Race Report : Ironman Zurich 2013 – Swim

* Race report menu for Ironman Zurich 2013*


You could feel the intense anticipation rising in the air as everyone made their way towards Swim Start. The emcee did mention that the swim leg would pose a challenge to many of the participants, especially when it was changed to a non-wetsuit race 2 days before the race. Since being a “nemo” certainly isn’t one of my strengths, there were still mental doubts going through my head as I stood at the start line.


What I like, and not surprisingly, also hate about open water swim is the brutal rawness and unpredictability of the environment. In a controlled lane with a nice blue line at the bottom of the pool, I could do a 3k in 1:05, but in open water swims??

Today’s swim will be in a beautiful lake which..

  • is a non-wetsuit race, which would mean a buoyancy disadvantage
  • has clear water with minimal current, that allows better situation awareness for navigation.
  • is not salty, another buoyancy issue.
  • has friendly ducks and other lake creatures lurking about (:

I was almost bursting with anticipation. After the Pros commenced at 0655hr, five minutes later, the horn went off again for the rest of the 2400 adrenaline-pumped people who all too went berserk charging forward. Eh no, it wasn’t that dramatic for me actually. As the brave ones at the front line fervently brought the lake alive, I calmly stayed behind, putting me as the last few to enter the water only simply because I knew I would get carried away if I got caught in the aquatic madness.

under the bridge to “Australian Exit” for the 2nd loop.Yellow bobbling heads 

“Hey, stay calm, get my rhythm and swim smooth!”

Despite my delayed water entry, I soon found myself getting adrift and a little panicky from the sheer mass of the participants that made it so chaotic. The laundry in my washing machine must have felt this way too if they had a mind of their own. Okay, focus. Focus. Focus. I swam breaststroke for a couple of minutes till I calmed down and aim towards the buoys that I was supposed to follow. It is a candy crushing moment. My senses were really overwhelmed, I thought I shouldn’t be struggling like that since bring confidently conditioned in the pool; yet the real thing was really a blow out of the water. This was my 4th triathlon, and I’m still a panicking rabbit in a hot pot.

I probably managed to ease into my own skin after 600m, but the damage is manifesting. The unexpected nervous rattle has bore a mental toll and spent my energy. At about 45 mins, I staggered out unto the mini island and ran over to start my 2nd lap, which thankfully turned out to be much better. Even then, I was still a little disorientated by the barrages of splashes that made it difficult to sight the buoys.

crawling out after the 1st loop

that’s me, trying to spot which buoy i’m supposed to swim to. argh!

The open water practices at ECP were seemingly much easier, even with the currents and poor visibility, it actually didn’t seem that bad. Maybe I had used large landmarks to navigate from point to point. Dex had fore-advised me to use landmarks on the other side of the lake, like large buildings or a tall tower.. however my brain was already in a whirl(water) so I decided to focus on just not getting a panic attack.

I glanced over my shoulder to see some guys holding onto the kayaks to rest a little. The race director did mention that it was an okay as long as you don’t “move forward while holding onto an aid”. I saw at least 2 comrades who swam back to main shore, guessing that they might have both mentally & physically given up. To watch these people DNF is definitely a depressing sight, and it just injects that little doubt in you, that “it’s just so much easier to give up” – hang on to that thought – it would revisit me again on the bike leg.

So i finally ended my hydrographic adventure at 1:38, stumbling into T1, grabbed the Blue Bag and headed into the changing tent. Gulping some of the lake (which was surprisingly pleasant) wasn’t enough for me so I drank up half a bottle of recovery mix before putting on the gears and lubing up my jewels for the long ride ahead.

Lessons learnt :

– Need to practice all-out sprints before slowing down to race pace as this might help me better cope at Race Start; lest i start panicking like a rabbit in a cooking pot again :b

– Need to improve on navigation skills during swim. Practice, practice, practice!

– Need to familiarize myself with the swim course by doing an easy trial swim ahead of Race Day. This is also to check out the turning points and the type of buoys used .

– If I decide to swim breast stroke to calm myself down, make sure to take this tiny window of opportunity to establish my landmarks for sighting instead of daydreaming/worrying.

– Remember! Pack along spray-on sunblock in T1 Bike Bag. You don’t really want to look like a bleeding-white panda in the race pictures.

– Also, remember! Pack a small towel into the Bike Bag to dry my feet and get rid of debris!!

Swim route

Swim route


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