Nice 140.3 Ironman – 5 June 2016
by Roberto Townshend
My arrival in Nice started with the discovery that, through being careless, I had booked an Airbnb on the fourth floor with no lift and had to carry bike box and gear up the stairs. Well what are teenage sons for if not for helping their ageing fathers? Apart from this minor detail, my temporary residence was a 5 min walk from the start/finish/transition area. Fantastic, I was lucky to have arrived anyway because of the striking rail workers.
The weather was not quite what one would expect from the fabled Côte d’Azur in June but I was an awful lot better than in poor floundering Paris.
After a quick jog on the promenade, a short bike-check ride and a brief “splosh” in the sea (under the rain) I was ready to go. Even a very annoying mystery foot pain had decided to disappear for race day.
The SWIM start was under the new self-seeding method, which according to Big Brother WTC is supposed to improve our “experience”. I plunked myself in the under 1:08 pen which was just under my previous PB. Well what ensued was ROUGH to say the least. I was overtaken by a lot of 100m sprinters and began to worry. When things settled I finally started to real people in but the new course entailed many turns and things got very “friendly” there. Having played water polo for many years definitely helped. In the end I finished in 1:07 which I was very pleased with but what will remain impressed in my memory was seeing a certain Cristophe Santini starting hot on the heels of the Pros pulling a severely disabled friend in an inflatable dinghy: He was not being left behind by the professionals! What a monster!! (btw he finished the swim in 1:15 and the whole thing in 14:30:59)
I had planned the BIKE carefully, even using the special needs station at 70 Km, and I was going to ride very conservatively in order to have plenty left for the run. However, I committed a rookie mistake: I forgot to consider the temperature up in the mountains. That coupled with rain showers and a heavy hailstorm (ouch) made me VERY cold. I was passing riders at aid stations looking forlorn, wrapped in space blankets. Being a bit of a delicate flower, before long the cold had caused me gastric pains and I had to make a few emergency stops. Massive waste of time but lesson learned, I hope.
The bike course has some pretty relentless climbs and little to envy Lanzarote. The beautiful views were somewhat marred by the weather but the fast descents from 120Km onwards are worth the race on their own: truly exhilarating. What a high.
Somewhat later than I had hoped I rolled into T2 rather dreading the RUN which has always been my bête noire. It started very well: heart rate was steady and on target, I was keeping pace and for the first time ever I was passing people! Apart from a couple of stops due to the aforementioned GI issues I was proceeding steadily and I could hardly believe it. I was actually looking forward to the last and fourth lap but, and there is often a “but”, just as my Garmin beeped its low-battery warning, my stomach shut down and my legs went the way of the French railway workers. Never mind, I just walked a bit and then headed for the finishing chute under the rain after being cheered by my wife and son for the fourth and last time. 4:21:55 for the run, faster that some of my early stand-alone marathons. Job done. A very satisfying experience and definitely more room for improvement.