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2023 World Triathlon Powerman Long Distance Duathlon Championships Zofingen

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The ancestral home of Powerman is Zofingen. A typical Swiss town sitting around 400m above sea level with cobbles streets, a range of hotels restaurants and chocolate shops!

The ITU long distance duathlon world championship is hosted by Powerman. A run, bike, run format around hilly roads and trails, with views over the snow-covered Swiss Alps.

Competitors return to Zofingen year upon year and had recommended taking a range of clothing from winter wear to a sun hat.

It turned out that a sun hat was “order of the day” with temperatures forecast to reach 27°C, just about at the time we were due to start the second run.

A cycle course recce on Friday introduced me to the two climbs that made up much of the 1700m of ascent. And a walk round after registering on Saturday, revealed the run terrain, a hilly mix of tarmac and forest trails.

Opening the curtains at 7am on Sunday proved the weather forecasters right, an almost cloudless blue sky – suncream on and white run cap packed.

A 9am start gave me plenty of time for a light breakfast before the short walk from our hotel to racking and race start.

Transition was already busy, as the professional athletes started at 8am. It was neatly set out with blue plastic crates for kit, and a simple stand to secure the rear wheel of the bike.

An unusual horseshoe loop around transition for every lap, first run clockwise and second run anticlockwise meant lots of concerned faces among the international cast of athletes.

I had a final check on the location of my bike, exited transition, and wandered around the expo before starting my warmup.

Fifteen minutes before the start and we were called to enter the start funnel. Several of the Team GB athletes wished each other well, as we chose our starting positions.

We had been pre-warned about the starting pistol, but it still came as a shock. We were serenaded by three Swiss alpine horns as we ran down the starting funnel on the beginning of a long day.

By chance I had chosen a good starting position. I passed a few athletes and only a few passed me, as we turned right, then left before starting the ascent to the forest trails. Extra care was needed on the first descent, over lose stones punctuated with drainage channels.

We looped through the transition horseshoe before completing our second 5km lap. I spotted my bike immediately, having lined it up with the corner of a marquee. I donned my crash hat, popped my run shoes in the blue box before heading out on the first of three 50km laps of the bike course.

I had planned to eat around 100g of carbs per hour on the bike which meant snacking at every opportunity. My power numbers were spot on as we looped past transition on lap one.

Nearing the end of lap two, my calves started to cramp. Lifting off the saddle made things worse, calf cramp was soon joined by adductor cramp. With another 50km of cycling and 30km of running, something was going to have to change.

I decided to reduce the power, stay in aero position, to minimize losses, and drink lots of water over the remaining 50km cycle. Bottles were being handed up regularly, and I took one at every opportunity.

No flying dismount at transition, which was a great choice, as I would probably have fallen on my face. My legs locked as I jogged to my bike.

Helen spotted me as I started up the long drag to the forest trails, I shouted to her “no legs, I hope they recover”, but they didn’t. I suffered the first lap and started the mental battle to manage the remaining three.

My pace felt so slow, I decided not to look at my Garmin, it was just about getting round. The forest trail hill was brutal, most people were walking, a technique I found to be faster than running, as I started my second lap.

A third lap passed, and Helen was convinced I was going to pack in. I couldn’t have looked more miserable. She said I was still in bronze medal position, but I needed to know by how much, as I was totally spent. She dashed to the other side of transition to see me shuffling back up the tarmac hill and told me it was three minutes.

 I realized the last lap was no further than a route from my house around Dalmeny Estate and back. I visualized the route, mapping the hills to those I know, walking the first before reaching the plateau, loop round past the warthogs, up the next long drag before starting the descent towards the tarmac lane, past the photographer. I started to hear the razmataz of the finish.

I thought I heard footsteps behind me as a neared the finishing area and immediately lifted the pace, there was no way I was going to lose my third place with only 300m to go!  It turned out I was imagining the footsteps and I crossed the line exhausted but elated that I had finally finished.  

Mr Powerman, Stefan Ruf was there to greet me as I crossed the line. A handshake and a few words before a t-shirt were pushed in my hand and a Powerman medal slung round my neck.

As I (gracefully) collapsed on the grass, having run 10km, cycled 150km and run 30km in just under eight hours I got the news. Third place, Third in the World for my age group.