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Ironman Switzerland pro race report
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 18th July 2008


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Nick Saunders, Tri247's roving long-distance pro athlete, was out in Zurich for Ironman Switzerland and sent us this report on completion of his tenth Ironman and one of his best ever performances.


I arrived in Zurich the Wednesday before the race, I was pre warned how organised the Swiss were and advised to make sure I knew where to park, as you will get a parking ticket! I organised parking permits only to get a parking ticket for parking in the wrong zone! I was also told how good the weather would be, this did not disappoint, it was hot and sunny and the place was buzzing with summer excitement. Then the rain started to pour on Saturday and the forecast for Sunday was not good either! I, as many were, was looking forward to a race in good warm conditions, not to be!

We woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of rain, for someone from the southern hemisphere this is a bit demoralising to say the least. The air temperature was a bit on the mild side and it was forecast to clear later, so there was some hope. I got to a very wet transition and set the Stealth up and got under cover to get ready for the swim. The water temperature was surprisingly warm, ironically probably too warm (around 21 degrees), I wish I'd had a sleeveless wetsuit, would of been handy! The 60 pros were set off five minutes before the 2350 or so age groupers at 6.55am. I did not have a good swim, I got out in 55 minutes and just felt like I was going too slow, but could not go any faster, and I felt a bit warm in my wetsuit. I should have made the most of this because when everyone exited the water there was no chance of getting dry, it was chucking it down! The only thing that was dry was my bike thanks to the massive bike covers the race organisers provided, but this was not for long.

Out onto the bike course and and into the rain. One had to try and keep the pace up to try and keep warm, it didn't last long, after about 30km the hands and feet were numb with cold, I just tried telling myself that it was the same for everyone else and that I was going to finish this race no matter what. I don't train for months, come all this way and not finish! There were times when I did not want to carry on, I have never experienced a race were it has rained like that, call me a whimp or whatever, but I just don't like it. Anyway, the rain kind of stopped after about 120km into the bike ride and I started to warm up and could pick the pace up a bit but there was still the odd shower and there were a few corners and descents where one had to take care. The support out on the bike course was great. The legendary hill called the beast was like a small hill section of the Tour de France with crowds parting as you rode up the 800m climb and ringing cow bells and screaming their heads off, there were also bands playing on various parts of the bike and run course.

I managed to finish the bike in sixth place, with a bike time of four hours 49 minutes after exiting the water in 13th, so I was happy with the progress. My goal coming into the race was to try for the podium to guarantee Hawaii qualification. I set off at about 4:00 km pace and was making ground on third and fourth place, all was going well and then I guess fatigue just set in and my pace slowed right down after about 32km and the Hawaii slot ran away from me. It's down to training at the end of the day, I did not go out too hard, I trained to run that pace but just did not train long enough. The positive for me is that I ran just under 3:00 pace, so things are heading in the right direction, even if it was only by one minute. I wanted to run 2.50 pace, with a solid bike and swim that will put you onto the podium of most races. That was Ironman number ten for me, I have finished in the top ten in all but two of the races, but it is time to start making the podium which will be my goal.

Well done to all the Brits that finished, there were a lot out there. In the nationality ranks they were third with only more Swiss and Germans. I think there were close to 250 or so racing. Well done to James Gilfillian, he completed his first Ironman and was 11th pro. I know he also struggled with the weather, but it's a credit to him that he finished. The same to Andy Brodziak from Profeet and Richard, I was staying with them and I can tell you moral on race morning was low when we saw the weather but we all finished. What's next? Hopefully IMUK if I can get a start, I know the race is full but fingers crossed.


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