The Virgin 140.6 Ironman Diaries: Olivia takes on Ironman Austria

March 29, 2018

After throwing herself completely into the world of Triathlon in 2016, on 1st July 2017 Olivia lined up to take part in her first full distance Ironman event in Austria. Olivia shares her experience and talks about juggling a personal and family life with the demands of training.


What made you decide to take part in a full distance triathlon? Why did you choose this event? 

Urmmm... not very well thought out. I was in the pub the day before Outlaw Holkham 2016 (I was doing a relay) and Lee Skidmore and Brett Thake  (who were doing the full 70.3) were talking about how they had or were entering Ironman Austria 2017. A few alcoholic drinks later and I was handing over my credit card to my husband Spencer to book me in. I had never even completed a 70.3 and had only completed one Olympic triathlon at that time! Crazy I know...


What was the atmosphere like on the morning of race day? 

Atmosphere was awesome - mix of nerves and excitement. Klagenfurt in Austria is the most beautiful scenic place and that morning it was no different. There were thousands of triathletes and crowds of supporters everywhere. It was fantastic having my Havering Tri team mates with me. 


How did you feel? 

I felt quite calm all morning until I got into the swim pens and then I started to really shake. Luckily I had both Lee Skidmore and Leigh Graham in the same swim pen to keep me company and help distract me. At that point I was bricking it! I think the enormity of it all was dawning on me. 


Give us an overview of your experience of the 3 disciplines on the day;

Swim - it was a rolling swim start which I much prefer as you go off a few at a time with other people your own speed. I was in the 1hr:30-1hr:40min swim pen. The water as I expected was warm and calm which was a lovely start. To be honest that and the view of the mountains were the only good thing about the swim. I just never got into a rhythm as was kicked, punched and swam over. Other people don't seem to be able to swim in a straight line so I never got any clear water especially in the last 1k down the canal.  I was pleased when I got out and saw 1hr30 on my watch - not fast but not slow. 


Bike - The bike and me don't always get on. I have definitely improved over the 2 years I have had a bike but it still scares me a bit and I do not have a lot of confidence in my ability. When I got into transition and collected my bike (after seeing a very naked man in the transition tent) I had mixed feelings. I knew it would be a tough ride with the hills (mountains) but I was looking forward to the fast descent and flats I had been hearing about. It was 2 x 56mile laps. The weather was warm but overcast - perfect riding conditions and I have to say I had so much fun on the bike. Ok, the hills were tough especially on the 2nd lap at 98 miles which seemed to never end! I was disappointed that I never saw my tri mates on course but knew they would be smashing it. My Garmin watch died at mile 90 and my Garmin 1000 was not picking up my miles or speed which was annoying (as I knew I would be running without a watch and would have nothing to upload to Strava). I did however complete the bike in 6hr 53min.  I was happy with that - like my swim not fast but not slow. I had learned my lesson in Dubai of going too hard on the bike (sub 3hr) and how that would impact my run.


Run - most of my club mates know that I have had a few issues with my hip this year that has restricted my run training. After Dubai in January I didn't do much running until early May. My longest ever run had been a 17 mile run home from work on a Friday night. I was therefore very worried about the run in Austria and expected to have to walk most of the run. However I have to say that I loved, loved, loved the run. It was so nice to see my family and friends cheering me on and the support on the run route was amazing. The run route was lovely and flat which I like. After about 10k I noticed a very familiar figure ahead of me. Shouting Brett's name, a friendly face turned around to greet me. It was amazing to see him. Me and Brett had run a lap together in Dubai 70.3 so it was nice to repeat it in Austria.  We had a great time for the next 10k (my first lap and Brett's 2nd lap) - we ate pizza, crackers and drank lots of water and coke. We even managed to have a lay down in a double bed on course and had our photo taken!  Brett soon left me to become an IRONMAN and I soldiered on. The run route meant I got lots of time to also say high to both Leigh and Lee on course (Mark had finished long before).!I have to say I felt surprisingly strong on the run and had no pain in my hip - YAY!  I soon found myself with 5k to go and I honestly started to cry a bit as I knew I was soon to be an IRONMAN - how amazing! I had no idea how long it was taking me as I had no Garmin watch. I did speed up quite significantly especially when I could hear the finish line announcer get louder. As soon as I reached that red carpet I saw some my club mates and family which made it fantastic! Crossing that finish line was amazing. I had no idea of my time but I didn't care - I had done it!


I later found out that I had completed the marathon in 4hrs 59 min! Amazing for my first ever marathon especially after my hip issues leading up to Austria.


My overall time was 13hrs and 38 min - very pleased. 



What did you enjoy most about your race?

I enjoyed running with Brett and also seeing my other club mates on the run. It was so nice seeing that we were all doing so well especially as we were mostly Ironman virgins.  


What did you find the toughest?

The last hill on the bike.  


Tell us a bit about your training/prep for your 1st IM. Did you focus on a specific area? 

My training ramped up after 70.3 in Dubai. Mark Billyard devised a fantastic training programme that I followed up until Outlaw Half . At times the plan had to be modified slightly when my hip issues started to restrict my running. I would say on average it was 15hrs of training a week - not a small commitment with a full time job, a husband and 2 kids but it had to be done. I don't like early mornings so would often finish work at 6pm and then head to the pool or the pain cave for a turbo session. Most week days involved 2hrs plus of training followed by longer sessions at the weekend. I always had one rest day a week. 


Are you happy with how your race went? Any lessons learned?  

Yes I am very happy with my first Ironman experience. I have learned that I still have a lot of work to do on my swim and bike especially. I need to get stronger and that will only come with more time and commitment - losing a few pounds wouldn't hurt as well! 


How have you been recovering/celebrating?!

I have been spending lots of time with my family. Ironman training means neglecting a lot of family time. My structured training commences very soon but I will still try and spend more time with kids over the summer holidays (at least one day at the weekend I will be free). 


Would you do another Ironman?

 In a heartbeat. I have a few 70.3 races lined up but plan to do another long distance next year. 


What's in store for 2018?

 Next year will include La Santa HT training camp in March, Ironman Marbella 70.3 in April  and then depending on budget and dates maybe Outlaw Full or Ironman Barcelona. 


What one piece of advice would you give to a 1st time Ironman or someone contemplating stepping up to this distance?

Don't under estimate the amount of training that is required. Training for an ironman takes commitment - lots of it. Tell your family that you may not see them for the 6 months before... you will be busy training.  My husband has been my rock and has been my number one supporter. Without that support it would have been even more challenging getting to the start line. 



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