At the end of Ironman Austria 2011 I was asked by a fellow athlete how I thought this year’s event compared to the one I did 5 years ago.
Thought I would share how I thought the 2 events 5 years apart compared: The course for 2011 was slightly changed over what had been there for the previous 4 years.
The transition area had been moved which meant that slight changes had to be made to the swim, bike and run courses.
In Austria the final stretch of the swim is along the Lendkanal. This section was slightly extended and the swim exit for the first time was on the right hand side of the canal, exiting into the gardens of the Lindner Hotel before running through the service tunnel of the hotel followed by another 400m run into transition.
The swim exit itself I thought was better as it was flatter – although the bank under the water was still steep – but there was nothing to scramble up after the actual exit which you had to do previously. Sadly the new set up left for a long run into T1 which either meant a long T1 time or an extended swim time. I am not sure which one of these it would have been. The swim at Ironman Austria is still the nicest Ironman swim I have done with lovely warm water and lots of space to swim in. So even with my swim issues I could enjoy some of it.
Transition layout was similar to 2006 although possibly a bit less long and a bit wider. Very impressive was the efficiency that was executed for the Bike Check in the Day before. At Ironman France we queued for more than an hour. In Austria queuing lasted less than 10 minutes.
The changes to the bike course were minimal and considering there was a short out and back on the bike course with a dead turn (to compensate for moving transition) it was disappointing to find that the bike course was short by somewhere between 3-6km as confirmed by a number of athletes.
Just as with the bike course the changes to the run course were minimal with a slight shortening of the loop at Krumpendorf, I think that might have actually made the run slightly better as it is the part of the course where you tend to get least support.
There were a few other things I noticed that had changed. In 2006 when you finished the bike leg and had dismounted the bike you could hand your bike to a helper who would rack it for you. It is most likely not a big thing, but I have always found this to be a nice added extra in Ironman racing and have experienced this in all 3 of my previous Ironman races.
The feed stations on the run course at Ironman Austria appeared to be less well stocked this year compared to the last time I did this race. When I was going round I was roughly 3-3.5 hours behind the top finishers and stocks seemed to be low already at some of the feeds. Considering there were another 6 hours to go to the final cut off at midnight that seemed quite poor. My girlfriend who finished approx. 2:15 hours behind myself confirmed that she felt the feeds to be running out.
Lastly there appeared to be slim pickings at the finish area for the post-race food – it did include pizza and free beer though. They did provide showers though (which were cold), but I neither remember having showers at Ironman France nor previously at Ironman Austria. We did have showers at Ironman Germany by I can’t remember if these were hot or not, I suspect they weren’t.
We didn’t go to the pre race pasta party in 2006 but did this year and I was very impressed. Pasta parties I feel often are set up but then provide you with poor food of which you can have a lot. At Ironman Austria the there was a good amount of food to be had including a salad starter, pasta with numerous helpings and desert. There was also water, juice or beer for drinks. The pasta party I would definitely recommend.
I titled this blog post with ‘less for more’ because over the past 5 years the entry cost for Ironman Austria (as with other Ironman races) as gone from around £250 to over £400. My feeling is that little details have been chipped away such as the bike helpers in T2 or the stock at the feed stations.
If I would have done Ironman Austria as my first Ironman I would not have known any different and it is still a stand out event. I would still pick it over Germany or France.