When I finished IM Frankfurt in 2017, I just hoped it wouldn’t be my last – I had loved the training and the discipline. I had found my sporting distance – there is no doubt I have a diesel engine. When the talk started with a few of the girls going long, I took the plunge and entered IM Austria 2019 a full 12 months in advance (In life I am not an advance planner, so this was big for me) IM Austria is 21 years old, and sells out within 24 hours of opening. Eight of us secured entries.
Before you know it September arrives and decisions need to be made. I opted to go with the same generic plan as before, as it had worked for me and I knew I could manage to fit it in. We hoped to train together, but I knew that wasn’t really going to work, with different training plans, responsibilities and work patterns. The camaraderie, banter and support in the club was great, with numbers of the LTC gang doing Cork & Frankfurt around the same time, and in particular the IronGirls.
Looking back at my logs and comparing 2017 to 2019, there is little difference in the volume or distance of work done. Although athletically young (10 years in sport) I am now 2 years older. This prompted me to start doing S&C work, initially in the gym, then from November with Maeve Kavanagh. Maeve a triathlete herself had followed her passions and set up a home studio where she does 1:1 and 1:2 tailored Personal training sessions. This brought me to the start line, not only injury free, but also strong for the first time ever.
If sessions were missed, I was certainly less stressed about it. Everything went fine over the winter, building mileage gradually and trying to really stick in the aerobic zones. One thing I do remember clearly was wind – it seemed to be windy every time I went out. I entered Joey Hannan for the first time, hoping to use it as a marker for my fitness, but on the day an ok swim was followed my first ever DNF – I punctured on the bike and had no spare (such a Rookie mistake) so despite attempts from others to help my day was done.
Training volume increased, the days become longer. The last 6 weeks didn’t go to plan for me as life got in the way, but nothing I could do about that. I watched each weekend as guys hit IM’s in Lanzarote (Hot and oh so windy), Cork (cold, wet and windy) and Frankfurt (Windy and oh so so hot). Each time locked on the tracker willing and wishing the guys and girls through, wondering would I have it in me??? Then it’s our turn.
Klagenfurt is a really beautiful spot. Such a buzz from the moment we arrived. I got in late Thursday, driving down with my 11 year old co pilot. Friday morning everyone had arrived in good form, well prepared and focused. By the time you register, pick up your bike and sort it out, the day isn’t long going. Friday was hot and sunny, and we enjoyed a swim in the lake to cool down. It was clear from the posted lake temperatures that there would be no wetsuit in the swim, no point in stressing on that – control the controllables. It was confirmed at race brief on Saturday, so no more thinking about it. Ironically, the air would be cooler than the water, and there was rain forecast (rain gives Irish people power Pádraig O’S told me). We got on with setting up and the Kids did an Aquathlon race – so much for staying out of the sun and resting!
The swim in the fabulous Worthsee lake has to be seen to be believed, with music pumping cannons blasting. We girls all decided to wear togs (we swim in those all the time) and for ease we’d wear the bras beneath. All good.
There was a self seeded rolling start, I wished the girls well and tried to rank myself realistically and off I went. It was as close to swimming in a pool you will get – clear blue, although no black lines to guide. The first turn at 1200M, all relaxing, I kept wide as there were a lot of swimmers in front, I felt I was overtaking all the time, another 500M or so and we turned back in for land and the rising sun, couldn’t see a thing! The final 1km of the swim is up a canal, and it was lined with people – amazing atmosphere although the canal was murky and full of weed, I just wanted OUT. I thought I heard my name (ridiculous!) but Andrea Cullen had indeed spotted me in the midst of all those arms. Glancing at the time I was slightly peeved, I hadn’t put in a big effort, but was disappointed to see 1:12 (Look I know many would kill for that swim time, but let’s remember i have done 1:03, and I wasn’t taking into account the no wetsuit factor). No worries anyway, you give what you can, and take what you get ( wise words Lexi)
Into transition and I get annoyed with men in the women’s changing area, eventually deciding who cares and just getting on with it (Less than 14% of the field were female). The first 90km loop is a new course and the villages we passed though had really made an effort with fantastic support all along the road and those frequent hills. I just try and focus on HR (not going too hard) and eating (little and often). A bottle taken every aid station, a salt tablet every 2 beeps (20km), The scenery is amazing, the KMs roll by. Its busy – I am overtaken a lot. It’s a bit concertina on the hills, and I am not a fast descender, a few flat sections I feel like I am flying and it’s back to Klagenfurt where the Horgans spot me and roar support, and onto the second loop. Its quieter, less people, less villages. Where’s the flat bit? if I see another hill….
At 160km the atmosphere changes – is it me? am I ok? Oh no here’s the rain. The skies darkened, lightning flashes and it pours, biblically. The temperature drops from 30 to 12oC. A squall comes up, luckily I am on the flat but I can’t see very well and it’s taking everything to hold on to the bike. I am near town and riding through 10cm water, I figure pulling in could be just as dangerous so I just keep going. I have never been so glad to get off the bike. It was terrifying – if you weren’t there you don’t know.
(Later I find out the tracker cut out and the Dome and Marquees were evacuated for safety – some riders pulled in for shelter, others were stopped until it passed, the barriers were blown down and it reminded me of the videos from Youghal)
What can I say, it’s not my thing, but if you put one foot in front or the other and keep going forward you will get there (Thanks Mark Kennedy). Support was on the first corner with Darine and Lisa’s gangs all cheering. I had decided to do 4 x10 kms, each dedicated to a different person. The first was fine, I spotted Lisa and Garron flying. Amused by the athletes running with foil blankets – it’s like summers day at home, 15oC and rain! The second was ok, a few silly stops, I had half done. ‘Everytime you cross a mat and hear the beep, we are sending you power’, Murna told us in our IronGirls group. The rain stopped and it started to heat up. Róisin came past me loving being on the run, Mike Heaney likewise a big grin (it will all be grand he reminded us constantly). At 30km a big crew of LTC supporters I hadn’t seen all day and when I tried to chat they shooed me on (shooing loudest my daughter). Into the last 10km, I had no idea of times except my swim, all I knew was that I wanted to have no regrets and do my best, it’s not who goes the fastest but who slows the least (Dave Beary). A little pain and effort here is nothing – to be here, to be able, what a privilege.
I ran up – literally – it was on a stage, to the finish line, looked up and cried in disbelief.
Having seen the others or their families out on the run, I knew they were safely off the bike, and nothing within their control would stop them finishing – it was amazing to share an IM finish with Garron, Lisa, Dairine, Róisín, Oorla & Mike. Support from their partners & families bolstered my crew of one, looking after her while I was out there and made it a fantastic experience. We later learned another LTC athlete was out there – well done Johnny Whelan. 100% success, all the same medal.
Thanks for all the messages – it really means a lot.
Pain IS temporary, club pride is FOREVER.