Ironman Switzerland – Swim

The calm before the storm


before the start
Nervous wait
rolling start
Rolling start


This is the second part of my Ironman Switzerland story. For part one click here.

The first few hundred meters were a blur as arms flailed everywhere, with everyone trying to take the straightest route to the first turn buoy. Other people had opted for a warm-up before the start, but I decided to keep dry – I didn’t want to mess my hair up. The water was nice and warm, so there wasn’t the initial shock as your face went under for the first time.

I just tried to settle into my swimming as quickly as possible, with the advice of others ringing in my head – take it real steady on the swim, as it’s an awfully long day. Get to transition feeling as fresh as possible for the miles ahead.

Swim course
Swim Course

The swim course was a clockwise rectangle, which you had to swim out to and then back in to get to transition. Usually, I’m not too bad at sighting and swimming straight, but for some reason today I was having an absolute shocker. I kept veering off course and having to adjust and swim back in towards the main packs of swimmers. This did have its advantages though – no one was swimming around me as they were all in the right direction whilst I was in the wrong one…

My swimming has come a relatively long way in the space of 6 months or so, but I know in comparison to the other 2 sports, I’m not very competitive in the water. It’ll take time to improve, but I’m hoping after a solid few years in the sport my swimming will advance and I won’t look like an elephant in the water. As my dear mother has always said; ‘Joe really loved sport, but sport never really loved him’. I’m out there to prove otherwise.

I got caught in the face a few times from rogue arms, but thankfully the goggles stayed in place throughout. At one point someone tried to swim into me, so I simply placed my arm under them and scooped them out of the way. Sorry about that! Generally, there wasn’t that much contact, allowing me to swim my own race.

Swimming 2.4 miles can take an awfully long time, and during that time you don’t really have any idea how long you’ve been going for or how long you have to go. I could take a sneaky look at my watch, but prefer to be blissfully unaware, knowing that I’ll get there eventually (hopefully within the 2 hours and 20 cut-off time!)


I seemed to be overtaking more swimmers than being passed, so I saw this as a good sign. I spent some time thinking about the day ahead, and running through how I wanted it all to go, allowing myself a few seconds to think of that finish line before someone grabbing my ankle brought thoughts back to the present moment and the job at hand. I ensured they promptly let go of my ankle by kicking as hard as I possible could. No more ankle grabs for the rest of the swim.

The one constant thing during the swim was the massive grin on my face. I’d waited so long to do one of these ironman things, and the recurring thought I kept coming back to was that I couldn’t believe this was it, I was finally doing an ironman.

Eventually, I made the turn off the rectangle and caught my first sight of the massive arch that said ‘swim exit’. As I got closer towards it I could hear all the noise from the transition area, with the commentator’s voices blaring out from the sound system whenever I lifted my head to the side to breathe.

As I reached the exit ramp I was hauled out by a volunteer, surprisingly not getting the usual unsteadiness that often comes from a prolonged time in the water. A quick look at my watch showed a time of one hour and 13 minutes – that’ll do nicely. One year ago I was swimming half the distance in 40 minutes, so I’ll definitely take that.

Swim time: 1:13:33. 611th overall and 42nd in AG

Strava swim file

swim exit 1IMG_5598





I ripped off my hat and goggles and stripped the wetsuit down to my waist as I ran towards transition. I spotted Katie and my mum as I was heading off the bridge from the small island we’d swam to (it was impossible not to with the noise they were making), massive grin still firmly on my face as I said hello.

From there I entered the change zone, grabbed the bag with my bike stuff in, and sat down in the change tent, dumping all my gear on the floor in front of me. In Ironman events, nothing is left by your bike, so you do a complete change before going to grab it.

Minimal faffing as normal from me in transition, as the wetsuit came off smoothly and the helmet and sunglasses went on. I spent a bit of extra time putting on socks, figuring comfort would trump speed over this distance. Shoes on, I shoved my swim stuff in a bag and lobbed it on the floor with all the others, before trotting over to Norah (the name I’d give my bike after my late Nan).

The transition area was huge, hence the slightly slower than normal transition time! I had another energy gel on the way to the bike, before grabbing it off the rail and wheeling her out onto the main road. I jumped on (managing not to fall over in the process) to start what would be the furthest distance I’ve cycled in my life.

Transition 1 time – 3:41

6 thoughts on “Ironman Switzerland – Swim

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