Ironman Austria 2004

Ironman Austria, Klagenfurt. 4th July 2004


I hadn’t planned to compete in IM Austria, in fact my plans were up in the air at the start of 2004 as I was looking for contract work and not getting anywhere…however, when it sunk in that my brother Rob who had gone to IMUSA with me was signed up to become an Ironman, he who had said “NO WAY!” when asked whilst there if he would ever do an Ironman (a familiar tale…which seems to indicate that one day they will change their mind) I decided I would like to be there. My other Ironman brother Iain was also signed up, so we had the prospect of 3 brothers in the race. Iain subsequently withdrew with a continuing hamstring injury.


By the time I managed to secure a contract it was late March and so I was snooked for taking time off to go to Tucson to train in the sun. This wasn’t a good start – to turn up for an Ironman 112 mile bike only having trained on my CompuTrainer but hey, I wanted to be there when Rob became an Ironman…


All of us travelled on the same flights, Rob laid back as ever about the race – even when his bike didn’t arrive at Klagenfurt due to lack of baggage space on the small plane from Frankfurt. Austrian Airlines (a race sponsor) were fab though and had everything sorted – his bike was sent to the hotel by midnight. We didn’t need a rental car as the hotel was only 1.5 miles from the race start and across the road from the run course.




Klagenfurt is a beautiful town. I guess there are quite a few affluent residents, judging by the number of Porsche Cayennes I saw :) There were a lot of Brits in the race – a few staying at our hotel – usual story – some were friendly, some weren’t. I wasn’t fussed – I was here to take care of business in my 7th Ironman and to see Rob become a hero.


On the Thursday Rob (still laid back…) and I went for a practice swim in Lake Wörthersee where the swim was to take place. Warm. Clear. Beautiful. Usual splish splash for me. Rob was wearing one of Iain’s old wetsuits (Iain man of many top wetsuits and even more top bikes..). It looked tight to me… Rob could hardly breathe…when he came out of the water he said he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move and was still dry underneath hmmmm…at least he had the sense to go buy a new wetsuit that did fit and all was well.


On Friday (Rob still laid back…) it was warm but tipped down all day – torrential rain at times, which stopped me taking my bike out for a check. Rob had some issues with his bike computer not working – I tried to help – but I was already heading for stress central (you really don’t want to be with me the day or two before Ironman…) so had to leave him with it. I guess I know what’s coming, how hard it’s gonna be, plus any new demons or situations to cope with, whilst Rob is still to experience the race 😉 Later in the day I take my bike for a short spin and notice that it’s not changing gears smoothly, then I notice the gear cable to my derailleur is frayed which must have happened in transit – stress level x 10 – so I know I have to get to the bike shop on the Saturday morning before bike checkin. I should have known (Iain would have convinced me) not to go to the carbo load party on the Friday night. There are just too many hungry people all wanting fed at the exact same time – there wasn’t enough food at the start – more people kept arriving – we had to wait ages for large bowls of pasta to appear – even worse for dessert – didn’t get enough food and I was shivering with cold by the time we left.


At the Expo we meet Bill and Cathy Taylor from the States – friends whom Rob and I met at IMUSA and who are both racing. I also meet one of our good friends from darn sarf, Dave Thompson (a legend – the guy who went out with his mates to Lanzarote to train while they competed in Ironman and they persuaded him to sign up right there and then and race – he did!). He introduces me to a bubbly (young!) girl he’s with, called Verity who it appears too, is now a legend, having gone to France to train for IMFrance and signed up while there…I think they are a match :) Ironman is all about people and some of the friends I have met there are very very close to my heart…


On Saturday morning, there is a queue in the bike shop but the guys are great and Tigana is sorted while I go for a latte and wander about town nervously. Rob is now looking nervous, worried, apprehensive and no longer laid back. No wonder. Ironman in 18 hours. Truth is, the night before an Ironman, I don’t really want to go to bed, I don’t want to fall asleep – because when I wake next – it is time…


Using one of Iain’s tricks, Rob and I get a taxi to the start on race day morning. I spot Mark Allen (he works for the race organising company) in transition and decide to pay him respect. He smiles and shakes my hand and says “Have a good one!”. Karma from ‘The Grip” is with me.

Rob and I at the swim start

There are 3 swim starts – Rob and I take the right most one. We get suited up and are ready to go…Rob stays at the back of the crowd but I move a few rows forward. I realise I’m standing beside Verity – a great way to spend the last few minutes chatting with a friend – we both say quietly we need to pee – looking for moral support we both tease each other by saying “If you go, then I will too!” – neither of us wanting to be the only one standing there making a dark stain at our feet lol. We do :)

stressed, tense, nervous...
ok, we're ready...

The water is fabulous (similar to IM Canada) clear, fresh and warm. There are lots and lots of people. I’m in a good position, towards the back but surrounded by swimmers.

We're gone....

I can do nothing to move from my position for the first lap, it’s like being in a shoal of fish – being sucked along :) until the faster swimmers move away – I know this means my swim will be good.

The Canal Aquatic Highway

The last few hundred yards of the swim are amazing – you turn left and head up the canal! Except, this is where some gorilla decides to keep swimming into me and smacking me on the head…I move away…under the pedestrian bridge crowded with people (looks scarily overloaded…) and then I’m out the water in 1:16:48 woohooo!

The bike is 3 laps on closed roads with a tough 1.5 mile (200m vertical ascent) climb (11%) up Rupertiberg (which was out of the saddle for me) with the mad DJ at the top :) You lose the altitude gently so it does seem to be a fast bike course. My legs were sore as usual after 20 miles but worse was to come – after a lap (37 miles) I wanted to get off my bike, I wasn’t comfortable, I’d had enough.

Halfway point on the bike

Normally I only start to feel like this after about 70 or 80 miles, it looked like the lack of bike training miles in Tucson was really hitting me hard…there is another little hill where the crowds close in on you like le Tour De France so I sucked some energy from them there and tried to ignore the discomfort – it was Ironman after all and it’s never easy…each lap up the hill hurts my legs even more.



I’d worked out I wouldn’t be lapped on the bike by the leaders, however I hear sirens etc at the end of lap 2 and thought it must be an ambulance but no, Francois Chabaud screams past with motorcycle entourage and laps me – must have been the Litespeed he was riding…At the start of the last time up Rupertiberg some dude from the crowd shouts “Litespeed. Cooool!” in an Arnie voice :) Tigana likes recognition…Somehow I manage to hang on and go sub 6 hours (5:52:38) and am sooooo relieved to finally get off my bike.


It’s warmer now and 24 degrees C for the run is not a good sign…Sara tells me Rob is toughing it out on the bike which lifts me and I set off on the figure of 8, 2 lap run.

Start of the run...

I manage to run for almost exactly 2 hours (familiar eh?) before I am sick and have to walk outside of aid stations. I’m making sure to wet my hat at each aid station to aid cooling. As I finish my first lap, I wonder where Rob is – and then right before my eyes he appears, starting his run…he has a strange scarf on – turns out he didn’t use vaseline on his neck for the swim and has a massive hickey – the medical staff made him some sort of scarf to protect it for the run…ouch!

Rob starts the run looking kinda excited
The brothers Gauld - me at 13.1 miles, Rob at 0 miles :)


How wonderful to find him, he will make it now, as I knew I would in Lake Placid 5 years ago – even if he has to walk it in, my eyes fill with tears knowing how that will feel to him – we {HUG}.

Rob procrastinating...
...gotta go...


Reluctantly, Rob realises he has to go too...

He is in good spirits, in fact I think he’s forgotten he has a marathon to complete – I know I must be on my way too.

It doesn't get any better than this - running side by side with my brother in an Ironman...

We run side by side for a while, an awesome awesome feeling then he eases away for a few miles until I catch him again. We hug again and continue bringing ourselves home…I run/walk the rest of the run, my nausea not too bad but ever present. I manage to run the last 2km in to the Finish, satisfied with my run time of 4:49:16 and very pleased with my finish time of 12:20:29, faster than in IM Canada the year before :)




I kinda quite like that feeling when yer finished an Ironman – a combination of relief/pride/joy/fatigue/exhaustion/pain/illness – problem is what you have to do to get there. I head to the food tent – an amazing array of food – best I’ve ever seen at a race – cold beer on tap, the only thing I’ve found I can consume soon after a long race mmmmmm…. soup, roast chicken, everything you might want. However, I’m too ill to eat so get myself a coupla beers and go outside to lie down on the grass, in the shade. Medical staff appear periodically checking so I have to keep opening my eyes and smiling. I climb into the hot tub for a while then get changed.  I take my bike and gear back to our hotel and en route in the dark, a police officer appears out of the police station and warns me for riding a bike with no lights! I shower, change and hobble back to the Finish line to see Rob come home…I just miss his finish but got through to the recovery area to meet him and congratulate him. We are now 3 Ironman brothers. Poor Rob, I know how he feels as I offer to get him some food and he says he can’t eat yet. I, however have the munchies :) 


It was a proud day to be there and to see my brother Rob become an Ironman. He was awesome considering the minimal training he managed. We stayed at the Finish line until the race finished at midnight and watched the fabulous fireworks. Klagenfurt is a great venue (the whole town was taken over and supported Ironman), the organisation was great, with fabulous supportive crowds.


After the race I hear an unpleasant story of a guy who came out the water and couldn’t find his bike on the rack at the spot where it should be (and where he left it). Apparently another competitor picked up his bike then realised it wasn’t his and just dumped it on the nearest rack :( The only thing I would change is to have volunteers giving out sun block for us whitey whites….I don’t like getting burnt to a crisp (I take my own sun block) and I did see some competitors the day after who did get quite badly sunburned.

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