It seems this board doesn't contain very much on non-IM races outside of the US, so I thought I'd contribute:) This past weekend I did my second full IM in switzerland - the Swissman (http://www.suixtri.com). The article on the front page also contains some nice images of the race - http://www.slowtwitch.com/...an_Gallery_5857.html. I'll probably say this too many times in this report, but the race is just truly beautifull - THE most scenic race I've ever done. I live in Norway and am quite used to spectacular nature, but still this course is just - Epic.
For those interested here follows a short race-report. To start with the end - I was not among the first, nor among the last finishers. I finished safely somewhere in the middle :)
So - first to give some background on myself. I had done one IM prior to this one (not IM-branded) in around 10:29 (flat course - windy conditions). I am a biker more than a runner, and also swim ok (for an agegrouper, needs saying!). Im not the lightest of guys at around 78 kg, but I don't think I could ever go below 75kg without looking seriously ill. I guess this means that I wont be the fastest of guys up the hills (and for those not familiar - this one has got a LOT of mountains - course profile below).
My training for the race had gone quite well, from my own standards. I don't have time for any big volume but I logged about 480 hrs the last 12 months leading in. My highest week was around 16 hrs, and had a pretty good string of +/- 12 hr weeks the last two months before that. I had my open marathon PR a couple months before (3:07 in the end of april), and felt better than ever on the bike (as far as power and testing goes..) I know that the major weakness/flaw in my training is that I rarley find time for the really long rides/runs (only a couple runs over 2 hrs in my build, and only a couple rides over 3 hours). But that's life - family / kids etc :)
My lead-up to the race was - in hindsight - probably not ideal. The race starts at saturday morning at 5:00 am, and you have to register and enter the boat that takes you to swimstart by 0400. This means alam set to 02:30 saturday morning! :) We arrived in Zurich friday at noon, and only managed to get to the starting city (ascona) at around 16:30 friday afternoon. The afternoon was spent getting my bike together, reconing the first 10k of the bike leg, and getting some food. We got to bed around 22:30, but I probably only managed 30 mins of sleep that night (hot and excited!).
Probably no big secret that I would recommend anyone else doing this race to arrive thursday at the latest (I already knew this, but I didn't have the option to take Thursday of work. Instead, Thursday was spent driving 9 hrs to /from a meeting - doh!)
When we arrived at T1 saturday at 3, there were some pretty heavy thunderstorms looming. The organizers still thought we could do the swim, and we were ushered onto the boat at around 0400. However, just as the boat was about to depart the thunder and lightning picked up, and went crazy! It was like New Years eve fireworks for 30 min straight, and it didn't calm down. This meant that the swim unfortunatley had to be cancelled. A lot of dissappointed people, including myself, but the no doubt the organizers decision was correct.
Instead of a swim, we did a short 4k run (to keep the days program "on schedule" - as we had already spent 30 min from the scheduled start trying to wait out the thunderstorm). The weather was pretty bad with torrential rain, winds and thunder still rolling. The start went, and I was surprised at how hard people went out! I have never done a duathlon and was very unsure of how I would fare with a run instead of a swim, so I decided to take it slow. Still - I ran an avg of 4:30min/pr k for the first 4k run. Still - from a starting field of 238 athletes, I guess there were about 70-80-90 ahead of me after the run! Alot of the guys passing me on the run were already breathing heavily, which I thought was a bit of an aggressive start to a loong day! I figured I should at least stray below marathon-pace, which I managed.
On to the bike the course was quite congested due to only having a short 4 k run first. However - not so bad and probably nothing compared to an IM with 2000 competitors. After 10-15 k I had no trouble settling into my own rythm. Was still passing and being passed by people, but there was plenty of room on the road. The weather was still pretty bad. The rain had calmed down, but there was still quite a lot of wind (headwind naturally...), and the roads were wet and quite slippery.
I was pretty unsure of how to pace this bike-leg, given all the hills. The hills mean both a longer bike-time (alot!), and that power-output will be less constant (harder uphill - coasting downhill). My last IM i rode at around 225w, and figured I should aim abit lower this time since it was a longer bike leg. I tried to stay around 200w-220w, and not go over that. I figured If i rode that range, and coasted downhill, I'd be fine.
The bike-leg of swissman is probably the most amazing part of the race. The first 40-50k are quite uneventfull, but at 50k the course starts to gradually rise from 2-300m asl. You are heading up a valley with high mountains on both sides, and can see the alps towering up infront of you. From 50 - 70 k the course rises from 300 to 950m asl, with some pretty steep sections. In hindsight, this is probably where I made a small pacing-mistake. I didn't notice it at the time, but the first 20min after the real climbing started I averaged 245w for 20min, before I eased back down to my target-range.
From there you eventually get to the foot of the Gotthard pass (summit 2 091m asl!). This was my first ascent of a climb this big, and I was quite exited. The first 70 k had gone ok for me, averaging somewhere around 215 watts the first 2hrs 30 min. The first part of Gotthard also went quite ok. The first part has hairpins, climbing pretty steadily at 7-8 %. About halfway up you enter the "la tremola" - a cobbled section (which I learnt from other athletes means "shake"...). The Tremola really lived up to its name, because the last 6k of the climb were really hard. I have to say I underestimated the effect of climbing on really rough cobbles. This part took alot out of me, even though power output did not go up (speed went down instead!). The part from around 70k to 95k (the top of gotthard) took me nearly 1 hour 40 mins - averaging 210watts. That put me at around 4 hrs 10 min on the top of Gotthard - avg power of 212w so far.
The top of Gotthard was my low-point of the day. The weather had turned worse again - more torrential rain, wind and cold! I also began to feel queezy - a sign that nutrition could become an issue. Anyway, I got on some warm clothes and headed down the valley to Realp. The decent was sweet - only a few turns and long, stretches of straight downhill. Except for the cold - it was awesome. After only about 15 min you decend from 2 091 to around 1500m. In Realp you start the Furkapass - another epic climb where you ascend up to around 2 450m. Luckily no cobbles here, but still a long, hard ascent. The 12.8k ascent took me a little more than 1hr 15 mins, averaging 200watts for the climb. Luckily, I felt better at the top of Furka than the top of Gotthard, so things were looking up:)
From Furka you go down again - from 2450m to 1750m. The decent ends right at the foot of the next (and luckily final!) climb of the day - the Grimselpass. Grimselpass climbs around 400m in a 5k stretch. I was now 6 hrs into the bike, and although feeling better than at the top of Gotthard, I felt I had to really take it easy given there was still a pretty extreme marathon waiting. I took around 34 min up Grimsel, averaging 193watts for the climb.
At the top of Grimsel, you have around 40k left, most of which is downhill! You go FAST downhill untill the 165k mark - where there is a short climb after Interkircken. Its almost not worth mentioning after the alp passes, but still it climbs around 90m in 1,5k. I climbed it at 192watts, trying to just spin my easiest gear.
After the last small climb, the course is flat for the last 10-12k. I somehow managed to get lost and did a little extra loop around a city called Meiringen. I was somewhat annoyed, but thought that in the big picture those 5 min i lost are not very important. After getting back on track I arrived in T2 - Brienz - after a bike - split of just around 7:55. Avg power for the entire ride was 181w - with NP somewhere around 202w. I probably could have paced a little bit easier in the start (and not gone 245w for 20 min at 50k), but all in all I don't think I am good for a very much faster split on that course, given the conditions on the day.
When I entered T2 the weather was ok, just a bit of wind. During the few minutes I stayed in T2 we had another spell of heavy thunder and rainclouds rolling in. The run starts right into a speep hill, where you climg from 550m to 700m during the first 1.5 - 2k. I felt we had rain of biblical proportions during this part! The next part of the run was really beautifill - you run on a nice trail inside a forest, running under the Griessback-waterfall, and down to a lake. After around 12k we even got the longest "flat" portion of the day:), as the course only climbs 50m from 12k - 19k. The first 12k were ok for me. I had decided long in advance that I would walk the first hill out of T2. After the top of the hill, I got running and ran about 5-5:20min/k's up to the 12k mark. I hit the flat section at 12.5k after approx 1hr 10 min of running. The flat section was really nice, and I managed to keep rolling at around 5:20-5:40 untill the 19k mark. At this point, after about 1hr 45min of running, I was still feeling ok, but started to feel my running-legs going away.
The course climbs gently from 20 - to 28-29k, climbing about 100m (with some ups and downs..). This section I also managed to keep rolling - albeit at a slower pace. I few toilet-breaks and food stops left my pace kinda irregular, but while running I guess i managed about a 6min/k pace. I hit the bottom of the first steep climbing-section of the run at 25/26k after about 2hrs 48min of running. From here the course climbs from 680 to 880m in 2 - 2.5k, and keeps gently climbing up to about 950m at the 33k mark. This part was really hard, and I had to walk the steep section of 2k at about 8-10% incline. At 33k there is a checkpoint where you head up the final section of the run course - the climb from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg. I reached Grindelwald at 33k after about 3 hrs 45min of running.
You need a supporter for the last stretch, who needs to accompany you to the top. The climb is about 9.5k long, and climbs from 950m to 2 060m. When I arrived my supporter had already checked in our backpacks (you need a pack with a minimum-required content of given clothing and food). The first part of the climb was REALLY steep - with sections over 20 % incline! Mentally - I had set my mind to that Grindelwald at 33k was the finish, because after that I could allow myself to walk the rest. However, walking up to the Kleine Scheidegg was no rest either...! I was starting to get really fatigued, and my pace up the hill was nothing to brag about to say the least. We pretty much clocked 13-15min kilomiters, meaning we took about 2hrs 15 min for the last climb. Anyway, I finally made it to the top, which was a great experience. I must say the climb to Kleine Scheidegg was completely STUNNING. We had clear veiw the first hour/hour and a half, before the coulds/fog set in, but during this portion you could see both far down the valley below, and up to the mighty alps above you. Kleine Scheideigg is at the foot of the Jungenfrau-massiv, with several peaks of well above 3500m - 4000m. The scenery was just spectacular.
So to sum it up - I clocked in the run just under 6 hours. My garmin (and most others, had the run at 43-44km). This meant a total time for me somewhere just under 14 hrs 30 minutes. That said, this was the sort of race where time and placings just wasn't as important. I am happy I managed to keep that mentality pretty much all the way through, which made for a much better experience. The feeling of finishing is hard to explain, but it was magical even though the weather at the top was piss poor :) Cold, foggy and rainy!
So - sorry for the lenghty report, but hard to sum up the experience of Swissman in very few words! I can deeply recommend this race for anyone looking for something else than the "WTC-experience" of racing. The organizers do a GREAT job, the are very helpfull and service-minded, and put up a fantastic race. The spectacular course is naturally what makes most of this race so special, but the organizers also deserve a big shout out for making the best of it as well!
If anyone is thinking of doing this race - sign up! It's got the same lottery-system as Norseman, and my prediction is that it wont get any easier to secure your spot in the years to come! I'd be happy to answer any questions on logistics or other issues!