Earlier this month I completed my first half Ironman distance and my second attempt at triathlon. This race consisted of a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) and myself, my boyfriend Andrew, and three friends signed up to the Zurich Half Ironman that took place in the picturesque Swiss medieval town of Rapperswil. To retell the full experience, I have divided this piece into the highs, lows and ultimate glory to make sure that anyone considering this race gets the full picture.
- Adventure – doing an event abroad means that it feels a bit more like an adventure. It’s exciting to ride your bike through a different landscape and hear the cheers of the crowd in another language.
- The excitement – you register for the event the day before at the expo and there’s something about it that makes you feel like part of an exclusive group of people who will all have this challenge in common in 24 hours time. It’s during registration that you realise you are finally here after all that winter training and tomorrow is the day.
- The gear – I was a bit paranoid that I didn’t have aero bars on my bike and was lacking a few triathlete essentials before the race. However, on passing a rider in teardrop helmet on the up hills, I realised that maybe it doesn’t matter!
- Admin – Preparing for an Ironman 70.3 can be a logistical nightmare. From packing the bikebox to memorising what you need to put in each transition bag. All the admin can compound race anxiety and so it’s best to not, like us, leave it all to the last minute. It’s a miracle I didn’t do the run wearing goggles.
- The heat – this is a right Englishman’s moan but training through the British winter does not get you prepared for the blistering heat of the Swiss summer. Myself and the boys all suffered and come the run I was running so slowly I was almost going backwards. Irish found some wet sponges to stuff into the shoulders of his tri-suit which has earned him the new nickname of Sponge Bob Square Pants. Kev, Irish and I, some of the palest people in the UK, all managed get some sort of sunstroke. It wasn’t pretty!
THE ULTIMATE GLORY
- Solidarity – I experienced some great race-solidarity from fellow Brits that I saw out on the course. You have your national flag printed on your race number and every time I was spotted by a Brit I got a nod of recognition. There were only 16% women doing this race and so the crowds gave a little extra cheer when I went past. When someone calls you a Super Frau, you know you’re on the right track.
- The support crew – Our team had the best support crew who endured a lot too. My mum and dad sat all day in the stinking heat just to get us through it. Crossing the finish line and seeing them genuinely proud was such a lovely feeling and I am so glad they came out to experience it. Also, I am pretty sure that without them, none of the aforementioned admin would have got done!
- The desire to do it all again – I ended up swimming and cycling faster than I expected but lost my way a bit on the run. My time overall was 6:58mins and I wanted to make sure that I finished in under seven hours which I did (just). Looking back at the course and with hindsight I can see what I did wrong and would definitely like to do it all again. A triathlon, especially one this long, is different to anything I’ve ever done before.
- And finally… On the day of the race I received a very nice message of good luck from two of my sporting and national heros, The Brownlee Brothers! My amazing friend Kitty went to the effort of asking them to record me a little good luck message and honestly, what more can a girl ask for!