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.
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!