Ironman Zurich 24th July 2016

Race day started as it usually does, a 4:00 alarm after a restless night’s sleep! Shower, struggle to eat breakfast (porridge and a coffee for me) before applying some P20 sunscreen saying goodbye to Simon and heading off to make our way to the start line.

A short(ish) while later after a couple of tram rides, we arrived at Landiwiese where the race site was. The journey to the start line was relatively straightforward as there were so many people with black and red Ironman backpacks we just followed them!

After the obligatory portaloo stop we headed to transition to check bikes and load up nutrition, bottles etc. I gave my bike a quick once over, then for some reason went back to check it again, and thank god I did… There was a small bulge/ patch that was wearing slightly on the back tyre by the rim. After a moment of absolute sheer panic I took the bike to the amazing mechanics in the Scott bike tent… The guy took one look at it and said “we need to change that”… So 15 minutes before the start of the race I was having my back tyre changed… Cue PANIC MODE!!!!

Thankfully it was done quickly and I re-racked, headed to the loo again before dropping off my bag and heading to the start line. Thankfully I bumped into Tom’s mum and dad Sue and Dave on the way which was a godsend, I almost welled up at the sight of them! Hugs all round and I was on my way again.

I headed down to the start line with Rick, after getting separated from Tom on the way. Thankfully spotting Simon and his mum and dad next to the swim start- hugs all round again!

After saying goodbye, we wandered to our start pens, it was a self seeded swim so you stood in areas marked <60 min, 60-70min and upwards to >90 min. I went for the 60-70 min slot, and was surrounded by men- as usual! Nervously standing there waiting for the pros to go off then the rolling start to begin I felt really excited but really really warm in my wetsuit… I knew then that it was going to be a hot day!

After a couple of minutes I was off… Running into the water with 7 other athletes to start our Ironman journeys.

The swim went well, I felt like I was swimming faster than I have in a while and got into a bit of a rhythm quite quickly. I struggled with orientation but sighting wasn’t too bad and I just tried to follow the crowd. I didn’t manage to get on any feet to draft and kept finding myself in open water but that didn’t bother me!

Before too long I was approaching the exit ramp and heading for T1… Swim time- 1:00:50, 2nd in age group out of the water!

Into T1, grabbed the bike bag, quick dry of the feet and on with shoes, socks, race belt and helmet then a little jog to find the bike. Out of transition and off on the next leg of the journey, 112 miles of Swiss roads!

The first 20-30km were flat and fast along the side of the lake, before we turned left to head slightly inland and towards a couple of climbs. I knew there were three climbs on the bike- the beast, the egg and heartbreak hill, spread throughout the 2 lap course so we’d climb each one twice.

I tried to make myself eat within the first few miles, but started to feel a bit sick and a slight crampy feeling in my tummy… Kept going with the fluids and little bits of food, I think over the whole 112 miles I took on 3/4 of a Mars bar, a Snickers, a berry flapjack and a cereal bar… Not really sure that was enough!

Anyway, the bike course was absolutely stunning, continuously rolling and the views from the climbs were just amazing! Despite not being the strongest cyclist I thoroughly enjoyed the climbs up all three hills… The beast was a long steep but steady climb, (on which I overtook a number of men!), the egg was a slightly shorter steady climb and heartbreak hill was just awesome! A sharp shortish climb, lined with people Tour de France style!

The first time around Simon, Matt and Luke were supporting on Heartbreak Hill, so that was a big boost to see them! The atmosphere was awesome… People shouting and ringing cow bells, only problem was they were really close to the bikes which meant no overtaking and the guy in front of me was literally crawling up the hill! Second time around John, Paula, Sue and Dave were supporting there so that was a good boost too 🙂

All in all the bike course was awesome, apart from feeling terrified on the descents due to my poor history of coming off down hills! I lost all that I had gained on the up hills by gripping the brakes for dear life on the downhills!! And I really need to work on my power in the flats to increase my average speed from 19-20ish mph!

I came off the bike in 6:23 (10 mins faster than Copenhagen on a much harder bike course) and although slightly disappointed to not have gone a bit closer to 6 hours I was pleased to have beaten my last time. And I had seen Rick heading off to heartbreak hill as I was coming into T2 so I knew I was had a bit of a lead going into the run!

Coming off the bike I hobbled into T2 to rack my bike and get changed into fresh socks and trainers for the run. My hips were really quite sore and rather tight as I started the run, they soon eased off though thankfully!

I saw Simon and co as I came out of transition, which was great 🙂 off I went for the final 26.2 miles.

Oh wowzers it was HOT!

The first aid station was after about 3km, I grabbed water, sponges and carried on heading towards the city Centre…Feeling ok at this point!

The first 7 miles were sub 8:00 as I worked my way round the 4 x 10km loop course. I started to struggle towards the middle of the second lap, I was just so thirsty but couldn’t seem to quench it regardless of what I tried… And I tried all that was on offer at the aid stations- water, coke, isotonic drink, orange quarters, even boullion soup! Nothing worked. The minute miles were getting slower and slower, between 8:30-9:30/mile on lap 2. Not ideal! But still, lap bands one and two were round my wrist, I kept plodding forwards.

By the time I headed out for lap 3 I was in a pretty dark place… I just wanted it to be over to be honest. I had chosen to try the run/walk method, the walking being during the aid stations to enable me to take on board as much fluid as possible to try and quench the unquenchable thirst! By lap 3, at the third aid station I was walking further each time… By the time I reached the turnaround point and worked my way back to the fourth aid station I really wasn’t enjoying myself. I walked the aid station and just kept on walking, probably another 0.5km alongside a Swiss girl who was also struggling with thirst (a 12:32min/mile!!!)… This continued until I saw Simon was standing at the side of the road and he just shouted ‘why are you walking?!’ so this gave me the kick I needed to start running again! I ran the remainder of the 3rd lap and was spurred on to really push harder for the 4th.

The 4th and final lap… I tried to smile as much as I possibly could and knew that I had an hour to do 10km if I wanted to meet my goal of a sub-4 hour marathon… Do-able? For sure. I ran, and ran, and ran, with the occasional walk stop for the aid stations… After having seen Simon and the rest of the support crew on each of the three previous laps, I knew I wasn’t going to see them again until the finish line now so I had to keep plodding on and the last 10km was a slightly more consistent 9:15-9:45min/mile pace.

As I collected my final lap band and rounded the corner to run towards the finish line, I couldn’t help but smile… Ironman number 2 was in the bag, and I knew I’d managed a fairly decent PB. I waved my wrist full of lap bands at the referee who was monitoring the finish shute and he nodded… Down I went!

I don’t remember too much of the finish red carpet at Copenhagen, I was too focussed on trying to outsprint the guy running slightly in front of me. This time though I had the carpet almost to myself…. So I enjoyed it, high 5ing the crowd, running down the carpet I spotted the Elsbury clan and waved like a lunatic…. Crossing the finish line with arms wide in a time of 11:31:50. A 24 minute PB!!!

Once I’d crossed the line, and had a little sob, I found Simon and he told me I’d come 3rd in my age group… I literally could not believe it!!!!

Afterwards I went into the athlete garden to wait for Tom and Rick, who finished in 11:57 and 12:13 respectively… A shower and some food followed before heading to meet the crew for celebratory hugs and drinks, before collecting bikes and bags from transition and heading off for more food and drinks!

What a day. Much more of a rollercoaster of emotions than I’d remembered from Copenhagen. I had a great swim, a thoroughly enjoyable bike and a really difficult run… It took a lot to get through that bit.

Did I enjoy it? Without a doubt. Do I want to do another? HELL YES!!!!!!!

This girl’s Ironman journey isn’t over yet… Just got to persuade Mr E to let me do another one next year… 🙂

P.S. On the Monday we headed back to Ironman HQ to attend the awards ceremony… I made it onto the podium and collected my 3rd place trophy with THE BIGGEST smile I think anyone’s ever seen… I was bursting with pride 🙂

The girls that came in 1st and 2nd were really quick…. 9:50 and 9:59 respectively!!!! CRAZY fast. Anyway needless to say I missed out on a Kona slot…

Better luck next time?


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