Ironman Switzerland 2011 - 10th July 2011

Ironman Switzerland 2011 - 10th July 2011

 I know it's very long. Wrote this at the airport.

There's also a really short 'My Journey' in the end.

It was no small task just to get there and back on my own.

Found it difficult to unbox bike, get all my stuff to transition and back to hotel, box bike afterwards to leave hotel room by 10am.

I refused to use the overpriced taxis and transfers and juggled both cardboard bike box and suitcase which proved to be harder than expected because the swiss seem to love steps and dislike lifts.

There were steps up to the train station both direction, up to the train itself, then inside the train. Airport is full of steps and the small hotel didn't have a lift, either.


Zurich is charming btw, beautiful location as well.

I've run into two problems straight.

The fire alarm was beeping constantly in my room in need of new batteries and my tooth crown have fallen out. Glued it back with superglue.

I've found locals much more helpful when speaking german.

Not a nice start but at least got exhausted from it and slept really very well.

(Despite the tram station just under the window and the church bell over the road

signing every quarter of an hour once and every hour - that means 12 at midnight).


Slept well again and was full of energy in the morning. Loved the buzz in transition.

Admired the pros - Ronnie Shildknecht seemed very relaxed - and admired their bikes. They are very small frames btw, the first two women's bike (K.Thurig, E.Csomor) had even smaller than regular wheels.


The swim was very crowded from start to finish.

It was a run into water start which I've never done before.

There has been a women only start which I used but soon we all got mixed up.

It was the most aggressive swim I've done and it never settled down.

Sometimes I had to fight just to stay on surface although I swum very wide.

Maybe I just had been at an unfortunate crowded place I couldn't get out off.

There was a small island to run through and there was a queue in front of the ramp with extra punching.

A huge huge ship also came very close in the second lap causing big waves.

I even got seasick from floating that much up and down but it went away soon.

All in all slowest swim ever for me by far.

There has been no race clock at all except at the finish line (which you saw every lap on the run) so luckily I didn't know my time.


Took time to calm down in T1 after the stressful swim and started the bike feeling fresh.

Btw the bikes were racked very tight. From 'head to toe' so the back wheels really didn't count but the drops were tangled with both neighbouring bikes' drops.

There was so little space the bikes maybe wouldn't have fitted in in their boxes.


Feared the bike course a lot. Mapmyride and ridewithgps showed me huge hills with steep, technical descents. I was told it was not so bad and I would make it but I didn't believe in it.

Just bought the bike last August, had to learn all those technical bits (clipless, tri bar, tyres and tubes, gears, tools, co2 cartridges) that come natural to cyclists but I had no cue.

I'd like to thank you for all the good advice.

Had cadence related knee problems till April. I've sorted it out at last, probably a bit too late.

I couldn't release my grip on the go so had to stop just to drink in the beginning.

Using tri bars or cornering was unrealistic at least.

My bike handling did get slightly better still I felt I wasn't ready.


I loved the bike course. A bit hilly, yes, but not too bad

In fact I've done a lot hillier in training.

After the Beast I knew I'd make it if I got no technical problems with the bike.

I hadn't, although I was worried about a disturbing noise in the smaller gears.

There has been a huge thunderstorm lasting about 90 min with deafening lightnings and very strong headwind just as I'd been on a long exposed drag called Beauty on the second lap.

(My two longest training rides proved to be very helpful after all.

The first bit of SRS Eastbourne was very windy - bike stopped on a downhill at Beachy Head and it has been raining for 6 hours straight during Tour the Weald.)

Could hardly see the road from the heavy rain so had to be careful, there has been branches and puddles on road. Couldn't use the tri bars afterwards but it has been useful till then.

At my speed it's not that more aero but I felt the difference in the wind and it provided me with another comfortable hand position.

It also held my third drink bottle as I thought I'd have to stop for getting the bottles at feed stations and the less I needed to stop the better.

I was surprised how easy it was getting a bottle from a helper,

although I got soon sick from PBdrinks and sticked to water from then on.

Had a bento box for the bars and a gel bottle, too. Precious advice it was, thanks.


Nutrition on the bike is crucial for a strong finish. You must literally stuff yourself.

I actually counted the calories and carbs for my HIM and sticked to that amount per hour later in training. Unfortunately couldn't eat even close to plan during IM. I'm sure I'd have got into serious difficulties late in the marathon if I'd sticked to my usual pace.


It's held on open roads but it was very low traffic and marshalls stopped cars at junctions and roundabouts.

There were no signs at all (except no aero bar descent signs) but marshalling on the bike route was very good by the time I got there -   but two pros got lost. How could that happen?

Also at around 40k there has been a curb on course. It was on a descend, second part of a corner. I'm not sure if I'd have seen it without slowing down because of the ambulance. Poor chap didn't look good at all. There has been two more curbs to negotiate but not in corners.


Heartbreak Hill is steepish but quite short. Well, second time it seemed steep.

First lap was amazing but scary here. A'la Tour de France the crowds are crazy leaving just a small gap to get through. My adrenaline level shot high as it was way too close for my liking.

Spectators were great throughout although the best ever crowds are probably at Hastings half marathon


The rain stopped just before T2, so I was lucky to run in brand new dry socks.

In T2   I've heard Erika Csomor from Hungary would finish very soon.

Changed from cycling shorts to running shorts from my worst scenario bag.

It was no worst scenario, in fact I was all smiles and over the moon.

In the meantime Csomor came in 3rd after last week's 2nd at IMA.

She got interviewed straight away.

Another slow transition. Never mind. I made the bike cut off.

From now on I truly enjoyed every minute of realizing my dream.                         


Time flew by on the run because it's 4 laps with lots of turning points and I got to see most people on my first lap.

Later it got less crowded and I chatted almost all the way.

Tri is the only sport I know of in which you're actually in the same race as the pros and the top age groupers. I loved it.

It got very hot again soon. Late in the run oranges, pretzels and soup were welcome.

And those wet sponges. They seemed extreme weird until I tried. Awesome.

It's not completely flat although it's a lakeside. There are under and over passes and there has been quite a lot of gravel, a lot of different styles of cobblestones, plain mud and even wooden ramps.

There's a bit more about the run at the end under 'Journey".


Arriving to the finish line was a blast. The crowds were crazy.

The announcer must had a view on the arrivers because I've heard my name minutes ahead as he commented on (what I thought at the time) my sprint.


I've heard IMCH was very well organized. I think this year there has been negative bits although with an event this big it might be expected.

.- Getting into transition to check in the bike was a nightmare.

(Had I known I just missed McKormack I'd been even more upset)

- There were very few loos, 4 on the bike route   and   ~10 on the run for 2000 people.

There has been several urinals, which helped.

Should have been one at every feed station on the bike route but there wasn't any at Heartbreak Hill feed station for sure - I know because I planned to stop to refuel at the top

and even asked for it. There has been one just before it but decided not to ride back down.

-After the race there has been nothing to refuel except PowerBar gels, bars and drinks.

Most people couldn't even look at anything PowerBar.

There wasn't even any water. I am slow and understand the cake was gone but no water???

Fortunately I had water and a protein bar in my drop in bag.

- Race director had been quite rude at race briefing.

He announced the extra 2 miles due to roadworks (steep decend and 66m! ascend) with a huge smile on.

He warned us he was the boss there and could do anything he wanted.

The 50 Kona qualifiers wouldn't get their slots if they wouldn't be there at the very moment he announced their name at the award ceremony. After one minute he'd delete the name and the next finisher would get the slot.

He told us there has been huge debates over this in the past but as long as he was race director it'd get allocated this way. His approach simply annoyed me.

- Splits are clearly wrong

- Finisher T shirt is most ugly


The journey

No one could have foreseen this 2 years ago.

In July 2009 I was 223lbs /over 100 kg with four young kids feeling very miserable.

I wanted to do sg with my looks. I saw all the runners in town and decided to give it a go.

I've never done any sports before and realized I couldn't run with that weight on.

I started swimming. Could do sg similar to breaststroke but couldn't do the front crawl.

I learned it from the web (goswim, swimsmooth) then joined the Marlins in Sept 2009

still not able to do one length. Jon didn't want to have me but I'd been desperate by then.

In Nov 2009 I started jogging. Taking up running for the first time in life is very rewarding.

I'll always remember my first jog ever. It didn't last a minute. Improved every week.

In Jan 2010 I went down for a swim on a Thursday night. Joined MSTC that night.

March 2010: HM (Hastings)

May 2010: Marathon (Essex)

Aug 2010: bought a bike and entered IM Switzerland

May 2011: HIM (Marshman)

July 2011: IM Switzerland


In the meantime all my boys (3) started swimming with the Marlins - and they're good at it!

July 2011: my husband's first tri (Oly)

July 2011: hubby has entered IM Austria !!!!


Both Claire and me shared our journeys to IM.

Her journey is really heart warming and extraordinary.

I'm sure there are a lot more great stories out there among Ironman finishers.

I think anyone can do it (I mean at the 'just finish' pace) with a bit of determination.

A reason to do it helps a lot, too.


I did have an awful lot of smaller problems with cycling all season.

Mostly knee ligament issues but I also went down on ice in January hurting my shoulder

and got stung by a wasp on the eyelid on my very last ride before IM. My eyelids got swollen,

I had trouble just to get home and half my face was painful for days.

These difficulties can be overcome, they probably made me even more determined.


It might not be for everyone, though. It's either slooow or very tough.

I do enjoy being slow on my own and relaxing.

Also I think I couldn't get much faster. I tried but don't enjoy intervals at all.

I must be a longer distance type because I start to feel really good only after about an hour.


It doesn't take that much time if you use your time wisely.

Indoor trainer is unfortunately a must for time saving.

Less than an hour on it makes me tired every time. If I'm really pushing it 20 min does it.

You don't have to run a lot for an IM marathon finish. 3 shorter runs a week is enough.

(Less than 4-4.30 must be different.)

I've averaged only one run a week plus a 15min brick run every other week this year. Sad.

Last year I've been running a lot. But you've got only so many hours a week.

I love swimming and prioritized cycling because I wasn't able to hold the needed speed for even half (or quarter of) an hour in the beginning. So running became last and got dropped week after week.

I did 2 marathons and several HMs before so I knew I would manage it somehow.


During the run I couldn't know how much more energy I'd got or whether my digestion would last and I wanted a sure finish.

In March during a longer brick session I collapsed. A complete stranger called my hubby.

I even had gastrointestinal bleeding. Most scary.

My hubby got home unexpectedly early. I've just eaten my curry but forgot about it and decided to use the extra time for training. Felt good. Pushed it.

It happened in seconds. Didn't really have time to react. I felt falling down and blacked out.

I guess I'd pushed through severe hypoglycaemia because I couldn't digest the curry on the bike and wasn't eating either as I've just eaten.

Didn't dare to run for quite a while after this.

After seeing so many people sick on the first lap (light coloured shorts in an IM marathon look really disgusting with brownish filling) I decided to go deliberately slower.

My Garmin was most helpful with pacing. Finishing time really didn't matter.

Most probably I couldn't have been much faster anyway.

It was like a good party, enjoyed every minute of it.


I was surprisingly well on Monday but always had trouble on the Tuesdays after a long Sunday ride. It's Tuesday evening now and I still have no muscle or other pain at all.

Next time I might push it having a time goal in mind but I didn't want to risk my first IM finish. I did sprint the last km.


My splits:

Swim: 1:22.25

T1: 5.43

Bike: 7:59.38

T2: 10.25

Run: 5:59.38

Overall: 15:37.17


This is unfortunately also a good bye letter.

I've been knowing this for a month or two

just have been too sad to share.

We're moving back to Hungary this July.

I'm very sad about this. I'll miss UK a lot

and especially will miss MSTC and triathlon.

I'll try to keep it up back in Hungary, too.

It'll be harder as it's very cold for 4 months

and very hot for 2 months a year.

Your weather is perfect for outdoor sports.


Thank you MSTC. You've been helpful sharing your experience.

Got lots of inspiration from you along the way.


Best wishes,

Kate Walch