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In 2002 i ruptured my ACL and MCL playing football and was told i would not be having an op on the NHS and could never play again (along with many other things!)... After doing some freeride / downhill MTB'ing for a couple of years, I starting to swim again in August 07 and thought, i cycle, i swim...all i need to do is run a about earning a little money for charity and sign up for the London Oly! I went on to enjoy my first season in tri so much I have done a 2nd, gone sub 2:30 for an Olympic distance got round an ironman and am still going!
When not training I can be seen at the Boleyn Ground being a long suffering season ticket holder at the 1966 World cup winners West Ham Rolling Eyes
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All about hammerer

Joined: 19 Nov 2007
Location: Right Next Door To Hell

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Ironman Austria 70.3 - 30th May 2010
Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:35 am hammerer
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Friday 28th May 2010

After a busy morning I set off at 14:30 to pick up a team mate and head to Gatwick airport ready for a 17:20 flight. This was due to arrive in Austria at around 20:30pm local time. We checked in smoothly at the airport and on getting through the security checks I noticed on the departures board that boarding time said 22:00. I thought this must be some mistake but on closer inspection it appeared that although it was incorrect, due to the French baggage handlers strike the previous day we were now not due to fly until 21:00, meaning a midnight arrival in Austria. Not ideal preparation for a middle distance triathlon / half Ironman. Add to this my now worsening cold, I was starting to feel “The Fear” a term used for the pre-race nerves of failure at middle and long distance triathlons. After eating a dinner at the airport, a pizza, boarding started around 21:15. Flight took off at 22:00 and was largely non eventful except for a serious problem with my ears, obviously due to the cold that appeared to be sitting on my chest. Chest is the last place you want problems as a cold you can race on, albeit slowly, but a chest infection is game over! We arrived at Vienna bang on 1am local time and after collecting the bikes and bags, another worry eroded, we met the Nirvana Europe rep and were put in a bus to the hotel. We arrived at the Hotel Graf in Saint Polten around 2:30am local time and I decided to hit the sack and worry about the bike in the morning.

Saturday 29th May 2010

I woke at 6am local time after just 3hrs 30 sleep and felt terrible. My voice was beginning to go and I was a little bunged up, but I pressed on and built my bike. I met up with another friend and some “new” friends around 8am to go for a spin on the bike and make sure all was running well and that the legs were suitably loosened up for the weekends activities. We only went out for 20mins with a spin to the race site and back, around 7miles. The first thing that was evident was the quality of the road surfaces meaning at one stage I was riding at 25mph in 3rd gear with literally no effort and got to 30 on the flat when I did a couple of 30second bursts.

When we arrived back at the hotel we went out for a quick 10min run off the bike and after this I felt a bit fresher, but although not feeling too bad in myself I was very bunged up and my voice was getting worse. Back at the hotel we showered had breakfast of muesli with yoghurt, juice, coffee and bread and cheese.

At 10:30 the coach arrived for the bike course recce, so we loaded our bikes onto the trailer to be taken to the race site and set off finally around 11am. The first 20k of the route was down an autobahn, and it was super smooth and looked fast with a flat, slight decline most of the way. After turning off we couldn't take the first climb at Krustetten due to the road closures in place for the race. This wasn't great as there are 3 major climbs on the route and I had been warned off the dangerously fast descent from Krustetten, which we really needed to recce first. This climb was 3km long going up about 300m though we had been told.

The next part of the course followed the river Danube for some 30km to the 60k mark. This was undulating and was in between two rows of hills either side. Simply stunning views and it was almost a shame that I would be racing and couldn't stop to take photos!

At 60k we turned off for the second and the hardest of the 3 climbs to Gansbach. This went on for 8km and climbed half a kilometre. Again stunning views and the climb didn't look to tricky for the first few k but it kicked up near to the top for some 12% inclines. All in all I didn't at this stage feel concerned.

The descent was reasonably straight and looked fast but with wide open fields either side it looked like it could be windy, and cross winds are not great with deep carbon wheels on the bike. This had potential for a few brown trouser moments Shocked

The final climb of the day was at Winzing at the 76k mark and although only 1k long parts were pretty steep. The descent then back in to St Polten would be fast and a good chance to get the legs back ready for the 21.1km half marathon Very Happy

After this the coach dropped us at the event arena where we registered and got our transition bags, bike, run and street wear. These are hung at T1 and T2 with the street wear containing your gear for after the race. We got all the numbers and racked the bike. The bike number had a chip inside and a photo was taken of you and your bike, while a chipped wristband was also linked to the chip in your bike. Security at its best but with some of the bikes on show it needs to be good!

After a quick return to the hotel for lunch and to pack our transition bags we went back to the race site for the 3pm race briefing and had a recce of the transitions, lakes and all the entry and exit points so we knew everything ready for race morning. In hindsite we spent far too long on out feet that day and I was starting to flag badly. I was tired, sick and getting pretty nervous that I may not even be able to start the race.

At 18:30 in the evening a group of us met up for dinner and I had tuna salad and rice, whilst still drinking plenty of water. The restaurant owner must have been surprised when a group of nine English and Irish lads turned up and drunk water Laughing After a great evening I hit the sack at 21:00 shattered and feeling very bad at this point.

Sunday 30th May, Race day

I was up at 4:30am feeling terrible but some more flu tablets that i had been popping all weekend helped control that. I got showered, changed and down for breakfast at 4:50am. I had 2 rolls with jam, banana, coffee, orange juice and a peanut butter cliff bar, around 800 – 900 calories in all. After filling my drinks bottles, 1 aero bottle of Go electrolyte at 6% and one frame bottle at 12%, double strength, which I’d mix with water available on the course. I also made a weaker Go electrolyte solution for pre race loading. I grabbed my kit and left the hotel at 5:30 am for the 10minute transfer to race site.

On arrival I set up the bike making sure shoes were clipped in ready, tyres were pumped to pressure and that drinks, gels and bars were in the bento box and taped to my top tube properly. It was at this point a major stress occurred as we had left the wetsuits and street wear bags in the car ready to pick up before the race, but in transition confusion someone had picked up my friends bag by mistake, with car keys in wetsuit meant a very cold or even no swim!!! I wasn't feeling great anyway so a swim in an 18deg lake with no wetsuit wouldn't be ideal, and would also mean the swim time being a lot slower! A quick announcement over the tannoy and someone realised their mistake and problem averted. 20 minutes of stress we could have done without though, as I was already feeling very nervous! Due to these feelings and the fact my stomach was churning I decided to forego the pre race gel I usually take. The atmosphere was electric though and with the helicopter hovering overhead we knew that the pros were about to start. This event was massive and I was starting to think “what am I doing here”.

At 7:30 I headed towards the lake meet point as my wave, 35-39 age, was off at 7:55. I was looking around at the thousands of athletes and got one of them “this is it” moments that you get before a big event. I entered the lake towards the front but with over 550 people in my wave all starting in a small part of the lake it was very congested.

Finally the gun went and we were off, I was starting Ironman Austria 70.3. Some frantic thrashing of arms and legs must have looked spectacular from above, but I could hardly move due to the people around me. There was a lot of head up swimming with a few hits and kicks. The first buoy was around 150-200m away and this was a slow part of the course. No water to be found anywhere and I just couldn't relax and get into my stroke. After the first buoy it thinned out a bit and then onto the second buoy which thinned it out even more. I could then get my head down and swim freely. The lake was crystal clear and I could see feet in front of me and to the side. I was just hanging onto the draft given by these swimmers trying to make my swim as easy and pain free as possible. I was still feeling poor though and was coughing into the lake, and this was starting to worry me. After 1000m we exited the lake and had a 300 run over the canal bridge to lake number 2 and the second part of the swim. This was 900 meters and was basically a straight swim around the edge of the lake. This went quite well for me and although I didn’t feel great I could see the exit arch coming ever closer and knew that part one of three would soon be over. As I got to the edge of the lake I stood up whilst wobbling a little where the blood rushes to the legs, and then made my way to transition to get ready for part 2.

Swim time was 40:23 which was a little disappointing as I was hoping for nearer 35min but with the long run between lakes and about 150 m from the exit to T1 then I suppose not too bad.

On entering transition you pick the bike bag off of the rack, and go into the changing tent. I put on compression socks and my helmet and glasses and went to the portaloo before going and getting my bike and exiting T1 which was massive.

T1 time 6:31...again slow but the size of Transition was a main reason for this.

I jumped on the bike and exited the event arena for a short drag down to the S33 autobahn. Up the entry ramp and it was a 20k drag strip of cyclists on the closed autobahn. Could you imagine racing a bike down a closed motorway in the UK, it would never happen!

This was a sheer pleasurable experience and I was averaging around 27mph along this stretch, with German Uber cyclists still blowing me away. It was incredible to see! I was overtaking some of the quicker swimmers from my wave but the strength of the field was incredible. There were some seriously good athletes out for this event. I started my nutrition strategy at this point which was a gel on 20 and 40 minutes with ½ a cliff bar on the hour. I was going to drink 750ml bottle of 6% Go electrolyte an hour also. This would give me an hourly total of 463 calories, but I knew I wouldn’t be drinking 750ml an hour in the relatively cool 19deg temperatures that we had today.

After a while we exited the autobahn and it was time for the climb to Krustetten. This was a 3km climb going up a few hundred meters in total, but it was pretty steep in places and some out of the saddle work was needed. The pain was easily forgotten with the swathes of villagers lining the streets chanting HOPP HOPP HOPP as you climbed whilst ringing cow bells, blowing whistles and horns. It’s very motivating! I reached the top and time for a very quick and dangerous descent down towards the River Danube. The roads were switching back in places and coming into corners on a descent at speed is quite unnerving on a time trial bike, especially when you see ambulances and people lying in the road. I see two separate incidents down here and held back as it was all about getting down in one piece. After the descent we then had a 30k ride along the river, which was stunning with hills either side of the river which was flowing next to you. The rain started to fall at this stage but I wasn’t concerned, although the head wind that lowered my average speed to around 22mph was concerning! I was riding quite well and felt strong at this stage and was catching riders but was still be passed by some seriously fast cyclists. Considering how strong I usually am on the bike this was shocking.

After 60k we turned off the river and headed up the second main climb of the day to Gansbach. Luckily I arrived here on 1:40 ride time so had a gel ready for the 8km slog up to the village. Immediately I realised that the climb was a lot harder than it had seemed on the coach the previous day. I think the added 60km in the legs didn’t help much easier, and I just stuck it in the granny gear and span up as easily as I could. At times I was struggling to get 6mph. It was tough. After about 3k of the climb I had my first real wobble of the day when the mind started saying to me, “What are you doing”. “You are mad”, “give up now, you’ll never finish”.

At this point I realised a cyclist I was catching was British. The number had your name and the nationality you were representing on it. I spoke to him as I caught him and we rode together for a couple kilometres before I pressed on ahead. We both found it amusing that there is a saying “do not leave your race on the bike course” but how were we going to save any energy after a climb like this. We still have to run a half marathon and we hadn’t even got to 65k on the bike!

As we got to the village of Gansbach the crowds lined the streets again and this helped lift me for the final 2km kick to the top. As I reached the summit I thought to myself “now time for some fun”, and pushed on downwards. I was late eating my nutrition at this point, due to not wanting to eat mid climb. My body doesn’t tolerate food at a high HR so I made the decision to wait till the top and get some inside me then. This is probably the reason for the mind games earlier in the climb, as I ate ½ a cliff bar and within 5mins a caffeine gel and felt on top of the world.

The descent was fast and I was hitting 45mph and was backing off. It was quite open and the cross winds, although light, were a little off putting. Many people went flying past me at this stage with some hitting well over 60mph on this descent....I’m a coward on descents so wasn’t going to risk that sort of speed!

After some rolling countryside and a nice rest from the climb to Gansbach, the third climb soon approached and this was the easiest of the three. The villagers were out again and HOPP HOPP HOPP was chanted with one section doing mexican waves as you passed.

The rest of the ride was a descent into St Polten and meant that the legs were very fresh ready for the half marathon. I clocked a bike time of 2:57:19, which was under my 3hr target but I felt fresh and had biked well within myself for much of the ride. T2 started with another toilet break and straight out of the changing tent into the event arena for the start of the first 10.6km lap. T2 time 3:35.

The event arena is the tennis stadium used for the Austrian ATP champs, and was packed with supporters. We would go though here 3 times per lap and it made for a great atmosphere. I picked up some water from the aid station and exited the arena to do a lap of the running track before coming back through the stadium and out to the canal for the majority of the run. It seemed like no time before I got to the 2km aid station and took on water. Pre race plan was to walk the aid stations for 1minute. These are at 2km intervals, and it is a common tactic for middle and long distance triathlons. It enables you to get nutrition into the body and for the heart rate to drop to enable you to digest it. The next 2k was pretty uneventful and I was running quite well before crossing the canal and getting to the 2nd aid station at about 4.5k. Again just water and sponges to mop down with for me and off I set again through a small scale office area. After 5.8k you drop back down to the canal for the 6k aid station where I again only took on water. My first 5.8k was timed at 28:36 and I was running strong for me.

The drag back along the canal was tough and the miles were beginning to add up. I had a caffeine gel at 6k and that boosted me a little. I had to stop for a toilet break again and the time was beginning to add up. After 8.5k we crossed the canal and back to the road to return to the event arena. I got to the event arena and 10.6km in 60:07 for a slow 4.8 k split 31.51.

Through the event arena the mind games started when I thought I still have to run that whole lap again. It was a long way but I pressed on as I knew in around an hour it would all be over. After checking my watch the sub 6hr target time looked on and this spurred me on. I also had another gel and the energy got me going around the track, back through the stadium for the 4th time and out for another lap of the canal. I needed yet another toilet stop at this point and I knew I had taken on too much fluid but this was essential due to the illness I has been suffering from.
At the 12k aid station they had orange segments and I picked up one of these as they just looked so delicious at that stage. This again picked me up for a couple of k before I seriously started to wobble. I didn’t know how I would get through the last 6 or so kilometres. I went through the aid station and at this point picked up a banana and ate that along with a caffeine gel. I was struggling and crossed the 5.8k /16.4km marker in 1:32:41 for a 5.8k split of 32:34....4 minutes down on the first lap. I had another banana piece at 16k and pushed on for the last portion of the race. I was now feeling really strong mentally as the finish was getting ever closer and the food had digested and given me the kick I needed. As I crossed back across the canal at 18k and pressed around towards the event arena I was beginning to hear the crowds and was getting a little emotional. I’d had a long day and it was nearly all over. I ran though the stadium for the 5th time and out to the track. At the 200m mark on the track checked my watch to see the 6 hours closing and I knew I was narrowly going to miss my target time, but that didn’t matter as I was nearing a finish of the toughest event I had ever done. A finish that at times looked unlikely and only the day before had seemed nigh on impossible with the illness. As I entered the stadium to big cheers from the crowd the announcer called out No 1482 representing Great Britain Carl Botten you are a Half Ironman.

I crossed the line to be given my medal, foil wrap for warmth and an ice cream. That’s the best tasting bit of food I think I have ever had in my life. My final run split was 2:12:54 with the 4.8k in 39.53...Very slow, but that didn’t matter. My final time...6:00:42 seconds but again I was unconcerned....until the initial euphoria of finishing subsided and I started ploughing over my splits thinking...”If only”

Swim 40:23
T1 6:31
Bike 2:57:19
T2 3:35
Run 2:12:54
Total 6:00:42 rank 1908/2712 AG 383/592

After the finish I headed off to the relaxation zone to chill out and rest, where we had pizza, pancakes drinks and also got to collect our finishers t-shirt. It was great hearing the stories and finding out that Matt had come 2nd in the 40-44 AG with a time of 4:14 and qualified for the World Championships at Clearwater. Biggest up of the day goes to the Lantern Rouge Dave Mc who was the last athlete to cross the finish line. It was a great effort from the big man, and it must have hurt him a hell of a lot more than me.

The awards ceremony in the evening was good. After being fed well, and with free beer, it was a lively occasion with all the prize winners going up in Age groups but the loudest cheer of the day and a standing ovation was reserved for the winner of the 75-79 AG. 78 year old August finished in 8:08:38.

Thanks for all the good wishes people. This is the best event I have ever done and I would highly recommend it!

race photos have been ordered and to come!

~   Last edited by hammerer on Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:52 am; edited 3 times in total
Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:55 am didds
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top report, top racing. You overcame a lot of problems on the day buddy, and you deserved your sub 6 though it was not to be - the headwinds along the Danube did for you there :-/ I hadn;t realised how poorly you were on the saturday though I could hear your croaky throat... big up for getting through it all.

Really great meeting you too... hope to bump into you again sometime somewhere with hopefully a bit more time for a few beers.

Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:09 am Carlito
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Fantastic. Well done. Great report too and you really did that race against the odds with a pre race cold. Well managed ... and wow to Matt.
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