martedì 27 agosto 2013

Lettera dall'America di Eva Kovacs

SORRIDENTE Eva Kovacs taglia il traguardo: è fatta!
Pubblichiamo questo bel resoconto inviatoci da Eva Kovacs in cui racconta com'è andata la sua ultima gara, l'Ironman di Mont Tremblant disputato domenica. Ricordiamo che Eva è nata a Minusio e che dopo gli studi al Politecnico di Zurigo si è trasferita dapprima in Olanda per il dottorato e in seguito negli Stati Uniti (appena fuori New York) dove oggi lavora per la multinazionale Unilever. Eva - forse non tutti lo sanno - è stata una delle pioniere del triathlon in Ticino: la sua prima gara risale infatti al 1986 quando prese parte ad una delle primissime edizioni del triathlon di Locarno che si chiamava ancora "Ironman".
Del Ticino, ci sembra dunque di capire, Eva ha portato con sé non solo il ricordo dei laghi e delle montagne, ma anche quell'emozione lontana del il piacere di fare triathlon... 

Dear family and friends,

I am back in New Jersey (just for a temporary stay J) after a short but great post-Ironman vacation in Quebec City. I was hoping for some relaxation and recovery time there, but I didn’t realize how many hills and stairs I would have to climb... Ouch!

As promised, here is my race report from the North American Ironman Championship in beautiful Mont Tremblant.
This is not an easy race, but definitely one of my favourite: a flawlessly organised race, a very welcoming community, a nice course packed with supporting volunteers and spectators, and an amazing finish stretch in the heart of the pedestrian village of Mont Tremblant resort.

As mentioned earlier, I didn't have my best preparation for this race. I started training later than usual (it was about April when I picked up normal training), I injured my shoulder in the spring which much affected my swim training, I started riding on my tri bike only in July, and the longest I rode this year was 140km. Needless to say that my confidence wasn't at the highest, also because I felt like getting sick (flu like symptoms) shortly prior to the race. This resulted in my most extreme form of tapering ever, i.e. only a short swim in the week heading to the race, and no course recognition of any kind in Mont Tremblant. I had many doubts for this race, but once I reached the 'point of no return', i.e. bike and gear bags check-in, it was all about getting the right mindset, with the knowledge that I have done this many times, and that I could do this again.

At least the weather forecast was very good: sunny, warm (but no extreme temperatures like in many of my 2012 races), and just a little wind.

Swim [3.8km/2.4mi]
This year, Ironman introduced rolling or wave starts at various races. Over the last years there have been several fatalities in triathlon, mainly during the swim, and eliminating mass starts was seen as a potential strategy to improve the safety of the athletes. Ironman Mont Tremblant would apply wave starts. Our wave (35y+ ladies in pink caps) was the last one, starting at 7:00am.  The start was a bit crowded with the usual kicking and being kicked, but things sorted out after a few buoys. My swim was pleasant despite the fact that my injured shoulder started hurting early on. I was pretty happy about my time (1h33min), typical of what I normally swim, given that my swim training had been less than ideal due to my injury. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Daniel, a NJ friend who I haven't seen in a year, exiting the water at the same time, and to see Diana, who was volunteering as a wetsuit stripper, cheering me out loud.

We had a fairly long run to the changing tent. All went smoothly there, after which I made a stop to get sun screened before getting on my bike. Two volunteers helped with the sunscreen, a woman on the right side and a man on the left side of my body. Well, my left side of the body would remain white for the rest of the race since too large amounts of sun screen dried out on my skin, and this can be clearly seen on the pictures taken during the race, oh well...

Bike [180km/112mi]
The bike started well, the temperature was ideal, little wind, and smooth roads. I was careful not too push too hard, especially on the hills (no big ring allowed!). I was pretty pleased with the time on the first loop, but I knew that I would not be able to sustain the same pace in the second loop. The wind picked up, it was getting hot (at least for British standards), my energy went down, and my knees started to hurt. The lack of long distance rides became noticeable. I was not alone in having a hard time though. While I felt like I was slowing down little by little, I was still passing people. I was very glad when I finally got back to transition, about 20 min slower than last year (6h56min). The last hills really broke me and I wasn't really looking forward to start the run.

All went well again in the changing tent, and after a short stop for sun screen and at the John's, I headed out for the 42km run in the heat.

Run [42.2km/26mi]
The strategy was simple: to run as much as possible on the flats and downhills, and to do whatever I could on the uphills. This worked well, until my feet started hurting like hell, which resulted in stopping every 2-3km to take out my shoes and stretch my feet (if someone knows a good solution for flat feet in terms of running shoes or running insoles, your suggestion is very welcome). This was unfortunate, because these stops must have cost me 10-15min in total and lots of smiles (it is tough to keep smiling when being in pain). It was fairly hot at least on the first loop, with resulted in copious drinking and continuous filling of my hat with ice to keep my head cool. Luckily, the temperature cooled off at sunset when I was into the second loop, which made the running a bit more bearable. My run time would not be particularly good (5h48min), but I was glad to see several of my friends on the run course, i.e. Andy (my long time Ironman 'buddy'), Michael, Nicola (who I met at Ironman 70.3 Wimbleball earlier this year in very different weather conditions), Susan and Peter. It reminded me that I was not alone in this 'crazy' thing. As always, the best part is the last stretch to the finish, a lot of cheering and applauding, a lot of hands to high five, a lot of smiles to receive and give, and Mike Reilly who welcomed every finisher with the well known "You are an Ironman!", in my case adding a “All the way from Switzerland...” (total time: 14h33min; unfortunately the finisher photo shows the time based on the first wave, a disadvantage of having wave starts instead of a mass start). Just after the finish line, I met again with Daniel who finished just seconds behind me, what a pleasant coincidence.

Closing remarks
This was #22, and for sure it is not getting any easier. Still, I haven't given up the hope to beat my PB (not accepting the word ‘aging’ yet...). I just need to be able to combine good preparation, good health, easy course (if there is such a thing in Ironman) and perfect weather conditions. And a bit of luck...
The 2013 season is coming to an end. I might do a few more triathlon, run or bike events in the fall, but these will be short and local to Bedford UK.

For now I "only" have Challenge Roth (Germany) and NYC Marathon (which I have been postponing since 6 or 7 years) on my agenda. I was hoping to do Ironman Whistler (with a post-Ironman vacation on Vancouver Island), but I just realized that they will move the race to July, so in 2014 it will be take place only one week after Challenge Roth (not a good combo). Maybe in 2015...
I will certainly keep you posted.

A big thank you goes to my supporting crew: my driver, my sherpa, my cook, my mental coach, my medical advisor, my massage therapist, and my personal photographer.
As usual, also thanks to every one for reading my story, for the pre-race good luck wishes, and the post-race congratulations messages.

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