Ok, if you’re not in the triathlon or duathlon world, you may not have heard of the Powerman series. Think Ironman but for duathlon. With a world series of races taking in Europe, Asia and America, the series is growing all the time. The format is a run leg, then bike leg, and finally a run leg. Most races on the Powerman calendar are raced in a 10k – 60k – 10k format. This is challenging enough in itself. However, the whole thing changes for the infamous World Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland.
Set in the beautiful countryside of northern Switzerland, this race is one of the toughest challenges in the world of multisport. With a 150k bike leg and 30k second run leg, the distances are substantially longer. However, although this race is shorter than an Ironman, many consider it more difficult. Why? The terrain. The bike course encompasses six climbs and the final run is a brutal test of hill running from start to finish.
This year marked my first attempt at this legendary race. I’d heard the stories but nothing truly prepared me for how tough it is. I was entered as an Age Group athlete. However, my goal was always to mix it with the elite field and see what I was made of. Having come into transition at the end of first run in sixth place, I was feeling positive and ready for the bike leg.
My homestay host had given me some excellent advice about how to approach the bike course. After the first of the three 50k loops, I was feeling comfortable with a group of riders from the Belgian and Swiss teams. However, I could tell that very soon into the second lap that I was beginning to feel it getting tougher. The group I was with was disturbed by some incredibly strong riders steaming past us and making up for lost time on the first run. They weren’t hanging around. You have to be very sure about who you chase down because you’ve still got to tackle a 30k run after. I tried to keep calm and decided to stick with my gang. Going into lap three I experienced something completely new, quad cramp. All I can say is, it’s a good thing there wasn’t a microphone attached to me. I was screaming in pain. The last 40k were so painful as a I tried to fight off the cramp and get myself ready for what lay before me on the run.
The second run
Imagine taking on a fell race after doing 500 squats with 50kg on your back. That’s probably as close to the feeling of how tough the second run leg feels. The uphills are prolonged and draining. The downhills hurt because you’re quads are so fatigued that you can’t properly absorb the impact as you descend. I knew I holding in 9th going into the final 10km. However, my body was cooked. 28 degree heat had led to significant dehydration and I couldn’t take on enough fluid to replenish everything I was losing. With 5km I was passed by a member of the Swiss team. I knew I had to dig as deep as I could if I was to hang on to my top ten placing. I soldiered on even though the tank was completely empty.
As I emerged into Zofingen town with a 1km to go I allowed myself a backward glance. No chasers in sight, thank goodness! Minutes later I crossed the line, 6 hours and 50mins after starting this epic race.
I had been hoping that a top ten place would be attainable and I’m immensely pleased to have achieved that. Next year I will go back as an Elite and will be prepared to mix it with the best of the best. Its great also to have a Gold medal for winning my Age Group. Two years ago I lost out on Gold at the ITU World Duathlon Championships after a nail tore through my shoe and foot 2.5k before the end. I’ve wanted to put that right ever since. Job done! Now it’s time to work out how mix it with the crème de la crème at Zofingen 2015.
How do I feel now? Tired doesn’t describe it. I was walking like John Wayne for the next 24hrs. However, you can’t wipe the satisfied grin off my face.
Lastly, if you are looking for a bit of inspiration the night before a race, I highly recommend watching ‘A World Without Limits’ on youtube. Only 3 minutes long. Such a powerful message.