70.3 IronMan Les Sables D’Olonnes, July 4, 2021 (L)
Race Reporters: Ben
Voted as “the best Ironman event” by the athletes, it is true that many ingredients give it this status.
The famous Vendée Globe Chenal for the swim, Les Marais Salants and beautiful countryside for the bike, the Remblais for the run, this is one special event.
The town in itself is very nice to walk around with many places to find good food and drinks, all that you need to build your energy back up.
This was my second year In Les Sables, so I felt that much more at ease with the event, with getting around and knew that I had to challenge my time from last year of 5h32.
I am lucky to be working remotely from Normandy, so I’ve been swimming in the sea for the past couple of months, doing from 1 to 4k swims. The sea can be quite choppy, and this would prove to be quite useful with race day.
With only 1 minute to go, I’m readjusting my cap only to drop my googles in the sand. Damn! I do my best to get some sand off, but they are covered and there goes my signal to head out to the water. I blow and blow again while running down the beach, but was not very successful.
Just as my feet touch the water, I hear and then see my wife cheering me on.
After only a 1 minute or so, I can see left and right that I am going past quite a few other swimmers. I think that the slightly choppy conditions are making it a bit harder. Also, with the swimming pools having only been recently reopened, 1,9 k can be quite a bit of an ordeal.
I keep my head down, try to be as tall and narrow as possible in the water and start gaining momentum. After a few hundred meters, you need to make the 90-degree turn that launches you towards the chenal where the conditions are much smoother.
I feel good, happy to be here and after only what seems to be a few minutes, I can see the arch signaling the swim exit.
Just as I felt last year, the bike park seemed pretty empty, but this is due to my category leaving over 30 minutes after the first one, the pros.
Looking at the sky, this is the time to choose, clear of tinted glasses?
The first few kilometers were nice and calm, conditions were stable, getting into the rhythm of my aero position.
A few months back, I called upon Sam of Paris Bike Co. that set me up with a full bike fit, a new tri saddle and some very cool aero bars and must say that when in the aero position the comfort is just fantastic.
Going inland, the wind starts picking up and as a warning I can see the riders with aero wheels going left and right on the road.
The rain starts pouring but the speeds and still quite high, I see that riders with disc brakes seems to be a bit more at ease, but the roads are quite slippery. The sky is quite dark, at this point, I know that choosing the clear glasses was a good call.
The spectators, volunteers are even the police that are there to block of the roads are doing their best to signal technical sections, tight bends, narrow roads.
It’s true that with all the rain we’ve had, the braking distances are more than doubled, the roads are slippery, and you have to stay aware.
Considering the very wet conditions, they are still many people to cheer us on, a wonderful moment for all of us.
Back at the bike park and just about to hop into my running shoes, I hear on the loudspeakers “Congratulations to Franck Guyon who has just crossed the line in 8th Position with a time of 4 hours and 33 seconds”.
Wait, what!!! I’ve still got a 21k run to go, but there again that is why they are pros.
You start the run by going along the port, where some are having beers and other beverages. You run along the famous chenal to join up with the beach. After a few hundred meters in the soft sand you then join up with the Remblais, which is going to see us going up and down several times till we have the joy of crossing the finish line.
The atmosphere is incredible, so many people on each side, calling your name. I can hear one very familiar voice, that of my wife that is has managed to grab my attention over all the other shouts, screams and cheers. I am happy to see her there as I know her support will be crucial.
On the bike I was not able to get much down, my hydration was not the best either. I feel that my energy level is already running quite low and this is with only having 6 k under the belt.
At that point 21k, seems still quite far.
Now the wind has really picked up.
On the return of the run course, we have a strong headwind, it actually feels like we are running uphill and when I look at the beach, I feel we that we were very lucky with this morning’s swim conditions.
With every kilometer accomplished, I feel that I’m slowing down slightly, but there is not much I can do about it.
I just have to stay focused. Keep in mind the relief of crossing that famous Red and Black arch with your name and time.
I can see the tired faces of some athletes. A few are walking, some have cramps, while others seem so fresh and lively on their feet. I am not in that category at that point.
This is it, only 3k to go. The wind as picked up even more and I am glad this is my last return.
The view is quite something, I can see in the distance the large Atlantes Events Center but is so small from where I am.
Chin up, arms swinging, steady breathing, keeping in mind Valentino’s good advice from the Expat Track sessions, I am determined.
Finish line crossed. I hear my name and turn around to see my time, 5h21. I’ve done it, 11 minutes off last years’ time.
Could I have done better? Probably
Could I have maintained my 4:45/k speed I had at the beginning of the run? No
Will I be back? I’d love to.
70.3 Ironman Les Sables d’Olonnes is already set for July 3rd 2022.
Who knows, maybe we will see each other there and celebrate with a nice fresh beer.