There were two start waves for the swim section: 6.45am start for the Pro’s, the age groupers and those who had registered for the earlier start – which included me! A total of 800 of us were in wave 1. The second wave, consisting of everyone else, circa 2,200 competitors, started at 7am. So a less hectic swim was the theory and the rationale for the first wave entry.
The canon went off, a large cheer went up from the crowd and we entered the water. The Pro’s and fast swimmers went off fast and I was swimming with about 200 others around me. It was still a bit ‘bumpy’ to start with but after a few hundred metres it calmed down.
A real good solid swim. Nicely paced, strong but not too fast, nice large buoys, regularly positioned so sighting was easy. I was sighting every six strokes and I got into the rhythm very easy. I got to the first turn buoy (1.4K) in what felt like no time. I was so focused on sighting, who was around me and where they were and on my stroke etc that time flew by.
After the second turn at 400 metres (so 1.8K in total) we turned back to shore and due to the sun straight in front, sighting was harder. But again so many others were around me I was not going to go off course! This section was shorter and led to the start of the narrow canal section The canal section started and it got a bit more tasty. It was very narrow, quite shallow and very congested. But by then I was flying. I went to the far right of the canal, where it was less busy and I just carried on with the same pace. There were so many swimmers around me I was just waiting to hit someone or be hit by someone with every stroke. But it never came. With my confidence up I went to the middle, where race briefing said it would be faster, and carried on.
By now the faster of the main starters, those who started at 7am, were on us and passing us fast. They took no prisoners. It was a case of getting out of their way or being swum over. Then before I knew it the hotel was in sight where the swim exit was.
I swum right up to the ramp and was helped out by one of the helpers and I stopped my stop watch.
Swim time of 1hr 14 mins – Excellent – 4 minutes faster than the Reading practice swim of 3.8k. Predicted time for swim was 1hr 20 to 1hr 30 mins so all going well.
A long ole trot to T1. But no wobbly legs after the swim, top half of the wetsuit came off easy and the crowds were immense, cheering us all the way.
T1 was calm, mainly as it was slow. I got my bag easily, got everything out of it, took the rest of my wetsuit off and put it in the empty bike bag. Put my bike kit on over my tri suit, put my bike shoes on and did the slow run (best you can run in bike shoes) to the bike. In doing so I passed the port-a-loo’s so had a quick pee as one was vacant.
I grabbed the bike and headed to Bike out.
Note to self – learn to leave shoes on the bike and mount bike and put shoes on while riding. It takes too long and is too dangerous running in cleats.
T1 time – 7 mins 5 secs. I was aiming for 5 mins or less, but I hadn’t factored in the run to and from T1 being so long. So still going well.
The bike was two loops of 90K. Loop 1 went like this:
As I left T1 to the right there was a short ride to the 180 degree turn around point, I saw (and heard) Sam so after the turn around point I knew where they were so I could give a wave.
And then the bike leg was under way. The first loop there were a lot of people over taking me. In hindsight this made sense, I wasn’t going to come 800th out of 3,000 competitors, so circa 1,000 to 2,000 people could be passing me on the bike and run. But I didn’t really think about it that way. Now I didn’t try and keep up with anyone who passed me. They were all on expensive tri bikes, with aero helmets and were flying. So I just let them all go and rode my own bike leg. I kept to a good heart rate, irrespective of speed and ploughed on, enjoying the ride.
I went through the village of Villach. Where Sam and Steve’s parents were going to be watching. But they weren’t there yet. ‘did that mean I was going too fast?’ ‘or that the traffic was bad and it was taking them longer to get there?’ all these thoughts were going through my mind. There was a little loop and then I came back to Villach so I went through Villach four times in total, hence this is why they chose there to view.
I hit the smaller of the two climbs ‘Rupertiberg’ which was OK and before I knew it I was back at Villach, Sam and Steve’s parents were there cheering me on, which was a great boost.
Next up was the monster climb of Riebrig, which was hard. It was a long (ish) gradual, leg sapping climb and then you turned the corner to a shorter (but still long) steeper climb. There were spectators each side all shouting ‘ Hop Hop, Hop’. Some were standing by the side of the road, some were running along side you, but everyone was shouting ‘hop hop hop‘. It was such a great atmosphere.
Then another 20K and I was on the road back into town. Crowds were everywhere, shouting encouragement as I neared Klagenfurt.
The first bike loop was OK. I never felt out of breath or like I had pushed it or was pushing too hard and the time at the 180 turn round point was 3hrs 15 mins. This worried me. The Bedford half ironman a month earlier I did the 90K bike course in exactly the same time, where there were no hills like the two big climbs and only a half marathon to do afterwards. I had just done the same time on a harder course, which I had to do again and then a marathon. I was going too fast.
I decided to do the second lap slower.
I turned the 180 degree turn around point and had my first ‘dark moment’. I really enjoyed loop one but the realisation that I had to do that entire ride again and those two massive hills. Queue negative thoughts, ‘why am I doing this’? ‘You should be sitting at home with your slippers on watching The Big Bang Theory’. ‘You’ve got to do a marathon after this next loop’. ‘Why are you doing this Darren?’
I tried to block these thoughts out and ploughed on after a quick pee in some bushes. Loop two was soon in full swing. I was focusing on nutrition, keeping it the same as loop one; a gel every hour, a torq bar every hour (as 4 chunks each 15 mins), half a banana about every hour (depending on feed station location) and 750ml of water per hour.
The weather was nice for loop one, quite sunny and warm, but loop two was cloudy and soon it was raining. The rain actually cheered me up as, to be honest, it was something different and meant I had to concentrate and focus more, so the time went quicker. A short shower and the rain passed, then a bit of sun but then more rain and it was like this for most of the second loop.
I passed Villach and saw Steve’s mum but didn’t se Sam or Steve’s dad, but I would be back in an hour or so. I did the smaller of the two climbs and was OK but started to think about the biggy coming up – dark thoughts part two!
The biggy was quieter. The crowds were less due to the rain and the time. It was still incredibly noisy and great, but not as loud as loop one. I put my head down, pumped the legs and waited for the pain. I acknowledged a few as I passed them, ‘hi there’, ‘nearly there’, ‘keep going’ etc – HANG ON – I was passing them. I had to double take. I was half way up the climb, feeling good, passing people as I went. I was going to do this climb and do it well.
This meant the rest of the loop was a doddle. The biggy was behind me. I had Sam to wave to again and then I would be back in the town.
I saw Sam and got an encouraging cheer. And soon I was on the road back to town, this time to park the bike!
So loop two was OK. The only issue was my bladder! I had a pee at the start of loop two, but then went a further 6 times – so 7 times during loop 2. What is that all about?
My total bike time was 6hrs 52 mins, so if loop one was 3hrs 15 mins loop 2 took me 22 mins longer. Which was fine, I wanted to slow the pace and the downhills were getting dodgy with the rain.
My aim for the bike was 7 hours or under so 6hrs 52 mins was on target. I felt good, physically and mentally and just T2 and the run to do.
Loop 1 was an average HR of 82% of max and lap 2 was a more sensible 77% of max.
Dismounted the bike, IDIOT – I still had my bike shoes on, so another difficult ‘run’ through transition with my cleats on, I went to my bike rack and there were no spaces, I was number 625 and in my spot was 658, next to it was 610, next to that was 621. It was a free for all. So I stuffed my bike between two others and trotted off.
I got my run bag, emptied it out, took off my bike gear and packed it into the run bag as I went. I changed my socks for nice dry ones (and applauded myself for thinking of putting in spare socks in case of rain), loaded up with gels, put on some sun lotion as the sun was well and truly out now and headed for the Run Out.
T2 time of 8mins 09 secs. What was I doing in there!
Now this was key for me. This is where focus and attention was crucial, this is where all the training and prep needed to be replicated exactly. And this is where I cocked up!
As you started the run there was a guy with a microphone shouting out your name, where you were from and the crowd cheered you on. There was music pounding out, there was applause, it was awesome. How can you not get carried away?
My target time for the marathon was 5hrs 15 mins – 5hrs 30 mins. All at the same constant pace. This meant a speed of circa 8kmph. Which is 15 mins per 2K. I had set the Garmin to give me a lap time every 2K covered, the lap times should have been 15 – 16 mins per 2K.
But I ran the first 2K in 13.11, the next 2K at 14.40. Now this wasn’t good but wasn’t too bad. I only went too fast for the first 2K, I slowed for the second 2K. I was too fast but I didn’t go off at 14kmph or worse I was only slightly over the pace, and I realized and slowed down, I dropped down to the correct speed and felt OK so I didn’t beat myself up too much.
The run was two loops each a figure of 8 – so roughly: out of the park to the left 5K, back to the park 5K, out of the park to the right 5K and back 5K – twice, plus the 2K already done.
Sam and the support crew were at the park so loads of times to see me.
Through the park was awesome, the cheering, the music, the supporters, running with others, some faster, some slower, it was great. I kept my head and concentration and crucially my speed down.
My nutrition plan kicked in as I hit the first feed station, a gel every 30 – 40 mins, and water, walk through the feed stations to make sure I got plenty of water from the cups, trying to drink and run meant you lost most of it and splashed the water over your face!
Now the water over your face wasn’t an issue as it was so hot they were also giving out sponges of cold water. I grabbed four, squeezed them down my neck, front and over my head and carried on running. I did this at every feed station for the first 20K.
That first loop, the first figure of 8, was great. Nice ‘easy’ pace, great support, I saw Sam and the others through the park each time, the second part of the 8 took us into town, past all the restaurants where people were drinking, eating and also cheering. The atmosphere was electric.
The first 22K went like this: 13.11, 14.40, 16.11, 16.46, 17.11, 16.02, 15.22, 18.07, 15.21, 18.15, 16.33.
I got back to the park and was halfway through the marathon. The Garmin said 2 hrs 45 ish minutes – bang on target. I then had a blip, the pace slowed, bit like the bike, ‘I have to do all that again’. I hit another feed station, more sponges, more water, another gel and also had a pee, the second one on the run so far and I felt OK . . . . . . for about another 2K. Then it went to pot. I just felt drained. The sun was beaming down on me, I was pee’ing within 10 minutes of having water, I was sick of the taste or thought of gels. I knew I needed them for energy, but I was almost gaging as I was taking them.
22K onwards went like this: 19.14, 19.28, 18.49, 19.17, 19.43, 18.19, 20.11, 19.46, 20.14, 18.27.
I had to walk at points as my stomach was like a ball of acid and was really painful as I ran.
I took ‘ritz’ type biscuits at the feed stations to give me some solids but also to dry my mouth out so I then wanted to drink, 10 mins later I needed to pee.
The second half of the marathon was hard. My running wasn’t much faster then a brisk walk, the pace had slowed so much, I was also walking in places, walking up to the feed stations and after them and not just walking through them like I was before.
The 5hrs 15 mins – 5hrs 30 mins went out the window, it was all about finishing now. What had gone wrong? Too fast on the swim and bike loop 1? Was it the first 2K of the run had cost me more than I thought it would, was it the heat, had I got the nutrition wrong, or the hydration, was this why I was pee’ing so much, will I finish before the cut off?
I saw Geoff in the Town Centre on loop 2 and asked him the time and he shouted back 8.32pm. I tried working out how long I had been going. I started at 6.45 am, to 6.45 pm is 12 hours, plus 2 hours is 14 hrs but it’s not 8.45 so err less than 14 hours. That can’t be right, let’s do that again. Same result. So I could do this in under 15 hours OR has he not put his watch forward?!?
To cut a long, painful, story short, the first half of the marathon I did in 2 hrs 45 mins the second half in 3hrs 25 mins – over 45 minutes longer.
And then I was in the finishing shute. I saw Sam, she gave me Mark’s flag, the Union Jack with Ironmate on it, I stupidly grabbed it in one hand, and headed for the ramp as the commentator shouted out “Darren Webb you are an Ironman”.
And that was it. Job done.
I got my medal and congratulations in German. Steve came over, shook my hand, Sam came down from the grandstand at the finish and gave me a well deserved kiss. And I went with Steve to the finishing marque. I realized it had been raining again so I was wet, it was now dark and I was cold.
I was offered, alcohol free beer, water, orange, pasta, chilli, rolls, pizza – I didn’t want any of it. I had two mouthfuls of plain pasta and a bit of bread roll and felt sick so didn’t eat any more. I got my finishers tee shirt, Steve went and got my medal engraved with my time while I sat and stared at the food.
I got my street wear bag and got dressed as I was shivering. Nice clean, dry clothes. We decided to go as I wasn’t going to eat any time soon and I wanted to go and have a nice warm shower and was worried Sam and Steve’s parents were stuck outside the competitors marque and it was till raining. As we left I realized it was absolutely bucketing it down, along with thunder and lightening. The dry clothes didn’t stay dry for long. A 20 minute walk in the heavy rain to the car, a 10 minute car ride to the transition area, back in the rain to get the bikes and bags, don’t know how we got two bikes and three people and bags etc into Derek’s car, and Sam and Chris got a cab back to the hotel.
At the hotel a quick shower and a couple of choc chip cookies and I laid on the bed. It was now about midnight – I had been up 19 hours, competing for 14 and a half and yet I wasn’t even tired.
I was very cold and shivering, put the duvet over me and then was hot and sweating, so uncovered and was shivering. I slept on and off for a few hours, then had some energy drink and shortly after that had some water. I went to breakfast at 9am still feeling sick and no appetite until scrambled egg, ham and a bread roll were put in front of me and I ate that straight off. Normality resumed!
I am happy, very happy. I said if all went well 14 hours realistically probably 15. The Gauntlet half Ironman last year was 7 hours so double the distance is 14 hours plus extra as you cannot do the same pace for a full as you can for a half, so 15 hours could also be seen as optimistic.
So to be under 15 hrs and only just over 14 hrs 30 mins is great.
But (sorry Sam there is always a but) there is a nagging frustration that I was on target for a finish time of under 14 hours, until the second half of the marathon went wrong.
But (but 2) my first half ironman distance 2 years ago, I struggled in the run, Vachery and The Gauntlet Halves I did last year I struggled in the run and its only the Bedford half where I had a good strong half marathon as part of a half ironman. So my running is getting stronger as is my overall fitness.
So to expect to do my first marathon distance run as part of an ironman and it be easy was a bit foolish.
So I am very pleased in general and with myself!
Big thanks, as always, to Sam for the support on the day of the event, the days leading up to the event and everyday before that. Training to be an Ironman takes of lot of commitment not just from the Ironman but also to the loved ones around them, so thank you.
Thanks to Steve, for suggesting the event, answering my hundreds of questions and guiding me through my first event.
My Austrian support crew: Liz, Chris, Derek, Lyn and Geoff for turning an Ironman event into a great break too. Also additional thanks to Derek and Chris for taking my bike over there in their car, driving the bike course with me, ferrying us around all during the break, taking Sam to watch me at Villach, walking in the pouring rain to get our bikes out of transition etc etc. It was all really very much appreciated.
And to Leigh back at home for keeping people updated on my progress and updating Sam so she knew when I would be coming past.
To Ollie for the banner and good luck wishes. And to everyone who wished me luck and congratulated me on Facebook and Twitter.
And finally a BIG THANK YOU to Mark, my coach. In January of this year I was close to pulling out of this event as I felt I had lost too much time training due to illness. Mark, told me to put myself in his hands, do as he said, don’t do what he didn’t say do, KEEP THE FAITH and I would do fine.
Well Mark another successful Ironman has been created thanks to you, your skill, expertise, experience, enthusiasm, patience …. I could go on for ages. Mark this has been a great journey and it has only just started.
My Ironman days are not over, they have just began, but I want to get stronger and better for each one and certainly for the next one. So I don’t want to rush off and do another one this year or maybe not next year, if it will take time for my running to improve. So no more Ironman events this year.
Maybe another half ironman this year? I also have the Pearson 150K bike ride in September, the elusive Ball Buster in November (I have said I will do this twice before and pulled out due to illness) and the Brighton Marathon in April 2015 – all of these will mean my running should be a lot better this time next year.
I might do an Olympic distance event next just to keep competing? There is also the London 2 Paris in 24 hour bike ride to think about and the 10K river swim?
Maybe next year is my first marathon, the L2P in 24 hours the 10K river swim and 2016 is my Ironman sub 14 hours.
While at the expo Sam bought a new tri suit, so I might have to start fitting in events around her too!
Thank you for reading.