Sunday July 27, 2016
2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run
“No matter how tough things get in life, you just just have to keep moving forward.”
Fred and Yvette Fields
I left on an overnight flight to London. This is an approximately 11 hour flight. I slept 7 plus hours so all was well. After a three-hour layover in London, I then had a 90 minute flight to Zurich Switzerland. After landing I found out that my bicycle, which I had brought with me, did not make it. But the Swiss being very efficient had already tracked it and it was coming on the next flight. Since it was late I left for the city and let them deliver it the next morning. I checked into my apartment around midnight. I had rented an apartment since I was going to be there for 7 days. The next morning the bicycle was delivered. No scratches or anything, so everything went well. The first week was just relaxing getting used to the time difference (there’s a 9 hour time difference between Los Angeles and Zurich) and enjoying Zurich a little bit. Zurich is a beautiful city with a large lake and a river that passes through the city. Rest was needed as race day on Sunday would come quickly.
RACE DAY MORNING
This race day morning was different than my last ones. I usually get about 5 to 6 hours sleep. But somehow I couldn’t sleep and got only about one and a half hours of sleep. I knew I would be a little on edge but I tried to keep myself calm. I got out of bed at 3:30am to do the final preparations and have breakfast and to get to the transition at 5 a.m. We leave our bike, running and biking gear at the transition area on Saturday, so all I had to do was put water and fuel on my bike, pump the tires and check all my transition bags to make sure everything was correctly there. This is very important as when you get off out of the water you need all your bike gear to change into and the same for the transition when you get off the bike and begin to run, The water was just barely legal (cool enough) for wetsuits. This was just below 74.5 degrees as mandated by the Ironman Corporation. Since I’m a good swimmer I would have actually preferred not to wear a swimsuit but since everyone else was wearing one, I wore it. Then it was down to the starting line to begin a long and arduous day.
THE SWIM: 2.4 Miles
Dr. Fields after the 2.4 mile swim
They had about 1,700 competitors at this race . This is less than the usual 2200- 2500. You seed yourself in holding areas by finishing times (under 1 Hour, between 1 hour and 10 minutes and so on. I put myself in the one hour to 1:10 area as this is my expected time. They let the people go six at a time, every 5 Seconds. But due to the fact that you had to run about 15 feet and then walk in the water over stones before actually starting the swim, everyone ended up getting jammed up so it was really like mass start. This meant that there were people were swimming over each other and very close. So I took my time not only lifting my head to keep my bearings straight, but to make sure I was not being bumped by other swimmers too much. Another problem was that all the buoys were of the same color. Usually when you have to turn, they place a different color buoy. So this too delayed my swim and I knew I would be slightly slower than before. As I made the final turn after two miles, I started to head back to the shore for the final 0.4 miles to make a total of 2.4 miles. The only thing marking the exit was a small black balloon archway. Unfortunately this was not very distinguishable from the water and people were zigzagging all over the place. I could only really see it when I got about two hundred meters close to the shore. I found out later that this problem and the ones mentioned before were had by many other swimmers. But all in all it went well. My swim was slower than before due to the crowding at the start and the sighting difficulties, but now I was done with the 2.4 mile swim and it was on to the bike.
THE BIKE: 112 Miles
Dr. Fields during the 112 mile bike ride
After getting out of the wet suit and getting my bike shoes, helmet and sunglasses on, I got on the bike and started to ride. The first 15 – 20 miles is very flat but also very scenic as you go around the lake. After about 10 to 15 minutes I started to take some nutrition in to replace what I had burned off while I was biking. It’s important not to take anything in the first 10 to 15 minutes so that your blood goes from your upper body into your lower body. This time we started one of two very long and fairly steep climbs. It was a little bit of a cloud cover so this was good. This cloud cover would be dispersed by the second Loop and the temperature would rise. At the start of the body temperature was probably around 70 degrees but later it would go into the mid-to-upper 80s. Plus it was humid out. As you did this series of two different climbs you have some spectacular views of Lake Zurich and the city. This made things a little bit easier. And the rest of the ride you passed by pastures with cows and some small villages. Towards the end of the first loop you pass the transition area and do a small little 8 Mile loop. In this 8 Mile loop is an extremely steep hill. It is only about half a mile long but the steepest hill you climb. This area was jammed with spectators yelling and cheering on both sides of the road about 10 to 15 deep. It was very invigorating as you climb this hill and heard music blaring on loud speakers (the second time around I heard ‘Born in the USA’ by Bruce Springsteen). The you descend down the back and go back to the start of the race to begin your second loop after the first 66 miles. The second loop was a little tougher as the temperature reached into the mid-eighties and the sun was out in full force. Since they were long stretches of flat riding, one is down in their Triathlon handlebars alot. This puts a lot of pressure on your neck as you look up periodically to see the traffic in front of you. My neck was getting very tight and even though I was moving it around it was stiffening up a lot. So when I saw a small grassy area quickly hopped off the bike down on the ground and stretched my neck out. This cost me about 45 to 60 seconds off the bike but was well worth it is when I got back on my neck was a lot looser. I could have used a chiropractor at that point but unfortunately they don’t have them on the race course! hahaha.
Unfortunately, even though this was a Swiss race, they did not have it organized that well. There was no ice anywhere on the race course (this was to also include the run portion). That meant when they handed you water bottles they were basically warm. One is used to getting an ice cold water which is very refreshing. The second loop went well and after doing a very steep climb at the end again, it was off the bike and into transition to begin the run
THE RUN: 26.2 Miles
Dr. Fields during the 26.2 mile run
After riding 112 miles, it’s always a nice feeling to get off the bike. I changed into on my running shoes and was off for the 26.2 mile run. At this point it was very sunny and hot. They changed the run this year so that you would pass through the heart of the city and by Lake Zurich . But they made it a four loop course which was a little monotonous. My first 10+K loop went very well for me. As you left transition and passed by the crowds it was very invigorating. After 2k you turn to go through the downtown area. You went down one of the main streets with a lot of fancy stores. Then you turned into the malled off streets that were cobblestones but not too bad to run on. These were very small and winding streets in the old part of town. Several cafes were there too with spectators. Then you came out alongside the river and under a bridge to run about 2K by the lake. Here there were hundreds, if not more, people cheering as they enjoyed their Sunday afternoon. This was very invigorating hearing people cheer you on and yell your name or the country you were from (the race tags we wore had our first name and two small flags of the country you where from). The whole time you ran along the lake there were throngs of crowds. After turning around we headed back to the transition area to begin the next 3 loops. This was a little tough as when you pass transition you also passed the Finish Line.
Dr. Fields crossing the finish line
After each loop, there were people finishing but you still have to continue around and do your loops. They kept track of this when you came up towards the end of each loop and they would put a colored arm band around your forearm . Once you have four armbands on you could turn it into the finish line. As I said, the first loop very well. During the second loop I started to develop some foot pain. I have had this in the past in training but it only would last about 10 to 15 minutes at most. Unfortunately this time it did not go away so my second loop (each loop was a little more than 10K) was much slower. This pain would come and go until halfway into my 4th and last loop. But Ironman are all about challenges. I just dug deep and kept my focus on where I was going and put the pain aside.Dr. Fields crossing the finish line But all-in-all, I persevered. By the third fatigue was getting setting in but I just kept going since I you had to go out and do a fourth loop. Of course in everyone’s mind you’re thinking maybe I could just turn and go into the finish line. But again you could not enter the Finish Line without the four colored bands on your arm ( and that would be cutting the course so in reality no one ever considers that). The route was interesting but unfortunately there was no ice anywhere on the course. This all the athletes found to be very unusual. They did have sponges you could squeeze the water out on your head, shoulders and back but again it was just all air temperature water. So you just kept sipping water, cola, taking in nutrition and putting one foot in front of the other.
So as I made the final turn at about four kilometers to go, I knew I was heading back and that despite any difficulties, I had I would complete my 7th Ironman. As I came into the transition area and made the final 50 meter turn into the finish line I knew I had done it again. As I crossed the finish line I heard the words that I had heard 6 times before, “Peter Fields, you are an Ironman!”
Of course as with every other race I was dedicating this race in the memory my mother and father. When the pain in my foot started to get worse during the run I just stayed focused. I had learned from both of them that no matter how tough things get in life, you just just have to keep moving forward. I also kept a small remembrance of them in my back jersey pocket. When things would get really tough, I would reach back and touch it. Knowing they were with me made it a lot easier.
Many of you may not know this but both my parents were refugees fleeing fascism during World War II.
Being Jewish and living in Germany in the 1930’s was not an ideal situation, to say the least.
My mom’s family fled Germany to live in France in 1933. My mom was only 7 years old. After 8 good years, they had to flee once again, in 1941, to the US. So at the young age of 16 she would have to learn her third language, see her dad pass away after only a month in the US, help care for her family and more.
My dad, at 19, left Berlin in 1938 to hide out in Shanghai, China. He knew that it was either get out of Europe or perish. His parents unfortunately would never make it out. It took him nine years, until 1947, to finally get to the US. Penniless and without family, he would eventually meet my mom (married for 56 years) and with her start a successful business, raise a family and the rest is history.
No matter how bad things got they never gave up hope,
They instilled this in me from early childhood.
And it stayed with me and helped me through this race.
What was happening to me during the race was nothing compared to my parents journeys, but as they taught me, just kept moving forward and don’t look back.I share with you these stories as this is what I kept in my head as I was running past the pain and fatigue of working out for over 12+ hrs straight. The book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl, MD, Phd, which was my father’s favorite book, has a famous quote that goes something like this: ‘It’s not what happens to you in life that matters; it’s how you deal with it’.
I want to thank everybody who has gotten to this point and taken the time to read this. Also everybody out there who were shouting and/or cheering during the race following me on the Internet or just in their minds. I appreciate it all.
Of course, I thank my parents everyday for not only the love they gave me, but for the spirit and determination to never give up that they ingrained in my soul. I’m so thankful that I had them as my parents.
One last special dedication.
To my 91yo uncle Andre in Belgium, who felt guilty about taking time away from following me on the computer to do a few errands.
He sometimes knew more about me during the race then I did.
Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Jamar!
Peter A. Fields, MD DC
The Athletic Doc® and 7X Ironman Triathlete