Podium delight at Krems Triathlon
Choosing a random triathlon from a list of European events on the internet earlier this year proved to be a great idea when my friend Vicky and I both ended up on the podium.
I have done well in a few triathlons before but I have never stood on the podium. I have normally departed the event before the ceremony, only to discover my moment of glory has been and gone!
So, to say I was more than a little chuffed to come third in my age group (F45 to 49) in the Krems Triathlon – and having entered with absolutely no expectations – is an understatement. Vicky was equally delighted to finish a fantastic second in her age group (F40 to 44).
Why I entered the Krems Triathlon
Some time last year and after a few glasses of wine, my good friend Vicky and I decided we would target a European race in the summer of 2016. We wanted to visit a place neither of us had been to before and we narrowed our choice to destinations with a short-ish flight from Glasgow or Edinburgh.
After many false starts – mainly because the triathlons we looked at did not open their entries early enough for us to be sure of a place and then book flights and accommodation – we came across Krems Triathlon, in the town of Krems about an hour’s drive west of the capital city of Vienna.
We decided to make a long weekend of it and spend a night and day in Vienna as well as two nights in Krems.
The months before the triathlon
We knew the triathlon was an Olympic distance but we were not sure of the route or the setting. Neither of us speak or read German and when we tried to translate via Google we found ourselves quite confused.
We had both planned to do lots of training but, as usual, work, life, the weather and various injuries meant we only vaguely focused on this event. In the end, we simply decided to turn up, give it a go and have some fun if we could.
We had no idea what the weather might be and we had hoped it would be a little more Scottish than the hot, dry day that it turned out to be.
We also had no idea that it would be a national championships. As soon as we arrived we could tell it was going to be a fast and competitive race because of the number of vey fit looking athletes and the amount of bike bling.
As we travelled to Krems on a Jet2 flight from Edinburgh to Vienna and then a hire car to Krems we listened to each other’s excuses about why we might not be fit enough for this race, laughed a lot about life – and drank wine.
Minor celebrities at the Krems Triathlon
Having arrived in Krems, reassembled our bikes and generally sorted our kit for the triathlon we decided to head along to the event base for a wee look around.
Krems Triathlon takes place at an industrial complex on the edge of the town and we were greeted by a few of the organisers who were sorting last minute details the night before the race.
They showed us where the 1500m swim would take place (in a man-made industrial basin with water supplied by the River Danube).
They told us a bit about the 40km bike ride (mostly up and down but with a general up on the way to the turning point and a general down to return).
The run, they said, would be three laps and not the four listed on the website. It was “sort of” flat.
They also asked us if we were the two Scottish ladies.
“Er, yes, we have come from Scotland,” we said.
“Just to compete in this race?,” they asked.
“Er, yes,” we replied.
They asked us why and we told them. They seemed very pleased. It turned out we were the only Brits!
The next day news of our fame had spread and three times we were asked to pose for a local newspaper story! It’s hard to imagine there are that many local papers!
Apart from us, the field of around 200 athletes was mostly Austrians as well as a few from countries such as Hungary, Spain, Germany, Norway and the Czech Republic.
There were some 50 women entered in the race and Vicky and I found out we would be competing in different age groups. Normally we are in the same big age group of 40s to 49s!
A hot day of triathlon racing
Pre-race nerves got to us both. We each slept no more than six hours and we had to force feed ourselves a small breakfast. We discussed our concerns with pale and drawn faces.
I was dreading the swim (I am not a strong swimmer and 1500m seemed like a very long way). Vicky was anxious about the run because of a niggling Achilles Heel issue.
We both wished we had done more training and while we had said we would be doing the race for fun, our competitive heads would not allow us to relax.
Registering at the event base we found the race organisation to be slick and the organisers were very friendly. They helped us to try to understand the race format despite the language barrier.
We checked again about the three-lap run (I am so grateful we asked because the website said four laps and it would have been horrible to do an extra unnecessary lap). Just before the swim start we worked out it was an anti-clockwise swim.
Krems Triathlon swim
Once in the water for the mass start (more than 200 swimmers in one line/group!) we were personally welcomed by the commentator as the “ladies from Scotland”. This made me laugh for about three seconds before I realised just how many people were surrounding me. I really do not enjoy the washing machine effect of so many swimmers.
The countdown came in German and I wasn’t entirely sure if they had started at 10, five or three. But then everyone started swimming and so did I!
Vicky is a good swimmer and I knew she would be miles ahead of me so I just put my head down and tried to keep things as steady as possible. I really only have one swimming speed and I was worried about all sorts of things, including the distance; sighting the buoys; getting cramp (the last few times that I had swum I had been crippled by cramp); my contact lenses coming out (I rarely wear them); being overtaken by someone doing breaststroke; and being last out of the water and looking like and idiot.
As it turned out while I did swim almost 10 minutes slower than Vicky I wasn’t last, I didn’t lose my contact lenses and I survived. I wish I could speed up in the swim, though.
Krems Triathlon bike
Vicky and her bike were long gone by the time I reached T1. However, I was determined to enjoy the bike ride. We had driven the route the afternoon before and I knew it would be beautiful.
And I kept reminding myself: “Ride on the right, ride on the right.”
Although there was a sometimes swirling, sometimes headwind to deal with and a general long drag upwards, I loved the bike section. It wasn’t a closed road event but the marshalling was excellent and I only needed top pull the brakes a few times for cars in front of me.
I have no doubt I should have pushed the ride harder but my experience of a Standard distance triathlon is one other and I didn’t want to over-beast my legs in case I couldn’t run 10km. I really wished I’d practise the bike-to-run more in training.
In any case, my fairly good speed seemed to be enough to overtake lots of people. The advantage of coming out of the swim late is that you can overtake lots of people on the bike.
I was also watching for the faster triathletes coming back on the other side of the road and, in particular, Vicky.
Many men on TT bikes whizzed back downhill and then, as I closed in on the last 5km to the turn point, there was Vicky. She looked like she might be placed in the top three women and I was delighted for her.
I kept on pushing and had a bit of a cat and mouse chase with another woman as we rode the return leg. I wasn’t too worried that she ended up 50m ahead of me into transition though because I felt sure I would overtake her on the run. I did!
Looking back I think I enjoyed more of the views than I normally would when racing the countryside in the valley was so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself.
And, finally, the run
It doesn’t matter what the triathlon distance, I find that the exit from T2 to the run is brutal. My legs refused to stretch out and I felt like I was running with tiny baby steps. I also worried about my calf muscles as they felt close to bursting.
As I passed the water station on my first lap I saw Vicky going on to her second lap. We grimaced a smile at each other.
Vicky’s face said she was struggling. It’s rare that I would ever have the chance to over-take our triathlon club head coach but the lap system allowed me to do just that (although Vicky was on lap 2 and I was on lap1!).
Poor Vicky has had sore Achilles tendons for weeks and that meant she did not dare to push hard in her run.
Yet, still, she did very well in the event.
I was grateful for Vicky cheering me on (she is very good at loud and enthusiastic cheering!) as I pushed through the rest of my run. It was very hot and although it was supposed to be flat there were lots of small ups and downs and some rough trails to deal with.
Again, because I am a slow swimmer, I was able to run past quite a few faster swimmers on the run. I was delighted to overtake quite a few people, both men and women.
By laps two and three my legs were feeling less tight and I felt a little faster. I have not run a competitive 10k for a long time, let alone 10k at the end of an Olympic triathlon but I kept on reminding myself that this triathlon was meant to be for fun.
Finally I put in a bit of a sprint to the finish line and I was helped to stay upright by a marshall. Without him I would have fallen flat on the floor! Vicky assisted me to remove my timing chip and we hugged with delight.
We had come to Austria and done as we said we would although we both confessed it was a tough race.
The post-race food was superb, including homemade pastries, oranges, bananas, as well as cola, sports drink and water. I found it hard to stomach anything but I did enjoy the post-race analysis with Vicky.
Again we were made to feel very welcome by the race organisers and we were also asked to pose for more photos.
Up on the podium
Then came our podiums moments. Vicky was delighted to come second in her age group, F40 to 44. My age group came next, the F45 to 49, and I was thrilled to come third.
We could never have predicted taking home two amazing trophies when we booked this weekend away. (This has been described by a social media friend as a “jet set podium grabber”!)
I thoroughly recommend this triathlon and the chance to visit Krems and Vienna.
Plus an ETU qualification
As we travelled home, via a night and day spent sightseeing in Vienna, I received an email to tell me I’d qualified for the ETU Age Group Sprint Triathlon Champs in Dusseldorf next year. I had come 5th in our local Strathclyde Sprint Distance Triathlon earlier this year and that had proved to be enough to win place on the GB team. I think I’ll need to make an effort to properly train for that!