Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil-Jona
Two weeks between two halfs is enough. This is at least the bet we did with Jean-Claude this year in planning our preparation towards Ironman Frankfurt. Our reasoning was that, worst case, the second one might not be perfect but it would have us do two long efforts and brick days we would not be able to reproduce at that level in our usual training. And just like that we ended with a short transition between Barcelona and Rapperswil. A few days easy (but not completely off), a week-end primarily focused on biking, a last interval on track on Tuesday, and finally a short carbo-loading would fill two weeks that went by faster than we thought. Except for a little cough caught in the last few days and the temperature predictions being way too warm for my taste, I feel ready and recovered. Seeing me eating, some would say I have the racing-potbelly, but I see it as having the fuel required to perform well; all in all, it is just a matter of confidence.
Rapperswil is close enough for us to go by train on race day. Our bikes are in transition since Saturday afternoon and the race briefing. We only have to pump the tires one last time, check that everything is ready, and joke with friends to release the tension (it’s great to race close to home). Comes then the time for a little jog along the run course, before putting on the sleeves of our trisuit and all of our wetsuit, which are respectively S and M-Tall: you never get too compressed in those and at least slightly smaller ones tend to fit better. By the time we’re done, it’s 15 minutes to go-time. We wish the colleagues good luck and leave for a swim warm-up in the lido as we were refused access to the lake. The pool is so crowded that we limit ourselves to two out-and-backs and a small pee stop (yeah, sorry, but in the two categories of triathletes, I’m in the one that pees in the wetsuit, not the one that lies about it). The actual temperature of the lake will therefore be a surprise till the very last minute, but I don’t really care or stress about the cold anyway.
Pre-start vibes with Hervé.
And there would not have been a reason to worry. For a second after jumping in, the water feels refreshing and I seamlessly forget about its temperature as soon as I start turning my arms. As pros, we have to swim to our start line a bit ahead on the course compared to the rolling waves of amateurs. No time too spare or wait once there though. The speaker leaves us to the orders of the starter even before all have joined the line stretched by two boats. It is only a matter of seconds before we are freed and start the fight for the best draft. I have the impression to be a bit too much on the left and hesitate somewhat between following the guy on my right or the one even more left (which seems faster). Eventually, it won’t matter much as they rejoin on the first straight and I try my best to keep up with the last feet of this group all the rest of the swim. I neither feel my sore throat nor any fatigued muscles, all is well for now (and although I didn’t know during, I am very well placed, not much behind the lead, and with Manuel Küng next to me).
Start of the second lap.
Jumping on the bike is another story however. Well, to be precise, jumping on it and the transition itself went quite well this time, and I can start the bike without troubles just behind Andy Böcherer and other überbikers. It’s afterwards that the difference in biking levels gets obvious. I will be rather on my own all of the bike course and won’t see these guys for long. The legs also don’t feel quite as well as in Barcelona, which means it will sooner than hoped get to the point where it is a mental game oscillating between “push more watts” (watching the numbers from the P1 pedals and complaining internally when they drop below 300 on the flat) and “get more aero” (thinking of the small Velocomp Aeropod device and the analysis of its data that will come later). With the accumulation of kilometers, this gets more and more difficult as the coughing starts to catch me again. My solution is to force myself to drink more to get rid of it; not sure whether it really helps, but it seems the best I can do at this time. I also hear my back wheel slightly touching the brakes when I get up in the climbs (and will find the quick release open while checking out the bike in the afternoon, was it already loose during the race?). All in all, I close the bike portion maybe one minute slower than last year. Not too bad considering the bad sensations, but not the improvement I thought I could demonstrate here.
Jean-Claude on the run.
The story repeats itself on the run. I start at a reasonable pace (not way too fast like in Barcelona), but can feel straight ahead that this is not as easy as it is supposed to be. Having drunk so much on the second half of the bike and with the heat of this first summer day of 2019, I get a lot of trouble in breathing. After 2k only, I feel stitches and get very tense in my whole body. Thankfully this feeling fades as Fabian Dutli overtakes me and I can just take him as my pace-maker. Sometimes it feels easier, sometimes it really hurts, but I am decided not to leave him a centimeter because the pace would seriously drop if I had to go alone. This will go on until km 11, with water, ice, or iso at every aid-station and a gel at km 7 (second one in my pocket is for km 14). At the aid-station on km 11, he stops to better grab some stuff while I simply keep the exact same pace. Again, I am on my own (at least for the pace, two or three athletes overtake me, but I can make it up by gaining another one or two places). The very last kilometers are a real fight. Thankfully, no one gets close enough to dispute my 13th place in the PRO category and I can roll to the finish line in what feels like the most ugly running technique ever (and mine can be quite bad).
Daniel on the run.
4h05 is shown on the clock: exactly the goal I set myself before the race. Thinking about my feelings during this whole race, I ask myself how it is possible. Sure, it was far from unreachable as a goal, but somehow it is weird to feel bad and achieve it anyway. Then I think of the Daniela Ryf or Ronnie Schildknecht left behind me and I start to convince myself I did well anyway. Don’t let these feelings get hard on yourself; sure, it would have been better and more reassuring to have a great race. But this was a good one! In the long run, I will always prefer a good result with bad sensations to its inverse.
Now, this was the last race before Frankfurt at the end of the month. Until then awaits us some recovery for maybe 4-5 days (again active, not nothing), followed by a good 10 days to 2 weeks of load and some longer sessions, bringing us to the gradual tapering of around 2 weeks before the 30th of June. I will need to define my goal more precisely (currently hesitating between 8h30, or 4h30=40km/h bike) and analyze more precisely the data from the power meter and aeropod to see if the recent focus on aero really pays of as much as I think it does. Numbers will follow, and who knows, maybe more changes and improvements. You never stop learning.