Unbelievably, in all my years as a Swiss triathlete I had never made it 70.3 Rapperswil. I wanted to make sure I ticked that box this year and although it could easily have been another Emma-fiasco, I somehow brought things together at the last minute and turned the day into a memorable event.
As usual I chose to make matters complicated for myself by accepting the role of ambassador at a local triathlon in the Jura (Eastern Swiss/French mountain range, aka the back of beyond) the day before. It was friendly and fun but required an inordinate amount of logistical gymnastics and driving the width of Switzerland a number of times in three days.
But no excuses, on Sunday morning I (thought I) was ready to go on the shores of chilly Lake Zurich. The gun went off and Emma got caught in the scrum, panicked, missed every single pair of feet by a nautical mile and flapped around like a chicken trying to be a duck until she finally made it round to the swim exit. It was to set the tone for the next three hours.
Whether it was the accumulation of races, or the weaving I did up Mont Ventoux the previous week, or simply that I was having a bad day, my body simply would not get into race mode. I felt like getting off and pushing my bike up some of the steeper sections – only pride kept me gritting my teeth and grinding down on the pedals. Because in fact my main problem was not the malfunctioning of my legs but rather the fact that I was “at home”, and not only my parents but some of my best non-triathlete friends had turned up to watch, and half the people lining the roadside knew who I was. I wasn’t anonymous by any stretch of the imagination and spent the whole 90km willing my legs to do their stuff and berating myself for not measuring up, upset because my body wasn’t cooperating and I wasn’t proudly showing off what it was capable of. Ego, ego, ego…
In the end, that pressure was also what kept me on my bike. I could look hopeless, or I could pull out. There was no choice at the end of the day. But man was I glad to see the end of the bike course!
As in Dubai, Wanaka and Taupo earlier this year, a sh*t bike with a wandering mind was mysteriously followed by an incredibly focused, go get ‘em run. Was it again my pride, pushing me in the right direction this time? The hand-made signs on the roadside telling me I rocked? The unfamiliar faces shouting “Hop Emma”? Or simply yours truly finally getting her head together and doing what she’s supposed to do?
I racked my bike in 6th place, got my little legs pumping and crossed the line in 2nd. I sprayed champagne into the air and spent the next four hours sitting on a bench in the sun chatting to my folks and my friends. Mentally I’d left a lot out on the course and all I wanted was to put it behind me and share the moment with the people who keep me sane day in, day out, dealing with the ups and downs of the tough sport I’ve chosen to make a living out of.
It’s so easy to get caught up in it all and forget to look around and appreciate all the shoulders I lean on. So to Mum, Dad, Claire, Jenny, Chloé, Kath and all the others who contribute in infinite ways, thank you for keeping me pedalling when all I want to do is stop, telling me I’m awesome no matter how much spit is plastered down my chin, and hugging me at the end – sticky smelly trisuit and all.
Love you lots