Ben’s IronMan Nice

IronMan Nice, June 26th, 2022 (L) 

Race Reporter: Ben

Only 2 words are needed to start a conversation with just about anybody in the club.

Many things come to mind when thinking of Ironman Nice, the history behind this race, the heat, the mountains, but also the stories I’ve heard of successfully completing the course or attempting it and having to call it a day.

To me, this was a race I had to do. Last year I was not able to register here and therefore did Ironman Vichy, which was great. I knew what I was getting myself into as the elevation on the bike course is similar.

Having arrived in Nice on the Friday, this left me with a bit of time to get my bike back together following the flight, have a quick ride to make sure all was working well, went for an 800 m swim to get a feel for the water, the currents and simply to relax.

The 70.3 and Full distance are held on the same day, so many people in town and, you can imagine the energy at 5 am in the streets and around the bike park.

The skies are blue, waters calm.
6.30 am, race start for those taking part in the 70.3. One hour later, it’s our turn.

I feel good, happy to be here, and I know I am going to enjoy my day.
In the water, I get into a good rhythm straight for the start, breathing is good, arms are nice and flexible and reminding myself of all the good advice given to me by Aytug and Clément during the swim sessions. I really feel that the exercises and drills we do have given me confidence, pushing harder when needed and getting back into the correct rhythm without feeling out of breath.

I come out of the water feeling fresh and now for T1. This has to be one of the longest transition zones I’ve ever seen, 600 meters long.
For this race, I actually decided to swim only with my wetsuit and jump into my trisuit at T1, and quite few did the same, organization had set up tents to change.

Onto the bike, it’s 9 am and yet, it is already hot, and the air is very dry.

After a short ride, the first hills appear. We quickly find ourselves in the Arrière pays Niçois, with beautiful views, the sea in the distance and we keep going up and up.
Nice has about 2400 D+, not something you can easily do in La Vallée de Chevreuse, our usual playground.
To be more precise, you actually gain 1700 D+ in 70 kms.

The bike course is great, it’s a 1 loop 170 Kms ride mountainous course that goes through picturesque villages where locals and tourists are at Cafés, sitting by water fountains and are cheering us on.
With the gain in altitude, the vegetation changes but it doesn’t get any cooler. We do sometimes get a little breeze to which we are react by saying “oh yeah that’s nice”.

We have Aid stations every hour’s worth of riding which is great, the volunteers are fantastic, very helpful, will even help us to fill our bidons, hand us out all that we need.

It’s nice to get off the saddle after 100 k. Getting a bit of feeling back feels very nice. The volunteers also that time to pour a bit of water over our heads in an attempt to cool down.

Going back towards Nice, I get some decent speed. We’ve been told that some sections are quite hairy, so beware when rushing down the mountains. The views are incredible, but much more difficult to appreciate when going 60 Km/h.

Once back at sea level, we still have about 20 kms to ride and the wind is picking up, gusts are pushing me on the narrow portion back into town, while I try to maintain an aero position.

I am now only a few kilometers from T2 and indeed the wind is strong, the sea is very choppy, I am thankful we didn’t have to swim in those conditions.
I’m having to push much harder on the pedals only to be at 25km/h, but I see in the fare the dismount zone with the flag being waved.

You can see some tired faces in T2, but I feel quite fresh, people are very much enjoying the minutes off the saddle, and are simply taking their time, so am I. I managed to nail my nutrition and water intake over the bike course and now I’m focused on what needs to be accomplished, 42 km run under the baking sun and face the wind to make it just a bit harder.

Let’s be realistic, I am not here to be in the top 100 or 500 for that matter. I am not here to beat any times or anyone, I will never get a ticket for Kona.
My transition time is absolutely appalling, just like in T1 but It’s a good time to take a gel, have some water.

The Ironman mantra “You vs You” is very true, even more in the full distance with harsh conditions such as today. You do have to really push yourself, fight against the urge to stop.

I have 4 loops of the run course to complete before I get to see the famous black and red arch.
I break the distance down, 4×10 seems much more manageable. I know what 10 k is on my usual runs, I visualize it, I can see it and I think to myself, “it’s only from my place to that point”.

We are lucky to have many aid stations on the run course, the table are full, and the volunteers are simply wonderful.
First time for me on an Ironman race, we have watermelon, OMG, just amazing to have, it comes as such a relief and is a very nice change from Gatorade, Coca-Cola and Saint-Yorre.

10 k done, 20 k done, legs getting stiffer but still moving, confident.
The sun is finally going behind the buildings and the temperature is now slightly cooler, the wind has died.

Not much further now, and I am still cutting up the remaining distance into smaller ones, till I only have 1 loop to go.

1! Let’s not get carried away though. Maintain the rhythm, no going crazy now, thinking of all the valuable tips from Valentino training sessions. Head up, good arm movement, nice and steady breathing, it is still 10 k!

Gratitude. I am so lucky to have such a supportive wife, my first fan, and she has shown so much patience over the years. I am so lucky to be in good health and be able to put my body through such events. Glad to be part of the Expatriés triathlon club and have access to so many training sessions with quality trainers.

With only 100 meters to go, I want to make to most of the atmosphere. I slow down and now have the long Ironman carpet to walk, the arch is just there, and I can now soak it in. Another athlete comes up behind me and stops by my side to do the same, enjoy the moment.
The music, the lights, spectators’ arms are extended giving us high-fives as we pass the stands lined up on each side.
The speaker congratulates us, so is everybody there, as we both cross the line to “You are an Ironman”.

What a day, a wonderful day; The mountainous bike course, the heat made is more difficult but that much sweeter to finish.
I’m happy I did it, to have accomplished Ironman Nice and if you can too, you will enjoy your race and Nice will leave you with great memories.