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Topic - Challenge Vichy (IM) Race Report - light entertainment

ClimberEd - on 03 Sep 2013
So I haven't really climbed for a year or so now as some of you will have noticed.... most of my posts have been bike related. I thought I would share what it has been leading up to thank you for all the help on ice baths, nutrition etc etc.

Race report Vichy…..my 3rd tri and first ironman distance.
Apologies in advance if some of the numbers aren’t spot on as they are from memory. Also I ran 3 watches so never had a clear picture of my overall time.

Vichy is an amazing venue for an event, the whole race is run out of one area ‘parc omnisport’ which is on the side of a lake with the main city the other. (this is something the French do quite well, looking at a map of Vichy as much space is dedicated to sporting endeavours as to housing and feeding people…._) I’m not quite sure who had the idea to damn the river but it has created a 2km playground in the city for waterskiing, international rowing events, and some swimming before a bit of cycling and running.

Unlike last year when the event had to be shortened because of the temperatures the weather was playing ball and after driving a recce of the bike course we were all set. 2 laps, the 1st 25km or thereabouts rolling up through woods then down into flat open countryside. Head down, hit the roundabout, turn left, repeat. Very pretty but with a hidden danger (which will reveal itself later) Then I went to the athletes briefing….. errr, no fat people, lots of tanned shaved legs, lots of country kit lycra, Oh shit. So they had branded this the European Long Distance Championships, which I had just kind of ignored as lots of races try to brand themselves but this did seem to be the real deal. 1st IM, oops… Apparently there are 31 countries represented, with the French covering about 2/3 rds of the entries and around 90 (or was it 70… Brits). 1 Algerian apparently which I thought was pretty plucky. Laura (supporter extraordinaire) simply smiled a lot (nothing to do with the Euros in lycra) and tucked into the pasta party.

Oh and I have to mention the beetroot nightmare! It’s supposed to be good for you, and help with oxygen uptake etc. And they do say never try anything new on race day. All my long training sessions have been after drinking lots of beetroot (or blood as my work colleagues seems to call it.) France is the largest grower of beets in the EU, You’d think you could buy beetroot juice in a large city in France. Nope. We went to supermarches, hypermarches, we drove round the country side looking for other ‘marches’, I tried small shops, pharmacies, this was not looking good for being prepared, eventually I google translated and found a pharmacist who asked a customer who pointed me to a health food shop who sold me her last bottle! I really think I got the last bottle of beetroot juice in Vichy, whey!

Race day… 4.30am. Alarm clock – ignore the fact that it is 3.30am on Sunday morning in the UK and some of my friends will be going to bed…. 2 bowls of rice pudding, a banana, large cup of joe. Lube up with bodyglide, everywhere, (no sniggering at the back….) (and still missed a bit it turned out…) Race kit on, HR monitor on, game face on, let’s go. Despite being very convenient we still had to drive a couple of km round to the race area. I went into transition, double checked the bike, swapped some gels in my transition bikes and then went over to the swim entry.
The swim start was 7.00am 1st wave (most people), 7.10am 2nd wave. I was in the second wave. Dawn is breaking at this point, a bit grey but nothing untoward. Getting nervous, suit on, watch on or off?! Watch on…. I know my time, but pain in transition, watch off…. Wetsuit off fast, but I don’t know my time. I go with watch on…. A little thing, but at this point, the little decisions become big ones. Laura has perfected the art of bag carrying, smiling and projecting support without getting in the way – no easy task. I run through everything in my head, all my preparation and training, I know I can swim the distance, I know I can bike the distance, I can do both back to back. I know I can run, the question will always be how hard, how fast. Everything is right, as right as it ever will be.
At his point I should mentioned that 9 days before I got into the pool and was in such pain in my shoulder I couldn’t swim a stroke. Instant physio support from the Henley crew may have fixed it, so I very nervously slide into the water, swam gently, tested it, swam a bit harder, seems okay.
The second thing that needs to be mentioned is that I had a secret goal of 10hours. Bonkers really, I did a 5.06 in my first tri (half IM) exactly 50 weeks before. And the course was short. Double it and add a bit right, nahhh, let’s take off a bit. 10 hours it is. Realistically I started aiming for 12hours with 11hours as a ‘top end result’. Then training goes well and you start to dream. So I dreamt, 11 hours realistic, 10.30 brilliant, then 11 hours realistic, 10.30 brilliant and 10.00 if I smash it out of the box. I know individually I can swim 1.10, ride 5.20 ( flat fast course flat out) and run 3.20 with a bit for faff and transition. I’ve swum 1.14 in the middle of a training block, I’ve ridden 5.25s/5.30s and I’ve run 20miles at 7.30 splits.

The first wave is off. The swim is two laps of 1.9km (slightly parallel to each other) with an Australian exit. Having carefully studied the form book on channel 4s Ironman programme I fully intend to throw myself into the air in an ungraceful dive rather than hold my nose and plop (apparently the preferred technique.)

Trying to ignore the nerves I watch the starter getting excited, Then we’re off, a smaller wave, it’s not the usual washing machine start but there are bodies everywhere. I went off hard to find some space then settled into a ryhythm . I think I’m in a pack but it’s difficult to tell. I just concentrate, catch and pull, keep my right hand slightly little finger first to save the shoulder. Breath. I start to swim past people. Some of the slower people insist on swimming in a block which required some ‘encouragement’ to shift sideways and make space. Open water swimming is a contact sport right?! Soon we’ve reached the turn buoy, more people in the way…. Half way down the next straight I start swimming over purple caps, some of the women from the first wave. Apologies to any I may have swam over. Then the exit, 33mins on the watch, omg, I can’t be that fast, I swim like a spider, I don’t really believe it but let myself smile a little bit, I may not be on track but I am definitely not off track. Round the Australian exit, sure enough, the hold and plop brigade are out in force and I throw myself over them. (that I can do.) Seemed to work and off I went. The rest of the swim was fairly uneventful, people had spread out and I stuck close the line of buoys and concentrated on saving energy and a rythym…at one point I had an argument in French with someone who was swimming 15degs to the right direction of travel, mainly into me. ‘A gauche’ and some body language seemed to work.

Swim exit, would the ear plugs work, last full speed transition I tried I stood up, ran in circles, had to have a ‘lie down’ and generally did a miserable job. I crouch, stand, jog…. No dizziness…. Ace… I look at my watch. 1.05. Faster than I ever thought, feel fresh, 10 hours, game on. Try to look for Laura but too many faces, can’t stop, lots of cheering. Into the tent.


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