Honiton’s Ironman Kevin tackles Swiss Challenge

Dennis Elliott had the chance to see Honiton’s Ironman Kevin Wood take part in the 2010 Ironman Switzerland event. Here is his account of how the day unfolded.

The day of 2010 IRONMAN Switzerland has arrived and organisation, Swiss style, is everywhere.

The whole of downtown Zurich and the roads around its beautiful lake are closed to traffic. Orange-coated local marshalls are at every crossing or danger point. 

At 7am precisely, 2,500 competitors, clad in black wet-suits and wearing yellow swim hats, enter the water to begin the swim leg of this daunting challenge. Out in the lake a series of orange buoys marks the course as the swimmers set off and quickly form an arrowhead formation, the water ‘foaming’ as they go.  

Among the competitors is East Devon company director of Devonvale, Kevin Wood, Captain of the N1 Tri Club. After completing 1.2 miles of swimming, the competitors emerge from the water and run across an island, where Kevin’s family and supporters have just the time to catch a glimpse of him as he enters the water for a second time. Back home in Devon, many of Kevin’s club mates also track his progress, as attached to his left ankle is a microchip mapping his efforts and broadcasting it to the web. Kevin completes the swim section in a time of one hour nine minutes, a magnificent 103rd in his category.

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Finally emerging after 2.4 miles of swimming, the competitors take off their wetsuits and enter the bike park, where they change into cycling gear and prepare for the bike leg. One of the benefits of triathlon is it builds a well-balanced physique and, as a result, the various national and club colours of Lycra that adorn the athletes, create a wonderful spectacle of athleticism.

The bikes are all magnificent, most are Time Trial designed and allow the riders to adopt a low streamlined position. Many opt for an aero-helmet too, as the long, pointed tails, reduce turbulence. The bikes have aero-wheels, which start to ‘hum’ as they endeavour to cheat the wind.

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Indeed, the sight of a group of riders is eerie and more akin to a Martian invasion. The bike ride is two laps of a 56-miles course, yes 112- miles in all!!.

All the category leaders are flanked by motorcycle outriders, as speeds exceed 30 miles-an-hour on the flat and more than 50 on a downhill section.

Approaching the half way point ‘Heart break Hill’ awaits. The crowds at this point are ten deep and allow space for single file only, as the riders are encouraged to climb this obstacle. Bands play and cow bells ring and the strange Swiss ‘whoops’ of encouragement are offered to each and every competitor. After five hours 48 minutes of full on effort, in blistering sunshine of over 30 degrees, Kevin completes his bike ride, a superb personal best for the distance. Having changed his footwear, he is now ready to begin the final leg of the challenge, a 26.2 mile marathon run. The course comprises four laps of a circuit, the crowd is now huge, as seemingly most of Zurich’s population has come out to pay its respects to this great event.

Kevin’s supporters move around the course, now carrying placards, rattles and plastic balloons (all courtesy of Swiss organisation) and pop up at crucial moments to cajole and encourage.

All are gripped by a seemingly overpowering tension. Back home in Devon, the computers continue to monitor his progress. Each runner is identified by their race number, his or her name and their country flag. Cries of encouragement ring out in many languages.

After four hours and 20 minutes of running, Kevin enters the finishing area, where a special track is laid out, bordered by advertising signs and offering maximum viewing space for the crowd to welcome each and every competitor. People beat the advertising boards, creating a rumbling thunder and the grandstands are full of cheering masses carrying their national flags.

In the background classic rock anthems blare out, adding to the occasion. Kevin finally strides down the finishing straight ‘high-fiving’ - his face a picture of joy! 

At 6.27pm, it is Kevin’s turn to receive the announcers attention - as each do in his or her turn. On the large screen above the finishing line the news flashes up that all his friends present already know and all those back home see confirmed on their flashing PC screens. Kevin Wood - N1 Tri Club - Great Britain - IRONMAN. 11-hours 27 minutes.

Kevin is passionate about his sport and is keen to encourage others to become involved.

If you are interested visit the N1 web-site on www.n1triathlon.co.uk and don’t worry if swimming is a challenge, we will help you fix that.

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