Forum v Ironman Austria

The guts and the glory - read how 40 RW members fared at Ironman Austria 2007


Posted: 12 July 2007
by Candy Ollier


Shipmates: The Pirates arrive in force
On July 8 the forum Ironman team (known as The Pirate Ship of Fools) weighed anchor for the fourth annual adventure. Forty Pirates – together with an army of enthusiastic supporters – arrived in sunny Klagenfurt to take on Ironman Austria. This was to be the biggest and most successful Pirate expedition yet.

Many people see the Ironman triathlon as the ultimate one-day endurance event. A 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride, finished off with a full marathon – all raced consecutively over (at most) 17 gruelling hours.

The Pirates is a beginner friendly team, and there is always a high proportion of novice triathletes among the crew. However this race saw an unusually high number of returning Ironman, coming back for their second, third or – in one case – eighth crack at the distance. Still, despite this new wealth of experience in the team, almost half of the Pirates present were first-timers who could barely swim front crawl or handle a road racing bike a year ago.

For all the Pirates, the race represented many different things. A chance to meet old friends and make new ones. For some, an opportunity for a PB or to smash a time target. For others, a chance to pit themselves against an almost unimaginable challenge to see what they were made of. The race would provide all of these things, and more!


Talking tactics: Debbo and Firestar

Race morning saw the Pirates up at 4am to eat a huge breakfast – if their nervous stomachs allowed it. Then down to the lake, to make last-minute preparations, say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and into the water for the race start cannon at 7am.

A mass start Ironman can be a tough test for even the strongest swimmers. Over 2,000 thrashing athletes clawing and jostling for position, combined with murky open water and race-day nerves, can often lead to a vicious circle of stress, panic and hyperventilation. The Pirates weren’t immune.

"I nearly quit in the first five minutes!" said Debbo, who first became an Ironman when the Pirates visited IM Germany in 2006. "I had to stop and give myself a few slaps to calm myself down."

Meldy agreed, "The first 20 minutes or so were horrendous. I couldn’t breathe and panicked a lot and was so close to not carrying on."

But Pirates never give up. So remembering the Pirate motto "It’s not a knitting club!" they regrouped, pulled themselves together and battled onwards. The reward was the final 800 metres of the swim, which took them out of the lake and up the Klagenfurt Lendkanal. Only 20 feet wide and thronged on either side with cheering spectators, the deafening support and the slipstream effect pulled them onwards.


Only a few hundred meters to go... then a 112-mile bike ride... and then a marathon

"It was amazing" said Firestar. "Seeing the crowd so close was very emotional."

Out of the swim, into the transition area, a quick change, find your bike and out for the second leg of the race. Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

"Rubbish!" laughed C1 POL. "I couldn’t get my wetsuit off, I was all over the place. Ten minutes in transition. Rubbish!"

Finally out on the bike, the tough undulating course and hot, humid conditions began to take their toll. The main Pirate support crew had positioned itself about a mile from transition, to whip up a storm of noise for all competitors (even Fritz and Helmut who had disc wheels and didn’t waste any energy smiling!). After this emotional lift, the hills began.

"It was almost as hard as Lanza!" claimed Bouncing Barlist. He was referring to Ironman Lanzarote – the toughest Ironman course in the world – which he had completed with a small group of Pirates two months earlier.

At the front of the Pirate contingent, battle for the coveted forum Ironman trophies was fierce. In the men’s race, Iron Mike built on his lead out of the swim by gaining time on Mr M, closely followed by outstanding newcomer CRAB. The women’s race was closer, with Mellifera, Iron Lindi and Petal all jostling for position. Towards the back of the field, as always, the race became an individual struggle for survival.

The hills got steeper, the sun got hotter, the faces got grimmer and the cut-off at 5:30pm loomed ever closer. The pirates dug in and kept pedalling.


Lindi shows off her cycling skills
Iron Mike was first onto the run course. Then one by one his team mates arrived back in transition, to thankfully dump their bikes and find out if they’d left enough in reserve for the marathon. This can be a tough test even for the most experienced, as Mike soon found out.

"I guess it was a combination of heat, dehydration and no salt intake" he shrugged, "but I knew I was in trouble." He dug in for a long walk to the finish, still with a PB that many people could only dream of, of 11:18.

Bad news began to filter through. Dangerous Dave and Firestar had both failed to make the bike cut-off, beaten this time by the conditions on the day. Meldy caused some heart-stopping moments too, rolling into transition two seconds before they locked the gates. Petal was withdrawn by the medics after collapsing in T2. All three will return to fight another day (Petal in four months time at Ironman Florida!).


Fat Buddha in full flight on the bike course
The run was testing, as the day grew hotter. There were ene or two more casualties, but most battled through: Pebble reduced to shuffling due to massive cramps in his body-builder legs, Ergo struggling forwards, determined not to collapse and give the medical staff a reason to pull her off the course. Mutual support from the yellow and black army helped magnificently.

"Encouragement was always passed on," explained Foggy. "Sometimes with a grunt or a grimace from those suffering, but often with a cheery wave or a high five. A real flotilla of pirates formed, helping each other on."

Pirates began to finish, first a trickle, led by Mr M, then a flood, and finally a trickle as some of the team insisted on taking it right to the wire.


Pure joy: Pebble and family at the finish
The finish line party became a sea of yellow, as supporters and finished athletes all congregated in the stadium to cheer on their comrades, waving banners and flags in Pirate colours.

But the Pirates is not just about racing, the social side is just as important. The post-race party was as memorable as ever, highlighted by GOM successfully proposing to his (now) fiancée. The all-important Pirate trophies became something of a family affair, with Fastest Man, Fastest Woman and Best Improver all going to Mellifera and Mr M.

The most coveted award, the voted prize for most inspirational Best Novice, had many contenders. Most notably Symes and Jaggy, both of whom beat open water demons on race day. But the winner was Squishy, whose hard work and dedication over the past 12 months made her fully deserving of the titles ‘Ironman’ and ‘Pirate’.

But was it all worth it?

Of course!


Pirate love: G-Spot and Hamster (left) congratulate each other
"It was hard, and it hurt, but it was also one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences of my life" affirmed new Ironman C1 POL. "I could not have done it without the support of Sian over the months, and during the race it was great to have my family there. But especially, during training and during the event, the Pirates. Thank you all."

Have you got what it takes? The next Pirate summer outing is already being planned, a trip to the French Riviera for Ironman France Nice in June 2008.

NamePosition Swim Bike Run Time
Mr M
413
00:57:10
05:34:13
03:55:41
10:35:50
CRAB
547
01:09:52
05:38:38
03:55:51
10:53:29
Andernsng
672
01:15:19
05:53:00
03:50:37
11:08:32
Ironmike
747
00:57:49
05:19:54
04:54:15
11:18:16
Hollywood
854
01:02:42
05:55:38
04:18:49
11:29:23
m.ellifera
984
01:18:07
06:00:53
04:15:52
11:45:39
Mr RG (rodio)
1191
01:13:09
05:48:29
04:57:47
12:10:40
Lindi
1206
---
06:00:56
04:42:51
12:12:49
Doozer
1227
01:01:06
05:55:46
05:05:16
12:14:52
Mister W
1353
01:34:43
06:19:41
04:25:32
12:32:35
Crashie
1478
01:09:29
06:26:32
04:56:43
12:48:53
G-Sport
1479
01:15:49
06:31:48
04:47:48
12:48:56
Podro
1562
01:41:05
06:27:03
04:38:13
13:01:07
ATO
1624
01:20:38
06:29:46
05:04:15
13:17:18
Pebble
1651
01:17:56
05:39:38
06:11:59
13:23:15
Fat Buddha
1667
01:23:48
06:21:52
05:25:03
13:26:56
Kanga
1709
01:23:47
06:29:27
05:27:58
13:37:45
Slummo
1718
01:12:19
06:17:35
05:57:48
13:40:00
Kryten
1719
01:34:45
06:43:20
05:05:57
13:40:00
Iron Swissbobby
1734
01:25:28
06:57:11
05:06:52
13:44:13
Swoosh
1762
01:18:55
06:18:55
05:58:18
13:49:45
DTs
1763
01:24:48
07:32:12
04:37:36
13:51:15
Foggy
1774
01:14:22
06:49:47
05:33:48
13:55:08
C1 POL
1775
01:33:06
06:34:51
05:27:00
13:55:10
Debbo
1820
01:20:26
06:55:38
05:38:01
14:11:05
eccentric
1826
01:24:50
06:48:31
05:45:29
14:12:23
GOM
1837
01:18:38
06:38:03
06:13:16
14:20:04
Sir Talkalot
1852
01:37:36
06:38:17
05:52:54
14:28:31
Symes
1901
01:45:13
07:14:57
05:42:51
15:02:29
Jaggy
1918
01:47:17
06:58:44
06:06:07
15:15:18
Bouncing Barlist
1948
01:28:18
07:39:15
06:25:00
15:47:13
ergo-phobic
1963
01:15:31
07:13:30
07:16:13
15:59:44
Bendy Jan
1974
01:32:49
07:54:27
06:34:25
16:14:43
Squishy Lady
1983
01:53:20
07:47:20
06:17:47
16:19:47
M.eldy
1996
01:41:05
---
---
16:45:31
Petal
---
01:14:05
06:49:06
---
DNF
Firestar
---
01:37:51
---
---
DNF
Dangerous Dave
---
01:59:02
---
---
DNF
Gumps
---
---
---
---
DNF

Who are the Pirates?

The unofficial forum Ironman team. The group is very beginner friendly, the basic premise being that it is possible to train for an Ironman from virtually nowhere (non-swimmer and non-cyclist) in less than nine months.

Is it a "virtual team"?
Meeting up for races and socials is very important. The Pirates are in essence a group of friends who go on holiday together – but do something extraordinary together while they are there! The team is focussed around a trip to a major summer Ironman event each year. The first was to Ironman Austria in 2004, followed by Ironman Switzerland in 2005, Ironman Germany in 2006 and Ironman Austria again in 2007. The 2008 trip will be to Ironman France, Nice. There are other events in the Pirate calendar: a training weekend in the Lake District in March, the Bala middle distance triathlon in early June as a warm up race, and the Vitruvian middle distance triathlon in early September as a warm down and end of season party. There are also a few Pirate social events held throughout the year. The team has become so big now that Pirates inevitably turn up – sometimes in numbers – at many other events, too. Most notably this year there are large contingents at Ironman Lanzarote and Ironman Florida, plus some Olympic distance triathlons around the UK.

So, is it possible to train for an Ironman in less than 9 months?
Definitely! Over 45 Pirates have done just that, people of all ages, shapes and sizes. All it takes is patience, dedication, hard work and a little strength of character. A very small number of Pirates have dropped out before getting to their Ironman, but this has always been due to weak mental attitude rather than the challenge being to tough physically.

How do I join?
It isn’t an official club, so there are no rules or member lists. Just buy the kit, join in the banter and turn up to the races. The Pirates are very welcoming to new members – beginners are the whole point of the team!

How do I get the kit?
See the kit thread. An order will go in on 1 September.


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