Ironman Swizterland, Zurich 2007

9:24:44 – 42nd overall, 11th in Age group

54:07 / 1:18 / 5:03:43 / 1:17 / 3:24:19 (sw / t1 / bike / t2 / run)

Long Report

Going into this race I felt confident about my swimming and biking but the run was a real step into the unknown. The 5 weeks since Lanzarote had not really gone according to plan. My bike training had gone well, swimming was less than planned but had been of good quality but running had been close to non existent. I’d only managed 52 miles in total and really didn’t know what impact this would have. On top of this I’d had 2 weeks suffering from (I suspect) food poisoning and had a niggly calf which my physio sorted out with a couple of sessions of acupuncture.

With this in mind I did my final preparations for the race. Focussed on good swim and bike and then try and push on the run. I’d seen a sports psychologist a couple of weeks after Lanzarote and we discussed lots of things and came up with a few things to focus on in this race. Since it wasn’t an important race it was a great opportunity to try stuff out. The three things were:

1- Get in the thick of it in the swim and try and get some good feet to follow

2- Push on the run, try to keep focussed, don’t let the effort slip

3- In order to make 2 realistic it was important to get a good bike split

I checked out the swim course the day before to decide where I would  start and spent some time lazing by the lake meditating and visualizing the race.

I slept well the night before the race and had a good pre race breakfast. I have to be careful not to eat too much before the race and feel perhaps I over did it a little this time. 3 bananas mashed with more or less a whole jar of peanut butter.  We got to transition early and checked the bikes were ok, then headed off to the race start to try and relax a little bit.

Rather than place myself right to one side of the start this time I put myself in the middle. It was easier than i thought, so perhaps the sports psychologist really helped. I’d heard this swim start could be very rough  so I visualized the first few hundred metres. I saw myself swimming strong and keeping on pushing till I had clear water. I saw myself in amongst other swimmers, people going over my feet and arms interlocking. I was up for it, I was excited. BRING IT ON

BANG ! We’re off, my immediate reaction is not as quick as the guys either side or me. They have half a body length on me. I peg it down the beach. Spot the space between them and dive into it. They’re half a length up, I push hard, I’m level. 50m in I’m getting away. 100m in I’m ahead of them. 200m in I’ve got clear water and swimming like a dream. Bilateral breathing to check out how I’m doing. No one either side. Dream start. Over to the right I can see some swimmers level and just ahead of me. I slowly angle across to them. The focus is now find some feet. I mesh in with the swimmers to the right, still going strong. There’s about 10-20m of clear water between me and a small group of swimmers drafting each other. “there’re the feet I want’  decide it will be worth bridging the gap. I push hard. Into oxygen debt, pushing hard, making ground. Before the turn buoy I have the feet and I’m sitting pretty. This is where I sat for the the next 3km or so ! Every so often they pushed hard to try and break those drafting. The people on my feet eventually got dropped but each time I matched the push and stayed on the feet. Once or twice someone came along side and tried to muscle me off the feet I was following. I was having none of it and gave more than I got  “persuading” each person that tried that they’d be better off sitting back on my feet rather than trying to push in.

My best swim, I was working hard to stay on the feet and got round in 54 minutes. Dreamville.

Ran into transition … wetsuit off no problems. This is going unbelievably well. 1.18 and I’m out on the bike.

This is the bit I’d been looking forward to. If anything had gone well since Lanzarote it was the bike. I’d managed some of the best quality cycling I’d ever done. Couple of hard days at the tour of Wessex, two double century rides and a final tempo ride where I covered 109 miles in 6 hours. I felt massively confident to push hard on the bike. Coming down the side of lake Zurich I was cranking along at over 26 mph, by the start of the first climb of The Beast my average speed was over 24 mph and it was definitely game on. There was lots of clear road but also cyclists in view to pace off. Coming down off the Beast I hit 50.8 mph and was beaming. Back round the lake and up Heartbreak Hill. Oh my god ! This alone made the race worthwhile. It was like Alp D’huez in the Tour. The road was all chalked up. The crowds filled the road and parted just enough to let you through. I couldn’t help put click up a gear and get out of the saddle. Rattles, whistles, drums shouts – amazing. I felt choked up. I was beaming and the crowd responded. At the top my mum was there cheering – it just capped it off. I felt like a million dollars ;o)

First lap completed in 1.37 – GAME on big time. At this pace I’d be heading into the run in under 6 hours ! Second time around the lake was harder. No more of this 26mph malarky more like 25mph this time and it felt harder. Concentrate on pushing (keep it real as Ali G would say). Now I was in amongst the  lead ladies and on the ascent of The Beast I saw the lead change in the ladies race. Now there were also back markers to pick off. Second lap completed in 1.41. Pace had slowed but if I could maintain that I would still get the sub 5 bike split. Third time round and there’s alot more cyclists now on their earlier laps. This is a double edged sword – it’s good cause it gives you people to pass but bad cause it can give a false sense of your speed. ie you feel you are going fast enough since u are passing people but unfortunately the people you are passing aren’t the people u should be using to assess whether you are maintaining a competitive pace. On the beast this time I had to work hard. Just before Heartbreak hill Laurent Jalabert finally caught me. Final lap 1.45. My pace had  dropped further to give a 5.03 bike split. Slightly disappointing.

Into T2. Lovely fast dismount, spotted my racking spot immediately, patiently got socks and shoes on to ensure no rubbing of the laces. Out in 1.17 which meant I was starting the run in 6 hours. So just crank out a sub 3 hour run for a cracking time or just a sub 3.15 for a PB.

3.15 is totally achievable and something I’ve done before in Ironman. Unfortunately the lack of preparation meant I didn’t really believe I could do it. Coming off the bike I wasn’t looking forward to the run and really felt I would have to see just how it went. Felt terrible for the first couple of miles but then managed to focus and forced myself to push. My pace upped and I started to feel better. I felt I was running strongly through the first 3 laps. I passed Chris on my 2nd lap and we had a quick chat. I told him I was suffering and it was almost like that got it off my chest. I felt better and started runnning strongly. Coming into the 4th lap I felt I was on to at  least match my Lanza run split (which I would have been chuffed with). At the start of that lap you had to climb this ramp and pop! my pace just plummeted – it felt I was almost doing an Ironman shuffle. At least I had over an hour to complete it and get under 9h30. The whole lap was real up and down. Every so often I summoned the mental strength to push and the pace increased then I’d lose focus and it would drop. This kept going on. I counted down the KM. At 10km to go 10km seemed like a marathon but 6km sounded like nothing. At 6km  to go, 6km felt like a marathon and 4km sounded like nothing. At 4km to go … u get the impression. Even when I only had 1.5km to go it felt like miles and miles. I pushed. Some random cockney shouted “Go London” in the final stretch and I picked up the pace. Sub 9.30 in the bag. Turning into the finish straight – awesome. This is what it’s all about. The euphoria of finishing an Ironman is amazing, totally addictive. Looking up at the clock I realised I was getting sub 9.25. Managed a 3.24 marathon to give me my M-Dot PB of 9:24:44

So pleased with my race execution – I feel I got the best time I could on the day.

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