I did it.
It took 11.08 hours, a lot of learning and some pain in the legs! I came 17th in my Age Group out of 225 competitors. Ok for a first Ironman campaign.
The alarm sounded at 4.55am on Sunday morning July 25th after 2 days of somewhat hectic last minute preparation for Ironman Switzerland 2010. I had been quite busy in the lead up to the race as my preparation had been interrupted by a stomach bug the previous Tuesday and Wednesday forcing me to miss work and time I had planned on using to prepare some last minute bits and pieces for the race.
But by race morning I felt strong, and ready!
Arriving to the transition area was exciting! There were people everywhere, I was surrounded by Irish girls including Clodagh Myers an old school mate from Killorglin. It was also great to see familiar faces, training buddies and friends who had been with me all year long – Marco Wolf, Abi Hebbard, Norman Rohr, Oleksiy Mischenko and Alex Franz. We were all in it together.
The SWIM – SUCCESS
The race start was a complete fiasco. It was a flying start with no countdown and most of us didnt even know that the race had started as athletes were just wading into the water and swimming of their own accord. I wasnt even sure if there was a timing mat further out into the lake that would take your starting time when crossed but apparently there wasnt. Anyway, I soon figured out that was that and began to swim.
I felt good throughout, there was a couple of moments when I almost cramped because someone swam on top of me, but I managed to avoid it by staying calm and stretching out my leg. I completely enjoyed it and although when I exited the swim I thought I had done really badly as there werent that many spectators left on the island, I realised my time was 1 hour 14 which was within my target time! SUCCESS! Now the race begins!
Transition 1 – FAIL
I got the wetsuit off. Put on my top, lost about 40 seconds rooting in my bag for my sunglasses, grabbed my bike, some food and ran about 150 mtrs, stopped, looked down, dropped the bike and ran back – I had forgotten my start number. How stupid was that?
Eventually I got biking and zipped down Seestrasse at an average of 38kmph. I kept thinking “youre going too fast, going too fast” but the little devil on my shoulder was saying “you feel good, you feel good” and to be honest I did feel good, and those 180 kilometres were the most comfortable, strongest 180km I have ever done! There were ups and downs but it was nothing compared to how I have suffered previously on the bike. There is room for much more suffering and much more speed!But I wanted to be a little conservative as I still wasnt sure how I would cope with the marathon at the end.
I made some friends while out on the bike. A guy called Barry from Waterford Triathlon club, someone who said to me “are you Fiola Foley from Killorglin? Mick Flemming is always talking about you” (he had lived in Killorglin for a while and Mick was my old rowing coach). Its a small world.
Nadia my boss and my colleagues Claudia and Lily were on top of The Beast (the hill at Uetikon am See) to cheer me on and pass me a water bottle filled with Sponsor Long Energy carb drink on the second lap. I had been thinking about seeing them for a while and I was so happy when I got to the top of that hill and I could say goodbye to it for the day! Having people out on the course really makes a big difference to your morale. Lily could sense that and even stayed for another couple of hours to cheer unknown athletes on!
I lost my bottle holder system from behind my saddle on the second lap which was holding my repair stuff and my spare tyre. I had to stop, get off the bike and pick it up. At that stage I was fed up with myself and my performance and take it easy attitude so I gave myself a kick up the bum and started to bomb the second lap. That was a really good idea as I was well able for it and I only lost 1.5kmph average speed on the second lap.
I also noticed that my tyres were losing air pressure. Does anyone have any similiar experience with clinchers? I kept thinking – just be safe and make sure you make it to the end of the bike without a puncture. I got a fright at one point when one competitor blew a tyre in front of me and I thought it was mine.
Another thing I noticed during the race was the blatant existence of drafting. SHAME on you guys. I received a numpty penalty for drafting in my first triathlon in May but to do it in a group of 25 riders at 36 – 38kmph down Seestrasse leaving little options for fellow competitors is hard to cope with. It also highlighted the need for more referees to be present along that section of the race.
Transition 2 – FAIL again
I really need to work on those transitions for next year!
Coming off of the bike I felt ok. The legs were fine, my back was a little stiff but I wasnt wobbly and started running really strongly. I picked up a man called Phillip who is in Affoltern am Albis Tri club who was running at the same pace as me and had the same target and we started running together. He had a GPS watch on so could pace it better than I. It was nice to have the company but I dropped him after a while when he stopped at an aid station and I was feeling good so I wanted to keep going.
I began to get stomach cramps on the second lap. Not just an uncomfortable feeling but bad cramps. They got worse and worse and I tried to go to the toilet but that didnt work. My worst nightmare had begun. I didnt eat that many gels on the bike, I stuck to solid food and I did have a little indigestion while cycling but that was normal. I began to feel really really sick and every time I came to an aid station I would force myself to drink. I had taken about 3 gels on board but I stopped with those because I was afraid they were the problem. Too much sugar.
So I stuck to bananas.
Eventually the cramps were so bad that I had to walk when one came on. I finally managed to go to the toilet and that provided some relief and Clodagh Myers gave me an Immodium which eased it a little. I was so frustrated and desperate. I knew I was losing so much time and I felt quite cold also – I knew my body temperature was going down as a result.
Finally on the last lap one of the athletes who was running behind me, a British guy, had started walking, I offered him some support and told him to keep moving forward and that he was doing well…in return he gave me two Immodiums, saying he wouldnt need them as we were on the last lap. As soon as I took them I began to feel better and I ran almost the entire last lap, feeling a lot more comfortable.
My colleague Aikiko and her husband Marcel were also out on the marathon course to support me. That, for me was so great. They came all the way from Baar to Zurich just to stand by the side of the race and cheer me on. But more than cheer me on, Marcel ran next to me on every single lap, TWICE. They had positioned themselves on an area where they could cross back and forth and catch me twice on every lap and each time I passed – Marcel jumped up and ran next to me…Aikiko too, and she is nearly 8 months pregnant. I am so unbelieveably thankful for their support.
My dear friend Sabine Schweizer was also on the run course to cheer me on, jumping up and running next to me too for 4 hours. How great are my friends. I really feel so emotional just writing this. And all the comments on Facebook.
My triathlon club Free Radicals were also on the course, going crazy every time we passed. I saw clubmate Liselore there and I almost broke down with her at one stage in desperation to ask her if she had any stomach medicine! Im going to make sure next time I go with my club to support at an Ironman, to bring some Immodium for other athletes!
I had been looking out for my friend and training partner, Abi Hebbard all day. I had suspected I would be stronger than her on the bike and she would be faster than me on the swim but in fact I had gained some time on her on both disciplines. I had spotted her starting the run while I was 1/2 way round my first lap but now, on my last lap, she was ahead of me. It was a strange feeling, I was delighted for her but also so disappointed at my own performance. That is the competitive instinct in me coming out. We have trained together and supported each other all year and although unspoken there is a competitive element to our training. It is a positive thing -but there was nothing more I could do at this stage. She was ahead of me, on target for her PB and that is a great thing!
People have said to me the that it is amazing to finish the race, to do it, to be an Ironman or woman. Finishing is not an issue for me. My goals are performance related. I wanted to go under 11 hours for my first Ironman. I know what I am capable of. I know that a solid performance would see me at 10 hours 30 mins and a very strong excellent performance would see me somewhere between 10 hours and 10.30. But this is a definite goal for next year.
Coming off of the bike at 13.55 in the day, I knew that I could be finished by 17.30. Putting me at 10.30 hours. I kept repeating in my head “you are doing good, keep it steady and knock off the k`s, you have time to spare to go under 11hours” but when my stomach started to go crazy I felt that goal slipping through my fingers and there was nothing I could do.
I am not really that disappointed. I am just frustrated that it didn`t go according to plan and that circumstances were out of my control with regards to my stomach (in the lead up to the race and not holding up on the day) Maybe I am never happy? That is not true, I am happy when I acheive my goals, when I reach my potential. This is just how I am, always pushing, always setting the bar higher and trying to reach it. Life is too short to just sit there and not experience or at least strive to experience those moments of true greatness. Like the perfect wave.
However, crossing that finish line was amazing. Abi was there waiting for me and I was absolutely delighted to give her a big hug. To have finished that race with her there waiting for me was all I could have asked for.
Thanks to Balazs too who came to support me from Rheinfelden. I got my bag carried after the race, I was looked after, pushed and carried up stairs and taken out for dinner and drinks afterwards! A great end to a long day!