I was supposed to start my race season in IM70.3 St. Pölten yesterday. Unfortunately my trip was very unlucky this time. All ingredients of a disaster were indeed there and emerged on the same trip. Good race preparations were first ruined by a belated bike and after that by a frozen body and bike crash. I was however able to come back home alive and with a working bike. Something to be happy about!
This is how an unlucky race trip – yet hilarious weekend with a very good, but also unlucky friend – looked like:
I flew with Norwegian from Oslo to Vienna. I landed at 14.10. I had reserved a spot for my bike, paid extra for it and delivered my bike in time, 1:50h before the flight, to baggage drop. It wasn’t apparently enough. The flight was full and had not space for all checked-in luggage. Norwegian (the airplane company) personnel decided to leave my bike in Oslo. When I waited for the bike and saw some English and German men to pick up their bikes from bulk luggage belt, I knew quite immediately that mine is not going to come this time. And it didn’t. The help desk personnel saw immediately that my bike was in Oslo. Its flying route changed to Oslo-Helsinki-Vienna and arrival time to 20.5. at 19.00. Whaaat, around 30 hours later?! Yep, that is what you get when you use cheap airline companies and think that around 48 hours before the race should be enough. It is not.
Lessons learned: Next time arrive at least 3 days before the race. Consider a non-cheap airline company.
Luckily Team Heini‘s Austrian department has two amazing bikes and we are almost same size. So I could lend her bike on Friday evening. We did a nice 2h bike ride in warm and sunny Vienna surroundings. Stress levels sank a lot. I was even smiling. Vienna seemed lovely! You can fall in love with a city at first sight.
Austrian department of Team Heini decided not to race on Sunday due to a stupid flu. Norwegian department got thus her tempo bike as a reserve option, if the lost bike wouldn’t arrive from Oslo-Helsinki-where ever.
We drove to St. Pölten to do my race registration, participate in the race brief and organize all things so that I could deliver the bike this time in race morning. T1 would be closed already on Saturday at 19.00. Ironman organization was very happy to help us and flexible in case a special situation. I was very happy on how nice every one was there. I surprised myself of not being angry or very stressful. People, even me, crow older, calmer and cleverer.
As all things were organized quite quickly, we drove around the bike course with car, checked swimming places (two lakes) and a little bit of the run course. All places looked extremely nice. I was looking forward to cruising around the bike course and especially pushing hard on the three hills of it. It was extremely nice to have person with me, who knew the course as her own every-day bike ride courses.
The bike arrived this time in time, at around 19.00. As the personnel of Wien Ground Handling Services told that they would deliver the bike to us probably at around midnight, we picked it up from airport by ourself. I had got the bike and mounted it by 21.15. All seemed to work well at a 10-minute test ride. YAY!
I could fall as sleep without huge stress, and had probably best ever sleep before a race.
Waking up 4 AM, driving from Vienna to St. Pölten 4.30-5.15 AM. It had rained at night, but the weather was quite calm, when we left. However, it got worse while approaching St. Pölten. It rained, and rained, and so on. I could check in my bike, T1 and T2 bags without any problems and was very eager to start doing the actual thing, the race! Good jokes in the morning had kept the spirit high. I did a 2,5 km run warm-up, changed to wetsuit and went to AG queue to start swimming. I was in start group 1, which finally also seemed to be my place.
I started the swim quite hard and after 100-200 meters realized that I really need to slow down. Otherwise I would kill myself already in the first loop, in the first lake. I slowed down, swam a few hundred meters easily (= too easily) and then realized that swimming started to feel rather good. I increased pace and came to the end of the first loop feeling good. Rather many slow running men blocked the 300m run split quite badly, but I tried to find the “fast left lane” and gain some seconds with faster running, which are always important. At least I like to think so… The second swim loop went slightly better, still feeling good. I rose from water after 33:45. Swim pace was 1:31/100m. It wasn’t very fast yet, but at least almost 8s/100m better than in any race last summer or ever before! Feeling was same as after my IM swim last September. So, diesel machine is still there. I need to learn to swim faster, consume more energy and find higher HR in the swim.
T1 was long in St. Pölten. I luckily managed it quite smoothly. I put a cycling vest on my triathlon suit. It was a mistake. I should have had more clothes on! We had thought that a vest would work fine.
I realized already after 3 bike kilometers that it will be cold today. I was freezing all the time more and more, and I felt the cold arriving deep inside my body. My first thought to it was: cycle faster. The more watts, the warmer body. Luckily my head was still working well and I was able to stick to my plan: 200 watts on flat parts and more on the three hills. It would be stupid to consume all legs on the flat parts, when I could gain more time difference on the hills, where I am good at. 200 watts (/ 50 kg) on flat felt very easy. It was my day…. Until things went totally wrong. After I had passed quite a lot of men in the first small hill and tried to think all the time that it will get warmer, came a difficult descent. In the descent, I surprisingly quickly felt myself extremely cold and shaking. My head felt also numb. I handled the first difficult descent swing quite okay, but the second swing went badly. I crashed to road fence with 45 km/h. Head first, of course. :( That speed was too much in that cold shape and on wet road.
I stood up quickly and noticed that legs were alive and I could continue. Until… I realized I had quite much blood in my body and bike was a bit ruined. My chin was open and bleeding, head and entire arms shaking and numb. Ambulance personnel were luckily right at that swing and picked up the freaked small Finn quite fast from not running around the road and not killing herself. I made quite quickly the decision not to continue, which was very good at the end. I just wonder what could have happened if I had continued with shaking body and numb head. I was leading my AG and overall second AG that time, but it doesn’t really matter, if I ruin the race like that.
I was taken to hospital, where it was luckily noticed that nothing very bad had happened. I felt cold still three hours after the crash. Luckily another Heini had got a call and came to pick me up from the hospital after two hours. Although being an adult, it feels quite hopeless to be in a foreign hospital with only wet race clothes and cycling shoes on, no ID, no mobile phone, no money, and no-one’s mobile number with me. Luckily I had kept my helmet on almost all the time… I entirely forgot that and nobody told me about it. Finally a handsome young doctor smiled so widely that I knew something was crazy.. :)
Lessons learned: When being small and prone to freeze easily, a triathlon suit and cycling vest is not enough in +12°C, rain and avg speed of around 39,5 km/h for the first 20 km.
There were at least some positive things: (1) I proved myself I like race swimming in the end quite a lot. (2) My cycling should be on quite a new level compared to last season. (3) I didn’t hurt myself more badly and my legs and torso is totally fine, if bruises don’t count. (4) You remember always the happy moments and good laughs, although the actual race didn’t go as planned. (5) Austria is still a nice place and has very nice people!
Thank you Heini! Not me. :)
Finnish triathlete living in Norway