Ironman Austria – George Hsieh

Hi everyone, here’s my belated race report from Ironman Austria almost two weeks ago!

After being inspired by many race reports over the years, it’s only fair that I share my experience of my first full distance race. With covid impacting everyone’s life, I was fortunate to stay healthy and utilised the additional 2 years to train and got myself into a better form and mindset going into this race.

Leading up to race week, the weather was consistently reaching 35+ degrees C. After my first dip in the water 3 days before the race (25.3degreesC), it didn’t take much to convince myself that it’s going to be a non-wetsuit race.

Swim: 1:27:06 Worthersee is such a beautiful lake, light blue water and perfect visibility. Standing at the start line is no different to any other races I’ve done, once you’re in the water the nerves disappear and there’s only one way forward. I had a plan to hang onto some faster swimmers as long as I could, and thank god that plan worked out reasonably well for most of the swim. The final 1km of the swim was complete chaos, it was in a shallow and narrow channel and I had to fight every stroke to not get knocked out, a lot of push and pull action involved!

Bike: 5:30:37 The bike course was mostly flat with a total elevation of approx. 1,500m – the tougher climbs on the second half of the ride. After getting out of the water safe and reasonably fresh, I felt comfortable with the pace I was going but perhaps a bit too fast due to the adrenaline rush and cooler weather. It was close to mid-day as I approached 90km and I could start to feel the heat draining my energy. My head was cooking in my aero helmet and started to feel a bit of fatigue building up, I dropped the power so that I could sustain the second half of the course knowing that there’s a big climb at 160km, and I want to have a good run too! I fuelled pretty well, no dehydration or energy shortage. Managed to grab a new bottle of cold water and electrolyte at each water station so overall I was happy with the performance on the bike given the conditions.

Run: 4:06:58 I started to prepare my run about 5km away from transition by taking a gel and fluids whilst it could be easily managed on the bike. Getting off the bike, despite numbed big toe I was still able to run properly. It’s just another brick session on a Sunday afternoon in Oxford…I repeated to myself. The first 7km felt good, very hot but my legs were feeling strong. On my way to 10km the stomach started to play up. I’ve done a few ultra trail runs in the last few years and I came across the phrase ultra-fart. Not going into details…I knew this was a fart I can’t trust, so a stop was inevitable. Unfortunately, the stomach gave me another two episodes after this. At 21km it felt like my body stopped taking energy from gels altogether, I had to walk to the next water station and took all the fluids I could get my hands on and I saw a plate full of pizza on the table, I didn’t think twice and took a few slices as I walked through the station and started to walk/shuffle again. This repeated for the next 3 water stations, it felt like an eternity! I’m glad I didn’t give in to the dark moments and kept moving forward. Around 30km I managed to recover a bit and was able to start running at a slow but consistent pace and I knew that the finish line isn’t far from that point. Most importantly, I had some energy to enjoy the finish line celebration!

This was definitely the toughest race I’ve done, and I’m glad it was Ironman Austria. Such a beautiful country and location to be racing for my first full distance. Like most people, I wasn’t impressed with my result, especially the run but I gave it everything and managed the conditions on the day. So here I am falling into the rabbit hole, thinking about the next race 🙂

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