Floris’ SWISSMAN Story

Swissman 2015 – 24hrs of pure enjoyment! (a story by Floris Kloosterman, 43, The Netherlands) 

2am the alarm went off, full of excitement I jumped out of bed, put on the cloths that I had laid on the shelf the day before. Turned to my normal morning ritual (albeit that it was 3-4 hours earlier!), coffee and a slice of bread with peanut butter. I was looking forward to this day!

From our rented holiday apartment my dad (supporter for the day) and I drove down to Ascona. Prepared T1, all quite easy, bags were already packed the day before, I only had to bring my tires to pressure and fill my fancy Swissman water bottles. We walked toward the boat where we met another Dutch competitor, Mayke. Together we entered the boat full of excited triathletes in their wetsuits. Unfortunately I missed my brother Diederik who was waving at the shore and was going to start cycling to Brienz now already (around 4:20am). On the boat Mayke and I were talking as if we were on a normal day to day commute, hiding our excitement and that we couldn’t wait to start!

Swimming: Brissago Island – Ascona

We entered  the water and I was surprised by its freshness. That means: I thought it was pretty cold. I Wished Mayke good luck. I was only to see her again at the finish. At 5am cow bells indicated the start, yes, yes, yes!!

 I’m not a fast swimmer (1:36 Nice and 1:45 Altriman). This year I put a bit more time aside for the swim training and I also did a trial swim in the lake a couple of days before which went smoothly. Unfortunately, it did not pay off….Around half an hour in the race I was second last where I remained until the shores of Ascona. A rescue boat was following me closely. This was obviously a good thing in case of an emergency but for me it was quite depressing. I was afraid that they would stop my race very early and lift me out of the water. Especially because I had  a cramp a couple of times (both legs) which didn’t improve my swimming technique which was quite doubtful already. 

To my great relief I left the water after 2:03 of swimming (still second last). At 7:13am I think I was the last to leave the transition zone.

Cycling: Ascona – Brienz 

Now the fun bit started, in a beautiful scenery and with good weather (still sunny) I smoothly peddled my way towards Gotthardpass. I quickly warmed up, had some food (yes, one of those gels each hour..) and started seeing some other participants. The Swissman bus and “sweep car” were close by, regularly informing whether everything was still OK.

A bit after Airolo the real climbing started on the old cobble stone road (note that a thousand altitude meters where already in the legs by then!). I loved it, not minding that the weather had turned for the worse now (wind and some rain). Focused on not over demanding my body – I was very well aware that I had to save now for what was coming ahead – I cycled up Gotthardpass. For me this was the nicest pass we cycled. At the top my dad and his wife Paula were cheering and providing me with more drinks and some necessary clothing for the cold weather and the downhill to Hospental (great!). 

In the climb to the Furkapass (now it was really windy and raining) the climatological changes tricked me, or better to say, they tricked my Garmin 910. The altitude meter showed a far too low figure, possibly due to the pressure changes in the air. Surprised to see that I still had to climb 500mtrs while cut-off time of 3pm was approaching I started to go into the red a little bit. I was to start the run and not to be stopped half way! When I saw my dad a couple of minutes later I was relieved and understood that something was wrong with the altitude measure. 

A very windy downhill later I started climbing the Grimsellpass from which you can see the valley and the downhill from the Furka very well with its atmospheric steam train and old chique hotels. Cycling up in bad weather is OK, you keep sort of warm. Going down is something different. With surprising side winds it was sometimes hard to remain on the road and the wind-chill factor played its role, I was well prepared but still…quite cold… Never the less the scenery was very impressive, sometimes the mist and clouds opened to reveal a harsh landscape with snow, cold water and white rocks, beautiful. 

The last lap from Innertkirchen to Brienz was easy and relaxing, satisfied I arrived at T2 around 5:10pm where I was welcomed by my brother (who arrived there some time earlier and went through the same hardship on the bike), my dad and Paula.

Run: Brienz – Kleine Scheidegg 

I felt very very good and relaxed, maybe a bit too much so. I was so satisfied that I made the run well in time that I took it easy on the first steep climb (ie walking) to really start running after the Giessbach waterfall. Again beautiful forestry scenery on the side of the turquoise lake in good weather. 

When we left the shores of the lake I started to worry a bit about the next 10pm cut-off time in Grindelwald. I knew that there were still some steep climbs ahead and I would have preferred some margin. With my brother on the bike next to me we did the math’s and decided to speed up. This is what I had trained for, I recalled my normal  routes in the dunes and found the right pace in this green mountainous landscape. Arriving at Grindelwald at around 9:30pm was a great relief. Now I knew for sure that I was going to make it to the finish!

With my dad we walked (yes, running was a past station by now), the steep dirt road towards Kleine Scheidegg. The great Eiger North face was overlooking us, stars and moon crescent glooming, fresh air, cows and forest, great! The warm clothes and flash light in my back pack came handy as it became quite chilly and dark.

Half past midnight we walked the last meters through the Swissman flags, we made it and we were warmly welcomed!

The day closed a bit similar to how it opened, a commute with the train instead of a boat back to Grindelwald. At 2am I could lay my body down to bed for a well-deserved rest.

Many thanks to Diederik (supplying great food and companionship at the first part of the run), my dad (supporting and walking up Kleine Scheidegg), Paula (arranging the apartment and joining again) and the support from home while training and at the day itself! Also a big thanks to the Swissman organization, I loved every bit of it, it was great, also the ceremony the day after!!!!

Something about myself: 

  • Floris Kloosterman (nr 117) 
  • Living in the village Heiloo in the Netherlands, I’m 43 years, an actuary, vegetarian and have a lovely family of 5 (11/8/4).
  • On average I trained around 6 hours a week for the past six months. This was my second full distance triathlon that I completed and by far the most scenic!