Tours Triathlon 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
July 19th Tours, France 5:50pm, I accepted the situation; being surrounded by hundreds of people all wearing wetsuits and not having one was going to make my swim harder and slower. So be it. The water temperature was inviting, the river was clean and I was feeling free and ready for the effort. The gun snapped as the swimmers took off with maximum effort. Slow motion ensued as I felt the refreshing water on my hands and back, breathed in deep, and enjoyed the energy within my body. Staying present and focusing on the movement through the water is a source of joy. Being in the preverbal ‘zone’ is having ones attention on the moment. If there is one thing that signifies a worthy race it would be having a calm, quiet and peaceful mind. Focusing on seemingly everything, while nothing at all, my body thrust through the water.
To my surprise, my speed was unmatched the opening 200 meters. The effort was too much to maintain and settling into a comfortably hard pace had me even with some wetsuits to my left. Tucking in behind one, the exertion to create forward momentum eased while enjoying his draft. Swimming in 2nd place sans wetsuit is bliss, I focused on the bubbles.
July 8th, Paris 12:40am, The stomach pain was undeniable and constant. Being exhausted from a bike ride, several hours of travel from Saint Germain D’arce and a track work out was not enough to fall asleep with this unsettled stomach. With much courage I went and loitered in the lavatory. A couple hours and much vomiting later the pain subsided. Weak and fragile from the ordeal with the sun rising, sleep overtook me.
Feeling better from the ailment the lack of sleep and loss of nutrition drained me completely and I slept the whole next day and night. My drive to train overcame my feeble circumstance and the next morning I went for a 5000m swim and planned on possibly doing a track work out. But the swim was too much and too soon and a cold took hold of me. I had been ignoring the signs and not listening to my body. Now, I was forced to pay attention. For one week I listened to my body and let it recover. On July 16th it was energized enough for action and I did some light training.
July 19th, Tours 5:59pm There was one huge advantage to not wearing a wetsuit; T1. Maintaining myself at the front of the swim I projected myself a further 30 seconds ahead assuming my transition would leap me forward not having to deal with taking off a wetsuit. Sure enough, exciting the water I quickly ran past the only guy in front of me. I put on my helmet and race belt, grabbed my bike and was off. Enjoying my quick transition and my leap to the front of the race I ran out of transition with no one behind me. Whistles, shouting, hand gestures. Oh no! Before the race I had conversed, in broken French, with a referee concerning the transition flow. Now, in the race, I realized there had been a lack of communication because I had just gone the wrong way.
My plan to have the quickest transition sans wetsuit was spoiled. Instead of having a 20 to 30 second lead, I was now leaving transition with two of my competitors. The important thing was that I quickly let the mistake go and refocused on the present situation. The course was tricky with sharp turns, cobble stones, and rough roads on this 5 lap 4k loop. Heading up a steep incline on cobble stone, jeered the bike and made it difficult to pedal and maneuver. It seemed an obscene amount of bouncing and I exclaimed, “Ay yi yah!” while one of the riders looked over at me and smirked in agreement.
July 19th Tours 4:00pm French Grand Prix number 3 was under way and Javier Gomez was clearly in the lead after 200 meters. This was a critical, ‘do or die’ race for Saint Jean de Mont. After the first two Gran Prix’s we were in 16th and last position. Each year 2 teams from Division I (15th & 16th) move down to Division II. Conversely, 2 teams from Division II (1st & 2nd, St. Jean de Monts were Champions of DII last year) move up to DI. Finishing the swim, all 5 members of the Beauvais team were in the lead pack. Impressive! Ninety athletes came streaming out of the water in one continuous line frantic to get on their bikes. One athlete fell while mounting his bike creating a ripple effect with others trying to avoid the same fate.
Four main packs had formed after one lap of the bike with the elite group of nine including team Beauvais and Gomez, a large pack 30 seconds back including Ethan, Anton, Alfred, and Jullien from our team. The third pack, another 30 seconds back included Adam. Like cross-country only the top 3 finishers score and it was looking good for our guys.
By the last lap the gaps between each pack had grown to just over a minute. The run promised to be an exciting, close knit, sprint finish for best places between the top 60 racers; A very exciting format for spectators. Gomez had stamped his authority on the race by the end of the 1st lap on the run with a 20 second gap. It was exciting to see Ethan charging from the first chase pack in the top 15.
It was very dramatic seeing the top 60 racers finish, sprinting here and there for places. With very little time separating the top 40, the level of competition is notable. Saint Jean de Monts placed 9th on the day putting us into 13th overall!
July 19th Tours 6:06pm We set a blistering pace, but only I and the rider that smirked (from Saint Amand) did any of the work, while Guillaume (from Tours) sat on our wheels and enjoyed wind free riding. Kudos to Guillaume, you would think we were domestiquing for him. It was our mistake for letting him have it so easy. On these rough roads with strong winds the draft was crucial for recovering. I like to keep the pace honest, so Grouhel and I cycled through pulls.
Midway through our 4th lap I noticed we suddenly had 3 or 4 additional riders sitting in the back sucking our wheels. Assuming these riders had bridged up to us the pace slackened for a bit and I motioned for some other riders to take a pull… to no avail. It wasn’t until we started taking our shoes off to enter T2 that these three riders went past us. Then, I realized that we had lapped these guys and this goes to show you how much of an advantage the draft can have.
T2 was smooth and I was leading the race starting the run. But there was a runner tucked in behind me and enjoying a lot of hometown support, Guillaume. I had some support of my own, having team mates, team managers, and my family there to encourage me. I used all the positive energy and focused on my form. Quick feet, hips forward, straight posture. I was happy to feel ok running after a week of illness.
Guillaume made his move. He pulled in front and I made a critical mistake. I focused on his pace and his running. Suddenly, my running became laborious and he created a gap. Losing touch with my body while forgetting the moment for only a few seconds cost me. Regaining composure I kept Guillaume just 40 to 50 meters in front of me. Running within myself I felt energized again.
With the finish line nearing I was closing in on the leader and kept my pace strong without attacking. Maybe I could charge him with my blazing finishing kick, wait, I don’t have a blazing finishing kick. Just that thought was too much of a hesitation and it became apparent the photo finish would have to wait for another race.