My 2 week mid-season holiday is near the end and it is back to work on Monday. I’ve got the 70.3 World Championships and the Ironman World Championships on my mind - and now is the time to get the work done!
I have had some time to reflect on our European adventures - and feel extremely blessed, lucky, motivated, healthy - the list could go on and on. The whole “Euro” experience is what (my) triathlon dreams are made of. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was just getting into the sport of triathlon and watching some of my triathlon idols tearing up the Euro racing scene. It was a dream to go to Europe and get in on that! Tactical courses coupled with amazing scenery, big crowds and fan support, epic battles that lead to fast finishing times. It always was in the back of my mind to go and experience what European racing was all about. I have to say, race day lived up to all of these expectations and more.
I spent the week prior to the race getting to know the course, adjusting to the time change & new culture, and really just taking it all in. Everything was exciting and new - I felt an energetic surge and passion for triathlon - it was as if I was doing my first Ironman all over again.
As for the race itself, the media seemed to cover most of the race (perks of being the winner, I guess!), but if you wanted to know more, here goes…
The swim took place in Worthersee Lake and was a pretty cool experience. The pro’s (dive) started off the end of the dock, while the age-group race started on shore, about 25m behind us. There was constantly people around me, feet to chase, and people to latch onto. The nice part was, no foul play going on either. To be honest, I was a bit lack-luster on the swim portion, but this is a good indicator of what I need to work on leading into Kona. I felt I was a bit behind the 8-ball coming out of the swim and knew I would have my work cut out for me.
I didn’t feel fantastic in the early stages of the bike so I used this time to find a rhythm, get in some nutrition, enjoy the great crowd support and just tick off the miles. I kept reminding myself it is a long day out there and a lot was gong to happen. Near the end of lap-one on the bike I got my first spilt to the race lead, Erika. I was only 20 seconds down. This was a welcome treat. Erika and myself played a little bit of back and forth starting lap-two and I decided to settle in behind her and get an idea of how she was feeling. Once again I used this opportunity to get in some nutrition and come up with a plan. We hit the first hilly section of the loop and I decided to go for it. I just love to ride my bike and am not one to “sit-in.” I have to use my strengths. I made a fairly decisive surge on the climb and charged to the front of the race. I really enjoyed myself the rest of the ride. Lots of twists, turns, short climbs, in’s and out’s of villages. At mile 100 we hit the biggest climb (for the 2nd time), Rupertiberg, and I couldn’t help but feel pumped up. There was a DJ cranking the loudest music ever, a devil ran beside me escorting me up the climb, the boys in Lederhosen did the wave, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, sirens, horns , tutu’s, cowbells - you get the drill. Now, this, is what I had come for!
I was happy to come off the bike in the lead but knew the marathon was going to be a long one. It always is! The temps were crazy hot on race day and I honestly had to just take things and break it down into km by km by km. I found myself making a million deals with myself: 5 more minutes, get to the next aid station, focus on the person in front of you, cadence-cadence-cadence, eat a gel, run for 5 more minutes then re-evaluate, eat a shot block. I have never played “Let’s Make a Deal” or put up a poker face more in my life. The other thing that helped was playing the time-zone game: thinking of my parents at home watching me on the computer. I kept thinking - get them to 4am to make there pajama watching party worth it. It turned out to be a pretty stressful marathon for myself with Erika hot on my heels. Perhaps it played in my favor that there was a lot Europeans on the course and not many Americans, as I wasn’t getting too many splits (English ones at least) on where Erika was. I saw her at the out-and-backs and knew there was no letting up. At some point the music got louder and the crowds got bigger and I was hearing my name being chanted from the finish-line arena. This was really happening! European dreaming does come true!!! At the turn to the finish I saw Chris with the trusty cowboy hat and I made my way to the tape.
No need to sugar coat it: I was out of it: Spent. Satisfied. Hot. Exhausted. Grateful. If I could stop and replay that moment in time a million times over, I would. Nothing compares to the finishing chute of an Ironman. The rest of it is a blur - I danced with cheerleaders, got the winners wreath, drank & dumped a giant beer on myself, did interviews, took photos.
It seemed like forever, but finally I was able to make my way to Chris and that really completed my day. European Dreaming would not be complete without my trusty sidekick. Chris has shared in all my highs, all my lows and all the in-betweens. He’s seen me dust myself off and get back up again countless times over. He has seen me succeed when I shouldn’t and fall down when I should win. And that my friends, is this crazy journey called Ironman.
I have to say thank you to the race organization for the spectacular event. Thank you & congratulations to Erika and the rest of the pro women - you pushed me to my performance. I also appreciated all the cheers during & after the event, they kept me going when I wasn’t so sure about things. A big congratulations to everyone that stepped up to the plate at Ironman Austria. Ironman is no small feat, I hope you are all holding your heads up high.
Chris and I spent the next week sightseeing in Austria & Slovenia. The highlight was our last day in Salzburg where we hopped on cruiser bikes and spent the whole day checking out the city, the country side, sampling beers, coffee’s, European cuisine, and relishing in gratitude of the great moments we had in Austria.
I don’t take this European Dream for granted. A great support network helped me get there. I also am extremely thankful to my family, friends, training partners, Matt Dixon - the list could go on and on. You all who have encouraged me to get the most out of myself and to keep dreaming.
Until the next dream - thanks for reading & we will keep you posted on the adventures to come.