Irene Gambaro

A lifetime passion: Irenes 3rd Ironman Hawaii

X-BIONIC® fan Irene Gambaro from Zurich is one of the most successful Swiss female triathlon athletes. This year she became the vice world champion of the Half Ironman and took part for the third time in the legendary Hawaii Ironman, the long-distance World Championship for professionals and age groups. Irene had her sights set on a top ten finish in this year’s World Championship. In spite of some difficulties, she ultimately landed a sensational eighth place in her age group – once again a top result this year!

Shortly after her finish on Big Island, she gave us an interview and told us what it was like for her crossing the finish line. In her personal race report from Hawaii, she further details the difficulties she had to overcome during this year’s tournament. You can see her impressive report from Kona after the interview in the info box. Enjoy the read!

Multi-sports talent Irene Gambaro joined our fitness X-PerienceDay in Wollerau last month
Multi-sports talent Irene Gambaro joined our fitness X-PerienceDay in Wollerau last month

Irene, what was it like crossing the finish line in Kona for the third time this year?

It was by far the toughest race there: waves, a strong current, a tropical storm with gusts of wind, heat, the like of which has not been felt for decades – Peter forgot the tailwind or has saved it for next year!

What was your goal when you travelled to the Hawaii World Championship this year?

Very ambitious: top five if everything went well, otherwise definitely top ten. Thankfully I achieved the second objective!

What is so special about the World Championship in comparison to other triathlons?

Hawaii is always full of surprises, and driving on a highway through the lava desert is spectacular. The wind comes from all sides and is completely erratic and the finish line pure goosebumps!

Did you do any special preparation for Kona?

Yes, once I qualified at the start of June, in particular with long runs for the marathon and 5 to 6-hour bike rides.

How long have you been doing this sport, and how did it come about?

Irene Gambaro Hawaii 2015I was always a runner, eventually I progressed to marathons, then to Gigathlons as a pair with another lady. Then I wanted something special for my 50th birthday, an Ironman, which I did in Taupo, New Zealand, and where I also qualified for Hawaii.

What role does equipment play for you, in training and in competition?

Clothes are the be all and end all, if they’re not right, then the entire competition will suffer. The bike must be well-adjusted, pedalled by the athlete, and the shoes – they also are extremely important and must be worn in well.

You wear X-BIONIC® during your training sessions, what has your experience been so far?

I love wearing clothes, which adapt to the body, don’t flap but at the same time don’t restrict you. X-BIONIC, therefore, fulfills all my requirements, I am very satisfied!

Which X-BIONIC® product do you particularly like? (…will end up shortly in your wardrobe?)

Long-distance clothing is at the top of my wish list, I love long-distance running and good trousers in particular are very difficult to find. I have a few from different retailers, but none fit me properly – they always slide over the bum! What I like about X-BIONIC® in addition to the great fit is also the large choice of colours!

Triathlete with heart and soul: Irene Gambaro
Triathlete with heart and soul: Irene Gambaro

What other sports do you also do? What hobbies do you have aside from sports?

I also do cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, mountain hiking and diving. Other than that I love photography, ornithology, and I am committed to marine mammals.

What are your sporting goals for the next year?

I wanted to defend both my European Championship titles for the short distance and Olympic Games, but as this competition is already in May, I can’t participate in Lisbon due to holidays. I am also unable to defend my Half Ironman Vice World Champion title as Mooloolaba in Australia is too far away and quite simply ridiculously expensive.

I will definitely participate in some long distance competitions, some Olympic triathlons, and almost definitely in the Half Ironman in Luxembourg, and then of course there will be other unplanned races. I will definitely also take part in the Swiss Championship again, ultimately I will participate in far more competitions than originally planned! I just really enjoy it and I am the competitive type! I will definitely compete in the circuit (which is seven Olympic Triathlons) and I also hope to win them again.

What advice would you give triathlon beginners?

Competing in three disciplines one after the other is incredible fun, regardless of whether you are fast or not. Taking part is the motto and age does not matter. It is important to master the crawl to some degree, breaststroke hinders other athletes and requires too much energy from the legs, which you of course need afterwards for the cycling and running.

Thank you very much for the interview!

Irene's achievements in 2015Her personal review: Ironman Hawaii 2015Links
  • Swiss champion 10k street running
  • Winner Triathlon Wallisellen (CH), short distance
  • Winner Aix-en-Provence 70.3 Triathlon / Qualified for the 70.3 WC
  • Winner short distance in Genf /European Champion
  • Winner Kraichgau 70.3 / Qualified for Hawaii
  • Vice World Champion at the 70.3 Championships, Zell am See (Austria)
  • 8th rank in her age group at Hawaii

Irene Gambaro Hawaii 2015 06

See all achievements of Irene: [LINK]


A race report from Irene Gambaro

Yeeess, the big day, 10 October 2015, is over! An unforgettable and tough race with many highs and lows! Let’s start from the top!

At 07.10 am a cannon shot announced the start of the women’s race. As I am not one of the fastest swimmers, I went towards the back. This enabled me to find a good rhythm without fighting and scrambling. As always it was quite turbulent and beautiful colourful fish accompanied me. I was with women of roughly the same strength and soon reached the turning point at 1.9 kilometres, but I was not as fast going back. The current was quite strong, to the extent that I took nearly 10 minutes longer than usual.

Nevertheless, I had managed the first 3.86 kilometres and I looked forward to the bike course. And off we went. Cheered on by the many people, I shot up Palani Road! I felt so fit during the first 50 kilometres. Great, I thought, I’m going to make great time. But it was not to be.

Soon a different wind was blowing, a headwind: from the side again more headwind – but not from behind, clearly Peter forgot that at some point! After about 70 kilometres the climb to Hawi began and then it happened: A tropical storm with rain, it was pelting down, and add to that wind, wind, wind, rain…it was hard work up until the turning point in Hawi, I could barely stay on my bike. Then finally, the 90 kilometres were completed and I was looking forward to the return leg. The asphalt quickly dried, I still believed I could achieve an acceptable time, but I continued to battle the long, unending 60 kilometres with a strong headwind, just headwind! Hellooooo, tailwind, where are you?

Irene Gambaro on her bike during the heat at the Ironman Hawaii 2015
Irene Gambaro on her bike during the heat at the Ironman Hawaii 2015

It got hotter and hotter, the heat was extreme, like it hadn’t been for decades! The asphalt reflected incredibly strongly onto Highway K, it felt like 50 degrees. Although I fed myself well and cooled myself with the water from the aid station, it just wasn’t to be. I pedalled and pedalled and lost an incredible amount of time, the altitude of 1772 metres and the180.3 kilometres appeared endless. But I finally reached the goal.

I dismounted from my bike, just about managed to stand straight and realised that I was unable to jog. So I walked into the transition zone, grabbed my bag to move over to the running track, went into the changing tent, sat down and then it happened: an incredible pain in my back, I could no longer move.

Irene Gambaro Hawaii 2015 09Helpers rushed over and asked me what was wrong, whether I had had too little salt. I said no, but they still gave me three salt tablets. Then I wanted to stand up, but my left leg let me down. I could no longer move, the pain in my back was so great. Three of them held me up as I did not want to go to the medical tent. I thought that this would lead to a disqualification.

So I tried to march off but my left leg failed me once again,and I fell into the arms of a helper. Three of them dragged me to the medical tent and tried to ease my cramp and back pain with a massage and physiotherapy. After an endlessly long 30 minutes I ventured out onto the running track, inspired by all the many helpers and spectators, with a huge ice pack on my back. Our youngest daughter was shocked when she saw me limping. I reassured her that I wanted to finish even if it took a long time.

After approximately 2 kilometres I attempted a jog, it got better and better so that I was finally able to run the marathon to the end, never stopping, thinking only of the Ali’i finish line. There I then enjoyed the spectacular and wonderful finish line and in spite of all the obstacles I made the top ten, 8th place, in my age category!

It was a race of superlatives and a roller coaster of emotions! But at the end I was so proud to receive my third finishing medal!

Irene Gambaro Hawaii 2015