Getting out of Paris for the weekend is always a pleasure, but especially so when you have a competitive objective, and when you are with a group of people who share that objective.
So it was with big smiles that we all met on Friday to travel down on the train to the pretty city of Toulouse, and although we had to overcome several situations of onerous all-too-typically-french administration issues, we finished Friday with a good Pasta meal and a small beer in comfortable surroundings (the girls even managed swim in the hotel pool !)
Saturday morning, the fantastic 4 ladies (Anaïs, Marie, Laura and Wippy) had an earlyish start to get over for the Sprint distance at 10:30am, they made it there early so had time to spare to take silly photos (see below)
There was no messing around in the race though, it was going to be a tough call between Laura and Anaïs, although it was a first ever full triathlon for Anaïs, so she was an ‘unknown’ quantity. Marie was just concentrating on getting round, and frankly nothing Wippy does surprises me any more.
The ‘M’ (olympic distance) participants arrived at 11:30am to catch the ladies finishing the bike loops, (3 x 7.4km) and were rewarded to watch a smiling Wippy jumping off her bike and onto the run, which begins with an unkind little hill….but……Wippy was still smiling as she climbed it, unlike Marie who passed a couple minutes later and was clearly not at all impressed by the climb !
So the question remained where were Laura and Anaïs ?? we thought Anaïs was a better swimmer, but Laura better and more experienced on bike and run (and transition) so really it could have gone either way. Finally we see Laura running around the corner looking ‘business-like’ and focused on the finish line, a good first-in-the-team place for her and a great improvement this year in both form and level. A few minutes later Anaïs joined her, looking a little too happy on the run, but probably because she had just finished her first triathlon. 10 mins later and we find Wippy passing us having a great time, almost forgot to continue to the end, and a few minutes later Marie, who we subsequently discovered had broken her toe on the run from the swim to the bike – so a very courageous effort from her !
WELL DONE Expatriés Sprint Ladies 😉
Before the ‘M’ distance could start we had to have a word from the weather, the morning had been perfect for the Sprint, fresh but not too cold with the sun making a welcome appearance, but that suddenly changed (while Wippy was getting a massage) and the heavens opened to a tremendous downpour and everyone had to run for cover (except for Wippy who was happily getting a now prolonged massage as the queue had been forced to run for cover) 30 minutes later though the sun was shining again, and the bike course was dry and ready for the Olympic distance participants.
The Olympic distance crew included 7 in senior men category, 3 in veteran men and the ever youthful Nora and Penelope in veteran ladies. Most were together in transition under the deafening speaker, but all found each other at the side of the lake for the swim start. The organisers had cleverly put partitions in, so that strong swimmers started at one end, and less strong swimmers the other, however un-cleverly they didn’t really make much effort to organise people into following this, so most of the team started together just behind the strong swimmers, with the plan to just let them go ahead, and avoid the ‘breast strokers’ unfortunately this was the same plan as a lot of other non-strong swimmers, so it ended up being a pretty much normal start !
The swim was 2 x the 750m of the sprint distance, with a quick ‘out and in’ between laps to qualify it as an ‘Australian-type’ although generally this name is given in situations where the participants run 100m along a sandy beach, and not 5m over painful stones and pebbles ! Apart from that though the swim was good, enough space to be able to find some sort of consistency, and the ever-consistent Roberto was first out in 27mins – 30secs ahead of Manuel. Nick and César (who had given his wetsuit to Phil who had forgotten his) finished at exactly the same time and had time to pose for pictures in the jog up to transition together.
So 4 Expatriés in transition together, joined 30secs later by Julio just as Roberto was leaving after a 1m25 in transition. Having forgotten his correct shoes Nick was slightly slower than usual in transition, however was still the 2nd out of transition and hot on Roberto’s heals, Manuel however spent nearly 2mins in transition, and after a great swim was already getting caught up by the others, as the rest of the team made their way in from the swim.
Onto the bike, it was all about drafting strategy, 500m then 5 x 7.4km loop – luckily Nick was straight onto the back of some strong cyclists, and very quickly caught up Roberto who also hopped on the back of the train, and the two of them worked together to stay with this very fast peloton. Behind them Julio, César and Phil were battling for third position – all very close having overtaken Manuel who clearly was not feeling good on the bike. After a slightly slower swim (only 1 min slower) David was also now catching them up too, so it was all to play for ! Mark and Nora were also out of the swim almost together, although Mark edged ahead out of transition and on the bike with Duncan close behind him and then Eduardo and Penelope, who both took a little longer on the swim – clearly conserving their energy for what was to come !
After a few laps Nick could no longer keep with the fast peloton, so opted to take it easy when he saw Eduardo who drafted him for a lap, before picking up the next fast peloton which passed (and losing Eduardo !) Roberto managed to keep with the fast group and completed the ride in 1h13secs, however the cyclist of note was Phil, with the second fastest time, in his own words “i’m a dog when I get into a drafting race”, but it wasn’t enough to catch Nick who finished the ride second feeling remarkably fresh after having relaxed a little on the ride, and started on his ‘hunt’ to find Roberto.
Julio, César and Phil were all very close when it came to the end of the ride, but Phil had perhaps given it a little too much “dog spirit” on the ride and César had an annoying knee pain, so it was at that point they decided to take it easy on the run together. Julio had no such worries though and set-off on the run in third place. David had put in an excellent ride and was now right with them, plus his preferred discipline was running, so he quickly put César and Phil behind him and started off on his ‘hunt’ for Julio.Manuel is also a good runner, and although his ride had seen him drop a fair way behind, he suddenly felt a little better and so he too was hunting down those in-front – it was all going to change on the run !
Behind them Mark had had a strong cycle and finished ahead of Duncan and Nora who both also put in good performances on a ride which was a lot about getting into groups with others and drafting, so much more than simply cycling, as Eduardo and Penny found out as they both did the majority of the cycle on their own – which is an awful lot harder !!!
The run was 2 times the 5km lap of the lake, starting with the same painful little incline and drop down then flat through the woods, Nick first spotted Roberto at km 2, he was keeping a good pace, but struggling a little with the uneven ground in the woods. By km 4 Nick was ahead, his legs feeling fine he kept a strong pace and overtaking quite a few other, until cramp hit at Km 7 and he was forced to stop and stretch.
Julio was feeling happy – he was onto the run and sitting pretty in third place, but little did he know he was being hunted by both David and Manuel, by Km 7 David (who put in the best 10km run at 46m11sec) was past Julio and was now hunting down Roberto who he caught up a few minutes later, and so David had only Nick to catch up to be the first Expatrié to finish. Unfortunately for him Nick was already at the finish line, and having photos taken as he crossed the line with Circé (his daughter)
Roberto managed to stay ahead of Julio who was rapidly catching him up, and although Manuel put in a great run time and managed to overtake Phil and César (who ran together the whole way, and are now talking about starting a family together) he couldn’t catch Julio or Roberto and came in 5th. Mark actually ran the 10km faster than Roberto, which he attributed to finding the ride ‘easier’ than previous competitions, and was 6th to arrive. 10mins later and Duncan arrived, proud to have competently conquered his first Olympic (and first full) triathlon, with lots of lessons learned for the next one. Eduardo came in just 2 mins later after a strong run followed 5 mins later by Nora who had kept a good pace early on, but had found the run tough and slowed considerably. Penelope was well behind after having done the cycle on her own (without having anyone to draft off), but she still managed to run the 10km faster than Nora, and finished with a huge smile.
4 team members around the Sprint and 13 team members around this fast Olympic course.
A race day which was well organised and genuinely a good strong Triathlon experience for everyone, and a fun weekend away – which is exactly the reason why we do it 😉
Well that and the excuse to have a nice meal, beer and watch a good rugby match after….
or in Marks case just have a little snooze………