Wednesday, 18 July 2012


When last I blogged Katrina and I were still in France and heading for a day of the Tour de France. Well a week has passed since that day and I am pleased to be able to tell you that Katrina has achieved her goal of completing her very first Ironman in Zurich Switzerland. More on that later. As I write this I am back in Singapore after a horrible 13 hour flight from London. Both Katrina and I, our ankles and feet have blown up twice their original size due to swelling. I suspect from traveling just 2 days after completing Ironman. But before I get to what was one very wet day out in the beautiful city and countryside of Zurich, a brief run down of our trip up to this point in time.

Tour de France
Our one week training camp in the Pyrenees was timed perfectly so that we got to spend a day with Phil Anderson and to climb the infamous Alp d'Huez. The very next day was a mountainous day for the tour riders. If you get a chance to watch just one stage of the tour then it has to be a day in the mountains. Our plan was to drive as close as possible to the Col du Grand Colombier, ditch the car and ride the bikes a little way up the 1501 metre 18km climb, watch the riders whoosh past, ride back to the car and get the hell out of there to beat the mad past race tour traffic. The major climbs are closed to vehicular traffic up to eight hours prior to the tour traveling through, but only two hours prior for bicycles. We got there a good four hours beforehand and started to climb with the other thousands of riders making there way to their chosen perfect viewing spot. Only problem was Katrina and I had not just 'Tour Fever', but 'Summit Fever as well'. When you have already climbed over 36 Cols in the past two weeks what harm will one more do? Let me remind you just four days later we were both fronting up for Ironman Switzerland, held over the insane distances of 3.8km swim, 180km bike and just for laughs, finishing with a 42.2km marathon run! There would be a price to pay but we were willing to pay it!

The Summit beckons
So here we are many thousands of kilometres away from Australia and on that climb I run into six people I knew from Australia! Which was cool in the sense that I got to see them in the small world scenario, but even cooler as I stopped and chatted to each person, which got me a little breather each time. The Grand Colombier is no easy climb, with an average gradient of 8% but with pitches as steep as 17%. There is one section that is two kilometres straight at 15% and I thought if I was feeling strong and was riding in the Tour de France then that section would be were I would attack. Thankfully I wasn't in the tour, and the only attacking I did was when I got to the top after two hours of climbing and attacked into a 'Grand Colombier cheese baguette'! Katrina said to me at the start of the climb; "Sharky I am not riding all the way to the top!" "No worries Kat," I replied, "I will ride up and ride back down to where-ever you stop." I said this with a smile on my face because I knew there was no way she would stop climbing. Sure enough she crested the top not that long after I had completed the climb and the team was back together again.

The Tour excitement
"Kat what is your level of excitement now from 1 to 10?" I had been asking this question all day. The drive to where we parked the car was 5. Once on the bikes it was at 7. Going up the climb and receiving support and cheers from the thousands upon thousands of bored spectators, who had been waiting for the tour for many long hours, or for the camper vans a full day or two, it was now at 9. Then when the publicity caravan came through it was at 9 and a half. Now the actual tour was approaching, you could hear and see the helicopters, the commissarie's vehicle appeared, the lead cars, the police and press motorbikes and finally the first riders. I turned to Kat and said; "excitement level now?" Kat was jumping out of her cycling shoes when she enthusiastically yelled above the noise of the chopper, "Sharky it is at 13!" I have watched the tour live many times before and I knew what she was feeling for her first live viewing. There is nothing like it! Well it took a good 15 minutes for all the riders to come through and the wall to wall spectators had to get back down the mountain. This for me is where the real fun begins. The crazy 18km descent was spent weaving in and out of fellow bike riders, passing the barely moving traffic, that would take hours just to get off the mountain, trying to take in the incredible Alpine scenery without going over the edge of the many drop offs, and finally getting to the bottom safely and getting to watch Thomas Voekler win the days stage, along with a thousand others, crowded around the big screen erected at the village just prior to the climb. Kat descended somewhat more cautiously -and might I add- a whole lot more sensibly, to arrive 10 minutes later, just in time to see Tommy, as she affectionately calls him, to win the race. That was our day at the tour. We got back to the car, drove back to our hotel, stayed one last night in France and the next morning made our way to Zurich, just 400km's away.

Kat the Navigator, Shark the lost fish!
Getting to Zurich was a breeze, motorways the entire way saw us arrive in Zurich at three in the afternoon. Kat was staying in the city and I was staying with my mates Greg Martin, Andrew Watts, and their wives Carol and Louise, some 15km's away in a hotel situated right on the banks of the beautiful lake Zurich. As you know from past blogs Katrina is the navigator and I just do as I'm told! After dropping Kat at her Astor Hotel lodgings I was then given the car and had just 15km's to travel to get to my accommodation. I am embarrassed to admit this but it has to be told, that I then got so terribly lost that I did not arrive until a full three hours later! In that time I stopped and asked directions three times, I actually ended up in another town outside of Zurich and really it was just pure chance that I found my car -and me- deposited right in front of the swim start for the Ironman. From there all I had to do was follow the lake and I arrived at the hotel at eight-pm! Anyway some more cannon fodder for Kat to pay out on me... In a fun have to laugh at yourself type of way.

Ironman Zurich Switzerland tests us with the inclement weather- Katrina
When I compete in any triathlons I cover the events for Australian Triathlon and Multisport magazine. I have already written up the report and when it goes to print I will send a link out if you keen to read the full details of what was a very hard Ironman due to the incredible weather conditions on the day. For now, all that you need to know, is that it was windy, rained a lot, three separate storm systems blew competitors off the bikes at various stages, at times the air temperature was 18 degrees, but would drop to 5 and the warmest place throughout the entire day was the 20.5 degree lake Zurich water temperature. Throughout all this Katrina soldiered on like the incredible pocket rocket that she is, and earned the right to call herself an Ironman, or Ironwomen, or Ironperson. Whatever the terminology, she did a magnificent job under extremely difficult circumstances to cross the line in 13 hours and 9 minutes. The run was 4 laps and I got to see her each lap. She was generally smiling but not on that last lap, as the reality of running a marathon after cycling for 180km's hit her hard. She said later, "I thought when I first started the marathon that the pain I was feeling would go away, but it didn't, it just got worse each lap!" And that about sums what an Ironman marathon feels like for all competitors, regardless of talent or speed.

Greg and Andy duke it out!
Greg and Andrew both did the Midi Smiddy this year and raised a significant amount of over $7,000 between them for Smiling for Smiddy and the Mater Foundation. They raced Ironman Nice with me last year and it was awesome to spend some time with them again. Thanks also to Andy and Louise for allowing me to share with them. I treated all four of them to a sports massage and I am pretty sure they will never get another from me as it was quite painful. Anyway these two lads are fun competitive against each other and to date Greg has yet to beat Andy in any triathlon. At one stage on the run Greg got within 7 minutes of Andy after being over 20 minutes down after the bike. But in Andy's own words; "I saw him coming, stopped and walked a couple of aid stations, got in plenty of nutrition, then buried him, there was no way I was going to let that old bugger beat me." Incidentally Greg is the same age as me at a youthful 50. Andy crossed the line an hour quicker than Nice last year and was extremely sore, tired but happy with his 13:53:51 time. Greg crossed in 14:13:59 and was over 90 minutes quicker than Nice, and while happy with his time was shattered to have once again been beaten by the young gun Andy at 49 years of age.

How did 'Bad Boy' go?
Johnny Bad Boy was on fire and chasing his goal of a sub 10 hour time. He had a brilliant swim and a strong bike up until the 130km mark, but lost power in his legs, got to the run and had gastro problems that saw three toilet stops lose him too much time to reach his goal. Still a 10:26:52 time is nothing to be disappointed about in just his second Ironman event. He will be back in Roth Germany next year in July and will reach his target. It is just a matter of time for this talented young 40 year old King of Bad!

Sharkster update
As for myself I was extremely pleased with my result considering my lack of run and swim training. My goal was to run the entire marathon and not walk, which I have only achieved in a handful of my 35 completed Ironman events. Surprisingly all the work I had done on the bike saw this leg being my worst leg. A little overcooked there I can assure you from Tour and Summit fever, but heck it was worth it! I finished and experienced another different Ironman in another country and that is all that matters!

Our beautiful supporters
Thank you to Louise and Carol and Bad Boys family, who braved the terrible conditions to still lend their support throughout a very long day that saw them up at five-am and not back at the hotel until after midnight. Thanks also to all my blog readers. I look forward to bringing you more Smiddy tales from this weekend's two day epic 440km training event to Warwick and back. I have just a eight hour flight in front of me to return to my beloved Brisbane. One month away is enough these days. I so long for the comforts of our beautiful country and the companionship of my family and friends.

Take care.


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