Klagenfurt doesn’t really roll off your tongue, and it doesn’t sound like a world class venue for an Ironman (but I think the Austrians may say the same for Muskoka!)
But believe me it is a fabulous race venue with a lake the colour of a (well kept) backyard swimming pool, some incredible vistas on the bike and a wickedly spectator friendly run route (that is just crazy flat).
On race morning we were greeted to a full-on double rainbow, so full you could practically see the pot of gold at each end, plus the race site was out of the rain, how great is that?
Our team of PACEperformance racers and cheer squad may not have been the biggest but we were certainly noticed!
Racers included IronVirgins Francesca Ricci, Brian Carr, IronVets Kathleen Robb, Chris Walsh, Peter Cook, Derek Rivers, Larissa Robinson and Gailio Burgess!
I could relate to you the significance of this race for each of our TCoB/PACE team members, but instead please ask them individually about their race. I thought I might just relate to you some vignette stories from our experience on the day.
The swim goes out and around the lake for 2.8k and then down a 20 foot wide canal for the last Km, so every time the swimmers would take a breath they would see spectators 3 deep on each bank yelling and waving. We had stationed ourselves 150m on the dry side of the swim exit – a perfect vantage point to wave our Canada flags and see our guys exit. Derek Rivers lead out of the water (and in fact lead our entire team all day long!) although Francesca was clearly the happiest of all 3000 participants to be on dry land – followed by B (i.e. Brian Carr). Just as B exited the swim we heard the bike race announcer say “Peter, your front tire is flat”, as a coach I heard this and thought, nah it can’t happen twice, and there are a ton of Peter’s in the race! But then … “Peter from Canada your front tire is flat”, (and it did happen twice – the first time was in Lake Placid for Doctor Cook), so with 1000 screaming fans Doc Peter had to change his tire with 500 of those fans shouting instructions about the best way to do it! After only 3-4 minute our nimble fingered Doc was hammering out again on the bike. Could the flat have happen at a better spot? I don’t so, with so many people and such crowd support Peter was a hero!
The cheer team got on buses that took 65 mins to get to the wickedest hill on the double loop route. The bus ride was harrowing, on tiny gravel roads with 300 foot drops on each side and other busses coming the other way – our heart rates were higher than the cyclist’s! But we got to be loud obnoxious Canadians for a change – with our 2 big flags we barricaded the tour du France type fan supported climb. As our team mates road by we were happy to play bull fighter and “toro” them through the Canuck flag barricade. We missed the speedy Dr Derek and the crazy fast Dr Christine Walsh (man we had a lot of Doctors eh?) but we were more than happy to see the smiling pearly whites of every other team member coming up the hill.
Back on the bus to watch the run.
So the run goes out to Krumpendorf (5k) and back to the race site then into downtown Klagenfurt, through the outdoor pub and restaurant mews around the “pucking Dragon” (6k) and back to the race site and then repeat!
We were able to see our teammates 5 times each on the run. It was fantastic to watch how peoples gait changes as they get tired but also to watch how their body language perks up when they see people they know!
Dr Derek was a hurtin dude as he came through after the first lap – with his prosthetic like leg brace his ailing knee was just fine but his back was a mess, so our drug team was able to find him some advil on the route and on his third time by (30k point) he may not have been happy but he was solid!
Chris Walsh was next, she stopped open her arms wide and said “yah only Around the Bay to go”. I think we all shut up and thought ooh yuk – bad imaging! But she was all smiles all day!
Gail came next, with hurting feet (Morton’s neuroma) and was inches from calling it a day. But in true Gail fashion we agreed she would run to the next aid station and decide there. From then on she was a house on fire. This race was her Ironman swan song so our goal was to finish it and enjoy the process, and that is exactly what happened (however you should know that Gail has NEVER finished off the podium in any Triathlons since she started 6-7 years ago – that is a nutso stat!) So winning was not the motivator but it happened anyway. (side bar- in the women’s 60-64 age cat – we had the top 4 finisher! Canadian ladies rock)
Larissa came next – how tough is this chick – she broke a toe in the swim (as she puts it “on someone’s face”) but continued on the run. Like a truly focused athlete, the minute she finished the race she could not walk – she has the power of focus! (note, she also a had a 25 minute PB that included 14 – washroom breaks!)
B – who doesn’t like Brian, a true crowd pleaser, always smiling and if he wasn’t half black and half Asian you would have thought he was a Greek God! Ripped, fit, smiling and always positive – he motives people around him. He stuck to our 4 min run 2 walk strategy all day long – no deviations.
Kathleen had quad cramps in the first 2k of the run, frankly I thought she may be forced to walk the full marathon, but a little extra hydration, some salt and Carbos and she was dancing for the rest of the day. Every time she came by she was moving strong and chugging away (little did she know she was 3rd in her age cat, and thanks to Gail who was first and turn down the KONA spot, as would Mary G, so our Girl Kathleen in now KONA bound KATHLEEN!)
Francesca – a swim survivor, a bike newby but a running fool! I had the “pleasure” of running with Francesca from 30k to about 33 k of the race, and barely kept up with her, she was totally ripping it up, and able to speak in full sentences while she was grinding me into the Klagenfurt ground. Her run was amazing and her finish inspiring. Always smiling and always pushing!
Peter Cook – Peter got soaked – it poured with rain the last bit of the run. I am sure his shoes are still wet. It got incredibly dark with literally the only light at times from lightening! I had the very distinct pleasure of running Peter to within 500m of the finish line, at points running 60 seconds walking 60 seconds but never wavering, always feeling like we were lost in the rainy black forest (all the route volunteers had run for cover from the storm), but hearing “you are an Ironman” again and again. No one deserved hearing it more than our determined Doctor!
So I am sure no one read this entire blog to the finish – let me know if you did (you win a PACE hat!).
But safe to say June 29 2014 will be one of the proudest moments of my coaching career. As always those who seek motivation end up providing motivation to others! Thank you team for your motivation!