Ironman 70.3 Aix-En-Provence – May 14th 2017
Race Reporter: Winoch
Other expats who participated: Julien Theulier / Constance / Farid / Chmou / Tania / Mike / Fabrice L / Guillaume D
The Aix-en-Provence Ironman 70.3 is usually a key milestone in the year for me and many triathletes: this is the first major event of the triathlon season of the year. After all these months of training during the cold winter, waking up early to go swimming and running, riding during the week end with 3-ply clothes, gloves and shoes protection – this race officially announces the launch the season that we have all been waiting for. But the feeling is mixed: although you feel excited, it inevitably brings questions and a small anxiety: am I ready for it? Was my training sufficient? Am I going to do better than last year? Honestly, this is my third triathlon season and my third Aix Ironman and I start to know the answer: you are never ready! or so you think.
But this year I decided that the moto was to take as much pleasure as possible. The first year was my first triathlon ever, last year became a … duathlon (as the organization canceled the swimming due to extremely bad weather conditions). So I was heading to the race with plenty of hopes and motivations.
The day before the race Julien Theulier and I had a chance to have a drink in Aix-en-Provence. I think we were both relatively relaxed and we talked about our training and objectives for the race: Julien was targeting 5h40 and myself 6h00.
Good news this year: weather was just perfect. No wind, 24 degrees and a sunny day. So no excuses. Though my first worry was regarding the beverage during the race. I decided not to differentiate my 2 cans on the bike: one with normal product concentrations and one with more water.
A light fog was slowly arising revealing the Peyrolles lake, 20 km north of Aix-en-Provence which is quite a nice place to swim. Water temperature was 17 degrees which was ok with the swimming suits. The Ironman organization had decided to implement the rolling start for the swimming: this is a great idea as it is much more comfortable for the racers and avoid taking some knocks.
The swimming was fine for me as I improved my time and achieved 36’35 (vs 37’48 in 2015 – Thanks Bertrand). However I am still very bad at transition (9’39). Although I had kept in mind the position of my bag the day before … I lost almost 1 minute looking for it!!! Finally I got out of the bike park 10 minutes later which is of course too long. But compared with previous years I was feeling much fresher, better and ready to ride the 90 km.
The bike route is probably one of the best moments of this race. It brings you into Provence and near the Sainte Victoire site. Except for a short section open to circulation, most of the route is dedicated to the race. I like this route because it is well balanced between hills and several slopes of which one very winding dig into the rock. Unfortunately this one is quite dangerous and every year I saw several serious falls. The bike went quite well and I was trying to find the right cursor to preserve some energy for the half marathon to come. I think I could have done slightly better than 3h12 (vs 3h21 in 2015). But honestly, my bike training is not optimal.
Transition from bike to run was quite efficient for me (4’42). The running in Aix is a good experience as there are lot of people during the 3 laps of 7km. But the track is a bit hilly, and Julien can confirm that its training on Montmartre was just perfect for this race. So I ran the first 10 minutes slowly in order to let my muscles adapt from bike to run and find the right pace. The first lap was fine but the second lap was difficult. I think I drank too much which caused me some stomach pain. Once I had recovered, the last lap was fine and the finish line in Aix en Provence is just amazing and makes you forget all your pain! But I still need to improve the bike section to be fresher when I start the running.
Overall I have almost achieved my goal (6h01) and significantly improved my time by 33 minutes! And Julien did a great time in 5h36! Congrats Julien.
Definitely I like this Ironman 70.3 although logistics are bit complex (as the swimming is not close to the running and you need a car). But Ironman organization is just great and the location offers nice scenery. It is a good place for a long week end and the beer on the Cour Mirabeau after the race is just a magic moment.