Ironman France 2010 race report

Ironman France 2010 race report

I finished 2030 out of 2558 people  …. that’s a lot of people who finished before me.

Although I have friends who are professional ironman competitors, a friend of mine who Mario is the coach of has won two ironman this year …I also have two friends who did the EPIC5, 5 ironman in 75 hours.

I don’t pretend to be good at this stuff…I started biking and training for ironman’s about a year ago.  When I do an ironman,  I’m just a fat white guy trying to survive.

Nice was my 2nd ironman in less than 4 months …

to be honest, what drove me to do Nice was because my coach, Mario Huys told me after IM New Zealand that Nice IM is “probably too difficult for you to do this year.”
Mario considers Nice to be the 2nd hardest IM bike course (the hardest being Lanzarotte)

Nice IM was fully booked …but I chased and chased until they finally accepted me, and I got registered.

My training had been ok – but not great because I have been traveling a lot for work.

I lost another 5 kilo after IMNZ so I got my weight down to about 200 lbs. (the lightest I have been since my senior year in high school)

Mentally I was ready.

The day before the Nice ironman, Sophie and my 6 year old daughter went with me to register and walk around the expo.

I overheard Sophie whisper nervously to one of her friends, “everyone looks like a professional….”

I laughed and told her that I had noticed the exact same thing – then I told her how at ironman New Zealand, more people looked like me than looked like a Roman warrior  … but at ironman France (Nice) more people looked like a Roman warrior than looked like me…

I saw only a few men who were as big (heavy) or bigger (heavier)than me.

Over lunch the Saturday before the IM, Mario explained to us how the European’s are very serious about triathlons and especially the Nice ironman… “most of the competitors will be racing aggressively.”

I was most nervous about the swim.

I swam low 55 minutes  at IMNZ back in March (which is a respectable time), but I got run over, punched, pulled and kicked for majority of that miserable swim.

1000-1200 people competed at IMNZ ….

Nice ironman has 2,600 people registered ….  and the swim is notorious for being aggressive and rough.

Two days before the race, my friend, one of the organizers of IMFR told me about a man last year who nearly drowned because he was run over by hundreds of people – he had mistakenly gotten in the front of the line on the swim.
This man had flown from America to do the race, but within 15 minutes of his ironman starting, he was finished.

Only someone who has swum in an ironman can understand the power and mess of 2,600 people all swimming at once … and I admit, this is the part of IMFR that I was most concerned about; ironically, the swim is my strongest area.

The day before the race, when Mario and I set up my bike in the transition area,  I was surprised to see how long the transition from the swim to the bike was …. the guide said it was 800 meters once you left the sea and reached the place my bike was set, but it seemed much  longer.

Slept maybe 3 hours …

Unlike IMNZ where I stayed at a hotel for a week, I stayed at my home in La Turbie, France (20 minute drive to Nice) which made the race seem less exciting than IMNZ.  I didn’t sleep well the night before.

I woke at 3 am the morning of the ironman – showered and shaved — drank a strong coffee, drank 2 liters of water, ate my oatmeal – and  tried to get myself pumped up for the day.

The race started at 6:30, but we arrived to Nice around 5am and got to the bike setup by 5:30 – and I placed my water bottles and food onto the bike.

Mario had loaned me his racing wheels, so my bike was fitted with some very fast, expensive wheels.

I have been riding a bike for less than a year – so I am a very slow cyclist, but with my cervelo P3 and Mario’s expensive racing wheels, at least I looked good – surely, I looked ridiculous once I was on the course because I have a fancy, fast bike and I am so slow.

At 6am, I pumped fists with Mario, said goodbye  and went down to the beach to get ready for the swim

…. A friend of mine I swam with at university 15 years ago who came out of the water 3rd two years ago at Nice IM emailed me a couple days before and told me to focus on keeping my elbows up … and to fight like madness to hold my place in the water…

The last thing Mario said to me as I pumped his fist was “stop being a pussy and get in the front” … he wanted to see if I could break 50 minutes, but to do so would mean I would have to start in the very front and hammer it from the start.

As I walked down the steps leading to the swim area, something clicked and I said to myself “stop being such a pussy…”

I moved toward the front of the “55 minute” section (the swim had sections lined up together:  pro, 55 min, 1 hour, 1:05, etc.)
The faster area was in the middle of the pack with the slower area to the right and left side … this is done so to best organize for 2,600 people to be able to run into the water and swim towards the same red buoy.

I had been a nice guy in New Zealand … I didn’t fight and push on the swim; and consequently got run over ….

I was in the 4th row of the 55 minute section when the gun went off … and within seconds I was in the water fighting, punching and kicking … you don’t really swim for the first few hundred meters because you are touching so many people and I used my  6’5” 200 lbs to keep my position and I swam over people who were front of me ….and kicked my legs like madness to ensure no one pulled me back.

Within a few minutes I was with the front pack of swimmers, and I felt good – much better than I had felt at IMNZ.  I sincerely think that I sprinted 1,000 meters … I don’t see how I could have gone any faster.

When I turned at the first buoy, I was in the lead pack of 5 – 10 swimmers, I assumed they were pro and I tried to drag as much as I could off the guy in front of me.

As we swam toward the next buoy – the glare from the sun made it so I could not see in front of me – I would lift my head, but couldn’t see anything because I was blinded by the light …. So I kept swimming and swimming, breathing every stroke …  trying to follow the cloud in front of me ….

….. Until I felt a tap on my head – and looked up, it was a race official in a kayak telling me I was swimming off course.

So after my gorgeous swim start, I fucking swam several hundred meters to the left of the course and lost the lead pack….

The swim is two laps … you have to run back on the beach and then back into the water …. the 2nd lap went by uneventful and no one touched my feet or body– finally after 1 hour and a few seconds I finished my swim – I was disappointed when I saw my watch because I thought I had swum much faster than NZ, but I guess I lost a lot of time when I swam off course.

Run to Bike transition

The transition was not as smooth as IMNZ … at IMNZ a friendly woman helped pull off my wetsuit, and it literally took seconds —  but this day I had a man who just stood there as I struggled to get my wet suit off my legs … after several minutes, I was at my bike … then I had another long long long walk/run with my bike to where I could get on it and start riding …

As soon as I hooked into my bike and started riding, I got in the TT position and tried to eat, drink and put sun cream on my face …  taking advantage of the flat Promenade des Anglais.

This is when the “passing” started.

Within minutes …. What felt like hundreds of people started flying by, passing me …

The Nice bike course is beautiful … but at least for a weak cyclist like me, indescribably difficult.

It seems like the first 70 km is nothing but one massive climb.

I did not pass one single person for easily the first 70km of the bike …. I kept thinking to myself as more and more people passed me “how can there still be people behind me…so many people have passed.”

On the longest hill, which was in the sun and seemed to last forever …

…. probably the toughest part of the bike route, the last 1,000 meters or so of this climb — a group of several men were passing me when a young, hyper active American girl came FLYING by us as if she was going downhill instead of up …she said very excitedly, as if she wasn’t tired at all:   “come on guys, you can do it ….go…go…go…”

One man in a thick British accent shouted in a long slow drawl of a voice … in complete seriousness:  “Fuuuuck offfff!” and several people laughed – I laughed to myself about this for the rest of the bike ride.

I think it’s worth mentioning that I saw very few women competitors.  The organizer told me later that out of 2,600, only 6% were women …

The Pirate Ship of Fools…

I wore a yellow bike jersey with a black skull and cross bones on the front (pirate kit) which was given to me by one of the original pirates, a man named “Candy” …  I was the only Pirate doing IMFR this year.

The “pirate ship of fools” or “Pirates” as we are called is a sort of triathlon club in the UK … although some members are serious competitors, to me it seems the main focus of this club is about having fun and achieving together as a group …
In this club, my nickname is “egoman.”

Leading up to the race, I received many emails of support from pirates, nearly all of whom I have never met – even though they don’t know me, they showed me the most interest and support out of everyone in my life except for my wife … many of them even followed my race online – very cool.  (thanks Pirate’s!!)

Throughout the race … many people passed me and would shout “come on pirate…” Or make a reference to the “pirates” …

One british man, as he rode by me told me that I was two years late because the PSOF club did Nice in 2008 … and then he mentioned something about them being “drunk and wild.”

I also heard about a pirate smoking a cigarette at the start of the swim two years ago…
Another guy told me about a pirate being photographed smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer during the 112 mile bike ride at another ironman.

I got so much attention in my pirates kit that I sincerely, felt like a celebrity … I was very proud to wear it.

I have only met a few pirates – and that was at IMNZ, but the support of this club is impressive and without question this support helped me finish this race.

Furthermore, because of the original gang of pirates and their challenge and support, I got into doing ironman’s – so I wear my pirate kit with pride.

The bike course (for me) was indescribably difficult – as mentioned before, it seems like the first 60-70 km is a nonstop, never ending climb in the sun …

When I reached the top of the hardest climb, I thought to myself:   “ok the hardest part is over…”

80 miles left!!??

within 3 minutes of saying to myself that the hardest part was over, I rode by a sign which said “120 km/80 miles left”
(my polar did not work so I could not track how fast I was going or how many KM I had gone)

80 miles left … is a long time, esp. when one is dead tired.

I rode and rode and rode … each climb (long hill)  I came across I would plug away … and then get to the top and go downhill and feel better.

I ate as much as I could, took a salt tablet every hour – and drank as much water as I could get which all played a big part in helping me finish.

“come on, it’s only 6kms!!!”

I thought we had finished all major climbs when we started one …. A smiling French woman on the side of the road cheers:   “come on, it’s only 6kms…”

6 kms is not much if you are sitting in a car driving 120 km/h.
6kms is not much if you  are in an airplane flying in the sky.
…but when you are on your 100th km of a 180 km bike ride, going up a very steep hill at about 6km/h….6 km is a long painful time.

This is the only part of the ride where I had to stop in the middle of a climb.
(I was so tired, I didn’t even pretend to fix my pedals – like I normally do when I have to stop on my long training climbs)

I just stood there, tried to catch my breath and drank some water…and took 800 mg of Advil.  (I had planned to take 4 x 200 mg of Advil at the 160km mark, but I was dead and my legs and back needed all the help I could give them so I took the ibuprofen much earlier)

After a few minutes of standing on the road with my bike at my side … still trying to catch my breath…. some nice guy I didn’t know named “Christophe” rode by and cheered me on and told me to get back on the bike and to keep fighting ….

(later on the run I would see this man collapse and his body go into convulsion and start shaking all over and the ambulance took him away)

Towards the end of the ride, I started to pass several people for the first time …

finally… after 7 hours and 36 minutes (one hour slower than my IMNZ bike split) I finished the 180 km/112 mile bike.

My first thought when I came into the bike transition was “damn that’s a lot of bikes ….

Seriously, It looked as if there was 2,599 bikes parked in their places … incredible to see how many people had finished the bike before me.

During the bike to run transition at IMNZ, I rushed around to get out as fast as I could … but this day I took my time.
I grabbed my bag, changed my shorts, put sun cream on my face and neck,  drank some water and then put on my running shoes.

Absolutely no core strength ….

I lost a lot of weight over the year and I am no longer “chubby” … however, I noticed on the run that I could not hold my stomach in …. so I was running with my gut sticking out.

… I would try to hold me stomach in and have better posture, but I was too tired so my stomach turned into a gut and just hung out.

My stomach muscles were sore for several days after the race.

My goal was to break 5 hours on the marathon and I made a plan to only walk one aid station per lap, and at the half marathon to start to drink flat coke (the run was 4 laps)

Unfortunately, my plan did not go as I expected … not only was I dead tired and hot — the coke was not flat and the gas from it hurt my stomach so I didn’t get the same kinda kick the flat coke gave me in IMNZ.

At the end of the 2nd lap, at the half marathon point ….I saw Sophie which gave me more energy to try and run faster.
I had fantasized all day about my finishers photo and never once during the day considered not finishing.

I saw many people collapse on the run (including two people I saw collapse on the last 20 km of the bike) I saw 11 people pass out, faint or collapse during this race – I didn’t see anything like that in NZ.

The last 5 km of the run was very difficult – I became dizzy and I thought I was going to black out.

Mario was riding a bike next to me and told me to walk (later he told me my face had gone completely white and he thought I would faint)

Finally, after 14 hours and 30 minutes (my goal had been to break 14 hours) I ran through the finishers shute and Giovanna, my 6 year old daughter was waiting and gave me my finisher medal.

Although my time was slow (the winner finished the race 7 minutes before I finished my bike leg)  Not to mention the 66 year old man (whom I remember passing me on the bike) who finished under 12 hours and beat me by nearly 3 hours …

I am very satisfied with finishing this ironman.

I will do one more ironman this year, Western Australia IM in December — the secret to my next race is going to be making my core strong….this way I will be able to go faster and look better in the race pictures.

Thank you Sophie for all your support and encouragement and tolerating my waking up at 3am to train, not to mention the Saturdays where you and the girls had to wait for me to finish my training….

And a special thank you to all the Pirate’s who helped me get off my fat ass and start making these challenges happen.

I will turn 40 in January so I am trying to fit in as much adventure challenges as I can this 39th year.

My next challenge is September 3rd when I will attempt to swim across the english channel.

I look forward to painting the pirate skull and cross bones on my chest….and making that challenge happen as a pirate.

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