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NAL - Ironman Switzerland 2009 Race Report
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NAL




Joined: 05 Feb 2009
Posts: 119
Location: Chester

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:01 pm    Post subject: NAL - Ironman Switzerland 2009 Race Report Reply with quote

Background
Having been into Triathlon between 1996 and 2001 I then turned my attention to rowing for a few years as I realised I was better built for that. (6’4” 95kg) After 5 years of rowing I had to retire due to stress fracture in my rib, so it was time to get a job and real life. But after about 18 months of going to gym and a bit of mountain biking, the idea of Ironman came into my head around August 2008. I then missed the entry for Switzerland so thought “oh well”.

But in November I was made aware of entries re-opening in January so decided if I could get a slot I would do it. I bought the Fink book and started doing some triathlon training for the first time in 8 years.
Started my training load very gradually doing between 6-8 hours a week up until end of December (2 runs, 2 bikes in gym, 1 bike on road) Then got my entry slot in January so now I had the motivation to get myself shifted up a gear. So I started following the Fink competitive plan and took training up to 10-12 hours per week through January and I started swimming again!! (I used to be a very strong swimmer so wasn’t worried about swim and knew I needed to concentrate on running and losing weight, 102kg at New Year)

Over the next few months I followed plan very closely building to a maximum of 18 hours and the weight came off. I was very lucky and stayed healthy, only losing 2 days to a stomach bug in March and then 4 days to food poisoning at the end of June.

Towards the end of the programme I started adjusting it as I felt long bike/ run sessions at weekends were too long and I wouldn’t be in a fit state to do a 2nd long session the following day. So I decided on a maximum of 4hr30 bike into 30 min run.
I was very conscious that pacing was the most important thing for the Ironman and so from March onwards I did every session alone to ensure I trained at the pace I wanted. This makes it boring sometimes, but I felt there was no point in long rides below target heart rate pace. However I feel that doing 3 hours + on a 7 mile loop to ensure I could stay on tri bars with no interruptions got me very comfortable in that position and mentally strong.
By July I was down to 94kg and feeling strong on all disciplines, but having done no smaller races to gauge my fitness / ability I had no real idea of what I could expect during the race. This ensured that for the last 2 weeks of tapering my head was filled with doubts about had I done enough training, should I be tapering as much, had the taper made me lose all fitness???

But on July 9th I fly out to Switzerland.

On the Thursday i arrived put bike together and went for an 1hr or so ride to try and find race venue. Got lost a few times but eventually found it (all closed!) So I cycled back to the hotel, took 40 mins less than outward journey. (Must remember to get a good map next time)
On the Friday I again rode down to the course, where I bumped into Rosey and the Pirates. I joined in with them for a swim in the lake. Was amazed by the water quality and being able to read my watch underwater as I swam. Then watched race briefing and went to register. Then I wobbled back to the hotel on the bike with new bag.
On Saturday again rode to the course to rack my bike and figure out transition layout. All seemed ok, but the queue for getting into transition was very long and slow moving. It seemed no one bothered with the allocated times for racking of bikes by race number block. Then figured out the tram system and got back to the hotel for an early night. Of course couldn’t get to sleep, but actually was quite calm and looking forward to the race.

Race Day
Woke at 4:30am and ate the honey/banana sandwich, cereal bars, and 1litre of PSP I had prepared. Got tram at 5:15 and was at the course for 6am. Setting up in the transition area was straight forward and just the same as the sprint and Olympic events I used to compete in. Cramped but ok, weather didn’t look great so i packed running shoes & socks into spare polythene bag I had brought.
After queuing for toilet I realised it was getting very close to race time and I still wasn’t in wetsuit. Managed to not panic too much and got into wetsuit and dumped post race clothes and queued in swim start zone. Unfortunately being a bit late to the start area meant I was at the back and couldn’t figure out where I should start. I decided to go with far right away from the Pros as I guessed this was longest line to 1st buoy and I would only need to swim about 25-50m extra but hopefully get clear water. I was still pushing through people in the water as the gun went but luckily was close to front and quickly got through the last few into clear water.
Swim (target time 56mins)
The swim was awesome, never swum in such nice water and after getting some in my mouth a few days earlier I realised it was probably cleaner than our tap water! I gradually drifted over to meet the pack at the first turn buoy. From there my swim was in a little group keeping at the edge as not used to swimming close. I couldn’t believe how far up I was but wasn’t complaining. Out of the water in 53.06.

Transition 1
Having not practised this (except visualising in my head) I took my time to ensure I made no errors. Put on cycle jersey, race belt, helmet, socks and shoes and off I went. The night before I had loaded my bars, gels and pit stop cartridge into my jersey pockets and had visions of it all falling out as I put on or ran out of T1, so I put a bit of duck tape over each pocket to hold them close. I can report this worked very well.

Bike (target time 5hr 15)

I was looking forward to the bike leg as from the maps it looked flat and fast. Kept at my pre decided race pace (125 bpm and 260 watts) and let people come flying past, kept looking at SRM and wondering what they were pushing. I took my own GO gels, food and PSP/GO drink which seemed to work well, but was sick of Clif bars halfway through second lap. Most frustrating part on 1st lap was overtaking people up the climbs only to get whooped on the descent from Forch. At end of the 1st lap I restocked at the personal aid station at heartbreak hill with the bag of food/drink my girlfriend lugged round.

On the 2nd lap flat section down the lake I got swallowed up by one of the big groups drafting on the course. I let each pass and backed off the pace to re-establish the gap until I was sitting off the back of about 20 people. I couldn’t figure out what to do as heart rate was dropping along with speed and wattage. Decided may as well eat the sandwich I had picked up at the special aid station. Once eaten I decided I had lost enough pace and so pushed the pace and went past all of them in about 20 seconds. I got to the front and settled back to just above my race wattage. Knew they were all sitting behind me and was waiting for them to come past but then them the draft referee showed up and started whistling at the group behind me. But then drove off, soon after we stared up the hills, they all rode past again. Didn’t see a single person penalised! Rest of lap was ok as rolling hills kept groups split up. As I returned along the lake my neck and stomach didn’t feel great so eased off a bit and sat up more off the tri bars. By the time came into T2 was feeling better, but couldn’t tell what running would be like or how my now close to cramping quad would cope. Off the bike just!! As I remembered dismount for the line at the last second, but good bike in 5hr 09

Transition 2
Again took it slowly, I had worn cycle shorts under wetsuit as I wanted to be as comfy as possible for the bike, so now needed to change into running shorts. Realised I had forgotten towel to change behind, so quickly hid behind the plastic sheeting used to cover my bike over night. Put on running top, clean socks and running shoes and I was off after around 4min30.

Run (target sub 4hrs)
As I ran out of transition I felt remarkable good starting running. Needed a quick toilet stop at the 1st aid station, which made my stomach feel much better. 1st aid station also though highlighted I needed to drink the cups of powerade more carefully after throwing it in my eyes!! Again I stuck to my planned heart rate (135bpm limit) and kept glancing at pace on the Garmin to see my pace. All seemed good and the support from everyone around the course was great for keeping you going. On most laps I went through ups and downs but resolved I would aim to not stop or walk. I knew I had finished swim and bike in around 6hr 20 so if I could do a 3hr 40 run I could break 10hours. Having never run a marathon I didn’t know if this was possible but I knew on my long runs I was always around 7min30 pace so thought I should have a chance. Going onto the last lap I really started to feel tired and could feel my head dropping. I decided I needed more energy to ensure i didn’t bonk, so I planned I would walk through feed stations to get a cup water, cup powerade and slice of banana. Doing this seemed to really help and as I turned the last turn point I realised I had made it and knew I was well under 10 hours. Suddenly I was running at 7min mile pace and feeling great, I overtook 3 people with 4 bands on and came home still running strong. I had hoped to go sub 10 but had no idea if it was possible when all strung together. So was made up to see 9:35 on the clock as I turned the last corner



Post Race
As soon as I stopped running my legs seized up and I was struggling to walk, but the medal round my neck felt great. Then biggest shock of the race! The Europeans attitude to nudity, waiting to get into a whirlpool and then someone climbed out to give me a full frontal close up.
Thank you to everyone who gave me a cheer. Thanks to my girlfriend for helping me with my food/drink at the special aid station, her support before, during and after the race and letting me have some of her gels, PSP, water bottles and Oakleys. Thanks also to Nick Rose and the pirate group for letting me join in with their swim and the support out on the bike course whilst going up the beast. The atmosphere during the bike and run were awesome and made it so much easier to keep going.

Realisations
    Do some smaller races to have goals to break up long training block, 6 months with 1 goal was too long

    Get to swim start earlier

    Pacing works, ignore the speedy bikers stick to your plan.

    Practice in Tri Shorts to speed up transition

    Get water during bike to make a change from energy drink

    Keep on top of Gels / drinks during bike (post race I discovered I had 4 gels and 1 full bottle left)


What next?
So I have been bitten by the bug and despite still having sore legs and toes I have to started looking for next year and trying for Hawaii qualification
Push the bike wattage up by 10-15 watts over winter, lose a few more kg’s, speedier transitions and hopefully will be 20-30 mins quicker. But where to race???

Hope you all had good races and can definitely recommend to anyone looking for a 1st Ironman.
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timf




Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 1480
Location: In the (Swiss) cake shop.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2009 9:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic result NAL - well done.

Looking forward to breaking my IM cherry (if much slower) on the same course next year!
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Cleo




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Location: at the top of a hill shaking my pom poms

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bl**dy hell! Fantastic result!
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GeordieM




Joined: 27 Oct 2004
Posts: 1242
Location: The cold, barren northern steppes of Aberdoom

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cracking time. I'd be interested to hear more about your cycle training?

Drafting is de rigeur at all the continental events - it's just the way the contis race. The only way you're going to experience an IM without it is to head to Lanzarote Twisted Evil
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WhittleFit




Joined: 05 Jun 2007
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Location: Cardiff

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report, I'm thinking of doing Switzerland next year, no mention of the hills, how did you find them?
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NAL




Joined: 05 Feb 2009
Posts: 119
Location: Chester

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Triathlon789 wrote:
Great report, I'm thinking of doing Switzerland next year, no mention of the hills, how did you find them?


Cheers, the hills aren't too bad I felt. The course is very fast and flat until near Rapperswill , then goes into more rolling countryside but nothing too hard until the Beast. The climb to Egg is by far the hardest climb on the course, I was in 39 * 25 for most of it trying to keep rpm high and not let HR get up too much, backing off every time went too close to 150bpm. This goes on for quite a bit but not as hard as some climbs in north wales or the peak district. The good part is the crowd built up as you climbed so as you neared top the crowd music, got louder and let you know you were nearly at the top.

The climb to Forch is just gradually rolling up and I didn't actually realise I was on a specific climb, it just seemed to be a drag uphill. It was possible to use tri bars quite a bit up it.

Heartbreak Hill is short and steep. Again 39 * 25 and a bit out of the saddle, but as others have mentioned the crowds are amazing here and it makes it seem quite easy. I would guess its approx 15% for 1km so not really steep and not too long.

I think as long as you don't shy from hills in training and don't push too hard on the flats during the race the hills are fine and the descents they provide give you a nice break.

There is some very fast downhill, which lost me all the places I had gained on climbs. So worth it is practising descending on TT bike if you use one, as I wasnt very good on my Oval bars/brakes levers.

The crowds out on the bike course are great and really help on the climbs. I loved the race and thought the bike leg with little brass bands in villages was incredible.

Nick
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Slacko




Joined: 15 Sep 2006
Posts: 4216
Location: There or thereabouts

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cripes, fantastic time!! Cool When I started reading the report I thought "sub-12", after the swim I thought "11:30", after the bike I thought "sub-11" ... all I can say is you run very well for a big chap!! Very Happy

I'm sure that big engine will get you to Kona. (ps. Fink is good but a decent coach is miles better!)
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pip




Joined: 22 Sep 2004
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Location: Tooting (hopefully not for much longer)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well done

I am with Slacko, a real coach (we have the same one) is better and worth the extra money (these races cost a fortune anyway, so what a bit more!)
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RichO




Joined: 09 Feb 2006
Posts: 819
Location: Cornwall or Azerbaijan

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jeepers! Stunning time for a first IM! 9:35 is something that many of us (OK, me) can only dream of.

I suspect that now you know what to expect that sub-9 will become a realistic target. I'll be very interested to hear about your training plan and your next race report. Going by this years times then I suspect Roth will be suitable to help you towards your goal.

[presses 'Submit' button whilst still shaking head in awe]
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2009: IT band, strained back....Knocked off bike.....2009 cancelled....
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NAL




Joined: 05 Feb 2009
Posts: 119
Location: Chester

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers for your comments.

I haven't had the thoughts of sub 9 hours yet!! More like 9 hours 10 at the moment Very Happy

I am not sure about it yet though. I haven't really had a life for the last six months and whilst I am feeling great about it at the moment and thinking about starting training tomorrow for next year. Shocked I know it gets a lot harder in the dark nights of winter.

I am interested in a coach as it maybe will take some of the pressure I put myself under off and I will just have to follow something rather than do most of it myself and worry if too little / hard enough. If you could let me know your coach details I will look into it and what is offered.

Training plan for now. Some 10 and 25 mile TT's, hopefully get some good times in. Think as soon as toes/legs better I will be on TT bike doing 4-5 * 5 mins over geared gentle hill repeats at 500watts+.Twisted Evil Need to find a suitable hill 1st though??
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pip




Joined: 22 Sep 2004
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Location: Tooting (hopefully not for much longer)

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hey

Both Slacko and I use Daz - can be found on the forum.

Personally, I am really glad i had a coach for both my IM races as its nice just to do what you are told rather than worrying if you are doing the right approach. I also had real doubts and fears (I wanted to PB this time) and it was really useful to have someone to talk to about these.
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Bainsy




Joined: 11 Jan 2006
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Location: TUnbridge Wells

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thats a bloody great debut - esp for a 'big' man. Am sure you will have walked the Clydesdale category - nice report too

Chapeau
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2015 ?
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WindyMiller




Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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Location: Not London

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well done. What is the connection to RR?
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WindyMiller




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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Presumably quite helpful from a training/motivation perspective. Amazing achievement anyway.
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runtilyoudrop




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PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Top racing. Well done.
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