Julie: the Journey to World Champs
22.09.17: When i got injured at the end of January this year, the doctors told me it would take three month until I’d be back healthy and running. I started doing the maths and figured I’d be back racing by May, latest June. In the end it was end of July when I did my first race back at Alpe d’Huez. I was pretty devastated to miss such a big junk of the season and many races I would have loved to do and chances to qualify for the European and World championships. I had to accept that probably I would not be racing the races I was planning to do at the beginning of the year but was happy to be back racing nevertheless.
At the beginning of September I raced my first World Cup of the year in Karlovy Vary. This was also the last chance to qualify for U23 worlds in Rotterdam. I came 10th, missing the selection criteria by 25 seconds (including a 15second penalty). Despite not actually making the criteria, the Swiss federation still selected me for Rotterdam, only two weeks later. I am very thankful to have been given the chance to race. Also I was thrilled to still have made it to the start line that I thought I’d have to write off completely at the beginning of the year.
Only a week after having been selected I travelled to Rotterdam and race day came around quickly. I didn’t get a lot of time to get nervous as there was so much to think of for race day.
On race day the weather was everything we did not wish for: heavy rain and 12 degrees air temperature. The cold became my biggest concern. I was afraid I would be frozen by the time the race started. But luckily I’d done a couple of cold races this summer and learned a thing or two.
The preparation went as always and it was time to get onto the pontoon. I jumped in with the gun and started swimming as fast as I could. It was a chaotic swim to say the least and the 1500m felt like they went on forever. I knew I wasn’t as close to the front as I would have liked to be so I sprinted the couple hundred meters to my bike, had a quick transition and started the chase. The bike was technical and started off with a connecting section before you got into town to complete seven laps. After the first kilometre I heard my team mate yell that the first pack was only 10 seconds up the road. I rode as hard as I could, passing athletes and taking quite a few risks around the corners, knowing I just had to make the first pack. This paid off as I caught the group just as we entered T2 to start the first lap. The bike was tough but not as dangerous as I’d expected yet technical enough for our group of 13 to put more than two minutes into the chasers by the time we finished the 40km.
Entering T2 my feet and hands were pretty much frozen. I managed to get my helmet off fairly quickly but struggled when putting on my shoes. I had a little sit down as a matter of fact (see the video at the bottom). Starting the run I couldn’t feel my feet. I knew I was running but it didn’t feel like it were my legs that I was running on. Starting the run in about 8th I started working my way to the front. A British girl passed me and I hung on to her back, moving into fifth. I kept remembering Brett’s words “be brave on the run”, as I had not expected to be in this position and just kept ticking over. On the last lap I was glad to be done soon, when my coach told me a girl behind was picking up the pace. Remembering how I had been passed in the finish in Karlvoy Vary, I thought to myself I will not let her steal my top 5 spot. So I sprinted the last few hundred meters down the finish line, finishing 5th in the world.
I think it is fair to say that I’ve surprised myself with that outcome. I knew I was getting fitter with every session but had not expected to be running this well on race day. I am very happy to be back racing and can’t wait to put in more work to see what more I’ve got to show.
Sometimes you need a little help getting back up, so a big thank you to everybody that has helped me get here: family, coach, friends and sponsers!
All pictures taken by Andrea Rudin.
Next up the European Cup Final in Melilla on October 8th.
Michelle: Ironman Zurich
10.08.2017: With more than a week passed its time to put pen to paper (figuratively) and write about the experience that was my first ever Ironman.
I’ve been asked a couple of times whether the idea to race an Ironman was a last-minute surprise decision but no it wasn’t. I already knew in January that I would tackle the race in Zurich and still remember the Whatsapp conversation that pretty much settled my racing there:
Coach: ... so we’ll just keep getting ready for Rapperswil and Zurich.
Me: Yep, sounds like a plan.
Coach: Do you know which Zurich i mean???? ( I’m not exaggerating about the question marks)
Me: Yes, the Ironman.
Coach: Oh, there is a lion under all that spoilt softness wanting to get out.
(It didnt take a genius to figure out that he meant the Ironman as the plan for the season was to go long and I’d just ordered my first TT-bike. Also if I were to race the 5150, i would never have been told in January already)
Fast forward about 6 months, the race was only a week away and it was time to plan my nutrition. Together with Coach Susie I calculated how many calories per hour I would need to take in and how to take them. In all the half-distance races (a grand total of 3) I had done so far, I had never been thourough enough in planning and executing my nutrition so I was really glad to have Susie’s help and also consult with Ruedi Wild from Sponser.
I tend to get very nervous to the point of distructive before a race and normally wear that emotion on my face. So on Monday morning Brett told me: „If I ever see you look scared this week you are not racing!“ Here was my challenge to put on a pokerface for a week as I definitely started to get nervous but also excited. I must have done a good job as I was standing on the startline early Sunday morning where I definitely looked scared shitless.
The swim can be summed up quickly in Coach’s words: shit day. At the start I was so focused on catching Céline’s (Schärer) that I pretty much forgot to swim fast. So after about 300m and a couple of desperate surges on my part Céline was off and away for the rest of the day. (Congrats here to her amazing performance on the day and a big thanks for helping me with advice in the preparation!) After admonishing myself for that mistake I remembered the advice to „always look forward on race day and not dwell on what’s happened“ and started swimming as fast as possible. Together with another PRO women I still exited the water in 2nd.
After a quick transition I hopped onto my bike in 2nd and focused on getting into a rhythm and really enjoyed riding out of the city without having to stop at a single streetlight ;) The first lap felt quite good and not like I was overexerting myself. I tried not to get distracted by some of the other PRO women passing me as i was told that the single most important thing for the day was to focus on myself and only myself.
Riding up Heartbreak Hill the first time was awesome with the crowds cheering loudly (I had been at Heartbreak Hill as a kid watching my parents go up but riding through was a completely different story).
Heading out of the city for lap 2 was where the pain started, my lower back felt tight and riding in the TT-position became really uncomfortable. So i was shifting the position around and was glad when the 30klm of flat along the lake were over. In the hills I felt more comfortable but I am still not happy with my 2nd lap on the bike; instead of accelerating I was fading.
Happy to see transition I jumped off my bike only to be disappointed when instead of relief pain flooded my body. „Seriously, this is what I had been looking forward to during the last 70klm on the bike!?“ Not dwelling on this thought I racked my bike, got my shoes and cap and headed onto the run where I heard the soothing voice of Coach Robbie telling me to „eat, drink, relax“, a simple but much needed reminder.
With the first step on the run I realized that the pain I had felt on the bike was here to stay and with my history of broken bones in the hip area my mind started racing trying to assess whether it was a „bad pain“ or just pain from the exertion. Passing my Mum on the first aid station I put on a brave face only to start walking after the aid station as the pain just overwhelmed me. When it didnt subside while walking I was certain my sacrum was fractured. Unsure what to do I started running (or rather shuffling) again. Passing Coach I yelled out: „It hurst like hell“ but didnt stop. At the 4klm mark I walked again but it didnt give me any relief and to start running was even worse. So I told myself to start running and not stop until I wasn’t able to take it anymore. When I passed Julie at the 6klm mark I frustratedly yelled out: „It is fractured!!“ only to hear a very decisive „NO, you look good!“. So I shut my mouth but on the inside I was sulking and still unsure what to do. For the first time the thought crept up that I might not be able to finish this (before the race i was 100% certain that I would finish the race no matter what; probably only an Ironman rookie can think that way).
I pity-partied my way through the first 10klm until a thought hit me like a slap in the face: „You know what, Pistol (my Squad name)?! If your sacrum is fractured, it is fractured and you cannot do anything about it anymore anyways, so you may as well finish this race! You sure as hell won’t want a DNF next to your first Ironman!“ This thought turned everything around; the certainty that I would finish was back again and I was suddenly able to face the pain with an „I don’t care“ attitude. I now fully focused on getting my nutrition in and putting one foot in front of the other. The remaining 30 or so klm didn’t exactly fly by but apparently I was able to pick up the pace and claw back some of the time I had lost.
When seeing the sign that I had only 2klm to go the question „How am I to manage another 2klm of this?“ popped up in my head. Thinking that I only just did 40klm run and that 2klm were nothing, I laughed at myself, got some Coca Cola at the aid station and pushed myself towards the finish.
Running into the finish area I heard the speaker say: „And they are all still under 10h..“ and as I looked at the clock I saw 9:57, so I started „sprinting“ as I wanted to get in under 10h as well. My sprint was more of a wobble to the line (yes there’s a video and it looks pretty ridiculous) and a bit disappointed I later found out that I wouldnt have needed to sprint as i was already 4min over the 10h mark as these were times of the age group men with a later start. But in fact, it didnt really matter as I was just so happy to have pulled it off and to see my family and friends waiting for me.
The best thing about racing at home was to have so many people and especially some „non-triathlon“ friends out on the course cheering for me. Thank you all very much for the cheers!
On Wednesday after the race i got an MRI scan to assess whether i had done some damage to my sacrum. Turns out all my bones are still in one piece (*touch wood*) but that i had a bad inflammation on the hamstrings. After some light training the first week, i am now painfree again and back into regular training.
Happy racing you all!
Julie: Return to Racing
10.08.2017: This race recap is going to be a short one as I am supposed to be studying for my exams coming up in two weeks. But honestly, I’d much rather talk about triathlon than study.
Two weeks ago I raced for the first time since last December. Brett and I decided to do the legendary Alpe d’Huez Triathlon. There were a lot of unknowns going into the race. How fit would I be? How well would I run only four weeks into running. And then there was the hill! I’ve never been scared of a bike course before, but when I saw the climb up to Alpe d’Huez, I started to regret my excitement about doing this race.
(Not sure who was overtaking whom in this picture ;) )
Fortunately, come race day the bike went great. I had a decent swim, the climb didn’t bother me much and I just kept pedalling my way up. Only on the run I started to suffer and had really empty legs. Luckily, I had a lead of about three minutes and made it to the finish line in first.
I am really happy have a come back like this but there is still a lot of work to do to get back to my usual run shape.
Next up: Triathlon Schaffhausen as another trainings race and then come Monday I’ll put all the studying to use and finally get those exams started and over with.
Happy training and racing!
Nina: Learning Process Continues
Currently I am sitting in the library in Zurich, trying to memorize formulas to solve „Orthopaedic Biomechanics“ problems. Head spinning anyway from too much studying, I decided to also write a few lines about my last big race at Alpe d’Huez. I was looking forward to this race for a long time, pretty much since 70.3 Rapperswil, and then suddenly it was race day. Having done this race in 2016 for the first time, I knew better what to expect this time around.
Friends and family know that I was not quite happy after my race this year. The question for me was: how can you be content with a 4th place, being overtaken in the last 20 minutes of a 7hour race? Talking to my coach Susie, I realized the most important thing is to look at the effort and not the ranking. All together I was still 15 minutes faster on the same course than last year. So this is how my race went.
Around 9:20am literally hundreds of people and myself got into the icy waters of lac du verney and swam to the „invisible“ start line. The gun went off and the fight began. There was hitting, pulling, swimming across each other for all of the first 500m. It was actually quite terrible, but at some point I freed myself and could finally find some sort of a rhythm. Towards the end of the swim I overtook another girl and got out of the water in first.
Find me in the green swimming cap ;)
Quick transition and off for the 120km bike ride I went. For the first 25km, which was rather downhill but with a headwind, I focused on drinking and getting my legs going. At the start of the first hill Col de l’Alpe du Grand Serre Tine (Deckers) came racing past me and I tried to go with her for a couple of k’s, but I knew this race was too long and I need to go my own pace. After a second “little” hill, Col du Malissol, it was downhill for a longer period, before the start of the third hill, Col d’Ornon. This is when I started to feel really good, no other women have overtaken me yet and I was just pedaling up and over this third hill. On the downhill I then knew I had to get ready for the “real” challenge, Alpe d’Huez. Last year I was already “dead” at the start of Alpe and can’t remember much of how I got up that climb. A last deep breath and I was at the start of the famous 21 bends. The first 6 bends are the worst, everyone kept saying. I was very happy I made it around the first 6 bends without major problems. But slowly I started to feel the exhaustion and I was glad for every cheer out there.
At about half way up the alpe Emma (Pooley) came past me and I actually forgot that she was in the race too and at the same time I was surprised she only overtook me now, after more than a 100+km. I won’t lie, it was a bit daunting to see how she spinned up the hill, but then again she holds the bike record on this course. Quickly focusing on myself again, putting some more “yummy” gel down my mouth, I grinded up the last 6 bends. I was so looking forward to see my yellow running shoes. Bike racked, shoes on, gels in hand, out I went and then – SHOCK. I felt flat, I felt empty, I felt like saying: there is nothing left in my legs (Actually I probably yelled exactely that at my sister!). Last year I got onto the run and felt like a little bird, smoothly running through the 22km. This year I didn’t know how to make the distance. First lap okay, then running out for the second lap, suddenly someone held a yellow card infront of my face saying something in French and pointing at my number. I was like what the f…. Let’s just say the French take the position of the bib number very seriously. It must be at your front at all times no matter what. After, again yelling at my sister (poor Julie), that she should check if I really had a penalty (it was only a warning!) I got through the second lap. I could write a lot about how bad it felt, but in the end when Lisa (Roberts) overtook me in the last of three laps, there was not much I could do other than “get myself home”, like Coach Susie told me to.
In hindsight, I am still proud of my race. With every race the learning process continues and I am already looking forward to next couple of races after the exams. As the saying goes “after this race (Alpe d’Huez) you’ll be fitter than ever”.
At this point: Kudos to my two younger sisters. Julie wining her first race post injury, Michelle doing great in her first Ironman ever. I think the DERRON SISTERS ARE ON TOUR. ;)
Michelle: Time flies - a little update
29.07.2017: After IRONMAN 70.3 Rapperswil and the end of semester at Uni we packed up our little car (a Fiat Panda if you’re interested) and started the trip to St. Moritz, this year taking the more comfortable route through Vereina Tunnel after we had had some trouble putting the car through its paces up Julier Pass last year ;). Once settled into our rented apartment it was time to get stuck into Summer Camp with the TriSutto.com Squad. Despite not being our first summer up here it is still breathtaking (pun intended) to train in such a beautiful mountain environment.
Sadly for me this bliss only lasted a week and then it was time to board the train back home to Zurich to take this year’s Uni exams. 5 exams within 10 days with some 9+ hours of studying on the days i didnt have an exam was quite intense and by the time the last exam rolled around i was glad my head was screwed on as otherwise i might have lost it somewhere on the way ;)
While i was at home, Nina and Julie were up in St. Moritz getting some serious training in. Nina then went to Italy for a weekend together with Coach/ Athlete Mirjam to race an Olympic Distance in Idro, about a three hour drive away. The name of the race – „Alive in Hell“ – was an indication of what would turn into an even tougher race than imagined as conditions varied from pouring rain to hail storms during race morning. With some delay the race got underway and Nina swam well, was careful on the bike to then run away from all her competitors on the run to take the victory.
Julie in the meantime was working on her comeback from an early season injury by gradually starting to run again. She was more than happy when she was first allowed outside again after some months in the water and on the AlterG.
The day after my exams another exciting thing happened as we had a meeting with Sponser Sport Food to finalize our future partnership. So now we are very happy to be part of the Sponser Sport Food Family!
After my exams, we have all been up here and time has passed really quickly with training and also studying for Nina and Julie as they prepare for their Uni exams at the end of August. Me, on the other hand, i’m honing my houswife skills by cooking for my sisters and doing most of the laundry and washing (not that i plan on housewife career,just as a side note;) ).
At the beginning of July, Nina also took part in the Gigathlon in Zurich. A 2-day race consisting of swim, bike, run, mountainbike and trail run in changing order. Nina did it together with a partner and they were going so well they came 2nd only one minute behind the winners after 2 days of tough racing.
The week after Julie had the pleasure (or pain in the ass, dont ask me ;) ) to go home for a week of maths revision as she gets ready (and nervous) for her first ever exams at ETH.
A week later, it was my time to come down from the mountain to race an Olympic Distance in Geneva to get some more race practice under my belt. Contend with my swim and bike, i had a little scare on the run when my left side got really tight and demons of past injuries crept up. So i ended the race with more of a shuffle and was happy to cross the finish line finding i had come 2nd.
Now we are in the middle of a busy week as Nina and Julie had travelled to France to compete in the iconic Alpe d’Huez Triathlon there. While Nina came a great 4th the Long Distance event, Julie took the win in the Olympic Distance event as her first race of the season post injury. (Race reports will follow soon)
Then tomorrow it will be my turn, as i will be on the startline of my first Ironman in Zurich.
Happy racing to all and have a great summer!