On Saturday, September 5, 2020, in Podersdorf, Austria, I completed the first long-distance triathlon race of my life, as the common language says, I became an ironman.
The distances are classically: 3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling, 42.2 km running- one after the other, continuously.
For the first time I managed to go through during 10:55:26 minutes, which is a huge pleasure and pride for me, as the goal was to complete within 12 hours. This was enough for the absolute female 22nd place and 3rd place in category in this field. By the way, it was the National Championship in Austria, as Nagyatád was here, in Hungary.
„Fast, hard, legendary”
is the motto with a slightly retro image. All three words are true. The track is fast but struggling with wind and heat. And the Austrian classic, like Nagyatád -which means it is obligatory for the Austrians at least once, which is organized for 33 years.
Anyone who’s close to me knows that I’m not very emotional, especially not in writing. I don’t particularly like to write a report. But maybe there are things that can be useful to others if they might cut their ax into something similar, or just simply be interested in such a trip. Therefore, I tried to sum up in clear points the most important things (easily scrolling through the uninteresting points). But if you still have any questions, feel free to ask here in a comment or in my story. 😊
Because the organizers approached and invited me. Because the bike path is flat, which is better for me now. Cause I wanted to race after summer, I need the summertime for the long bike trainings. Because the bike track is 180.2 km, so it’s not shorter, which was important to me at first (according to the official competition rules, it is possible to deviate by 10% plus or minus from the original distance with a proper level difference, which of course is an aggravating factor). But for me it’s better 180 km flat than a shorter hilly track… now😊. I asked around and heard that it is a professional competition, well-recognized and well-known by many Hungarians. Also by my coach, among others. This was also an important factor. Moreover, the Fertő lake and surroundings are half Hungarian land, the Hungarian name of the city still exists: Pátfalu.
How was the track?
All in all super. But let’s see the details
There used to be a mass start, but this year there were “rolling” starts in several waves and within waves as well, i.e. we were launched from the water one by one, a few seconds apart in ascending order based on the bib numbers. The women started at the end of the second wave, we got the start list very soon before the race. We walked in a goose line, keeping the distance, then they wrote out our bib on a projector, they also announced our name and bib one by one and they wrote down our start time by hand. We had to go through the chip mat before walking in, it was the check-in, not the start of the race. I liked it, the swimming was nicely distributed. Of course, anyone who likes to measure him/herself to others during the track is more difficult this way, because only from the bib (fortunately it was given in ascending order) it could be concluded that approx. when someone started before or after you, if he/she passed you or you passed him/her.
the water is very shallow. In many places, a person’s hand touch the ground during freestyle. It is definitely even more uncomfortable for women with longer arms and tall men. You can’t dolphinize, cause it is punished, at the end they indicate with flags where you can already stand up in the water. I really liked it because there was time for recovery before runnnig to the depot. For me, by the way, it was the best buoy race ever, there were not only buoys at the turns, but in every 50 m all the way, plus they were pinned to a high wire, not floating on the water, clearly visible red buoys. It was brilliant. The track has two laps and there is no need to run out between the two laps, kayakers watch along, so there is no track cut😊 The wind has already been felt in the second lap.
Due to the shallow water, the temperature fluctuates rapidly. It heats up easily, it cools down easily. As cooler days / nights preceded the heat, the water had not yet warmed up. It was possible to swim in neoprene, which was used by all of us. We tried it the day before, the water was cold. It was 21 degrees.
The bike track is flat with minimal inclines. The track has six laps, I personally like the frequent laps. Podersdorf is notorious for its wind. This gives the difficulty of the course. It is a western wind tunnel, with a lot of wind turbines/farms nearby. The wind is almost constant, the question is always: how big and from which direction. A month and a half ago, on the coursecheck, for example, it blew exactly from the opposite, as it did now. Now we had 30 km/h headwind at the beginning, hilly section, which is very uncomfortable. This is followed by two equally awkward crosswind sections and the last 8km was downwind. So it is very important to reserve wisely, which means that in the beginning you should not be afraid of slow kilometers and should not go fast oppositely to the wind. At the downwind, you can bring back the lost time with not too much effort. The track balances itself nicely, after the first lap you can already know what to expect.
A great advantag was the usage of the powermeter. A set my bike computer display so no actual pace could be seen. Only the 5 K lap average popped up quickly, so this way I did not put a pressure on myself regarding the pace and on the windy parts I could hold back in order to spare power for running.
It was supposed to be a new track. 4 laps but new route. I also like the smaller laps here (5-8 km), for me the 10.5 km is a bit too long. But the bigger problem was that about the 1/3 of the track was partly gravel, ie scattered on the dirt road with relatively large stones. It has minimal elevation, the track is flat. However, there is very little shadow, locals also call it „Podersdorf Hölle” which means Podersdorf Hell. Like in Nagyatád in Hungary, the heat or the storm is general here. You boil in great heat. So the running is neither spectacular nor very comfortable in the heat. And in thin-soled shoes, it is uncomfortable in many places because of the stones. Where it was possible, I was running on the beaten dirt path next to the gravel road, but it was very difficult to overtake there because it was only possible in the tall grass, which is also risky for tired legs in the absence of visibility. It was hard, but fast.
Pretty short and well signed.
Due to COVID, the situation was obviously quite different now than before.
- I’m not saying there’s feast waiting for you at the stations, but there’s everything you need: water, cola, iso, bananas, bars.
- Very good point: water was cold always, everywhere.
- It was unpleasant that the dirt part sections in front of the benches were soaked, as the runners didn’t drink all, we spilled the liquid, so everything swam in mud and puddles to the end.
- It was a pleasant disappointment that there were helpers at the refreshing points. We were informed that it’ll be self-service because of the virus, which would have been very troublesome, especially on the bike. I was glad that there were volunteers.
- I missed the juicy fruits – oranges or melons, or salty tomatoes.
Spectacors / fans:
According to the announcement, no spectators or fans could come. Of course, they couldn’t do anything with those who gathered there. I’m sure there are normally a lot of people, but there were still a good number of fans, especially in the transition zone in the competition centre. I was very worried about that. I imagined we’d be circling empty streets, so I was prepared for it spiritually, so that added a lot, the fans gave a lot of energy in each round (which’s why I like multi-lap races because the fans give the boost more than once). There were also Hungarians, which I was especially happy about! Thank you so much for all the energy in this way too!
This is lottery and is ideal in the rarest of cases. It was windy and very warm this year (this is the most typical of this track based on the experience of the last 33 years) – approx. 29 degrees, no clouds, scorching sunshine. The sun was most disturbing when running, but there were those who had already got sunstroke on the bike. On the other hand, the wind was cruel on the bike. Unfortunately, that’s always in it, so the motto of the competition is: hard.
Who is your coach?
Márton Flander, multiple Hungarian national champion in long distance and in several other distances. We went to triathlon sports coach training together at Semmelweis University, my best friend’s nephew and great role model. We have been working together for three years.
Why didn’t you write the workout for yourself if you have sports coach qualficitaion?
Because I’m the type of hobby athlete who believes in outside control, who, if she chooses someone, she trusts him, doesn’t question him, and I do the training plan with relative discipline. I don’t need personal, daily contact. I question my own decisions about myself more. This distant coach-hobby athlete relationship was invented for me.
Do you train alone?
Running is mostly yes, I’m happy if I’m able to organize one or two of my friends in the long runs, but 80% yes, I do.
My partner has been riding with me since April. It’s a great relief for me because on the one hand I have a little scare on the highway since I fell down a couple of years ago, and on the other hand it’s better to stop in pair, refresh, or possibly rest behind someone. I think biking in all respects is better for more people. For us, it has become part of “our time”.
We also go swimming together, we often do the training together. For now, we swim on the same level, pull each other, but it also feels good to simply train in the same pool.
How much did you train for it?
Concentrated for 9 months, I just call it pregnancy before giving birth.
Last November, we started preparing for this in a focused way. Before that, of course, I did a few half-distances and shorter distances, for which I also trained relatively structured. This was entirely the focus, no other races were highlighted, all previous races were part of the preparation and the distances and paces were tailored to this.
But the preparation time was also preceded by 13 years of regular running, 6 years of familiarity with triathlon, lots and lots of half marathons, relay races, 5 marathons, 5 half-distance (70.3) triathlon races, a good couple of Olympic (short or 5i50) and sprint races, and relay races.
Did the COVID affect your training plan?
Enough for swimming, but luckily I got a VASA-Trainer to help with my dry workouts until the pools were open. From the point of view of the bike, too, since we always went to the bike rides outside with my partner, we didn’t have help during COVID with six children, so we only dared to leave the 5 boys to my 14-year-old daughter for a short time. It was easier to solve after COVID, but longer bike workouts were always a big headache and logistics.
The restrictions around the travel made the last week’s days that supposed to be calm quite hectic. But we solved it. I got used to it.
How much did you train on average a week?
On average daily 1.5 hours on weekdays and 2-3 hours on weekends. Of course, this also changed with the difficulty of the week and the difficulty of that particular training. We started with even fewer hours in the beginning, and there were more in the pre-rest period. For the 9 months, this was the average, which meant approx. 11-12 hours a week. Of these, there were 4 times running, 2 times swimming (or dry training), 3 times cycling. After the rolls, a shorter run-in (brick training) was common in the second half of the preparation.
To what extent did you deviate from Marci’s training plan?
I adhered to what he wrote in about 95% of both the distance (or time) and the intensity (or pace). I rarely had to skip one at a time because I couldn’t do the logistics or roll a little less because I didn’t have more time. On the other hand, there were a few extra runs that I put in, and I ran on almost every roller and outdoor bike workout for 15-20 minutes even if Marci didn’t prescribe it.
What was the strategy?
It was my dream to fulfill within 12 hours. Years ago, I decided not to start until I felt trained for that target time. I never set the target time like that everything is ideal because it never is. There is always some buffer in this. These were also the strategies of my running races, it motivates me psychologically a lot. But within 11 hours, I didn’t even think in my dreams. My boldest thought, along with all my calculations, was 11:30.
What does this mean in performance?
Simple: perform a little slower than my half distance speed. This was achieved in swimming and biking. It got slower on the run, of course, but it’s still my strongest sport. Every triathlete has a different combo, a different opportunity for development, the whole thing is nothing but chess with training at the expense of the other sport. It is well known that it is not possible to train enough for an IRONMAN race. 😊
I have many limitations. I don’t have time to swim more than twice a week. This is just enough for keep the level or develop insignificantly. But it is essential to keep up. Luckily, I brought a moderately good basic technique from elementary school. Maybe my pull has gotten a little stronger lately, but I didn’t expect a big bang here. I did a little better here than expected.
Partly because of the Achilles problem and partly because of the opportunity for improvement, we focused a lot on the bike. I was particularly weak in this. I rolled with hometrainer, did FTP-based workouts on it, and by the end I also had a wattmeter for outdoor workouts, which adds a lot to my development. And of course the many kilometers. The acceleration was clear here. I dreamed of 28-30 km / h. I managed to ride the faster version.
My favorite is running, which is also my strongest sport of the three. I was in the best shape two years ago, when I almost just ran, I did little triathlon. Obviously, I couldn’t maintain that level with my injury and increased other workouts. The goal was a steady ’travelling pace’ by the end. I dreamed between 5:00 and 5:15, I managed to run the better one.
So my times were as follows. What is my conclusion? I reserved well and allocated my strength well. I think this is the hardest thing to do with a proper update, of course. I am pleased with the stable, steady pace brought on the bike and the run, along with the subjective feeling associated with it. Went well.
What caused difficulty?
Mostly pains due to my achilles tendonitis. This is a chronic, typical running pain that has been going on for a year now, which also affects the right heel bone in the grip. Unfortunately, because of this, I have very limited ability to wear shoes, actually none of the previous ones that have heel stiffeners. I can run in one shoe, which in turn has very little damping and is not ideal for long distances. During the March-May period, I was only able to run modestly and had to miss two weeks altogether. Running is my favorite and that’s why it’s often frustrating and I was also worried about how I would be able to prepare. But I was able to keep up.
How did you keep up your Achilles tendon and heel inflammation level?
With lots of stretching (rubber band), shock therapy – almost weekly throughout the COVID period – with anti-inflammatory medication and cream. Also, changing shoes helped a lot.
I went for a weekly massage before and after COVID. This was also essential to prevent my injury from getting worse.
How are you going to fix it?
With perseverance, faith, and the continuation of the above. I’m still looking for the ideal shoe (if you have an idea, don’t hesitate to let me know!) It’s important that there is nothing !!!! heel bracing, but not barefoot shoes, so there should be enough material and cushioning in the sole. My sole pads felt the lengths of running in very thin-soled shoes as well as the gravel of the track 😊 Now I’m running in Nike Free anyway, in a good few years old models I bought for street wear. It is, but at least I can run in it!
How did you refresh?
I’m not a big refresher, we can say it’s my weakness. During workouts almost exclusively with my own isotonic drink. But I also ate othe things on the race. The list:
Competition for a couple of weeks:
- less coffee (one per day)
- minimum alcohol
- completely normal, average meal
The day before the race:
- 2 magnesium
- 4 salt tablets
- much water
- Pasta in the evening!
- during the day I ate what I wanted, but not much more than usual (meat, fruit) and sugary juice, which I rarely get used to
- breakfast: an hour and a half before – oats, yogurt, eggs, toast
- Magnesium (Magnosolv) and two salt tablets
- before swimming: a slice of energy bar, a little red bull (we forgot to have coffee, even though I planned it)
- while swimming: the water of Lake Neusiedl, I sip quite often, this is a common thing on the open water. I’m thirsty.
- Bicycle: I split evenly on the 6 laps. I took two salt tabs in each round (12 in total), ate something in each round (jelly, banana, energy slice) – a total of three jellies, two energy bars and one and a half bananas – I only drank a lot in the first four rounds, with a total of 3 bottles (2l), the last four even 2 bottles (1.5 l) and about 1.5 l of water. This meant roughly 8 dl of fluid per hour. I ate two more bags of magnesium.
- Running: two salt tablets in the beginning, two in the meantime. One and a half bananas, one of them in the first round, half in the second. I tried jelly but didn’t want it. I drank two sugary PAGO apricot leaves, a few sips of cola, approx. half a liter of iso and lots of water. I drank water, a few sips at every refreshing point!
- After: two PAGOs, a strawberry ice cream and an apple. Others did not felt good and did not slip.
What are your suggetionts?
- Don’t register after 1-2 years of doint triathlon!
- Prepare based on a plan or with a help of a coach
- Refreshment is crutial
- Do not try anything new: bike set, shoes, socks, trisuit, refreshemnt, nothing!
- If you have the possibility, train and race with a powermeter on the bike. It is a value, I think it is more important on this level than a spacebike!
- If possible buy a hometrainer for winterdays. It is worth it! Sessions are more enjoyable.
- Run outdoors and run every week once between 15-25
- Register for some training races before: short distance, half distance, iron distance in pair, halfmarathon, maybe a marathon. But! not PR driven, rather always with the thoughts that main focus is ironman! Ne indulj el iron távon egy-két év triatlonozás után!
- Convince your friend, partner, love to do triathlon. It will be a fun and valuable time together!
- Read the book “Iron war” and in the hard moments remember!
What would you do differently?
Actually nothing because I don’t like the conditional mode in the race. That’s why I always ask the question: what are you going to do differently next time?
- I drink my morning coffee (I drank less in the last period to make my body more responsive to caffeine)
- I also refresh with caffeinated salt
- I eat an extra jelly at the beginning of the run when it’s still slipping
- I would like a long bike / long running brick workout in preparation, I would be less worried cause of running.
- I would ask our escort to document the race😊
What about intimate things?
- My stomach works well, I didn’t have a stomach problem, diarrhea, or a stool stimulus
- Kidney excretion: I peed (consciously) in both laps while swimming, I stopped twice both under the bike and while running. Many people – especially men – urinate smoothly without getting off the bike. My femininity is more important than that, I’m not even an elite, so I count this as transition time, I calculated with it. My comfort is more important. Tip: I bought a separate sportstop under the jersey, so I could pee in the bush quickly, without having to hide. I’m actually also happy to have an urge to urinate because it means my kidneys are working well, I have a good excretion and I’m hydrating properly, so it’s more reassuring to me than it would annoy me that I was wasting time with it. On Ironman, time is counted differently.
- Tip: only for women! if you have your period this time, push it with occasional hormone tab. You can do it once. Luckily, for me I didn’t have to.
What’s your opinion about the Austrian field, the competitors?
Times say a lot. The competitors are very prepared. I don’t know how much the preparation of the Austrians was hampered by COVID and how much the field was weakened by the fact that some racers lost motivation in the uncertainty, like here, at home. But compared to the Hungarian field, the women’s and men’s fields are also much stronger. In my opinion, there are several reasons for this: on one hand, it is a nation with a long tradition in terms of outdoor sports and cycling. It is no accident. There are beautiful high mountains and high quality bike routes and motorways, with understanding car users. This is part of the culture here. On the other hand, the standard of living is higher. Triathlon is not a cheap sport. With our upper-middle-class road bikes, we were considered low-cost among the hyper-super time-running machines. And whoever has a TT bike usually also has a road bike. This is many, many thousands of EUROs, which an average Hungarian hobby athlete cannot afford. Regardless, performance can be brought on one level even on weaker machines. But it takes a lot of training hours. Leisure time is a prerequisite for this. This is the third factor in my opinion. I think their biorhythms are also more ideal, they do sports on a family level, maybe they don’t have such long working hours.
In any case, no matter how favorable their preparation possibilities are compared to the Hungarians, one can be certainly learned from the Austrians. For long distance, those hobbyists are registered who are properly trained for it. They manage the distance with much greater humility by investing the necessary years, kilometers, training hours, and proper nutrition. Clearly, they don’t go for “no matter how, but we go through it”. What tells me the most about it: their body structure and completion times:
The winner man time 7:36:56. Even the fourht time is below 8 hours
Who would you like to thank for the support?
- To the Austria Triathlon’s Organisers, who supported me and invited me to the Austrian Triathlon Tri Team as the only Hungarian. I feel happy to get to know the Team members, who performed amazingly on different distances. Thank for Mass Sport Wear for the superb trisuit. I got many compliments, but most impartantly it was truly comfortable.
- To my love, who accepted me this way, supported me, what’s more, helped me with my workouts, started triathlon, pushed me through it.
- To the other members of my family who, over the years, have finally accepted that sport is very important to me and now they are no longer asking why is it good for.
- My coach, who did a professional job, drove confidently down the road and when I sometimes had a question, he always answered that it convinced me.
- To my masseure, who maintained my muscles
- To the crew in Naturmed who maintained my Achilles with shock therapy
- To all the benevolent and supportive members of social media who were interested in my preparation or were just cheering in general.
- To my running team, iRUNmore S.E., who cheered for me, for whom I wanted to prove.
- To my friends who saw the difficulties involved on a daily basis and supported me anyway.
How much will the regeration will be?
I asked my coach for two weeks of pleasure sports. This means that I do sport sas much and when I want to. 😊 Then we start working again in a controlled way.
Are you going to do Ironman again?
Probably yes, but not next year. Next year I would like to have an easier summer.
What is the goal for next year?
To improve on half distance in spring and improve marathon in autumn. I am not sure which on distance, but defitinetly will return next year to Podersdorf.
What is the conclusion?
A completely subjective thing in addition to the mostly factual statements described above. It is best to prepare when you are happy. In 13 years, I have trained in many ways. Out of anger, loneliness, frustration, heightened emotions, passion, indifference, vanity, sense of duty, rationality, and I could list. Indeed, any state of mind is capable of motivating a person to be in good shape, to achieve the desired result. At least I can ideologize. One thing is for sure. I wish for myself, as I did this year, in the future, to gather miles for lasting balance, happiness, love, and understanding family support. This was the most important X-factor in this preparation, the point on i (ronman)!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL PARTICIPANTS!