Paul’s SWISSMAN Story
Hello, my name is Paul Der and I came from the United States to compete in the 2014 SWISSMAN xtreme triathlon and I had a very interesting experience and would like to share it. I am not sure if you have a limit on the length of the story, but I will try to keep it as short as possible.
After months of training, I was ready to leave from the Cleveland, Ohio airport on Wednesday, June 18th on a flight to Newark, New Jersey to then take a connecting flight to Zurich, Switzerland. Unfortunately, bad weather came in just before my flight from Cleveland was supposed to leave and my flight was delayed for over two hours which meant I would miss my next flight to Zurich. There were no hotel vacancies in Newark so, I had to sleep in the airport and take a flight the following day. I slept on the floor in the terminal for four hours, ate whatever was available in the food court and did my final 45 minute tune up run in the terminal.
On Thursday evening I boarded my flight to Zurich and slept on the plane, again for about four hours, and arrived in Zurich at 11:00 in the morning on Friday only to find that the airline had lost my luggage which contained all of my triathlon gear. Luckily, my bicycle did arrive as planned so, I got in a car and drove to Ascona to check in for the race. Katrin was so very helpful in my time of need, she informed me that I would be able to swim without a wetsuit, gave me the address of a sporting goods store where I could purchase the gear I needed, and gave me the address of a bicycle shop which would put my biciyle together while I gathered my supplies. The largest bicycle shoes I could find were two sizes too small (I wear a 14 US) and the only bicycle shorts I could find that fit were for ladies. Having purchased the bare necessities for the race, picked up my bike, and then eaten a quick dinner, I had only three hours of sleep the night before the race.
On the morning of the race I spoke with fellow SWISSMAN, Martin Frei, on the boat ride to the island. He did a great job of keeping my mind occupied and I felt much more calm and relaxed for the first time in about 72 hours. I swam without the wetsuit, finishing slower than I had hoped and quite cold! I then got on the bike and rode to Gotthard Pass only to have a spoke break in my rear wheel causing it to bend. I then walked my bike to the top of the mountain pass and met with the Swissman Crew who were able to help me straighten my wheel and then I rode on, very slowly! Little did I know that my supporter and the Swissman crew were able to find a fellow Swissman athlete who had a spare bicycle I could borrow! I apologize but I do not know the name of this athlete. The borrowed bicycle was a 56cm (I ride a 61cm) but this mattered very little to me, I was just very happy to have a bike! I then completed the ride, taking over 11 hours due to the broken wheel, and started the run. The run went very well until the last mile of the final climb to Kleine Scheidegg when my support runner got a cramp and was unable to continue with me. I then finished the race alone with a final time of 18 hours 58 minutes.
I would just like to thank Katrin and the entire SWISSMAN Support Crew for all of the help they gave me along the way. It was such a beautiful race course and I feel very priveliged to have been able to complete it. It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life and I would not have been able to participate had it not been for the help of the SWISSMAN Crew. THANK YOU!!! I would love to return to the race in the future, possibly as a support runner, but I will not enter the race as an athlete again. As much as I would love to have that experience again, I was fortunate enough to have done it and I would like as many other athletes as possible to have the same opportunity. I am proud to be a member of the SWISSMAN Family and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.
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