Saint Jean de Monts Triathlon CD

The surprise question of the day, ‘wetsuits allowed or no?’.  I try not to fret about things out of my control but this had me worried.  It was so hot outside for this 2:30 start and the water so reviving.  It was the difference between going all out in the Australian style (2 laps with run on the beach) swim and having to hold back for fear of over-heating.  Phillip the race director informed me, ‘wetsuits allowed’, I snapped my fingers and sighed, disappointed.  Then, grabbed my wetsuit and started the long walk down to the beach.  It happened to be low tide, meaning a good 400m run up to T1.  Having my wetsuit on it was too hot to be standing around in the sun and headed straight for the water.

Barely a minute into my cool up I hear whistles and see the referee waving me in furiously.  I come in and he is shouting at me in French.  “Je ne pas compre” , I say , “je ne parle pad  frances”.  Undeterred, he pulls out his card rouge (red card) and yells more while pointing me back to T1.  I have no idea what just transpired but head back to T1 and listen to the ‘all French’ race briefing.

 

Luckily, Dan, a local who I had met the day before saw everything and conferred with said referee and two other refs.  Not understanding the race briefing and heating up in the sun I head back to the little conference hoping to not be yelled at again.  Dan had smoothed things over, “pad problem”.  “It’s OK’.  Apparently getting a red card is a DQ.  Because I was not listening to the mandatory race briefing the ref kicked me out before it even started.  Thank you Dan for changing his mind!

We lined up on the beach packed in tight ready to crash the seas on a moment’s notice.  The moment did not come.  We waited for a few minutes, a ref blew his whistle and I jumped.  Oops false alarm.  One of the refs was standing right in front of me and I said, “pardon si’l vou pliat”.  He did not like that.  He said something to the effect that he would move when he was good and ready.  Finally, the race started and I was barely in the top 20 starting the swim after the jump and dive.

 

By the first buoy I managed to get into the top 10 and by the second was in the top 5 where I stayed for the run up on the beach.  The second lap was smooth and I was able to hold back to avoid over-heating while swimming in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.  The 4 of us had a slight gap on the next few guys.

 

We were tight coming into the beach but I lost some time doing the jump and dive to the shore and then stumbled getting my wetsuit off.  Those 10 seconds would prove hurtful.  T1 was smooth and the 3 lead riders were within reach with a good surge.  With the help of 2 riders behind me we bridged the gap and the  6 of us had a good chance of staying away.

My riding tactics were awful though.  Five or six times my line was bad and I even hit the brakes forcing unnecessary accelerations.  And accelerating is definitely a weak point in my racing right now.  I closed the gap 5 or 6 times but then it happened again and was unable to bridge the gap.  Ouch, I was riding solo and looking back saw nobody.  It was then that I realized I had been sprinting since the moment I left the water.  20 seconds later, I felt recovered but the gap was now substantial.

 

Rather than blow my race trying to catch back up I did the smart thing and waited for the second group to catch up.  It wasn’t until the start of the 2nd lap (3 lap bike) that the second pack of about 15 riders engulfed me.

 

A few instants later and I was attacking hoping to break up the group.  I tried a couple more times as did a few other riders but none were successful.  By the end of the third lap my lines were much better but it was too late to pay off.  I feel fortunate to have not crashed considering we were passing swarms of other riders starting the 2nd and 3rd laps.  Very interesting with an all draft legal race.

T2 was horrible.  I left a GU in my shoe and forgot about it.  The little prank cost me time and the GU was way too hot for consumption.  The referee seemed to be yelling at me but I ignored him ‘knowing’ I had done nothing to deserve his attention.  He tackled me.  He was giving me a stop and go penalty.  I looked on bemused.  Then someone yelled at me in English that my race belt number had to be in the front.  I simply moved it to the front and voila, my confrontations with the refs were over.  The damage had been done, now running 10 seconds behind the entire group.

Feeling good but wary of the heat and humidity I charged ahead.  The people of Saint Jean de Monts kept me going with their cheers.  I ran not wanting to let them down.  The run was 4 laps with each one having a 300 meter run on the soft sand part of the beach.  Ouch!  Dede and Pat, among the volunteers saved the day by providing lots of water.  Thank You!  I drank a ton and poured even more on my head.  All of it was needed to get me through to the end.

I was thrilled with my 35:23 10k run considering the course and the conditions.  Finishing 14th was disappointing but the field was strong and some small mistakes really cost me.  Dialing in some speed and adjusting to the climate will help a lot.  It’s only been 6 days since we left Boise.

Reflecting on the last six days, three times that much seems to have passed by.  It feels like we’ve been in France for months.  It’s tremendous to be having so much fun without the time flying by. 

 Results   

Contrasts

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Contrasts

Since the ITU circuit was in my neck of the woods (sort of..), I made the trek down to our nation’s capital to watch the third leg of the ITU World Championship Series (WCS). And it was well worth the trip because I got to watch two amazing races.

The first thing you notice is the atmosphere that surrounds the event. Everything about it breathes elite racing. The start line is not composed of a few elite athletes with a lot of part-time “pros”. It is entirely composed of elite, professional athletes. Athletes with Olympic aspirations, competing for very good (for our sport…) prize-money. Because of the level of the athletes, everyone watching either at the race site or at home through the Internet were treated to two very competitive races, with constant changes in the dynamics of the race, which made them both interesting and very fun to watch.

When I got back home at the end of the day, I checked how Ironman Coeur d’Alene was going. And the contrast with the ITU WCS race was evident. With extremely weak fields, both men’s and women’s race were far from exciting, with second place for the men being 10 minutes behind the winner and third place almost 20 minutes down (!). The women’s race was a little more “exciting”, but just for the battle for second place. All this for the first Ironman race of the year in US soil.

The writing is on the wall: professional Ironman racing is dying. This is not new, it’s been a slow death, brought on by stagnating prize-money purses and the increased number of races, causing a watering down of the competition. But this slow death is somewhat puzzling given the growth of the sport in the last years. With its logic of maximizing the profit out of the events that runs, the WTC is showing an incredibly narrow focus that is hurting the sport as a whole. This effect might not be noticeable right now, but it will be in the future.

Going back to the ITU World Championship Series, it seems to be a risky bet that is paying off. Having the best athletes perform in great stages around the World is a great idea, and one that is advancing triathlon more and more into being a worldwide sport. The race in DC is a perfect example. Just like having the Tour de France ending in the Champs Elysees, the streets of downtown DC were the perfect backdrop to bring triathlon into the mainstream. Big kudos to the ITU and the local organizing committee.

http://thetriathlonbook.blogspot.com/2009/06/contrasts.html

New Terrain

Exploration is an activity that awakens my soul.  Two things happen that fill me with joy; it involves traversing new space.  The physical act of moving brings delight while encountering new terrain engages the mind.  The action being one of heart rate inducing endorphins whereby one is biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking, running, skiing, walking or any other way to scamper over land and sea.  Add to this a new environment and presto…mind, body, and soul bliss. 

With traveling comes this opportunity to explore.  Harmony ensues. 

Awaking early on our first morning in Saint Jean de Monts, Hortense and I don simple running attire and turn left onto the small road in front of the house.  The break of day rays pleasant on our skin with sea breeze air refreshing in our lungs alerts the senses.  Minutes into the run we cross a road and start on a dirt trail intimately woven with the forest.  The closeness in the trees is calming and quiet.  Several rabbits scurry into thick brush hoping not to be followed.  A favorite dish around these parts; there instincts serve them well. 

The flatness of the area as a whole gives way to rolling landscape and stunning cypress trees.  Parts of the trail feel like running through a cave, ducking branches to stay untouched.  We are motivated to make our way to the beach, knowing it could be around any corner.  The trails wander this way and that, down little valleys, up hillsides, and into clearings.  We zig zag through the forest.

Running into a quaint meadow our footsteps startle two deer.  Startled too, my senses focus on their fluid, supple, agile, and elegant movement.  I’m envious of their athleticism.  It appears nature is victorious in flourishing the deer’s skill for survival.  Within seconds they are out of sight, seconds more out of ear shot.  I run on hoping nature victorious in flourishing my skills. 

Hoping to do well for the adopted ‘hometown’–some French Press

Triathlon : Nicolas Alliot, le porte-drapeau montois


Nicolas Alliot (Saint-Jean-de-Monts). : Stéphane May

Saint-Jean-de-Monts. Les meilleures chances locales de podium reposeront, dimanche, sur l’Américain Kévin Everett, et le Français Nicolas Alliot.

Après Les Sables et Jard, Saint-Jean-de-Monts organise son épreuve internationale, ce week-end. Au programme, samedi, le championnat de France par équipes D2. Les étrangers les plus connus présents ? Kristian Mac Cartney (Cesson-Sévigné) et le Belge Axel Zeebroek (Besançon). 

Axel Zeebroek s’est fait remarquer lors des derniers Jeux, en posant le vélo seul en tête, avec le Luxembourgeois Dirk Bockel. Tous deux pourraient doubler, dimanche, et se mesurer au favori, le Français Stéphane Poulat. Les Montois, eux, évolueront à domicile, avec l’envie de bien faire. A l’image du Luçonnais Nicolas Alliot et de l’Américain Kévin Everett, pour qui ce sera sa première course en France.

Formé à Luçon, le jeune lycéen de Mendès-France, à La Roche, a rejoint le 2e club vendéen (derrière Les Sables), il y a trois saisons. Une première année pour voir et progresser, une deuxième pour aider l’équipe élite à rejoindre la D1 (chose faite), et une troisième pour faire sa place.

En début de saison, il a tenté de se qualifier pour les championnats d’Europe juniors. Mais, blessé, la barre était trop haute. Depuis, il a pris la 2e place de son équipe, lors du Grand Prix, à Beauvais (66e), et une 3e place, le week-end dernier, à Jard, derrière son coéquipier, Torok (2e). Après un Hongrois, Nicolas Alliot fera donc équipe, dimanche, avec un Américain de 34 ans.

 

L’équipe de Saint-Jean-de-Monts : Nicolas Alliot, Julien Leroy, Mathieu Agnus, Alfred Torok (Hongrie), Adam Fitzakerley (Australie), Ruben Bravo, Andrès Del Castillo-Carnevalli, Anton Ruanova-Fernandez (Espagne), Ethan Brown et Kévin Everett (Etats-Unis).

 

Le programme. Samedi : 14 h, Grand Prix D2 femmes ; 15 h 30, Grand Prix D2 hommes ; 17 h, avenirs (7-14 ans). Dimanche : 10 h, découverte et relais ; 10 h 30, triathlon féminin ; 14 h 30, international courte distance.

Summer in Paris

The summer solstice morphed into one of the shortest days of the year for Hortense and me.  Transcending worlds apart in a few short hours always takes the body a few days to adapt.  Leaving Boise early on the longest day of the year only to bury my head in a book on some random seat next to strangers going my way, made the days linger.  My only entertainment being the Lord of the Rings, I imagined myself as Frodo venturing off on his epic journey.  Day turned to night and minutes later the sun was teasing the horizon with bright eye catching rays.  I felt cheated, having not slept a wink. 

While I arrived at 6:30am, Hortense was on another flight arriving at 9:30am.  Augh, hanging out in the airport with my bike box and other luggage with a lack of sleep hangover was not enticing.  I threw my imagination back into Frodo’s voyage through the unknown. 

By 11am Hortense and I were sitting in the sun, soaking up a summer in Paris in Catherine and Pierre’s lovely back yard.  Ahh, summer in Paris.  The flowers, striking in their vibrancy, took over the back yard.

Shortly after that I took a 5 hour nap in the middle of a beautiful day, but I had no choice.  Hence, the reason for this writing which started around 4:22am.  Unlike yesterday, the sun peaking on the horizon is a welcome sight.  Birds singing the most unique songs grab ones attention making elaborate calls for mates or territory.  After 2 days of little more than meandering through airports I look forward to some running this morning along the river Seine.

My running attire was complete with just shoes, socks and shorts on this brisk morning, perfect for trotting along the quiet streets of Paris.  Running along the Rue de Perronet towards Seine exhilirated my senses.  Running itself felt like a new experience, with graphic stimuli speeding past my visual cortex.  Hardly a soul, the streets are mine, the freedom of movement, blood pumping, pavement stomping, big breathes, exploring…yes, I love this.  It is beautiful, life is beautiful.  

Coming up to the river I notice the first glimpse of the suns nectar on a footbridge crossing to an island.  I run to the middle only 6mins 50 sec into my run, and stop.  There, before me, the rivers path is glowing warm with the low rising sun just visible.  Looking east, directly into the sun, my eyes smile.  The mental snap shot stays with me while I run along the river, grateful to be an object in motion. 

Stormy Boise Ironman 70.3 2009

Everett leading the swim in the beautiful turquoise water at Lucky Peak

Kevin Everett leading Boise Ironman 70.3 in the beautiful turquoise water at Lucky Peak

Seconds before the cannon boomed for the start of the Boise Ironman 70.3 I had to smile. Reflecting on the moment and how good everything felt, life was clear and in focus. The crowd was full of friends and family and their good emotions permeated the air. Often, I get slightly behind the opening 100 meters, but not today. Representing the hometown gave me confident powers and warming up for 45 minutes primed and readied me for the sudden effort. The cannon detonated, at last my body embarked on the reward it was promised after months of demanding training. I can’t tell you how exhilarating it was to be going my pace and leading the race. Rounding the first buoy and looking back, it was satisfying to see a small gap. Today, I was racing at 100% for the first time in a long time and I was thankful for the vitality.

Kevin getting ready to warm up

The 2pm start time is ingenious for the Boise 70.3. Not only do you get to enjoy a quiet morning at home with your family & friends but people in general seem more psyched to race when they are not coming straight out of bed. Even with the foreboding clouds on the horizon the sun came out and the temperature was pleasant. Lucky Peak’s turquoise waters illuminated, declaring a refreshing dip in mid 60 degree water temperature. Planning a race mid-June in the desert oasis of Boise promises for dry sunny conditions, however, this day would be remembered for bucking that trend.

Moments from the swim start

Turning the 3rd buoy and feeling the pack break up and string out behind me; had me wishing the swim could go on for a few more miles. When the race takes 4 hours and it only takes a half hour for the swim leg; swimmers feel cheated. It was about then that I retracted this thought as the hot sun on my black wetsuit made me uncomfortably hot. My effort slowed and my body cooled back to comfortable levels. Still alone in the lead I could feel some company. This kept my pace honest albeit relaxed as we neared the finish. The boisterous crowd forced a smile on my face and jump in my step. The calm quiet meditation that is swimming gave way to an exuberant crowd as I hurried through T1.


Three weeks prior, while racing in a French Grand Prix in Dunkerque, I sprinted to keep in touch with the lead swimmers while in T1. Only 200 meters into the swim someone pulled down my wetsuit zipper. It cost me time in the swim but I hung in there and having a fast T1 was imperative for staying in the race. I have learned the hard way many times; that giving a second to professional triathletes is time you never replenish. Today, I went through T1 with the same sense of urgency.


My determination worked wonders as I rode alone feeling like superman. Cresting the first long and steady climb and looking back to see what kind of progress I had made; it was comforting to not be pressured. There was someone back there but they were way back, my lead was comfortable; for now. Even though I carry no timing device while racing, I was getting used to the lead car with the race time posted above it. While passing mile 5, the crank seemed to be turning on its own despite the fact that I sped along in my biggest gear. Knowing that the added excitement of leading might come back to haunt me was not enough to slow me down. I was having way too much fun to be rational.


The race clock above the lead vehicle read 47:16. It was uplifting to know that I had set the pace for every second of the race. In the back of my head, I also knew it was a long day. Racing along the same streets that we train on and hearing people shout your name gives you strength. Still speeding along in my biggest gear and almost spinning out I was confident that any challengers would not be able to catch up anytime soon. Wow, this Boise Ironman is going to be great.


My lead was relinquished by guys on motorcycles; just after passing mile 10, Lieto, with Gambles in tow stormed by with superior speed. They had to have motorized engines hidden in their bike somewhere. It was shocking because I was still flying at unprecedented speeds. However, my 53 chain ring was not enough to keep up with their bigger gears. They powerfully pulled away leaving me alone as they lingered on the horizon tempting a surge that I never mustered.


Then, at mile 15, Crowie and Lavelle rode up. It was nice to have some company in the wide open desert plains that dominant southern Idaho. When people are around you it becomes easier to go fast without wasting energy simply by gauging your speed. At last, the sense of urgency that is racing, gave way enough for me to work on some nutrition. I stuck a morsel of CliffBar in my lower lip and let it sit there.


For the next 25 miles the 3 of us rode in the same vicinity. There were a few rough stretches but for the most part it was comfortably hard racing. Taking my eyes off the road to grab some nutrition my back wheel hammered into a pot hole. It slammed me enough to worry but 3 pedal strokes later it was a distant memory.


Hoffman and Rapp caught up to our group and they all started pulling ever so slightly away from me. Still feeling strong I hoped that a surge would bring me back in contact with the group. A couple miles later and there wasn’t much progress on my end in terms of closing the gap. Then, there was a rider on the side of the road. It was Rapp, working on a flat tire. “That sucks”, I thought while happily taking back one place the easy way.


Heading east, the dark clouds on the horizon were menacing. I was thinking how nice it would be to beat out the storm when it became apparent that that was not going to happen. It looked like an enormous sliding glass window as only nature might render it. One second was a slight drizzle, then, crashing through the window, shards of rain pierced my skin. The street filled with water and the wind howled in my face. It was so impressive and sudden that I forgot about the race at hand.


By mile 45 there was some noticeable play coming from my back wheel. I quickly dismissed any possibility of it being a flat tire. In over 5 years of racing, not one flat had I encountered and it wasn’t about to be my first when everything was going so well. I was in denial. Riders flew past me.
Turning onto Federal Way with a scant 5 miles to go, the realization of my predicament hit home. My tire was completely flat and I had no spare. I rode on in mental and physical anguish desperate to get off my bike in T2.

Coach, Harold Frobisher, keeping me focused

Strolling onto Capitol Boulevard into the heart of Downtown Boise was amazingly gratifying. The last few miles of the bike had been torture. Not knowing if my disc would hold up was horrifying considering I would have to walk my bike in bare feet in order to finish. But it was also bleeding me dry of precious energy. It was soo good to hear the crowd as I got off my bike and knew for certain the race was back under my control.

Nearing the finish in great spirits

What happened to me on the next 6 miles of the run is tormenting me more than having a flat tire. I ran defeated. My psyche had been fractured and I couldn’t flip the switch. The mental focus required in these races is amazing. When something goes wrong; it can be difficult to regain composure. Finally, it worked itself out after about 6 miles. I let it go and regained focus on the moment. And at the moment, my body was telling me it had plenty of energy to go faster.

Memorable race

Slow leak, totally flat last 5 miles

I was thankful to be running the second lap at a good clip and I would wager my 2nd lap 5 minutes faster than the first. Finishing a race strong is rewarding for so many reasons. Coming down 8th street for the last few minutes of the race had me floating to the finish. I heard my wife, my coach, my brother, my mom and several friends rooting me on. How lucky am I to share this with all of them. The good spirits from the hometown crowd will fill me with merriment for the rest of my life. It’s something I will carry forward with me every moment.

RESULTS

Articles: SLOWTWITCH, Idaho Statesman, 2News.TV, Ironman, Triathlon Competitor

Craig Alexander, down 1 minute with one mile to go, ran a 4:48 mile to nip Chris Lieto at the line.

Epic Duel Between Alexander & Lieto

Hortense’s photo’s for larger downloads

Idaho Statesman: Local athletes will go the distance Saturday in Ironman 70.3 Boise triathlon

Training with the Boise Y Tri Club up at Lucky Peak photo courtesy Katherine Jones

Training with the Boise Y Tri Club up at Lucky Peak photo courtesy Katherine Jones

The second annual Ironman 70.3 Boise triathlon is Saturday, and athletes must conquer three grueling stages – a 1.2-mile swim in Lucky Peak Reservoir, a 56-mile bike ride through South Boise and a 13.1-mile run Downtown and on the Greenbelt. There are professionals coming from all over the country to compete, but there also are several local athletes who hope to give quality performances. Here are some of their stories:

KEVIN EVERETT

Everett is looking forward to Saturday’s race because of how good he feels.

“The last six months I’ve basically trained 20 hours a week,” the 1993 Centennial High graduate said. “I’m pretty excited.”

Last year, Everett placed 22nd overall and was the first athlete registered from Idaho to cross the finish line. He did that despite having been hospitalized a few weeks earlier from an accident in another race.

This year, he’s got a clean bill of health and a sense of optimism. He recently joined a French triathlon team and will compete in a series of races in that country starting later this month.

The 34-year-old was a swimmer at Oakland (Mich.) University where he was a part of four national championship teams. Swimming remains his best discipline in the triathlon, but he said his cycling has improved and can be his strongest area.

“I’m disappointed if I’m not in the lead pack of the swimming,” Everett said. “But sometimes my bike is my best.”

TRISH DEIM

Deim, a 29-year-old mother of two, shut down her in-home child care business in Meridian and will pursue coaching triathlon full time.

But like many coaches, she’s also a serious competitor with proven results. She won a triathlon last year and set a course record in Utah.

It’s her love of the sport that drives her. She has done about 50 events, ranging from sprint triathlons to full Ironman events.

“It’s a sport that you can really grow with,” she said. “It’s not marked by the young. Anyone can master it, and it depends on your motivation and your technique.”

To get started, Deim had to overcome her fear of water. At a young age, she nearly drowned after being thrown from a dock into a lake when she couldn’t swim. She had to be resuscitated and the incident haunted her for many years.

Early on in her seven-year career as a triathlete, she would “doggie paddle” and refuse to put her face in the water while swimming, putting her in the back of the field and often the last person out of the water.

After three years, she took swimming lessons and learned to put her face in the water. She had friends swim next to her in open water as her courage grew.

“I can now swim without having a panic attack,” she said. “I feel much more confident in the water. I am over that fear.”

KRISTIN SMITH

Talk about a smashing debut.

Smith, who had spent most of the past five years pregnant with her three children (now ages 5, 3 and 2), decided to enter the 2008 Ironman Boise race.

“It’s the first race I had done since all of the kids,” said Smith, who is a non-practicing lawyer originally from Seattle. “I was still carrying a lot of baby fat around in that one.”

Smith did well enough in Boise to qualify for last year’s world championships in Florida. She trained, and “got it together a little bit” and the 40-year-old won her age group in that elite event.

“It was fun,” she said.

Smith describes her training as “inconsistent and somewhat unique” because of the amount of work it is to raise three children, two of which don’t sleep through the night.

“I have to do most of my training in the morning before the sun comes up,” she said. “I have to be efficient and go for quality, not quantity.”

You can find Smith in her garage at 5 a.m. at least two times a week on her stationary bike in the dark. The light in the Smith’s garage makes a buzzing noise, and she doesn’t want to wake up her 3-year-old, whose bedroom is above the garage.

“I’ve got my iPod on, the lights off and I’m pedaling away,” Smith said. “It’s my version of fun I guess. The peace and quiet isn’t bad considering the energy level around here the rest of the day.”

BRYAN SHIFLETT

Shiflett practices emergency medicine at both St. Luke’s campuses, working from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The 36-year-old doctor’s unorthodox schedule – he works for seven days in a row, then gets a week off – has helped him improve his times and performances. He took 14th overall in his age group at the world championships last year in Clearwater, Fla., and he’s qualified for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, by virtue of a strong finish – 46th overall and ninth in his age group – at Ironman New Zealand.

“On the weeks I’m off and I’m preparing for an Ironman a typical week is between 30 and 35 hours of training,” Shiflett said. “When you’re not working, that’s easily accomplished. And when I go back to work the next week, it’s time to recover and rest and I do anywhere from 1Ý hours to 2 hours on those days.”

Shiflett, who has lived in Boise for almost two years since relocating from San Antonio, Texas, is extra excited about this year’s Ironman Boise race.

“I usually use these half-Ironmans as training days,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve specifically trained for a half-Ironman. I’ve changed my training regiment a little bit to accommodate the shorter distance a little bit. A little more intensity and a little less volume than I’m used to. It’s been challenging, and my body is feeling the effects of it. It’s either going to work out wonderfully or it’s going to be a complete disaster, but that’s part of the fun of it, learning about yourself and see what you’re capable of doing.”

Grand Prix #1 Dunkerque Triathlon 2009

“Meyruis. Lozere, June 26, 1977.  Hot and overcast.  I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together.  Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes.  Non-racers.  The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”  This opening paragraph from Tim Krabbe’s, ‘The Rider’ had me engrossed immediately.  The book went on and touched on situations that clarify my love of racing.  His book dances beautifully with the rhythm of life that can be mirrored in the accelerating pace of the race.
Dunkerque, Nord-Pas de Calais, France, May 24, 2009.  Sunny and breezy.  Warming up, I dive into the port for the first time, finding the water refreshing and the hundreds of jellyfish stunning in their translucent beauty.  After only 10 minutes I hear Fred signaling me to come in.  It’s time to head into the transition area.  In the French grand Prix there are 16 teams each with 5 athletes.  In order to enter all 5 athletes must be present and in uniform.  It’s hard to believe that a few days ago I was 8 time zones away.  I find myself wishing there was more time to warm up, knowing the body was going to be shocked at the effort;  suddenly, after 3 days of sitting, my energy was about to be maxed.   
The transition area is a buzz with athletes and coaches in friendly conversations.  The camaraderie among the triathletes is noticeable but once the race starts hearts will be crushed and those doing the crushing will reveal in their aerobic dominance. 
My team, St. Jean de Mont, won division II last year and hence, moved up to division I this year as the 15th ranked team.  Beauvais Tri, the number 1 ranked team, was announced as they walked out to the dock and choose the farthest right position.  Taking one of the last spots, near the middle, 80+ athletes were now lined up, ready to dive off the dock and froth up the sea.
Seconds after the last team took their spot, the horn sounded sending the swimmers into the bay.   Vying for a slight advantage going into a 180 degree turn after only 200 meters forced a sprint.  Even bad swimmers at this level can open up with a quick first 200 meters.  My dive was sound and popped me up just ahead of the field.  Coming into the turn I was just getting warmed up and in good shape while on Aurelien Raphael’s feet.
Still, most of the swimmers came into that corner within seconds of each other.  Suddenly, I was forced to slow down as the convergence created a jam.  Someone swam over me, I tried to get around the turn, knowing that as soon as we made the corner there would be open water and I’d be able to utilize my closing speed to accelerate into T1. 

The unthinkable happened; I distinctly felt my wetsuit unzip down the back.  The feeling of dread in the pit of my belly overwhelmed me.  Was my race over after barely 2 minutes?    A moment later I was around the corner and free to move.  But my wetsuit was cumbersome now, the shoulders and chest filling with water.  I stopped and vainly tried to zip my suit back up feeling precious seconds tick away.  It was going to take more time to zip it up, time I didn’t have. 
I abandoned my efforts to fix the wetsuit and swam on.  It was less than ideal, however, my form was strong and I worked my way into the front half of the race.  Trying to forget the extra drag I focused on negative splitting my swim.  Coming into T1 in 33rd place just 20 seconds down to the leaders, I was thankful to still be in touch with them.
T1 was 5 seconds short of being perfect but good enough to move up slightly.  Onto the 20 kilometer bike, an all out sprint insured a brutal 1st lap.  There were 8 turns each lap with two of those being 180 degrees.  The accelerations were constant.  Riders were looking to break-away and force any of the slower swimmers from every catching up. 
My riding skills were lacking, having focused on Ironman 70.3 training and riding on my ‘tri-bike’, I was not comfortable on either the road bike or the close contact riding.  Riding sporadically and jumping from wheel to wheel I remained in the front group. 
Feeling strong and riding on Will Clarke’s wheel I thought, “Sticking on his wheel will make things a lot easier.” Riding securely in the lead group of 30 or so riders in this 2nd lap of a 5 lap crit had me ever so complacent. I did not internalize the danger of the all out accelerations happening 3 to 5 times a lap. I blinked and the peloton was 5 meters up and pulling away. The wind, laughing at my strain to bridge, all but sealed my fate into riding in ‘no-mans-land’. 
Being crushed and blown out the back of a peloton is a double edged sword.  Not only are you exhausted having just been dropped and attempting to bridge back up but then your exposed to the wind.  You are working harder and going slower and it’s hard to stomach.  All you can do is grit your teeth.  For the next two laps that’s just what I did until midway thru the last lap the second large chase group swallowed me up. 
This group started the run about 90 seconds down to the leaders, a lifetime in a 5k.  The fastest runners from the group were off at a clip just past my pace.  Feeling lethargic, I worked on my foot speed knowing any kind of lapse in a 5k is too much.  Going into the last mile of the run I felt the best I had all day and noticeably picked up my pace.  It felt as if my body finally adjusted to a racing pace after days on my backside traveling.
Running in a sprint finish for 63rd place kept the crowd cheering and I was edged out by Mehdi Essadiq of Poland and team member of LAGARDERE PARIS RACING whose other 4 racers incidentally placed 1, 2, 6, and 7.  I congratulated Mehdi with an inner smile from a worthy race and a remarkable experience. 
The race unfolded in a humbling yet satisfying way.  After all, being in the race is what counts.  Being a racer, whatever form that takes in your life, is what it all boils down to.

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