Gold Medalist Nicola Spirig To Race First Ironman

The 2012 Olympic gold medalist still plans to go after a 2016 Rio spot.

Photo: Arnold Lim / ITU

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After racing her first two marathons this year (with a PR of 2:38 at the European Athletics Championships), 2012 Olympic gold medalist Nicola Spirig announced she will give long-course a shot at Ironman Cozumel on Nov. 30.

Spirig has been working with coach Brett Sutton for the past eight years and says although she is accustomed to long-distance training and has been around a lot of Ironman athletes, she hasn’t been able to take her focus away from the more important Olympic-distance races until now. (Spirig also had a break in racing when she was pregnant with her son, Yannis, who was born in March 2013.)

“This year has been a crazy year with a lot of new challenges like the focus on running in the European Athletics,” the 32-year-old says. “It was great to try out new things, and I thought it would be ideal to finish a crazy year with another crazy project, an Ironman.”

Although Spirig hasn’t had a long race-specific prep for the Ironman—she just won the ITU World Cup in Cozumel for the second year in a row on Oct. 5— she says she’s mostly just looking forward to the experience of her first Ironman. “It’s nice to have a special goal so late in the year and therefore new motivation for training,” she says.

Spirig’s teammate Daniela Ryf made the successful jump to long course this year, transitioning from an ITU background to become Ironman 70.3 World Champion and the runner-up in Kona. Similar to Ryf, Spirig is going in with an open attitude and anticipates learning the differences of short vs. long along the way. “There will certainly be a lot of opportunities to make mistakes since I have no experience with racing long distance!” Spirig says. “My biggest problems might be to get the nutrition and the drinking right and to not start too fast. … I normally go pretty much flat-out in my races and know I will not be able to do that in an Ironman, and I am a bit concerned with the heat in Cozumel and avoiding dehydration, cramps, etc. And, I hope I can keep my mind busy over such a long time. I guess my goal is to try and avoid bigger mistakes and just take it as it comes.”

Because Ironman Cozumel doesn’t interfere with the qualifying races for Rio—still Spirig’s main goal—the timing was ideal. “It gives me enough time over winter to recover and build up for the next short distance races,” she says. “I think it’s great I have the opportunity to try an Ironman, so that I can hopefully tell afterwards if I like that distance or if I rather stick completely to short and middle distance.”

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