On July 10 I started at Ironman Switzerland Thun 2022. It was the second edition at this location and was already voted #1 bucket list Ironman race in the world. It took me nearly three years to make it to this start line. In 2020 the race was postponed to 2021 due to Covid and in 2021 it was again postponed from July to September. So I thought that I should have enough time to be well prepared. With the confidence of the last years finish at Ironman Poland I started my training really early in October 2021.
I did my preparation with a Power&Pace training plan. Power&Pace was initiated by the German Triathlon Magazine tri-mag.de and they could team up with Björn Geesmann to write the plans. He is the coach of Patrick Lange and other pro triathletes. There are 5 different plans for every taste. Allrounder, Champion, Finisher, Racer and Qualifier. I wanted to go big and started with the Qualifier Plan. A blog post over this training plan will follow soon. After some time I realized that three swim session per week are too much for me, so I didn’t do the Wednesday swim session. Apart from that I sticked to the plan, up until Injury No. 1.
Injury No. 1
In the morning off October 12 I went running. It was still dark and I had a head lamp on. After the warm up I started my first interval and suddenly I stepped onto something, twisted my right ankle and felt to the ground. I quickly stood up again, but I couldn’t step onto my foot. I then saw the thing onto which I stepped. It was an apple. The only one laying around on the pavement. This was insane. How could this happen? Bad karma? My brain was running mad. I somehow managed to walk the 2km home and made this photo from my feet.
My ankle was nearly as big as the apple on which I stepped. I did some self diagnosis and determined that the ligaments where not torn, because I could move my food quit normally. So I decided not to go to a doctor. I treated my ankle with ice bandages, salve and putting my foot higher up, whenever possible. I also started to walk immediately, but very prudent. This is by no means a procedure which I recommend or a medial advice. I’m not a doctor or a medical advisor of any form. That said, running was of the table, but I could still cycle and swim normally.
On October 23 I did my first slow short run (1.7km, 8.15min/km), The foot was still a little bit swollen, but I felt confident. The next day I went 4km even slower 9.23min/km. In November I was back on track and I could follow the plan. I still took it easier then prescribed, but this was alright for me. Over Christmas we (my wife and my two sons), went to Lanzarote (Canary Island) for a surfing holiday trip. For two weeks I had no bike, but more time for running and for surfing. Which was a needed change from the training routine in the pain cave. After the holiday up until April I was then able to follow the plan and make some good progress. But suddenly out of the blue, injury No. 2 hit me.
Injury No. 2
Beginning of April my left Achilles Tendon started to hurt, not really bad, but enough to slow me down again. I reduced my running training and hoped for the best. I also started to do eccentric calf lifts and intensified my stretching routine. Nothing helped and after 4 weeks I went to an orthopedist. He couldn’t do much, but at least he prescribed me 6 session physiotherapy. They did a great job, but it was hard to get appointments, because they where pretty much booked out. So it took me over 2 month to get this 6 sessions in. The last one was the week after the race. In the meantime I tried to get back to running, but Injury No. 3 hit me in May.
Injury No. 3
On an two hour run suddenly I felt a strong pain in my left calf. My physio said that it is a strain. It was not too bad, but after 40 min of really slow running (> 8:00min/km) I felt the calf more and more and had to stop. Still in physiotherapy she tried to treat my Achilles tendon and my calf. One session an other physiotherapist treated me and she checked my plantar venous arch. It was completely stiff. She pressed hard to loosen it and this did the trick. The next day I could run for 45 min without any problems and then another 60 min. This was 10 days before the race.
In the last minute I got sort of fit for the race, but it was clear that the run would be a long endeavor. Nevertheless I wanted to do this race in Switzerland. It was 2 times postponed since 2020 and I couldn’t bear to postpone it another year. So I went to the picturesque town of Thun and tried my best to finish the race. My ambitions to be faster than in Poland, I had already buried after my second injury. On Friday the 8th July in the evening I arrived in Thun and immediately jumped into the lake to check the water. It was refreshing. I guessed 19°C. With my commuter bike I visited the race village, but it was already closed. So I went early to bed, on a parking area not too far from the race village. I woke up early (6 am), took a little breakfast, prepared the race bike, did a 45 min test ride, relaxed for an hour and did a 30 min test run.
At 10 o’clock the registration opened and I go my numbers and the bags for the transition zone. From 2pm on it was possible to check in the bike and the transition bags, which I did. I walk through all the steps from the swim exit to the bike transition and from the end of the bike ride to the run transition. When every step was clear for me, I enjoyed the bike check in spectacle from the outside for some time. After that I went into the lido where the swim would start and relaxed in the shade of a tree the whole afternoon.
In the evening I cooked some noodles and went early (21 pm) to bed. The rolling start was from 6:40 – 7:00 am and I stood up at 4:15 am to take a small breakfast, two bread rolls with some chocolate spread.
Official water temperature was 18°C. Outside it was maybe 14°C. After a short warm up swim in the lake ,I went into my start group. The organizer suggested that everyone should be fair and start in the appropriate group. There where 5 groups, Pro women, < 1:05, 1:05 – 1:15, 1:15 – 1:25, > 1:25. From my training I guessed that I could swim under 1 h 25 min which is 2:12 min/100m. It was a rolling start with 5 persons every 6 second. After some time I jumped in. The first 100m the water wasn’t very deep and it happened that suddenly someone stood in front of me and sorted his/her googles. Apart from that I could get into my rhythm and had no problems. Sighting was easy and with my left/right breathing pattern I swim mostly straight. Entering the harbor, were the swim exit was, got then a little bit crowded. There was a left turn the final right turn and I had to watch out for other swimmer which were zick zacking towards the exit. Eventually I made my way to the exit and crawled up the ramp. After a short dizziness, I ran through the cheering crowd into T1.
I had my race suit under the wet suit, so the transition was fast. The bike course was two loops through the Berner Oberland with a total climb of 2200m. There were some short steeper climbs (< 1km), but nothing to hard and there where a lot of longer climbs with just 1 – 2% (>5km) which were a little bit annoying. Why? Because I couldn’t really feel the climb, but couldn’t make much speed either. In addition on the second loop a stronger head wind slowed me down even more. As expected in Switzerland the roads where very well paved, all dangerous sections were clearly marked and the four aid stations were at ideal spots. As announced the scenery was spectacular and made the ride entertaining. Anyway after 140km I was slowly looking forward to start my run. With the bike I had no issues. I was able to eat well and get everything I needed from the aid stations. I would say an easy ride. Back in T2 I decided to change completely, jumped into my running shirt and shorts and off I went into an uncertain run.
The temperature had risen to around 26°C and I started out really easy onto the three loops. I was constantly monitoring my calf and my Achilles Tendon. Nothing, no pain, so I accelerated just a little bit and hoped that I could do better than in Poland (5h30). At kilometer 18 the man with the hammer waited for me and the run was basically over. I started to walk, jog, walk and finally just walked. Before I finished the second loop my moral was down and a voice in my head started to convince me that it is time to call it a day and withdrawn from the race. I asked a volunteer how the procedure works and he said that this is no option. I thanked him and walk further and thought I will figure the stuff out, when I have finished the second loop. My brain came up with all the excuses that it could image to justify a DNF and I was really sure that I wanted to quit. Suddenly an other runner stopped and walked with me. He immediately started to talk, that he had to vomit several times, that he has no force and is really on the edge. I replied that I will soon quit and than he got a little bit louder and said that this is not a good idea. He didn’t finish a 100km run last year and it still is bothering him a lot and that I will get trouble with my wife and my kids and they will tease me for a long time. Before I realized it the guy was running again and my brain started to run mad. At the aid station just before the end of the second loop I made up my mind, ate all I could stuff in and went into the final loop. Soon I somehow recovered a little bit and finished the last 10 km in a steady jog. My Garmin Forerunner gave up earlier and ran out of energy, before I reached the finish line. I still haven’t realized how I went from nearly quitting to finish the race.
Data File Corruption
The data file was corrupt due to the sudden power loss and I couldn’t download it to Garmin Connect. With the help from https://gotoes.org/strava/index.php I was able to fix the corruption and upload it. But unfortunately the tool couldn’t detect that it was a multi sport event and did put everything into one big activity. Nevertheless I’m glad that I could get the data somehow, to do some analysis. Thanks.
Swim 1:17:46, Bike 6:17:42, Run 6:13:48, Total 14:03:43. A very long day, with a hard earned medal at the end.
Best organized Ironman race I have done so far. Not that the others were in any way chaotic, but here every thing felt 100% right. The scenery was in deed spectacular and even with a bike course who needed my full attention I enjoyed the ride and the views.
From a nutrition point of view I knew what would be on the menu at the aid stations, because it was announced well in at advance of the race. So I could train with this nutrition and I had no issue with that. After the bike I felt well and I could start my run with no energy problems.
But with only one third of my planned run training done, it was clear that this will be a long day. Maybe I should have postponed the race for another year, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to do that race and have to pay the price now. On the positive side I have finished an Ironman race, on the negative side I have my worst result. At the moment I’m not sure what I can do with this. Professional triathletes say after an injury or a bad race, that they will come back stronger and faster. Maybe I should crawl out of my pit hole and start from scratch. We will see how it goes.
Apart from the injuries I had an other problem in the preparation for this race. Even with all the training I was not able to loose one gram of weight. In contrary, I started out in October 2021 with 79kg went up over the winter to 82kg and started the race with 80kg. I felt always hungry, shivered very often and stuffed everything I could find into me, which obviously didn’t help. I was well aware of this, but I haven’t found a good solution yet. This is probably the trickiest part of the whole game, at least for me.