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 !