The Pirate Ship of Fools returned from Ironman Switzerland triumphant, skull and crossbones flying. On July 12, our forum triathlon contingent were lining up on the shores of Lake Zurich for the start of Ironman Switzerland – a small matter of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle, and a full 26.2-mile marathon.
This summer's trip saw over 50 forumites board the Pirate ship – including a record number of beginners. Now they're back it's time to catch up with first-timers arctic lady, Nam, PSC, Rio! and seren nos and find out how they got on in Zurich.
Visit the forum for more IM Switzerland race reports and links to stacks more photos.
Arctic lady, 11:46.00
It still feels so surreal that I've done an IM. As we waited by the lake at the start, the tears started coming but my wonderful sherpa Aitch just hugged me tight and told me I wasn't alone.
I didn't hear the gun, I just saw people swimming and joined in. I held myself back, thinking about the bike and run.
Coming into the island was horrible. I got pulled back by my legs, swam over and knocked in the head but surprised myself and stayed calm – it's all part of the mass-start experience!
Out on the bike the wind bore right through me and I was relieved to get off the flat and have some climbing to keep me entertained. I'd worked out my nutrition strategy the week before during the middle of a party, and it seemed to be working fine.
In T2 I banged my feet on the ground to stop them getting numb – I didn't want to waste six miles with numb feet like at Bala. I needn't have worried – when I started the run, everything hurt. I was struggling with every step but remembered Fat Buddha saying that each step is a step closer to the end, and I kept repeating that mantra. I was getting slower, losing time and I thought I'd have to walk the next 12 miles.
But then my friend and her hubby saw me and I could see surprise over their faces. "Go for it, you can get sub-12!" they yelled.
And that was it. I went for it, I didn't care about the pain, the aches, the cramps.
I gave it everything coming into the finish. The Pirates were in the grandstand yelling and it spurred me on. I didn't know if I was going to make sub-12, so I sprinted with all the energy I had left to cross the line. Afterwards, I couldn't believe my time. My time sheet said I was 17th in my age group, and I was sure they'd printed out the wrong times!
The gun went off with a faint pop and for a second my heart stopped... and then I swam. Before I knew it I was cruising, and since I'd never done the distance in open water I was quietly pleased when I saw my time.
On the bike, it was lovely to hear people shouting "allez allez Conny, hop hop hop!" and sometimes I had a lump in my throat just realising I was doing it. I was maintaining a decent average speed when I came to a roundabout, when it all went wrong...
The road sign said straight on, but I thought the marshal was directing me to the first exit. I was confused but there were no other bikes in sight and although I had an odd feeling, I turned right. I came down a steep long windy hill and at the bottom there was nobody... no marshal, no IM sign on the road, nothing.
I met a local lady on a bike, who confirmed that the road I wanted was up a hellish hill, steeper and longer than anything I had ever ridden. The lady cycled up ahead of me and when I got to the top I could see her berating a marshal. I didn't have time to argue – I had added 7.5 miles to the distance and wasted at least 35 minutes. I got back on the course and cycled as hard as my little legs could manage.
The sweeper was ahead of me, and the elites were lapping me at a frightening pace and screaming at me.
At Landiwiese I realised I was halfway to the cut-off time and I hadn't even done Heartbreak Hill. I calculated that if I kept up my bust-a-gut speed I would still fall short by five miles. Something in me just died, and I pulled over, got off my bike and cried.
But life goes on and there were people on the course to support. I handed back my chip, changed into the supporters' kit and went back to the course. It was a privilege to support everyone.
As the Iron-weekend approached I felt ready and scared at the same time. At the start, I stayed out of the crowds to relax and missed the start hooter. Calmly wading into the lake and watching the field churning up the water I felt great. My swim was uneventful – or as uneventful as it can be to navigate a tight course with 2,000 other people!
As I waited for the bogs in T1, I watched numerous Pirates enter and leave transition. Oh well, I had all day!
On the bike course the Pirates were everywhere, making so much noise that I couldn't help but grin from ear to ear. The course was flat at first and I had to hold myself back as people streamed past me. It would've been tempting to try to keep up but I had been warned about the fast first section so I concentrated on eating, drinking and keeping up a reasonable pace. Seeing my family was magic and I grinned more and more as the day went on.
My plan had always been to run the whole marathon, but this strategy was nixed by the frequency and offerings of the aid stations. I left most stations with cola and water in one hand, sponges balanced on my head, a cup of bouillon in the other hand and a mouthful of fruit and saltsticks!
My immediate reaction after finishing was that I wanted more, and this hasn't dulled. The night before, I wasn't sure if I could actually pull it off – well, I did and I'll do more. I'm totally thrilled with my times – I could have gone harder and faster, but I wouldn't have enjoyed it.
Joining the supporters at the finish and sipping a cold beer was surreal – I felt slightly numb from what I'd done, and what others around me had done too. Getting to the start was an achievement in itself, and the race itself just topped the experience off. It was a long year, but I'm an Ironman and I'm still grinning.
I felt oddly calm as I headed down for breakfast on race day. After some last-minute advice from Crashie and Squishy, I got in the water and the gun went off. After a kick to the ear I swam steadily and before I knew it, I was at the island. I put on a spurt for the Pirates watching and ran past them smiling.
When I came into transition, I realised my swim was much slower than I'd expected or hoped – but never mind, onto the bike...
I got going, but something didn't feel right. I was struggling to keep my pace up, and after about 30 miles I decided to track down the problem. One of my front brake blocks was touching the rim. It was easily solved, but I'd wasted lots of time and energy. I knew I'd be fighting the cut-off times as I headed up the hills, and by lap two of the bike course I had company – the tail motorbikes. The remaining hills were a blur but somehow I kept turning the pedals. During the descent back to transition I was looking forward to getting off and supporting, and trying again another year.
But they let me onto the run course!
I burst into tears – maybe I could really do this. The Pirates were out in force cheering everything that moved. I ran a bit, walked a lot and ran again until I barely knew how to put one foot in front of the other. I knew in my heart that I would finish – even if I was on my hands and knees. By the end of the third lap, it was very dark and everyone had gone home, but I was determined to cross that finish line, so I kept on walking.
Then, there it was – the finish turn!
Heading up towards the deserted gantry was horrible, but I'd done it! I was 34 minutes over the cut-off, so I wasn't expecting a T-shirt but a kindly marshal gave me one. I cried again! I'd done it – I had finished an Ironman.
seren nos, 15:19.07
At the start, I didn't have time to panic – I missed the warnings, heard the gun go off and thought I'd better start swimming. The water was lovely, the views were stunning and I just kept going. I had no idea of my pace and I was gobsmacked to discover I'd done the swim in an hour and a half. I was hoping for 1:50, finished in 1:32 and I went onto the bike on a real high.
I loved the bik lege. I sang most of the way around the first lap, just trying to make myself take it at a sensible rate. I hadn't looked at the route much before, and when we were heading back to the shore I thought, "That wasn't too bad at all, those climbs were easy!" I felt like such an idiot when we turned a corner to face the Beast…
I finished the first bike lap in about 3:45 and I knew then that I would finish.
I noticed a splinter in my arm and the marshals made me wait for a medic. Luckily the medic wasn't long. They got the splinter out and sent me on my way. I was close to tears and my arm was swollen and painful. But the pain in my arm overrode the pain everywhere else, meaning I only had one thing to worry about. With that logic, I was on my way!
Out on the run, I gradually got more and more tired. My stomach was painful and bloated, and it was tough to keep going. I really missed my other half, and when I got to the Pirate group I managed to mumble to Garr that I wanted a cwtch. Luckily he understood Welsh and gave me the hug I wanted! It worked wonders.
When I finally got to the finish, I managed to put on a little run and with a Pirate roar behind me I was home. I felt sick and tired but I had finished. It was a dream come true. I was so happy and it still hasn't really sunk in.