Christmas Day 2017 and a present that all endurance athletes dream about. Your long suffering partner, who has suffered, supported you, cooked you breakfasts after 6 hour weekend training sessions, has understood your fantastical belief you are an equal to the Brownlee brothers -the unbelievable happens… no she doesn’t dump you because you are seriously talking about training on Xmas day. No, she buys you a race entry and one on the Cote D’Azur…. Blessed….
With every upside, there are obviously bumps in the road. Initially, the French insistence on a ‘ Medical Examination’ to prove fitness should be no problem, unless of course, your organisational skills mean you leave it to the last minute. Of course, our British doctors are slightly perplexed and unsure about this, so several hours of negotiation that Dominic Raab might find handy produce a letter proving I am breathing and walking, which then of course the dog eats…
Anyway, we make it to France… clearly the French requirement for fitness is to prove you can smoke 20 Gauloise in 30 mins (smoking is on the French curriculum). With my Drs note, and British optimism, I head to the race briefing full of confidence. Full distance Ironman under the belt, training gone to plan -half distance should be a walk in the park right?
Normal briefing, safety, sportsmanship, no drafting, mention of 1800m of climbing on the bike..I am no mountaineer. There are some steep hills in Bedfordshire…I paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson when I say that the arse cheeks were somewhat looser than normal.
Race day – early start, usual nerves coupled with excitement. Swimming – I like a sea swim, but 800 m is a long way out in the sea and a bit choppy but all in all happy -the warm Mediterranean when the sun is rising is idyllic.
T1 to the bike -food on board, minor problem dropped chip….Now had I realised how big that mountain was, first 10k gentle introduction next 30k…how to describe? This was the flyweight against Anthony Joshua… at one point 10k straight climbing at an average gradient of 7.5 – 8%. My legs were spinning as fast as gravity was acting against…I think Michael Jackson could have space walked uphill faster.
The relentless grind up and up, punctuated by signs of 4K to go to the summit, 3k was both depressing and pleasing. Counting the metres to the top with the goal of breath in the lungs and relief for the legs was just about keeping me going.
Eventually, the summit. Relief? Well the downhill meant the legs could recover but there was nothing in them to power the downhill, they were empty. Then as little reminder of why the event is so punishing, another short uphill, which may have only been a 400m climb but there it was laughing at us all.
The second half of the bike, is a blur. Relief and some speed but the heat of the Mediterranean sun blessing us all the way back into Nice. The pedals were moving and the legs still not quite responding of what was asked. Nearly T2 and back to the relationship….
Having dropped the chip in T1 meant the inability for interested parties to track me on the bike course…normally not a problem if you are roughly on target but given the gruelling bike course, targets went out of the window fairly rapidly and poor Debbie was seriously worrying about my well being. Eg whether I was actually alive.
By now the Mediterranean sun was at its highest and hottest 31 degrees and run along the iconic Promenade des Anglais was not quite as welcoming as expected. Despite the heat, the crowds and volunteers were amazing. Supportive and always smiling, they were the extra fuel to get us round. The feeling of camaraderie and togetherness always there and as we entered the last mile the view of that iconic carpet and tones of the announcer, welcomed us home. Hot, exhausted, a lit broken and relieved to be back in the Ironman family…..
Nice – you were daunting but amazing – au revoir!