I love Klagenfurt. Beautiful scenery, picturesque town, great local support behind the race, and reliably hot weather. The swim start was cloudy, but the forecasts had promised that it would warm up nicely through the day. The morning had been fairly calm and relaxed at the hotel, but the bus we were getting was late and proceeded to take 45 minutes to get to the race start… so we arrived at transition at 6:10, giving us 20 minutes to get everything right before transition was cleared and we would be moved on to the swim start. I spent the majority of that time queuing for the port-a-loos as is every triathletes’ habit. So the unnecessary triple checking and worrying was cut out of the preparations. Down to the swim start, on with the wetsuit, finish off a gel and some more fluids, I waited patiently for the start. I seeded second row back on the right hand side – a pretty confident spot considering some of the AG swimming talent out there. At the four minute call, we were told to swim out to the start line. I’d thought it was a beach start, but was thankful that we’d get at least a little time in the water before the gun as I’d not managed to get in for a warm up. So we all gently cruised forward towards the start line 30meters out, and BANG – was that the start gun?? Rather reluctantly everyone started swimming a bit harder, a little unsure, but soon we all got our heads down and pushed on. The lack of a 400m anaerobic hammer session at the start was actually quite welcome. Perhaps that was what explains how the pace seemed to keep on edging up for the first 20 minutes, and why I seemed to be passing a couple of pro caps. The second section my stomach let me know that I was going too hard, so I backed off to cruise until the canal came and I let the melee suck me down to the exit ramp. I caught the clock out of the corner of my eye: 53 minutes. Good work!
T1 was a fairly leisurely affair, time to say hi to a couple of people, cram my ears into the new aero helmet (yes, I know – next it’ll be racing in speedos!) and jog out to the bike racks. After missing my bike stand and retracing my steps back to my rack, I was finally out on the bike course – a bit ahead of schedule. I wondered if that swim would come back to bite me in the ass later in the day. But the bike started well. It was still quite cloudy, and the first section is quick, even when cycling comfortably. Cyclists were few and far between so I mentally prepared for the packs to roll past at any moment. The first loop of the two lap course went by quickly, and the temperature started to rise. The support on the course was awesome (especially from the Pirates!), with some great europop pumping at the top of the hills. I stuck to my nutrition schedule and hit the turnaround in 2:28. Then the first large pack passed. I was surprised that it had taken them so long, and tried to keep pace with the back-end of it for a while, ultimately letting them roll on by after a few kilometres. Then things started to slow down a bit, and by the time I was half way round the second loop I was not having fun anymore. A couple more packs (and some serious drafting infringements) rolled past and there was not much I could do about it. Then a couple of brits came on past… I think I had met in the days before the race and they seemed pretty shit hot. And they were proving it on the bike – mostly taking time out of me on the downhills where I am still pretty rubbish. But things picked up – largely due to grabbing a coke at the next aid station.
So I rolled round the rest of the course, figuring the 5 hour target was lost. Got in a couple of minutes past 5 hours, relieved to be able to take off the aerohelmet which had warmed up nicely and was crucifying my ears! Cap on, trainers and gels in back pocket. Off we go. The clock at the T2 exit had just ticked past 6 hours. This could still be ok. The first couple of kms were too quick: the target was 4:30/km to hit 3:10ish marathon, but the first was done in 4:15. I slowed a bit – the only time in the marathon that I would have that luxury, and saw 4:25s for the next few, and then I slowed again, this time involuntarily. By 10kms I’d hit survival pace, and stayed there for much of the rest of the marathon. At that 10km mark, I wanted it over with. My race was done – all I could do was hang in and not walk. I ate gels and drank all the coke I could get my hands on until I was done with sugar. And then I had some more coke. And some more. The kms ticked by slowly, so I occupied myself with shouting to Pirates and other Serpies on the course. When halfway came, I felt a bit better, though survival pace was still all that was happening. I knew I could hang on, as long as my stomach held out – it was on the verge of cramps/stitches or something for most of the run. And man, it was hot. Last 10kms, I knew I was in the clear. With 4 km to go, I picked up the pace (a little), passing the last of the Brits who’d breezed by me on the bike.
9:16. The target was between 9:10-9:20 so I can’t complain, but it was done the hard way – swimming too quick and fighting through the rest of the day. I was a bit disappointed with the run – although it was a 3:15 marathon, I never got into the pace I’d intended. O well … good to have things to work on. And still came in first British athlete J 39th overall.
Team Serpentine did very well. Jenny got 1st in her AG, and was first British lady home. Melik and AJ both went convincingly sub-10 with PBs, Alex went sub-11 on his first try, just to mention a few. Overall an outstanding weekend!