I started running in my teens and developed a love for cycling and long-distance swimming in my twenties. With that in mind, it’s odd I’ve only ever competed in a single, relatively short triathlon (in 2019, in Singapore).
The global pandemic has turned our lives upside down in many ways. On a positive note, it offered me an opportunity to spend a full eight weeks back in Austria this summer. It’s been a throwback to my childhood days when our parents would put us in the car on the last day of school to spend the break at our grandparents’ summer house together. We didn’t return home until school restarted nine weeks later.
To complete my trip down memory lane, I had a unique project in mind during the final week of my stay this year. Doing my own private triathlon to celebrate my birthday. And since I recently got myself a stand-up paddle (being a few years late to the whole SUP craze), why not make it a “quadrathlon” instead?
One August morning, I start in Gebertsham, pumping air into my SUP in the Strandbad. The pump breaks halfway through; I decide to still go ahead and paddle the 5 km across Mattsee, under a low bridge into Obertrumer See and towards Wartstein. A small chapel built in the 18th century to honour Saint Anne sits on a rock a few metres above the shore. Today, it’s a popular hiking destination. From here, I continue swimming across the lake to Seeham; accompanied by my sister, who takes over the SUP.
I push a little too hard during the first half of the swimming portion, stubbornly trying to match my timings from ten years earlier. Still, in a little over twenty minutes, I reach the other side and change onto my bicycle.
My path takes me to Obertrum from where various small roads lead me up to the Kaiserbuche overlooking the beautiful scenery of the Salzburger Seenland. In 1779, Austrian Emperor Joseph II stayed here to visit the lands acquired by the Habsburgs during the War of Bavarian Secession. A red beech was planted to commemorate his stay, hence the name Kaiserbuche. I remember coming here in 2004 but deciding not to cycle all the way to the top. That same night the tree fell during a storm (so much for delaying plans to “later”). A new beech tree had been planted since, but people are idiots, and, sadly, vandalism is a thing, so it soon had to be fenced in.
The hardest part of my quadrathlon is over. The way back is a gentle downhill slope towards Berndorf and Perwang where my mum already awaits me for the second swimming section of the day: a pleasant 15 minute stretch from Perwang to the Gnadenbründl at the shores of Grabensee. Legend has it that water from this well has healing properties and can improve or even restore one’s eyesight.
I take a final snack and change into my running shoes which I have pulled behind me in a water-proof swimming buoy. Soon, I’m on my way for the last few kilometres, this time running. The sun has finally fought its way through the cloud cover as I make my way through the forest. I briefly cross the main road and follow another small path along the Mattsee shoreline back to Gebertsham.
The last section flies by in no time, like my two months of summer have flown by too. There’s no time for melancholy. I’ve enjoyed every moment of both.