Ironman 70.3 – Rapperswil

A report from Jason George.

 

After having some bad luck with a small injury while preparing for the Boston Marathon earlier this year, and terrible weather on the day of the marathon, I was really looking forward to the Ironman 70.3 in Rapperswil. It turned out to be a super day.

Many years ago I was doing triathlons in the US and loved the swim-bike-run combination. Life changes made it difficult to continue, but I always felt the passion and this year, Ironman 70.3 in Rapperswil gave me a chance to return to the sport. But I almost missed it! Because I was not sure of my preparation and did not have a clear training plan, I delayed registering for the event and was then very disappointed when it was full and I did not have a number. I begged the organisers to give me a number and about four weeks before the race, they wrote and told me that someone had cancelled and that I could join. I was in!!

Like many triathletes, I am not a great swimmer and of course, riding the bike in the winter is not so much fun. But I worked hard, going to the Eglisee pool in the winter two or three times each week and riding indoors on the trainer when it was cold and wet outside. Of course my many BRC friends made training for the run much easier.

As the day of the race drew closer, I prepared my things and on Saturday (09.06.2018), I drove to Rapperswil with my bike and my equipment. I presented my Swiss Triathlon license and registered!! I then took my bike to the transition area (wechselzone) where I was among 2,500 other athletes preparing for the race the next day. I saw all of the very fast looking bikes and tried to remind myself that the bike is only fast if the legs are strong. I prepared my transition bags (two bags: one for the swim-to-bike transition and another for the bike-to-run transition) and then put on my wetsuit and jumped into Lake Zurich for a short practice swim. The lake felt good at 20.5 degrees.

The next day – after a good dinner the evening before and a nice rest at a small hotel on the lake – I was ready to go. Having not done a triathlon in many years, my goals were simply to finish in under 6 hours and in the top 50% of my age group.

The pros went into the water first and I started my swim just a few minutes after 9:00 on a beautiful sunny day. Despite occasionally trying to swim on top of someone or having someone kick me, the swim went well; I didn’t get lost and I didn’t drown. After 36 minutes I was out of the water, removing my wetsuit, putting on my cycling shoes and helmet, and feeling good. Now on to the bike for 90km with approximately 1,000m of climbing. I had to remember that it was a long race and that I needed to be careful not to go too fast at the start of the bike. I had my gels and two bottles of Iso with me for the ride and everything was working perfectly. I was passing people on the hills and able to stay in an aerodynamic position on the downhills and flats. This is Switzerland, so the scenery was beautiful, the roads were in good condition and there were lots of people along the course providing support. It could not be better! Riding at an average of over 30km/hr, I finished the bike in 2:48. This is a good time, but I know that for the future, I will need to be even faster.

Into the transition zone where I traded my cycling shoes for running shoes and I was ready for the final sport of the race. The weather was quite hot, so I knew that a really fast time on the run was not possible, but I also knew that running is my strength and that I could probably pass a few people during the 21.1km. Again, I had to remind myself to slow down and be careful with the pacing….the goal was to run at 5:00/km. Although I slowed at every water station, I was able to pass quite a few other competitors and finished the half-marathon in 1:44 for a total time of 5:18:25. I felt great, especially when I learned that I was 15th in my age group and well below my 6:00 goal.

 

Perhaps the most amazing performance of the day came from Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf. The three-time Ironman World Champion and three time Ironman 70.3 World Champion came to Rapperswil and won (4:00:53) for the fifth time; more than 15 minutes faster than the second place woman! But not only did she crush the women’s field, she destroyed most of the men as well. Only six of the professional men, including the winner – Josh Amberger (Australia; 3:49:45) – were faster than her. Simply amazing.

As is so typical in Switzerland, the event was extremely well organised, well supported and there were lots of people watching and cheering the athletes. I look forward to the next competition!