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IM France 2010 - 6500 words of a race report

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Joined: 25 Jun 2008
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Location: Geneva, Switzerland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:51 pm    Post subject: IM France 2010 - 6500 words of a race report Reply with quote

This is so long I have split it into two.

Ironman France – Nice 2010

When people apologise for a long description of their race, they rarely mean that it. However, this is so long that I have split it into three sections or separate write-ups. There is

1. The full story including triathlon before the IM and motivation for the race
2. The training and the race report
3. The race report, starting on the night before.

I have put number 3 first. If you do not have 15 minutes spare and want to know every boring detail, this is perhaps not for you.

Take your pick, but the whole lot is 6500 words or 12-sides of A4, so you may want to skip directly to the race report. The three sections are labelled clearly:

The race
So, cutting out the even duller parts, I made it to Nice. I was still not sure I would make it until the night before when I went to bed. Having packed all my bags, checked in my bike and had an early dinner, I turned-in at 2100 to try and get six hours sleep before 0330, when I was due to get up to have some food before leaving the hotel at 0430 to be at check in for 0500. However, when I was still awake at 2345, I knew that perhaps I should have left it a little later to try and sleep. By this stage, I was so infuriated that I was not asleep that I was keeping myself awake – by the time I told myself I could do the race on zero sleep if needed, I dropped off and woke at 0310 naturally.

Breakfast was a bowl of cereal, some Soreen malt loaf and a bottle of sports drink. There was no going back to sleep, the sore stomach from nerves saw to that and by 0430 we were out of the hotel and away to the check in. My lovely wife, who actually went through all this hassle, for no other reason than to support her husband, came with me and it was a sight to behold. 2500 athletes slowly making their way to the swim start in the dawn as the final stragglers of a night out in Nice stumble along the sea front. It was not much of a challenge to differentiate between the two groups.

I realised that I really was feeling poor and it was simply stress. I had the same feeling on my wedding day. It was completely self imposed and a lesson to me that I had built the race up too much in my mind.

As we moved down to the beach, I became quite emotional – for some reason. I felt a lump in my throat – of course it was the fact that a year of hoping, training and general sacrifice was coming to an end. When one does a race of such commitment, one dedicates so much to it that it becomes a massive part of your life. I believe it is the commitment and hundreds of hours that come to fruition in one place that make your emotions go a little haywire. Combine this with an understanding of the myriad things which can stop you making the line and it was simple joy to be there and to know that I had made the start line.

The swim starts were set out by time. I chose the slowest block and managed to get to the front. I sat on the floor at the front and about two minutes before I thought we were due to go, we were off. I had a remarkably easy first 200 metres in terms of the general underwater-boxing that takes place in a mass start event. I would describe it as bad, but nothing more than I have experienced before. Then we came to the first buoy – here it was simply murder and there was no chance of swimming at all. The best I could manage was treading water and putting my hands in front of my face to stop being kicked in the head. I took one hard blow to the forehead but was fine. The whole 3.8km swim can best be described as ‘sloppy’. I never knew which direction I was going and could see the buoy I was heading towards about 30 percent of the time. I would say I never spent more than 45 seconds without hitting someone and covered more than 4000m for sure. However, I had plenty in reserve, never pushed at all and realised that although I would have a poor swim time, I would be okay for the bike. I thought I had swam 1h 13m when I looked at my Garmin but then I realised that it was actually broken and no buttons worked at all. I am quite sure I could cover this distance, on my own in 1h 10m but I think everyone had a slow swim on that day. I made a crucial mistake of not swimming hard at the beginning.

Out of the water, and it dawned on my that my watch, which I had relied on so much was broken. The Garmin 310XT model I have is wonderful; you can swim with it, clip it onto the bike easily and then back onto your wrist for the run. It had worked wonderfully at the half IM distance race I had done six weeks before. The most useful feature is a dedicated triathlon function which allows you to time all three sections and the two transitions. I also was relying on the watch to tell me time, pace, heart rate and distance throughout the race. When I realised the Garmin was broken (and still is but is under warranty), it came to me that I was going to have to do the whole bike and run with no information whatsoever. Having relied fully on this information in training, it was a shock to realise that I was going to have to race the whole day without anything – nothing at all – to tell me to speed up, slow down or otherwise. No mental help of an average pace or a km completed. It might, however, have been a blessing as it forced me to listen carefully to my body and follow its signals. It also forced me to ask someone every hour, ‘how far have we gone’ and ‘what time is it?’ Only with some simple mathematics could I do a rough calculation of how I was progressing.

The first transition was slow and if I could do it again, I would go for the one piece trisuit and put up with the sore sit-bones for the day. In fact, I would probably have changed my saddle as the one I have brought in 2009, and used for the race, does not really work too well for me, but I battled on it with rather than just accepting that it was not perfect.

It took ages to change into shorts and t-shirt and nine minutes is shameful. I tried to move along but it was just not happening. With the nine minutes it took in T2 added to that, I could have been under 13 hours. Stefan from our club had good transitions and was 10 minutes faster than me from T1 and T2 combined. A lesson learned – too late.

The bike course was something I knew I could handle, but I think I underestimated it to some extent. I had covered 140km once and 160km once in training and had been told by everyone that this was enough. It was ‘enough’ but some more would have been appropriate and it was in this section that I had my first doubts about the day.

Lance Armstrong was in the area as part of his Tour de France 2010 training. His much hyped attempt at the IM World Championships in Kona must have been on his mind as he wrote on his Twitter site on the night before the race:

“Good luck to all the competitors doing Ironman France here in Nice tomorrow. Tough bike course!”

If Lance says it is tough, I will take his word for it. It seems to be that most people choose IM France for this specific section of the race. The 1850m of climbing takes place in the Maritime Alps behind Nice and after around 70km of actual distance you are about half away around the 180km loop. It is written in many places that the loop is a couple of kilometres short. However, without any well to tell, I can neither confirm nor deny this – all I know is that climbing in the heat it very, very tough for a pastey-white English man.

Everything I had read about how to mess up your IM day said that pushing too hard on the first half of the bike was a major rookie mistake. I took this to heart and spent the first 50km of the bike going backwards in the field – and I mean very backwards. I know the bike is the weakest of my three disciplines and I had only 2500km on my legs in 2010, 1400km in 2009 and 250km in 2008. However, I was about 10 minutes slower in the swim than I had hoped, so thought I might be able to hold my place, even taking it easy. It was this time of the race that a heart rate monitor would have been great – however, I just kept my head and let a few hundred people pass me. I had also read that it was good to only drink water, and lots of it, during the first 30 minutes of the bike. I did this but felt hungry and decided to eat a powerbar and some sweet bread I normally like. However, the heat had made my nutrition strategy a little out of sorts and I began to feel quite bad at around 40km. I was hot, had a sore stomach and began to feel quite dizzy. I also had run out of water as I thought I had enough at the last aid station. I limped on through to the next one and then drank lots of water for about 30 minutes. This seemed to agree with me. From here onwards I changed my nutrition strategy, realising that I only had a limited capacity for solid food on very hot days, I switched to gels and could tolerate these well. I did not have too many with me, but the organisation of the race was simply excellent – a recurrent theme all day – and every station was well stocked with them.

From around 50km, to the col d’ecre at 70km, I wound my way up the beautiful mountains with the white towering limestone walls of southern France. I took the opportunity to socialise somewhat. Doing an IM, at my slow speed, means that I could hold a conversation without much difficulty. I took the time to speak to a few people, ask them about their race and how they felt. It was a nice part of the race and it was my attempt to have more of an experience. I live in Switzerland and sometimes miss the culture of Britain. It was nice to share this time with friendly people.

Over the top of the col, I saw the Shimano bike team working on some poor soul’s bike. I had passed about six or seven people with punctures, and thanked my luck each time that it was not me. I saw someone 2km out of transition at the start of a long bike with a puncture – what terrible luck.

From here onwards, there was a 20km flat section on the plateau. I wished I’d had a tri bike for this section and it was the first time I regretted being on my road bike with clip-on tri bars. Only after about 4.5 hours into the race did I see the sign that we had passed 90km. I was however, clueless as to the exact time and knew we had a lot descending to do before a 25km flat section back into Nice. With a couple of climbs to go, including one 6km at 4 percent, it was then an hour of descent. On the climb, I overtook about 30 people, all of whom must have pushed too hard on the bike in the early stages. It is only a small fraction of the many who had passed me on the first section, but it was some comfort.

For the winding descent, the road bike was welcome, even though I knew I would have been faster on the tri bike on the less winding sections, I was happy to be able to push and gain ground on a lot of competitors. There were some corners where you had to be careful but nothing too serious for someone with mountain experience. All my times flying down the col de faucille in the Jura paid dividends.

The last 30km were challenging. It was directly into wind and even now my aero position is just not perfect. I felt stiff and my hamstrings were very tight when I was on the aero bars. I was not feeling great and it was at this point that I understood that actually the bike leg had been tough – much more than I expected. I had only really feared the marathon and now as struggling a little. A pack of about 12 riders came up behind me, all clearly drafting one another. I could have tagged on the back very easily, but I chose not to. I’d made a conscious decision that I was not going to draft at all during this race – it will most likely be my only IM race and I decided I would rather be 10 minutes slower and know that I had done it cleanly. I stopped myself from calling them cheats, and let them go on their way. The temptation had been there, but only for a brief moment. In the last 10km a couple of guys, on TT bikes came past and I told myself that the road bike had been a mistake. I am not sure now, two days later, if it was, but it is a very close call. For this course, there is about 70km that is done on the tri-bars. The women’s race winner of the day, Tine Decker (BEL) said afterwards ‘I do not know what people are thinking with a TT bike on this course, this is a course for a road bike’, the men’s winner, and five times champion Marcel Zamora (ESP) was on a road bike also.

As I came onto the Promenade des Anglais, I could see the faster athletes already out in the heat of the marathon. A natural lift comes from seeing this but still the last 5km felt tough. As I cycled the last 5km, past the runners, I thought, ‘ouch 5km feels long on a bike, how long is it going to feel on the run?’ Impatience was the main issue for me as I wanted to be off the bike, but I was soon there and into transition for the run.

I changed my CNN Nyon shorts and white bike top into a pair of Skins compression shorts and a CNN running top. I tried to put a compeed on an area of my toes which I knew was prone to blisters – however, it was showing no signs of sticking, so I just put on lots of Vaseline, slipped on my white hat and went off into the sun and crowds. I looked for Pavla but saw no sign of her. I was a little disappointed, but knew she would be around.

The run consists of four laps of 10.5km, you can see the people coming in either direction, and it was HOT. It was 1500 now and no sign of any clouds. I heard 32c in the shade. I think that is a little exaggeration, but it was uncomfortably hot and we have had little weather like this in 2010. My legs were very heavy and I was moving very slowly. I had figured that it was hard to run less than six minutes per KM. I had done this is training every time and thought that even in a very fatigued state, I could shuffle at this speed. I was mistaken. I told myself I would just go very slow for the first 20km and I did. I, however, was not really moving at all and quite a few quick runners overtook me. Each aid station was about 1.8km apart and I had decided I would run nine minutes and walk one for the whole marathon. This meant basically that I would walk the aid stations. Without a watch, these stations were my only frame of reference. I also saw that nobody, not a single person, ran the aid stations. The length of time differed with some taking just 10 seconds, but it was a walk for everyone, even the guys on their last loop going for sub-10 hour times.

Each aid station had a curtain of showers. The noise of running water, glistening in the Mediterranean sun and the refreshed faces coming out the other side, made it seem crazy to stay out of the showers, but a friend had given himself serious blisters the year before and had recommended to stay clear. It was a battle to listen to sense in the moment, but I dutifully went around these each time, voting for three glasses of cold water instead – one of the head, one down the front of my shirt and one down the back – my feet stayed dry and I managed to get rid of the worst of the heat. However, I was struggling with the sun. I managed to get into a routine at each aid station of throwing three cups of water on myself, drinking one cup of coke, one of isotonic drink and one of water. This was more than enough fluid and saw me going to the toilet for a pipi every 45 minutes but ensuring I stayed feeling okay. Salt tablets, lovingly sent from the UK by my Mom, kept my electrolytes in balance and I managed to avoid the trials of some of the runners around me. Although I was doing little more than shuffling (at a measly 6m 45s/km pace), it seemed like everyone was walking and there were a lot of people falling over, sitting on the side of the road or under the one tree in five kilometres. I realised that no matter how slow I was running, I was going past everyone walking.

If you have done an IM triathlon, you will know the feeling I am going to talk about now, but it is a tough one to describe. I had heard that I would find some excuses to walk on the marathon. This was neatly summarised by someone who said that ‘your mind will convince you that the best thing to do is to walk – you will have an internal battle and it you are not prepared for it you will walk – it will just seem like the right thing to do at that moment’. The first call to walk came when it became clear that I had a serious calf injury and that it was going to be more pain than simply tired legs for the next few hours. However, I told myself that I can at least manage 21km without walking. I was also at the most distant part of the course and I wanted to make sure that when I got back to the end of loop one, and would most likely see Pavla, I would be running and going strong. So, I kept running and told myself that I would not walk YET. I was quite scared that the pain would get so bad that the decision would be taken out of my hands – so I told myself, while you can still avoid walking then you must. It kind of became a thought process of, ‘if you can still run, then you should’. Forget the mental side, your body still allows you to move forward, so go. I listened to some accounts of ultra marathons lately and the tales of people going for days through delirium and injury had made me realise that four or five hours of pain were nothing compared to what some people did in sport, nevermind in their real lives away from the self indulgent luxury of a sports event, which costs more to enter than the GDP per capita of many sub-Saharan African nations. I was lucky to be there. I was in pain, but I was not going to die and it was my choice. I rationalised that this would be my only IM and I would forever look back with regret if I ‘gave up’ and walked.

So, I soldiered on. It was amazing to see Pavla and Muriel at the finish line/turn around, and it gave me some legs once more. I was feeling bad and my legs were both very heavy and painful simultaneously. I was also overheating somewhat but not dangerously. I told myself I could still run, so once I again I just continued. I tried only to focus on the next aid station and not to think about my right calf which was by now burning with every step. Predictably, the voice to talk came back – I told myself, ‘hey I think you are doing a long term injury to your calf here, you idiot, walk for a while, you will be an hour slower but you will not damage your long term health’. In fact, even now, four days later, I think that perhaps was not such a race-induced trick after all, and probably simple common sense, but I pushed it away and kept going.

With no watch of any sort, I had no idea what pace I was going or what my heart was doing. I just knew that going hard at the start of the marathon is a common error, so I held back. There was a clock every 5.25km and I could see that I had done the first 10.5km in 1h 16m. That was miserable and I realised that I was going to be 5+ hours for the marathon if I did not speed up a little.

I hit a purple patch around 15km and picked up to around 5m 50s/km pace. I ran for a couple of km with an approximately 55 year old Austrian guy. I was on lap two and he was on his fourth and final lap. As happens in these things, at my end of the pack at least, you talk to one another to get your mind off the demons. He told me he had done 15 IM races, including Kona (IM World Championship in Hawaii, famed for its tough course and heat) and this was one of the hardest. He said ‘this compares with Kona; this is a tough one’. He then went quiet for a while and then said, ‘no, Kona is easier’. I know it is not, and the pain of Kona was not in this guy’s mind right then as he struggled with this race, but it was comforting to know that a hardened veteran like this was feeling the pain.

As lap three started, the realisation that I might be able to run the whole thing started to come to me. I have never run more than 21km before and what lay ahead was unknown territory. This has an effect of self belief. I reminded, or perhaps rebuked, myself that I was running almost two minutes behind my expected ‘stand alone’ marathon pace and that I should be able to hold this for the next two hours. I came across an Australian guy, all the way from Brisbane, who told me his friend had to abandon the course due to stomach issues. I felt terrible for the guy even though I had never met him – I knew how it would have made me feel and my heart went out to him. I ran with the Ozzie for a while and he told me something great – ‘this is painful, but the quickest way we’ll get there is running’. Quality stuff and something I told myself about 100 times in the next two hours. I also mentioned that I had pulled my calf. He told me he could see from how I was running and it was my right leg. This was a little disconcerting that he could spot it from my run stride, but nevermind, on we went.

And so I came to end for lap three and out for the loop from 31.5km to 42.2km. Stefan, who had turned out a very respectable 10h 15m was there with Muriel and Pavla shouted out that she loved me and even tried to run along side me for a while. When I scolded her afterwards for running whilst eight months pregnant, she politely explained in delightful tone that I was ‘hardly moving’. She said ‘only one more hour’. I remember thinking, ‘crikey, one more hour – how…?’.

From 33km – 35km, I picked up to around 6m/km pace and the change in running stride made my calf pain reduce from around a 9/10 on the pain scale to 7/10, for around 2km. I had to do 10.5km in 1h 02m to make a sub-13 hour race and I was trying hard. I thought it a bit shameful to do a marathon time that started with a ‘5’ also, even in a triathlon, so I was not going to walk the last lap. I could not keep up the 6m/km pace but I could run still. The calf pain was back worse than ever and now my right foot was numb. Although I was more shuffling than running, nearly nobody was passing me and I was picking off people every minute or so. I could see the people who had only the bracelets from the end of their first or second laps on their wrists. I just thought ‘you poor, poor, people. How can anyone do two more laps? Impossible’. I met a guy from Northern Belgium, my build, my height, my age and with 3km’s to go like me. He was great and we ran the last part together. I stopped at the last aid station for a coke and he waited five seconds for me, off we went, both swearing that half IM distances were for us from now on.

And there I was going down the finish shoot. I had had my wave of emotion 100 metres before the line. It was a lifetime moment to see Pavla waiting for me with out friends to cheer me on. I am getting a little lump as I write, but I smiled my head off and tumbled over the line for the obligatory photo under the finishers’ arch, my IM medal and a bottle of water.

I am not so proud of the time but I am proud that I dug deep on the day and did not find myself wanting. I did many things correct and am most proud of the fact that my fastest 10km of the marathon was the last one.

It was not 60 minutes after the race before I could no longer walk and, as I write this two days later, it is clear that it will at least a month before I can run again. However, I care very little about that and I hope that I will get away with my stupidity of running on a clearly injured leg. My idea of watching the 16 hour finishers was canned 10 minutes before then as I simply could not walk one step and had to ride my bike back to the hotel, rather than go the one km on foot. I saw some of the 16-hour finishers coming in and it was so startlingly obvious that they were not one single bit less exhilarated that the guy who came in at 8h 30m, 12h 30m, or 14h 30m.

As a race, the organisation was beyond reproach. It was by far and away the best, most professionally organised event I have ever been to. From computer chips in wrist bands and bike stickers to photos of you and your bike together to get in and out of the transition zone, to marshals at every turn and great nutrition. 1800 volunteers worked on this event and without then this write up might have been about a day in front of the TV, watching England lose to Germany in the world cup – again. So thank you everyone who gave up their Sunday so I could be self indulgent.

Thank you, Pavla. You supported me from beginning to end and showed me how much you loved me by your actions rather than words. I hope one day you take our child from my arms and run down the same finishers shoot and get to experience the same feeling. I only hope I can be as good as husband as you have been a wife.

Thanks also to Boris, my long suffering, and always supportive, sport’s medicine doctor and fellow long distance triathlete. From my piriformis muscle, to my calf, to my supra spinatus tendon, without you, I am would not have made it – of this I am sure. You also did it all with a smile and a kind word.

And to Nenad, who played another instrumental part in getting me to Nice. Without Nenad’s twice weekly pounding of my legs, and attempts to overcome my biomechanical deficiencies, I also know I would not have made it. You are the only guy I will let touch my butt.

And finally, thanks to all of you who sent text messages on the day and called me to offer congratulations. It meant a lot to me to know that you cared.

Training – all times are mean hours per week.
5 hours in January
5 hours in February
6 hours in March
10 hours a week in April (max 12.5)
11 hours in May (max 12)
7 hours in June (max Cool

Overall mean 7.5 hours (very light load for an IM race)

Some writeups from the IM site of the day
My splits
1306 38 Le Mont Sur Lausanne GBR Teacher

1:19:35 6:45:18 4:44:54 13:07:40 1533 388

SWIM SPLIT 1: 2.4 km 2.4 km @ 51:06 2:07/100m
SWIM SPLIT 2: 3.8 km 1.4 km @ 28:29 1:58/100m
TOTAL SWIM 1:19:35 2:05/100m 1543 382

BIKE SPLIT 1: 27.9 km 27.9 km (1:07:17) 24.88 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 2: 56 km 28.1 km (--:--) -- km/h
BIKE SPLIT 3: 70 km 14 km (4:46:2Cool 2.93 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 4: 105 km 35 km (1:00:24) 34.77 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 5: 118.7 km 13.7 km (37:14) 22.08 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 6: 144 km 25.3 km (56:33) 26.84 km/h
BIKE SPLIT 6: 180 km 36 km (53:29) 40.39 km/h
TOTAL BIKE 180 km (6:45:1Cool 26.65 km/h 1738 442

RUN SPLIT 1: 5.25 km 5.25 km (35:09) 6:41/km
RUN SPLIT 2: 10.5 km 5.25 km (37:26) 7:07/km
RUN SPLIT 3: 15.75 km 5.25 km (34:0Cool 6:30/km
RUN SPLIT 2: 21.1km 5.35 km (34:11) 6:23/km
RUN SPLIT 2: 26.35 km 5.25 km (35:57) 6:50/km
RUN SPLIT 3: 31.6 km 5.25 km (37:41) 7:10/km
RUN SPLIT 2: 36.85 km 5.25 km (35:00) 6:40/km
RUN SPLIT 4: 42.2 km 5.35 km (35:22) 6:36/km
TOTAL RUN 42.2 km (4:44:54) 6:45/km 1533 388

T2: BIKE-TO-RUN 8:38

Last edited by simonfoley on Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:54 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 30, 2010 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why an Ironman?
Writing a story of an attempt at an Ironman Triathlon, at least for me, involves going back a long way, and giving more information about myself than I normally like doing, particularly if one wants to tell the whole story. Forgive me for starting at the beginning.

I have wanted to do a marathon since I was 10 years-old. When I was in my final year of primary school my teacher was a runner. He had the wonderful idea of putting a team of young people together for a relay of the 26.2 mile Tamworth Marathon. You won’t find this on the race calendar nowadays and I am not sure it was ever run more than one time, but I know we did it and I know I ran two of the 26.2 miles. I think it was the 11th and the 24th, but too be honest, I don’t really recall which ones they were but I do remember the looks of the small number of people’s faces who could run a marathon at the speed of 26 ten year-olds. I ran 5m 40s for 1500 metres in those days – I am not sure I can run that speed now. I was a member of Tamworth Athletics Club at the time and ran three times a week, but it is still humbling to know that my athletic career peaked when I was 10 yearsold. However, something about that relay marathon made me determined to run a marathon the day I was 18. The injustice of not being allowed for only being 10 was hard to explain to a keen-as-mustard young runner.

Adolescence can change someone and by the time I was 18, I had other things on my mind – mainly working in Mc Donalds and trying my best to get a decent degree from university. However, in the intervening years, at some stage, I had seen one of the Hawaii Kona Ironman specials on the TV and thought – one day, but it was only for those really talented people in the world.

A number of times in my twenties, and even now in my thirties, I have dreamt of running a marathon. I harp back to my time as a 10 year old and remember the fact that I promised myself, one day, it would be me. Sadly, injury is something that I never really thought of at 10 years-old, and any attempts to train for any running race of any kind always ended in the same, sad way: an injury. Only after the internet age was I able to understand that decent shoes were required, that you had to do it gently and they some core strength and stretching were really obligatory for someone with such poor biomechanics. In fact, I am not sure I would go out and run a marathon tomorrow, as I still have not managed the training. Yet, I was facing one here and somehow, I thought it would be easier. I think it is the comfort that it is the last small part of a long journey and that the time will be irrelevant. A ‘stand alone’ marathon does not afford me such luxuries, and I know that I would want significantly more run fitness that I have right now if I was to go out there and run for 42km fresh.

I have what our American friends would call ‘biomechanical issues’, which is a polite way of saying that I cannot run much without being injured. I have tried everything, and I mean everything, out there to solve the problems, but still injuries persist. I won’t expand too much on this as anyone who knows me well, will fall asleep with boredom – to put it like this is charitable: I go on about my legs somewhat and how they consistently seem to fail me.

It was during my years working in Thailand from 1997 – 2003 that triathlon came my way. I think it was a friend who inspired me by his tales of the pleasure and the kick he was getting from it. I was moving towards thirty and starting to see some changes in fitness and shape. I wanted something to focus me and had a 25-metre outdoor pool in my Bangkok apartment building and a 50-metre Olympic pool at my school.

Those days saw some sprint and Olympic distances races, and even the much loved once monthly, Bangkok Dash of 500m swim, 15km bike, 3km run every Sunday. This was a great little race, with never more than 50 people and a lovely way to check fitness. I also did the Laguna Phuket (1.9km – 55km – 12km) race and had an absolutely horrific experience including three punctures.

Of course, injury got me often, and with no real sport’s medical professionals, I did not do too much before my move back to Europe and Italy in 2003. It was not until Pavla, my wife, and I moved to Switzerland in 2005, that I started to get the feeling of competing once more. I wanted to do a triathlon, I should make that clear, but a recurring calf injury just kept me from running and nobody could provide me with a diagnosis. When Pavla showed an interest, I encouraged all I could. Pavla did some races in 2006 and the same year saw me enter the Lausanne sprint triathlon. My calf injury was still with me but I found that I could still run and more or less ignore the problem – which I thought was Achilles tendonosis.

To be back with triathlon and racing once more was a remarkably surprising high. I had forgotten the feeling of being slim, fit and healthy. I even enjoyed it when I broke my collar bone, and my titanium bike frame, at the Aubonne Triathlon the same year.

Fast forward to 2009 and some friends from my then tri club, Nyon, were going for IM Switerzland 70.3. I had since discovered that my calf problem was a bike fitting issue of a saddle too high on my bike and was muscular rather than tendon based. I trained hard enough for the half distance race but got sick with a virus a week before and the race was out of the question. I did not even have the energy to get out of bed for a week – there was just no chance. The poor souls who have experienced this will know that this is a miserable feeling and when I heard of a friends experience at IM France in 2009, and I read some of the stories, I decided that I would make an attempt at the race. I told nearly nobody and entered on 4th July 2009. My reason for keeping it quiet was that I just did not want people to be sceptical of my ability to do it, and also I did not want to have to explain why I needed to pull out for whatever reason. I think it was lack of faith in myself.

It was early IM entry but I needed the time to slowly build my training and work on base training. A 16-week IM plan was not for a skinny legged, injury prone, back of the pack guy like me.

The training
The training itself is not worth too much of a description suffice to say that it was a balancing act like no other. With 10 hours of work a day (and often the weekend), a 2-hour commute, a pregnant wife, searching for a new home and mortgage, I pushed too hard at times and spent a day or two wondering what I was doing to myself, and Pavla. Anybody who does 10-hours of training a week (and I only averaged that for two months) will understand that it takes a lot of sacrifice and is selfish. Although it is a cliché, without Pavla’s understanding of my absences in the evening, as I went out in the rain or snow at 2115 on a Thursday night, with lights on, or for seven hours in the rain on a Sunday, I would not have made it. I think the fact that I knew that this would be my last chance, with our first child due in August, drove me on to a now or never approach. This led me feel that training and exercise were a luxury, never to be avoided or resented. When I could train, I did. If I was not injured, or working, I trained. The training load I managed is very light indeed for an IM distance event. The full details of each month are at the end of this story but 8-hours a week is the mean. That is about as low as one can go and expect to finish. This told me how full my life was and just how little ‘free’ time I actually had.

Paranoid to the end that my history of injury would stop me from the race, and remembering the illness from 2009, I was obsessive about my health in the last few weeks and stayed very far away from running too much for the whole year, nevermind the last two weeks. I did one training run of two hours, two of 90 minutes and one half distance triathlon, so one 21km run in a race. The runners and triathletes reading this will know that this is a measly and pathetic amount of running for an IM marathon, but it was all I could manage without being injured. Even then the two hour run was hell and it took me two weeks to recover from.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A truly epic race report Simon and a terrific time even if you didn't have to overcome such adversity to register it. It was nice to meet you on Saturday morning, when we all had our adventures before us!

Enjoy the restful recovery and come back stronger.

Best wishes, LoR
I have reached 100kg - my maximum weight ever. The only way is down from here.....or is it?!
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon, your race report made me cry! I did carry my little one year old (back) over the finish line and it was worth every 5am run in the dark (only way with a family I've found). Funny how a day spent in much misery can count as one of the best of my life.

Best wishes for the next few months of adventure for you and yr new family
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So many words, so few pictures ( 6.5 to be precise) Wink
Great report, well done Simon
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon, only a teacher would know how many words went into that report Very Happy .

I enjoyed reading it & shall undoubtedly keep looking over it in the following months.

Great to meet Pavla & yourself. Nicola & I wish you - & your future Kona champion - all the best for the future.

btw, if we ever meet up again I'll have those 2 CO2 cartridges back as I'm told EasyJet allow them on board Mad Very Happy .
If in doubt, Flat out.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great report. You know if Lance says something is tough then it really is. Respect!
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

6500-words-tastic Cool

well done

for someone yet to have the pleasure of IMFr, very informative m8 Smile
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