Ironman Switzerland - Peter Fitzgerald Race Report

15 July 2011


Following on from George Sherwoods piece on Challenge Roth Ironman, fellow Ironman (and also fellow club sponsor) Peter Fitzgerald has also written an account of his experience!

It's not called EASYMAN!!!

Let's start with hoping that this will inspire you to do an Ironman by telling you that i did my very first Sprint Triathlon less than a year before my Ironman!!!

In August 2010 i decided a day before the Clonea "Gold Coast" Triathlon that i would sign up for my free T-Shirt. I headed off that morning with a borrowed Wetsuit (possibly from Aldi!!), a basic racer and a simple mindset that i can Swim/Float (not more than 2 lengths!!), cycle/coast (never more than 25K), & run/walk (not more than 5 miles)! Not wanting to recollect that race too much i'll move along swiftly to where i am today...

Ironman Switzerland......We headed out to Switzerland on the Wednesday before the event to get acclimatised to 30°C temperatures! On the first day after assembling our bikes we went for a 50K cycle which brought us through 3 countries Switzerland, France & Germany with some nice climbs also! A 5K run the next day and that was it, the next time i would sit in the saddle or slip on my runners would be race day! Luckily for us the Ironman 5150 Olympic distance Triathlon was being staged the day before so we got to see some of the ITU boys in action which included an idol of mine, Chris McCormack (Ironman World Champion) !! Not only did we get to see him pass us on the bike at 45Kmph + but we also got to meet with him at the finish line where he gave us some tips for race day, to say this was overwhelming would be an understatement!

Race Day.... From other Ironman stories you prob know the drill at this stage, up @ 4:00am and eating as much as you can etc...... We arrive at transition at around 5:30am, first task is to locate my bike amongst 2,600 others! I neatly place all supplies in my little area, 8 Protein Bars, 12 Gels, 2 Energy Drinks, 1 Water, Cycling Shoes/Socks, Running Shoes/Socks, Race Number/Belt, Helmet, Glasses... just replicating the feeling here that something is missing, because on the morning that's how you will feel! From other's advice I get to the portaloo's ASAP, spend 20 mins queuing. When i arrive back to put on my Wetsuit i hear the commentator mention 15 mins to start, WHERE DID THE LAST 3 HOURS I GO.. i scream to myself!

We are herded down to the start line, there are whispers of the water being too hot for wetsuits, a slight panic ensues but i hop into the water straight away thinking that if they don't want me to wear a wetsuit, they'll have to remove it from me by hand themselves!!! I now make it to the Public Baths where we will start from a small sandy slipway! The music is pumping, people are clamping, the smell of fear (Yes it is actually a smell and not a nice one!!)..... Where is the adrenaline? , why am i so calm i think?? I repeat my own little mantra to myself.. "You've spent a whole year training for this Peter.. swimming in between 5 year-olds (in the bloody lanes!!)@ the Watershed every week, cycling through potholes and changing punctures in the rain, and running 10-15 miles through the snow!.... when today is over you will be an Ironman and nobody can ever take that away from me!"

DREI!....ZWEI!!....EINS!!!!!!! .... and we're off!!If i'm being honest my goal for the swim was to complete it in less than 2 hours, i remember being so relieved when i heard they had moved the cut off out to 2hrs' 20 mins... 1Hr 27min's later, i'm on me bike (literally!!)... i'm delighted so far i head out towards the mountains on 30K of flat rolling road, i look down to my bike computer, i'm averaging 38kmph, "Am i going too fast is this my first mistake???".. regardless i head on and make the dreaded left turn towards the mountains. All is not lost, we go up, we go down, just like back home i think to myself... but then we go up, up , up & up again !!! I'm cycling up the dreaded "Beast", the crowd are great though and they get me through! Now i can look forward to some fast downhills... i now know that going downhill at 75Kmph isn't top speed when i'm passed by 2-3 guys on the same slope. When i catch them i ask what their top speed was, with not much English they show me their bike computer... 88Kmph.... I'm cycling in a group with Evil Kenevil I think! We arrive back into town, pass transition and do a loop of "Heartbreak Hill"... now i hate hills as much as the next fat guy but this was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life and it flew, think Tour de France, people screaming your name, cheering you on.. running along beside you, i wanted to roll back down and do it again!!!....... after all that we head back down towards transition only to pass it and start on our 2nd 90K loop!!!!

6Hrs 22 mins later .... with a target of 6 Hrs 30 i was coasting into transition, terrified of hoping off my bike in case evil Dr. Cramp showed up and turned my legs to stone!!!! It must have been his day off (or maybe the 20 Endurolytes i took during the bike leg!), i sped through my transition in a spritely 3 mins flat and there was only a marathon between me and destiny!! Yes, 26 miles in 30°C heat...... by the way this was the 2nd time i forgot to apply suncream, Pics to follow of the dreaded Ironman Tan!

Just a Marathon to go!.... The run course is roughly 4 x 10K loops, i ran the first 2 but then it hit me and hit me hard, i felt sick, dizzy, sore just about everything negative i could feel! We were given a different coloured wrist band for each lap, before i had a red one, i resented the people i passed with red ones running in the opposite direction. My mind started to wander at this stage, i was walking alot, i started to think negatively, i despised the people with more wrist bands than me, even though there was only 15K to go i genuinely thought "I won't make it"..... I started to arrive towards the finish line to begin my last loop, i can hear the crowds at the finish line going wild cheering each and every one of the 2000 or so competitors that are finishing!! I think to myself, i must get there, that's what we are all craving, that Grandstand Finish, running up that blue carpet, high fiving everyone, your name literally in lights. As i pass by the entrance to the finish line i say to the marshalls letting those b**tards with 4 armbands in, "Next time i see you, you're letting me in!".

My legs find inspiration from somewhere, honestly i don't know where, and they start to move in a jogging rythm, i definitely wouldn't call it running. I start to pass Aid Stations, and then... Hallelujah... a Woman slips on the much coveted Blue (and final) Armband! I want to kiss her, instead I kiss the Blue Band, nothing can stop me now! Much like the local crazy person, I start to talk & laugh to myself!! ..."I'm doing it, this will be a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life"... I start to hear people chant "Hop Hop hop Peyter" that's swiss for Go Peter! (Our names are on our Race Belts!) With the finish straight in sight, i become very emotional, i know that this is what i set out to achieve over 12 hours ago, actually no... OVER 1 YEAR AGO! I turn on to that silky blue mat, i throw away my visor into the cheering crowds, i look at the clock... 12:40 it says, i can't believe it... anywhere around the 13:30 and i would have been more than pleased! I run along by the crowd making sure to high five them all, they deserve it for all their support, it's been a long day for them too! As i reach the finishing podium, the Swiss MC calls out "Peter Fitzgerald.. you are an IRONMAN!!!".......YES I AM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :mrgreen:

I've tried to keep this short and sweet but i could have written a book on that 1 day, which brings me on to Thank You's!!! Firstly i'd like to thank all of the other athletes who inspired me with their Ironman Stories & Training Regime Tips, athletes from Kilkenny Tri Club who i cycled with, Waterford Tri Club for the Monday night swims in Dunmore East. I'd especially like to thank George Sherwood (KTC member and 10:49 finisher at Challenge Roth)) for his advice as a previous Ironman Switzerland competitor he definitely put me in the right direction. My family & Friends for being great supporters and tracking me all the way on the day @ Also when i say "WE" i mean myself and Alan Lyons, my brother-in-law to be, he's a wonderfully talented triathlete with many podium finishes and to have someone like him to train and race with really brought me on in the last year, thanks Alan!!! Last but most certainly not least we're useless without our significant others (to allow us to have these crazy adventures!) Danielle i promise now that we can go surfing every weekend now, and i won't be heading out at 7:00am for 6 hours on my bike only to arrive back to slump on the couch! Danielle provided me with the Fig Rolls on Lap 3 which kicked my legs into gear i think :) ... Wedding next year so no Ironman... which is ok !!

P.S Thanks to Cadburys, Dominoes, McDonalds, Ben & Jerry's & my local chipper for making me so FAT that i had to start somewhere!!!


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