Ironman Frankfurt 2017: DNF!

DNF! I did not finish the Ironman Frankfurt, something I was so looking to do for the last year, something I had so much invested and there I am not finishing it.

I was very much hopeful before the race. I traveled to Frankfurt a little bit earlier on thursday to friday and hanged out with my triclub-mate David to pick up the bibs and do some carbs loading. It was going to be a wetsuit allowed race, I had a fantastic support crew who was here with me and it was going to be sunny (I do like the heat!). I knew I had some injury on my right foot (plantar fasciitis by the side arch) that was going to make it difficult for the run but testing it the week before seemed to have it somewhat healed.

Sunday morning I wake up by 4am after 6h30 of sleep, which is incredible for me since I slept 10h the night before. I always had issues with sleeping before the race and I have trained myself to sleep better at night and be able to avoid thinking about too much stuff the night before.
Breakfast is done, I make my way to the shuttle for the lake with David and get myself to my bike. Soon enough I am standing on the beach 15km away with 3000 other athletes ready for the swim. Swimming was the only part I was worried about, I knew I didn’t put much training and I never did a 3.8km distance before.

I am placing myself at the beginning of the 1h30 ‘wave’ since that was mostly going to be my estimated time. I am in the water swimming and then ten minutes after the start I have someone touching me with his arms right by the time I was breathing and the water entered straight to my lunges. I could not breath properly and I was starting to panick so I stopped to get myself to stand still in the water trying to concentrate to calm myself down. Things started to settle in and I was back into the game slowly swimming again to the next buoy.

Finishing the 1.5km first loop, I looked at my watch and I realised I was very slow, 45mn for the 1.5km was really bad even for me (I had 2km on just under 40mn the Thursday before in open water ). I was then so surprised when I saw my friends  Benjji and Helene in the water as well encouraging me, it was a bit unreal to see them and that get me such a boost to finish the next loop.

I went back into the water for the next 2.3km and had all the thoughts passing by my head so I just swam mechanically waiting that it was over. I am not so sure what I was thinking about but I remember singing in my head to ‘rickroll’ myself to rick ashley’s “never gonna give you up”.
There I was for the final 500m and started to look at my watch to see something like 2h14mn. I know I was slow but that time was very much insane and I was pretty sure I was going to DNF just in 6mn (the time limit is 2h20 for the swim).

I started to give everything, I am swimming like a maniac to get to the shore, I am not sure if I was swimming tho but I sure was maniacally moving my arms as fast as possible. And soon enough I am on the shore seeing again Benj and Helene pushing me to get my “boule” (ass) moving!, I am looking at my watch and it took actually 1h44 and not over 2h. It’s a slow time compared to my level of cycling and running but that was now behind me and I can start concentrating on my real race.

T1 goes quickly most of the bikes were not there anymore and I get onto my bike and start pedalling. I had some coke by t1 and I started to throw up on my tri-suit, that may not going to look great on the photos but at least I have all the lake water out of my lunges now and there I am happy being on my bike.

Cycling is what I love the most and I feel so good being on the saddle. My legs are spinning smoothly and I am averaging easily around 30kh, I am restraining myself to get my heart rate too high and keep it to just over 120bpm. Since I started from a slow swim time I am passing so much people, every time I pass someone I am trying to encourage them and have a chat with them about something. Most people were very nice as it’s mostly the case in triathlon races some others (generally german) were so much serious in their bike and not really in the mood to have a quick chat. Special mentions to Japanese those guys were always smiling and laughing when I was shooting “Gambate” (Good Luck) and Subayaku (Faster, faster!).

I passed the first 100km with an average speed of 31km per hour, I had a better average time than some of my half ironman and could not see how I could not finish the bike and I was going to do it in under six hours.

But then there it started, nagging me on the side of my right foot something painful. A small pain at first increasing more and more. I could see my foot swelling-up and I got my shoe opened to ease the pain. It was very much depressing when I realised that it wasn’t going to be able to pedal more. It was so depressing because I had only 35km to go. I stopped first at one medical tent getting some ice on it and rested for 15mn hoping it would go away. I got myself on the bike again for 10/15k more but I could not pedals at all with my right leg anymore and I was looking at my average going down and down. I then stopped at another stop where there was other medics and I called it a day. I knew anyway that there was no way that I could have done the run which didn’t help to get me back there.

I waited forever in the medical tent (2h), the organisation could not get me back to Frankfurt and had to wait for my friends to come to pick me up. After an hour I think I could have gone back on my bike but I the bike was taken away back to Frankfurt by now (and I had punctured too).
I can do the race again and again in my head and do a lot of “what if” but it’s best to get those thoughts away and better thinking about how now I will get back to training as there is always a next one, which I am sure I am going to make it successfully one day!

Thanks again to my friends Helene and Benji who came over to support me I am so glad they were over to support me in this. Thanks to all my friends online, checking on me and sending me message to motivate or to comfort me. Congrats as well to David who finished it well for his first ironman

Classics Challenge 03 Paris to Nemours

It’s Friday night and I am at this fashionable new italian restaurant in Paris called Pizza Populare. I am looking at this enormous dessert called “Profiterole”. I am just about to eat it having the guilt that it may be not going to go down well and may need need to go easy on it before the morning after ride for the third classics challenge going from Paris to Nemours.

The classics challenge is a long ride organised every month with multiple groups going at different speed to cities around Paris. I have done the last two rides. the first one was a ride going to Rouen and the second one to Evreux!

This time was no joking, 163km going via the south-east near the Fontainebleau Forest looping by picturesque town around and around until reaching Nemours.

6AM, the alarm is waking me up, it’s only a very short sleep that could have been even shorter if i have joined my friends for a ‘last drink’ to a pub for the birthday (they finished at 8h30 on Saturday).  I am trying to think about all the stuff I need for this long ride :

  • Café
  • Put the Porridge in the fridge
  • Remove my tri bar from my bike (it’s going to be a bunch ride, tri bar can be dangerous there and take weight)
  • Adjust the seat’s height and reach to more confortable than tri bar position.
  • Pump the tyres
  • Take gels
  • Prepare a sandwich (some peloton never stop for a pause and just go straight)
  • Fill up bidons with cold water
  • Credit card, money, ID etc..
  • Bibs, Jersey

I am almost ready until I realise that my white helmet wasn’t matching my outfit (black and red) so there I am looking everywhere losing 10mn for my red helmet that I can’t find anywhere.

With that fashion faux pas in the way I am quickly texting my expaTRIes triathlon teammate Kathryn who is joining me on this morning ride that I am going to be 10 minute late!

I am quickly moving in high gear to get to the departure which is this time the “velodrome jacques anquetil” in vincennes. We get a picture taken with Kathryn pick up a freebie in the form of a cycling hat and we start with the 30/35kh group ride. (there is multiple groups, from 25kh and under to 35 and more)

The thing is, we were going with the 30/35kh ride but the 35kh+ group was also mixed in there too and after 30mn riding at over 40kh  we decided to drop out of the group and do some proper 30kh riding.

As I have the Ironman Frankfurt in three weeks it was perfect for me to get some time in the wind, and since Kathryn has a pyrenees crossing to do too it would be some good training for her!

As we went thru we passed by some wonderful places from the Seine-et-Marne (77), we kept a good 30kh pace flying with a light wind behind and a flat road. Kathryn was able to make friends along the way as she catches some wasps entering her jersey and stung her a few times until she realised that the wasp was stil inside her jersey and had let her go 10 minutes after.

We stoped by the chateau of Branly where we had a quick sandwich break and left just before the group of the 27/30kh was about to catch up and went on by some other picturesque town like bois le roi (where the trialong L distance triathlon is held) , bombon (noting special if only just for the name),  Chartrettes and others. Some places there were truly and having grown up in paris i would never imagine there was such a beautiful places just a few hours from Paris.

After going around and around in the Fontainebleau forest  the course was quite evil in a way since we could always see the nemours sign but it never went that way and always getting around it until we finally arrived there, after a stagering 170km ride in 6h05 with an average of over 28kh

It was a very nice ride and the home made organic tea and lunch we had (this random place we choose for lunch was hardcore organic people) we were ready to go back. The thing that wasn’t nice is that we missed the train back to Paris only a few seconds and we missed the start of the expatries for the 5k OpenSwim start.

After all, the ride was nice and i loved it, the classics challenge never fail to deliver beautiful routes.

 

The story of Abou Abdallah, the running champion refugee who is about to get deported

 

 

[Abou has just been freed, thanks everyone for helping]

Photo by Bomain Bouvren

A couple of months ago, in one of our weekly runs in the Parisian northeastern suburb (Jaures), someone special joined our team. A quiet man from Sudan who spoke no French and a little English but shook everyone’s hand with a smile, not asking for anything else than go running.

Little did we know at that time until later that he was a refugee who sleeped by the winter in street’s tents set by the Stalingrad area (see article about it here). His journey to France was not without dramas as you may imagine, he had crossed multiple times the Mediterranean Sea hiding in boats until getting to Paris.

Even if he had to move further away from our area in the northeast, he kept coming every Tuesday with us to run, always with the fastest group but he never once took the lead up front.

At first I thought it was because he was struggling with the pace but when we were asking, he never answered with something else than a smile and a “Yes no problem, I’m good, I’m good”. If I only knew that he was actually much much faster than every one of us combined.

A few months later, he did his first race picking up a bib at the last minute and won the 10k race in ~31m. Three weeks later, he did the same at the 10k of the “Course du Grand Paris” and won it even though he took a wrong turn multiple times.

Sadly, two days ago he was arrested for illegal stay on the French territory and he’s about to get deported away. We are trying to get as much signatures as possible on this change.org petition :

https://www.change.org/p/pr%C3%A9fecture-de-police-freeabu-c5b378b8-1bc4-4286-aae1-0bed7686f441

It would be great if we can have much signatures as possible here so we can build up the case with the lawyers.

Triathlon de Troyes L distance race report

On Sunday 4 of June I was near the Lac de L’Aube around 25km west of Troyes to do an approximate distance of a standard L or half ironman distance.

The approximation for the L distance here is because the distances are different from the standard L which usually has a swim/bike/run of 1.9k/90k/21k, this one was more like 2.7k/80k/20k.

When I saw two weeks ago that I had the week-end free and that it was only a short drive from Paris I sent an email to the organiser to see if there was still entries available (since it was announced as sold out) and I was able to convinced Benji and David from my tri club (the expaTriates) to get into this.

Benji and myself decided to sleep near Troyes instead of driving early by the race morning  so we can get some good sleep before the relative late start of 11AM.

After a 2 hours and half drive and a pasta filled lunch we went to pick up our bibs and watch the podium  for the S distance. The weather that day was pretty bad with a big rain and the lake and its 2.7km of swimming was looking scary (at least for very bad swimmer like me).

A good night sleep and a hotel style breakfast buffet full of proteins (and flans!!!! for benj) we then were the first by the transition area to start setting up our bikes and ‘things’.

David by that time arrived with his family just in time so we can take a club picture. It was nice for me to meet David since I he’s the other one from the club doing the Ironman Frankfurt in July.

The swim was a mass start and it was a difficult one for me, I am used to get the people punching you or grabbing your legs by now but this time it was a bit of panic and went by the left to avoid most people and recovered from a bad time where my lungs got filled with water.

The end was long, very long and lonely. You know those lonely times where you mind getting filled with bad thoughts of DNFing. One of the main thing that kept me going and not giving up is to think that I had a race report to write for Karen and the expaTRIates blog and could not bare to write one about how I justify a thousands fake excuses for DNFing.

T1 done with only a few bike left in the transition I started cycling to hope to catchup people. Since the cycling was three loops by the time I was doing my first one the pros were already passing me for their second loops. I had quite a bit of good cycling training this year since January but I was nowhere able to do the 45/50kh those guys were doing on this looks full of rolling hills and “faux plats”.

By my third loop I already passed a lot of people and kept going strong to finish with an average of 31kh, my tummy wasn’t feeling good probably with all the water I had when swimming and after t2 I was worried if I was going to do a “Paula Radcliff” during my run.

I started the run very slowly (5’30/6’) waiting that my tummy ache was going away and only after the second loop after drinking cocas and burping I was feeling better. I started chatting with some guy from Ivry triathlon and convinced him we should do a strong finish ! so then we went and hit 4’45/4’40/4’30 on the last kilometers sprinting to join benji to the finish line.

It was difficult but since it was more of a preparation race before the full ironman in July for me I wasn’t worried about my performanced. I did passed 150 people between the end of the swimming and the finish line and really not DNFing when you kept thinking about it during the 3km of Swimming was the true victory here.

A nice dinner in a very nice place in Sens on the way to Paris and I was back home in a very accomplished week-end feeling.

Half IronMan Aix en Provence 2017 race report

 

On Sunday I raced the Half of IronMan Aix en Provence 2017 and finished with an honorable place of just under 6h.

I am not so sure why I end up being here again a year and two weeks after the last edition which ended windy and cold and a canceled swim. Even though there wasn’t any swim which is traditionally my weakest discipline I had such a bad race that day I didn’t think I would be back here.

Since Aix is actually perfect timing for my July full IronMan training and that I have a couple of friends living in the area and a revenge to take I duly racked my 250€ (!!!) to have the honor to race an IronMan© branded race.

The train ride and the bib pickup was mostly uneventful hanging out most of the day on the cafe terasse of the “Cours Mirabeauhanging out with friends and doing all the usual (at least for IM branded) pre race duties like packing the different colored bags with the different clothes making sure I am not missing anything. Dropping the bike bag to the Lake start with the organised shuttle, dropping the shoes bag near the start of the running portion etc...


Tried to sleep early this time going to bed by 22:00 and getting awake by 4:00. For this race I decided to not do a big breakfast like I usually do, I just had a cup of tea and a very light porridge. By experience if I eat too much the morning or the day before I get pretty bloated. I just made sure I had my carb loads done by Thursday/Friday and packed plenty of gels.

By 07:00 I am watching the pros and other good swimmers starting their swim in the Lac Peyrolles. 1h15 later I was myself getting wet with the other people of my rolling start group. As I was mentioning before, swimming is really not my speciality. I just do my thing swimming until I arrive to T1. Unfortunately, I did a couple of zigzaging around and finished with a distance of 2300m instead of the usual 1900m. I had a time for the swim of just under 45mn. I probably could do better and I definitely should go for at least under 40mn next time!


T1 went pretty fast, just 6mn10 which include the sprint from the lake to the changing area and straight on the bike.

Now cycling I did a lot this year (over 3000km since Jan), I was confident that it would get well. And I did pretty well, I spent my time passing people and enjoyed every moment of it, I tried to chat to most people passing by and encouraging some friends along the way. With over a thousand meters of elevation gained the course is quite hilly but the only real difficulty is the Col du Cengle which is a climb of 3.6km with an average of 6% and some steep part.

I was pretty happy finishing the bike part in 2h57mn. For nutrition I never stopped for food refill, I had attached gels on my bike and kept eating them every 30mn or so (thanks Garmin timer alarm) and had two large bidons on my bike.

I was feeling fresh I was feeling good, and I was expecting to hit a PB (my target just under 5h30). My T2 went pretty quick, just under 3mn to rack my bike and get my running shoes on,

Running now is something I would say I am more natural with and usually would finish in the top tiers. But today wasn’t the day, as soon I started running, my custom soles made by my podologist starting to hurt me. I am not sure why it did just now, I made them just two weeks before and I have tested on a couple of long runs, I thought it was going to be only a temporary niggle that would go away. After the first lap of 7.5km it was obvious that it wasn’t going to go away, my feet were filled with blisters and I could hardly walk. The cheering of some of my friends kept me going and after trashing away my soles (70€ custom sole rage quit!) I could finally walk to the finish line in a very horrible time of 2h06mn.

My total finish time was 5h58. I was sure disappointed by the time but the real win here is that I didn’t have any knee pains, sure some blisters due of some stupid soles but no real jury and I could not be less happy with this.

Triathlon gear checklist

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I have been doing triathlon for the last few years and I am getting more and more people around me looking to do their first triathlons.

There is much information on the interweb about training plans and other tips to get you to the finish on time but the thing I found that was the most missing that I could not find was what to bring on a triathlon.

I am known to always forget one thing, I am like that guy that always come back home twice home when he goes out because he forgot something. And since triathlon you have so much to bring it fast became a nightmare if I don’t get organized and make a checklist.

So here it is or my version of it, this may help you to kickstart your own list for what to bring.

(I probably update it along the way)

General

Tri Suit
Race Belt
Sunglasses
Base layer
Caffeine Pills (to wakeup)

Swimming

Goggles
Wetsuit
Towel to dry legs while putting shoes
Talc
Spare swimming cap

Cycling

Bike
Helmet
Cycling Jersey
Cycling Bottles x 2 (shitty ones to be thrown away)
Cycling Gloves
Cycling Shoes
Cycling Socks
Cycling rain jacket
Mini saddle bag with Tire Levers, CO2 inflator and patch kit
Tubes x 3
Wrench/Allan key tool

Running

Running hat
Running Shoes
Warm jumper for after race.
Energy Gels
Energy Drink (capsules)

Electronics

Garmin Edge 800
Garmin Edge 800 Charger (Mini-USB)
Garmin Forerunner 910XT
Garmin Forerunner Charger
Garmin ANT USB Key for transfer
Ear plugs
Cycling Bag for train transport
CR2032 batteries (in case off for cadence/power/hr strap)
Heart Rate Monitor

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