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IRONMAN Kärnten-Klagenfurt, Austria 2023

Project Sub9 – When a perfect start turns into a nightmare.

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IRONMAN Kärnten-Klagenfurt, Austria 2023


June 18, 2023

Mathias took 9hours 26minutes, reached the 6th place in AG M25-29 and was 65th overall out of 1881. Despite a damage on the bike and having lost lots of time, he still finished and qualified for the IRONMAN World Championship 2023 in Nizza, France. Here is his report:

“Since I am always setting myself new, utopian goals, I wanted to make the impossible possible to tackle Mission Sub9 Klagenfurt, self-coached, all by my own after my second year of structured training and last year’s successful Sub10.

Being able to achieve this in such a short time was denied by many sides and people watched me and my training with suspicious eyes.

Even the NADA was interested in me and so I had to undergo an unannounced doping test at home shortly before the competition.

After months of high-volume training with sometimes more than 30hours per week I tapered well and showed up with peak performance at the start line, ready to push hard and get what I aimed for.

Swim 00:55:32 - I took it easy and tried to swim calm and save as much energy as possible. I was definitely fitter than that, merely beating 55 was on my list and most importantly, coming fresh out of the water. I enjoyed my first in-competition wetsuit swim and the lovely buoyancy effect after last year’s swim without, due to high water temperature. I'm very happy with my swim performance, tried to draft to save carbs which worked more or less well, despite a kick against my cheekbone which put me and the goggles briefly out of action.

Bike 05:01:26 – I completed T1 in 6min and found my metabolic balance instantly, so I enjoyed my home course to the fullest and started pushing 300 Watts normalized power as scheduled, in order to achieve a 4h40 split.

I took the lead of the "fast" group from Klagenfurt all the way up to Kraig, then went controlled and steady up the hill and lost all the lightweight athletes who overtook me. They immediately regrouped at the top and it took me until St.Veit to catch up again.

All of a sudden, at kilometer 50 after Liebenfels, severe damage happened to my gearshift which forced me to stop next to the road. The chain dropped off the big gear ring, hooked itself with the derailleur and bent it completely. Additionally, the shift cable broke and I quickly realized this was impossible to repair and so I watched all guys passing bye, just waiting for a referee to ask for help and to quit the race.

Fortunately, a motorcyclist with a mechanic stopped bye and helped me out. After 20 minutes of total standstill and intense repair work, the gearshift worked again, and I decided to continue the race. Thank you to Hermann, the motorcyclist, who motivated me not to give up and fight my way back. As he is also a member of pewag racing team it was an even greater mental support!

I knew Project Sub9 was definitely over, as the average speed dropped from almost 40 kilometers per hour to less than 33. From that moment on until T2, for 130 kilometers, I was riding all alone by myself, went full risk and pushed what I could to catch all athletes one by one without collapsing. Being fast requires the best aerodynamics, staying head down and risking not seeing the road conditions always. When I hit a full water bottle on the street when descending with 60 kilometers per hour, I felt like my bike was exploding and thought it was time to say goodbye when the bike popped up.  Fortunately, I could stabilize and thanked with a short prayer. Finally, I made it in 5 hours and passed T2 in less than 3 minutes.

Run 03:20:33 – Started off with a run pace of 4:10 per kilometer, knowing I won’t be able to keep it up till the finish line due to the high bike load. Although, my relatively high VO2max of over 74 helped me supply my legs with oxygen and burn those massive carbs of 130g/hour I consumed throughout the whole race. I constantly decreased the pace and kept my heart rate stable to feel comfortable, knowing to finish at least under 9:30 was easily manageable. As the 8 on the counter was anyhow out of reach, just enjoying the race, chatting and fooling around with my fellows with a big smile on my face was key.

I felt great when I turned into the finish line, full of emotions and constantly motivated by the cheering crowd. I’m happy with the finish time, because I invested lots of time and energy the last months and showed what I can do, regardless the time loss occurred.

Most importantly, all colleagues and me are healthy and no injuries happened.

Thank you to all supporters, friends, family members, all mates of pewag racing team and especially to our sports director Rene for the perfect organization of the pewag lounge.

This was the beginning, season 23 just started, stay tuned!”

The rights to use the images with a logo on were personally acquired by the athlete for a fee and are published exclusively for private entertainment purposes without any commercial use.