Nice Ironman 2015 – 3.8km swim / 180km cycle / 42.2km run – June 28, 2015 – Nice, France
by Nicolas Grima
This was my first race on the Ironman distance (I did an Olympic distance in 2013, and a half-IM last year — and no, I don’t intend on doubling up again next year ;).
It was also my first event outside the vicinity of Paris, and even the first time on each of the distances separately. As such, I had no real targets for the race (except “finisher”, of course).
I ended up traveling to Nice by plane, renting a bike case for the week-end (2×40€ charge for the plane transport, 30€ for the case). It worked quite well, but if you need a car, make sure it has a decent trunk!
I was accompanied by my wife and two friends, whose help and support have been invaluable throughout the week-end.
The race is quite well organized, and to avoid race day chaos all preparations (check-in, transition equipment, bike) are done in advance on the Saturday.
Wake up a 4am, eat a small portion of pasta, applied some anti-chaffing bandage for the swim suit, and then we were ready to go (we were based 30min away from the race start).
There is time before the race for last minute access to the bike, mainly to inflate back tires/prepare first energy bottle.
Time flies by very quickly, soon it’s 6h15, the sun begins to illuminate the sea and it’s time to get down on the beach.
Swim: two loops (2.4 and 1.4km) in Nice bay
Race starts at 6h30. From the outside, it is apparently very impressive. Here on the shore, it’s actually much more peaceful than what I remember from shorter races. Competitors are placed along the shore by expected swim time, and many take their time to get in, so the water is not too packed. I try to focus on a steady, efficient stroke, and hope that the people around me know where they are going. Swim suit + sea water make a great sensation of gliding on the water, and there is only a tiny bit of swell.
Sun is just rising, water temperature is perfect: excellent conditions to start the day!
The anti-chaffing bandage is in the wrong place, that’s what you get for not going to the outdoor swimming training sessions 🙂 turns out to be not too serious, and I finish the swim in good shape in 1h09, ranked 728 overall.
I take the wrong transition bag, but volunteers quickly spot me and help me get the correct one 🙂
I’ve decided to change into full cycling gear.
I dry myself, apply some sunscreen and take 3 energy bars, and probably do plenty other things, as my T1 time is 12 minutes 😀
Bike: a single loop in Nice back country
The bike part is clearly the height of this IM in my opinion. The setting is splendid, and the course is both challenging and rewarding.
I’m a much better swimmer than rider (or much worse rider, or maybe most triathletes are just cyclists in disguise, I don’t know), so as in my previous races, I spent the first segment being endlessly taken over.
My estimate is that literally a thousand competitors got past me during the first two hours. Not great for morale, but by now I’m expecting it 🙂
Then we reach the start of the main climb (900m up between the km 50 to 70). There are magnificent views on the shoreline, but not much shade on the road. I stay motivated, as I know it will be easier after the reaching the pass. I alternate between energy drinks and pure water. Supply is super easy (throw old bottles, grab some new ones, available approx every 45min).
From km 70 to 130, the race is much flatter, up there the air is a bit cooler, and we are protected from the wind. Time passes quickly as the road is sinuous and the views are lovely.
There are is only one significant climb (6km) left, and I this point I’m starting to take back people. It’s still easy to stay motivated, as I know that after km 130 it’s all downhill. I take some ibuprofen for the saddle pain and in prevision for the run, and then the rest of the bike passes by easily, as I’m mostly using my brakes instead of my legs. A bit of headwind for the last 20km, but it’s the last 20k and I’ve got plenty of time for the marathon: morale is at the top 🙂
I still feel great when I reach the transition area, bike time 6h48, overall rank at that point is 1573 (ouch).
Full change again. New blister bandages, sunscreen again, a cap and belt to hold a 200ml bottle + some fruit paste. A bit faster than T1, with a time of 8min.
Run: 4 loops on the Promenade des Anglais (back and forth following the shoreline)
It’s 3pm, and the air is awfully hot. There is absolutely no shade on the course, and seeing the turn-around point so far away across the bay is depressing. I’m still in good shape for the first lap, running at 5:30/km.
But I cannot ingest enough water to digest the energy gels and sweat at the same time, and the bike has taken its toll on my legs. Second lap is harder, I fall to 6:00/km. Aurelie Stoven manages to spot my number and provide some much appreciated encouragement.
Third lap is awful, as “just 5km until there’s only 10km left” is a pretty bad proxy for motivation 🙁 I force myself to take gels, but reduce my pace again at 6:30/km. I’m not the only one suffering, though, as I can see many competitors walking for their last lap (at that point I’m seriously considering doing the same).
At the end of the third lap, my support team is back there and it’s great to see them! One of my friend follows me nearby for the last lap, and it helps immensely (if anything, I can concentrate on something else that what my legs and stomach tell me).
I manage not to walk, stabilizing at 6:30/km.
At last the finish line comes into view, and I must say it’s a huge relief, and a lot of satisfaction. The public there is awesome, with great atmosphere, and almost above all, at that moment, I can at last stop running 😀
I finish the marathon in 4h14, for a total time of 12h32, overall rank 1153 (better 🙂
Next to the finish line there’s a whole area reserved for athletes, where you can sit, get your finisher t-shirt to show off during training, get some food and dry clothes. There even volunteers from the local kine school that provide much appreciated massages.
After a bit of rest I find my support team again, get back the bike, and we go get some well deserved pizza+champagne (ideal recuperation food!).
All in all, a superb experience. Definitely something I’m glad I’ve done, although I don’t intend to do one again any time soon: I’ll be back to olympic/half-IM triathlons next season!