Enghien Olympic – May 21st 2017
Race reporter: Guillaume B
So here it is…my first triathlon ever in Enghien (M distance) on Sunday 21/05.
We always say experience is key in many sports but I did not expect it to be so true, just as I absolutely did not see coming what I was about to endure.
To be honest I had, for various reasons, no objective besides crossing the finish line and discovering whether I was going to enjoy competition or not.
First of all, my lack of training of late, after a difficult recovery from a knee luxation end of January. I came in Enghien with merely 4 runs and 4 cycling sessions under my belt.
Secondly, I got lucky enough that my girlfriend shared her cold with me 3 days before the race 🙁
I was also worried about the first swim in my brand new wetsuit, in open water with 500 people. Lastly, I had discovered a week before the race at Sam’s bike shop, where I met Cesar and Luis, that the bike part in Enghien was not flat as I believed, with 3 laps of a harsh climb to be expected…
Race day came and it was going to be a warm shiny day to my delight (should have known better!) Got there by car easily and was able to retrieve my dossard in a matter of minutes.
I was happy to see that all the other expats were nearby in the bike park which helped relieve the growing stress of the unknown, and help me with the couple questions I had – special thanks to Luca for that. Among the other expats I saw Luca, Dan, Bertrand, Aytug, Farid, Caroline, Bettina and even Duncan made it in time after a couple transport issues!
So the first thing was to organize my stuff in the bike parc and I had paid a fair attention to the necessary material thanks to the Expat’s checklist. Or so I thought, because it appeared I missed one thing: a tri-belt. No biggie as a workaround was found:to pin the dossard on a tshirt that I would reverse after the bike.
As I’m very short-sighted and Enghien’s water very muddy, I opted to keep my swimming glasses that are adjusted to my vision and to put on some contact lenses after the swim.
The race was about to start so it was time to put on the wetsuit – with particular care of not letting the zip of the trisuit get stuck in the one of the wetsuit, as I had brilliantly done during my trial at home 🙂 As I was about to get out of the park, I noticed I had kept my socks and ran the whole park to drop them off for the bike!
In the water which felt nice at around 17° or 18°, I stayed on the left in the last third of the competitors at the starting line, confident enough that I would not be too physically bullied. I actually had a good swim by my standards, always staying in the alignment of the buoys not too add more distance. I must have swum in just over 30 mns as I stopped my watch at 31’44 while entering the bike part. I took a very long transition as planned, first washing my mouth and eyes not to take any risk with the muddy water of the lake, as I managed to put my contact lenses with ease (perhaps to reconsider on a windy day). I gathered my stuff and breath, took a good drink and went out of the park after a 5mns transition during which I saw loads of people rushing by me.
Straight from the beginning I had bad sensations on the bike. Heavy legs and additional heat from the tshirt I had over my trisuit to display my dossard. After 5 km, someone told me that it was hanging only by one pin and it risked flying away…I had nothing else to fix it better so I kept going and just prayed it would stay in place, especially during the descents. Then came the uphill part I feared. When I finish the first portion I thought, oh well it’s not easy but ok. Expect this was only the first portion and I did not expect a second portion right after. Damn. As I had no legs, I did not risk pushing too hard in the flat and descent, to make sure I kept some energy for rounds 2 and 3. Second one was the worse as I felt a slight cramp in my thigh and had to get off the bike and walk the end. I managed to recover and made it through the 3rd climb with a better management of my effort.
With 3km left and 2 hours 6mns cumulated time on my watch, I felt a weird sensation and soon I could hear my bike make some noise. Yes I had just had my first flat ever. On race day. Bummer. I naturally shouted some nice words out loud, as you could expect from a Frenchman, and only after did I start thinking. I had some kit to supposedly repair the back wheel – but no spare tube – however I had not trained to do it (yes I know what you are thinking right now) and figured that I could not be sure to repair it and if I did, how much time it would take me. So I tried to go on for a bit and 400 meters later, my wheel started slipping at every turn. Security first, I stopped and ran bare foot with my shoes in one hand, my bike in the other hand for the remaining 2,5km, as many bikes flew by me, I tried not to lose focus as I started seeing all the runners. This barefoot run took a heavy toll on me as I had already suffered during the bike ride and, at 400 meters from the park, a cramp hit me. Someone from security took hold of my bike while I tried to beat the cramp.
Mentally it was tough as I knew my legs were done and I had not even started the 10k, but I would not give up. I managed to reach the park after 16mns of running, and it was logically quite full by now. At least I had not lost my dossard 🙂
I opted for a short transition to keep the legs running and started at a slow pace but which seemed reasonable, ard. 5,45/km. However 200 meters later I had cramps on both legs on my quadriceps. I was in extreme pain and did not know how to make it go away, and luckily Caroline passed by and gave me a fruit paste and cheers, followed by Aytug who told me not to stop when with cramps. Yet I could not make them go as both legs were tetanized until I managed to bend and squat. From then on it was survival mode, running extremely slowly and walking at supplies stops, as my only goal was the finish line and cramps threatening to reappear at every step.
The support from other runners and organization people along the whole race was great and really helped me reach that finish line after a 1h12 run – oh my – for a 3h35 overall time. Of course I was disappointed with how things went, as I think I could have landed around the 3h mark, but still, I was proud of my resilience and that my mind still got the edge over my body. I’m also grateful to be part of the Expatriés team as I would have perhaps abandoned had I been racing for myself only.
This also helped me realize that I enjoyed racing and have a long way to go to be prepared for just anything that can happen on race day. Oh and yeah, perhaps I should also balance a bit more my “aperitifs” and triathlon trainings! 🙂