“Review from the water” – Tips from somebody who has been there (IRONMAN Austria)
RACE: Full Ironman
LOCATION: Klagenfurt (Austria), Wörthersee Lake
DATE: 26th June 2016
AVERAGE TEMP: 22°
TIPS from Laura Strappaveccia, Finisher in 2015 (Time: 10:44:55, Div Rank: 8, Gen Rank: 34, Overall Rank: 614)
What are the various things and aspects triathletes need to consider as they prepare for the swim leg?
The Klagenfurt Ironman is considered to be a “fast” race, but contrary to what people think it is not always an easy course! During the swim leg you will sometimes struggle to follow the right trajectories and it is always chaotic in the canal. So get used to swimming in open water with, most importantly, buoys you need to go round and/or take as markers. This will allow you to follow the fastest routes without swimming too many extra yards! If you get the chance, try and swim at least two or three times in a lake before the race. The reason for this is that floating in the sea is totally different from floating in a lake, and it is not always a pleasant experience the first time you try it. So it is best to come prepared! Of course I am not talking about experienced swimmers but rather those who find the swim leg the trickiest hurdle to negotiate. Knowing what you are up against will allow you to deal with any panic attacks or bad patches more effectively.
What are the most important things for a triathlete to bear in mind during the swim leg on race day?
You must wear mirror goggles when you swim at Klagenfurt! They are vital! This might seem a rather trivial or unnecessary detail if you have never taken part in this race before. That is a big mistake!! The fact is that you will have the sun behind you during the first section of the swim and it will be just fine up to that point. The real problems begins when you turn at the buoy almost halfway through the swim leg and set off towards the canal where you leave the water. At the time of day when you reach this point or, in other words, early in the morning, the sun is starting to rise and it will be right in your eyes when you lift your head to try and catch sight of the final buoy indicating the direction to follow! At that point the sun will be blinding and you will really struggle to find the right line to follow, particularly because it is really hard to spot the very narrow entrance to the canal from that far away! I can actually remember seeing athletes swimming in all directions or simply following the person in front of them, because they could not see anything, running the risk of swimming much further! So get ready to tackle the final kilometre of the swim as if you were inside a washing machine or in other words……
The canal! In some respects it is wonderful because there are so many people cheering along the banks, but, at the same time, it is really hectic because everybody is in such close contact, literally “on top of each other”, with people kicking, swinging their arms in your face and some even accidentally swimming over you, pushing you from all sides! That is just the way it is … a free-for-all lasting 1000 m! Not to mention all the mud churned up because the canal is not very deep and gets really murky making it hard to see. But do not be disheartened, despite everything it is really wonderful to swim with so many people around you clapping and encouraging you just a few yards away, something that does not happen in other Ironman races, where it is almost always just you and the water! So, in conclusion, I think mirror goggles with not such dark lenses are an excellent compromise for the swim leg in Klagenfurt. Otherwise you might not be able to see anything at all in the canal and along the darker sections of the lake or, alternatively, you will be blinded by the rising sun!
What do you remember about the swim leg?
Personally speaking, I have wonderful memories of this leg of the Klagenfurt race! Beginning at the start, as we all ran over to get to our starting grids wearing swim caps of all different colours. There were so many people watching, clapping and taking photos. I had all kinds of concerns at the start and a real lump in my throat. I looked at the lake and did not think I was going to be able to do it: “It’s going to be a long day”, I said to myself. Then I remember thinking about all the training sessions, hard work, sweat and frantic lifestyle over the previous eight months… All just to be there at that very moment. And so I said to myself: “You are here, you are ready, so get going and don’t you dare give up until you reach the finish line, until you hear the official speaker announce “Laura, you are an Ironman!”. And so I set off and the tension just vanished in a second and all I can remember is looking for and finding the right feet to follow… and I hung onto them even inside the washing machine (canal)! And so I got to the finish in a time I never thought possible in my first Ironman! As I left the water, the woman I had been sticking to like glue right from the start turned round and said something not very pleasant to me in German, but I cannot understand German (luckily I would say, in this case!) and so I just pretended I had not understood, smiled at her and thanked her before dashing off ahead of her into the transition zone! I had a goal to achieve and a target to reach…. so I could not waste time chatting!
SPECIAL TIPS – Is there any other advice or additional tips you think might be useful for triathletes competing in this race!
Even though we are in Austria, sometimes you are not allowed to wear a wetsuit, because of the excessively high temperatures. So if you can, make sure you are prepared and do not panic, always take a racing swimsuit, partial wet suit or some other costume that will allow you to swim at your best should this inconvenience arise. It might seem like a stupid thing to say, but I can assure you that when they announce it is a non-wetsuit race you will witness scenes of athletes literally overwhelming the relatively few exhibitors selling products as they all try to get hold of sleeveless wetsuits or other swimsuits, even if they are not the right size, because they have forgotten to bring them along!
One last thing. The Klagenfurt Ironman is definitely one of the best races and part of the IRONMAN Europa circuit. Entries actually sell-out in just a few days!! So I suggest you sign up as soon as entries open, if you plan to take part or, in other words, the very next day after this year’s race! Other ways of entering will be much more expensive and hard to arrange!
Describe the race’s swim leg in 3 words!
CRAMMED – BLINDING – EXCITING
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