French Grand Prix #4 Paris Triathlon

Paris Grand Prix 2009

 Video -> Grand Prix de Paris – 30 août 2009

August 30, 2009 Paris, France 4:00 pm.

Ending the summer racing season with a bang in Paris’s Grand Prix Triathlon was a reward for years of hard work.  While enjoying every step along the journey, today, Kevin’s training would be put to the ultimate test.  The world’s fastest triathletes stood with their toes curling over the starting pontoon ready to dive into the Seine.  He studied his emotions and thoughts from a far or from somewhere deep within.  Each breath took minutes, his eyes focused on the subtle currents and reflections in the water.  He studied the tree line with leaves shuffling in the slight breeze.  He felt electric with energy.  His heart beat forcefully and slowly and his muscles relaxed loosely yet ready to contract on the spot.  Today was the culmination of a dream.  Knowing his thoughts and emotions; there were no thoughts, only joy.

March 23, 2003 Boise, Idaho. 

Like most weekends, Kevin spent heaps of time watching sports on TV.  This Sunday was a particularly long day with eight games of the 2nd round of NCAA’s March Madness.   Having won four national championships in NCAA swimming in his younger days, he was now living vicariously through these kids and reminiscing about the hard work, team play, and level of focus that comes with it.  Relating to the underdogs his heart rate jumped while 12th ranked Butler was giving 4th ranked Louisville all they could handle.  He was turning 28 in a couple days, moving him shockingly close to the ripe old age of 30.  This realization gave way to a sudden sense of urgency.  He considered himself active; playing water polo, whitewater kayaking, mountain biking, and skiing, yet adding 35 pounds to his frame from his standard 155 pounds in college was a sudden surprise.  Deep down, his soul yearned for a challenge and restlessness took over.  He did not want to pass his prime and be saying, “I could of, should of, would of…”  Lost in thought his mind drifted back to the TV as Butler started celebrating in grand fashion after having upset Mississippi State in a close first round game and now surpassing Louisville for a ticket to college basketball’s promised land; the Sweet 16.  It was exciting to see this team do the unthinkable and it no doubt paid tribute to hours of sweat and focused training.  While sitting on the couch seeing the joy in the Butler player’s faces, Kevin decided to stop being a spectator; it was time to feed the soul.

 

The next day, he went to Idaho Mountain Touring in what was to be an all day tour of the local bike shops to see what’s out there and get some price comparisons.  Thirty minutes later he was walking out of IMT with a striking yellow Trek Hilo TT.  It was a revelation to discover triathlon had its own style of bike; a time-trial bike (TT).  On Tuesday he turned 28 and celebrated with his first ‘road’ ride.  The speed was exhilarating.  Later that week the complexities of training for three sports at once sunk in.  He created a training log and started doing two-a-days (two practices a day) for the first time since March 1997.

May 8, 2004 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. 

A whirlwind tour of local triathlons culminated in a startling 5th place finish at USAT Nationals complete with a gratifying fastest swim split and qualifying slot to the World Championships in Madeira.  This turned out to be Kevin’s first trip off the North American continent and being accompanied by his fiancée made for a remarkable trip.  Again, having an excellent swim with the 2nd fastest overall time of 18:43 (Tejero Vakquez Ivan from Spain passed Kevin in the last turn after enjoying the draft for 1400m) and being one of only three athletes to break 19 minutes (Joseph Gonzalez from the USA went 18:58 in the 20 – 24 age group).  Unfortunately, leading out the swim in a World Championship puts you in an all together new level on the bike and he had the displeasure of seeing close to 30 cyclists whiz by on the steepest hills he’d ever encountered.  Yet, the trip and sharing the experience with Hortense made for an amazing experience.  Watching Bevan Docherty edge out Ivan Rana in a brutal sprint finish for the World title the next day only emboldened his love for this new sport.  Kevin made two goals that day; to continue traveling and to toe the line and compete with the best athletes in the world.

 

August 30, 2009 Paris, France 2:55 pm.

Diving into the Seine to warm up, Paris came alive in a new realm.  The city transformed forever.  Taking a few leisure strokes while revealing in the comfortable temperature, Kevin couldn’t help but be stunned by the beauty of the river.  Swimming upstream against the soft current along the shore he passed several house boats.  Across the wide river to the other side a patio full of hungry patrons enjoyed a late lunch.  The day beckoned Parisians to come outside while basking in the warm sun and Kevin now found himself in the most desirable spot in all of Paris.  A barrier had been breached where the resonance of the city fell away.  It was calm, peaceful, and quiet with only the sound of water moving.  He noticed cars crossing over a bridge far up the river and was happy to be disassociated from that world.  Swimming in the Seine, preparing for the difficult challenge of racing many of the world’s best athletes, Kevin was thankful for the moment and focused on staying in it.

With close to 90 thorough-breeds including over 10 Olympians and the prevailing Alistair Brownlee (winning every World Cup race he entered so far in 2009) the race promised to be brutally fast.  Unfortunately, Saint Jean de Monts being ranked 13th best team meant their spot along the start line was hugging the shore.  Swimming downstream in a weaker current and having to angle to the middle (where the top ranked teams where) to make the first buoy would prove influential.  Essentially, the teams on the left side of the start line had a head start.

   

The horn sounded and the weeks of envisioning a sound dive complete with a few dolphin kicks to propel Kevin ahead of his competitors vanished.  The combined thrust of 90 athletes diving into the water threw the pontoon backwards and he fell into the water with little impetus.  Coming up even, maybe slightly behind the field, he sprinted to get into some open water.  Being hindered by a swimmer on the left was difficult to cope with as these momentum killers slow you down and take up valuable energy.  Three groups started to form with the left side (middle of the river) taking the lead.  Saint Jean de Monts group on the far right had to start merging left to make the turn buoy.  Merging into a sea of froth made for tricky maneuvering.

Coming into the 180 turn is the most critical part of the swim.  The first 10 are barely impeded while the main group slows to a crawl trying to squeeze 40 athletes at once around the best line.  Not being in the elusive top 10, Kevin’s speed slowed as athletes hindered him from all directions.  Coming out of the corner he utilized a strong six-beat kick to start moving towards the front.  Swimming up current while other athlete’s endurance suffered, it was time for him to exploit his strength.  He began passing swimmers and felt his goal of finishing the swim in the top 10 and making a possible break-away in reach.

 

Exiting the water to start the 400 meter run to transition spikes the heart rate; the body suddenly upright.  Aurelien Rapheal ran by and hovered just in front of Kevin entering transition.  Rapheal, finishing 2nd in the swim at Hamburg’s World Cup, was good company to be with.  Getting to Saint Jean de Monts bike rack all Kevin had to do was strap his helmet on and he was off and in contact with the first group.  But his fingers betrayed him as he fumbled with the strap not once, not twice, or even three times, finally on the fourth attempt it clicked.  Aurelien got out of T1 eleven seconds faster (in 11th position) because of the mishap.  An eternity. 

Accelerating like a thief being chased by a hand-seeking man with a sword, Kevin operated in another dimension.  A pack had formed on the horizon about 150 meters ahead while his solo effort would have to match that of many.  The gap had to be closed and it had to be now.  Months of disciplined training poured out of the crank with each pedal stroke.  A calm determination focused on fierce breathing and a strong heart beat.  The muscles in the legs stayed supple until the exact moment a formidable firing was needed.  He enjoyed it.  The speed, the effort, the warm sun, the cool breeze, the sound of whipping through the wind, the challenge of chasing down a pack of many of the world’s best triathletes.  He was going to succeed because he loved what he was doing. 

A couple minutes later he enjoyed the ease of effort while sustaining the same speed of being in the pack.  Looking around the small group of ten bikers he was in some good company.  However, he noticed there were some key players missing from the group.  A lead group of nine had gotten away.

French Grand Prix’s are a team event.  Five racers start but only three count in the results.  Further, only one non-European is allowed to score.  Saint Jean de Monts had two Americans on the team and only one of them was going to count in the standings if both placed in the top three for the team.  For this reason Kevin’s main objective was  to domestique for the team.  If someone got a flat, they get his wheel; if the bike had a problem they get his bike.  He was also to speed up or slow down a pack depending on who from the team was in it.

Only Alfred and Kevin made the second pack so Kevin sat in for the next two laps awaiting a development or instructions from his coaches.  In the 3rd lap the third chase group bridged up to the second and now Nicolas and Ethan were together with their teammates as well as about 50 other racers.  Having most of the team together, Kevin could now drive the pace to limit the loss to the first pack.  For much of the 4th lap he pressed the pace, even pulling away from everyone.  Upon seeing his gap he eased off the pedals and coasted.

The pack was loaded with world class athletes and too many fast runners saving their legs.  Apart from those lead 9 racers this Grand Prix was coming down to a total foot race.  The last lap was a dangerous one with everyone surging to the front but not wanting to be on the front.  It would have been easy enough to get there but the timing had to be just right to get around the swath of cyclists.  Kevin managed to get in the top part of the group and have a much improved transition.  Guys like Tim Don, Sebastian Rank, Tony Moulai, Filip Ospaly, Steffen Justus and Gregory Rouault (to name a few) took off at a scorching pace on their way to sub 15 minute 5k times!  Alfred passed him a couple minutes into the run and then Ethan (the other American) passed around the 1k mark essentially ending Kevin’s race as a potential scorer.

 

Nicolas was now the third man for Saint Jean de Monts as far as the scoring went.  Kevin held up so that he might pace and physical push Nicolas to the finish.  He did this for about 2k until Nicolas had had enough and asked Kevin to, “Go”.  With a sublte surge he went away but the will to fight to the finish was no longer there.  Instead just lingering in front of Nicolas, quietly urging him forward.

He had competed with the best athletes in the world in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  Kevin crossed the finish with a soul felt smile.   

Results

A video from last year’s race: Paris Grand Prix 2008

 

Duathlon Sallertaine

Transcending Fears

Let us define fear in this context; ‘an unpleasant feeling of anxiety or apprehension caused by the presence or anticipation of danger’.

Saint Mary’s Day 2009

Sallertaine, France August 15, 3:43pm After just pumping up my rear tire I was dismayed to see it go flat.  With only 15 minutes to the race, it became a mad dash to find out why, and fix it.  Ten minutes later it seemed the valve extender on the deep dish wheel was letting out air; unscrewing it after filling up the tire should be the ‘fix’.  The race will be commencing any second and I had yet to visit the transition area. 

Heading to transition with everyone else lining up at the start line forced me to hurry.  Two elderly gentlemen would not let me pass.  I searched out Dede, “Tu avez mon nombre?” Repeating a few times before he understood my poor accent, he smiled and supplied said number.  Then, I asked Hortense if she could attach it to a race belt for me.  This got me through transition and I took off my flip flops and put on my running flats half expecting the race gun to go off.  But wait, another official came up to me and explained that I could not use a race belt and it was an obligation to pin the number to my shirt.  Starting to get flustered, in my haste, the number tore while taking it off the race belt.  Hortense and I pinned the number to my wet and sweaty shirt.  Pheeew, there was no doubt I would make the start.

“Who needs a warm up when it is close to 40C” I convinced myself.  Without thinking about it, I was about to face one of my fears; Running fast in heat and humidity.

    

Pushing your limits is one reason we all race, no one ever thinks they will push themselves to death.  It used to be so for me.  A trend was developing in humid races, hurting me to the point of needing medical attention right after.  My 5th ‘occurrence’ of running hard in humidity landed me in St. Anthony’s Hospital. A painful and traumatic experience to not remember the last 2 miles of a 6 mile run only to have your brain shut off, sending you to the pavement, within sight of the finish.  I survived but my will under similar circumstances was understandably defeated.  Yet, the human spirit is persistent and amazing in its ability to overcome our fears.  These challenges enrich our lives and make us better.   

Sallertaine 4:22pm The pavement radiated heat and the breezes did little to alleviate the roasting sensation.  This settled the pace to a degree but the lead group had dwindled down to five.  We turned into the field for the second time and we ran single file in the barely distinguishable goat trail.  In the first lap I was stunned to be tramping through a field leaping over clumps of grass while running on uneven ground and scanning for the best line.  I had not expected the adventure through a farmers pasture but enjoyed the surprise.  Now, in the second lap, running single file I contemplated what to do about my race number flapping; being torn off from the wind and hanging on by one pin.  “Nothing” I thought, “there’s nothing to be done while running like this.”  The intensity of the pace and the heat brought me back to navigating the farmer’s field. 

“It’s bloody hot” I said aloud to the other lead runners as we came to a narrow bridge over a ditch.  The bridge being made of just one bowed board of wood made for a tricky passing. 

Entering transition on the heels of some very good runners, namely Adam Fitzakerley and Kristian McCartney, put me in great position starting the bike.

In Saint Jean de Monts team van in route to Sallertaine 3:20pm  Adam, Kristian and I joked about some unfortunate encounters with French referees.   “My streak ended last week with the aquathon” I explained to them as we drove to the start of the duathlon.  The first 5 races in France have all had serious ‘mishaps’, from red cards and wrong turns, to wetsuits being unzipped and stop-&-go penalties.  Some of them my fault, others just part of racing.  Finally, my 6th race in Jard sur Mer had no mistakes.  “I’m starting a new streak today”. 

Sallertaine 4:34pm The head referee held out his hand and blew his whistle at me.  “Oh no, the race number”, I thought, forgetting the not so little problem. I protested but he insisted my number be displayed properly before I continue the race.  Already 20 to 30 seconds behind I let my bike fall to the ground needing two hands for the delicate surgery of pinning my wet and torn race number to my shirt.  It made me angry to have to disrespect my bike like that.  It seemed crazy to be standing in place carefully undoing the safety pins, trying not to prick myself.  I hurried too much and focused too little on the art of number pinning while racing.  Finished, I spread my arms out in jest.  The ref shook his head no.  I had failed miserably,  not only was the number upside down it was backwards showing nothing.  Dismayed, I picked up my bike and nicely set it down against a guard rail.  It didn’t make me feel much better, it just took more time.  Thinking out loud I said, “This is ridiculous”.  Hortense calmed me down and eventually I pinned my number correctly.  After what felt like a lifetime, and wondering if I should even continue the ref let me start biking. 

A few miles into the bike ride it became obvious that it was only a matter of time before my race number became litter on the side of the road.  I tore it off and put it in my back pocket.  Riding suspicious of the many referees, kept me crouching low on my bike whenever I saw one.  I felt like an outlaw. 

 Abandoning my original plan to ease into the bike on this hot day, I rode hard right from the start.  Riding somewhere in the top 15 I tried to pick off some bikers and focus on at least getting a good effort in.  Race situations are outstanding for keeping your skills sharp and boosting your performance for later.  Honing in on my pedal stroke I drank lots of fluids and flew in the heat.

Drueling from the heat

In Saint Jean de Monts team van in route to Sallertaine 3:25pm  Being from a swimming background I’ve had to learn, be patient, and train smart to bring my running up to speed with my peers.  “This is less than an ideal situation for me, a duathlon, with good runners, in hot and humid weather, kind of a nightmare situation for me” I joked with the guys in the van while we kidded around about winning the ham that went to the top 3 finishers.  To be honest, in the past, fear would creep into the situation, today, I felt up for the challenge. 

Sallertaine 5:12pm My cycling legs showed up and turned my race around in a hurry.  Within about 13k of a 30k bike ride I had caught all but the lead biker.  Even a driver that got on the course, drove too slow and then stopped the car, forcing me to come to a screeching halt didn’t bother me.  It was a chance to work on some accelerating. 

 

Getting off the bike and running out of transition to start the second 5k run left me wondering if I would have another encounter with the ref.  After all, my number was in my back pocket.  He was waiting for me.  I smiled and took the number out of my back pocket and he let me go!  Wow, what was all the fuss about earlier?  Ah well, time to tackle a hot run.  I felt fit, fast and in control.  Although with the hot temperatures it was good to be running solo at exactly my comfortably fast pace.  Just two more times through the goat field and I could cool off and maybe win some ham.

That night the crew celebrated at the Coliseum with good spirits, fireworks, and ice cream.  Saint Mary’s day is a big holiday in France and the crowds were out late; we enjoyed the sea-breeze-summer-night-air with them. 

 

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Jard sur Mer Aquathon


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Jard sur Mer Aquathon, France 3:30pm August 9. Dede drove Adam, Hortense and I about an hour south to Jard sur Mer, a village town in Vendee right on the coast.  Feeling spent from a tough week of training both Adam and I opted out of the scheduled 3.5 hour bike ride in order to perform at a higher level for the race.  Our race did not start until 6:30 pm so we had a lazy lead up, lounging near the house all day. 

It should be called the Runathon with 3 short dips in the bay to cool off.  The format is three swim/run combinations with a short (10 min) break between.  1st race: 200m swim / 1.5k run (one lap on swim & run course).  2nd race: 200m swim / 3k run.  3rd race 400m swim / 3k run (two laps on swim & run course).  Worth noting is the 110m run sprint to the water to start off each race.  Wanting to work on my run ability, this proved the perfect race.

Jard sur Mer 6:30 pm.  Starting the first 110 sprint to the water it was all I could do to keep the horde from running me over.  Everyone seemingly overzealous to blast off from the word go.  After 100 meters and being engulfed by the crowd we all took a hard left turn and ran down a boat ramp to the water’s edge.  Some navigated this corner better than others, I took it conservatively and still nearly pushed Adam over while I drifted wide through it.  “Sorry!” I yelled as I scanned the water for a safe place to dive.  Six or seven athletes were already churning up the bay.  Diving left of the group; a few streamlined dolphin kicks put me near the front.  Managing to get behind one of the Roy brothers by the first turn around the pace was comfortable while drafting the corner.  Coming back I made a move to pass but he held tough until the last turn where I edged him out.

Running up the boat ramp heading back to transition slowed the progress and spiked the heart rate.  I had a good transition but Adam smoked it and actually left just before me to start the run.  We took off at a blistering pace.  Adam is an excellent runner; I knew this would be an opportunity to move me closer to that status.

Forest’s of Saint Jean de Monts August 6, 10:49am.  The smell of fresh pine permeated the air; the rain refreshed the land and my body and my breathing played a strong chord with the beat of my feet as I flowed over rolling terrain.  Breathing in copious amounts of air filled my lungs with just enough to keep my body hurtling through the forest.   It was the freshest of sea breezes, eternal in its revitalization.  The pine needles on the trail softened the blow of my feet striking the earth and sometimes soft sand would absorb much of my forward progress.  The trees flew by, yet finer details of many were taken up by my senses.  The bark, the green needles, the leaves, the girth, the ancient age, the roots in the trail and the smell.  I heard bird calls, saw rain falling from the clouds and delighted at the site of vibrant flowers.  The subtle but somehow intense smell of the sea and pine needles mesmerized my soul and I ran on.  I ran hard.  I ran fast. 

Jard sur Mer 6:38 pm.  Coming down the finishing stretch my body flew on two legs like few get to experience.  I felt fortunate to have kept Adam just a few seconds in front of me.  The run had been a breakthrough for me and I tasted blood as proof.

Doing a mental check of the body I realized just how hard these next two races were going to be.  Intense, flat out efforts.  Perfect test for a body, mind and soul in training.

Just ten minutes later after several cups of cola and water we were in another mad dash to the water’s edge.  Fairing a little better but still diving into the water behind several athletes, I was able to pull into the lead before the turn around.  Feeling strong but not fast I exited the water with a small gap.  This time, just getting out of transition before Adam.  It wasn’t until cresting a hill and taking a sharp descending turn that he accelerated away from me.  Starting the second lap he was still holding that same gap but he increased it again on the same corner.  Adam finished a solid first place and I came in with another genuine run about fifteen seconds back.

In a routine now, I walked over to the refreshment stand and hydrated while coaxing my body into a quick recovery.

Forest’s of Saint Jean de Monts August 6, 11:03am.  Nearing the end of a broken six kilometers of fast running I had IT.  Yes… IT.  That thing which we all yearn for.  The reason people climb mountains, base-jump off bridges, go to church, kite board, pray, dance, take photos, surf the web, kayak…that natural state, most of us have lost.  The state of connectedness with something incalculable and permanent something that, strangely enough is essentially you and yet much greater than you.  Sometimes we get forced into the moment…the ever present moment to a degree that brings beauty, love, creativity, joy, and peace.  Many endurance athletes refer to it as ‘The Zone’.  Running through the forests along the coast of the French Atlantic seemed an intimate and ancient experience.  Running this fast ensures a high degree of suffering, yet I was thriving.  The air was alive, the forest was alive, I was alive and running for my life.  A heightened state of awareness, feeling my surroundings and my body.  Yes, my body was tired, suffering even, but accepting it gave me energy to keep going. 

Taping into this kind of power is easy, quiet your mind, accept your situation and be present.  This simple formula has no end to its depth.

Jard sur Mer 6:52 pm.  It took almost the whole first lap of the last swim for me to take the lead.  Overcoming a lethargic dash to the water, being tired from the first two races was the culprit.  I enjoyed the clean water on the 2nd lap and Adam and I had a sizeable gap starting the last run.  We both kept the pace honest and finished up much like the 2nd race.  I won all the swims and finished 2nd in each race while Adam won every race with the fastest run.  I am thrilled with how I ran and appreciate having a teammate push me to the limits.  We are both going to have some very good races in the coming weeks.  The short intense races are just the ingredient needed for our success in French Grand Prix racing.

Better quality photos HERE

Running For My Life

Today, an Aquathon has me primed for racing again.  It feels like a long time since my last event but, actually, I only had one weekend away from racing.  Without a race, training picked up.  My focus is on the Paris Grand Prix on August 30.  A 750m, 20k, 5k triathlon.  Calling it a ‘sprint triathlon’ is a misnomer.  Ask any swimmer training for anything at or over a 400m or a runner training for a 5k.  They will assure you, they are not training for ‘sprinters’ events.  The ‘sprint’ triathlon takes an hour (for pros); give or take 5 min depending on the course.  Racing for that long takes massive amounts of endurance.  Yes, there is power, anaerobic threshold, and sprinting involved but the underlying limiter is endurance.  Hence, this last week was my biggest training week ever!  I’m in my 6th year doing triathlons and before that swam for a national champion level swim team as a distance swimmer and never have I done 28.5 hours of training in one week.  All this, for a ‘sprint’ triathlon. I am 34 years old, yet I feel like I am 18 again.

The journey towards the grand prix race is invigorating.  A challenge that keeps me on my toes every step of the way.  When 90 accomplished athletes take the starting line, there is no getting away.  Javier Gomez came close at Tours winning by 20 seconds.  Yet, for the majority of his race it was shoulder to shoulder, tooth and nail, cardio power fighting.  Apart, from Gomez, the top 20 all came to the finish within seconds of each other.  There, in lies, the true meaning of pushing your limits.  Unless you are one of the most dominant triathletes on the planet, you are guaranteed to be pushed to the max, with 5 or 6 guy’s right there with you.  Mental clarity, focus & belief become paramount.  You will reach your max and then be asked, “Do I have any more?”

Enjoying the process is my theme, whatever the situation; enhancing the moment and accepting it for what it is.  Much joy lies in this realm.  Riding, running, and swimming for hours a day with always more to do can lead to anticipation of finishing this or that set.  But the true power lies in being present.  This is something swimming has done for me for years and its one reason I love doing it…no matter the crappy pool or the choppy ocean surf or the super strong currents.  Getting in and focusing can actually turn what looks to be a bad workout into the best you’ve had.

Sometimes the most unexpected situations bring on intense tranquil and soothing moments.  Many routes out of Saint Jean de Monts are fun for biking but I’m getting hooked on riding to Noirmountier  Riding in the rain earlier this week, late in the day and near dusk helped keep me focused.  It was a cool, windy and rainy day.  It was comforting to just lay in the house and read with my feet up and my body warm and dry.  But I had a 3 hour bike ride scheduled.  Waiting for as long as possible at 6:30 pm I set off on my ride.  The clouds were dark and stormy, the wind was gusty, the sun was signing off on the day and the rain went from slight drizzle to serious down pour.  The ride was outstanding.  I attribute this to the elements keeping me in tune with my immediate surroundings.   

The week has been full of wonderful events and lots of hard training that just feels fun.  I’m stunned to have trained so much while feeling so good.  It will be fun to move my body over land and sea in a few hours… as fast as I can.

Running for my life…

Here’s to running for yours too…      

L’Aiguillon sur Mer Triathlon

Race Briefing

L’Aiguillon, France, is situated in the bay just above La Rochelle on the Atlantic coast, the drive took us about 2 hours from Saint Jean de Monts.  Our race did not start until 4pm and arriving at 1pm gave us plenty of time to relax.  We enjoyed some down time, picnic style, around the lake with many of our fellow competitors.  

With the temperature rising, jumping into the refreshing lake water seemed like the best thing to do.  Taking the plunge, the immediate taste of salt water surprised me; but of course, one could easily toss a stone into the bay from here.  Feeling like a kid at the park, I swam my warm up.

At the start line I conferred with several officials and competitors as to what route the swim took.  Getting three different answers, I asked again and again looking for some conformity or authority.  I found it when the motor boat did the course just before we started.

Feeling a little too relaxed I ran into the water with the group but within 100 meters pulled into the lead with one other swimmer.  We drag raced side by side to the turn buoy, where I made my move.  I love a strong negative split.  Speeding up I turned right to head for the finish.  Pierre, the other lead swimmer did not follow but some other unlucky swimmer did.  Asking the kayaker which way, it became obvious when he shouted and pointed to another buoy.  Ouch…I had just swam 25m off course and now had to go back.  Now, barely in the top 10, I sprinted to regain some places.  Making up some good time with a hard effort put me back in 2nd not too far off Pierre.

Charging onto the bike I made it a point to take the lead before putting my cycling shoes on.  I wanted to make the first group hard to get into and so pushed the pace.  After 1 kilometer, three riders made the lead pack with another rider looking like he would bridge up.  With Adam, my teammate, in the group race tactics favored us.

 

Having an intense training week did not leave me fresh for this race.  Using this race to continue improving my accelerations played out well at each turn around.  Getting out of the saddle and sprinting at all three helped develop some speed for the next Grand Prix in Paris.

The group stopped working well together seeing our lead grow to a comfortable margin.  Adam and I used this to our advantage.  Attacking after Pierre had done some work (with the other guy not ever doing any), Adam held up not wanting to bridge the other three up to a teammate.  In the last 3 to 4k my gap grew to between 20 and 30 seconds but I maxed out my legs in the effort.  I knew this would be helpful for Adam because this would keep him from having to do any work and force the other two to bridge up.

Having a sizable lead coming into T2, it seemed that I would be running in the lead for a while.  Wrong, Adam came up like a freight train, rumbling in behind me almost immediately.  He sped off to victory at a superior running tempo and I did my best to hold off the other two.  However, Pierre’s swiftness overtook mine.  He actually kept Adam honest to the finish while I finished comfortably behind them.

Thanks Hortense for the photos and support.  Also thanks to Mom & Dad who had to leave right after the race (and long award ceremony) to drive 5 plus hours back to Paris to catch their plane. 

Results 

Tours Triathlon

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.

RESULTS

Video French Grand Prix #3 Tours

Watching Fabian Cancellara’s TT did not make me faster in the Le Mans Triathlon.

The day before races can be tough when rest is the prescription of the day.  Not so when entertainment is available in abundance.  With the Tour de France opening up in Monaco with a challenging TT I was captivated to French TV all day.  After watching talented rider after rider tear up the course the favorites started taking their shot.  Seeing Fabian Cancellara obliterate the field by 20 seconds was stunning.  I put my hand on the TV while they showed replay after replay of his dominance in hope of absorbing some.  I scrutinize his form for any secrets that I might incorporate.  Yes, this would surely make me faster for tomorrow’s Triathlon in Le Mans.

Knowing little about this race other than the competition would be good with Stephan Bignet, Gregory Bouttier, and Christian Mac Cartney and that it was a river swim, I was excited for the new experience.  The woman got a 10 minute head start and I watched Hortense go off with the front of the pack.  It was several minutes later before they let the men enter the water.  The refs ever present in their authority.  The men packed the entire width of the river a few scores deep while I lined up in front on the left side.  You couldn’t see far down the river because of a quick left turn followed by a right.  The gun went off and I was challenged by Bignet and Allen for the lead.  My speed in the beginning proved to be enough as I took the lead and kept the pace honest the rest of the way.  It was cool to see the crowd running and fast walking along the river bank to keep up and see the swim take shape.  I did my best to make the spectators run. 

It always feels good to be leading a race but there was some unnecessary fatigue.  Concentrating on my form kept me in front but Bignet and Allen were enjoying a comfortable draft.  The three of us had gaped the rest of the field.  That surprised me a little being that the down river swim was more likely to keep everyone close. 

Thinking ‘Cancellara’ I hoped on my bike and took off like the famed Tour de France rider.  Well, OK, maybe if you add another 200 watts to my output.  Especially, considering my legs and lungs did not seem up for the task of speed.  A short ways into the bike leg Bignet took hold of the race.  Five miles later and Bouttier rode by staying on the horizon for a while before pulling out of sight. 

Allen and I rode in third and fourth the rest of the way.  I rode in third the majority of the time and always felt like my effort was too easy or to slow.  However, my body didn’t want to be talked into anymore than it was already putting out.  It’s funny; leading into this race I would have thought my race would be better than the week before in Saint Jean de Mont.  It was not to be, the sun, and travel, and training had enhanced my fatigue.

In the last half of the first lap on the bike I saw Hortnese in front of me.  It revived me to see her and made the suffering less so.  It was good to see her so close to the front of the race, riding in 5th position.

With about 5 kilometers to go I entered a round-about and turned down the wrong street.  Oblivious to my mistake I pedaled on.  Allen followed me.  Then, something didn’t feel right and the road looked unfamiliar.  I heard some shouting, horns, and whistles.  Allen had realized the mistake and was turning around.  Augh!  I turned around and 200 meters ahead I saw Mac Cartney correctly navigate the round-about. 

The mistake had cost me effort and time and put me in 5th position.  Miffed, I charged ahead, caught back up and passed the two riders with less than a kilometer to go. 

Christian was first out of T2 and his pace was too much for me to match.  Allen and I hung around each other a while before I faded.  And faded, and faded, and faded.  The humidity was stifling me and I could barely jog.  It surprised me to be so completely exhausted but I trudged on as best I could. 

Down the finishing chute I let the bad feelings and suffering wash itself away and managed a smile.  The crowds are really something in France.  A race that stared out well and went sour none-the-less rewarding in its experience.

Starting in on several cups of coke, water, OJ…like 10 Hortense was already in the finishing area.  She explained to me how she was DQ’d.  Her race belt had fallen off during the bike, which must be on you at all times for the bike and run.  A ref found it on the side of the road.  Coming into the second lap on the run a ref held up her ‘found’ race belt and gave her a red card.  To be honest, if her second lap was going to be anything like mine was…she was fortunate.  But she was hungry to do the second lap anyway and disappointed.  I had to talk her out of running it, ‘just for fun’.

Results

Photos

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.