If anyone ever needed proof that Triathletes are hedonistically masochistic, this was their opportunity. Competitors were openly annoyed when the full distance was downgraded to a half due to the heat – however after the event it was not possible to find anyone who wasn’t very glad of this decision !!
The weekend had started with a sense of the unknown, for 5 members of the team it was their first time at this distance, and there was talk of a ‘no wetsuit’ swim – so the boys got up early on the Friday morning to give the river / lake a test swim without wetsuits. All were happy with the results as the 25C water made the swim a pleasant experience for all, although James was in and out pretty sharpish and Paul B decided that just looking at the water on saturday would suffice.
Although not huge the Expo had everything that was required of it, James had already made best friends with the bike repair guys (due to numerous issues) and Nick blew next months rent on new wheels, so the afternoon was all about testing out the set-up. Happily Valentin had already visited Vichy on a training weekend and knew the course (which in my book is cheating) so he took us around the first 25km, which had some cheeky little climbs to work the legs as it twisted through the forest, and it turned out to be a very valuable learning experience, also everyone agreed – it seemed to be getting a little warm…
“You are participating in the Triathlon Challenge Vichy in exceptional climatic conditions, the level 2 heatwave plan has been triggered”
This was the handout when we went to rack our bikes – I do not know what the level 2 heatwave plan is, so I looked it up Here – its a 32 page document – didn’t quite manage to finish it myself.
We met for breakfast at 6am the next morning, surprisingly everyone was in good spirits. James was a little more nervous than most, but then he had only done his first ‘decouvert’ triathlon a couple of months before so it had been a very steep learning curve for him (one which I a proud to say he has negotiated exceptionally well). Thanks to the enthusiasm and phenominal positive attitude of Paul S everyone left the hotel with a smile and ready for battle.
Kristine and family where already there waiting for us at transition when we arrived, I think I speak for all when I say that it is so important to have support at these races, and we were all very glad to see the little troublemakers running around. A few last minutes pumps of tyres, and of course last minute bike issues for James, and it was time to don those fluorescent caps. Those with exceptional physiques decided to only wear shorts, those that didn’t decided to use the tri-suit.
Getting into the water is always interesting as some attack and go straight in (Nick, Rich, Paul S), some go straight in then decide to go back to the side (Valentin) and some try to get as close to the line as possible without getting in then wait until the very last moment before they are forced to get into the water (Paul B) Not quite 25C at 8am but not too cold and everyone started well.
There were 2 groups of teams members getting out of the swim – those that can swim and those that can’t – due to a good swim by nick and a poor one from paul B the difference between first and last in the team getting out of the water was nearly 30mins !!
First transition was a bit of a mess, grabbing bags, sitting down in the tent, one of the guys took the wrong bag and only realised when he tried to put on shoes which blatantly weren’t his ! – the annoying plastic gloved person who wanted to slap thick suncream all over everyone and didn’t even bother to ask what SP factor we wanted, apparently Paul B asked for a kiss from his ‘sun cream’ lady, he didn’t get it, I don’t blame her. Onto the ride – attack the first hills as we had practised before, still not too hot – a good sign – surely ?
It was around about when we got out of the shady wooded section that the sun decided to ‘get up’ – but by that time the ride was into the ‘flat’ category, everyone was comfortably into their ‘aero positions’ and although good road conditions were somewhat to be desired in places, the refreshments areas were well placed and the countryside beautiful, which encouraged some to perhaps push a little too hard for a good bike time. Due to a last 3km detour down some very dubous roads the ride was over 90km and all were happy to arrive in transition, and as an added bonus – no need to rack your bike, it was simply taken from you and racked by the helpers – a very nice touch
So the run was what it all came down to, Nick was looking good some 17mins ahead of Val in 2nd place, Seb was marginally ahead of Rich battling it out for 3rd getting into transition 10mins later, then James and Paul S about 20mins after them, and finally Paul B a few more minutes behind but making up ground quickly after behing so far behind after the swim.
It was now we began to understand the effect of a level 2 heatwave, shade was at premium and everyone started off with a pace that they were not able to maintain for more than the first 5km. Down along the river across bridge then back up along the ‘hot side’ where there was no shade at all. Each water station appearing like an Oasis and for once the man with the water hose was the most popular attraction. Over the top bridge then down through the dusty car park, for what seemed like an eternity before getting to the half way point and repeating the ordeal.
Nobody hit a PB for half marathon in this heat, although Valentin was the strongest round gaining a few minutes on Nick but not enough to beat him to the line. Seb came in next – this years Ironman looking comfortable as he cruised over the line.
As usual Paul B showed that what he loses on the swim he makes up for on the run, overtaking 3 team mates to come in 4th. Having been so close to Seb, Rich died in the last 5km clearly due to the excessive heat and did well to just get in before James who put in a very impressive first performance. Honors of the day go to Paul S who shrugged off the fatigue, the heat and several inuries this season to be able to run the whole way round (we don’t count water station walks) and to cross the line with a huge smile and to the applause of all the other team-mates waiting at the finish. (except for richard who was on a drip!)
So, everybody round, T shirts and medals received, we made our way to the transition to find that both Paul and James’ tyres had gone down – according to the vounteers at the transition, temperatures had gotten up to 47C and tyres we exploding like popcorn in a microwave – it was at this point you heard the sigh of relief from the Full distance competitors, highly unlikely they would have made it round !! We all hurried back to the hotel to jump in the pool, although only Nick and James made it down – everyone else had had more than enough of the sun for one day !!