mercredi 24 octobre 2012


Flashback. March 2009. Sitting on the plane back from the Barcelona marathon, where i had been an unhappy and reluctant non-starter, i saw an ad for the Garmin Barcelona Triathlon. It could have been the logo that caught my eye, or possibly the pictures of the triathletes in action, or the golden finisher medal.....but whichever it was, when i got home i was compelled to register for the race to be held at the start of October. A few hours later i had also entered the Paris triathlon set for the end of August. Both were Olympic distance triathlons, but they were massive events for me all the same - I was going to become a triathlete. And so began my journey to Ironman, my ultimate goal.
Well this goal finally became reality on Sunday September 30th, 2012 at  8h36 when the starting gun went off for my age groups (45-69) at the Challenge Barcelona-Maresme long distance triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run) and almost 300 silver-bonneted triathletes ran into the waves to begin the 226km trek to Ironman.....

Backtrack to Saturday : it was unusually cold, rainy and windy in Barcelona ! Storms had lashed the region and even caused extreme flooding further down the coast in Malaga. The race wasn't in danger but the bike zone was closed, meaning we'd have to leave the bikes early Sunday morning. I went to pick up my chip all the same and walked onto the beach to inspect and anticpate the swim zone - the sea was rough and the water whipped up by the wind made visibility difficult. I couldn't even see where we were to swim to. I was certainly feeling anxious and nervous now.
Sunday morning. Race day.  I slept well, got up at 5.45 and ate bananas, cereal bars, cereal biscuits, coffee, energy drink... so i felt well-nourished  when i left at 7.00. Esther dropped me closer to transition and i rode the final couple of km. It was still dark and a bit chilly, but the wind and rain had dropped off. There was a long wait to get into the bike zone as 1400 bikes needed checking in. The atmosphere  was strangely relaxed and yet tense as we anticipated the day ahead. Lots of stretching going on, last minute adjustments to bikes,  tyre pressure being checked, preparing running shoes and laces,  and counting gels.....
The forecast was sun, but not high temperatures, which was a relief.
Warm-up : I finally left the bike zone and watched the pros start as i swam out to check the goggles and wetsuit. The water temp was perfect - 18°c. I then realised my start was just 6 minutes after the pros, so i raced up the beach to enter the start zone - no time to even consider what in earth i was doing there before the gun went off and i found myself swimming in a straight line to buoy number one. My past strategies had been to go wide left or right and avoid the kicks, but not this time. I had decided i would go straight and endure whatever was thrown at me - knowing it would not last long anyway.  As soon as i hit the water and began swimming i felt relaxed. All the stress of the build up just melted into the Med. There was more than enough space for everyone, so no knocks or bumps. The first buoy was at 200m - veer right and straight on for 1450m.


I am well aware that my swim technique isn't perfect and swimming straight is never easy ! I  really wanted to get as close to the marker buoys as i could, and i could see other swimmers quite a distance to my left and others, though less, to my right.  The first was away to my left and getting closer was not so easy with the under current. This wasn't a problem in itself because it meant i was clear of other swimmers. I was smiling by now and really enjoying myself. I could see the beach in the distance to my right as i took a breath, every second stroke, and the town of Calella and the mountains behind... i thought of the July holiday and all the swimming i had done in this sea. The next turn. By now i was close to the buoy, almost half way, 100m before the left turn and a straight run of 1750m, followed by another left turn and the final 300m to the beach.  The group was closer together here and the current was more head on - nothing too strong, but it was quite a swell. Fantastic. I was loving this - feeling myself raised by the sea swell. Occasional bumps here, as the other wave starts caught up, or we caught up with the weaker swimmers of those who started before,  but nothing a quick left or right movement didn't resolve. The final left turn towards the beach came quickly. I was starting to relish getting onto dry land and the bike. The number of swimmers here suddenly grew as everyone tried to get a straight run-in to the beach. I must have swum under somebody because i found an arm over my shoulder - we looked at one another, smiled, probably, and separated....strange meeting. I should have said "Hola, bon dia", but it all went too quickly. Back to the beach. The clock read 1h23 - which gave me a 1h17 time. "I'll take that", i said to myself as i calculated. I'd imagined a 1h20 swim time, so i was ahead of schedule.
quick time calculation, yes, that'll do...
I took my time getting out of the wetsuit. No point in running, this was only the start of a long day. The swim is the warm-up, i'd been told by a tri-colleague. He was right. Helmet on, socks and shoes, number belt, jacket... i hesitated. If it gets hot, i'll be taking teh jacket off, then it may be cold so i'll need a shirt. Back into the bag and I run out with the shirt in the jacket pocket... time wasted. I'd arranged evrything in order for the bike and run. At least 5 mins for T1.
The Bike.
I'd given myself a 6h target for the bike. The Garmin was on and ready - It was exactly 10h00, which meant i'd be back by 16h.

The training i'd done had given me a lot of confidence, especially completing the Étape du Tour in the Alps. My greatest concern, after the problems i'd had during the Half-Challenge in May, was fuel and not allowing myself to run out of energy.
My plan on the bike : every hour a gel (including one isostar caffeine) = 6 in total; eat a banana at every drinks station (24km), take energy drink every 15-20 minutes, water whenever, isostar cereal bar when hungry and sporteneine every hour. Well it worked and i felt great throughout. I kept an eye on the Garmin - 33km/h, without pushing it. I tell myself to ease up, that i still have a marathon to run after the 6 hour bike ride. I feel good on the tri-bars, and compact on the Lapierre. Then it started.  A cranking noise with every pedal stroke - and it wouldn't go away. The bike had obviously taken a knock during the flight. By the first turn round at around 42km it was really irritating me. I tried adapting my pedal stroke, and found that at 33km/h on the flat without too much effort the noise disappeared, but not for long. How frustrating - 180km with this. It made things really unpleasant.
I was still passing quite a few cyclists, and seeing, rather hearing, others whizzing past me. Some made comments - all encouraging. In the Half Challenge back in May i was given a penalty for drafting (unintentionally), so now i was paying attention. The referees here are renowned for their strict adherence to rules. At one point i heard a motor bike slow down behind me, which meant one thing : referee. I'd just been overtaken and the cyclist had slotted in just in front of me. So as not to appear to be drafting i moved out to the left... the refereee called me and was about to say penalty. I rode alongside and explained that i'd moved out to NOT draft. I was told then that if i move out and don't overtake i am gaining an advantage and stopping others overtaking. If i move out i have to overtake. AAAh i said - OK. SO - "no penalty ?" "No, ok, you understood". Relief.
mmm referees !

I was still feeling good by the second lap - despite the headwind from the sea. My average speed was still around 30km/h so i felt relaxed enough. I had spent so much time just pedalling away on the Home Trainer, and i could feel it paying now - i managed to just continue at a constant speed and effort. The only time i did stop was to take off the jacket as it was warming up, not enough for me to not put on the shirt though. We were even treated to refreshing shower on the final lap as we turned round at Calella and back out to Saint Andreu... less than 40km to go. it was 14h50. Would i make the 6h? I put my foot down and with the final stretch was up to 36-38km/h. I still had something in the tank - which would help with the small question of a marathon still to run !

The T zone in sight was i going to make the 6h target? Stopping the Garmin at the arrival i was at 6h00m06secs. Job done for me, and i felt fine - except, as i dismounted, for a shooting pain in the underside of my right foot.
Quick enough. Change of shoes and socks, shirt. Do i put a dry shirt on ? No. I don't want to overheat, and Esther has one in my bag i left with her, if i do need one. Cap yes, blue, so Esther will recognise me at the first turn-round point at Santa Susanna - 5.2km away. I set out - the foot pain wasn't showing any sign of relief. It would, i told myself.  I joined the line of runners heading out along the beach - and the steep up and downhill under the train track. It was hotter now and i could feel myself heating up quickly, beads of sweat running down my face. The plan for the run was a 10km/h pace. Slow and steady and to be able to continue to the end. I'd done quite a few 2 to 2.5 hour runs at this pace and felt great. The foot pain wasn't subsiding though. KM2.5 - Pineda and drinks station.

My fuel plan : one gel every 10km (between km 3 and 4 including one caffeine gel), water and cola flavored energy drink at every drinks station (2,5km), water  a few gulps of water to rinse the taste away, run on. Every drinks station went like this.
At Santa Susanna Esther was waiting. What a welcome sight. I left her my cap and glasses, took a drink of Vichy (salty) water and an energy sachet (Isoxstan) that i'd been using in training. I suppose i spent a good few minutes chatting and getting her encouragement - not exactly time wasted, but on reflection i should have been advancing.....
encouragement à la esther :)

I set off again - only 37km to go. 8 laps of 5.25km, or 4 laps of 10.5km ? I wasted at least 2km debating which calculation gave more advantage, psychologically speaking. I didn't give myself an answer, but told myself - one down, 7 to go, or  number one lap of 4. But in this way i was already back at Pineda. I repeat the drinks routine. The music was playing loud here and the crowds shouting encouragement. I was actually enjoying this !! I was at the start of the marathon and still smiling. Is this normal ? 2km from the start line there is a small bridge to run over - quite a steep little climb at this stage, but from here you could here the speaker at the finish line and the cheers of the crowd. It drew me on - every step getting closer as the sound gets clearer. Soon back along the beach. The crowds were great - encouraging every runner. 10km down, 30 to go. The foot was ok by now and i was probably running at around 10km/h. I was soon back at Santa Susanna and looking for Esther - and more encouragement, which meant more time chatting...then back to Pineda. I was counting the kms to each drinks station. Take each one at a time, i told myself. Next,  Calella - half way there. Only 21km to go. ONLY.  The worst thing about these events is that you pass by the finish line and actually see some finishers. It is encouraging in that you can't wait for it to be your turn to go left and make the final 200m to the finish line, but it's a killer because you run away from this turn and go straight on back into obscurity and anonymity because the crowd is watching the finishers.

My time will come i said, smiling as the runner in fornt of me dashed left, and took his young son into his arms and made his way to the finish. How do they do it so quickly ? This question took me to Pineda and just after i treated myself to a caffeine gel - a thick sweet paste full of energy with the taste of thick strong coffee.... it was delicious. I smiled thinking that i was actually relishing a gel, and worked out that this was my 10th of the day (which meant only two more) - another statistic to contemplate as i arrived back at Santa Susanna. Esther told me she'd be heading to the finish line, so wouldn't be there at my next visit - in 15km time, i said. I added "yeah - only 15km". I was getting closer. Get back to Pineda, then Calella, turn round and it's only 10....
the end in sight

Same routine. Run to the drinks station, walk with drinks and then run on again. This is the Cyrano method - walk and run for specific time periods and you conserve so much energy. The light was beginning to fade and the temperature to fall. I still felt ok, but was definitely getting tired. After the final turn from Calella i could hear the Amy Winehouse song "Valerie" - i love that one, and wished i could have finished at that moment. I sang along inside my head and i was at Pineda again. I was at km 33 and felt the need to walk. I decided i'd walk 100m every km until km40. Only 7km more to go....I knew that once i got to 40km, i was home and dry. The sky was darkening and the specially installed floodlights were on between Pineda and Sanata Susanna where there are only fields along the train track. The sea to the right was dark and quiet. This was eerie. One part of the road was in complete darkness. It was surreal. A girl ran behind me making gasping noises with every breath. I thought she'd collapse, but she went ahead - i was happy because i didn't like the idea of her falling down. Then it was gel time for me - the last in my pocket. It wasn't as nice as the isostar caffeine gel, but it would help me get to the end. Santa Susanna appeared out of nowhere and there were now only 5km to go. Cola drink and water, and a quarter of an orange - to drink, not eat. 36km - walk 100m, 37km, 38km walk 100m - the drink station at Pineda agian, already. The same kids rushing to hand out the drinks - so enthusiastic, and always smiling. "Molt bé" "gracias, tété" catlan isn't fluent, but enough to win smiles. Km39 and i decide not to stop - i am almost there. The sound of the finish line, the bridge, 40km....i can make out the first building of Calella and the turn towards the beach, under the train track, still running. The music clearer, less people on the beach. The Transition zone, back onto the Bike park area, KM42.... this is it. There are still a lot of people waiting and cheering. Electric. Esther.. i see her. I hear her.  Finally i get to turn left onto the final straight run - bisouxxxx to Esther la guapppaaaa in the crowd, and la iaia, la Carmeta, sa maman... on to the finish line itself, up the small ramp. I can stop. "Congratulations. You are a finisher".
I am an IRONMAN.

12h24 was the time -minus 6 minutes for the wave start = 12h18.
My goal had been 12h30-13h00, with me being realistic... so i was well within this. happy?
yes !! (1h17+6h00+4h50)
I'd told myself, and esther, that i would do this once - being such a demanding test of strength, and needing so much time for preparation. Well i guess it took me one and a half cans of Limon - alcohol free beer - in the recovery area to decide that i'd be doing this again - and better.... i was already thinking about where i could shave off minutes.... this was madness.
I made sure i had a massage - felt so good. And i was radiant when i got out to see Esther...impossible to guess i'd just covered 226km in just over 12 hours.
But i'll be back, to go below 12h...a new challenge, a new objective.

all for this :)
Thoughts :
So pleased to have finished...
Really enjoyed the event - from beginning to end.
Organisation is everything - Challenge is an efficient event organizer.
I feel i did everything right (food intake especially) - i know i could have given more on the bike, and taken time off the run...but hey, who cares !
It's strange what goes through the mind during this challenge...weird calculations that you don't control
I still want to continue.... i need a new challenge, constantly....
Effort and pain felt is very similar to that at the 100km de Millau...
It's probably more difficult to write about than to train for and to actually do !

mercredi 19 septembre 2012

L'ÉTAPE DU TOUR Acte 1 Albertville-La Touissière

When i entered this 'race' i really had no idea what i was letting myself in for. I have only been to the Alps twice before  - once for grape-picking in the late eighties, and once for a holiday in August 2006 when i rode up the Col du Télégraphe on a mountain track and ran half way up the Galbier in preparation for my first 100km Millau.....
My preparation training had me, for the most part, doing two hour stints on the Home Trainer, and scrambling up and down the hills of Normandy - but NOTHING could really simulate the climbs of the Alps.

AN 8 hour drive took me to the hotel in Muguet, 30km from Albertville on the fRiday (race day Sunday) where i caught up with my two brothers - Simon had pulled out due to a lack of preparation, and Michael was raring to go....this being his 7th Étape. "You'll be fine," he kept saying as i shook my head once more at the mountain profiles. My initial thoughts were that the first of the 4 Cols was difficult if only because i'd heard it mentioned many times - the Col De la Madeleine; the second, the Glandon (Croix de Fer), can't be as bad as it isn't as long, and the last two - well, the third (the Mollard) is only 6km - piece of cake - and the last, well the last is always going to be easier, psychologically. Didn't quite happen like that though. But i told myself to stick to my plan - just ride and enjoy it, which was never going to be difficult with this kind of view :

Saturday was a scorching summer day in Albertville as we picked up the numbers and ate in a brasserie watching the Tour de France. But by the time Sunday morning came by it was cold, windy and rainy (the Etretat tri had come in handy preparation, i thought). After a sleepless Saturday night - not due to nerves really,  but simply not being able to nod off  (though i rested very well) - we were off to Albertville and the start.
9000+ registered, 6700 starters announced... the speaker put this down to the bad weather. The start was easy enough - slow and steady (35-40km/h) all the way to the foot of the Col de la Madeleine. SLOW down - steady drizzle acompanied us - the gradient was getting to 7, 8% but it felt fine.  Mike had pointed out that the climbs are given an average gradient,  which was 6-7%, but they include the downhill and flat parts, of which teh Madeleine has two significant sections... and so i should remember that when it feels easier, then it would be paid for later. As we reached half way and the straighter, flat part - everything was fine still - funny, why isn't this hurting ? I rode alongside and chatted a good 15 minutes with a member of MSA tri club - my club - small world. I stopped at the feed station, filled the bottle and wound my way up to the top  - it seemed to come quickly enough, and ii actually started wondering what all the fuss was about. Then i remembered - i was going at tortoise pace, with absolutely no time or ranking  objective. This included a quick summit stop for a photo (i wasn't going to miss this chance)... and i wasn't alone.
am i pleased with myself !!!

The way down (18km) was not as difficult to handle as i had imagined either, though i was very nervous on the brakes, and really focused on not falling.  Nonetheless, the descent was as tiring as the ascent for me. I hadn't expected it  to be so cold, but with the wind jacket back on it was just ok because the crisp wind at 40km/h+ gets under the skin and into the bones very quickly.  A welcome food stop at the bottom - salty biscuits were on offer and went down very nicely indeed - and it was on
to the Col du Glandon.
Mike had said this was not an easy climb - and after 6 or 7 km at 8% i was starting to understand - final 6km to the summit were  going to be even steeper, hitting 12 and 13%, averaging out at around 9,5-10%. I looked up the sheer height of the mountain and could see the cyclists way above.... this was impressive, some were beginning to walk with their bikes, i just carried on pushing away - the gradient was relentless - so happy to have added the 29 cog the week before (i'm using a Compact pedal set with a 11-29 cog set) - so it's not too bad. The rain has stopped and the sun is now out - wonderful. Clouds float around the summit way above, it is beautiful. The only downside, apart from the 9 and 10, and 12%s is the strong wind as we turn each hairpin, a real killer.
over half-way there !

But I breathe deeply, smile to myself, exchange an encouraging word with the other cyclists and occasional caravan - i am enjoying this. It is very, very hard though and i know i will earn the medal, if i get to the end and escape the fate of being picked up by the "broom wagon". I ask an official  if i'm in danger of this  - "no, you'll be OK". I'm not convinced and push on to the Col de la Croix de Fer, a further 3-4 kms. An easy ascent, but with the wind head on, and the tiredness now in the legs...ooof.
feeling it !

Another,  shorter descent this time - no need for the wind jacket - but as the road flattened out at the bottom, the sun was really starting to heat - i joined a line of 20 or so sheltering behind a friendly motor bike who took us a good 4-5km at a steady pace - this was great - the peloton sensation. I am starting to really like this sport :)
The Col du Mollard was a short 6km climb - short yes, but climb all the same - with the heat, and with so many cyclists now lying, energy-sapped, at the side of the road, waiting their inevitable pick up by the big bus, it was certainly tough. I pedalled away, steady and determined. The km milestones indicate the gradient and it starts to play on the mind when it is constantly telling you 8%; 9% and with passages at 10% - when will it get easier ? The fact is it doesn't ! 
The final descent was the most difficult - extremely technical, with 40+ hairpin bends  - quite a few fallers as i wound my way cautiously down. This kind of descent really takes it out on the arms. It was even hotter now, and my head was starting to spin - i really thought i wouldn't make it and started to worry.... i calmed myself down by concentrating, breathing deeply.... before arriving at the final food stop. I pulled up, took a bottle of Vittel emptied it over my head - "douche de riche", "luxury shower" - it worked and i felt better - i was overheating, the altitude, the lack of sleep, the accumulating tiredness....
I chatted with the helpers giving the water - i asked if the last climb was less difficult... "they all go up" was the answer i didn't want to hear... but it was true - there was only one way from here - UP.
A final 18km and i will have done what i wanted - finish. I was still determined i wouldn't walk, i wouldn't stop, and i would get there.
The first 6 or so km of the climb to the Toussuière were as difficult as the top of the Glandon - a straight uphill... no shade...torture ! Again the constant reminders that we were at 9% didn't help - only when it read 7% did i feel there was some kind of relief. Still i was smiling and enjoying the fact that i was here, still pedaling and getting closer with every stroke and push of the foot. 10km to go - a water trough - cold water - i stop and put my head under the flowing tap - only 10 more... The 9, 8, 7.... counting one by one, standing, pushing, passing to the 27 cog knowing i had a reserve cog, just in case...5, 4 3 - and trhe arch, signalling i was almost there.... but still the road climbed . The spectators were shouting - it gets flat round the corner - they never said which corner though. 2 to go, then 1 the famous flame of the final km -... people behind the barriers clapping encouragement.

My challenge was complete : i finished, i finished feeling good, no problems or injuries, and i really enjoyed it. Again, because i can.

lundi 6 août 2012

The Le Havre Olympic (CD) distance

Two events in June and July have kept my training alive.  Having completed the Le Havre Olympic distance triathlon and the mighty Étape du Tour Acte 1 I am feeling very content with myself.
J'ai terminé deux événements au mois de juin et juillet, afin de maintenir ma préparation pour mon Ironman as mois de septembre - le tri du Havre et l'étape du tour acte 1. Donc je suis assez content.

The very first Le Havre Fitdays Triathlon was never going to be easy with the lashing rain, the howling winds and the ever falling temperatures. This was supposed to be June, summertime !!  Add to this the nightmare logistics of having T1 and T2 at 40km intervals, on the pre-race Friday I found myself wondering what I'd let myself in for.
Le tout premier Fitdays Tri du Havre n'allait jamais être facile - avec une météo pourrie, digne d'un mois de décembre plutôt que juin. En plus, j'ai opté pour le tri CD parce que je voulais absolument nager en mer à Etretat, et non pas au Docks du Havre,ce qui voulait dire que la logistique et l'organisation était assez compliqué.
Nonetheless, I drove to Le Havre on the Saturday to register and leave the running shoes in T2, and then to Etretat on the Sunday morning with the bike for the swim and bike start. Saturday was actually a beautiful sunny day, and we ate lunch on terrace in the Docklands, site of the  Long Distance (which i'd opted not to do because i wanted to swim in the sea, not the Dock). It was strange to be sheltering from the heat because the news during the week was that we were to arrive at Etretat with an extra pair of running shoes as there was a risk that the swim would be replaced by a run - gale force winds had been predicted, which would make the sea swim impossible.
Malgré mes réservations vis-à-vis l'organisation je partais pour le Havre le samedi déposer mes chaussures dans la zone T2, et ensuite le dimanche à Etretat avec le vélo pour la natation et le départ de la zone T1. Il a fait assez beau le samedi, ce qui semblait bizarre car les derniers infos qu'on a reçu nous demandaient de prévoir une deuxième paire de chaussures car une tempête était prévu pour e dimanche et la natation serait, sans doute, remplacé par une course à pied. 
Sunday was not Saturday though and after an hours drive I arrived at around 9 for a 10am start, under a rain-soaked lead-grey sky and a lashing wind whipping the sea into the air. I found the T1 zone by following the other athletes (only 85 for this event) who were all looking as puzzled as myself : would the swim take place ? Would we get to swim under the cliffs as planned ? It wasn't until 9h45 that the news was finally announced - the swim would take place, but with a new course - 3 times round a 500m triangle marked by 3 huge buoys. No under-the famous-cliff swim = disappointment, but at least we could all get the wetsuits on - which allowed us to warm up and be protected from the cold rain.
Le dimanche n'était vraiment pas comme le samedi - et après une heure de route sous la pluie, j'arrivais à la T1 au front de mer...le ciel était d'un gris de plomb et un vent parfumé au sel de mer soufflait fort. On n'était que 85 pour cette distance, et aucun entre nous savait si on allait nager. Il n'était pas avant 9h45 qu'un arbitre m'informe avec une signe de tête que la mer allait nous accueillir - mais pas sous l'aiguiile comme on avait espéré - trois tours de 500m autour de 3 bouées jaunes. On était tous un peu déçu, mais au moins on pourrait s'habiller en combinaison, nous permettant de nous protéger un peu du vent et du froid.
The sea temp was 14-16° - that is NOT warm ! The sea was extremely choppy, and it was not easy to get round the course with the strong undercurrents pulling in every direction. Difficult and tiring to keep in a straight line - but i loved every second of it - being lifted out of the water and feeling the crash of the waves as i almost fell back in .. what a feeling. I don't remember being kicked or hit by anyone, but with such waves I probably wouldn't have noticed anyway - I do remember thinking - "Martin, you must  be mad - it's cold, wet, uncomfortable, difficult",  but with a huge smile as i swam onto the pebble beach at the end. Time ? No idea, but i was somewhere in the middle in position terms judging by the number of bikes still in T1.
Température d'eau - entre 14 et 16° - PAS CHAUD ça ! ET des vagues, des courants - pas simple non plus.  C'était difficile de garder une ligne droite avec les changements de directions, mais la force des vagues me sortait de l'eau et je rentre avec une "claque" - géniale :). J'ai évité des coups des autres nageurs, mais les vagues ne m'ont pas manquées :)... Mais j'étais très très content d'y être et je nageais en souriant.  Le plus difficile par contre était de sortir de l'eau et courir les 100+m sur la plage de galets au pieds avec les mains presque gelées, j'avais vraiment du mal à me déshabiller et mettre mes chaussures de vélo - j'ai passé un bon 10 minutes ici.
things had actually calmed down by this time (this is at around 3pm)
but note the cliff we were meant to swim under at the start of the film - 
i'm still a bit disappointed this didn't trace of the race whatsoever..strange.

The run up the beach was more difficult than the swim itself - huge pebbles and stones... and with cold feet and hands ! It took me what seemed like forever to get the wetsuit off and into the cycling gear - with my fingers white from the cold i couldn't fasten the shoes.
Onto the bike, no drafting permitted due to the treacherous conditions - rain, wet roads (which were also open to traffic), and quite a strong head-on wind - which lasted the entire 40km hilly route back to Le Havre. I maintained what felt like a good rhythm, and i felt strong enough winding up the first long 7km climb onto the main road back to Le Havre. I passed six or seven riders, but was passed by at least 5 others.
I'm in about 40th position as i get back to Le Havre, where the roads have been left closed for the triathlon. The cars on the opposite lane were all beeping - not in support, but in frustration at being made to wait in a long line. HA HA - i waved as i took up a sprint position and thundered down the empty boulevard smiling. Just before arriving at T2 i braked slightly to take a bend and putting my hand back on the bar it slipped with the wet and i almost crashed (as Fabian Cancellera recently did in the Olympic road race), but miraculously stayed up.
Le Havre docks and T2. Again the cold hands made things difficult as i struggled to get the bike shoes and rain jacket off as well as tying the laces of my Asics. I was soaking and cold and the first 500m of the run felt strange as i could hardly feel my feet. Two laps of 5km to go. Here we joined the LD triathletes who were on the 4 lap distance. It wasn't easy to get a rhythm going with the cold but I felt fine enough until the first turn round at 2.5 km straight into a headwind (funny how you never notice when the wind is behind you)... well, head down, teeth gritted - this was one uncomfortable way to spend a Sunday morning. First Lap done, a colored band collected, I passed the T2 zone again for more of the wind and rain - it was unrelentless.
Feeling quite strong I passed 4 or 5 runners in the final km as i managed to up my tempo slightly - which felt very satisfying - to finish 43 out of 85, and 4th in my category (though i think there were only 8 of us :) )
post-race with "dry" t-shirt

Satisfied, happy, very wet and very cold... i drank several hot coffees and a huge plate of pasta before boarding the bus back to Etretat to pick up the car for the hour-long trip home where i took a COLD shower because the boiler was not working !!! aaaarrrrggggghhhhh noooooo !
One thing really struck me about this triathlon was the lack of people - competitors and crowds - no photographer, no medal, no welcome on the finish line, and these athletes just finishing and disappearing home.... the weather did not help, admittedly, but it was strange.
SO why do i do these things ? Why do i put myself through so much discomfort ? Well, because i can and because I like it ! What a day - uncomfortable throughout, but worth every second !

mercredi 13 juin 2012

Half Challenge n° 3

I wasn't going to write about the Half Challenge as i completed it in mitigating circumstances.
Esther's dad passed away unexpectedly the week before the race, which made the context very different to previous years. It was unsure whether i would actually compete even as i boarded the plane on Friday evening.
Je n'avais pas l'intention d'écrire au sujet de cette course. le papa d'Esther nous a quitté la semaine avant la course soudainement...donc le contexte a beaucoup changé par rapport aux années précédentes. Ce n'était même pas sûr que je cours quand j'ai pris l'avion le vendredi soir.
The race went ahead nonetheless, and it was made clear to me that i should run.... so i went along to Calella on the Saturday afternoon, a bit heavy-hearted, and not very focussed, to collect my number and leave the bike. I was so absent-minded that i was making huge mistakes all the time, and i decided to write this it is so i can avoid repeating these errors next time round.
La course aura eu lieu de toute façon, et on m'a bien dit que je devais courir. donc, avec l'esprit distrait je suis allé à Calella le samedi déposer le vélo et chercher mon dossard. Je n'avais pas vraiment le coeur à faire la course, et cette manque de concentration allait me coûter cher plus tard. J'écris donc pour m'aider à mieux préparer la prochaine course !

Saturday night pre-race - little sleep, as usual. Waking at 5h30 for an 8h30 swim start gave me enough time to eat breakfast. I had no appetite at all. So i ate very little. Mistake 1.
Samedi soir, je n'ai pas bien dormi, comme d'habitude. Je me réveille à 5h30 pour un départ à 8h30 - j'aurais assez de temps de bien manger, sauf que je n'avais pas beaucoup d'appétit, et donc n'ai rien mangé, ou presque.... Faute 1.
Pre-race swim. The weather was extremely pleasant as i arrived on the beach an hour before the swim. I took to the water to warm up - aiie - 15°c !! This was a shock. I actually had difficulty getting my breath and said to myself : "i can't't do this". Panic attack ! One minute swimming later everything was fine again as i acclimatized - the sea was still, and extremely relaxing. I was ready.
Pre-natation : il faisait très beau en arrivant sur la plage à 7h30. Je me suis mis à l'eau - aie - 15°c ! il faisait froid - panique pendant que je m'échauffe, car je n'arrive pas prendre mon souffle - "je ne peux pas faire cette course je me dis," je paniquais un peu là. Je nage, je respire bien, je me chauffe, et bien une minute plus tard - c'est bon , et tout est rentré en ordre.
At this point i normally take an energy gel - Mistake 2. I had forgotten to buy my regular gels during the week, as i usually do, and so had nothing with me. I had none for the bike either (just an energy bar that i had brought along). I was drinking energy drink as i waited, but it's not the same.
Normalement je mange un gel énergétique à ce moment - mais j'avais oublié d'en acheter et donc je n'avais rien avec moi. Idem pour le vélo. Faute énorme n° 2.

The swim. I stayed to the left of the pack to avoid the kicks - i wanted no trouble ! As soon as i started swimming water leaked into my goggles... this has never happened before. I stopped, redressed them - but this was to happen throughout the race... unexplainable. Mistake 3 ? Yes and no - i had tested the goggles pre-race, so why this?  This caused me direction problems, and i strayed off course a few times. Only the final 300m back to the beach went well - i was strong and fast. I got out of the water feeling strong, but with almost 40 minutes effort - not my best time by a long way.
Natation. - j'ai évité le pack et les coups en restant vers la gauche, mais dès que 50m l'eau commençait à rentrer dans mes lunettes. J'arrête et redresse les lunettes, mais sans succès - et l'eau continue à rentrer pendant toute la course. Faute n° 3 ? Oui et non - car j'ai quand même bien réglé les lunettes avant la course, pendant que je m'échauffe dans l'eau. Pas d'explication, mais  ça m'a donné des problèmes d'orientation. Ce n'était que à la fin, et les derniers 300m vers la plage que j'ai bien nagé - vite et droit. Je termine sans être trop fatigué, et avec des très bonnes sensations. Mais à presque 40 minutes, pas mon meilleur temps, de loin !

The bike. No problem getting away, and i was going strong and fast enough, taking the energy drink as i began. I still had little appetite, and couldn't take any food -  tried a banana but it didn't go down. This was not normal. I picked up an energy gel - NutriSport.  I had never tried this - and no, it didn't sit well at all. Mistake 4 and 5.
Le vélo - pas de problème et je roulais bien et vite au départ, buvant une boisson énergétique. Je n'avais toujours pas d'appétit, et n'arrivais pas manger quelque chose de solide - j'ai essayé une banane, mais ça ne passait pas.  Pas normal. J'ai ramassé un gel Nutrisport (fourni par le sponsor), mais je n'avais jamais essayé avant, et ça non plus, ça ne passait pas. Fautes 4 et 5 ici !
No solids on the bike, no energy gels... not a recipe for a fast time.
Pas de nourriture, pas de gels - ce n'est pas une recette pour un bon chrono.
What's more after 25km i hear the judge behind me - "Marti, Penalty Box." "por que ?". i didn't get the explanation. "no entiendo !". "Penalty Box 12 minutes penalty. 10m distance". I had allowed a bike to overtake me and pull in at about 7 or 8m in front and i didn't adjust - so i was, according to the rules, getting an advantage ! I was not happy about this because i had no intention of drafting, and it was hardly wheel to wheel... i just didn't pay attention !  I had to wait 5 minutes, not 12 as i thought... but was a 12 minute penalty time added ? I have no idea, and haven't checked this out. Mistake 6.
I pulled into the penalty box at Km49, and waited, frustrated and resigned to a slow time. I adjusted my thoughts - just do this as a practice run for the Ironman in September and try and enjoy it. Mistake 7 - no race strategy in place at all, in fact !
Au bout de 25 kms, j'entends une moto sur ma gauche et un des arbitres me disant "marti, Penalty Box".. "Por que... no entendio"... "twelve minutes penalty box, 10metres distance".  Je regarde devant et vois un vélo à 7 ou 8m - je l'avais laissé me doubler, et se mettre devant moi, sans que j'ajuste le distance entre nous - et c'est à moi de le faire. Donc, les règles sont les règles. je ne suis pas content - je n'ai simplement pas fait attention, et j'ai payé cher. Faute 6. j'ai arrêté à KM 49, et j'attendais mes 5 minutes, comme on me disait - donc pas les 12 que l'arbitre avait annoncé. C'était frustrant et énervant, car je ne cherchais pas d'avoir un ne faisais pas attention. Il faut toujours rester concentré.  J'ai réfléchi et décidé de continuer comme si je faisais le full Ironman  - et d'essayer de prendre plaisir...Faute 7 - je n'ai pas eu une vraie stratégie de course !
The run - by now the temps were into the 30+°c. It was very hot. I told myself to just keep a steady pace, and take it every two km to the drink or sponge stop. I was happy enough as i plodded along - imaging always that i was doing a 42km run, rather than a 21km. This helped me pace the run and it went by quickly enough in the 2h05 i was actually moving. Not a great performance, but in the circumstances, ok. I was paying for the lack of solid food inside, but took an energy drink every time, and a bottle of water to cool me down.
La CàP. La température était arrivé dans les 30°c+ Il faisait très chaud. Jm disais de garder un rythme ré de voir comment ça allait tous les 2 km, aux postes de ravitaillement. J'étais assez bien, et je m'imaginais faire un marathon plutôt qu'un semi... donc les 2h05 de course a passé sans problème, et assez rapidement. La manque de nourriture voulait dire que je n'avais pas d'accélération, pas d'énergie, mais je ne me suis pas arrêté.... prenant le temps de boire une boisson énergétique tous les 2,5 km, et de l'eau pour me rafraichir.
dur dur !

Esther :))

Lessons learned / ce que j'ai appris:
Sleep well. Faut bien dormer la veille
Eat a solid breakfast. Faut manger bien le matin
Take energy gels pre-swim. Faut prendre un/deux gels pré-natation
Double and triple check goggles. Faut vérifier toujours les lunettes avant la natation.
Take solids on the bike. Faut manger à vélo.
Pay attention to take caffeine on the run. Faut du caffeine pendant la CàP (coca cola..).
Pay attention to take appropriate energy gel on the run. Faut des gels approprié CàP.
Enjoy the race. S'amuser.

Charisa's Pro race Diet is an excellent guide :

Things I'm pleased with / ce qui m'a plu :
Never stopped. J'ai continué, sans m'arrêter.
Finished well enough. J'ai bien terminé.
Am ready and confident for the Ironman distance. Je suis prêt à affronted l'Ironman.
Esther and her mum were at the finish line. Esther et sa maman étaient à l'arrivée

Post race :
I went down with flu two days after the end of the race ! So maybe i was carrying some kind of bug with me throughout.
Deux jours plus tard j'avais une grippe - 40° de température, et pas bien - j'avais sans doute un virus pendant la course ! 

Onwards and upwards - Étape du Tour - July 8 - i can't wait. New Compact pedal set and raring to go.
Prêt pour l'Étape du Tour le 8 juillet - nouveau pédalier SRAM compact, plus performant et facile à pédaler :) 

samedi 17 mars 2012

Update - Mise à Jour

It has been a very long time. Winter has melted away and the flowers Léa planted in November are beginning to bloom in the garden, the days are getting longer and temperatures are warming.
Ca fait un bon moment que je ne suis pas venu sur le Blog. L'hiver s'est fondu, et désormais les fleurs qu'on a planté au mois de novembre avec Léa, commencent à fleurir dans le jardin; le jours se prolongent et les températures sont de plus en plus douces.

Lots of things have been happening too. On the negative side - my projects have fallen foul to injury :
a torn calf muscle since the end of January has put my training on and off to an extent that I have pulled out of the Paris eco-Trail. This isn't the end of the world, but is a bit of a disappointment,  because i'd trained well through December and January - on the Home Trainer and running up and down the forest hills.
Il y a eu beaucoup d'acidité sur le plan d'entrainement aussi. Côté négatif - une  blessure au mollet, petite déchirure, m'a obligé d'annuler ma participation à l'eco-Trail de Paris. Ce n'est pas la fin du monde, mais je suis un peu déçu car l'entrainement pendant les mois de décembre et janvier a été très bon.

On the positive side I have finally taken the plunge and joined the Triathlon club - the best move i've made for years. Early morning outdoor swims in the near deserted pool is just amazing, even if the first thing i learned was that my style needs a LOT of improving ! It's never too late though and i'm really looking forward to getting out on the road with the other triathletes.
Côté positif, j'ai enfin plongé et je me suis inscrit au club de triathlon -c'est la meilleure chose que j'ai fait depuis mon début au triathlon. Aller nager très tôt dans un bassin extérieur, à dix ou vingt nageurs, est génial. Par contre,  la première chose que j'ai appris : mon style est loin d'être parfait :) Donc je vais vraiment améliorer, et j'ai hâte à sortir en vélo avec les autres triathletes !! Mieux tard que jamais :0)

SO right now i'm on a forced rest (apart from swimming with a float - which can become normal swimming in a week, then another week before i can get back on the bike, and maybe two more before i get to run again). This will leave me 6 or 7 weeks to get ready for the Barcelona Half-Iron which will kick off my season... May 27. Then a planned trip in June to the Alps to train on the slopes for the Étape, set for July 8. I am keeping everything in perspective because my main event this year is the Ironman in September, which i don't want to mess up.
DONC là tout de suite, je suis en repos forcé, sauf la natation avec pullboy pendant une semaine, ensuite natation normale, et une semaine après, reprise du vélo et encore une semaine avant la course à pied.  J'aurai donc 6 ou 7 semaines de préparation pou r le Half-Iron à Barcelone (27 mai); et puis je prévois une petite semaine aux alpes afin de préparer l'Étape du Tour (8 juillet) - mais tout ça avec du recul car le gros événement cette année reste l'Ironman au mois de septembre, et je n'ai pas envie de rater ça.