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Matt Molloy: IM Austria report
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 6th July 2011


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We've been following Matt Molloy and Boo Alder in the lead up to Ironman Austria over the past few months in our 'Ironman Austria virgins' series. Well, we can't use that term anymore... as both crossed the line on Sunday afternoon to hear the words "you are an Ironman!". (Iron) virginity well and truly lost...

The first to report back is from Matt Molloy, who concludes his series of articles with his race report on his 9:02:52 finish which was enough for him to secure the Kona slot which was his primary goal before the race. We'll hear from Boo on her race later this week too.

You can catch up on all of the articles in this series on these links:

You can catch up on all of the articles in this series on these links:


My A goal going into the race was to qualify for Kona. Whilst I knew this was something that was ultimately outside my control, previous results indicated a time 9:20 in the M40 category would be good enough. My B goal was to dip under the Irish Ironman Record set by Liam Dolan in 2009 - 09:02:48. Whilst I believed that this was possible, I was wary of chasing a time in my debut at the distance. So, rather than chase time, the plan was to

(a) cruise the swim without red-lining it,
(b) ride the bike with a normalised power of between 70 – 72% of my FTP and a heart rate at 80% max (based on Karvonen) on the flats, but allowing power to rise to my FTP (actual) on the climbs and
(c) build into the run through 1st 5k and settle at a heart rate of 80% max (Karvonen).

Nutrition, the plan was to go with high concentrate personalised Infinit for the first 2hrs of the bike (700 cals), washing down with water, and then work my way through my decanted 12 Powerbar gels (1200 cals) throughout the rest of the ride, again washed down with water + some Powerbar Ride Shots for variety. On the run the plan was gels + water until I couldn't stomach them anymore, before switching to coke + water. I'd also planned on walking through the aid stations when taking on board nutrition.

Going into the race, I was excited to see what I could achieve. Although there has been a lot of hype about what I could do based on recent race results over shorter distances, my take was that until I had actually done an Ironman, the talk of times and what I could do was speculative. A race performance would put an end to the speculation and I was as eager as anyone to see what I could do.

I felt confident on race morning. The ginger/pale skinned/Celtic weather gods had been kind and delivered a dry, cool day with no wind. Having breakfasted, prepped bike and dropped my day wear bag, I made my way to the swim start. I positioned myself to the left of the central pier as the advice was that was where the fastest swimmers should be. However, it later transpired that this was duff advice as the Pros were to the right hand side of the central pier. This meant that, after swimming out, we had to bank over to the right hand side in order to keep the buoys to the left hand side. I swam this first section on Stephen Lord's feet with one or two others in tow. I then panicked a bit as the kayaker to our left was blowing his whistle like crazy and indicating that we had to swim over and into the line of swimmers who had come out from the right hand side of the central pier. Initially, I thought that we were being DQ-ed, but thankfully not. When we eventually bridged over to the right hand side I then worked through the pack (which was a mixture of Pro men and women and age groupers) until on the feet of the lead swimmer of that group. There was a faster pack further ahead, but the gap looked too big to bridge, so I stayed in that position until exiting the water in 50:26 in 14th position overall and leading my AG.

T1 was uneventful and 3:35 was pretty good given the length of the run from the swim exit and the length of transition.

Onto the bike and I settled into a rhythm. Annoyingly my seat-post had slipped (this was the first time I've travelled with the P4/taken off the seat-post, which meant that I had to adjust my position (sitting back further on my saddle and pedalling heel down instead of my normal toe down) to take that into account. Note to self – buy torque wrench with extension when I get home! Apart from some mild cramping in my left calf from the swim, there was no other pain, so I was happy to go with my adjusted position which felt comfortable and I don't believe it had an adverse affect on my performance. About 15 minutes in, Tom Lowe came past on the bike looking strong and about five minutes or so later (or so it seemed!), so did Michael Weiss with a few guys tucked in behind him in a pace line. The next action of note was when a group including lead lady Mary Beth Ellis came past me about halfway through the first lap which confused me a bit afterwards as she had swam two minutes faster? I assume I must have overtaken Mary Beth down the side of the lake in the first section. That group kicked on from me and I was pretty much on my own until after the last climb when another group came by. I found that I was faster going downhill than them, but noticed that my average normalised power was up 10 Watts on my target range, so decided to stay behind that group on the fast section into the turnaround point. My time at halfway was 2:23 odd, which combined with my Watts being up, concerned me a little (had I overcooked it??), but I felt ok and had a smile for John Levison and his fiancée Lesley at the turnaround. I stayed with that group for the first 10k of the second lap before they got away on the first ascent whilst I stayed at my power cap. I then rode the rest of the second lap on my own whilst being overtaken by three groups which included the second and third ladies. Just like the recce, I had to get out of the saddle on the last two climbs. The support was awesome and I got a great endorphin rush on those two climbs. My nutrition went exactly to plan on the bike and I ended the second lap having got through all my calories, not feeling nauseous and rolled into T2 in 4:53:27. For you number geeks out there, my average normalised power for the whole ride was 71% of FTP (65% average) (about 3.5 Watts/KG NP – 3.25 Watts/KG based on average)) and my average heart rate was bang on 80% (Karvonen). So, bang on target intensity, although only because I had to back off on the second half.

T2 was efficient in 2:56 and I exited 12th in my AG.

As I exited the run, John shouted out that I needed 3:10 to go sub 9 hours. Whilst that was great to know, the run was the start of the unknown for me. I felt heavy legged to start with, but no heavier than I have felt after a hard Olympic or 70.3 race and also no GI issues -so happy and in a good place mentally. At the 1k point I saw Marino Vanhoenacker coming through in the lead at his 11k point (cool!). A time check at the 2k marker had me running at just under 3hr marathon pace and my heart rate was at target. My immediate thoughts were – too fast, but I don't feel like I'm running at that pace, so I stuck with it. I passed the 10k marker in just under 42 (I think) and heart rate was just above target. I was expecting a drop off, just not sure when. I was doing well taking on gels at 20 and 40 minutes with some coke/water in between and walking for a few paces through some of the aid stations to coincide with feeds. At 21k I was at 1:29ish and whilst feeling ok my heart rate was above target (85%) and not returning to target after short walks. At this point I started to get concerned about what could be and felt that I needed to back off. I was also getting concerned about whether I had taken on enough calories on the run as my stomach was saying “no more gels please” (censored version ;-). I decided that I would need to prolong my walks in order to get my heart rate down and started that from the 22k point. At the 27k mark Martin Muldoon passed me and said something to the effect of “Kona's still on, don't muck it up.” [Ed. that's a censored version too - only one letter out!] That was just the boost I needed. It also took the pressure off re: Irish record as I knew that, even if I beat the old mark, Martin was on his way to smash it (Martin ran 2:49 on his way to clock 8:49). Martin is one of the most unassuming and modest guys I've met. The way he has applied himself over the winter and this year is truly inspirational. There's been a lot of hype about what people (including me) were going to do going into this race, but Martin just got on with his work quietly and applied himself to the task in hand. He's now raised the bar for male Irish long distance triathlon and, in doing so, has given us all something to aspire to. What with Martin and Joyce Wolfe's phenomenal performances, things are looking good.

Anyway, back to my race! I carried on with my prolonged walks through aid stations and kept my heart rate lower – 78% average. Not feeling particularly good, but felt in control and mentally strong. Again, no GI issues. With 5k to go, Owen Martin passed me to go onto clock a sub-9 (another dedicated guy who achieved his result through a lot of hard work and smart training – I asked him what he attributed his progress/sub 9 too – his answer was four years of experience and hard work - jeez, does that mean I've got to do more of these?!? ;-). At that point I remembered what Martin and my other travel buddy, Rory Maguire, has said about making sure I didn't finish the race thinking I had anything left, so I got my head down, threw a bit of caution to the wind and ran through the final 5k without checking heart rate. It later transpired that I closed that section out at the same/faster than my opening sections, so happy to be able to do that.

Matt Molloy at IM Austria finish line ©John Levison

When I turned into the finishing chute, the clock was showing 09:02:3+++ OMG!! I'm under the old mark! I'd been handed a tricolour by Lesley and I (so I thought) had time to walk across the line with 09:02:43 on the finish clock. Yay! It later transpired that the clock was 9 seconds out from the official timing, so my official time was 09:02:52, but, in my mind, I'd achieved my secondary target and was over the moon. After I crossed the line I was greeted by John and Lesley before being escorted to some coke and water. I was asked whether I needed medical assistance, but I felt ok, just wanting to sit down. Martin came and met me, we exchanged congratulations. I then sat down, put the tricolour over my head and sobbed like a wee bairn for a while. I then saw Owen and congratulated him on his storming performance.

After a massage, I spoke to Helen to find out that I was 10th in my AG (this was adjusted to 11th a bit later). Owen had said there were likely to be 10 slots for Kona, so I'd assumed that I'd qualified. However, my initial thoughts were that if 9:02 can only place me 11th in M40 category in a qualification race, in ideal weather conditions, can I really justify the expense and burdening our parents with the logistics of childcare to go to Hawaii and not be competitive? I threw that thought out to the Twitterati and on Facebook in order to get some feedback. I also spoke to Helen and contacted Bill. The comments I received were unanimous in saying “take it”. The clincher was Bill, who said that if being competitive at Kona was something I aspired to then it was very rare for someone to be so on their Kona debut. Think of Macca and Mark Allen, who took seven attempts to win. At that I decided that (assuming it rolled down), I would take the slot. I could then go to Kona with no expectations of being competitive, no fear of failure and learn from the experience.

Matt Molloy at IM Austria finish line ©John Levison

The next day I then learned that there were only eight slots in my AG. I needed three roll downs. Having decided that I wanted to go, I was now more nervous than the start of the race! By the time it got down to fifth place, there had been three passes. I was in. I was buzzing.

As each day has passed since the race, the more pleased I am with my race. I had issues to deal with on the run from 21k and I felt I managed them well and my nutrition worked well. Looking back, I feel that the biggest limiter for me was the unknown and playing things safe. Looking forward, I'm excited to be part of an Irish long distance scene that is on the up. Martin, Joyce and Owen have raised the bar. Rory and I are on their heels and looking to learn from what they've achieved. Declan Doyle, Brian Campbell and Alan Ryan will looking to kick things on in Roth this weekend. As will Liam Dolan. Uber biker, Bryan McCrystal is opening his Ironman account next year. Brian Jenkins is also up there and targeting Austria next year. There are no doubt others looking to slip under the radar. Exciting times.


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