Chmou is never going to give up

Ironman Hamburg – July 8th, 2017

Race reporter Chmou


DNF! I did not finish the Ironman Frankfurt, something I was so looking to do for the last year, something I had so much invested and there I am not finishing it.

I was very much hopeful before the race. I traveled to Frankfurt a little bit earlier on Thursday to Friday and hanged out with my ExpaTRIés Triathlon Club-mate David to pick up the bibs and do some carbs loading. It was going to be a wet suit allowed race, I had a fantastic support crew who was here with me and it was going to be sunny (I do like the heat!). I knew I had some injury on my right foot (plantar fasciitis by the side arch) that going to make it difficult for the run but testing it the week before seemed to have somewhat healed.

Sunday morning I wake up by 4am after 6h30 of sleep, which is incredible for me since I slept 10h the night before. I always had issues with sleeping before the race and I have trained myself to sleep better at night and be able to avoid thinking about too much stuff the night before.

Breakfast is done, I make my way to the shuttle for the lake with David and get myself to my bike. Soon enough I am standing on the beach 15km away with 3000 other athletes ready for the swim. Swimming was the only part I was worried about, I knew I didn’t put much training and I never did a 3.8km distance before.

I placed myself at the beginning of the 1h30 ‘wave’ since that was mostly going to be my estimated time. I am in the water swimming and then ten minutes after the start I have someone touching me with his arms right by the time I was breathing and the water entered straight to my lunges. I could not breathe properly and I was starting to panic so I stopped to get myself to stand still in the water trying to concentrate to calm myself down. Things started to settle in and I was back into the game slowly swimming again to the next buoy.

Finishing the 1.5km first loop, I looked at my watch and I realized I was very slow, 45mn for the 1.5km was really bad even for me (I had 2km on just under 40mn the Thursday before in open water). I was then so surprised when I saw my friends Benji and Helene in the water as well encouraging me, it was a bit unreal to see them and that get me such a boost to finish the next loop.

I went back into the water for the next 2.3km and had all the thoughts passing by my head so I just swam mechanically waiting that it was over. I am not so sure what I was thinking about but I remember singing in my head to ‘rickroll’ and to Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

There I was for the final 500m and started to look at my watch to see something like 2h14mn. I know I was slow but that time was very much insane and I was pretty sure I was going to DNF just in 6mn (the time limit is 2h20 for the swim).

I started to give everything, I am swimming like a maniac to get to the shore, I am not sure if I was swimming though but I sure was maniacally moving my arms as fast as possible. And soon enough I am on the shore seeing again Benj and Helene pushing me to get my “boule” (ass) moving! I am looking at my watch and it took actually 1h44 and not over 2h. It’s a slow time compared to my level of cycling and running but that was now behind me and I can start concentrating on my real race.

T1 goes quickly most of the bikes were not there anymore and I get onto my bike and start pedaling. I had some coke by t1 and I started to throw up on my tri-suit, that may not going to look great on the photos but at least I have all the lake water out of my lunges now and there I am happy being on my bike.

Cycling is what I love the most and I feel so good being on the saddle. My legs are spinning smoothly and I am averaging easily around 30kh, I am restraining myself to get my heart rate too high and keep it to just over 120bpm. Since I started from a slow swim time I am passing so much people, every time I pass someone I am trying to encourage them and have a chat with them about something. Most people were very nice as it’s mostly the case in triathlon races some others (generally German) were so much serious in their bike and not really in the mood to have a quick chat. Special mentions to Japanese those guys were always smiling and laughing when I was shooting “Gambate” (Good Luck) and Subayaku (Faster, faster!).

I passed the first 100km with an average speed of 31km per hour, I had a better average time than some of my Half Ironman and could not see how I could not finish the bike and I was going to do it in under six hours.  

But then there it started, nagging me on the side of my right foot something painful. A small pain at first increasing more and more. I could see my foot swelling-up and I got my shoe opened to ease the pain. It was very much depressing when I realized that it wasn’t going to be able to pedal more. It was so depressing because I had only 35km to go. I stopped first at one medical tent getting some ice on it and rested for 15mn hoping it would go away. I got myself on the bike again for 10/15k more but I could not pedals at all with my right leg anymore and I was looking at my average going down and down.
I then stopped at another stop where there was other medics and I called it a day. I knew anyway that there was no way that I could have done the run which didn’t help to get me back there.

I waited forever in the medical tent (2h), the organization could not get me back to Frankfurt and had to wait for my friends to come to pick me up. After an hour I think I could have gone back on my bike but I the bike was taken away back to Frankfurt by now (and I had punctured too).

I can do the race again and again in my head and think about a lot of “what if” but it’s best to get those thoughts away and better thinking about how now I will get back to training as there is always a next one, which I am sure I am going to make it successfully one day!

Thanks again to my friends Helene and Benji who came over to support me I am so glad they were over to support me in this. Thanks to all my friends online, checking on me and sending me message to motivate or to comfort me (special mention to my Adidas Runners Jaurès running group and Expatriès Triathlon who inundated me of comfort messages after the race ❤️). Congrats as well to David who finished it well for his first Ironman.