Guest post by ATAC member Korneel Wever
After a rainy course recce in Roth, Monica and I arrived in a rainy Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland for the 70.3 Ironman event. The current weather and the weather of the previous editions did not predict great circumstances.
As I rode in Germany to prep for the full Ironman distance, I wasn’t too keen on riding the bike course given the weather. Our Swiss and Australian friends were, though, and did one 45K lap of the course. “Tougher than expected” was the general consensus, “but doable”. The 600 meters of climbing I expected turned out to be 1067m, resulting in a slightly nervous Dutchie.
Luckily the weather changed for the better and we had a sunny Saturday. Monica and I went to the start area for an 8am for a race-start-simulation-swim, but without the pushing, pulling and punching. We found some navigational points and had the same sun and weather conditions as the next morning. The water was 16.6 degrees, fine for a Dutchman, but the Monica and Janine didn’t really agree. After the swim Monica and Janine did a bike and run and I just rode my bike for a last technical check.
Race Sunday started at 7:55 on the Swiss dot. The Pro’s took off and a hasty five minutes later Monica and Janine were up. Janine had to rush from transition to the start line as she had forgotten her computer. This was apparently a good warm up as she swam a 35:36. My time came at the stroke of 8:20 as I took off for the 1900 meters of swimming. After about 14 minutes another athlete bumped into my Garmin – exactly on the lap button which I was only to press as I entered transition. This meant my watch now thought I was in transition to the bike. It didn’t bother me that much though. My swim wasn’t going greatly and a watch to remind me of it wouldn’t help either. After 40 minutes (4 slower than my goal) I came out of the water. T1 went as planned and on I went to the bike.
The ride was smooth. My goal was to have a decent bike; the focus of my race was my run. So the first lap I took it semi-easy. I wasn’t going to blow my legs on the climbs and in case I felt strong, I could do that on the second lap. After a tough Cat4 and a Cat3 climb, the descent went smoothly. I confidently zipped by some other athletes and at times got up to 70k per hour. On the flat back into town I rolled my shoulders and neck as I saw Janine and Monica had started lap number two. A quick estimate told me they were still about 20 minutes ahead. So their bike splits were going well, at least as good as mine. Later I learned Monica passed Janine going up, only for Janine to retake her position going down. But they were close (3:03 for Janine and 3:02 for Monica). On I went to lap number two. By this time my lower back started to hurt, the new TT bike apparently requires some more core training. I held back and sat up a bit more but finished the second lap for a total time of 2:50:25, roughly ten minutes faster than what I had in mind.
Then on to the run. My T2 went fast. In 1:55 I was in and out of transition and went to press my Garmin lap button to traverse into the run. However, my Garmin was not one my wrist. I had left it on the bike! Acks! “Just focus on the run”, I thought, as my lower back was now aching badly. But I knew the pain should only be temporary. I never have back issues on my runs. “Don’t give up, what if the others see you!”, I told myself, as I thought back to the numerous laps in Westerpark and the Brettenpad, and the pace I knew I could hold easily. I slowed down a bit and started feeling a lot better. My back pain was slowly subsiding and my pace picked up. I kept my eyes open for Janine and Monica but despite quite some overlap I did not see them. By now the temperature had risen to about 20 degrees and rehydration became important too. A last minute tip of my mate Daniel was to walk the aid-stations. I decided to do so and this helped me a lot. It gave me goals and boundaries for walking to relieve my back, and time to get the essential water and nutrients in. After the first 10.5K lap I asked a spectator for the time. “EINS” – He yelled. It was 1pm. “I’m five hours and forty minutes in, that should but me at six and a half hour finish”, I thought, but something told me that couldn’t be right. After the toughest ten minutes of math I was certain. I was at four hours and forty minutes. That was great! I could make a five-thirty finish! As I started counting down the kilometers, my euphoria grew and grew. The second time up the 50 steps of the ‘stairway to heaven’ went smoothly. I shot by the other athletes who reverted to walking it. Faster! Stronger! I came on to the home stretch. I couldn’t see a clock! Just push! As the commentator saw my sprint and yelled out my name I crossed the finish line. I had no clue of my time. Maybe a five-thirty, maybe not, the live timing website was slow, if only I had my Garmin…
I walked into the Athletes arena where a surprised Monica greeted me: “Woah?! You finished already?! That’s amazing, what is your time?” – “I don’t know…” I replied. Monica and Janine pulled great times with 5:13 and 5:27 respectively.
A second surprise in the athletes’ arena was running into another ATACer, Florian. Florian was actually in Switzerland for a training weekend in prep for the full Ironman later in the year. Despite some tough climbs, and a couple of beers, in his legs, he entered Rapperswil on a whim and finished faster than all of us in 4:35.
After a few hours the website had finally updated. 5:30:40! I broke my 70.3 PB by about 50 minutes and ran the half marathon in a PB as well!
We all gathered on the town square for some well deserved celebratory ice cream.