Ironman 70.3 Zell am See race report + preparations

Exactly four weeks after Ironman 70.3 Duisburg (8th rank, link to the race report here) was the triathlon race Ironman 70.3 in Zell am See, Austria. The first week after Duisburg was a recovery week with easy and low-intensity training. On 13 August, I became the proud owner of my new triathlon bike: a Ku Cycle TF1 (see first impressions here). The following 1.5 weeks were nothing wild but unfortunately, I had a couple of days with a painful lower back and therefore minimal training program.

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - bike route to Dienten am HochkoningZell am See

I drove to Zell am See 1.5 weeks before the race in order to prepare myself further and get used to the mountains again. After arriving on Friday morning, and being able to check in early, I rode the bike course or at least as much as possible since quite some sections aren’t allowed for bicycles. The first long stretch was fast and then a long and steep climb to Dienten am Hochkonig of approx 600m climbing. To punish you further, the next 2 kilometers were even steeper until you reached the highest point of the bike course at Filzensattel. A very steep descent with many sharp hairpins, where I was continuously braking to control my speed, and then it became more gentle although still steep descent towards Saalfelden. Just before the town, a sharp left turn on a narrow and winding road with many uphill and downhill sections. This part of the course was changed compared to my race in 2017. Since the road was still wet, it was a bit tricky to ride. After a while, you’ll continue on the main road through Zell am See and Piesendorf, a 180-degree turn, and back via the town Kaprun to the transition zone on the southern side of the Zeller Lake. This reconnaissance bike ride took me about 3 hours and I was certainly not planning to take that long during the race.

Zell am See - rain radar 28 August 2023In Zell am See, I had booked a nice apartment pretty close to the center, shops, and the Ironman finish, registration, and event area. On Saturday, I rode the larger loop again to get a good feeling of the climb and steep descent. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday the weather wasn’t great with quite some rain and thunder so I skipped many training sessions on those days. On Monday it was actually horrible with a crazy amount of rain and many floods in the Alps. On Friday before the race I picked up my registration stuff and on Saturday was the race briefing and bike check-in.

Race Day

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - race day morningMany triathlons start very early morning but the rolling start of this race was only at 11:10 AM! This felt great since I could wake up at a normal time and not at 3 AM. Have my breakfast, and a coffee and make my way to the transition zone. In the transition zone, many athletes were already preparing their bikes and blue and red bags. Luckily it was dry and not too chilly. Considering the steep descent on the bike, a wet road wouldn’t be great or safe at all…

On my bike, I prepared my NutrID nutrition, pumped up my tires with my new digital bike pump, and clipped in my bike shoes. In my blue (bike) bag were my helmet and start number and in my red (run) bag were my running shoes, cap, and flexible bidon with NutrID. The only thing outstanding was dropping off the white (after-race) bag. My HUUB wetsuit I put on about half an hour before the start. Ready for the race!

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - swimSwim

The start of the Pro Men was at 11:00 and the Pro Women at 11:02 hrs. Seeing many of them swimming so quickly was quite impressive. At 11:10 hrs was the rolling start of the age groupers and 6 minutes later I was in the water. Since in the past, I’ve sometimes been having issues overtaking slower athletes, I decided to start at the right side (of the 3 start slots) in order to stay away from the big mass. This worked out pretty well for me. Almost no other athletes were close to me until just before the swim exit. Of course, this also meant that I couldn’t find any feet to swim behind and have an easier swim due to the drag of the other athlete. Maybe one day I’ll swim fast enough to start in the first group without the slower athletes and where I can find some feet 🙂

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - swim exitThe swim was quite uneventful; long stretch toward the Grand Hotel of Zell am See, two left-turn buoys, and then the long stretch back to the swim exit. After coming out of the water, it was a short run to the transition zone.

The swim took me 32m57s, which is 57 seconds above my Personal Best time. Out of the 127 athletes in my group, I ranked for the swim as number 21.

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - transition 1Bike

Coming into the transition zone, there was no time to lose. Quickly getting out of my wetsuit, I put on my helmet and start number, and run to my Ku Cycle bike. Grab it and with my bike to the Mount Line. The carpet was a bit narrow and several slower athletes weren’t running as fast as I wanted so I had to overtake them on the gravel (just right where a photographer was sitting in the middle). Painful for the feet? Maybe, can’t remember with the adrenaline!

After leaving town, the first section was going fast. First through the town Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse and then on the main road. The road that I couldn’t ride on during the practice rides. I was riding fast and overtaking many athletes along the way.

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - Ku Cycle bike rideJust before Lend started the long climb. By that time it was getting warmer and sweating quite a bit. The speed was low and I couldn’t overtake so many athletes, while a couple of faster athletes overtook me. The Ku Cycle is a triathlon bike and triathlon bikes aren’t known for it’s lightweight like many road bikes. After the climb, and the extra steep 2-kilometer climb, the very steep descent was quite crazy. Many hairpin turns and my brakes were squeaking while I was trying to keep control over my speed. Some athletes overtook me with insane speed differences. No idea how they were able to stay on the road! The organization had put up several cushions in the very sharp hairpin turns because in the past several athletes went off the road, resulting in serious accidents. Luckily the steep section was only 2 kilometers long and then the, still quite steep, long winding road towards Saalfelden. Giving high power and overtaking many athletes again 🙂

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - Ku Cycle bikeThe road surface of the narrow and winding section was dry and then the main road to Zell am See. This was fast again! Going through Zell am See with so many supporters along the road cheering was a good feeling. After leaving Zell am See, going through Piesendorf and then a pretty long stretch until the turnaround point. Back and off the main road, through Kaprun, and along the castle. Finally the last section to the transition zone! Dismounting just before the line 🙂

A short run to the bike racks, racking my bike, to my red bag and quickly get into my Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 running shoes. No socks, that would take too much time and half a marathon is still doable without socks.

After 2h30m55s I had arrived back at the transition zone. The total average speed was well above the 35 km/h and over 250 watts average power. This resulted in 2nd rank for the bike split! Yeah!


Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - runLeaving the transition zone the pace was high for the first kilometer. But then side stitches started to play up. Slowing down. Stopping. Slowly continuing and stopping again. Several times. This was horrible. It felt horrible and seeing many athletes passing me was horrible as well! Finally, I arrived at the first aid station. Drank some cola and continued again. Probably that short break gave my body enough time to recover, provide oxygen to my organs, and release the side stitches. Finally, I was able to increase my run pace to a somewhat decent speed. I wasn’t feeling fantastic (like on the run in Duisburg) but still going pretty well.

My pace was back between 4:15 and 4:25 per kilometer again and I was overtaking quite a few athletes. Of course, several athletes were overtaking me. The first loop was still quite empty but on the second loop, it sometimes became busy on the reasonably narrow run course. After two loops, the final turn, and then the sprint of the last few hundred meters to the finish line! Yes! Done and completely destroyed.

My run time was 1h32m26s, which certainly isn’t one of my best half a marathon times, but ranked me 3rd best in this race!

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - finish lineFinish

I gave everything in this race. The bike split was very tough due to the long and steep climb and fast sections afterward. The run was also intensive. After crossing the finish line, I hadn’t considered a good rank due to the side stitches and not fantastic speed on the run. To my surprise, after checking my phone while eating some pasta, I provisionally finished 2nd! 2ND!

Whatsapping with my parents back in the Netherlands who had followed my performance and checked other athletes in my group, it was quite unlikely that another athlete would be able to take over my second place. Who would have thought that? Second place, provisionally!


AG #1


AG #3





dT with me


- 00:01:11

#21 (top 17%)





dT with me


 - 00:06:58

#2 (top 2%)





dT with me



#3 (top 2%)





dT with me


- 00:04:43

#2 (top 2%)

The awards ceremony was in the evening and it was a great feeling to celebrate the second place in my group. I’m very pleased with my performance overall and the end result.

Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - 2nd price ceremony Ironman 70.3 Zell am See - 2nd price Qualified for Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2024 Taupo New Zealand

The Ironman 70.3 Zell am See triathlon isn’t a race where you can set new Personal Bests easily. The bike course with its climb and the run course with its rolling terrain. Maybe in the swim, it would be possible but not this time for me.

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2024

Ironman 70.3 World Championship 2024 TaupoBy finishing second, I automatically qualified for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2024!

This was my goal in 2020 but Covid-19 destroyed that whole idea of course. The Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2024 is in Taupo, New Zealand. A dream comes through! But it’s still a long time away. A long time to make plans because I’d love to make a nice road trip in New Zealand after the World Championship triathlon race. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the New Zealand summer with a BBQ on the beach?

What’s Next

What’s next is the Ironman full-distance triathlon race in Cascais, Portugal!

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