After Wallisellen, the Thurgauer Triathlon in Stettfurt was my second triathlon in 2012. I’ve never done it before, and this year, for the first time, it was part of the Swiss Triathlon Circuit, a series of ten (mostly Olympic distance) races with an overall ranking for the top five races per person. This meant mainly that it attracted a very strong field; among the age groupers was for example Sydney 2000 Olympian Markus Keller.
Stettfurt is at the end of the world; after a train ride to “pre end”, I bumped into Adrian whom I knew from the triathlon camp in Spain, and together we took a tiny bus to the race venue. The driver made sure we knew that if more people were to join the ride, we wouldn’t be able to take our bikes, but luckily the third guy in the bus didn’t mind. But thanks for letting us know.
The race distance was “almost Olympic”. The 800 metres swim was in a heated outdoor pool (but wetsuit legal), the 34 kilometres bike on a hilly two-lap course, and the 8 kilometres run on a two-lap course as well. I checked in, set up my transition and wandered around to familiarise myself with the way from the pool to the transition zone, to the bike and to the run exit. When walking around the bike mount line, I heard the spectators commenting every single mount (the first people were already underway). And obviously they waited for some spectacular failure… but who am I to point fingers. I’d do the same, that’s for sure.
The swim was single seeded, and after four laps you had to get out of the water, run back to the first lane and do another four laps. As my starting time drew closer, I went to my bike and got into my wetsuit. I asked somebody to close it, and one strong pull later, I was ready. Back at the pool, I did a two minutes warm-up and got into the queue – not much time left!
While waiting, I spotted my team for emotional support: mum, dad, sister and aunt all had come to watch, as the race wasn’t too far from where they live. And dad took pictures, which I use in this report, thanks!
A nervous wave later, it was my turn to jump into the water. As always, I felt pretty great for the first length, and quite okay for the second. After that, form (and pace) experienced the all too familiar breakdown. This picture was taken at around 250 metres (or maybe 650):
And this was taken during the last length, so either at circa 375 or 775 metres:
While a still is not terribly insightful for stroke critique, it’s obvious that my head is very high in the water, and consequentially my legs very low. Despite all that, I didn’t drown and finished the swim, but in an unmentionable time.
I ran up the grassy path to my bike, trying to open my wetsuit. While the guy who closed it was really good at pulling the zipper, I don’t know what exactly he did to the lane attached to it, as I seemed to be unable to find it anywhere. After lots of awkward fumbling, interrupted by a cheer from Marcus (another tri camp acquaintance), I finally managed to open the suit and climb out of it. I didn’t lose much time, but it certainly wasn’t the fastest transition of the day.
To get to the mount line, I had to cross a bit of gravel, but my feet were still numb, so no problems there. Here I am just before mounting:
And here just after mounting:
No accident for the bystanders, I’m afraid. Getting up to speed:
Each loop started with a rather hefty climb. Once survived, the course was very nice, not boring at all, quite flat and fast. After maybe two thirds of each lap, there was a long descent, and then a few undulating kilometres back to transition. Here I am passing by transition after the first lap:
It was hard to tell how I did compared to others, but I knew for sure that I felt as if there were no power whatsoever in my legs. Horrible. I’d make up for it on the run, I thought. Smart strategy!
I just about had enough of cycling, when the bike leg was finished (turning into the road to transition):
I undid my shoes and put my feet on top of them, as usual. When I was almost off the bike, some volunteer said “until the grass, until the grass!”, meaning that I wouldn’t have to run across the gravel bit but could ride. Well, too late! Another ten seconds down the gutter.
Now for my strong part, the run. Or so I thought. My legs definitely hadn’t forgotten about the one hour high intensity run at Sola the day before. To get out of transition, I had to run down a little hill (next to the slide in this picture):
My legs almost wouldn’t carry me down that ramp! I was in for a fun few kilometres. Also note in the picture: I’m sporting my new onesie for the first time. Quite comfortable, actually. Not to mention, one piece suits just look great. On everybody. Always. The main take away message from the picture is this one, though: I was still happy to see my family.
Before I got to speed (turns out I never did!), the course turned away from the smooth gravel path, up some steep flight of stairs, followed by a little cross country bit. The rest of the lap was gravel and asphalt, thank [insert deity of choice]. While I did pass a few people, my Garmin was telling mainly one thing, and it wasn’t flattering: my pace was awfully slow. At one point during the first lap, I was passed by a guy I can only describe as “elder”. I tried to hang on, but after a few minutes, he dropped me effortlessly. Not the run I wished to have!
Here I’m passing my family after the first lap:
Back into the forest, up the stairs, and clearly not faster than the first time. Usually, after some time, I feel somewhat comfortable during the running leg of a triathlon. Not this time around! Still running, I decided that double race weekends were stupid unless I’d regard the races as training only. Which I don’t, so I’ll stop doing double race weekends.
Somewhere during the second lap:
And passing an aid station:
Eventually, approaching the finish:
Two steps later, enjoying the fact that I was almost done:
And done! There was a race shirt to be collected, and lots of food and drinks to be consumed. Chatting with my support crew while doing so:
On the one hand, the race was okay: well organised, I got my first circuit race done, I started getting my competition licence’s money’s worth, I gained some experience, it didn’t rain. (It began directly after the race, to be precise.) On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy racing as such, mainly because I felt exhausted from the start and never got into any rhythm, most probably due to having done Sola the day before. My run split was in the slower half of my age group – this has never happened before.
Off to improve! I didn’t stay for the pro sprint, but word has it (and pictures show) that it was a wet and dirty business.