Yann took on an obstacle course for Choisy-le-Bac Triathlon (S)

 Choisy-le-Bac Triathlon – May 11th 2019 (S)

Race Reporter: Yann

Triathlon beginners have many problems to face. For my second Tri S in my life and the first of the year, there was a valuable experience including non-sportive aspects and a race before the race!

Choisy-le-Bac is a little village in Picardie, 6km far from Compiègne on rivers Oise and Aisne around 100km north of Paris on the old train line to Brussels and London (45′ from Gare du Nord). The Compiègne Tri club organizes it for more than 10 years and many Expats went there last year, like Wippy coming also back enjoying the event. Swimming takes place on a gravel pit lake, the water is not very dirty and does not smell. 20km in 2 rounds biking, 2/3 of it in a forest and 171m uneven altogether (last year it was another trace as a special jubilee event boucle through the Armistice place in Rethondes). Running path is debuting on bitumen longing nicely the Aisne as a little boucle (so you can face your competitors once) then after the half on rocky or sandy path around the swimming lake. The L round schemes the next Sunday are different but take place in the same lake, cross the same forest but in a larger extent of course.

After a night of continuous pouring rain over Paris, doubts took place. I now thank the diverse rain live maps on Internet that revealed no rain in Compiègne during the night and morning but storm warning in the afternoon (30%). The sprint race was scheduled to 13h45 (W) and 14h00 (M). But obviously from Net, rain would continue over the capital until train departure from Gare du Nord, so I’ve decided to take a “break” cab from my 15th arrondissement (7km) in order not to suffer too much from relative freshness and humidity during almost 3 hours. So I ‘ve placed the reservation order with the G7 company (on phone, using keys) at 9h30 in order to get the 10h15 train accepting freely bikes on board. So, before leaving home, I’ve just to check messages from our Expat’s Meetup group with 7 members. And… somebody just has written that our train is cancelled (hurt of an animal)!

I had just the time to cancel quickly my taxi. Next train possibility sounded rather narrow: we would have around 30’ between Compiegne Station and the closing of the technical zone. Short because we must also get bibs, put stickers on material and combis on ourselves etc. in that time…. Then, the magic of a group has taken place: so Mathieu got contact with the race organization asking for advice. Fair weather reports were exchanged. The car rent option seemed too late, much complicated and hazardous. Finally some decided (including me) to risk the chance and some understandably demotivated Expats changed their minds. So, 7 decided to take the 12h15 train (6 racers plus Appoline as support and observation for the L of the next day). Luis as racer, Miguel as help should be there by own means.

Nicely, I could bike to the station because rain stopped as predicted on the Net. The train was a very old long liner with one (1) empty compartment just for the accompanied bikes. We felt to be the only Parisians on board for that tri! It worked well and we were on site around 13h20 in front of the zone entry but where are Miguel and the dossards? We checked on the Meetup and I personally moved and back to look up at the registration desk.

In the meantime, Miguel brought 3 dossard envelops but not mine and Wippy’s and Cosmin’s ones. So, the waiting continued for us. We felt so much stress when the speaker announced the closing of the park 2 minutes later at 13h35, we get finally desperate but envelops came miraculously (from nowhere as it seemed to me !). I honestly don’t know how Wippy has managed to put stickers, put her swimming combi, parking the bike and ware, running the 250m to be right on time for starting in water 15′ before the men…Expat colleagues and even people of organizations helped me (unstick the stickers, holding the bike…) before rushing at my position in the zone. I’ve managed to get back and put my big bag forgotten completely alone out of the zone for the deposit… Absent at the briefing, I still had to make an ultra-short warm-up and ask for help at closing the combi and at basic indications like the clockwise direction of the swimming tour around buoys… Sure, I’ve lost a lot of nerve impulse and concentration.

It should have been a lot of confusion among registration team so we faced a permutation of bibs among us 3 Expats… So I get another bib, mine was originally 639, I’ve received in fact the 939 (gag to find the right orientation for the dossard!) and a rose cap dedicated to woman runners… Unique and recognizable in the water among 200 yellow caped men! The lake was 14°C: rather warm in comparison with the Cergy one last Sunday (where I felt still thrilling 2 hours after the warm shower).

No clear warning for the start shoot. I was out of lake around the second third of the mass. Under a pouring rain that I did not feel before half undressing the combi. Sun glasses were truly useful because my eyes were protected from hurting drop in the first 3km on bike. It was an incredibly long T1 (4’50, 250th of the 274 finishers)! I’ve first planned to put slipping grease on my tibias, placed shoes on bike with elastics etc. but no time left for that. My towel and my socks (yes, I dare use it) were wet, not my shoes fortuitously protected by a plastic bag fixed by a water poach weight… But, the time pressure before the start was too much effective and, under those circumstances, I’ve rather not too badly improvised my T1. I’ve made only one true error: putting a thin rain cape (not attached, of course…) floating slightly like a parachute during the course. I’ve heard Appoline supporting me just before entering the zone, very sympathetic!

The air temperature was just below fairness; a long arm biker vest could have been ok. So, the road is nice, a bit windy in front of the (rather cool) climbing road (open to cars with organization men agitating flags and blocking traffic on strategic points) and we’ve heard four (4) thunder strikes. Officials warned us of slipping “ralentisseurs” and of truly damaged road surface on the final descend in the forest. This was the only real bad point of the bike track because the forest looked beautiful even more with the three glimpses of the sun (we got it too!).

Frankly speaking, I felt rather unconfident, all the week until… the race cycle tour, so I pushed not too much in the water battle (I’m maybe too polite, I need to learn more how to manage this furious round), made it in a fair pace on bicycle but free myself in the endurance final run (which is not my favourite event because of my weight).

Some friends of mine do not understand my new sportive passion as I’m putting myself in so uncomfortable activities, especially in my veteran age. How feel his real own limits? To be honest, I thought about all that biking solely! But I’ve continued in order to get experience of a finisher, be part of the club event and get some pleasure in the effort. I felt no particular physical problem like joint or cramps but I was rather unsatisfied by my total time (that I hide here…), confused also by my watch. But no deception by my mental performance.

After the race, we all 3 went to the chronometers in order to fix the name/dossard links. I’ve met Miguel for the first time (!) and thanked him for the success of that very race before the race. We got sufficient time to speak within the small but friendly Expat group or with the organization under the coffee tent that became too small due to the rain (again). And we have caught the train back on time (17h35), almost dry under the sun. So, a race can sometimes be started and finished with persistence, collective thinking and bits of Internet and chance!