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.