Sunday, July 27, 2014

Long Overdue Ironman France Race Report

It's been a while since my last blog.....2 months to be exact.  And what a 2 months it has been!  I got married, went on a 2 week honeymoon to Europe, did an Ironman triathlon while in Europe, and then moved as soon as I got back!  Entirely too many life events in way too short of a time period...I'm ready to be an onlooker at other people's life events for a while, and not the center of attention!  But everything has been great, and I'm prepared to tell you all about it...with an emphasis on triathlon.

June 21, 2014:  The longest day of the year, but possibly the shortest day of my life
Time flies when you're having fun (and when you're busy), and our wedding day flew by!  Kimberly was stunning, Doug (officiant) gave a great talk/ceremony, the band was awesome, the cake was delicious, and it's probably safe to say that "a good time was had by all"...except maybe my college roommate, Jonathan, who had food poisoning from the night before.

Wedding Collage

June 22, 2014 - July 6, 2014: Honeymoon/Eurotrip
I'll devote a whole section to Ironman France, but first I shall recap our trip in general.  We flew into Paris and spent 3 days there, exploring the city and visiting all the top spots...thanks to my Uncle Tom and Aunt Marie Claude for hosting us in their awesome apartment right in the middle of the city!  We then took the train to Nice, France to compete in Ironman France.  We had a great time there, and although not as historically significant as Paris, it was truly a beautiful place.  While in Nice, we took day trips discovering the surrounding countryside (aka driving the Ironman France bike course) and to Monaco.  From Nice we went to Avignon, which was an unexpected highlight of the trip.  We added it to our itinerary last minute, and liked it so much that we stayed an extra day!  We even made 2 friends, Katy (5th place female at IM France) and Cayce, and drove around the beautiful Provence region of France with them.  From there we took the train to Barcelona, where we thoroughly enjoyed the tapas...and of course, the architecture, etc, etc... In general, we weren't as impressed with Spain as we were with France, but what it lacked in charm, it did make up for in food!  Finally, we took the train to Madrid, spent a day there, then flew back to the states.


June 29, 2014: Ironman France
When I woke up at 4:30 AM, Kimberly informed me that she had been up since 2:30 AM with food poisoning...what a way to start an Ironman!  (did I mention that she was racing too??)  So we went to a little 24 hr pharmacy where she did her best impression of throwing up to convey to the Frenchman behind the counter that she needed something to settle her stomach....and whatever pills he gave her seemed to do the job. Then we walked 2 blocks to the transition area (the apartment we were staying at was just that close).  I had a hard time leaving Kimbo (to get to the pro start) because she'd had such a rough night and I was worried about her...and we were in a foreign country with no other family/friends around!  But we said our goodbyes and I fought the crowd to get to where the pros were lined up. 

My teammate, Molly Roohi, at the pro meeting

The Swim
The swim start was fairly hectic for a pro start, and a stray hand knocked my goggles partially off at the very beginning.  Since the pace is so fast starting out, I lost a little bit of time fixing my goggles and found myself away from the front pack and kind of at the front of another pack... After leading a few people for a while, it became apparent we wouldn't catch the group in front of us, so I let up a little to let someone else lead the way.  The someone else ended up being Cait Snow, and she basically pulled me and a few other guys the whole swim!  At some point, I realized it was her, and with a such a small amount of Americans at this race, I decided to help a fellow countryman out, and came around her with about a half mile to go.  So I led her and the rest of our small group into T1.  TYR Hurricane wetsuit and Nestpro goggles worked wonderfully!

The Bike
I set out on the bike course feeling strong, and quickly reeled in a few pro women (including Cait Snow who apparently had a better T1 than me).  Then, about 8 miles into the bike, things got real.  We made a left turn directly into a 1/2 mile long 12-14% grade hill... (fellow Tylerites could compare this hill to a slightly longer version of The Beast (aka Killer Hill).  Turns out, this was a minor hill for this course....  After climbing it, the course mostly consisted of rolling hills for the next 20 or so miles.  Then, at mile 30 we hit the big one... Col de L'ecre.  The fact that it's a "Col" alone makes it pretty awesome, and brings to mind thoughts of the Tour de France and watching the cyclists climb the [in]famous Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees.  And although it was no Tourmalet, it was still quite the climb!  It was about a 3,000' gain over 12 miles (for perspective, IMTX gains ~3000' over the course of all 112 miles!)...  Going into the climb, I tried to pace myself and spin my legs pretty fast in an easy gear, but after dudes started passing me, standing up and hammering in a harder gear than me, I decided to do what they were doing.  So I made it to the top, where it was considerably cooler (mid 50s) and slightly drizzling.  After a while we got into some switchback descents, and although I had held my own on the climbing (my light/stiff Argon 18 frame was perfect for the hills, on a race where many athletes opted for a road bike), it became apparent that I just didn't have the same comfort level/technical skills that many of the other riders had on the descents.  The wet roads certainly didn't help either, but I got passed by a few more guys on descents.  We spent the majority of the bike course up in the mountains, climbing, descending, and going through the occasional picturesque French mountain town.  Coming down from the mountains, we encountered some very sketchy switchbacks, and I came into one a little hot, fishtailed, nearly wrecked, and managed to send a water bottle flying from the cage behind my saddle.  Since littering is grounds for disqualification on this course (and because I'm eco-friendly), I had to turn around and go back (uphill) to get the bottle...  Once out of the mountains, I guess I started enjoying some flat ground a little too much, and went into yet another turn a little hot.... This time I fishtailed as I slammed on my brakes, but wasn't able to pull out of it like I had before, and ended up doing something of a barrel-roll into a plastic barricade - that moved several feet when I hit it with my back.  As I lay on the ground, my first thought was that my knee was injured, because it hurt really bad....but after getting up and back on the bike, it became apparent that my hip took the brunt of the impact from my crash.  So, I figured I would just ride the last few miles into T2 and see how I felt running my bike in...

The Run
Getting going on the run, my hip definitely hurt but it didn't seem to be affecting my ability to run, so I just figured I would run for a while and if it got really bad I may have to take my first ever DNF.  My legs were definitely more fatigued than usual on the run, which I accredited to the ridiculous bike course, but the run course was not bad at all - a flat, 4 loop run course in cool, rainy weather.  Plus, at the beginning of lap 2 I had the great pleasure of running with my Maverick teammate, Molly Roohi, for the better part of a lap (her first lap)!  She was having a great race, and our paces were pretty much exactly the same, so we stuck together for a while.  Even though the crowd support was amazing (think "ALLEZ, ALLEZ, ALLEZ!" nonstop for 26.2 miles), I didn't get much direct attention, because my usual supporters couldn't make the trip.  But that was where Molly's friend/Sherpa, Jemilah, came in handy...she was yelling loud and proud twice every lap, and it really helped me get through the run!  So I ended up finishing with a 3:03 marathon (although it felt more like a 3:30), which was good enough for 10th place male pro, and a total time of 9:18!  Molly also had a great race, and finished as the 10th female pro....not bad for a couple relatively young Americans against some of the top pros in Europe! 

The trophy was hard to come by, but the baguettes were plentiful!

Post Race
Upon finishing the race, I put all of the little energy I had left into worrying about Kimberly.  Starting the swim with a queasy stomach and zero fuel in the tank isn't the best approach to an Ironman....and I was afraid that if she even made it through the swim, she might've wrecked on the extremely technical and wet bike course.  After checking my phone to see that she didn't have any updates past 70k (45 miles) on the bike, I was even more worried.  But I was finally able to get information from an Ironman official....turns out, Kimbo made it up the Col de L'ecre just fine, but the slight drizzle that I had experienced at the top of the mountain had turned into a downpour on people later on in the course, and she was experiencing hypothermic conditions!  So she did the smart thing, and took one of the many buses hauling athletes back down the mountain.  She hated to not be able to finish, but her safety was an answered prayer to me.

Upcoming training/races
I recently did the River Cities Sprint Triathlon, and will do a short race report for it (after all, it is a short race), as well as an Ironman Louisville training/preparation write-up in my next blog!  So stay tuned.... IMLOU is only 2 short weeks away!
Some teaser pics from the River Cities Tri!

Isaiah 41:10-13 (NIV)
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
    will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
    will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
    you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
    will be as nothing at all.
13 For I am the Lord your God
    who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
    I will help you.

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