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Ironman France - Triathlon


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Nice,
France
Triangle Sports
Total Time = 14h 49m 24s
Overall Rank = /
Age Group = 30-34
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

A CELEBRATION: Ironman France 2013 Race Report

By Abu Gibreel

Overview

Nearly one month ago, I completed my first Ironman in Nice, France in a time of 14:49:24. Overall, the race was a tremendous experience littered with ups and downs—pun intended. Ultimately, I’m quite thankful to have crossed the finish line carrying my 4-year-old son and to have celebrated the accomplishment with family and friends over bottles of champagne shortly afterwards. However, this experience has fueled motivation to train harder and perhaps upgrade my equipment in an effort to go faster and reach my full potential. Despite these ambitions, this saga has paradoxically had a grounding effect adding perspective to more important things in life. The following report documents my journey over the past year from having never completed a triathlon to Ironman recovery. It is quite detailed, as newbies like me can perhaps achieve peace of mind knowing they don’t have to have the top of the line gear or a degree in nutrition to be successful. Hopefully, there are at least a few folks out there who will benefit.

Background

I’m currently a 32-year-old married father of two young sons living in Rabat, Morocco. Although I’m trained as a US Air Force pilot, I’m fortunate to have benefited from a fellowship to study abroad for a few years before returning to the cockpit. Having found myself away from an extremely busy operational squadron for the first time in my career, I eagerly embraced the opportunity to pursue new interests. Shortly before moving to Morocco, I purchased an entry-level road bike on Craig’s List as well as a wind trainer thinking that I might start training for triathlons. Although I have always been comfortable in the water, I have no formal swimming training other than a class I took as an undergrad. Prior to purchasing my road bike, I had never ridden a bike more than 10 or 15 miles. However, as a lifelong soccer player, I do have a somewhat athletic background. Moreover, I had completed multiple 10Ks, several half-marathons, 2 marathons, and a 56-mile 4-day trail running stage race prior to attempting triathlon. Luckily, I had completed the 56-mile stage race and 3 half-marathons in the 12 months prior to starting triathlon training. Finally, a friend in my fellowship program had recently completed Ironman Austria. This was an additional source of motivation, and he was generous enough to provide advice along the way.

Living in Morocco, my resources (people and equipment) have been significantly limited. I’ve completed 99.9% of all my training alone. There is no decent bike or triathlon shop, so I rely on the Internet for maintenance, motivation, and ordering gear. In August of 2012, I learned how to swim by watching YouTube and even fit my bike via the same manner. I completed a super sprint triathlon in October and then the Agadir Olympic Triathlon in November. I was hooked. Given that my work schedule has been my own during this fellowship, I thought I might be able to train for and complete an Ironman during my last semester. Typically, life seems to get busier; motivated primarily by the example I’d set for my two young boys and a bit by ego, I bit the bullet while I had the time.

Race Selection

Expecting to complete my stint in Morocco around August, I searched for a race in the May-July timeframe. Given that it was November when I commenced shopping for a race, I soon learned that many of the European races with a relatively flat bike course (not too many mountains in the Rabat area) had sold out months ago within a day of registration opening. I was more or less left with IM Lanzarote or IM France. Upon learning that IM Lanzarote is widely revered as the most difficult course on the IM circuit, I ruled it out.

Wary of being able to properly train for the IM France bike course, I looked into non-IM branded races before realizing that IM France coincided with a significant date—the one-year anniversary of one of my closest friends being run over by a truck. Miraculously, he was amidst recovery at the time, sustained no spinal or head injuries, and would be OK. A better athlete than me, a Boston qualifier (and later on finisher—post accident), and an adventurous spirit, I thought he would jump at my suggestion to use IM France as an opportunity for us to celebrate life. After all, we had completed our first marathon together years ago to celebrate our 26th birthdays. Unfortunately, we had fallen out in the year before his accident. This was a chance to bury the hatchet and turn a page from our troubled past. Luckily, he enthusiastically pounced on the proposal, and we registered after one conversation. Also of note, I am a French speaker who lived and studied in Nice for one month about 10 years ago. Aware of Nice’s sheer beauty during the summer, I was keen to enjoy the French Riviera with my family this time around.

Training

After some research, I decided to use a plan from Triathlete Magazine’s Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide by Matt Fitzgerald. Once the book arrived, I decided to follow Level 5 for various reasons. First, I thought I would compensate for the lack of mountainous terrain in my immediate area by following a more intense plan. Second, I had recently completed an Olympic distance triathlon and had a decent base to commence training. Finally, I would be able to make a little extra time given the flexibility of my professional and family schedule.

In the end, I followed the training plan fairly strictly and thought it prepared me quite well. I supplemented the training by extending a couple of the long bike rides (in anticipation of the difficulty of the IM France bike course). Moreover, I was able to find a few races to use as practice. In March, I completed the Abu Dhabi Short Course (1500m/100K/10K). Participating in another ocean swim (Agadir being the first) and a hot weather race was a great experience. In April, I ran the Rabat Half-Marathon a day after an 80-mile bike ride and finished in a PR of about 01:39:00. Also in April, I was able to participate in the Marrakech Atlas Etape bike ride, which included a 7,000 foot climb in approximately 44 miles.

Aside from these events, the majority of my training occurred alone in the local area. I swam in a nearby 25m outdoor-pool, road along the coast and the hills further inland, and ran within Rabat. For nutrition, I mainly trained with Hammer Nutrition products (Perpetuem, Heed, Endurolytes, Hammer Gel, Recoverite) that I ordered off the Internet. In addition, I typically drank a protein shake each day. This may have been a mistake in that I probably should have lost some additional weight before the event.

Goals

My primary goals were to 1) run the entire marathon 2) to feel good after the race. With respect to the latter, I had unfortunately learned what “bonking” was as I watched the ceiling spin following previous races. As one might expect, this time I wanted to feel healthy so that I could celebrate after the race.

After completing my practice 70.3 in 5:52, I became a little too concerned with time. I had hoped to finish around 12:30-12:45, but later told myself that I needed to take it easy during the swim and the bike so that I could feel good during the run and ensure a finish. Although I went into the event with somewhat of a disregard for time, I had predicted that I’d easily finish in under 14 hours. I was wrong.

Pre-Race Arrival

With the event taking place on 23 June, we made arrangements to stay 20-27 June. This would allow a few days to acclimate and several days of post race relaxation. Perhaps one of the best decisions, we rented 2 adjoined apartments in the heart of Vieux Nice. Not only was this considerably cheaper than most decent hotels in the area, we were walking distance to the Expo/Start/Finish as well as all the restaurants and bars. The only downside was that there was a 78-step climb (no elevator) that led us to our apartment.

On 21 June we decided to take a dip in the Mediterranean, and we also scheduled a bus tour of the bike course with our families. While the swim was great, the bus ride became quite uncomfortable. Although it was awesome to see the course with our families, the four hours were quite long and the jerkiness of the ride coupled with the heat made many folks—including me—nauseous. In all seriousness, I’d much rather ride the course than sit in that bus again.

Night Prior/Morning of the Race

Following a tasty pasta dinner with family and friends sitting outside along the Cours Saleya, we returned to the apartment to prepare for tomorrow’s endeavor. Although I was able to get in bed around 10pm, I only slept for approximately 3.5 hours. Nonetheless, I felt amped in the morning when I woke up around 3:30 a.m. to eat my pre-race meal: coffee, banana, and two packs of instant oatmeal. It’s worth mentioning that I refrained from consuming caffeine for about 3 weeks prior to the race so that it would be a nice upper during the race. Afterwards, I lay in bed until about 4:30 a.m. before starting pre-race stretches. We arrived in the transition area around 5:30 a.m., an hour before the 6:30 a.m. start. As planned, I sipped water all morning.

Equipment

General

Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Shorts
Pearl Izumi Elite Tri Sleeveless Jersey
Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves
Garmin Heart Rate Monitor (First Generation)

Swim

NeoSport NRG Full Wetsuit
Aqua Sphere Kayenne Goggles
Zoggs Aqua Plugz
Cheap Casio Digital Watch

Bike

Trek 1.5 Road Bike w/Profile Design Legacy Aerobars
Garmin 500 and GSC 10 Speed/Cadence Sensor
Specialized Mountain Bike Helmet (purchased in 1999)
Profile Design Insulated Aero Drink System
CamelBak Podium Big Chill Water Bottle x 2
FuelBelt FuelBox (Medium)
FuelBelt Gel Ready Race Belt
Topeak Aero Wedge Pack (Medium)
Shimano SH-R087 Bike Shoes
Brooks Essential Low Cut Socks
Oakley Flak Jacket XLJ Sunglasses

Run

Headsweats Race Performance Hat
Nike Lunarglide 4 Running Shoes w/Lock Laces Elastic Shoelaces
Nathan Trail Mix 2 Hydration Belt
Motorola MotoActv Watch

Nutrition Plan

The following plan is based on feedback from my friend who completed IM Austria as well as research on the Internet. Worth noting, I opted to use 4-hour bottles of Perpetuem after seeing the bike course.

Figures

1 scoop Perpetuem = 135 calories
1.5 scoops Perpetuem/1hr = 202.5 calories
250 mg caffeine (3 x weight in Kg (83)) for the day – coffee + Perpetuem or 6 gels w/caffeine
1 scoop Perpetuem Café Flavor = 12.5 mg caffeine
1 gel = 100 Calories and 25 mg caffeine (if caffeinated)

Day Prior

No refined sugar/dessert, no alcohol. Eat until satisfied…no more. Hydrate.

3 Hours before Race

200-400 calories, 50g carbs, 100 mg caffeine

1 cup black coffee
1 small banana – 80 calories
2 packets of oatmeal – 320 calories

1 liter of water within 2 hours prior to race…cease 20 min prior

Bike

1 bottle of water per hour
3-6 Endurolytes per hour
1 gel per hour
3.5-hour bottle of Perpetuem – 5.25 scoops (x2 – 1 in Special Needs Bag)
2nd 3.5-hour bottle w/caffeine – 65 mg caffeine
3-4 Lolly Pops

300 calories per hour/60 mg caffeine

Run

1 cup of water at every aid station
3-6 Endurolytes per hour
1 gel per hour
2-hour bottle of Perpetuem w/caffeine – 3 scoops (x2 – 1 in Special Needs Bag) – 75 mg caffeine

300 calories per hour/70 mg caffeine

Swim
  • 1h 24m 43s
  • 3800 meters
  • 02m 14s / 100 meters
Comments:

Swim

Fortunately, I was quite calm before the swim. Really, I was excited and motivated to get the show on the road. I’m not necessarily sure why (nerves or effects of the taper), but in the days before the race my hamstrings were bizarrely sore, which worried me. However, the pain evaporated the morning of the race, and I was feeling charged for the event. After turning in my Special Needs and Street Clothes bags, I lubed up and made my way to the beach early. Although the beaches in Nice are beautiful, they are composed of large smooth stones as opposed to sand. For one unaccustomed to such a beach, it can be quite uncomfortable for walking. A thin red carpet marked the swim start line. Although I had completed practice swims of this distance in about 1:08, I decided to forego starting with my predicted time. Given that the first loop was clockwise, I chose to start on the front left and found a comfortable spot on the carpet. Relying on Pythagoras, my plan was to not swim too far out of the way, yet to keep well clear of the mayhem in the center. I was surprised at how many folks were still in the water practicing within a couple minutes of the start gun. The race volunteers did a solid job sending these folks to the back and not allowing them to bump athletes off of the carpet in the front. The weather was cool and overcast, making for perfect swimming conditions.

Upon hearing the canon, I made my way into the water and immediately pitched to the left. Naturally, I wasn’t the only one with this plan. As expected, I had to swim the first several minutes with my head out of the water before everyone settled into a rhythm. Having previously participated in only two mass swim start ocean swims, I did not have too much experience. However, I found this swim start to be much less combative than my previous two experiences where I ran into the water in the center of the group with no real plan. Luckily, I found my comfort zone without much difficulty. I focused on my bilateral breathing and not expending too much energy. Each time I looked to the right, I recall thinking: “I’m glad I’m not caught up in that mess.” However, karma struck when I realized there was no one to my left. I hadn’t been sighting as well as I should have been and had to bid way back to the right to find a group to follow. The rest of the swim, I felt like I was perhaps depending too much on trying to draft off of others. It felt like I was zigzagging from person to person. Had I owned a GPS swimming watch, it would have been interesting to analyze my path afterwards. After the first loop, I made my way out of the water along the beach and realized that I had not started my watch. No big deal. I pressed on back into the water for the final and shorter counterclockwise loop. Overall, I found myself to be quite poor at sighting, and it seemed like I somehow drifted to where I was supposed to go via some imaginary magnetic force. Due to the surf and rocks at the beach exit, I was really thankful to have the volunteers help pull me to my feet. Although the swim took me much longer than anticipated at 01:24:43, it seemed to go by quite fast in my mind. More importantly, I felt energized.

Transition 1
  • 08m 18s
Comments:

T1

I happily gave my family and friends a thumbs-up before crossing under the timing machine and making my way through the showers to the transition area. Instead of running, I walked at a brisk pace. I had no issues finding my transition bag and a seat. I wore my tri-suit and heart rate monitor under my wetsuit, so upon removing my wetsuit all I had to do was put on socks, shoes, helmet, and glasses. I found my bike and made the long walk to the bike mounting area. Hearing my friend yell at me during the walk, I told him I’d see him in several hours. Having completed IM Austria the previous year, the look on my friend’s face seemed to relay the notion that I was in for a long day. He was right. T1 ended up taking 00:08:18, although it felt much shorter. I presume most of the time was eaten up walking from the beach, through the transition area, and to the bike mount.

Bike
  • 7h 51m 35s
  • 180 kms
  • 22.89 km/hr
Comments:

Bike

The first several hours of the course were the most fun I’ve ever had on a bike; the last few hours were quite miserable. In fact, I thought I might just leave my bike in the transition area after the race, so that I would never see it ever again. Although I had not trained enough in the mountains or on hills, it wasn’t really the climbs that bothered me. Strangely, I enjoyed the major climbs up to the Col de l’Ecre during the first part of the race. It was the GI tract pain in my stomach that ruined my day—and also the unexpected additional 1,000 feet of climbing towards the end of the course.

Before elaborating on my trials and tribulations, it’s worth commenting a bit on the course and logistics. The first 13 miles or so out to the airport and into the mountains were quite fast. Used to riding on poor quality roads in Morocco, I was really enjoying the newly repaved Promenade des Anglais—in preparation for the approaching Tour de France—and happy to be cruising at over 20 mph. My stomach cringed when I heard a crunching sound originating from the mechanical system of a bike ahead of me. This was followed by loud cursing in French and a dismount by the rider of the malfunctioning bike. I felt awful for the athlete and hoped he was able to remedy the issue. Between my aerobars, I had about 22 ounces of water. In my bottle cages on my seat tube and down tube, I carried a 25-ounce four-hour mix of Perpetuem and a cheap 22-ounce bottle of water that I planned to dispose before the first aid station. I took in water for the first 20 minutes, finishing my bottle as planned. At the first aid station, I took two water bottles, one for my now empty bottle cage and the other to refill my aerobar bottle. This reflected my plan for the entire ride. I’d fuel via my Perpetuem bottle and supplement it with a gel/Endurolytes each hour. When bored, I’d suck on a lolly pop. I’d consume at least one bottle of water per hour and have water to douse my body with once it heated up. Quite fortunately, the weather was cool and overcast for the first half of the race up to the Col de l’Ecre.

The first significant climb, and the steepest climb on the course, was a bit anticlimactic. At 5’11” and 182 pounds, I’m not necessarily built to climb. Despite the challenge, I didn’t find the first short climb to be too brutal and was surprised to see so many riders dismount from their bikes. Although branded as a 13% grade, my Garmin read 17% at one point. Regardless, I was happy to have the steepest part of the course behind me when I reached the top. Weaving through the narrow roads in the cool forest was like something out of a movie chase scene. Cycling is probably my weakest event, and several folks in teardrop helmets atop carbon fiber speed machines were passing me. By the way, I’m not sure if this is valid or not since I have yet to do a triathlon in the US, but it seemed that people don’t casually participate in Ironman abroad. That is, most the participants appeared to be serious competitors who had invested quite a bit in their equipment. Moreover, most of the extremely lean European triathletes seemed to have bodies built for the sport. Given the passion for their sport, this was understandable, but also a bit intimidating.

As I blissfully rode along enjoying the scenery, I heard my friend’s voice approaching behind me. Evidently, we had finished the swim within about a minute of one another. However, he did a full wardrobe change in transition, combed his bald head, brushed his teeth, and applied his make-up. I wasn’t really expecting him to approach from behind, but was quite content to have his company. Unfortunately, he had invested several thousand dollars in a new bike before commencing training, and the airlines lost it during his trip from the US to Nice. Although we had arrived a few days early to Nice, the airlines were unable to track down and deliver the bike before the race. We were extremely lucky to find a bike rental the day prior to the race, and his spirits were remarkably still high. We rode along together for about an hour and a half bullshitting about when to “attack” and trying to avoid a penalty. It was special part of the race. Being that it was relatively early and the roads were narrow, it was a little more crowded, making it easier to ride with one another. We typically just chatted as we road side by side. After the first warning, I wanted to explain to the official that I had never ridden in a group and didn’t really know how to draft. Moreover, I wouldn’t be winning any trophies. Nonetheless, rules are rules. Eventually, I had to piss. My friend had been training in large groups of experienced cyclists in St. Louis and D.C. According to him, I needed to simply douse myself with water and then pee on myself as I rode. I had never done this before. What the hell…I gave it a shot. However, it was difficult to relax as we were gently climbing. I’d try to get my speed up and stop peddling, but would repeatedly slow to a near halt and have to start pedaling again before I could take care of business. After another warning, I wished my buddy good luck and told him to press ahead. I pulled over and found a bush.

Shortly after my friend left, I heard sirens and a medevac chopper overhead. A terrible accident had occurred, and I saw an athlete lying in the back of an ambulance along the route. I was overcome with sadness and hoped that he or she would be OK. What a horrible thing to happen.

On the climb up to Col de l’Ecre, I passed a guy riding one of the heavy steel blue fixed-gear city rental bikes. In the basket hanging from the front of the handlebars, he carried his water bottles and nutrition. Nuts. Although I felt great and was fortunate for the cool weather, I was anxious to get to the top of the Col de l’Ecre, access my Special Needs bag, and enjoy some downhill riding. Shortly after piercing through the clouds at the top, I was greeted by the sun. At first, it was a welcome change. In time, the heat added additional challenges to the already difficult course. I took my time accessing my Special Needs bag. After mixing another 4-hour bottle of Perpetuem and eating half a Powerbar to get some solid food in my stomach, the GI tract issues started. I’m still not necessarily sure why. I had trained with this same plan with no problems, albeit the occasional growling/stomach turning near the end of long rides. This was different. I was sure not to mix my Perpetuem ahead of time, but wondered if it could have somehow spoiled. By this time I was growing tired of the gels and Perpetuem, but pressed on with my plan. The pain became worse. 50 miles into the bike ride, I was in need of a toilet. However, I soon learned that there were no toilets along the 112-mile bike course—ridiculous.

In hindsight, I should have tried to stop in a village. However, I tried to endure the pain hoping to find a toilet at an aid station. It slowed me down quite significantly, and I was especially frustrated not to find any porta potties. Trying not to think about it, I focused on the beauty of the mountains. Quite the opposite of what I expected, I couldn’t really let loose and enjoy the technical descents while making up time. Far from an experienced mountain cyclist, I found myself consistently having to slow down to take on curves and hairpin turns. The heat made things worse. It was amazing how much better I felt when passing under a cloud and enjoying a bit of shade. Adding more to the mental challenge, I had for some reason expected the bike ride to include 5,700 feet of climbing. Once my Garmin sequenced this amount, I became increasingly disillusioned. At the end of the bike ride, my Garmin read 6,600 feet of total climbing. My friend’s Garmin read 6,800 feet. Despite the pain and feeling extremely bloated, I had stuck to my nutrition plan. After feeling awful for over half of the 07:51:35 bike ride, there was one thing on my mind when I entered the transition area.

Transition 2
  • 18m 23s
Comments:

T2

Let’s just say that T2 took 00:18:23. Upon leaving the toilet, I felt as if poison had been extracted from my body. During altitude chamber training for pilots, we accomplish an exercise where one goes off of oxygen at altitude while looking at colorful images. Once 100% oxygen is applied, the colors become immediately more brilliant and vivid. Shedding these toxins was similar—the world turned from grey to color in an instant. An additional bonus, I was overjoyed that my legs felt ready to go for the run.

Run
  • 5h 06m 27s
  • 42 kms
  • 07m 17s  min/km
Comments:

Run

Perhaps a little too excited, I had to throttle back from the 8:15/mile pace my body immediately tuned in. My plan in training had been to hold about a 9:00-9:10/mile pace for most of the race and then to speed up for a negative split and sub 4-hour marathon. This plan became a relic in no time. Not even 10 minutes into the run, the stomach pain returned. In addition, I could no longer stand the taste of warm Perpetuem. There was no ice available to add to my mix. Every part of me hoped to find toilets along the run course. At the second aid station, I was ecstatic to discover three porta potties. This elation quickly turned to horror when I found all three toilets to be unusable. It was as if someone had made a conscious decision to paint the walls with feces. Crap was everywhere. There also wasn’t any toilet paper. None of the volunteers seemed to pay attention to the toilets. Having noticed nearby volunteers filling up buckets of water with a hose to distribute cups of water to runners, I desperately asked if one of them could spray down the toilets. Met with what seemed to be an unenthusiastic stare, I frustratingly pressed on barely able to maintain a 12:00/mile pace. Having been unable to consciously urinate on myself while pedaling uphill, I now feared I was going to uncontrollably shit myself in front of all the viewers along the Promenade des Anglais during my first Ironman.

On the opposite direction return leg, I made my way back to the same toilets. Although far from pristine, they were a bit cleaner. Luckily, I found a bit of toilet paper folded on top of an empty dispenser. This was a gift from Above. Again, the pain vanished. At that moment, I had decided to ditch the Perpetuem. At this point, it was awful and making me nauseous. I reluctantly removed my Endurolytes from my hydration belt and left the belt near the aid station. Moreover, I could forget about making a stop at Special Needs. Feeling much better, I was able to pick up the pace—for a few miles. The pain returned, and I had to repeat the ritual—two more times. The only difference was that during the subsequent times there was no toilet paper. Having reached rock bottom sitting in a smutty, seemingly 100-degree Fahrenheit, stench-infested porta potty, I exhaled and removed one of my compression leg sleeves. Pressing on with one compression sleeve, I decided that if it came back I’d use the other compression sleeve…then my hat (if the sun had gone down)…then each of my socks. At one point in the run, my 3-year-old son remarked, “Daddy is wearing one sock.” The next time I saw my family and friends, I was wearing no compression sleeves. At one point, a fellow runner made small talk by asking how I was doing. Given the circumstances, I said I was feeling good but a bit frustrated about the lack of toilets on the bike course. She responded, “Oh, I planned ahead and brought paper with me for the ride.” Bitch.

After about mile 17, the stomach pain finally subsided. For nutrition, I consumed the course electrolyte drink, drank water, sucked on oranges, ate bananas, and eventually started using the course gels. In need of a change, it all tasted so much better than what I had been using before. It’s also worth noting that Ironman France has cold showers at each aid station. I wet my hat down at each opportunity and ran around the showers in an effort to keep my feet dry. It was no use. They are showers and not mist machines. The entire aid station areas more or less resembled islands amidst massive puddles. Given that one can always pour water on his or her head, I would much rather trade the showers for ice/sponges.

When I was not on—or on the verge of visiting—the toilet throughout the entire marathon, I was able to run somewhat comfortably and passed the majority of runners who seemed to be walking, regardless as to what lap they were on. All notions of achieving a personally respectable time were remnants of my imagination. I had failed to turn off the auto-pause function on my watch, so it complicated timing a bit. Eventually, I exerted the energy to do some math and figured that I’d be able to finish in under 15 hours if I kept running. During the last 5K, I drank the Coke (surprisingly not flat) for the first time and it was as potent as jet fuel. As aforementioned, I think the overseas races attract not necessarily more serious athletes, but mostly more experienced or better prepared athletes. Towards the end of my marathon, the course was sparse with runners, which detracted somewhat from the atmosphere. Ironman France has a 16-hour as opposed to the normal 17-hour limit, which perhaps contributed to this effect. Although the atmosphere was less electric at times, the serenity of the sunset along the Mediterranean was surreal. Rather blessed to have traveled the world, I couldn’t recall ever seeing water so turquoise. During the last few miles, I zipped up my shirt and rinsed off all of the salt and grime from my body. At a minimum, I didn’t want to look like a hot mess at the finish. As I approached the finisher’s chute, I matched the amplification of energy within the atmosphere with an increase in speed. I noticed a friend standing near the wall. He pointed at my 4-year-old son who was waiting in the chute, and I didn’t really think through my actions. Fueled by adrenaline, I picked him up and sprinted the remaining 150 meters to the finish. What an extraordinary moment for the both of us. Magic. I’ll never forget the excitement in his eyes, and I’d do it all over again—toilet muck and all—just to get a glimpse of that joy. My run split was 05:06:27.

Post race
Warm down:

Post Race

After smiling for a finisher’s photo, I was somewhat trapped with my 4-year-old son. The employees at the event would not allow me to enter the finisher’s area to get my street clothes bag/medal with my son. To make it worse, my family and friends could not make it to the holding area where we were standing. Eventually, I had to ask another finisher and his family to watch my son, while I quickly got my bag/medal. I was especially thankful for their help. I had better luck entering the bike transition area with my son. However, it was quite difficult monitoring him while carrying several bags and pushing my bike. Meeting my family and friends outside the transition area was perhaps a close second to the relief of finishing the Ironman.

We made it back to our building and up the 78 steps to our apartment. Although tired, I was comfortable. No bonking. Although sore, I didn’t feel any more pain than I had in training. It turns out my average heart rate for the bike was 124 and for the run 125. No wonder. After inhaling a burger, fries, and milkshake my wife had kindly waiting for me, I showered while friends fetched pizzas to bring to the apartment. Sooner or later, we popped a couple bottles of champagne, threw down some beers, and enjoyed the moment.

During the next several days, I felt much better than expected. Surprisingly, I was able to carry the boys on my shoulders as we walked all over Nice. All credit goes to the selected training plan in Matt Fitzgerald’s book. I decided to take about 10 days completely off, which seemed especially strange in comparison to the last six months. Following the break, I registered for Ironman 70.3 Austin and commenced light swimming and cycling. After an easy month, I’ve returned to full training. Following a 140.6, training for a 70.3 seems particularly manageable. In the near future, we will make the move to the Pacific Northwest; perhaps there’s a spot for me at Ironman Coeur d’Alene at some point. Once arriving in the US, I may invest in a bike upgrade. More importantly, I’ve moved on to fueling with Accelerade Orange. Although it is perhaps not a true long distance drink like Perpetuem, I really enjoy the flavor and crave it during workouts as opposed to feeling apathetic or simply tolerating the taste. Let’s hope for no stomach issues in Texas. Sadly, adrenaline, cheering fans, and flashing lights caused me to overlook my 3-year-old son who was waiting behind my 4-year-old son in the stands during the Ironman finish. Next, it will be his turn to get carried across the finish.


Event comments:

Perspective

The overall winner, Frederik Van Lierde, completed the same course on the same day in 8:08:59, including an inconceivable 4:33:30 bike split. In the words of my favorite Jamaican philosopher Ali G, “Respek.” What an incredible human feat.

My friend who joined me for the Ironman took it easy and cruised to finish a couple hours before me. A year to the date, he lay in a hospital bed as the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run. A year to the date, we were barely on speaking terms. Feeling guilty about the inability to do much from Morocco, we slowly mended our relationship over the phone throughout his recovery. A year to the date of nearly losing one of my best friends for the past 14 years, we toasted champagne to celebrate an Ironman finish in picturesque Nice, France of all places. My lovely wife, 2 sons, family, and friends accompanied us. Ironman is inundated with such stories, and this makes it beautiful.

Following the race, I was somewhat paralyzed to learn that the person I passed in the ambulance on the bike had died from head injuries sustained after uncontrollably hitting a wall. Indeed, I had nothing to be disappointed about—especially a perceived poor performance—and everything and more to rejoice. What made this ill-fated stranger all that different from me or any of the other competitors? Why was my friend run over by a truck? Be thankful. Value friendships. Celebrate life.





Last updated: 2013-07-23 12:00 AM
Swimming
01:24:43 | 3800 meters | 02m 14s / 100meters
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance:
Suit:
Course:
Start type: Plus:
Water temp: 0F / 0C Current:
200M Perf. Remainder:
Breathing: Drafting:
Waves: Navigation:
Rounding:
T1
Time: 08:18
Performance:
Cap removal: Helmet on/
Suit off:
Wetsuit stuck? Run with bike:
Jump on bike:
Getting up to speed:
Biking
07:51:35 | 180 kms | 22.89 km/hr
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance:
Wind:
Course:
Road:   Cadence:
Turns: Cornering:
Gear changes: Hills:
Race pace: Drinks:
T2
Time: 18:23
Overall:
Riding w/ feet on shoes
Jumping off bike
Running with bike
Racking bike
Shoe and helmet removal
Running
05:06:27 | 42 kms | 07m 17s  min/km
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 0/
Performance:
Course:
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall:
Mental exertion [1-5]
Physical exertion [1-5]
Good race?
Evaluation
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

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2013-07-23 8:46 AM


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Subject: Ironman France
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