2013 Roundup

It has been a strange year. It really has been a season of 2 very different halves.

I had a really good winter with some fast 10k races and good long runs. Kandel marathon in early March was the first highlight and my race was spot on with a 3:44 thanks to Greif's training plan. My preparation for IM Austria was ok, but nowhere near as good as Roth. A mix of weird races in May, lack of time, and poor mental shape meant that Klagenfurt was never going to be the ideal race. A mediocre finish time of 11:48 was the result and also the realisation that I needed a big break from long distances. The cunning plan was to have a good rest for about a month (during which we got married!) and the start getting ready for the second half of the season focusing on short distances.

Unfortunately, it came very differently. I tore my right meniscus twice (I still don't know how) and needed surgery which resulted in little to no exercise for almost 4 months. By the time I was able to start training again in December I had lost almost all my fitness and put on 7kg!

So, the plan for 2014 is very different to any I had before: Q1 is all about getting back in shape and shed some excess weight before doing a lot of short local races (runs and tris). I *might* attempt a half-distance in September and the Heidelberg Trail Marathon in October, but I might just give them a miss if I don't feel like it. Maybe this is an age thing, but I feel that I need a season where it is not about PBs, finishing yet another Ironman race and following a strict plan, but to get my knees and back sorted, do some smaller, low-key local races, and start enjoying my favourite sport again.

For the data crunchers amongst us, here is the annual tally:
Swim: 89.6km (31h33m)
Bike: 3748km (138h04m)
Run: 1369km (120h28m)
XC-Ski: 33.3km (6h01m)
MTB: 67km (3h53m)
Core: 31h01m

Garmin Forerunner 620

Garmin UK had a 30% offer on just before xmas and as Garminator and gadget junkie I decided it is time to go for the new Forerunner 620. I must admit, it is a pretty amazing piece of technology: Half the size of the 910XT, Wifi upload and some rather interesting stats (suddenly known as running dynamics) that are generated by the new HR monitor, such as vertical oscillation and ground contact time.

All these new readings are unlikely to make me a better runner, but at least I have even more data to analyse...:

The "watch" also calculates your VO2 Max, which is apparently relatively accurate. After my 2nd run, I am sitting at 48ml/kg/min, which isn't bad (for my age), but nowhere near Lance Armstrong's bizarre 80+.

Meniscus Surgery

About a week after the IM race in Klagenfurt my right knee started to hurt. I first thought it must have been some niggle from the long race and ignored it. However I realised that things are not looking too good when I had to stop after a few minutes of jogging.

It turned out that my right inner meniscus had been torn twice and needed surgery. The procedure took about 20 minutes under full anesthetics and I was able to walk without crutches the next day.

No sports for 1 week, no bike riding for 3, no running for 6 and no racing for 12. Needless to say that I had to cancel the inaugural Heidelberg Marathon. I transferred my number to 2014.

I am still in 2 minds whether I should force the change from heel running to mid-foot running. While it should reduce the impact on the knees it might problems elsewhere during the long transition. We'll see. First recovery from the surgery, though.

IM Austria

Ironman Austria Klagenfurt 11:48:53 [Results] [Certificate]

Swim - 1:16:01
T1 - 4:31
Bike - 5:46:27
T2 - 3:31
Run - 4:38:23

M45: 206 out of 384
Male: 1362 out of 2517
Overall: 1467 out of 2890

Ironman number 3. Preparation had gone well; body composition was good; and weather conditions were near perfect - it should have been the perfect race but, as so often, things turned out to be very different. But first things first:

We arrived in Klagenfurt Fri afternoon and stayed in a nice B&B on a farm about a mile away from the start and finish area. There were 4 of us racing plus families so we occupied the entire place. Saturday was the usual expo, registration, race briefing and check-in madness. We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the beautiful lake, organised our own big pasta and managed to get to bed at a decent time after packing the usual bags.

Race day. Breakfast at 4am, various visits to the loo, posting a stupid message on Facebook and off we went to the bike transition area where I had my first dose of adrenaline I didn't need at this time of the day: I went to the exact place where I left my bike and there was ... no bike. I checked all the bikes on the left and the right. Nothing. I checked the number range in the row and it was correct. I approached one of the helpers who happened to be the race director and it turned out, that the row I put my bike in wasn't correct after all. My race number was 2225 and somehow I mixed up a digit when parking my bike and left it at 2252. The 2 things that threw me were that there was no other bike in my spot and the fact that they checked that every single bike was in the right position - not an easy task given that they were all hidden under big plastic covers.

Once this was resolved I realised that my bottle cage behind my saddle had partly broken off. The repair man at the bike station managed to improvise and I was finally able to join the long queue for the toilet before heading to the start area. By this time I had lost all the others. With 10 minutes to go to the start I realised that my post-race bag had to be dropped outside the start area. I had no choice, but to hand my bag to some stranger in the hope that he would drop it on my behalf (which he kindly did!).

At 7am we were finally off to a mass start. Things were less hectic than expected and even the first turn was pretty uneventful. After the second turn we headed straight into the sun, which made orientation rather difficult. The big unique selling point of IM Klagenfurt is the last half mile of the swim which is in a canal with loads of spectators. I was looking forward to this until the moment I came close to it: the water was filthy and due to the amount of swimmers it was nearly impossible to swim properly, let alone overtake. A lot of kicking, fighting and shouting - not what you need at the end of the swim leg in a long-distance race.

I was glad when I was out the of the water and pleased with my time, though I believe the swim leg is slightly short. To get to T1 we had to run through the delivery entrance of a hotel, which was slightly bizarre. I got though T1 without problems to start the long bike ride. From the very beginning, I didn't feel right. I constantly felt that I am running at 80% and couldn't find a proper rhythm on the bike. I was well down my planned schedule after the first lap and things didn't improve in lap 2 either. The time of 5:46 - more than 10 minutes slower than planned - says it all.

T2 was no problem and my legs felt surprisingly good. However, my head wasn't in the right place and I wasn't as fired up as I should have been at this moment in time. The run is 2 laps where you pass the family 4 times. All went ok until km12 when I started to walk the feed stations to take on as much Coke as I could. Every time things got tough I walked for a bit instead of battling through the pain - again, my head just wasn't in it anymore. At the halfway point I knew for certain that a PB is out of reach, so I decided to aim for sub 12, which was well below my current capabilities, but that's what happens when things don't turn out as planned.

The finish was as good and emotional as every. Aileen joined me again, which was fantastic. For the first time, I didn't have to carry her as she was able to run beside me. Priceless. We got out of the finish area and met up with my then soon-wife-to-be. The 3 of us together is always the best moment after a long race like this.

I proceeded into the finishers tent to have some food, pick up my finisher shirt and so on. Luckily I was helped by my buddy Stepan as my stomach started to rebel and I had to lie down for a bit. We then went outside to our arranged meeting point. Check-out and the way home was painful but our support crew made up with a good dinner and a few drinks afterwards.

All in all, it has been a fantastic event even though i didn't achieve my sub 11:30 goal. In hindsight, it turned out that the mild dose of cold that started a few days prior to the start developed in a quite heavy bout of pus-filled throat infection and flu 2 days after the race, which had to be treated with antibiotics. I can only guess that this has been the cause for the poor bike performance as everything else was spot on. 

What next? I decided to take a break from the long (and probably middle) distances for at least one season and focus on shorter races. It should improve my speed and technique, and is far more family-friendly. But first, time to recover and, more importantly, get married in 3 weeks time!

Body Composition - Pre Ironman Austria

Body Fat14.1% (LA 10.4 RA 8.7 RL 11.8 LL 12.0, B 16.5)
Total Body Water61.7%
Muscle Mass69.1kg (LA 4.2 RA 4.4 RL 11.6 LL 11.6, B 37.3, 5)
Physique Rating6
Basal Metabolic Rate2094 KJ
Metabolism Age29
Bone Mass3.6kg
Resting Heart Rate55

That's it - let's go

70.3 Austria

70.3 Austria (90 / 21.1) 4:54:31 [Results] [Certificate]

T1 - 1:18
Bike - 2:54:44
T2 - 2:35
Run - 1:56:03

M45: 141st out of 246
Male: 931th out of 1446
Overall: 1005th out of 1681

This was supposed to be the dress-rehearsal for IM Austria, but it turned out to be a slightly different event altogether. The swim had to be cancelled due to severe weather conditions (water temperature less than 13 Celsius, air 6 degrees and forecasted gale force winds).

The start was organised in mini waves where 15 athletes started every 30 seconds. This was slightly comical as you had to line up for the start and then run to your bike through a huge transition area dressed with your cycling shoes and helmet. Almost all riders, including the pros, rode in long sleeves - highly unusual for this time of the year.

The bike starts with a flat 15k on the motorway and with a very strong rear winds, I reached speeds of up to 50km/h. This all changed once we hit the first hills, which were manageable as the wind was still kind. The middle part was a long stretch alongside the Danube where we had the wind - by now up to 60 km/h! - face on. As a result, the next penalty tent was quite packed. At about 60k, the big hill started - nothing too steep, but quite a long way up to over 700m altitude. Some of the downhill sections were rather dangerous what resulted in a number of crashes. The last 10k should have been an easy back to St. Pölten, but it turned out to be the toughest part of the entire bike leg due to strong and totally unpredictable side winds. Aero position was impossible and speed dropped to silly levels.

Back to the fantastic event arena and into T2. The run was 2 laps. Since I started in the last of 8 waves, the course was quite packed on my first lap. Everything was ok until km12 when I started to get cramps in my right upper leg and my stomach started to rebel. I started to walk the feed stations and also the few uphills bumps. I had things timed to get me under 5 hours, but it turned out that the run course was approx. 800m short, so this was no problem in the end.

My legs felt fine after the race, but my stomach wasn't too happy. I felt for about an hour the urge to vomit, but no joy. Things started to improve once I drank loads of liquid and had a few bites of melon. This is a bit of a worry as I don't know what has gone wrong with the nutrition. I might be the new energy bars I have been taken or something I drank that didn't agree with me. Also, I think the amount of water / iso I drank was insufficient. What did work quite well, was the odd sip of Coke during the run, though.

All in all, a good event with loads of participants from countries such as Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Russia. A real shame we missed the unique swim in 2 lakes, but it was still good prep race for the big day in 5 weeks time. Now onwards to Klagenfurt where we are going to sample the bike course.

All wrapped up at the start

On the run

All done

Haidsee Triathlon Forst

Haidsee Triathlon Forst (1.0 / 32 / 7.5)

A very nice local event with loads of races taking place over the course of the day. The conditions were everything but inviting - cold, wet and windy plus some hailstones on the bike leg. As a result only about 60% of the registered athletes turned up.

The water was 16 degrees, but it felt much colder. It took me well over 21 minutes and the Garmin showed well 1.1k. If the distance was to be correct, I am in serious trouble as my swimming seems to get worse.

The bike would have been good if I didn't have to stop 3(!) times. One of the cleats started to disintegrate when I mounted the bike and the shoe fell off right at the beginning. After half the distance, a sticker from another ride stuck to my back tyre and just wouldn't come off. When I started again, the back wheel repositioned itself slightly, so I had to stop again and make some adjustments.

The run was very good and fast, even though the course was slightly short.

Definitely a race to put on next year's calendar, but hopefully in better conditions and with less stops during the bike leg.

M45 16 out of 21
Male 84 out of 115
Overall 92 out of 144

Heidelberg Half-Marathon

Heidelberg Half-Marathon - 1:50:06 [Results]

km 1: 5:00
km 2: 4:55
km 3: 4:55
km 4: 5:22 (pee stop)
km 5: 4:43
km 6: 4:50
km 7: 4:58
km 8: 6.38
km 9: 5:17
km 10: 5:50

km 11: 5:35
km 12: 4:56
km 13: 4:34

km 14: 5:45
km 15: 4:49
km 16: 4:59
km 17: 6:39
km 18: 5:40
km 19: 5:17
km 20: 4:31

km 21.1: 4:46

M40: 185 out of 385
Male: ??th out of ???
Overall: 1080th out of 2713

Ran in incognito as my M40 neighbour who pulled out mid week. Since I was totally unprepared for the hills I took it easy and was still faster than planned. What a fantastic race. Last time I ran this was in 1985 and things have changed enormously. Definitely going to do this next year if possible.


Kandel Marathon - 3:44:43 [Results] [Certificate]

km 1: 5:12
km 2: 5:19
km 3: 5:21
km 4: 5:12
km 5: 5:18 (26:22)
km 6: 5:19
km 7: 5:18
km 8: 5:16
km 9: 5:17
km 10: 5:23 (52:55 / 26:33)
km 11: 5:24
km 12: 5:20
km 13: 5:14
km 14: 5:24
km 15: 5:17 (1:19:40 / 26:45)
km 16: 5:22
km 17: 5:08
km 18: 5:13
km 19: 5:15
km 20: 5:17 (1:45:55 / 26:15)
km 21: 5:23 (HM 1:51:39)
km 22: 5:13
km 23: 5:14
km 24: 5:18
km 25: 5:15 (2:12:18 / 26:23)
km 26: 5:22
km 27: 5:17
km 28: 5:15
km 29: 5:17
km 30: 5:19 (2:38:43 / 26:35)
km 31: 5:22
km 32: 5:24
km 33: 5:18
km 34: 5:18
km 35: 5:21 (3:05:25 / 26:42)
km 36: 5:30
km 37: 5:21
km 38: 5:26
km 39: 5:37
km 40: 5:34 (3:33:14 / 27:49)
km 41: 5:32
km 42: 5:11
km 42.2: 1:00 (HM 1:53:05)

M45: 62nd out of 110
Male: 203rd out of 416
Overall: 222nd out of 488


Wow, that was tough. BUT, a big PB by over 9 minutes!

Conditions were near perfect, although a bit nippy for my liking, so I opted for long-sleeves and gloves. The first half was pretty uneventful and solid, bang on time, but in hindsight maybe 30 seconds too fast. I started to struggle from km36 and had to dig deep to keep up the pace to get my planned sub 3:45.

Kandel is a perfect course for a fast time early in the year. I quite enjoyed the lack of spectators throughout as I could really focus on my race.

For the first time, I followed Greif's marathon plan. It is tough, but really prepares you for the last quarter of the distance. Highly recommended.

Now, onwards and upwards, to Ironman Austria. Recovery first, though.

Body Composition - Pre Kandel Marathon

Body Fat14.2% (LA 10.9 RA 8.9 RL 11.8 LL 11.8, B 16.5)
Total Body Water61.8%
Muscle Mass70.0kg (LA 4.2 RA 4.4 RL 11.8 LL 11.8, B 37.8, 5)
Physique Rating5
Basal Metabolic Rate2122 KJ
Metabolism Age29
Bone Mass3.6kg
Resting Heart Rate55

A bit off where I wanted to be, but not bad for this time of the year. Let's see how things will work out on Sun - looks like the weather might play havoc.

20k Rheinzabern

20k Rheinzabern - 1:34:40 [Results]

1: 4:56
km 2: 4:37
km 3: 4:53
km 4: 4:45
km 5: 4:44
km 6: 4:42
km 7: 4:45
km 8: 4:47
km 9: 4:37
km 10: 4:28

km 11: 4:45
km 12: 4:40
km 13: 4:41
km 14: 4:42
km 15: 4:42
km 16: 4:44
km 17: 4:42
km 18: 4:39
km 19: 4:40
km 20: 4:38

M45: 65th out of 111
Male: ??th out of ???
Overall: 300th out of 628

Good race to start the season. Very cold, but dry and almost no wind. Timing was spot on - very pleased with 1:35. Bring on Kandel Marathon in 4 weeks time.

Cross-country skiing

Really enjoyed my first ever attempt in cross-country skiing (classic) at Kniebis. Only managed 2 hours and felt muscles for 2 days I didn't even know existed... Definitely something I want to do more often if and when conditions allow.