sleep and maybe a bit more nervous eating that I’m proud to remember. I think this week was near 8 hours in total with little time spent running. By Friday, I was antsy…ready to get on the course and see what the day will bring! We knew the weather was going to be a toss up, with predictions of rain and storms but we didn’t get much wind or rain until the back half of the course. It was a sprinkle here and there, enough to wet the roads. On the run, it rained a bit more but it was for 15 minutes. Normally It’s much much warmer, so I was very happy for mild temperature.The race director made the most common sense decisions I've ever seen. Stefan Leitner was a huge supported of pro athletes and made some decisions that made this event flow! Huge recommendation for this venue!
Will I be back for this race next year? YES! My plan is to maybe spend some more time in Europe, in this mountainous terrain. Maybe I will plan to race a 70.3 and a 140.6 instead of 2X 140.6. The village it took to get me here is truly something I reach for on days like yesterday. I think of those who will still be on the course hours after me, those tracking me, those who love me (a short list I’m sure, lol) and those who are screaming at me to GO GO GO even though I couldn’t go any faster even for 1 billion dollars!! Finally, the financial burden of this trip has been heavily cut down at it’s knees by staying with Gerhard and Sonja, cooking my own meals and doing little else. Without my financial sponsors, Brett and Karen, I’d be on a college kids diet of ramen and bullion cubes.
Now…I must plan for IRONMAN Switzerland and it’s 4 loop run course, yikes!
After a solid day of eating, I took a nice stroll on the IRONMAN Florida course since it was only 10 miles away. Let’s just say after all that jet fuel, I felt awesome! However, don’t get too excited, we have a 10 hour car ride to Raleigh, NC. I actually did something smart though. I was like, hey…we should break this drive up over 2 days! So on Wednesday, we headed to Jacksonville where I booked a pet friendly hotel. Why was it pet friendly? Because the bed could be hosed down with a power washer after we left. Basically….a bed, television and bathroom on damp tile floors….ooops. No big deal, it’s only 1 night! Thursday morning was another 6 hour stent to Raleigh, where we stopped at Savanah and Florence for some Panera and other dog related activities. Finally…Thursday at 3pm, we arrive at the Air BnB I booked in Raleigh! 10 minutes from the convention center and T2!
This time….my decision was solid! Our host does research on all public bike path usage in the state of NC. A total bike enthusiast, who recycles, composts, has her own jam, bike decorations and chickens in the backyard. Totally awesome! Anyway, it was a great place to get settled in with the pups and Karen loved it!
From here onward…it’s standard race stuff, but I promise to make it fun!