Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland “Review” and Tips

Ironman 703
*****UPDATE: Rapperswil-Jona WILL return in 2013***
It’s amazing to think that nearly a year has passed since I completed my second Ironman Switzerland 70.3, when I wrote up my race report shortly after I said at the time that it was my plan to also write up a review of the event as well, obviously I never got round to completing that task, and with the event a few weeks away I thought it was about time I fulfilled that promise.
Unfortunately this years 70.3 in Rapperswil will be it’s last, it seems mainly due to financial issues, possibly due to lack of spectators (out on the bike course for example) and participant interest, and while the first in 2007 sold out quickly, in the the following years it’s never really taken off, which is a real shame as it’s one hell of a great race hosted in a beautiful location.
so..instead of giving a full review of the event as whole, I thought I would give some tips on the run, bike and swim, which may just help a few first timers and average Ironman types like myself make the most of this amazing race.
Tip: The last two years have been hot, you will burn, so prepare, make sure you apply plenty of sunblock.
N.B There are no volunteers with sunblock, make sure you bring your own and apply before the race.

The Swim

The first thing to remember about the swim start and exit is there is approximately 150-200 metres between entering/exiting the water and your bike in transition.
When heading down to the start from transition you will have to factor in that you’ll be crossing the swim exit lane for anyone who might be exiting in age group phases who start before you, the lane from the swim exit to the transition area if taped off and manned at all times, and with so many spectators moving to and from the start area it can be very busy, you will have to wait your turn to get through.
Swim Tip: Get down to the swim start early, don’t get caught in human traffic moving between “standweg” and the swim start, see below or on the official website here



Of all the triathlons I’ve taken part in in Switzerland, this swim course is the best marked course bar none. It’s simple out and back, if you stick close to the buoys and keep an eye out you’ll easily be able to see how far you have travelled as they distances are conveniently marked along the way (as of 2011, hopefully this is still the case in 2012). See below, or on the official site here


The swim starts in the water, so expect to be treading water for a while until the starting gun goes off.

Swim Tip: If you are a weak swimmer, wait in-shore and listen for the announcer counting down and move to the start line when the last minute is announced.

The swim is straight forward, strong swimmers want to get close to the buoys for the best racing line. When exiting, note that the lake floor is spongy, full of weeds and shells which can be sharp on the feet.

Swim Tip: Swim right up to the final metre of the swim exit, you will get bogged down in the spongy lake bottom, it's difficult to walk along the bottom and full of shells.

N.B There are NO wetsuit strippers at Rapperswil, you’ll need to remove your wetsuit yourself!

The Bike

Depending on your definition of what a climb is, you’ll either find Rapperswil bike pure hell or pure adrenaline, two laps of the course.

I asked Ronnie Schildknecht last year what was tougher, Rapperswil or the full Ironman Switzerland bike course, he said Rapperswil! Take note of the pro's words ;-)

First up, if you want more detail on the bike, you can see on my Strava data (from 2010) below or here:

Now, I need to point out I am not even an average cyclist, nor am I a climber of any sort, this was the longest road bike I’d ever done at the time and I suffered a lot. Tips or advice I can give may be utterly useless….just saying ;-) therefore my first tip is this

Bike Tip: If you can, ride the bike course a few days before the race, even if it’s just a slow scouting mission.
The profile of one lap of the bike course
The first 10KM are virtually flat, with more downhill than up, if you’re chasing time then this is where you can hit it hard and make some up.
Once the honeymoon of the first 10KM is over you’ll hit the witches hill, if you are novice I say the following
Bike Tip: Before hitting witches hill, drop onto your smallest chainring and lowest gear and don’t push to hard, don't panic!
The witches Hill - 1.5KM @ 6.7% average gradient
The climb is approximately 1.4KM in length with an average gradient of 6.7%, gradient vary, it can get near to 20% in places so be prepared and stay calm. Once you’re over witches hill you’ll have time to take a breathe and get back into a steady pace, there are some smaller downhill sections and flats to help.
Bike Tip: A water/aid station is situated at the top of witches hill, be ready to take on fluid
You can now, if you like, grab some fuel and get some energy back, if you’re a powerhouse then this is a great time to push on, between the top of witches hill and the start of the Goldigen climb it’s fairly flat with some downhill as well.
The climb up to Goldigen is a killer, 4KM at an average of 5.5% gradient according to my Strava stats. If you’re a below average cyclist like me this section might just bore you death, it’s a grind, don’t complain I didn't warn you :-)
The profile of the Goldigen climb, 4KM @ 5.5% average gradient, Cat 3
Tip: Don’t get caught it too low a gear, you’ll be on this climb for what seems like an eternity, once at the top it’s a rocket train back down to the start and loop 2.

Personally, Rapperswil is all about this climb, up to Goldigen, the second loop can make our break your bike split time. Once your at the top you're only worry is that you'll soon have to do it all over again, push on and make up time before you hit the witches hill for the second time.
Here's my bike split from last year, with some tips, check out that weather...amazing!
The Run

The run is pretty much your bog standard Ironman 70.3 run, 2 laps of 10KM of so. The only thing I can say here is that it has been hot the last two years, very hot, nearing 30 degrees Celsius (in the 80 degrees Fahrenheit range) and there is very little shade along the way. Be prepared!!
Run tip: Be prepared for heat, sunblock and good hydration are a must, take these into account, wear a run cap if needed.

...and by the way...enjoy the stairway to heaven ;)

Final thoughts and a found farewell to Rapperswil

I'll really miss Rapperswil, I never planned to race it this year, but once I knew it would not be on the calendar again I had to sign up.

It holds some great memories for me, being my first Ironman branded event, it set the standards I now judge other races by, great organisation, real friendly local spectators, which unfortunately seemed to have dwindled in numbers for the 2011 race (possibly to it overlapping with local holidays), great weather. Both years I have been there it's been hot, sunny, although it has rained late on into the day, which reminds me....

Tip: Make sure you have some waterproofs for after the race, just in case.


Rapperswil, Thanks for the memories!