Mac Attack in Austria

The Ironman camp arrived in Klagenfurt, Austria where we caught a glimpse of the blue lake from the airoplane. After being burned £140 extra for a bike bag by Lufthansa I had a reasonably cheap taxi to the hotel, roughly 16 Euros.

The hotel staff were great, very friendly, they didn’t seem to mind much that for 5 days there was bike gear strewn around the hotel and rooms, or that we completely overtook the lobby entrance for 45 minutes doing planning our maxifuel photo shoot. In fact the more Ironman related havoc we created the more they seemed to like us.

The best thing about the hotel Rokohof was the fact they served lion size food portions at the restaurant which meant we could go out and smash it, knowing that an all day/night feast when we got back. 1st rule of eating out in Klagenfurt – Ask before you order .The first night I made the mistake of ordering a family size triple pasta platter, the second night I ordered the biggest salad I have ever seen. Maybe these were normal food portion sizes in Klagenfurt, I am still not sure.

On the first day I had some almost show stopping problems with my bike; the guys at mountainbiker.at located in town were more than capable in solving a very complicated issue with it.

Once my bike was sorted I hit the roads in anger. I remember it to be the best surface I’d ever ridden on. It pulls you forward with very little effort. Crystal blue lake on the right, dark green alpine forest on the left, it is an incredible place that I will go back to again and again.

One of my main decisions for joining the camp was to ride the bike route a few times. It was important to me not to have any surprises on the big day coming up. Having done the camp I now realise I learned a lot more than I expected. Experiencing how my body would react to the heat and race conditions at certain points on the bike and run route made it possible for me to make better decisions on the day.

I was happy to learn that there were only two hills of concern in Austria, and that although the ride threatened over 2200m elevation gain, the gradients were gradual.

Every morning at breakfast before heading out Pat answered our never ending questions: When to eat? What if? How much to drink? What wheels to ride on? Where to push? Where to slow? What heart rate? How much to carry? How to fix it? He helped us one by one to strategise the best individual paths for our race. A few weeks later on race day I would recall feeling quietly settled and confident knowing I had a tried and tested plan that worked and even a plan B if that didn’t go as planned.

A good way to experience the run route was to go through drills and strides. Pat looked at each of our run strides in detail, giving important tips throughout the half marathon session that spanned the great distance between Klagenfurt town center and Lake Worthesee.

There were major benefits of training in Klagenfurt, it’s a great place, with helpful people. Everything is very accessible. For triathlon training it just works. The physio team Dagmar and Melanie took great care of us after some heavy sessions.

We had a great group with us; I can say for everyone that was there, it was a blast.

The race.

Three weeks after the camp I returned to compete in Ironman Austria for my first Ironman. The conditions had not changed, Lufthansa still burned me £140 for my bike bag, and the taxi to the hotel was still around 16 Euros.

Before I knew it the race was over. Turned the corner to the finish and saw the time on the clock. I had done way better than planned.

The swim was done; my bike was racked back in T2, I was standing looking back at the finish thinking about what I had just done. The standard Ironman digital format finish line clock we all know so well was flicking through the seconds; competitors were crossing the line all equally deservingly and ecstatic within their achievements. I just couldn’t get my head around how something so colossal could pass so quickly. The race had taken me a vast amount of time to complete. I thought on it some more and soon realised that it wasn’t even about the race, I realised the race was just a miniscule part of the hundreds of hours spent training, on long rides with mates, coaching, camps, planning and learning.

I cannot wait for the next one.

Ryan Mclaughlin

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