Last weekend was my second Ironman triathlon, this time in Zurich, Switzerland. I have to confess that my swimming and cycling training had focused on technique rather than on long distances, but my overall stamina this year has been great thanks to a series of long running races.
Having food poisoning the weekend of the race didn’t help, neither did my TT bike’s big chainring getting irreparably damaged in transit (though still usable). The swim was a rolling start, so I set off near the back to avoid the melee nearer the front. I was gradually overtaking swimmers, till I found a group of my own speed. The water quality was amazing and it was clear, with just a bit of chop from distant vessels. My sighting in open water still leaves something to be desired, but I made it round in one piece and out of the water without any dramas. Best of all, despite being a little bit slower than I had hoped, I came out feeling fresh.
I got onto the bike and thoroughly enjoyed the first of the two laps, which took us away from Zurich along the lake, then up into the hills and countryside, with just a few hills thrown in. The final hill – ‘Heartbreak Hill’, had throngs of supporters along the final climb, right in the middle of the road, and it was quite an experience as the crowd parted as I cycled through, amidst much fanfare and noise.
On the second lap of the bike course, I benefited from knowing the course’s layout. This let me take the descents marginally faster, but due to my damaged big chainring, I was unable to engage my biggest gears (interestingly it was the small gears on the rear cassette that caused problems because they caused the chain to bend laterally, which pulled it off the big partially toothless front chainring). My shoulders ached from 112 miles of trying to hold an aero position, and I looked forward to the run.
After sorting myself out in transition and applying more sunblock, I set off on the run. Running is what I’ve been doing most of this year, and I had no issues with the marathon distance. I was hot and my stomach (subject to food poisoning) did not enjoy the running motion and was not playing ball when I tried drinking water, so I resorted to sipping water from a bottle all the way round the course. The new run course took us through the CBD, through cobbled streets, along shopping streets and down a river. It was a stellar course, so much so I ended up walking most of it again the following day!
I didn’t finish in the time I had hoped, having slowed down a bit on the bike and having struggled with the heat on the run, but I still knocked over thirteen minutes off my previous time, to finish with a PB.