The quicker I write a race report the better the result was. The fact that this has taken me 7 days to put pen to paper should tell you all you need to know.
A bit of background; in 2009 I did my first Ironman and I did
one a year for the next three years
So Vichy would be my fifth, but the first for a very long time.
Around Autumn last year I decided to get fit again -I had had
three years where the business had grown and our family had
multiplied from just two of us to having three little terrors join
the clan. I have a fairly addictive personality, I don't really do
things in half measures. So really enjoyed getting fit and riding
the bike. I found running in the woods a nice break as well.
I did not start swimming until June though - that would come back to bite me hard...
I have done a lot of cycling this year; Bespoke Travel has been a lovely excuse to put 20hrs a week on a bike. One thing I have never been amazing at is exercising in the heat - I seem to lose the will to live - it's a self preservation thing; I simply don't want to go that deep as it gets hotter.
The weather this summer in France has been strange; hot in June and July but decidedly mixed in August; when we first arrived in rained the first three days.
The Vichy race has had a short, and eventful, history so far. Normally its so hot that the lake is above the temperature threshold for a wetsuit swim. This means you have to swim without a wetsuit - which is a nightmare for us poor swimmers. Wetsuits are amazing; the neoprene is a naturally buoyant material so makes you float on the water. It masks poor technique.
True to form, on the week leading up to the event it was getting hotter everyday and the weekend was forecast for 34-35C (the average for the month of August is 25C)
You pay a lot of money for the Ironman privilege, but its an incredibly slick affair. And you certainly feel part of something big. My mum was looking after the two youngest, and we took our eldest (Matthew who is seven) for the weekend. He loves these sorts of things.
As we were registering on the Saturday the half Ironman race was on - f*ck me it was hot every time you left the shade. And as the day progressed we heard more and more ambulances coming to attend athletes who had succumbed to heat stroke. My wife was looking less and less impressed. I wisely decided that we should leave the area.
The night before the event I am always fairly sombre - I know I
have a lot of pain in store for me.
We wake up to dark clouds and a forecast that showed it may be cooler than we first thought
At the start of the swim the inevitable announcement was that wetsuits were barred; a veritable groan from the crowd.
A quick kiss of wife and Matthew and off I went. The swim itself was unremarkable; just very slow. I used to be able to swim an Ironman leg (3.8km) in 63-65 mins. Now I was out the water in 79 mins. So 15 mins allowed and a lot more work. It also means you are on the bike leg with slower athletes; it takes a long time to work through the field.
I had my usual faff in Transition and was then off on the bike
I love an IM bike leg - its 5 hrs of getting your head down and
just riding. I have been training with a power meter all year and
was planning to ride at a normalized power of 240 watts. However
literally 4 days before the event my powemeter went on the blink;
it would' drift' over time - so the numbers were not accurate
An inaccurate PM is worse than no PM at all (because you can end up basing your effort on false readings). So I actually blanked out the Watts numbers on my head unit and just rode to speed and HR
It was a two lap course; the roads were better than UK ones but nowhere near as good as roads I have done in Germany.
Because I was annoyed at the swim I wanted to salvage some pride
and do a decent bike leg; so was aiming for 4hrs 50 or so. Was
pleased when the first lap came up in 2.23.
Second lap was more of the same, but the winds were picking up and the sun was getting warmer and warmer. My head unit showed 32c and it was only 11am!
I ended up doing the second lap in 2.23 as well; which I think is really interesting. In this day and age of endless technology, good old perceived exertion is still incredibly accurate.
I was weirdly looking forward to the run. I have done four Half
Ironman races this summer and I found I got stronger the longer
they went on. They have only been small UK events but I have
finished in the Top ten overall everytime so felt in decent
I knew this would hurt but my previous IM marathon times have ranged from 3.17 to 3.29 so I felt this was not an unknown.
However after the very first km I knew this was going to be a long day. It was so hot without shade and my HR had gone to 152 already (despite it being an average of 135 on the bike)
Every 2km there was a water station and the volunteers were
amazing; they even had hoses to water you down. So a game would
occur; you would be roasting, then get lovely and cool until the
water evaporated off of you and then you would be hot and thirsty
again. And repeat.
Despite my discomfort I was actually making decent time - I did the first half of the marathon in 1.41. So was hoping to keep my track record of sub 3.30
However on the third and fourth laps the wheels truly came off. I got the worst cramp I have ever had in my life, and right leg locked up and I comically fell over on the road as the other competitors had to jump over me as I tried to stretch it out.
I managed to start again but by then it was just a slow shuffle home. If my family was not there I would have 100% quit and just sat down. But I knew they were also out in the sun supporting me and felt that was the height of selfishness.
After 32 km I got so annoyed but rapidly declining pace I actually turned my watch off !
By then it was no longer a race; just a question of finishing
I staggered to the line in 3.49 - my slowest ever run but the most glad I have ever been to finish.
My amazing wife and son were there at the finish and helped me with all the stuff; by then my legs had completely seized up and walking up and down stairs was agony. I was so dehydrated that I did not pee for 18 hours; that cannot be good for you !
My end time was 10.05 - roughly 30 mins slower than my target. My wife is ever the optimist and told me I finished 95th out of 1300 people. But I replied that if I had done 9.35 I would have finished in the Top 30.
At my son's request we ended up going to McDonalds for dinner
(and my wife claims I don't spoil her in France)…
I put as much salt on as I could all the food - it was great to taste solid food after 10 hours of gels. Over the course of an hour there I saw a number of fellow athelets hobble in with their families - we would give each other a shared look. No words were needed !
I went to bed pleased it was over but annoyed at the results -
my abiding memory of the day is that awful last 10 km of the run -
that will haunt me for a while.
It just goes to show that you can be 'fit' but unless you are acclimatised to the heat (or get a lucky moderate day) us Brits will always face a disadvantage when we go to Europe and do the big events (Etape, Marmotte, IM) in the height of their summer against local competition.
Annoyingly one week after the race and a check of Vichy weather shows its 22c - which would have been perfect. Maybe next year…
I feel I am fitter than the results showed; and after three years of being unfit I don't want the 2017 season to end. So am tempted for one last hit out. Watch this space !
When I did my first Triathlon 7 years ago my wife came to watch. It was in the beautiful New Forest and the sun was shining and it was a great weekend away. My wife...Read more