Un récit en anglais pour une fois, car de plus en plus de non-francophones partagent nos aventures sportives...
2017 was a season that went on like a rollercoaster of emotions: getting a stress fracture roughly 2 months before my first ironman, giving up in the first few kilometers of biking at the half in Doussard, showing a great race in Frankfurt despite less than 50km of training in those last 8 weeks, missing the Kona spot for seconds, and dealing with the aftermath of the injury for the rest of the year.
While I grew in experience, hope is that 2018 will turn out more consistent. The season on the road started well with races over 10km to marathon as pacers, and I was eager to get on the start line of the first triathlon. A repeat of 2016 in a way, going with David to Rapperswil for the 70.3. Of course comes directly the questions of the sort: How well do I compare? Am I still improving? I am aiming at 4h10, which should both guarantee the safety of my PRO license (need to finish one race less than 10% behind the leader), and show some >5min gain.
Checking-in to an Ironman-branded race is always an experience, and one that I tend to like short and expedited (unneeded stress and walking around before race day). But it is also the occasion of meeting lots of familiar faces, sharing doubts and goals, getting our first long distance PRO briefing, and letting the Rocket Baby alone for its first night out (yes the Canyon got a nickname).
On race evening after the pasta we manage to stay up until 9pm (definitely longer than 2016) and wake up at 4.50am at the first slight beep of the alarm. I had a good night sleep, the first two bread slices go down easily (clearly not always the case on a race morning), only have to fight with the third. In the car some discussions can be heard. All clear signs that the confidence is way higher than two years ago.
Once parked at the PRO area right at the transition zone we pump the tires, notice that my shoes are wet from the overnight rain (maybe should start listening to Jamie), put some talc in for a nice comfy baby paste feeling on the feet... I also glue some bonbons to the frame, fill the front water bottle, check the blue and red bags and slowly move towards the start area.
With Imo and David we start a small jog, which we follow by some swimming in the over-crowded Lido. Once on the start line the pressure is definitely present, lots of big names surrounding us. Water is relatively warm, somehow I wished it was non-wetsuit swim.
90 seconds before the start we are allowed in via the steep ramp to the canoe. And then sure enough as an ex-junior I react the fastest (at least of all my direct neighbors) and swim fast and straight for 50m (must be a reflex kinda thing). The level in the PRO is not quite the one on a standard circuit race, such that I am not extracted in the front but in the middle of the pack after such a start. And the guys around are not slowing down.
I let a few go by, and try to catch the feet of the last one at the back. Slightly above my threshold, but I hang on for a while. No need to sight, no other thing to worry about than the last bubbles from what seems to be a big group. At some point another guy pushes a bit to get in the bubbles (which I later learn it is Boris Stein).
I decide to let him go and get his feet, but moments later he gets lost, and I miss the connection to the feet in front of me. We’re about 800m in right now, and from then on I’m on my own. Sighting required again, slowly but surely loosing time on the front group. U-turn arrives, and somehow I wonder whether I am in the last few. I switch from 6-beat kick to a more conservative 2-beat, and get from overdrive to stay in touch into gliding mode. The race is still long.
Not much else to say from the way back. A rather long but not eventful straight back. Slightly drifting towards the left, maybe some water current?
Daniel in the group led by Ruedi Wild at the swim exit.
I fear a bit the sight at the watch at the swim exit, but the excitation from many people shouting my name and a 25:xx glimpsed on the screen reassures me. I try to open the wetsuit zipper the wrong way, but thankfully the running to T1 is long enough that I still manage easily in time, and even get a glass of water on the way.
I pick my blue bag. Oops no actually that’s #43 and I am #42… Put it back and get the right one. On the plus side it means I am not last out of the water. Boris Stein is with me in the tent, and Ronnie Schildknecht enters it as I get out. Let’s see how long I can keep them behind.
T1 for Jean-Claude.
Get the bike, jump onto it (not very nicely, first time on the Canyon) and start riding. As I put on the shoes, Boris is already way ahead. I catch him nevertheless as I am already riding in position while he puts his own shoes. A kilometer later he passes me at a speed I don’t even try to match, and watch him disappear in the distance.
Somehow my bike feels a bit flabby, I even wonder if I got a flat. I am moved around and not stable on the saddle, not really pushing as many watts as I planned to. The legs are hurting a bit. Nevertheless speed looks ok, ”just get in your own rhythm”. It’s a nice feeling to be alone on the road, not having to pay attention to huge packs. Along the lake someone catches me again, seems to be Fabian Dutli. Didn’t expect him to be so close after the swim. We start Witch’s Hill together as motorbikes come from the back. Surely it must be Ronnie. But the speaker announces Daniela Ryf! Damn she’s fast.
On the climb I am still the fastest, but in the small flat before the Beast they pass me. I would like to go again in the steep portions (how come they push so much in the flat but not in the climbs?), but now the cameramen and referees are blocking the way. Easy, drink a bit, spin the legs, Daniela’s pace cannot be that bad. That’ll go until Goldingen, but as soon as the descent begins they push much more than I feel confident to (despite having made much progress since 2016).
To David who asked for a summary of Daniela’s ass: like a Christmas holiday… nice but goes by way too fast.
Jean-Claude between the Beast and Goldingen.
I get some rest deep in aero position, and ride the way down on my own. The position on the bike fits much better now than it did on the flat at the beginning. The last portion with steep curves (which weren’t as sharp as in my souvenirs) is still wet, and I take zero risk there, preferring to lose a few seconds than to taste the tarmac. We’re back along the lake, and I ride almost exactly 300W back. Seems like I get to drag a few PRO colleagues, I am just happy they don’t pass, it means I finally ride properly.
At the roundabout we get mixed with AGs, another PRO wants to get into an altercation with me because of how we get access to the aid station, forces me to brake in the middle of an intersection. Have to avoid an ambulance as well. Less stable riding, including a few power spikes (once to 600W, 3 to 400W). Happy to get back into pace once outside of Rappi, let the other PROs go first, and while I forgot to check the pace it seems like I am well underway to beat my 2016 time. Now it’s mostly in 3rd or 4th row, overtaking people that are overtaking even slower ones. Gives a feeling of speed.
Witch’s hill arrives again, I slowly overtakes up to Golden all the PROs who passed me on the flat (definitely not written with a B this year). In the downhill I feel great. This year around passing many people instead of the opposite. Only have to be careful in the turns as AGs tend to brake a lot more than I would. Even the wet sections seem to have some dry patches.
Jean-Claude in the descent.
Final stretch along the lake I slowly decrease my effort from 300W to 270W while eating a bit and preparing the half marathon. Not sure if I pushed a bit too much, but I am still confident on my running capabilities.
Having racked my bike the way you’re not supposed to but everyone else did (that is, not facing you), I get to the tent and take my time to get my gels out, my bottle, remove my goggles, put on a visor, and check that the shoes are nicely in. Ok now you’re just loosing time, get out of there!
I start my run by getting a gel in, drinking my own iso, dumping everything at the water station and getting into pace. Quick look at the watch, 3’50, still settling in. A bit later we’re at 3’40, definitely DO NOT accelerate. One last look at around 1.5km, we’re still good. Pace feels great, almost too easy. Like a marathon, should feel slow until at least a fourth of the race. Especially by this heat.
Every station I get sponges, water, iso (if available), ice (every other station), water, sponges. Soon enough my feet are floating in a lake, but that’s no big deal. Keeping the temperature down is essential. No man in sight in front, but no direct concurrent around me either. I see Imo isn’t so far at the end of the bike, hopefully she doesn’t catch me!
Daniel and Jean-Claude on the Stairway to Heaven.
Another gel at 6k already, get used to eat more. It smells like petits fours along the train rails, but I am stuck with iso gels… Through the city for the first time, ambitiously jump stairs three by three. Well at first, soon it’s two by two and at the last set I get a cramp and tell myself: “You can’t stop now that everyone is watching and you started so good”. So I get to the top like there’s nothing to see. And then I run the down ramp, because it’s a different setting, and my body shouldn’t believe it is allowed to stop nor cramp on a road. It could happen again, but I convince my leg that the next possible occasion is in 10km, once we get back to the stairs. I like how mental games work sometimes.
I hate the underpass because of the sharp corner that are painful for my fascia latia, but otherwise all is good underway. Somehow we’re already halfway in pace for sub 1h20, and nothing to report. Another gel at half mark. The heat is more and more noticeable, but I am not as bothered as I have been in the past. People seem to be catching me from the back, but I still have some resources to keep them behind. I also catch slowly 3-4 concurrents, including Fabian Dutli and Adrian Haller. Second stairs climb goes surprisingly better than the first, and the perfect songs is playing in the city: “I’m not afraid anymore”. Probably the best summary of my race: for the first time I wasn’t afraid of the distance anymore. Same thing that happened after racing my first half and going back to Olympic distance, I think I learnt a lot from the Frankfurt experience. There might be non-ideal portions of the race, but there are no setbacks I can’t handle.
Daniel and Jean-Claude on the second lap.
Still one man in front, 1k to go. He’s turning around, he must be tired. I push until I pass him and directly look at the one ahead. It’ll be though but that could be a sprint line finish … unless he goes on for another loop!
Very happy I cross the line in 4h08, a good 11 minutes faster than 2016 (similar swim, 7min faster bike, 4min faster run). 11th PRO out of the 30ish on the start line is also well above expectations. 19min back from Josh Amberger confirms my PRO license easily. All is well, I am cramping from both legs but so proud of the results that I actually want to start racing again very soon!
A big thank you to all the familiar faces along the road, you are the reason we decided to race in Zurich this year. The race feeling was truly amazing!