My quest to join the exclusive “Ironman Globe Finisher” club took me to Switzerland. Club membership requires you to finish an Ironman event on every continent that has one. The perks include entry into the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI every other year plus a great t-shirt. Although, these perks and the club for that matter, only exist in my head, I want to be ready with my qualifications as soon as the World Triathlon Corporation (the owners of Ironman branded events) creates the club and starts accepting members.
I woke up super early, put on my race chip, had breakfast and started to get my mind right for the long day ahead. I put my stuff together, went thru my pre-race rituals, and then headed for the race start. Showed up at transition and set my gear next to Katherine, my Kuota K-Factor Tri bike (aka Kathy when she’s racing). My usual goal is simply to finish. However, this time I set the bar a little higher. Today I needed a “Daylight Finish”. I promised my family and friends (Mom, Dad, Reuben, Jessica, Carla and Colin) that they wouldn’t have to wait ALL DAY & NIGHT like some of them have done at other races. This time it would only be ALL DAY! That’s the least I could do for the best “Spect-Athletes” (Spectators that work as hard as Athletes to support you on race day) in the world.
|Swim Starting Area|
The first 200 meters were great, got into my rhythm, and settled in for a long day. Everyone warned me that the European triathletes were more aggressive in the swim compared to American triathletes. There were a couple guys that tried to invade my personal space and a few others that grabbed my feet. Keeping a high elbow made them rethink coming into my personal space and my distinctive “2 beat kick” convinced them to let go of my feet. After that I felt like I was swimming with friends.
I found an opening, headed for the inside lane and established my position. Another swimmer came over and swam right next to me. At first I though he wanted my spot but after a few strokes realized he was going to help me defend the inside position. Whenever another swimmer tried to swim between us we closed ranks and made it impossible for them to pass thru. We dominated the inside lane to the bridge, under it and all the way to the swim exit. My swim buddy was faster than me so I had to pick up the pace in order to hold the line. As we got out of the water and ran across the landing, we glanced at each other, nodded and jumped back in for the second loop. There was no way I could keep that pace for another mile. After about five minutes I eased off the gas and settled back into my race pace. The second loop went by quickly and before I knew it I was done. Swim time-1: 30:18
The rest of the ride back to town was fairly fast. Passed the transition area and headed for the last hill on the course called “Heartbreak Hill”. Got to Heartbreak Hill prepared for the worst but started to think the Swiss may not really know how to properly name hills. From the base of the hill, before you could see a single spectator, the roar of the crowd and a guy on the PA system calling out athlete names could be heard. As soon as you made the first turn onto the hill you were in the “Tour de France”.The crowds were lined up on both sides of the hill as far as the eye could see. People were spilling into the streets running along with athletes, chanting, “Up, Up, Up” or “Pop, Pop, Pop” (couldn’t tell with all the excitement). Feeding off the crowd’s energy, I passed one competitor. The crowd went wild and so did I. I got out of the saddle and passed two more riders before arriving at the top of the hill to thunderous applause. Saw my Spect-Athletes (Mom, Dad, Carla and Colin) cheering me on.
The weather conditions were bad all day. It was freezing cold, the on again off again rain kept the roads wet and the thunder and lightening were a little off putting. From time to time the sun came out, warmed you up then faded behind a cloud just before it rained again. All of that was bad enough but the roads were open to traffic making it even worse. Whenever you’re flying down a hill, on a wet road, at 30+mph only to see a motorist speeding up the same hill, it just sent chills down your spine. However, when it started to hail—that’s right, I said HAIL—this officially became the worst race conditions ever.
The second loop was off to a great start. Apart from spending so much energy shivering to stay warm, everything was good. When I got back to “Suicide” I expected it to be as easy as the first time. While never living up to the name, it definitely felt more like “Assault & Battery” the second time around. The weather finally took its toll and everyone struggled to make it up the Beast.
It was a long slow grind all the way to the top.
It was a long slow grind all the way to the top.
|Reuben & Jessica|
Made it to Heartbreak Hill, ready for my second “Tour de France” experience. This time you didn’t hear the crowd or the announcer on the PA. Maybe the neighbors complained and forced them to turn it down a bit. After making the turn, the truth could no longer be denied. There was NO CROWD! The rain and hail had scattered everyone for shelter. With the road completely empty you could actually see how steep and crazy this hill really was. Although the difficulty of the hill doesn’t break your heart, the absence of all the love from the spectators you felt the first time around does. By the time the hill was done, so was I. Started spinning the last few miles to prepare for the run. Despite the crazy course conditions I rocked the bike, finally averaging over 16mph for the 112 miles. Bike time- 6:50:50 (Fastest Ever)
(SPECIAL THANKS To: Richard, Elizabeth, and Shelly for the hundreds of miles you endured to get me ready.)
The last leg of the bike took the wind out of my sail but when I saw my split time I was back on “cloud 9” coming into transition. Dropped Kathy off, grabbed some gel and headed for the run exit. Leaving T2 I had a craving for salt and wanted pretzels. T2-4:07
The run turned out to be a four loop cross country/steeple chase course vs. a marathon course. We ran over cobblestone, pavement, gravel, dirt, mud, grass, up/down stairs, in a garden, over a bridge, thru a tunnel and around a lake.
|Carla & Colin|
|OnPoint Fitness Aid Station|
|Waiting at Aid Station|
Salvation finally came during the third loop. For the past 15 miles I would run past a bunch of people, disappear for a few minutes and then run past most of those same people again. After noticing this trend for more than an hour a runner on her fourth loop offered me some Imodium A-D. I graciously accepted and popped the pill. It took a few miles for it to kick in and to feel like I could actually run without stopping. Before loop three was over I finally caught up to Adrianna. (3rd loop average pace11: 15/mile). Despite the GI issues taking everything out of me physically and almost mentally, I surprisingly held on to a halfway decent pace. Although I was slowing down with each loop, a quick look at the time and it was obvious I could salvage my “Daylight” finish. A second glance sent my brain into overdrive. Since I’m going to get a “Daylight” finish, I wondered what it would take to get a new PR. The final calculation was around a 10min/mile for the last 10K. At this point my pace was heading closer to 15 min/mile than 10min/mile.
|Relax, Lean & Lift|
10K- The hills are alive with the sounds of music. With songs they have sung for a thousand years.
9K- Do-re-mi-fa-so la-ti. Doe, a deer, a female deer. Ray, a drop of golden sun. Me, a name I call myself. Far, a long, long way to run.
8K -Buffalo soldier, dreadlock rasta. There was a buffalo soldier in the heart of America.
7K- In my best Count from Sesame Street voice: 1 slow runner passed ha ha ha, 2 slow runners passed blah ha ha, 3 really slow runners passed, 10 very slow runners passed. “C” is for cookie that’s good enough for me.
6K- Rubber Ducky you’re the one, you make bath time lots of fun. It’s time for the Percolator; it’s time for the Percolator.
5K- Oh we are the Pathfinder strong. Servants of God are we.
4K- I was born by the river in a little tent and just like the river I’ve been running ever since. Its been a long, long time coming but I know a change gonna come. Oh, yes it is.
3K Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole.
| Ironman Switzerland |
I ran thru the finish line with my arms in the air as the announcer declared: “Lloyd Henry, you are an IRONMAN”! The race was finally over and I had done it. A “Day Light” Finish, a new PR 12:57:31, ran a negative marathon split averaging 9:15 min/mile for the last 10K with the last 2 miles averaging 8:18 min/mile and got one continent closer to becoming an “Ironman Globe Finisher”.
Plan your race and race your plan.
2) Protect your personal space during the swim. Maintain a patient lead arm, high elbows and a good two beat kick.
3) Swim with the tri top under the wetsuit. Leads to a faster T1 time.
4) Save something for the last 30 miles of the bike. Proper fueling goes a long way. (Herbalife 24 Prolong)
5) Never eat orange pegs and BBQ potato chips ever again.
6) Carry Imodium A-D and bring an extra one to share.
7) Triathletes come back stronger and faster after childbirth. Discovered soon after the race that the only reason I actually caught my friend Adrianna on the run was because she was pulling over every lap or so to feed her newborn baby.
8) Always travel with your Spect-Athletes. It makes the experience so much better. Plus it doesn’t hurt if one of them can also get an All Access Media Pass to photograph your entire race experience.