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Ironman Switzerland Race Report

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Ironman Switzerland Race Report

Old 02-04-12, 02:27 PM
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Ironman Switzerland Race Report

Hey everyone. Yes, this is extremely late since the race was last summer. I haven't spent much time on here due to the demands of our business. Hope you enjoy. It was a really great time.

Training
I won't bore you with too many specifics. I'll just sum it up that I did a lot more swimming and running that I did for my first IM and the results show it. About six weeks out from the race, I hurt my back lifting something in our warehouse...which I should not have been doing. Not making any excuses but I basically missed all but one of my 20+ hour training weeks and instead had a very long taper...with some relaxing acupuncture sessions. Either way, I got to the line much fitter than I had been in years...and more fit than I am now.

Pre Race
Arrived in Zurich mid-week before the race...holy crap is that town expensive. No joke, plan on $100 per person for dinner at a normal restaurant (not a really nice one). $5 for a nectarine at the store. I could go on but I think you get the picture.

Met up with my buddies, Mark, Eric, Brandon, the last two would be doing their first IM's and I think they picked a great one. My wife, Rose flew in on Friday and all of us enjoyed being low-key and hanging out.

At the race briefing we learned that they added about 3k to the bike course due to construction and since it was a two-lap course, that worked out to 3+ miles. They also failed to mention that the section they added was mostly uphill. I guess it slipped their minds.

Race Day
The transition area was not much different than a local sprint tri with the exception of you having a designated spot. Instead of all of the IM gear bags and changing tents, we just laid our towels and gear next to out next to our bikes. I chatted briefly with the German guy next to me (Christian) who said he was hoping to go sub 10 hours. I figured I would never see him.

Swim
Beach start and overall the most aggressive of any race I've done. Those Europeans are not afraid to push/kick/punch and I basically had to keep my head out the water to avoid getting kicked in the face. My buddy Mark who has done about 10 IM's actually had a panic attack early on in the swim due to being pushed under the water repeatedly. The swim was two laps and at the end of the first one we ran across a small island before starting the second. Going into the race, I didn't think I would like that but I stuck a GU in my wetsuit sleeve and had it while doing the mini run. I think that helped. Once everyone thinned out a bit, the swim was pretty uneventful with the exception of this one guy next to me kept deliberately pushing my shoulder. I'm not sure what his deal was as we were both swimming straight. After the sixth time or so I came very close to pulling the goggles off his head. Cooler head prevailed. In my first IM swim I remember thinking how embarrassing it would be to miss the cutoff time and I was hoping that wouldn't happen (I came in at 1:29). Definitely no worries about that this time. Not only was I a better swimmer, there were hundreds of people around me and I knew they couldn't be that slow. I reached the swim exit and ran up the ramp feeling great. As I was running into transition, I heard my wife yell my name but I didn't see her. I just smiled and kept going...wondering what my time was.

T1
The benefit of the transition setup for this race (besides being able to look at 2000+ $10K bikes) was that it was really fast. While putting on my bike shoes I noticed there were a lot more bikes than I expected including Christian's (the sub-10 German guy). As I was fastening my helmet, I asked the guy who just came in if he knew his time. He said he had 1:18 on his watch. Trotting my bike toward the mount line, I was very pleased knowing that I saved close to 15 minutes.

Bike
Out on the road I felt great and couldn't stop smiling while enjoying the ride. Lots of Flat road ahead of me until the first set of hills so plenty of time to find my rhythm and enjoy it. I was cruising (for me) noting that my average speed was at 22.5 There were several draft packs of 10+ riders. In a way its understandable as it's tough to space 2000+ riders out that quickly. On the other hand, some people were doing it deliberately. There were a lot of penalties passed out that day.

Left turn at the "Natasha Badman" station and the road started going up. At 195 lbs, I'm certainly not the best climber around but it is what it is. Spectators lined the course, yelling "Hop hop hop hop hop." The first hill was a few kms and not too steep but enough to slow me down considerably. Once that was done there were some good flat sections and some gentle downhill stretches. An ambulance sped by me with its lights and sirens going. A few miles later we turned through a small town with a narrow street. The ambulance was parked on the side of the road and the paramedics were loading a guy on a back board. I was glad he was receiving medical attention so quickly but felt really bad for him. When I returned home from my trip I learned that the guy was an acquaintance from an online triathlete forum. Though I never met him in person, I knew he was going to be at the race, Fortunately while his injuries were very serious, he's OK now and will be racing with me at Ironman Mt. Tremblant this coming August.

We descended back down to lake level where we made the right turn onto "The Beast". This hill is about three miles long and contains everything from seemingly never ending switchbacks to quad burning steep sections. Again I'm not a climber so I just settled in and tried not to cook myself for the rest of the ride. Somewhere along the stretch there was this funny guy chanting "Kill the beast hop hop hop, kill the beast go go go." I don't know why but he made me laugh. At the top, there was a party going on and the sadistic bastards were not only enjoying our pain while drinking beer, they were grilling bratwurst that smelled really good. I really dig on swine so no joke, if I would have had the 6 CHF on me, I would have stopped and bought one.

Another flat section leading to the newly added section (remember the mostly uphill one?). After the race we all joked that this was the beasts little brother....The Devil. Fortunately about 1/3 of the way through it I heard Mark's voice behind me say "CJ what are you doing up here?". His swim time should have been about 1:05 and he's a faster rider than me so I didn't expect to see him until the run course (going the opposite way). We rode side-by-side for a few minutes while he told me about his swim incident and how he almost DNF'd (don't give me too much crap...we made sure not to block anyone and at that speed, there was no draft to speak of). Looking back on it, I don't think anyone passed us. Finally to the highest part of the course and long, very fast descent. It was pretty hairy in some spots and there were some kamikaze Europeans bombing down at 50+ mph. I took it pretty easy, never going much faster than 40 and just keeping Mark in sight. It was followed by some flat sections heading toward Heartbreak Hill which is set up like one of those TdF climbs where people line the road and cheer you on. It's a cool experience but for all the hoopla, it's a very short section and it's over before you know it. The crowds weren't as thick as I expected.

I finished the first lap with an average of 18 mph...a bit faster than I was thinking I could do, but I still had a whole 'nother lap ahead of me. Lap two was more of the same except that the wind came up quite a bit. Not too much to say with the exception of an incident early in the 2nd lap that came into play later. I was doing just over 20 mph and passed a woman wearing all white. A few minutes later, she passed me back but then slowed down to about 19. I passed her again and she did the same thing. This went on at least four more times over the course of the next few miles until I finally decided to make the effort to drop her. I wasn't really racing her, I just couldn't understand why she would pass me and slow down. More on her later.

As is common for rides of 100 mi plus, you start to become weary of the whole thing at about mile 90 or so. Around mile 100 I was seriously considering whether it would be possible to sell my bike between the end of the race and our flight out the next evening. At mile 105, I started taking inventory of how I felt. I still had the headache that started early in the 2nd lap and overall I felt worse than expected. I actually started to worry that I wasn't going to be able to run once I got off the bike and that I might end up with another slow death march like Arizona in 2008. I rolled into T2, Rose yelled for me and I made eye contact but couldn't muster a smile. I think I was just so focused on how I was going to feel, I couldn't process anything else.

T2
Pretty uneventful except that it took me 5 minutes...2 minutes longer than T1. Not sure how or why...I think I must have been zoning out.

Run
In summary, it was four laps of a rat maze and I think there really should be a limit on the number of laps. Even three is OK but four gets a little monotonous.

Anyway, I felt surprisingly good trotting out of T2. My headache went away (maybe because I was able to get out of that aero position) and within about 2 minutes of running, the skies opened up and it started to pour. This was awesome to me. Being a larger guy, I have trouble keeping my core temp down so I absolutely love running in the rain. I easily trotted through my first lap at an average of 9:50 pace. As lap two started, the sun came back out, the water on the ground started evaporating and it felt like I was running in a sauna. My average for that lap dropped to about 10:30 and as Lap 3 started, i went through the calculations of what I needed to do to break 13 hours. It was definitely do-able if i could maintain my pace but that was proving to be difficult. I dropped ~11:00 pace and when I gave in and walked through a couple of aid stations (I didn't want to but I really needed to) the goal started to slip away.

At the beginning of Lap 4, I calculated that I needed to average 11 min pace to get it done....which I thought was doable and I managed to get it done through mile 21. Unfortunately, I hit the wall pretty hard at 22. By 23, I knew it had slipped away and while I wasn't happy, I came up with a new a new goal. I have another IM buddy (Jack) who was unable to make this trip. He's completed 8 or 9 IM races and I tried to recall his PR. I was pretty sure it was 13:10 at Brazil. New goal! Let's keep going. With one mile left to go, I was expecting the rush of adrenaline that I got during the last mile of Arizona. Waiting, waiting, hmmmm not happening....can't seem to go any faster. Oh well, I'll just trot it in. I was perfectly happy doing this until about 150m from the finish line ,that woman in white (remember her) ran past me on the right side in what appeared to be her finishing kick. My first though was, "Crap she's going to beat me." but all of a sudden something snapped and my adrenaline finally kicked in. I closed the gap on her just as we reached the 180 degree turn entering the finishing "Z". I was thinking, no way is she going to beat me but I didn't dare turn around to look to see where she was. One final u-turn and there was the finish in front of me and I'm still in full sprint in case my nemesis was still trying to beat me. As I approached the line, I actually jumped in the air. Unfortunately, my finisher photo (which I love) was taken after I landed so for all I know, it wasn't much of a jump however Rose assures me that I soared like Michael Jordan. My official time was 13:05:51 (my finisher photo shows 2 seconds faster). Over 2h 30 min faster than my first IM!!!

Post-Race
Normal IM routine, medal, photo, finisher's shirt non-alcoholic beer...wait, WTF??? Nasty! Mark and Eric showed up while I was eating some pasta. Mark's time was 12:20, Eric was 13:30 Brandon ended up at 14:30.

I have some good photos that I will add later. Thanks for reading!
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Old 02-06-12, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for the race report. I will be interested to hear about Mont Tremblont. I was considering that for my first but decided it was too much. The wife and I are planning on CDA in June.
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