Nice Ironman 2015 – 3.8km swim / 180km cycle / 42.195km run – June 28, 2015
by Paul Martin
I started in my late twenties and raced triathlon into my late 30’s, working my way up to IM distance. It was while watching a good friend do Nice in 2008 that I started to get the emotional pull towards the long course – that I’m sure we all didn’t believe would interest us when we started out with our sprint races. I was destined to do this iconic race one day…… and why not now, that I’m a resident en France!
As I’d been out of competition since my arrival in France and aged four years in the process, the goal was simple, considering my limited training … 1.15hr swim, 6hr bike and 4hr run with a bit spare for T1 & 2 to get in under the 12hrs. I was doing this not to race, but for all sorts of personal reasons hoping not to post a blistering time or exhaust/injure myself in the process. Although as I edit this report a few weeks later, I can tell you that although I feel great, my knee is telling me otherwise!
So, for those who are interested here’s a brief description of my day.
04:45 Breakfast and silence, a time for contemplation and searching for the answer to WHY do I do this? Today, I have 15hrs to find out. Why is this the fourth time I’m up before the sun – especially this time when it’s forecasted to be very hot all day – under the watchful eye of the midday sun at the height of summer in here in the Sud de la France.
So I headed off to enjoy the sunrise and start my morning routine with race preparation.
SWIM, 1:15:37 I was warned about the ferocity of the swim here, and I realize now that I have been lucky in most of my past races, as the only “Argy bargy” was in the first 400mtrs before it calmed down. Here in Nice, out of all swims and IM’s this was the roughest. I didn’t get a clear swim, was punched in the face, swam over etc and as a result swam defensively. I was amazed to leave the water in 1:15…and pretty pleased to survive that one. On the flip side, feeling fresh for the bike, I was unaware of the amount of salt I’d ingested during my wrestling experience.
T1, 09:53 Happy to have remembered my number and rack location, I took the bag at shoulder height, as that made sense to me. I had someone shouting at me that I’d made an error. It was only when I sat down and opened the bag that I realized I didn’t need my running shoes quite yet, so I went back to the rack to find my bike shoes and helmet.
I could hear plenty of other people making the same mistake. Anyway I faffed with getting out of the wetsuit and changing…in fact one of the reasons, WHY I like IM, is that you can sit down in transition. That said, looking at the rapid/average times of the others I clearly enjoyed sitting too much. To my defense, the issue with being average at swimming with a popular time, was that there was a Bike Jam from rows 34 – 01 due to the amount of IRONMEN heading out. As a result, we all ended up walking to the bike mount line.
BIKE, 06:12:02 The whole reason for doing this race…..the 2860mtrs climbing, and subsequent views that reward your efforts. I made a decision to train on the TT bike on the cols around Annecy the weekend before. Equipped with new info about a Power window I needed to hold, I was confident of hitting the target of sub 6 hours on the bike and was interested how far I could push it. I headed off along the Promenade des Anglais (PdA) at 40kph feeling great … however all that was all about to change 20k into the race. I encountered a few issues along the way and ended up stopping several times with a few thrown chains, rubbing brakes and gastro complaints presumably from the sea water??
As if getting off my bike on numerous occasions wasn’t bad enough, on the first real descent I took the opportunity of re-passing all those who had passed me when I had the bike upside down fiddling with my brakes. This single act of speeding down the outside on not the best surface to gain a few places/time was enough to vibrate off my GARMIN 500. I didn’t know at the time…PAFF – was all I heard, as something fell off my bike or one of those around me. I reached around to feel if it was the Pitstop I’d taped to the frame….no that was still there, cool, so all ok, it wasn’t me ….. But it was, and to my horror the next time I looked down to check how far into the race I was there was an empty space ; (
So, now I was blind, no speed, HR, FTP % alarms you name it, and I had to ride on feel and for fun : ) I’d lost enough time stopping at each aid station to mix water with the energy concentrate provided, (as the ISO/Energy mix was only half full and too strong), and to be honest with myself I had crammed too much in the weekend before, as although I felt aerobically strong, I didn’t have the power I’d seen on the col du Romme, Colombiere or Joue Plaine and was down by 50Watts. I really enjoyed (as much as you can on a TT Bike) climbing and the descents, and made up around 200 places from the swim.
Due to the climbing and technical descents, together with the number of competitors on the course, it’s very difficult for anyone to keep the necessary separation, so drafting of some sort is part of IM. I gather from the forums, especially those with a mass starts, that Nice is no exception.
T2, 08:11 With only one bag to collect, it didn’t matter if it was blue of red, top or bottom. I had a reasonably smooth turn around. If I had tri shoes it would have been quicker. To slow things down, I took the opportunity to visit the portaloo as the queues had disappeared from this morning, and with 2750 competitors potentially needing the ones by the airport, it turned out to be a good move. One guy was telling me, the next day (at breakfast?!!) that he missed KONA because he had to wait by the airport and spend race time in the toilet, and he was pretty devastated, so not a good time for quick witted toilet jokes!!
So for future IM’s my advice is no Trisuits. Two pieces is the way to go. And do not assume that the events have the ratio right for toilets vs. athletes or that they exist outside of transition areas. Being locked in one did give me the idea that IM should use them as the 5min penalty for anyone found cheating aka “drafting”!
RUN, 04:08:15 Nice at the end of June …just warming up for a summer season (at the start of a heat wave), was definitely not a place to start a marathon @ 14h. From transition to the PdA, I could feel the heat radiating through the soles of my uncomfortable Brooks trainers I hadn’t manage to change in the last months. Looking forward to this one I was not, but determined to give it all I had.
So it went roughly like this, run to the first aid station – Water/head/water/mouth/electrolyte/orange piece/water/head/coke/water/head and on to the next one half way down the PdA ….repeat, whilst trying to do the mental arithmetic of how many times you needed to do this and at the same time work out a potential finishing target. On the 5k mark you arrive at the airport, and it lived up to its reputation, bleak, lonely and smelly. On the flip side it was the only place with shade and thus temptation to walk a little bit without anyone seeing you! For the first two laps I resisted, only walking the aid stations, and a bit by the airport on the third lap. My Garmin forerunner 110 was now out of battery, so from the second lap I had to rely on the digital timer on the turn around points to work out how I was doing….I think 25-30mins per half lap – keep going Paul !!
The fourth and final lap, 10k to go….whoop, whoop!!! It really felt faster but wasn’t. I’m not sure if that’s because I didn’t stop as much at the aid stations or I’d entered a trance like state? AlI I wanted to do was cool my legs off in the sea and finish, and so I continued the IM shuffle to the line…. 50mins to an hour left and I’m home I hoped, but at 30K there’s always the wall, and I was very conscious of that. At this point, a time didn’t matter. I didn’t know what time it was anyway; I could find out at the airport, but first I had three aid stations to navigate.
As I turned by the airport for the last time, the clock read 11:24 …….. so I needed to do 5k in 35 mins to reach my goal – PFFT no stopping then. To make matters worse, I could see the line now, as the PdA stretched out in front of me for what looked like the longest 5K of my life!! The misery of the last 5k disappeared as I enter the finishing chute, the noise filled my ears, and I got a big kiss from my support crew of two. I crossed the line under 12hrs having high fived and imitated a plane on the way. I heard my name over the loud speaker PAUL MARTIN you are an IRONMAN !!! ….. and as I collected my medal high on endorphins and emotions, I had the answer and the whole reason why I keep coming back!! ; )
Finish 11:53:58 Overall 828 AG 204 Gender Rank 797……that relates to being “chicked” 31 times!!!!
IM Nice, is a wonderful course, a tough course and one you can race, if that’s what you came to do….just bear in mind that it sells out year after year as it has plenty of KONA slots meaning that competition here is high.
If it wasn’t for my wonderful support all day, and words of encouragement from my friends, family and the team, I’m sure I’d have suffered more. Nice was going to be my last IM but I think we all know it isn’t!!!