Paris Triathlon – M distance – July 2nd 2017
Race reporter Jessica
I’m not sure how a race report usually begins, but mine starts and (Spoiler!) ends with pasta. More than a year ago, I sat in Chris J.’s apartment as he patiently explained the ins and outs of how to properly fuel one’s body for competition. He was very clear about a few things, namely that hydration begins long before la veille of a race (confirmed), trying to drink while running will lead to choking (also confirmed) and one can never go wrong with pasta (triple confirmed). So early on Sunday morning, I downed leftover fusilli and a few slices of toast with peanut butter before walking out the door.
When I arrived at Parc de la Vilette, the big guns were out. Lots of fancy people with fancy bicycles. I resisted intimidation, reminding myself that many of those present were first-timers like me. While walking along the canal, I lay down and dipped my hand in the water, which, reassuringly, was not cold. I didn’t have a wet suit (I know, I know, rookie mistake) so I was relieved to discover that I wouldn’t freeze during the first few minutes of the race.
After dropping off my Finisher bag, I found Antoine, Louise, Aurelie, Julien, Tom, etc. We collectively hovered around the 26-minute mark—a convenient spot, it turns out, because Sylvain was nearby and caught us all on camera! But we soon advanced in the ranks, making our way to the 22-minute starting line.
When the whistle blew (or the horn honked?) people began jumping into the water and swimming North. I put my goggles on, crossed the timing barrier, and hopped in. Ready, set, go!
The swim was purely delightful. The water was clean, there was no rubbish and I didn’t get kicked in the face! Looking up every now and again, I loved seeing the crowds lining the pavement and locals leaning out of their windows. Maybe they thought we were crazy. Maybe they were jealous! In any case, this part was over too soon. I’d have happily swum home to Pantin.
Alas, the aqua-portion came to an end. I climbed out of the water, pretty cold but enthusiastic. Running to my T1 spot, I inefficiently got myself ready for phase two. I tried to dry off, made some sartorial adjustments and downed this little marzipan bar which, honestly, I’d eat even if I wasn’t doing intense exercise. The whole thing took me more than four minutes, including running, shoes in hand. There are certainly improvements to be made.
The biking, much to my surprise, went from bad to much, much better. Coming out of T1, I limped along the cobble-stone streets that line the eastern side of the canal. Shivering beneath my not-quite-so-impermeable imperméable (how do people race in the rain without getting pneumonia?) I felt every break in the pavement, every dip and rise in the unending galaxy of imperfect road surface. Am I the only one this inconveniences? Am I the only one whose arms shake and whose teeth chatter? Whose spine feels like it’s being assaulted by a retired typewriter? Everyone else looks so calm on their two-wheelers.
Fortunately, we soon made it to flatter ground. From Stalingrad to the Seine, I remember feeling pretty at ease. The route was well-marked. Cars always stopped (people less frequently). The kind volunteers shouted, passionately and patiently, “Ça glisse, ça glisse!” I had worried about getting lost on the road (I’m a newbie and maladroit on / in vehicles of any kind) so when that didn’t happen, I was pleasantly surprised.
By the time we arrived in the Bois de Boulogne, the rain had stopped. (Did I mention it has been raining since the beginning of the swim?) I’m not sure how many laps we did, but I know we did many of them. Plenty of U-turns, too. I was overtaken by multiple Expatriés (Louise, Anais, Igor, Chmou… shall I go on? Apparently a lead in the swim doesn’t count for much). But every time, there was an encouraging word, an “Allez, allez!’ and, really, that was incredible. How nice it was to do this race alongside people who you know.
I make it out of the bois having avoided any near-fatal crashes (of which there were many) and bicycle mishaps. (D’ailleurs, j’ai souvent entendu “sale pute!’ à bord de la route où les mecs—toujours les mecs—ont été arrêté par une chambre à air dégonflée ou une roue cassée. Chaque fois, je me suis dit: “les gros mots sont tellement mignons en français!”). From there, it was an easy few kilometers to T2 where I was only too happy to see Wippy’s smiling face.
T2 was easier than T1, though that seems rather obvious. And then the run happened. Truth be told, I was a little anxious about that bit, but it went decently (which means I didn’t stop to walk). After a quick lap down the central island—the one that leads to the butt of the Statute of Liberty—we headed up the hill of death (i.e. Trocardero). The crowd thinned out and the skies became increasingly grey.
But, just as suddenly, it was all over. Soon I was on flat ground, being cheered on by spectators and then—Oh God—going downhill. Beautiful, glorious downhill. One more lap around the island, it was a one-way street to finisher town. (If I have to be honest, doing two loops of the same spot wasn’t my favorite part.) I crossed beneath the blue arch at 2h47m55s, not bad for a first effort!
After feasting on raisins (was anyone else blown away by the quality of the snack at the ravitaillement?) I went to collect my transition bags. This, I admit, was a bordel. Throughout the race, I had been impressed by the attentiveness of the volunteers and referees. But the bag collection was not their shining moment. Luckily, a very tall man helped me procure my belongings, and I left with all my my stuff intact (I know some of the Expatriés were not so lucky).
Exhausted, but very happy, I headed home. I needed to get clean and rest (because why do sports if not for the satisfying shower and valid excuse to nap?) And, of course, eat pasta… but you knew that already!