Chantilly Le Condé 800m / 40km / 8km (or was it 1000 / 45 / 9?)
Race Reporter: Bettina, the pilot and Stéphanie, the stoker
How did it all start?
Stéphanie : well I have a visual impairment and it turned out rather quickly that I wouldn’t be able to cycle on my own, not safe enough, so I started considering cycling in Tandem, with the help of several members of the club and of the ISVHN , an association which helps blind and partially sighted people to ride. I didn’t expect to have so many people showing interest, and I certainly didn’t expect Bettina to stick to the idea and ask me week after week “when are we going to have our tandem session?” But she did, and there we were, registered for the Condé of Chantilly
Bettina: When Stephanie talked about doing a triathlon on a tandem for the first time, I was immediately hooked. I went on tandem rides with my dad when I was younger, but it was me the person behind. Also riding a tandem wasn’t completely new to me, doing a triathlon together is a whole different story. What motivated me most was Stephanie’s determination throughout the whole journey.
Stéphanie: We started training with an old mtb tandem, which was too small for us, and then, ISVHN lent us our road bike hybrid tandem – which we called Georgette – and we had a few training sessions with other Expats, that’s where I kind of started to feel I was becoming a real triathlete. You know, waking up at 6 on a Sunday morning to go cycling then swimming then cycling back and all of this without a beer…
We chose Chantilly because this race has already welcomed disabled people in the past; they were very helpful, they answered all my questions and were very friendly.
For our preparation we didn’t really have a training plan or specific knowledge on how to do a triathlon together. Lots of improvising and learning by doing. We tried to fit in as many tandem rides as possible as this was certainly the most technical part, but also did some swim sessions attached.
With the other girls we also went to Chantilly the week before to check out the bike course. Being less agile on a tandem it gave me more confidence already knowing the road.
Stephanie: So there we were at 5am on Saturday, sitting in the RER toward Chantilly with Georgette. When arriving, I found the staff quite friendly; we had a dedicated area right next to the bike exit in the transition zone, which made it easier for us.
Bettina: Race day felt surprisingly very different from when I’m doing races on my own. Normally before a race I have this moment when I get quite nervous and my body starts hurting everywhere, asking myself why I do this.
Being a pilot puts you in a position where you adapt your race to the other person, maybe a bit like a pacer.
Stéphanie: the swim in Chantilly … what to say… muddy? Awful? Well, everyone who experienced it knows what I am talking about. We were staying next to the water, 15°C outside, water temperature 18°C. Rather chill. I was starting to worry a lot, when something great happened: Mareike turned up to cheer us up ! That brought a lot of energy to me, I felt so much better!
We had to be tied together; we had trained a bit at Cergy and Torcy, but when the race started, it was a whole different experience: with people over passing us, pulling on the rope, all the algae getting tangled to it as well, I had to stop swimming to take them off approx. every 5 minutes at that was becoming quite heavy… But we made it out in less than 29 mins!
Bettina: Swim? Or should I call it mudding? After my first experience in questionable water in Enghien les Bains I didn’t want to do other races in bad water. Well and there I was in the worst mud you can imagine. As you say in German “Augen zu und durch” (Carry on regardless!), with zero sight doesn’t make a difference swimming with your eyes closed.
Stéphanie: My favourite part, and the one for which we trained the most together with Bettina. After a rather slow T1, off we went for two laps and a total of 43km. The ride was great, I felt very good, but I wasn’t pushing too much as I was very worried about the run. Bettina did a great job at pacing. For the whole ride I was sure we were last and she kept reassuring me telling me that lots of bikes were still there when we picked ours.
Bettina: If you want to stick out in a race and have lots of people cheering for you, do it on a tandem. All the support we received from the crowd when they saw us was just amazing and gave us lots of motivation. The bike course was also very good for tandem, not too hilly.
Stéphanie: I was very worried about the run, 8k is still a lot for me (especially when it’s actually 9k) and I had never run tied to Bettina before. And again, she did a great job, poor Bettina, we were way too slow for her, but still I was dying behind her, she kept entertaining me, we were talking about the fries I would eat at the finish line, about the next triathlons that we would do together (she was talking, I was swearing) … She kept smiling all the way, pushing my limits, but never too much, and we had again Mareike cheering us up all the way!
Bettina: I knew that the run will be the hardest for Stéphanie and I tried to keep her spirits up throughout the run. We didn’t walk once, and I was very proud. Normally I suffer during the run, taking a slower pace was great, love running slow.
Stéphanie: Bettina and I crossed the finish line together in 3h27min13, I felt overwhelmed, that’s it! I have done it, no quitting, and no walking! And it turned out we were not last! This was a great experience for me, I really didn’t expect to enjoy so much, I now look forward to more training, and more races, new objectives and challenges coming up!
Bettina: Pure pleasure, hugging, happiness tears and watermelon.
Stéphanie: And fries.