Swiss Ironman

I thought running across the desert was hard – try training for an ironman. An Ultra run involves only running so, as long as you are developing your running and strength, you will do well. An Ironman requires you to train for 3 disciplines and the cycling is the most crucial as you spend the most time on the bike in the race. With work being my priority, I fill in the gaps with training and am unable to train anywhere near as hard as the pro’s. That’s the backdrop – now for the race story.

Zurich is beautiful. The lake is crystal clear and the rolling green hills remind me of home. The perfect place to race!! We flew in and registered on the Friday. I was amazed at how commercialised the Ironman was. I’m used to relaxed, friendly Ultra running races that are organised well but you essentially turn up in a field or on a mountain and run. The Ironman takes over a city for the weekend and they build a village on the foreshore to sell products and make money!! I registered despite a bit of pushing from a fiesty Spanish guy and then went back to the hotel to rebuild my bike after the flight over. I was drinking and eating as much as I could to get my glycogen and hydrogen levels up prior to the race.

Saturday was bike registration day. I call it, “Mine is better than yours” day. Some amazing bikes on show and some serious money being thrown around. I racked my bike up in the transition area and put the raincoat on in case of rain overnight. With my bike racked, I was ready.

We woke early on Sunday morning and headed to the race start. It was 5am and I was listening to the theme song for Team Hoyt to pump me up. Emma was with me and looked more nervous than I was! She was going to volunteer for the day to get close to the action. I was just thankful to have her there…. I had a feeling I would need some care later in the day! Just before 6:30, I slipped into my wetsuit and began to warm up. I was amazed at the turnout. Over 2000 entrants!

I lined up at the start ready for a long day. This was it. The race I had watched and dreamt about since I was a kid in NZ, and now I was in one! The professionals left 5mins ahead and then the gun went for us. I sprinted out to avoid the washing machine of swimmers and I was thankful to get a clear run to the first bouy. I settled into a good rhythm and sat on fellow competitors toes to minimise me looking up and loosing energy. I cruised at about 85% effort saving energy for the other legs of the race. I pushed through the water steadily and when the finish of the 3.8 km swim leg approached I was pleased that I had caught some of the professional swimmers. I exited the water and headed for my bike. Emma was watching and screamed out my place – 44th overall including the pros. It was downhill from here though.

I rode out of transition and settled on a pace of approx 35kmh. I thought that was ok until the other competitors started to catch and not pass me, they flew passed me. I was shocked. I pushed on but being careful not to blow a gasket all the while, competitors were flying passed one after the other. After the 14km hill out the back of the course, I was starting to question my involvement and preparation. I pushed on and just tried to race my own race even though it was hard to do with so many people passing me. I was conscious of my race management and kept eating and drinking the whole way around. I was burning a lot of calories and knew I would “Bonk” if I wasn’t careful and then it would be hard to come back. I reached heartbreak hill which signalled I was close to half way on the bike so I kept the pressure on. Heartbreak hill is as close to the Tour De France as I would ever get. People lined the streets, cheering, clapping, bands playing music and the riders were single file up the hill as the crowds were so close to you. That was it – I was 90km of the bike in and time to get my head back in the game. The next 90km I focused on my bike leg and got my head right for the marathon than was about to come. I groaned and grunted my way around the course feeling happy everytime I passed another competitor which was few and far between. After 180km on the bike, I was ready to give my bike away! I racked it, strapped on the running shoes and got to the marathon run leg!

It was at this time it started to rain. I was pleased to be off the bike and the rain refreshed me. I was averaging under 5min km’s and I knew Emma woud be on the course supporting me. A friendly, loving face was what I needed when the going was this tough. The first lap was easy, the 2nd became tougher and then the last 2 laps of the run were “block it out of your mind” hard! I was eating and drinking at every aid station and in between I was trying to sing tunes to myself to block out the time. I find marathons easy but on the back of a hard bike and and swim, this was tougher than I imagined. I ran, walked, crawled through the run stage until I hit the blue carpet of the finishing shoot. That was one of the happiest moments I have ever experienced! One of the toughest races and one of my childhood dreams now complete! I hobbled over to the medal table and then saw Emma out of the corner of my eye. I hobbled over and hugged her almost in tears from the physical, mental and emotional strain. I was done! Time for a beer with Albi and Amry and my chief supporter – Emma. After burning 10,000 calories in a day, I deserved a beer and pizza!

3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2 run in 11 hrs 42mins. 600th or so placing. Not a great time but not a bad time. I’m not a cyclist and the arrogance, materialistic nature of triathlons has made me realise how much I enjoy ultra running races. Back to the crazy running events for me with a few open water swims thrown in for good measure. Open spaces, with friendly competitors and an over ambigious running goal – that’s living!

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2 Responses to “Swiss Ironman”

  1. What an amazing achievement Babe. I have to say that i was completely in awe of you. Congrats baby xx

  2. Hi Richard. Nice one! The time is evidence of your endurance and commitment – it is awesome. How nice it is to have someone like Emma ever cheering you on and supporting you. Another one ticked off the list but I guess the list keeps growing. We are so proud of you.
    Mum and Dad

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