FrenchMan OFF, October 10, 2020 (XL)
Race Reporters: Guillaume
[2020 FRENCHMAN OFF – RACE REPORT OF MY SECOND IRONMAN]
Hi everyone! Two week ago I completed my second Ironman-distance triathlon and this time decided to write my very first race report hoping it can help some of you: this is my first, please be indulgent!
Saturday October 10th, 2020, Hourtin (an hour away from Bordeaux, in the Médoc world-famous wine region).
7H00 my best “Ante Up – M.O.P” wake-up alarm rings. Short breakfast (muesli with almond milk and a toast of peanut butter-jelly with a red bull on the go) and we’re off to the start.
Swim: 8h17 and it is ON! Along with 30 other indomitable 2020 Frenchman OFF participants, I dive into the cold waters of the Hourtin Lake and see quite early that I am taking the lead. At about 400m, another guy takes the lead: for the rest of the race, I’ll let him do the job and stick ~10m behind him to avoid losing energy looking for the buoys. I keep track on my watch and see I’ll make it under 1h, my goal (given I had only trained twice in the last 8 months!). Satisfied.
Swim time: 56’56.
T1: As this is an “off” race (unofficial as the official one was cancelled due to covid), Constance, my partner, is waiting for me on the other side of the lake, prepared the bike and brought my T1 bag. Off goes the swimsuit and off we go for what I hoped to be a 6-hour ride. T1 time: ~4min.
Bike: After one hour at a strong 35km/h average, I feel good and am realizing I must be on the virtual podium (I had no idea where were the others as most participants had decided to end the swim at a shorter and more convenient point, yet not the one of the original race course which I absolutely wanted to follow). At around km70, still at 35 km/h average and still feeling good, I miss a second time a turn and when coming back onto the course am joined by another competitor, David: we’ll be completing the final 110km together, whilst respecting the 5m non-drafting rule for the sake of the race’s original rules. The rest of the ride consists of long straight lines, with some headwinds towards the end: I’ll be staying on the largest chainrings during the entire 180km.
Bike time: 5h24. My fastest bike ride of more than 40k, ever.
T2: I had told Constance I would take 5h30 at the very (very) best. When arriving at the transition zone 6min before the announced best time, she isn’t here: I try calling her, but no answer. The very moment I am about to start the marathon bare feet, I set my watch and check a last time… and there she is, sprinting with my T2 bag! I put on the shoes, trade watches to have one with full batteries and I’m off! T2 time: ~7min.
Run: Starting the run, I know I’m probably in the top 5. I start without checking my watch but realize after 2k that I’m running at ~4min/k, so decide to keep regularly checking my speed to stay at ~5min/k -for the beginning at least. I also miss a turn (one of the only three of the course…) and lose some time stopping for an obstructing natural need… I start my 3rd lap encouraging the competitor in first place believing it is his last lap: when he tells me it is also his third lap and is therefore only 2min ahead of me, my legs starts flying and the average drops from 5min/k to 4:30. I’m on absolute fire. 5k later, I am ahead of the second by ~2min and finish the race pacing at ~5min/k maintaining the lead.
Emotions take over in the final kilometers, but I keep focused until the very final meters as I am not absolutely sure that I am first. A few meters before the finish line, I finally take out my French flag, my habit on my biggest achievements. When Ben, aka Super Frenchman, the race organizer, announces on the finish line that I have won the 2020 Frenchman OFF triathlon, more than 1 hour better than expected and under the symbolic 10 hour mark, words are not strong enough to express my joy, even today writing this race report! Final time : 9h57 !
A bit of context, for the curious ones…
The way summer 2020 was planned, I’d been going hitchhiking across Europe during the Euro 2020 to follow France. I had done the Embrunman (XXL or “ironman”-distance triathlon, 3800m D+ on the bike course, 400 on the marathon, achieved in 13h13) in 2019 and loved it but being in August, I was looking for a race starting earlier and the Frenchman seemed just perfect, those who know me well know how much I love anything marketed “France”… I couldn’t resist.
Covid came along, rescheduling Frenchman to October 10th and the Euro to 2021: Embrunman seemed late enough so I signed up again, and trained, and trained… and got the news 2 weeks before that the event would not take place. Shattered. A few months later, the exact same thing happened with Frenchman: two weeks before, whilst on my first triathlon of the season in preparation of the Frenchman (Deauville, M-distance, 24th in 2h08 and a surprisingly strong 36’39 on the final 10k) Frenchman was cancelled.
This time I was not going to be let down after all the hours of hard work I had been through. With a group of 30 indomitable athletes we decided to organize it ourselves: some helped with marking the 180km bike course, others helped with logistics and one even helped setting his boat halfway across the lake so we could see where to go whilst crossing the lake. For my part, I contacted the legendary organizer Ben Sanson with little hope of any reply and although I cannot publicly say to what extent he has helped (as the race was not allowed, his official support was not allowed either), his support has been definitely memorable for both the athletes and himself who was surprised to see the unbreakable spirit his event had created.
I would particularly like to thank my partner Constance, without which this race would have been much more complicated. During my preparation, both mentally, physically, and nutrition-wise, she has been of a priceless help: merci Coco, brave & strong!
2020 marks my second year of triathlon and my first year in a club, ExpaTRIés, which I also deeply thank for the past year! Last year was more about discovering, having done one M course (Garmin Paris, 15th in 2h15) and the forementioned Embrunman (211th in 13h13), so I was expecting this year to be a year of improvement whilst still learning, especially given my training average of <10h per week. I am even more pleased given the fact it is only my second year, and this seems more like a “confirmation” performance than a learning one, although I still have an enormous amount to learn. I know I can still improve many things (my 20-year old LOOK KG381 bike without aero bars for example).
What comes next? A similar course race like Tours’nman? Crossing the Channel swimming (the ~5000€ budget being the main issue here)? The most likely seems ultratrail and ultracycling but am always looking for new challenges (even harder?): please let me know if you have any in mind!
I could continue on and on about my preparation, equipment or feeling during the race: if you have any questions, please let me know, I’ll be happy to help! I wish you all the very best!