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An even later Ironman France report

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Joined: 27 Feb 2009
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Location: Midlands

PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:48 am    Post subject: An even later Ironman France report Reply with quote

Even later Ironman France report

The week before Ironman France was spent driving through France and was relatively relaxing. However, driving in Nice on the Wednesday before was a nightmare. When we finally found our self-catering apartment it was smaller than my old University digs and our ‘luxury bed’ was in fact ‘crap sofa-bed’. No other rooms available in the whole of Nice so ‘like-it’ or ‘lump-it’.

Went down to the expo on Thursday to register and check-out the bling. Talked to a few people including a couple of pro’s who were really helpful and then had my bike checked over. A quick spin along the promenade to explore the start of the course and meet a guy from Nice Triathlon club. Even though my French was even worse than his English, he managed to show me the various turns where you leave the promenade and re-join it 110-miles later.

On the Friday I went down to the swim and tried a straight 300 metres out-and-back. This was my first-ever sea swim. Apparently I get seasick – never happened on a boat! Apologies to anybody swimming near me at the time my breakfast re-emerged. Back on terra firma everything returned to normal and a quick 30 minute run up-and-down the promenade helped clear my head. Pasta-party was a little disappointing. This was my first Ironman event and expected a bit more in the way of organisation. I know they re-branded it an Energy party but us athletes like our pasta so to run out is criminal.

After chatting to the guys on the Infinite drinks stand I decided to add an extra swim in on the Saturday. Ate breakfast a bit earlier and that seem to do the job. A huge pasta lunch followed by a bit of rice in the evening set me up nicely. The queues for bike checking-in were annoying long but at least they were civil, unlike the problems trying to get your bike out again after the race.

Race Morning
A double helping of porridge (Apple & Blueberry is the only one I can stand) at 4am and I slowly got my gear together. Felt relaxed as I walked down to the start and even had a laugh at loads of drunken French kids walking home at 5am. Quickly pumped the tyres up and loaded up drinks bottles. Aero bottle on the front and one on the frame served me just right throughout the race. Then the queue for the loo. Why do I always choose the wrong line? To be fair it was just the one Finnish guy who decided that he wanted to spend 20 minutes in there praying. After a few bangs on the door he emerged to a round of applause (he didn’t look happy though). As I was running a bit behind I put the lower half of my wet-suit on and started warming-up.

Dropped off my street wear stuff and then went back to drop off my shoes (numpty!). A slow walk down to the start line and a few more stretches. RRRRRIIIPPPP. That was the sound of the right shoulder of my 6-month old Orca 3.8 wet-suit tearing. This can’t be happening – I’ve only used it at most 10 times. A quick look around for the Sailfish guys and then asked one of the few officials around what could I do. She was calm and simply said there was nothing I could do and just to focus on the swim. The wet-suit had to stay on. So if you saw someone walking around with a big hole in their wet-suit – that was me.
Swim – 1hr 09 mins 53 secs

I placed myself in the 1hr 10mins category and about 6 rows back. Probably a mistake with hindsight as I have quite a long slow stroke. Needed a bit of open water to get going – but then again I’m sure everybody else wanted that to. The best way to sum it up was chaos. It took me at least 600 metres to put in a full stroke. In my opinion the swim leg should test your technical swimming ability, not simply how aggressive you can be. You are always going to get a hectic start but 2500 people is too many on a 100m start line.

Having said all that, I was pleased with how I remain calmed and how I held my outside line. May have swum more than 3.8km but at least my heart rate was steady and no sea sickness. A number of others came off much worse and I really felt for those whose race was over in T1.

T1 – 5mins 49 secs

I had the same set-up as I would use for sprint race, as it is what I am used to. Shoes already on the bike, no additional clothes to put on and an SiS gel just in case. Used the gel and straight out to the bike. Should have put another layer of sun lotion on and probably could have done with the compression socks but you live and learn. The only surprise for me was that it took me nearly 6 minutes.

Bike – 5hrs 46mins 25 secs

“The bike course is awesome”. I have heard words to that affect from numerous other Ironman France finishers I talked to prior to the event. They did not lie. The first obstacle to overcome however was a group of cyclists blocking the mount line as they clipped-in. I know I was one of the few who used elastic bands and wanted to jump on their bike but they could have left a small gap.

The first 20km was flat and impossible to get any space. If everybody had applied the 7m by 3m box rule then we would have been riding in Monaco or Cannes. Despite this there was some blatant tight drafting going on until the first major climb. Fortunately after this relatively short 12% climb the field separated out a bit even though I would have liked to have seen the marshals be a bit harder on drafting. I did not see anybody receive a warning card and there were a few obvious candidates.

We then started the long, drawn-out climbs that are difficult to replicate in Britain. I have to admit I really enjoyed these and it was my favourite part of the course. Not only was I passing a number of other competitors (which always feels good), but the views were fantastic and my legs were spinning free. I was using my TT bike and thought this would hinder me on the climbs and help me on the downhills. In fact it was more like the other way around.

As we reached the first of the descents I notice a couple of Italians go flying pass. I accepted that this would happen as those guys really know how to ride. However, after the next 10 guys went pass including a John and a Frank I started to get a bit annoyed with myself. All the hard work was going to waste because I was being overly cautious. The flow continued despite me picking up the pace and trying to follow their lines.

After another climb where I re-passed a number of riders, I realised that I had yet to take a toilet break. Following an attempt to go without stopping (a real skill I had not appreciated before), I jumped off just before the start of the major downhill sections. Turns out I had been holding it in and immediately felt hungry when starting up again. Started to move much more quickly on the sharp downhills with fewer people passing me. A couple of nasty looking accidents kept me cautious but also very focussed. The highlight here was catching up with a car and a guy called Cedric. Obviously Cedric had been trying to get round for a while and after a barrage of abuse decided that throwing his water bottle at the car was the only thing left to do. Well it worked but I don’t think I’ll be trying it in the UK.

The last section was the flat segment back to Nice and packs of riders started forming again. Did not want to get involved in this so set behind them (approximately 7 meters) and just span my legs freely ready for the marathon. Coming in to the dismount line I took my feet out a little too early but quickly and efficiently hoped-off. Unfortunately I encountered the same problem as at the start – people stopping, unclipping and taking up the whole run area. A bit of barging and I got through (looks great on the video).

My nutrition strategy was to have one bottle of water and one bottle of the Infinite Ride, which I have grown to like. In addition I would eat an SiS bar, Powerbar or banana slice whenever I felt the need for substance. As it turned out I did not eat all of my SiS bars, had one slice of banana and one Powerbar. This all may seem a bit random but I do like to race on how I feel and I felt great.

A couple of things I can improve on. Technically I am not a very good cyclist and I wasted quite a bit of energy unnecessarily using the brakes on the descents. In other words I need to grow a set. Also need to learn to pee on the bike or just accept that I have to stop more than once to allow my body to function efficiently.

T2 – 4mins 53 secs

A quick jog through to ease the legs out, my second piss-stop and into the tent. My calves were a little sore so put the compression socks on whilst one of the helpers towelled me down and covered me in lotion (usually have to pay extra for that). Out onto the flat course feeling good.

Run – 3hrs 39mins 49 secs

After such a great bike course, the 4-lap out and back may have seemed a little dull. However, the flat course was what I needed and the crowds made it enjoyable. The first lap breezed by in 48:50 but I had to change strategy quite early on. I tried running through the first feed station but couldn’t get enough energy drink in. Most of it ended-up running down my chin. As I only take liquids when I run, I decided to pick-up water whilst running and then walk as I grabbed an energy drink and down it.
This worked really well and the only thing I changed on the second lap was to hold my cap out under the showers as I went by. Completely avoided getting my feet wet, which was another good decision. Focusing on my times I knew I had to keep my lap times under an hour and even contemplated getting close to 10hrs 30mins. However, a much slower second lap of 54:51 and the heat started to take its toll. Still felt comfortable but knew there wasn’t much left in the tank. A tough third lap of 57:37 followed by a final lap of 58:31 saw me home.

The crowd was great and once a group of supporters knew you were British, they remembered you every lap. Special thanks to the group wearing red t-shirts who kept me going on the run. Down the finishing tunnel and loads of high-fives followed by an aeroplane from side to side and a big roar at the finish. No idea where that came from.

Eventually meant up with my amazingly supportive misses who waited patiently at the end tunnel with blasting music in her ears. Sadly that meant I couldn’t hear her and didn’t see her on the run, even if I knew she was there.

Total time 10:46:49 – 360th overall and 77th in my category

Enjoyed the distance so much I think I’ll enter the Big Woody (if spaces still available) and start looking at a European event for next year (somewhere cooler). Finally a big thanks to everybody on Tri-talk for the advice and their own stories. Smile Very Happy Laughing Cool
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NICE TO HEAR THE The bike course is awesome - great time mate, wicksy-tastic Cool

more of the same at the big woody Very Happy. with your excellent time at IM Fr, we could be racing very closely, as I'm IN. hope to race you there m8
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report! Loving the reports of the bike route - sounds awesome Smile

Cracking time too!!
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 11:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fandangotastic - sounds like you had a great one. Cracking report to go with your time.

Well done! W00t

B Cool
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the comments. Compared to many of the other reports I have read, I had a problem-free race and I realise at Ironman distance this is rare. Looking at my time I feel the wet-suit ripping probably cost me at most 2 or 3 minutes. On the bike I maybe could have added 7 or 8 minutes by descending better and the run could have been more evenly paced to add another 3 or 4 minutes. Overall at this current level of fitness I might have got to 10hrs 30mins in a 'perfect' race which is what we all aim for.

I'm now entered for the Big Woody so I'll be lurking on there for the next few weeks. Hopefully meet some of you again at the next European Ironman.
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fantastic race Wicksy, you made it sound easy! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know all of the supporters from Meynell Valley Hunters were wearing red t-shirts - it could well have been them as they were out supporting on the run route.

Congrats on the result - awesome stuff!
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

well done Smile
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cracking race and a cracking race report as well. Well done Wicksy.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 09, 2009 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report and great time: well done Wicksy. I'm getting in touch with Cedric to ride as my wing man for any future traffic snarl ups Very Happy
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