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BKR Ironman Switzerland - Kona Baby!

Ironman Switzerland - Race Report

Pre Swim – I felt out of this world nervous! The whole morning felt rushed, even though we got on the shuttle bus at 5am and our start time was 6:40am. Most time was wasted in toilet queues – although at the same time, that’s the time I felt most at ease, talking to the other competitors (two of which ironically were from Goole & Brough!!) I do always get really stressed before a race start, but this felt worse! Partly because everything was so spaced out in terms of locations so we seemed to spend so much time walking about to get to where we needed to be, but also partly just because I was feeling the pressure of the massive event ahead of me. Whist it felt rushed, I was actually completely ready in good time. Stood on the start line, I seriously questioned what I was doing there and why on earth I had entered this event?! The water looked beautiful though and we heard (But couldn’t actually see) the pro’s head off the start line which was really exciting and helped get me into a positive head space -but most importantly I was stood there with Mel which felt so special and reassuring all at once. We were going into this epic race together! The swim course looked absolutely HUGE as it was a one loop course, and I wasn’t 100% certain of the route but I had a rough idea having seen it on paper and I assumed it would come clear as I started to swim, which it did. The water was really busy to start with – I kept getting squashed between people but I did my best to stand my ground, without putting myself of too much risk of getting dunked or kicked in the head. Once we got round the first turn though, it spaced out a bit. From there I loved it. The water was Crystal clear so I could see the other swimmers when my head was underwater, meaning it was easier from a slighting perspective to make sure I was headed in the right direction. The temperature was perfect too and the course was simple. The only slightly complicated bit was towards the swim exit where we had to swim through a jetty with a load of boats parked up, but there were plenty of marshals to help guide us. Its fair to say I was really happy with my swim! I can’t quite believe I swam at that pace for so long! Side note: I’m never swimming in the lagoon again – it will be way too much of a comedown! Lol! T1 I exited the water and ran through the tonne of people cheering us all on - I saw my friend who's hubby was competing so that was really fab to hear her shouting me! When I got into transition, it all went okay I think. Its the first time I’ve had to do transition with the bags etc, and it must have showed as there were people shouting instructions at me from the side lines – mainly in Swiss but I got the idea of “get your bag!”! Lol! My first mistake was to take the run bag instead of the bike bag, but I realised almost straight away and re-hooked the wrong bag. I then thought I had everything I needed, re-hooked the bag, started to run over to my bike and realised I didn’t have my sunglasses on. So I had to go back for those, and had a minor panic when I couldn’ find them at first. Next time I’ll put them in the big hard case so they are easier to find in the bag. As I retrieved my bike, I heard them announce “Melanie Walker is out of the water” so I gave a little “yey” out loud for Mel before trotting off, skipping past the "walkers" whilst turning on my Wahoo which had timed out from when I’d turned it on earlier. As a result it didn’t automatically load the route so I was route-less, but I didn’t find that an issue really. My mounting all went well and off I went on the bike course.

Bike I bloody LOVED that bike course! It was everything I’d hoped it would be! I think that as a result, I went too hard too soon, but I was just enjoying it so much! Plus on the TT, you feel like you’re racing all the time, right?! And I didn’t much like it when someone overtook me so I tended to try and either hang onto them or to re-overtake them! Possibly not the best strategy in hindsight but it kind of felt like instinct! Lol! I felt like I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time. The supporters were totally fab – “Hopp hopp hopp!” they kept shouting, and because I expressed my appreciation for their support – either through a smile, thumbs up or a little saddle dance, they got even louder and more encouraging! I high-fived every child who offered out their hand and just loved it! This probably also distracted me and I possibly went harder on some of the hills than I should have, but I really felt I was having the time of my life! The hills felt pretty okay – none of them felt massively steep, other than the odd one, they were more drawn out really. The descents were fab too as they didn’t feel particularly risky so I was able to let the bike go quite a bit (not literally obviously – I just mean I stayed off the brakes). The second loop did feel harder, the hills all felt steeper and that’s where I felt the fatigue and realised I may have gone too hard on the first loop. I also stopped at the personal needs station – my Garmin says that cost me about 1m 15s. So that delay, the interruption in my rhythm and the fact I was feeling tired all led up to Mel catching me I think! In hindsight I maybe could have stuck with my old cassette too as none of the hills were like the ones I’d struggled on in Tour of the Pennines. But the main thing is, I need to learn to pace like Mel! She sailed past me on one of the hills and I had no chance of sticking with her! She's awesome!

One thing that did cause me an issue in that second lap was cramp though. I started to feel it twinge down my left leg – it felt like it was right down my inner leg leg. I tried all sorts of ways to try and mentally stop it (Hinchy had told me about imagining having vinegar on my tongue so I even tried that!!) and luckily it didn’t really take hold, but it did cause me pain quite a few times when it came on. I tried to stretch my leg out by standing up on the pedals too. I was concerned it was going to be a problem when I jumped off my bike at dismount and I'd end up in a heap on the floor as I dismounted, but luckily it didn’t’ massively cause an issue then or on the run. T2 Dismount went well – took my feet out of the pedals on the approach and it went smoothly – no cramp! Changed into my trainers as quickly as I could, grabbed my emergency gel and headed out. It did make me chuckle though, seeing some of the other competitors having a proper sit down, chat and a change! Run

I didn’t really feel comfortable on the run at any point of the run! I went out too fast so tried to slow it down, which I did manage but probably too gradually. I wanted to be nearer 9min miles but it took me about 3 miles to get to that pace. I saw Mel up ahead of me quite early on as we went around an athletics track, I saw her coming up the final straight as I was heading out on the track, so I knew I was around 400m behind her. I also knew though I didn’t want to speed up to catch her so I just took my time and caught up with her naturally. By the time I caught her I was really feeling the strain so it was so good having her there. Mel told me she was walking the feed stations so I was very pleased to do the same. About 45 mins into the run was when my legs first gave up and I walked – bless Mel she tried to encourage me on but I felt I was at breaking point, so she walked with me (amazing teammate or what?!). I felt lightheaded and almost dizzy. Mel was amazing - she tried to pick me up mentally, so from there we did get going again for a bit. We just tried to keep it going between the feed stations. We both made a toilet stop, which took longer than it should have as one of them was occupied so we both had to wait for the same one, then both struggled to get back into our sweaty soggy Tri suits – arhhhh! It seemed like when I started to feel a bit better, Mel felt awful, and vice versa, so we kind of helped each other out through our ups and downs. I think it was not long after this point where we decided we’d messed up our race so much that there was no point in pushing ourselves through hell and we may as well enjoy the rest of the course together – walking as much as we needed to and having a giggle. We both felt totally empty it seemed, Tim said when he saw us towards the end of the 1st lap (of 3), he thought there was a real risk I might not make the finish as I looked so awful – he thought the medics might pull me. Even Darcy asked him if I was going to be okay! Bless her

I think it was at about 10 miles to go though that I started to feel better - somewhat recovered. We broke into one of our jogs and I just felt like I was okay again – unfortunately though, Mel didn’t. I tried to encourage her on a bit but we were clearly in different places at that point. She told me to go on but I didn’t want to as she had stopped for me early on when she was feeling okay, it was my turn to do the same for her. We stayed together for a few more miles – stopped for Mel to go to the toilet a couple more times – and then she urged me to crack on. So I did. I still walked the aid stations but tried my hardest to keep going in between. It didn’t always happen but I tried to keep the walks “with purpose” (another Hinchy tip!) and to get myself going again as much as possible. I tried not to let any females overtake me (if they did I’d try and re-overtake them) and I managed to catch up with quite a few ladies and overtake them which made me feel good – even though I had no idea what age group they were in or what lap they were on! It was just something to focus on.

The finishing line was emotional! As I turned the corner to the finishing straight I could hardly believe I had made it! It was amazing and everything I hoped it would be! "You are an Ironman" was the most amazing thing to hear!!! And to do that whole thing with Mel made it extra special too :)

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