Half the year gone ! Half de Compiègne and La Viking
I finally got my running into shape by the end of March - a few 5km runs, a few longer and slower jaunts, with the Half in view for May 17. But it wasn't the legs that were a problem in the end.
Thursday 14th May a few club members organized a lake swim and a short ride....2.5km in the lake at Jumièges, 40km on the bike along the Seine - nice and steady, with my aero bars for the first time this year - and back home i followed up with a 9km run at a good pace. I felt a slight discomfort in the side and thought i'd pulled or overstretched something...nothing serious.
Saturday morning swim session i pulled up with a short sharp stabbing sensation in the side...i really had pulled something. The coach thought i'd had a cardiac arrest - but would this stop my triathlon the next day ? You'd think so, but....
Compiègne is about 2 hours from Rouen by car, meaning a leisurely drive to arrive in time for the 12h30 start. My side was not feeling right so i strapped it up with kiné tape. I felt better, though the medical benefit was somewhat dubious. Driving along with Guillaume and Arnaud meant we could chat about the race and other things and i could avoid stressing about the swim start. On the website from last years race there was a film of a swimmer not moving as he battled the counter-current of the river....i was not amused!
Transition was a football field, and with the sun shining, the atmosphere suggested a family picnic - everyone was in good humour - and the fact that 13 or so MSA triathlon club members were present made it more familiar and fun.
Swim start - a slow walk along the river to the start line. The current didn't seem strong looking at it, but the water was cold though. The wetsuit held my side together and i felt fine. As I swam back towards the start 'line' the gun went off - i had to turn round and go - so i had no time to think. Yes, the current was strong and i felt like i was flying. I was constantly kicked, hit and swum into - i gave as good as i got though - but this was due to the relatively small space - the river was about 20m wide, maybe. Passed quite a few - swimming over, around, under, but always forward... i was actually enjoying it...this is how i felt when i first started triathlon... 1400m with the current went quickly - swimming at the same pace as the spectators walking on the banks - a strange experience. Turn round point and the counter-current - everyone seemed to be at the riverside where the current was weaker...this changed when we had to swim round a fallen tree and i found myself in the river centre - i was advancing, so the image of last years stationary swimmer wouldn't be me this time, a relief at least.
Out of the water in 31.32 mins for 2km, i was amazed - it's amazing what a fast current and a wetsuit can do for the morale !
Onto the bike - after a lot of messing with the wetsuit, and trying to get arm warmers on...not easy with wet arms. i say arm warmers, i really mean sun protection. The sun was out and it was quite warm. All i remember about the bike was:
1. passing people.
2. Not seeing a lot with my head down
3. long straight roads through the forests
4. 2 big climbs and equivalent descents
5. my side ached on the descents
6. a water and banana refreshment - that i missed first time because i was going too fast ! and this two times - though i managed to snatch a banana second time round.
7. the volunteers telling you your position.
I enjoyed the cycling - even better with the position updates. I remember hearing 97 - then 88 - then 80...so i know i was doing well.
2h38 for the 90km - 2x45km loops. Not bad. Averaging at 34km/h, or thereabouts, and 74th position out of 340. 1st loop in 1h17, the 2nd in 1h21 - and yet i felt i was faster the second loop... . I only saw the occasional drafting - teams working together, which is always annoying - but i was happy to have been alone from start to finish.
Getting to transition i was apprehending the run, not knowing how this would go - despite having done quite a few training run sessions off the bike. Vincent - injured, so here a spectator, shouted me to "alleeeerrrr"- "this is the start of the race" i replied. I felt good, and was soon into a steady, albeit slow, pace. The run was 3 loops of 7km - along the river, through the forest and then into the forest before returning back along the river. This meant MSA triathletes would be able to see each other... suffering, which is always a boost. My sides ached as i turned the corners and the bends, and i wasn't feeling comfortable, but i felt light enough on my feet.Two sips of coke and two sips of water at each feed station and a red tonic gel at 7km and 14km was all i needed to finish the final 3 km in accelerated mode...i still had something in the legs. Finishing with a sprint in 1h37 - my best time yet...and with an overall place of 87 in 4h53:45. Satisfied, tired, and with a pain in the side.
Next day the pain was more persistent and an x-ray revealed two fractured ribs. What? And i just managed a Half Iron Distance PB !?!
Bad news is that i had to pull out of the Geneva to Nice trip...the less i say about that the better i think, as it hurts more than the ribs ever did ! But when the doctor describes the possible complications of physical effort with broken ribs - punctured lung, collapsed lung, both lungs infected...you start listening to reason.
After a complete week of no activity other than watching Contador smash the Giro Italia, I climbed onto the Home Trainer and then the road bike after three weeks. And then Sunday, June 21 i took part in my second real cyclosportif - La Viking 76. 153kms along the coast via Dieppe to St Valery (the route for Stage 9 of this years Tour de France) and back to Mesnières en Bray.
As we were waiting for the start towards the back of the 153km race pen, a spectator shouted - "they've gone". I looked up and saw some cyclists riding away. I, and the others around me, began to weave our way through quite a lot of others who were waiting for the shorter race (90km) 9am start!!
Result - i missed the leading peleton. I actually set off thinking that i'd catch them soon enough - but after 3 or 4 km of hard pedaling i realized it simply wasn't going to happen. I could see the large group up the road, speeding away round the bends. I was so disappointed. I could feel the wind against me, and the fatigue in my legs already. I knew that this was therefore going to be not just a long day, but a VERY long day. So, no choice, head down and pedal.
It wasn't until i got to Dieppe - 30km down the road - that i started to catch small groups - all going way too slow for me. Riding up the hill out of Dieppe and reaching then coast plateau the wind was fierce and head on - the windsocks were completely horizontal and pointing directly parallel to the road. I wanted to stop and turn round by now. But i kept on. At one point i turned round to find 6 or 7 cyclists stuck behind me. They weren't offering to take the lead, so i had no choice. I moved over to the left and one went in front. The speed dropped from 29km/h to 24km/h, so i took it up again.
Finally at ST Valery we got to turn out of the wind, after 40 km or so. I was feeling well and truly tired. There is a steep climb out of the town, and the wind was now sideways. My Aero 60 wheels were being blown all over the road.
15 km to Cany Barville with the side wind, but then we hit a left again and the wind is behind. We had just completed the Tour de France Étape 6 segment...they would head on to Le Havre, into the wind. Now there was one rider behind - n° 22 - blue top. He thanked me for the shelter adding "you are a strong rider into the wind, well done, chapeau!". I smiled and offered him to take the lead. He looked like a hardened rider, around my age, maybe a little younger...or less old i should be saying now!
With the wind in our back, a downhill section we were at 55km/h in no time.
The return leg - 75km - to the finish was a lot like this - me in front, pushing hard, catching more and more stragglers dropped from the lead group, and a lot doing the shorter race...only on the final climb did i wobble and was left behind by n° 22. I had no food left, a bit of water, and a lot of emptiness in the legs. As we got to the line though, i'd caught up again, and n° 22 turned, thanked me for the help, shook hands and let me pass the line before him - a true cycling gent. So i finished with a huge smile and a feeling that i had done everything i could but knowing it wasn't my day - 153km at 32km/h average speed (no power reading unfortunately - i need to invest!).
Next up: La MARMOTTE - the queen of cyclos...