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Inside the mind of an Ironman

We go behind the scenes of the 2017 Zurich Ironman with Ruedi Wild for an insight as to what goes on in the mind of a professional podium winner during the various stages of the day, and the ups and downs of this incredible event.

Here I am – the last moments before it all begins" 

A mixture of tension and anticipation for the coming race. You concentrate on the little and last details to make sure you have as strong a start as possible and swim with the break-out group from the beginning. This is extremely important as it can save you a lot of valuable energy to go with their flow. I am usually not as nervous at this point as I used to be, and so now, enjoy the special mood that’s going on around the start. This allows me to relax and concentrate on the essentials and making the right early decisions instead of spending unnecessary emotional energy or getting overly-excited about all that’s to come.

 

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Finally you’re off! The first buoy was passed quickly and by this point I was established with the leading group of 8. Unfortunately, I was at the end of the group which is a disadvantage because, for example, if the group unexpectedly splits open or someone tears away, you are too far back to react easily (especially in the last 200m where the leader could push hard or choose to cruise).

 

On the other hand, it would have needed additional energy to swim for a short time to be better positioned, but you never know quite where you stand until you hit the shore.

 

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One of the high-speed legs of the course. Shortly before the 120km mark, my legs felt suddenly heavy and also mentally I began to drift off-race. As a result, I had to let Ronnie and Jan close in with me and a few of the fellow favorites. This turned out to be the most challenging situation all day! In these moments, the competition is decided, especially on the long distance straights - either you take the challenge and find the right way to push ahead, or you give in to yourself and the competition is all but over for finishing in a podium place.

 

I managed to overcome it by first taking good care of myself and re-motivating where I was at internally. I reaffirmed to myself that the day would still be long and that nothing at this point was lost.

I also knew I wasn’t alone, and that my competitors would be going through the same mental battle themselves at this part of the race: the unspoken internal battle of the Ironman."

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One of the moments that flies by! The mood was great and it is extremely motivating to see so many well-known faces at the edge of the course. The noise was deafening - pure home-town-feeling!

In the ride, I didn’t want to go too hard through the Zurich ascent as this would have had a negative effect on the running performance later."

This photo takes place 10km before the change. Before this part, I had had that mental hurdle to overcome but I managed to give myself a kick and turn it around, rallying my strength and confidence. From then on I was only looking forward at what lay ahead!

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A face full of concentration when changing. It is important that the socks and the shoe sit perfectly, otherwise blisters will form, which get worse as the long run goes on. I'd rather invest some extra seconds here to save time from injuries. Here I am thinking that with a good run I still have all the chance to do well today. I am reminding myself, however, that I have to be patient out there on the run and to resist the temptation to go too fast.

 

For every important competition, I use a new pair of shoes. After a long search for my ideal competition shoe for middle and longer distances – dozens of shoes tested - I finally found the Cloudflow. From the beginning, I was hugely impressed by it - a light, extremely comfortable, reactive but at the same time well dampening shoe. The fact that it looks great is also a bonus, of course. That said, with the shoes on and everything feeling good, the run begins and I am off.

 

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While running, I was concentrating and tried to run at my regular pace. Anything faster and I would have paid the price for it during the second part of the marathon. The speed here felt quite slow for me, as it is much faster on the middle distance triathlons. The temptation was great to hit a higher gear, but I pushed on as planned.

 

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From the run to most beautiful and emotional moment in the Ironman - the finish line! At the same time, it’s also a kind of redemption from the dull pain that accompanies you throughout the day and becomes ever more intense.

The efforts put in are completely forgotten in this moment and endorphins flood the body. A few minutes later, of course, you felt quite miserable to make up for it."

In the years before I have experienced this mood swing as a spectator when my colleagues and training partners have competed. Goosebumps appear, eyes dilate and blood pumps as the line is crossed and end occurs which is extreme motivating – even when watching from the stands as a spectator in Zurich.  

 

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In this photo I realize slowly the effort of the day, the endorphin push ends and it is now just me feeling it all. I feel good but the body is starting to stiffen, pain coming in. From here is where I want to go back to bed or spend some hours with only myself or loved ones. Instead, as is the way, I will have a few more hours of interviews and commentary about the competition ahead. But it's hard not to love it at the same time, to soak it in, smile and realize that this is where I set out to be all those years ago, watching the Zurich Ironman from the sidelines to now being here on the podium at that same Ironman event...

 

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