An easy day out


Anyone heard of it?

An innocuous sleepy town in Switzerland an hour or so from Zurich. A nice enough place to spend a day or so. And also the venue for what must be one of the toughest races out there – Zofingen Powerman, aka the ITU Long Distance Duathlon World Championships.

This wasn’t something I’d planned on doing at the start of the year. In fact duathlon wasn’t something I’d planned on doing at the start of the year. But somehow I seemed to find myself on the start line – and those of you who were responsible for putting me there got several curses about 6 hours into yesterday’s race!

Duathlons are always hard. Zofingen is particularly hard. In fact hard is probably one of the understatements of the year. Brutal. Vicious. Inhumane even. Definitely more than hard! I’d heard all the hype about it but if I’m honest had dismissed most of it. Yes it would be hilly – but at the end of the day a hill’s a hill and what goes up must come down. Little did I know… The race starts with a 10km run. Not too bad you might think. But when the first 2km is a steep uphill, followed by a steep downhill and then repeated it’s a good way to batter your legs before you even get on the bike.

The bike: 150km, hilly. To be fair the bike isn’t quite as tough as I thought it might be. The road surfaces are smooth, the climbs aren’t ridiculous and the downhills aren’t too technical. But it is 150 km and I was certainly riding it harder than I’ve ridden any Ironman bike before; the climbs definitely seemed to get longer and steeper with each lap.

But then you come to the ‘piece de la resistance’, the second 30km run. I knew it was hilly. But I thought I’d got my legs reasonably used to running in the hills. However as I quickly realised doing 3 minute hill reps up the Gog magogs in Cambridge just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to Zofingen. In my head I’d thought of it as 2.5km uphill, 10 km of more or less flat, then back down and repeat. Yeah right. In fact it’s 2.5km of very steep climbing, followed by 10km of what I can only describe as a maze of sharp up and down, twisting pain at the top, followed by the 2.5km steep downhill and then repeat.

I have no idea what we did at the top other than going up and down every possible hilly permutation on paths around the top of the hill. At no point could you get into a rhythm. The downhills were just as bad if not worse than the uphills. And it seemed to go on forever. The worst thing was knowing you had to do the whole thing twice. Whoever designed this course could not possibly have made it harder had they tried! It was like one of those nightmares I occasionally have if I’m stressed before a race when you’re stuck in transition with no way out; a never ending web of sadistic pain.

So no, I wasn’t prepared for this run. Discovering the hellish ‘maze’ at the top was a bit of a setback to my race mentality and it took a whole lot of grit and determination to keep running! In previous Ironman races my legs have been tired at the end of the run, but not hurting. This time I wasn’t so much tired as in agony. Every single muscle in my legs and gluts, even ones I never knew I had, was crying out to stop. As if that wasn’t enough I also got a horrendous stitch for about 20 minutes.

I finished in second place behind Eva Nsytrom, who had an absolutely incredible race. I like racing Eva – she’s tough, gutsy, fair and gives it everything. She overtook me about 25km into the bike. I was hoping she’d just put in a short surge and I’d make some time up in the final lap but she was having a blinder. I knew I needed to do my own race and trying to stay with her in my first outing to Zofingen would have been a mistake, so I didn’t try and stick with her when she powered past. To be honest I don’t think I could even if I’d tried. In previous races I’ve managed to run her down at the end but yesterday she was untouchable and thoroughly deserved the win. In the end she finished just over 4mins ahead of me, with the second fastest time ever over the full course. My time was the fourth fastest ever, a fact I’m more than a bit proud of given the pedigree of athletes who have raced in Zofingen before.

So all in all a tough yet immensely rewarding day out. Anyone who finished this race should be incredibly proud and satisfied; there simply isn’t an easy way of doing it! So to all of you who persuaded me to do it – you may have been cursed a bit yesterday but on reflection thank-you! It’s the hardest race I’ve ever done which makes finishing all the more fulfilling.

So I can call myself British Duathlon champion, European Duathlon champion and now 2nd in the Long Distance Duathlon World Championships.

How on earth did that happen?!

Related Posts